There is no philosopher’s stone

Every prime minister announcing the party program – when euphoric pre-election rhetoric clashes with reality – dreams of having the philosopher’s stone that so many alchemists envisioned. In the case of the former of course not to turn cheap metals into gold but to turn words into actions and results – without too much risk or trouble. Unfortunately for newly elected Alexis Tsipras, and for us, such a substance does not exist. He knows it is nowhere to be found. He also knows that he ought to be worried, if not scared, of another stone, one that is strict and not known for forgiveness: the touchstone, which will soon determine the substance and truth of his pronouncements and the clarity of his vision.

The party program announced by Tsipras on Sunday – the first by a leftist prime minister in Greece, which may explain his emotion at the end – contained a few new and a few old things. Among the new (not for SYRIZA or the left in general, but in terms of the program announcement ritual), what stood out most was the promise to grant citizenship to second-generation immigrants. This measure would have a huge, improving impact on the face of Greece, so deeply eroded by pervading xenophobia and the popularity of the positions espoused by the likes of Golden Dawn.

Implementing it will not be easy though, and not because of the expected reaction of New Democracy, whose current leadership prefers to interpret defeat as a victory. The problems will come from within the government, from the ranks of Independent Greeks, and from a large part of society that will see the measure as challenging the myths of purity and superiority it has been raised on.

The old in Tsipras’s speech concerns two announcements and one assurance, all of which have been heard before. The first announcement concerns a more just taxation system, a demand as old as the modern Greek state. The second heralded a war on corruption and entangled interests – so often called and never carried out. His assurance, at the end of his speech, was that the government is not concerned with the political cost of its decisions and is therefore determined to carry them through.

Effectively, a fair taxation system is the key goal of the fight against entangled interests. The state cannot remain bound by non-institutional interests. And society, which appears in its majority to support the government’s approach so far, will swiftly turn against it, not if it perceives that the government is being defeated by established Greek and foreign interests but if it seems not to have launched the battle in earnest.

The Greek people simply cannot tolerate any more disappointments and will settle for nothing less than the rule of law.