Deplorable terror group disturbs the Left

The historian of tomorrow will be the judge of November 17, and weigh the events and long-term effects of the recent period, while the judge of today will focus on the terrorists’ deeds – and rightly so, since this historic crossroads has all the intensity of a current event that will affect the future, a turmoil that has brought to light the agitation into which Greek Marxist circles have been thrown by the ethics of this terrorist organization. In the past, either others accused the Left of being terrorists, or it rather smugly appropriated the term from the «counter-revolutionary» Right. Now, however, it has to cast a retrospective look into the mirror of an equally Marxist product and engage in some soul-searching, something which is mandatory in a democratic regime. This explains the agitation and the noisy interjections from various interested parties, who, with the deplorable picture presented by the dismantled terrorist group, felt that the myth of the heroic and angelic Left, which propped up many people’s sense of self, was foundering. But this is not the only reason. Deep down, there is an unconfessed sense of guilt. The spiritual dilemma which followed the arrests of the first group of terrorists will not go away. It is quite possible that in the future, we will think of November 17 with gratitude, because it unwittingly supplied the coup de grace to the error-filled period after the return of civil rule. No historical period can fully come to a close, if it is not first demythologized. In its own fashion, November 17 was the catalytic testing ground for the post-junta Left in Greece. It goes without saying that I am speaking on the level of interpretation and not of external events; I am referring to the psychology of the populace and their attitudes, not of political clubs, which, as such, obviously have no connection with the notion or practice of terrorism. Common contribution The left-winger of today candidly (and with relief) admits that the defeat during the civil war was beneficial for Greece. Otherwise, the country would have shared the fate of the other states closed off behind the Iron Curtain. But he only goes so far. He does not ask, as is necessary, what was the reason for this crushing national and international historic failure, with its untold suffering and staggering number of victims. Because wherever communism has been, wherever it has seized power or attempted to seize power, it has left behind ruin and corpses. Obviously, what is lacking is mental courage. Just as somebody becomes a left-winger in adolescent rebellion, so they remain for the rest of their lives. The Marxism-Leninism of the November 17 terrorists was the springboard of the communist Greek Left – notwithstanding that broad sections of it later gravitated toward the center. Marxism-Leninism and party dictatorship was what would have been in store for us if the Left had prevailed in the civil war. This would not only have destroyed the country, as occurred with the all countries in the communist bloc, but after its collapse, the regime would have handed the younger generations the freedom to choose between prostitution and the Mafia. No appeal to social justice, equality, progress or revolutionary heroism can compensate for the hell of injustice, inequality and vindictive absence of meritocracy that communism imposed on at least half of our planet. One and a half centuries after Dostoevsky’s «Possessed,» we have been forced, in Greece, to look straight at the dark reality fostered by the religious basis of the belief in historical determinism which erases all higher values and principles. When these principles, however, are gone, when the will is subordinated to historical necessity, then it becomes a free-for-all. Under the sway of revolutionary will, not only do the passions rule, but emotion also imposes its own logic and harnesses thinking to its service, (…) while the conscience yields to anger. Criminal acts are judged to be innocent in advance. Ideological anger leaves no room for anything other than the prefabricated idea, which, in turn, excludes any sense of reality, so that the anger will not lose its impetus. The obsessive enjoys his anger and becomes trapped in a world of darkened passions. The shadow of this world – like another November 17 – lives within us. For decades it remained on the loose. How can we check terrorism when we are delighted by the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York, with its nearly 3,000 innocent victims, or when the murder of a big businessman fills us with euphoria? When we ourselves maintain our dark side, like our own, private hideout? Heroism We hear, in many voices, that the arrested terrorists in no way resemble left-wing fighters: They confessed immediately; they made no ideological statements; they had engaged in thefts and other such activities. These objections – made by those who are trying to avoid uncomfortable reflection with all their might – are easily overcome. Let us not bury our heads in the sand and let us not persist with myths that might console us temporarily but violate historical record and insult common sense. Was not Stalin, before the revolution, responsible for robberies and the protection of brothels? How many Greek communists refused to cooperate with the authorities after their arrest? How many signed statements of penitence merely at the sight of a policeman? And how many, in sheer desperation, became torturers themselves in the places of their exile? And how are we to explain the lethal factional infighting among the Greek communist exiles in the the Soviet town of Tashkent? Of those who did not break in prison or in exile, how many did not exploit their comrades economically later on. How many did not sell their souls in the salons of the bourgeoisie? Were all these people heroes? Real heroism has nothing to do with endurance in adversity or withstanding torture or derring-do, though all of these presuppose strength of character. A hero is not someone faithful to a divisive creed unto death, nor someone who bends iron bars like a peripatetic strongman, but the person who creates unity on a higher level, the person who surpasses himself in every situation, who gives all his strength, courage and intelligence only to what is not demeaning. The hero is somebody who seeks, even as he lives, the ultimate reality; he is the person who takes himself on by engaging his inner world and solving the mystery of Creation by solving the mystery of his own, human resurrection. The post-junta years Such people were not known during the anguish of the civil war; their faint shadow was found in the «freedom fighter» of the years after the restoration of civil rule. What was this return to civil rule? Among its indisputably positive attributes – the restoration of a stable democracy, the irrevocable turn toward Europe, the great improvement for broad sections of society who used to live as pariahs on the margins – the return to civil rule was also a short-sighted revenge by the Left, similar to that of the winners of the civil war. The one side copied the other: The persecutions of the Right were succeeded by conditions of widespread democracy and freedom, a policy of the Left, whose purpose was to fatally inculpate its sworn, but now vastly changed, enemy. The Left attempted – without much difficulty – to hide the absence of any positive policy with an unbridled flattery of the lower classes, which in turn legitimized, to a demoralizing degree, the regime’s lack of meritocracy and its arbitrariness. The Republic may have rid itself of hereditary hierarchies, but it sorely needed meritocracy, with an authentic hierarchy, based on the people’s ability to actively contribute, and not on illicit connections. The inculpation of the Right was not fatal, but nevertheless bore fruit. It sowed such confusion in its ranks that lack of unity and political vision condemned it to the opposition seats for a long period of time. It was paralyzed ideologically for so long that it did not even gain from the collapse of the Soviet camp. By contrast, the Greek socialist movement, in an impressive U-turn, adjusted to the new world circumstances and literally rebaptized the proposal for our social modernization. The traditional Left’s barren nostalgia for revolution was finally succeeded by a realistic center-left approach to a European future, and with it emerged a national optimism, expressed by both the larger parties. This marked the beginning of the end of the post-junta years. The change sidelined the rhetoric of the Marxist Left. «Revolutionary» negativism was claimed by terrorism. It had no political prospects and was not grounded in society but quite a few gave it their ideological and spiritual blessing. The ebullience of the center-left, the vainglorious desire to host the Olympic Games, the criminal tendency of November 17’s attacks, and international pressure forced the judicial authorities to reorganize and work methodically. This brought results. Socially isolated, with no way out, terrorism survived as a pathological phenomenon and its dismantling was only a matter of time. With the end of terrorism, the post-junta period is indeed at an end. We are justified in speaking of it in the past tense, even if some remnants remain. However, this has brought to the surface the underground tumors that fed it – the ultimate and most revealing act in this drama. The Greek Left is now called upon to recognize its close-knit ties to this repulsive phenomenon (let it consider its «armed comrades,» ponder its indifference to the murders of our innocent fellow-citizens, its passionate interest in Afghanistan or Ecuador, and its excessive reaction to the visit by President Clinton) and sever them forever through its own, newly obtained self-awareness. Such a development would help society cross the threshold of a new year, and would bring about, with a change in institutions, a change of spirit. I regard the last act of the drama as a crisis of conscience in the part of the Left, something we have been waiting for for a long time but have not yet seen. Change is not a simple external event; it is chiefly a transforming process within our conscience. «After,» «before» and «now» merge into agreement. There is no longer a permanent reference to a «before,» nor is there an eternal «after,» which must always follow something else. Without a synthesis of continuity and change, the past will continue to trip us up, and when the future is behind one, one experiences the present negatively. In a time of creative politics, terrorism proves to be an anachronism. Poisonous negativism For a long time, the Left has hidden its sickness from itself, that poisonous negativism which it yielded to at the outset and which it cultivated to the extreme, either in natural or artificial conditions. A radical mental contradiction of the Marxist Left was the concept of justice in terms of confiscation from the exploitative elite, a concept that was recorded in black letters on its banners and flags. In other words, it bestowed historical justification on evil since it saw itself as a negative force. The same moral «unease» drove Raskolnikov to crime, along with the angels of destruction of mainly communist movements and revolutions. The negative idea of justice as the punisher glosses over evil and relieves the conscience of guilt. This metaphysical language, odd as it may sound, led the Marxist Left to historical degradation. Closing oneself up in a box is not a means of survival in a world that is constantly broadening its horizons. Revolutionary negativism allows inferiority complexes or feelings, such as envy, spite and resentment, to find legitimized expression. As long as people are young, negative rebelliousness finds fertile soil in their inability to understand themselves on an individual basis. When they grow up and become productive, negativism recedes along with negative ideas, since the lid cannot be kept on a creativity that presses for immediate release. People do not «compromise» or «finally learn some sense» but deal with the burden of their creativity as a responsibility. Extended irresponsibility corresponds to extended adolescence. Negativism does not exist on its own: It is accompanied and supported by a one-sided view of things, a simplistic qualitative approach. Capitalism is evil in itself; religion is the opium of the people; Jews rule the world, and so forth. This mentality, which fills the mind with suspicion and insecurity and fosters conspiracy theories, recognizes only objects opposing it and seeks either to eliminate them or to dominate them. By definition, an object lends itself to being mechanically acted upon and not to a relationship, so an object judged to be bad must be destroyed. Any change [in the nature of the object] is also ruled out. The murder of the «bad American» or the «pawn of the Right» thus obtain our consent. It is not by chance that within a democracy, things can be said and construed in many different ways. For totalitarianism, things are only one-sided and a second view point is not allowed. As a result, under the pressure of changing circumstances, the one and only interpretation is driven into a dead end. Dead ends are the products of exclusive truths; multifarious meanings and their concomitant elasticity allow the democratic form of government to stay in tune with change and thus counteract its weaknesses – especially mediocrity and a by-the-numbers conception of what is politically correct. As democracy broadens its horizons, so initiatives are encouraged, so new opportunities and choices arise – freedom breathes new meaning into things and life is renewed along with them. Time of catharsis For totalitarianism, terror is an organic element of the ruling class. Nazism and Soviet communism and its satellite models showed this. Totalitarianism is a regime of fear and lasts as long as fear freezes the blood and paralyzes our will, as long as it distorts our aims by frustrating the release of trapped energy. But theory bestows multifarious meanings on the world, that is, it introduces the acceptance that people are valuable in and of themselves. Without it, the will is rampant and existence is leveled. In totalitarianism’s allergy to anything intellectual, «the conscience no longer determines being, but being determines conscience» (Marx), whereupon it is not difficult for it to feel at home with crime, if necessary. Europe’s social democratic left avoided the reef of totalitarianism and worked to benefit Western societies; Eastern Marxist-Leninist negativism went down the road of party dictatorship, and we saw where that led to. To the latter belonged almost all of the followers of the Greek Left, who in the post-junta period nevertheless crossed over, in their overwhelming majority, to the democratic socialist camp, which until then had been scorned. But this transfer took place without sufficient soul-searching, resulting in the agitation and guilt caused by the revelations about November 17, which, in its turn, is also pressing for catharsis – the only way to accomplish radical change. A switch in political course is not enough. What is imperative is a mental turn toward creative positiveness. If terrorism, as a negative force, is not uprooted from among us, the prosecution will remain incomplete, and its recurrence a probability. Yesterday shall not be bound to today nor shall we always be exposed to the ghosts of the past, instead of leaving the dead to bury the dead. Our lives change when we change spiritually, precisely because fate does not intervene from outside, but lives within us.