There seems to be intense anxiety within the modernizing wing of the center-left in Greece even though many insist on talking about holding a constructive discussion, others announce moves, meetings are organized, candidacies are declared and so on.
These may be symptoms of isolation and loneliness that have possibly intensified because of the summer heat.
The left has a particularity, from its orthodox side to its most modernizing and Eurocentric form. Its weakness is that it is incurably elitist. In all its forms, it is characterized by the confidence it has that it is intellectually superior to the political ideas expressed by its opponents and the people, who it tries to enlighten politically and to educate in cultural terms.
As a response to the miserable 1967-74 dictatorship of the colonels, during the first years of the post-junta era (known as the Metapolitefsi) the left’s role was predominantly in writing, in the arts, in intellectual circles, and in tertiary and secondary education. But the performance of the left – the traditional as well as the contemporary – at the polls during elections was poor. They retained only a limited “elitist” following.
The PASOK of Andreas Papandreou took Greece’s left by storm, just as the pathetic failure of attempts to Europeanize the country catapulted Alexis Tsipras’s SYRIZA into power. Clearly politics operates very differently on a practical, day-to-day level.
Today’s reformist left, which is seeking a framework for cooperation and is struggling to create a common vehicle, is essentially made up of the remnants of Costas Simitis’s administration who believe they have technical know-how and deep insights about the European system as well as heightened credibility.
If all this were true, then Greece would not have fallen, or, at least, it would have recovered four years after the crisis broke, given the seamless cooperation between PASOK and New Democracy from 2012 until the end of 2014, when all the reformist elements the country had to offer were deployed.
Instead, Tsipras, SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks came to power.
The drama of today’s modernizing left and the center-left is reminiscent of the Center Union – of the 1960s – which gradually unraveled in the early post-dictatorship era.
There are two parties today. New Democracy and SYRIZA, and the reformists of the Left have to choose between them. But they won’t because they are too self-absorbed and it’s not certain that they would welcomed.
Perhaps their time has passed.