Our creditors and our partners marvel at what has been happening in Greece over the past two years. They wonder how it is possible to impose such deep cuts to pensions and enact such labor reforms, among so much more, yet still be standing. Some, like Europe’s Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, express support for the government of Alexis Tsipras, citing such reforms.
The truth, however, is that up until 2015, they saw Athens in flames every so often and frequent mass protests. Suddenly, this all stopped. Greek citizens have become numb as they continue to see more cuts being imposed. Protests are less frequent and smaller. The hooligans just partake in “extracurricular” activities on the weekends now.
But what is really going on? Nobody can provide a clear answer to this. Perhaps Greek society has become accustomed to its hard, expensive reality and has gotten much of the rage out of its system following the renegotiation and referendum fiasco in the summer of 2015. Perhaps some are reeling from a government that zealously says one thing but does another, and means one thing, but argues something else. It is as if an invisible hand pushed a button and stopped the violent protests that monopolized worldwide television interest.
The question then is what will happen if SYRIZA loses the next elections? Will we go back to the way things were and endure mass protests and more frequent episodes of rioting from the hoodlums? If you ask much of SYRIZA’s political leadership, they’ll tell you, without hesitation, that they would have no objection to turning once again to an extreme anti-memorandum line the day they step down from government. None. Besides, it’s clear that Tsipras appears to want to move toward the center but the soul and political DNA of those surrounding him are pulling him back to the political fringes.
Will he be able to revive his role as the leader of anti-memorandum sentiment that can rally the masses? Even if he does, will the people who voted for him continue to believe and to follow him? We will see about that. What is clear now is that Tsipras cannot take advantage of the fact that many taboos have been broken to push the country forward. He speaks openly about privatizations, business and investments. Athens is not burning and the trade union movement is weakened. If, however, he cannot put his words into actions, we will find ourselves in a deadlock, with rapid political developments. It would be tragic for our country to once again get dragged back into the upheaval of recent years.
Greece needs normalcy, which also requires a normal Europe-minded opposition.