“Success will require the sustained implementation of agreed policies over many years. To this end, political commitment is needed, but so is the technical capacity of the Greek administration,” notes the draft of the new memorandum of understanding which Parliament was debating until early Friday morning. This observation summarizes the paradox that was also inherent in the previous two programs: If Greece’s political parties and administration were in a position to do this, the country would not need such aid programs. The new program, however, includes many of its own paradoxes – or ironic twists – as it is the product of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government’s negotiations.
The new memorandum must be adopted and implemented by the political parties which surged to power from the political fringe precisely because of their relentless enmity toward the previous bailouts. There is much irony in the fact that after oversimplifying politics into a clash between “pro-memorandum” and “anti-memorandum” forces, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was forced to make a bigger U-turn than did the governments of PASOK and New Democracy, even though those two parties had a solid record of undermining each other’s government while in opposition. Tsipras displayed the same irresponsibility – and in fact outdid even the most cynical masters of the art of false promises – but, in the end, he took difficult decisions, surpassing himself and going against many members of his own party. When he stops undermining the agreement that he himself brought to Parliament, when he realizes that only the program’s success can justify his about-turn, then maybe the new program will enjoy greater support than the previous ones.
There is irony, too, in the fact that Tsipras is the undisputed master of Greek politics today, despite repeated mistakes and his great U-turn. If he can combine the legitimacy of his recent election and his popularity with a sincere desire to cooperate with other political parties that support Greece’s euro membership, the hitherto activist leader of SYRIZA with his maximalist demands may turn into a moderate with popular support who can solve chronic problems. More ironic is the fact that the other parties will support a party that replaced them in government – so that it can implement reforms that they had undermined in the past, whether in government or in opposition.
Crises do this. When the nation is in danger, all must change their mentality and their direction. This happened to Alexis Tsipras. It is fittingly ironic that his harshest critics are in his own party. They either invested heavily in Greece’s rift with its partners or cannot escape their myth of stainless, uncompromising leftism. When opposition parties work with the government to spare Greece further troubles, the persistence of some in pursuit of disaster, in the name of the people, is not irony. It is life’s little game, leading the foolish and the arrogant to their fate in the abyss.