‘The middle class will bring change to Greece’: Chrysochoidis on new PASOK’s links with society

On the way to his hometown in Imatheia, new PASOK general secretary Michalis Chrysochoidis doesn’t stop studying. While enjoying the tranquilizing air of the Greek countryside he adores, he reads about the ups and downs of the Social Democrats in Germany, while reflecting on the Greek scene. He knows that PASOK needs to be reborn, reorganized, and to reconnect with society. It has to redesign its policies, overcome past problems and burdens, and generate a new vision for the country and its people. The middle class Asked how reorganization will come about, and on what basis the new PASOK will emerge, Chrysochoidis replies: «If you look at Greek society, you’ll see we are the offspring of a certain development. In the past 30 years our society has developed, and from it has come today’s dominant middle class – in office employment, services, education, commerce, and the new professions – who make up 65-70 percent of Greeks. And 95 percent of its members come from families of farmers and workers, which is a unique phenomenon in our history as a nation. «Greek society is dominated by this middle class, which includes a large number of farmers; 10 percent are upper middle-class entrepreneurs, financiers and market and capital intermediaries at the top of the pyramid, while 20-25 percent are the working class, which should also include the sub-group of poor farmers with little land.» How do these observations lead to the new PASOK? «The change will come from the many. We have to follow them. We have to examine the middle class; it will set the tone and determine the climate of the country. We have to look at the status of the middle class, evaluate it and work on it.» Clearly the general secretary of PASOK has already thought this through and is now looking for ways to implement his conclusions, how to link the long-term interests of the middle class with the new and reborn PASOK he envisions. But this is where the problem lies. The multitudinous middle class he is aiming at has other views, very different from those of Chrysochoidis. Raised with a very particular model of government, the product of a political culture of giving handouts and catering to the demands of everyone, the middle class is marked by intense individualism. It ignores the notion of collective effort and is ruled by ambitions that do not suit its abilities or acquired knowledge. Its model is consumerism, it skirts legality, suffers from short-term vision, objects to planning, shuns the notions of productivity and competitiveness, overreacts to steps and measures even when not affected by them, and is unwilling to sacrifice one jot of the prosperity it has acquired. On the productive capacity of Greece, Chrysochoidis says: «In order to maintain the current level of prosperity, Greece has to increase its wealth. Without significant development, it is condemned to fall into decline, and the middle class has the most to lose. Greece, a country with 10.5 million inhabitants, has an annual gross national product of 150 billion euros, while Belgium, with a similar population, produces 500 billion euros. With such a disparity we will never converge. «The objective of a progressive party,» states Chrysochoidis, «must be development and the increased production of wealth, and as a country we must aim at that in a very organized way, with planning and revised policies boosting competitiveness and productivity, adopting modern models and acquiring a new collectivity which can propel the country into the future.» «But isn’t it too late? Haven’t we missed the bus?» asks Kathimerini. «These observations refer not only to PASOK but to the whole political system. What is missing from Greek politics in order to achieve the great change is will, vision and planning. In recent years, the prime minister has set certain goals, acting according to specific plans and aims. «That is how he achieved Economic and Monetary Union and made gains in foreign policy. We have to extend this method in every direction and train society accordingly. We have to address the middle class, listen to its demands, retain some of them and discard others, choosing those that carry the country forward and promoting them according to a plan. I believe the delay is due to lack of planning.» But how can a party of such a complexion and history take in the whole middle class, which might lead to social confrontation? «Society sets the bar very high, and politicians, the party and the government have to meet the challenges of the times,» says Chrysochoidis. The party must follow and guide society; it should set the framework and give it a progressive direction. In the new era, the party will be able to distinguish itself by securing the public’s participation in decisions, elaborating policies for meeting the needs of the haves and have-nots, incorporating migrants, and ensuring equal access for all to knowledge and employment. «These elements link us to history and keep the party great – able to meet all the needs of the population. But we have to change, to see the country in the light of new needs and new priorities.» Clearly the road to Imatheia conceals many subversive thoughts, but the question remains: Will Chrysochoidis succeed in bringing a great change to PASOK 30 years after its foundation, or will the party choke on the many sins of the middle class that it built?