Alternative governance, the environment, social protection are priorities of the Left

A month from today, we will know who the new prime minister is to be, and also whether the Left Coalition will defy poll results that indicate it might not retain its place in Parliament. What do you predict? The Radical Left Coalition will be in Parliament and with a percentage that, considering recent polls, will come as a surprise. I am sure that the people of the Left, but also in the broader progressive sector of society, will not allow a force with such a strong record be left out of Parliament, above all a force which is in the vanguard of the European Left’s contemporary struggles and at the heart of social movements. It is a question of democratic quality and social dynamics, a question of conscience and reflection on the part of all citizens. In addition, I am sure that the people of the Left will reward our efforts to achieve unity and the encouraging degree to which we have rallied [our forces]. Everyone would like to see a great unified camp of the Left and so they will support the force which, on the day after the elections, will work in that direction. As for which party will win the elections, the only thing I have to say is that both of the (major) parties have been presenting a positive picture of themselves and are outdoing each other with empty shows in order to hide the fact that their policies either do not differ greatly or else complement the alternative. One wonders why your party, whose cadres have been very active in opposition politics, has not received the recognition one would expect from leftist voters. What is to blame? I think what we have to offer is indeed appreciated. However, there is a basic issue that cannot be ignored – that of the political system. Both PASOK and ND are in absolute agreement about preserving the two-party political system that is based mainly on the electoral law. That is clearly no coincidence. They know that under this system there can be no realistic third alternative for government and so they both present themselves as the only solutions. So the people are trapped. Now that their policies have converged to a great extent, and given the widespread corrosion of public life by entangled interests, people have to realize that the kind of opposition one has is very important, as is its strength. I will go so far as to say that people should not vote according to what government they want but what kind of opposition they want. We have maintained a discreet and credible opposition to PASOK’s government policy. What kind of opposition can PASOK maintain, for example, on the question of privatization, when it itself carried out a privatization policy, or on the pension and social security system, on unemployment and farmers, when its own government policies have led to major problems and intense social displeasure? It has been said recently that the next electoral battle would perhaps have been easier for ND if Simitis had not decided to resign. Could someone say the same about the Left Coalition? Papandreou himself is trying to convince the Greek people that as prime minister he will be moving in a more conservative direction. Papandreou clearly has a more favorable view of the Euro-Atlantic strategy and the role of the USA. He clearly has a clearly more neoliberal approach than Simitis. Private universities, the merging of the Education and Labor ministries, work for young people without social security, loopholes for genetically modified products and his stance during the war in Iraq all vindicate our views. It is not enough for Papandreou to apologize for something every day. Nor is he convincing anyone that he is producing new ideas or attractive policies with his faded rhetoric about overcoming (the past) or with his simplistic and watered-down slogans tailor-made for the media. PASOK leaders have created a patent on removing any real social value or content from political and ideological terms. Same policies Do you agree that PASOK and ND intend to follow the same policies? Yes I do, but that is not solely a Greek phenomenon. Throughout Europe, these two political families have converged to an unprecedented degree. That is why even though governments change, policies remain the same. This is a serious problem and it is something that people should realize. Throughout Europe today, there is pressure for the reform of social security systems. Both Socialists and Conservatives adhere to this approach. Throughout Europe there is pressure for privatization, flexible labor relations, a reduction in business taxes, lower wages and less expenditure on social welfare. Both Socialists and Conservatives serve these [aims]. It is these policies that are being opposed by the unions, and above all, social movements, for example, the European Social Forum. This resistance must be expressed within a strong radical Left throughout Europe. And in Greece, of course. For me, that is the central issue for elections throughout Europe today. The distinction between Left and Right is determined by their stance toward neoliberalism in conditions of a global market and American hegemony. What should be the priorities for the Left as an opposition force during these elections? [Formulating] an alternative proposal for governance, with alternative priorities, choices and practices to that of the unified, neoliberal approach. It should try to change the correlation of forces in order to bring about a restructuring of the social and progressive majority and to change the model of government and state from being a tool of the two-party system. [Ensuring] protection of the environment, of rights, collective property and the public interest, things that are subject to looting and profiteering by the all-powerful mechanisms of new, entangled power interests. [It should deal with] the problems of peace versus the doctrine of preventive wars. Putting the Left first, as a force for culture, democracy, social protection and ecological vigilance. Are there certain «fronts» (in socioeconomic and foreign policy) which will require special handling by the opposition? Social issues will not be resolved. On the contrary, they will make daily life more and more difficult. Then there is the degeneration and corrosion of institutions that lead to the strong sense of injustice and distrust felt by most people. In crucial sectors of the state’s social responsibility, education, health, social security, employment, the protection of the public interest and the functioning of the political system, there will be major tension. In the Cyprus issue, the Middle East, the Balkans as well as in Europe itself, the American strategy will present us with major dilemmas. The policy of Costas Simitis and George Papandreou in particular is interested in being a willing ally of the USA and only secondly in the strategic entity and autonomy of Europe. PASOK ideology Papandreou appears ready to carry out major changes in the center-left wing of our political system. He does not stop talking about the «great democratic camp.» What is the position of the Left on this? Papandreou is creating a centrist party focused on a leader, stripped of ideology. That has nothing to do with the Left. For us, the main issue is the reconstruction of the Left as a major third camp that will challenge neoliberalism and the bi-party system as whole. An ad hoc congress that was a non-congress, internal party elections that were non-elections, party organs that acquiesce in silence: Those are an adulteration of the democratic organization of parties as a factor for democracy, in politics as well as in society. Having a kind of referendum to confirm leaders is a dangerous corruption of representative democracy. The prime minister-centered model of governance and the «leadership» model lead to a concentration of power and a lack of transparency. The main role in this debasing adulteration of… parliamentary democracy is played by the new powers of communications and entangled interests… using the parties, people and institutions simply as extras. Modified policies, modified parties, modified societies, a modified future. What does this have to do with the left-wing, progressive citizens who are in PASOK’s camp, with their struggles for real democratic participation?