Leave history to the historians

Leave history to the historians

Will Greece ever manage to catch up with history? This is 2016 and the world around us has changed dramatically. The Chinese have grown into pragmatic capitalists, Vietnam holds official events to lure investors and corporations, and even Cuba is rethinking its approach. Our neighbors had first-hand experience of communism and are now eager to make up the lost ground. Meanwhile, Greeks are still debating whether the country stood on the right side of history in 1944 and some even consider themselves unfortunate about the turn of events.

A large number of people are still obsessing about the Greek civil war (1946-49), prominent resistance leader Aris Velouchiotis, the assassination of independent left-wing MP Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963 and other symbols and events. Doing so may have been understandable in 1974, in 1981 or even in 1985. That section of society that felt excluded from the so-called system and which experienced oppression in the hands of the state apparatus until the fall of the military dictatorship (1974) was right to feel angry.

However, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since. Greek democracy has been stable for several decades and the barren, remote islands where thousands of communists were sent to exile are a closed chapter.

The right and the center have apologized for their mistakes in that period. Right-wing politicians and ideologues went as far as shying away from the public debate surrounding the 1940s. A section of the right was so anxious to adopt the new narrative that they started to adopt populist and anti-western slogans, and almost hung a portrait of Aris Velouchiotis over their desks.

History should be better left to historians who can hopefully perform their task free from ideological constraints. Memory also has a collective dimension and this must be respected. But it must not be turned into an instrument for cheap propaganda. Reuniting Greeks took a lot of effort. National reconciliation was completed in the 1980s. Reopening old wounds, once again dividing a people, is criminal. Equally awkward are those who are having nightmares of a fresh round as if a disorderly albeit European state like Greece could ever be put into the straitjacket of an authoritarian, neo-Stalinist model.

We need a modern left-wing party, not the national populist version that we have seen. At the same time, we need a modern right-wing party that will not resemble some ostentatious left-wing version of a mainstream party.

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