Trial and error

Former socialist heavyweight Akis Tsochatzopoulos turned up at the appeals court on Monday with his once imperious style all but replaced by a barely convincing smile of confidence. Greece’s ex-defense minister, now charged with money laundering, was also trying in vain to hide the shameful handcuffs behind a folder.

Tsochatzopoulos did not arrive alone. He was accompanied by the shadows of several legendary politicians, most importantly late PASOK founder and leader Andreas Papandreou and his close aid Menios Koutsogiorgas.

Sure it’s not PASOK standing in the dock, but rather the former minister (for many years No 2 in the socialist party hierarchy) who is facing charges of money laundering. However, few would question that on trial are also the people and the ideas that allowed the so-called “Akis phenomenon” to emerge, to take root and to triumph. And by “Akis phenomenon” we mean unadulterated amoralism disguised behind pompous proclamations about bringing “change” and “power to the people;” we mean the unabashed trading of public offices; we mean doing business in the name of socialism or other similar -isms.

The PASOK folk of today believe that they will escape the fire, pinning their hopes on the argument that this was all Tsochatzopoulos’s own doing. But “PASOK’s Beau Brummel,” as Tsochatzopoulos came to be known, did not appear out of the blue; he did not act in a vacuum nor was he a lone wolf – or, as he would have it, a lone sheep. He was a pure product of the PASOK system, destined to become an authentic and enduring voice of the PASOK establishment.

This is something that Tsochatzopoulos is very well aware of, even though he was never considered among the brightest of the political crop. This is, after all, why he has sought to mete out the blame by demanding that other senior socialists – including former prime ministers Costas Simitis and George Papandreou, current PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos, and former ministers Costas Laliotis and Theodoros Pangalos – testify at his trial.

None of them, of course, will honor the tribunal with their presence. After all, PASOK politicians know their Bertolt Brecht well as fans of the German’s alienation effect.

And yet, if they had given it all some serious thought, they would have seen a great opportunity to rethink their guiding concepts and practices. After all, public absolution could be the only way for PASOK to hang onto that remaining six or seven percent of the vote.

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