Slanted yardstick

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos has every reason to claim that his socialist party has nine lives and will bounce back from its latest crisis. After all, if he isn’t seen to believe this, who else will? Similarly, he has every reason to assure the party’s followers – as well as himself – that the so-called “movement” that PASOK members like to call their party “has emerged radically rejuvenated” from this weekend’s election of delegates for the party’s congress, which begins this Thursday.

Venizelos also had no choice but to turn a deaf ear to the remarks of “aristeri protovoulia,” a leftist faction inside his party, which slammed the process of electing delegates for the congress. “What could have been a celebration of democracy was instead an orgy of distortions and a political Master Chef,” the left-wingers said in a statement, likening the process to the popular television cooking contest. So what? After all, party officials in 2004 claimed that one million people turned out to vote for George Papandreou as leader of PASOK. What was that if not cooking numbers?

Nevertheless, independent observers have every right to be skeptical of Venizelos’s certainty when he says that the party certainly has to “shoulder part of the blame” for the crisis but not “as large as the people attribute to it.” What sort of yardstick did Venizelos use to measure PASOK’s responsibility in the crisis? Perhaps it was merely the yardstick of his own desires, causing him to feel that it was unfair of voters to relegate a party that used to gain 40+ percent at elections to just 10 percent or so of the vote. There certainly seems to be no more scientific approach than this to Venizelos’s assertion.

When it came into existence, PASOK described itself as a movement that would sweep Greece’s political landscape. And so it did, four-year term after four-year term. But it did so by means of its arrogance; its pro-establishment mentality; its sense of impunity; its susceptibility to political and business entanglement and through the degeneration of social values that arose from corruption at the higher echelons of the political class.

By entering the conservative-led coalition government, PASOK has been able to protect itself against attacks from the two other partners, New Democracy and Democratic Left. But this immunity has affected the surface and not the substance of the party. Deep down at its core, PASOK still cannot shake off the ghosts of Akis Tsochatzopoulos, Giorgos Papaconstantinou, George Papandreou and many more socialist cadres. They are still part and parcel of the party.

If one accepts that the Greeks were wrong in they way they allotted the blame, we should also accept that they erred on the side of generosity by not attributing to PASOK its full share. After all, PASOK was one of the parties that had its hands on the wheel when the nation veered to bankruptcy.

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