Veteran leader of the Left calls for common ground

As a university student during the World War II occupation and later, as a member of United Democratic Left (EDA) in post-civil-war Greece, Leonidas Kyrkos had been no stranger to imprisonment and torture in the struggle for democracy. In 1968 he became a member of the breakaway Communist Party of the Interior, and in 1975, after democracy was restored following the seven-year military dictatorship, he was elected to Parliament with the United Left. He resigned from Parliament and his post as party secretary in 1993 to «make way for the next generation.» Now 83 years of age, this stalwart of the Greek Left looks back on his political life and forward to a time when «the Left can once again ignite people’s imagination and souls.» You are popular with people from across the political spectrum. What does that tell you? That our message is the fruit of a collective process. People feel that beyond our differences there is scope for common ground. Instead of hatred and resorting to violence, we can understand each other. A solution can be found through dialogue. Why are people, particularly the young, turning their backs on politics? It is a clear political stance from which conclusions should be drawn. There is a very understandable feeling that politicians can’t agree, that they have restricted themselves to the role of accuser. Can there be a new vision, and what would you say to a young person? I believe there can be. I would encourage them not to lose their optimism, their strength to understand and transcend. They have a critical ability, the talent to create, they are well educated. They should throw themselves into the struggle, become better and the rest will follow. Have political parties failed to keep up with social change? I am afraid they have. Problems are mounting and answers are slow in coming. We restrict ourselves to rhetoric but in the meantime real situations are developing. We are wasting time. What could happen today cannot happen tomorrow. We have reached the point where there is a blatant accumulation of wealth on the one hand and on the other is rampant unemployment and a high cost of living. What role can the Left play in such an environment? The movement has no prospects in Greece if its components, that is PASOK and the Left Coalition, cannot find common ground. PASOK thinks in terms of absorbing (the Left). That is out of the question, so we are talking about meeting on equal terms. That presupposes that both sides make an effort to find the point of convergence. In my opinion, that is the central political issue and neither PASOK nor the Coalition is mature enough to deal with it. You said that years ago and nobody listened. Why should they now? I have been saying that since 1993. It is a question of political analysis. If it doesn’t happen, the Left Coalition will continue to look on from the sidelines without playing any substantial role in the game of politics. Why should a strong organization like PASOK want to join forces with the Coalition? One shouldn’t evaluate the Left in quantitative, statistical terms but in qualitative terms. The Left could once again ignite people’s imagination and souls. One mistake the Coalition made was to fight the idea of a Center-Left. I believe that if things go on as they are, we will lose the next elections, which will be of major importance. Only a meeting of both forces can inspire the people, get them out of their homes, turn their disillusionment into optimism and create a new impetus. (1) This interview appeared in the October 15 edition of K, Kathimerini’s color supplement.