A lost opportunity


Events to mark anniversaries and other celebrations are by their very nature not conducive to any serious form of self-criticism. This does not just apply to the person, or the group, that is celebrating – but also to their ideological and partisan enemies.

On a national level, anniversary celebrations go to waste because public discourse (whether this is initiated by from the state, universities, the Church, or the military) likes to reproduce the content of what is usually understood as a panegyric: praise that is so over the top as to annul its meaning. All that is left behind is the ashes of narcissism.

As expected, there was very little in the way of self-criticism at Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s speech at the Tae Kwon Do Stadium in southern Athens on Sunday. The event was held to celebrate the first anniversary of SYRIZA rule. The Independent Greeks (ANEL) of Panos Kammenos and the Ecologist Greens party were present at the party, but Panayiotis Lafazanis’s Popular Unity, Apostolos Glezos, Zoe Constantopoulou and Yanis Varoufakis and the enthusiasm of last January were not.

Also missing from the party was the – ultimately misleading – certainty that the public mandate is a super-weapon that can protect you against your powerful enemies at home and abroad as well as your own flaws: your lack of forethought, your lack of preparation, the poor quality of your political staff.

The truth is that the government, or at least SYRIZA, would benefit if its leader decided to break with the past – as he in fact pledged at the start of 2015. It would benefit if Tsipras deemed that his audience at Faliro, and around the rest of the country, did not expect to hear the usual self-assuring slogans, and he put himself and the party up for criticism in the only meaningful way: with honesty and courage.

The government would benefit if Tsipras decided to take stock of a politically dense year, not in the safe and cost-free manner which is so popular among political officials (“Sure, some mistakes were made…”), but by pointing a finger at some of the reasons why hope gradually gave place to disappointment.

It would benefit if the prime minister underscored (without resorting to the comfort of conspiracy theories and blaming the hand of alleged enemies) what it was that forced SYRIZA to rescind so many of its pledges and carry out so few measures that reflect its proclaimed ideology.