Which left are we talking about?

How the left is defined by a number of people in Greece, as well as political parties, that claim to be supporters or propagators of its philosophies is yet another of our country’s peculiarities.

It is a very handy notion that can be evoked and used to conjure up all sorts of fantastic scenarios by many of the people involved in public discourse and by those who take them seriously, though much of what they end up saying is little more than drivel and has little to do with the real essence of the left. Not that others, of the so-called right, express their ideology with any kind of coherency or behave in a fitting manner, but it is the left that concerns us here.

To begin with, the relationship between the left and the state has been completely misunderstood here in Greece.

The left does not stand for the public administration becoming a safe haven for all-comers; more importantly it does not favor lawlessness, waste, cronyism, lowering standards, behaving irrationally, generating red tape, having an economy that is dependent on the state, enjoying all manner of odd privileges and forging clientelist relationships. Nor is the left about saying no to everything, while not having any ideas of its own to put forward.

When such a stance is adopted by political leaders, mayors, unionists and the media it leads nowhere because it is out of touch with reality. It does not constitute leftist ideology, despite what a large part of the population may quite incorrectly think.

The left accepts the intervention of the state for specific purposes; it defends people’s right to work; it respects the rights of workers; it ensures equality in the law, meritocracy and equal opportunity; it defends the welfare state and protects the most vulnerable members of society. But it does not embrace every ludicrous claim, nor does it recklessly promise the moon. It does not reject every effort at putting public finances on a sound footing. It helps safeguard the urban and natural environment and embraces the concepts of law and order.

In short, the left is not against an organized, functioning state. It wants a healthy economy and contributes to the strengthening of democratic principles. Wherever the left has failed to live up to what it is essentially about, things have gone horribly wrong. Isn’t that right?