The rage and fear that determined the results of this year’s elections continue to shape Greece’s political and social life, creating the danger of further dysfunction, polarization and misery. While we still focus on the old party formations of New Democracy, SYRIZA, PASOK and the Communists, as well as on smaller and newer groupings, it is clear that these parties are no longer identified with the true political passions in Greece. And the longer it takes for a political party to arise which is able to persuade the people that it has learned from the mistakes of the past, that it will set the country on a course toward greater justice and growth, the more the political scene will continue to fragment and people will refuse to accept further austerity and reform. Anger and insecurity will paralyze the land.
Before the elections of May and June it was clear that two currents ran under the surface of politics here. The one represented the people who believe that Greece must remain part of Europe’s core at all costs, and the other those who want us to break with our partners and creditors; the first group believed that they still had something to lose in the country’s bankruptcy, while the others had taken care of their future, thought they had nothing to lose, or wanted to take revenge on the ?system? by voting for its destruction.
And so we saw the decline in the power of socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy (because they were burdened by decades of mismanagement and the subsequent austerity), the meteoric rise of radical-left SYRIZA and the dramatic emergence of the racist Golden Dawn on the central political stage. Only when people who had not voted for ND in May voted for it in June were New Democracy, PASOK and the moderate Democratic Left able to form a coalition. It was natural that their government (with the unpopular task of reforming the economy under relentless pressure from our creditors) would be a boon to opposition parties of all hues.
Recent polls have confirmed the continued strength of SYRIZA and the further rise of Golden Dawn, to third place, while the centrist parties keep losing power. SYRIZA has gained hugely since the start of the crisis in 2009 because of its relentless opposition to austerity and reform. It gives citizens hope that they will be able to turn back the clock and return to better days. Although it does not hide the humanism at its core, it does not project this with the same passion that it fights reform. Golden Dawn, at the other end of the spectrum, has an entirely different tactic: Not only does it not hide its true self, but it shows off its bigotry and violence at every opportunity, with its own (very different) utopian promises. When one political force is afraid to reveal its true self while the other hides nothing, but on the contrary invests in the further discrediting of mainstream politics, we can bet that in the end, the latter will prevail. Cultivating unlimited rage will work only in Golden Dawn’s favor. We have so often seen revolutions leading to the hardest faction’s triumph…
Before the elections, it would have been useful if the parties which supported the reform effort (some more than others, though none with enthusiasm) had accepted that this united them more than anything could divide them; then they may have more easily won a mandate to fix the country. Today, the great divide is no longer between those who believe in our sticking to our European course or in going our own way — it is between the forces of social progress, which is based on respect for human rights and cooperation, and a regressive nationalism based on prejudice and violence.
If our mainstream political parties continue to squabble over secondary issues, if they do not cooperate sincerely for the common good, we will gain neither a functional economy nor a just society. The longer we live on borrowed funds and the longer we believe that injustice prevails, the longer we will be held hostage by rage and its devotees. If we do not reinforce our institutions through unity and civilized behavior based on the equality of all people, our democracy will be unable to crush those who would destroy it.