A spent political force

Prime Minister George Papandreou may well go down in the country?s modern history, but it won?t be for saving the nation from bankruptcy, as many inside his Socialist government would hope, nor for introducing the crucial reforms that will shape Greece?s character in the years to come. If Papandreou does go down in history, it will be for debunking the myth of PASOK socialists as ?good managers? — regardless of whether people try to portray the party as a radical leftist grouping or as a movement of modernist-minded reform.

Some commentators hold that the government?s reformist folk and the prime minister would have been capable of tackling the country?s very acute problems were it not for resistance from the party?s old guard. Perhaps that is true on a theoretical level. But the voters who picked PASOK in October 2009 were not voting for the modernizers that Papandreou went on to introduce, but for the old-style PASOK that would distribute wealth (whether it existed or not) and power.

In fact, power continues to lie with the movement established by the late Andreas Papandreou and not with the bunch of amateurish officials who claimed to represent the interests and the mentality of the old PASOK in order to climb to power before reneging on their promises (although they knew what was really going on).

The inexperienced officials flanking the prime minister have managed the crisis as an exercise without political implications. That was the reason why they made no effort to negotiate the terms of the memorandum signed with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. In contrast, former Premier Costas Simitis used to lend even technical economic issues a near-metaphysical dimension. But that was a time of exuberance, when Greece was living the dream of popular capitalism, as it were, that led to the burst of the Athens stock market bubble.

Some believed that Papandreou?s name alone would be enough to convince and appease the crowds. Some claim that the administration has won society?s silent consent. However, the government?s problem is not so much the frustration or the reactions from the unions but the passivity and fatalism that is now eroding Greek society, especially in the big urban centers.

The Socialist administration seems paralyzed, but that should hardly come as a surprise since Papandreou has lost touch with society and because PASOK is in fact a spent political force.

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