Right and Left, a la Grecque

“Greeks are xenophobic, insecure, religious, TV addicted and, most importantly, ultraconservative (bordering on reactionary).» This was the conclusion of a European Social Survey that was organized in Greece by the government-funded National Center for Social Research (EKKE). «Greece is advancing more quickly than the Greeks. There seems to be a gap. The country is achieving political stability, a secure framework of alliances and a strong currency. On the other hand, the citizens appear frozen, wary, if not afraid, in facing the new era,» Greek coordinator Yiannis Voulgaris said, comparing the findings with those of our European peers. It should be noted, though, that in order to draw logical, fair and safe conclusions, a pan-European survey must compare corresponding circumstances and data. For example, the stance held by a Greek citizen toward the global migration wave cannot be compared to that of a Dutch or a Portuguese citizen. These countries do not have to accept and integrate into their economic and social life a percentage of foreigners that is over one-tenth of their population. Had the poll’s questions been posed in another way, so as to present Europeans with a similar prospect or threat, Greeks would probably have enjoyed the highest ratings for tolerance, international solidarity and xenophilia. Similarly, the Greeks’ religious sentiment – which is historically identified with their national consciousness – must not be defined as that of other Europeans. As a result, it should not be used as a criterion for measuring conservatism or progressiveness. Focusing on the poll’s political findings, which based the conclusion that Greeks are the most conservative among Europeans on a scale of 0 (Left) to 10 (Right), the respondents weighed clearly to the right. This seems to be the poll’s most absurd conclusion: that «Right» and «Left» have some special meaning in Greece that is different from that ascribed to these terms in other European states, and hence bars any comparison on that basis. The Left in Greece is – for ill or good – identified with Greece’s Communist Party (KKE), which is the only one among the leftist parties in the 23 nations included in the survey that still clings to the bankrupt ideology of «existing socialism.» A similar difficulty besets the bulk of the Left, which has over the past 30 years been identified by the ostensibly socialist PASOK. The party of the late Andreas Papandreou started off with Third World principles and declarations, which caused it in the first decade to even top traditional leftist parties in socialist rhetoric. Over the years, however, and particularly under the leadership of incumbent Prime Minister Costas Simitis, PASOK has not only shed all left-wing symbolism but, in practice, it has gone as far as to deny its socialist identity. As a result, when asked to classify themselves, many PASOK voters are in confusion or feel alienated from their leftist identity. Finally, it comes as no surprise that the «Right,» which is currently represented in Greece by New Democracy alone, attracted the largest percentage of the respondents. This is because in most other countries included in the poll, extreme rightist parties play a significant role in civic life and, as a result, the term «Right» contains negative connotations. There can be little doubt about the above remarks. The fact that parties or other para-political circles ignore or manipulate this data explains the survey’s most unflattering finding – people’s disregard and disapproval of Greece’s body politic.