It may not be widely articulated, but the view that political power is won or lost in the political center has not been confirmed. The destruction of the middle class will be the fifth fundamental shift in the world where the so-called baby boomer generation emerged.
The baby boomers changed the world around 1968 when they rose up against the conservatism of their parents, the US war in Vietnam, the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia and labor oppression. It was the time of Bob Dylan, Herbert Marcuse, Che Guevara and a wave of reforms in the business sector that brought about fresh ideas such as as the managerial grid model.
The world changed again when liberal ideas won the battle against the champions of statism. It was the time of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and the deification of self-regulating market forces.
The third sweeping change saw the breakdown of statist regimes, Soviet imperialist expansion and Maoist cultural cleansing. What emerged was pretty much the world of today.
All the above are now being questioned anew due to the fourth major shift, the one brought about by the big crisis which we are still trying to overcome.
The Nixon-Kissinger-Clinton dogma was rather simple. The idea was to create in the former authoritarian communist regimes a big middle class that would push these states toward democratization and a more harmonious cooperation with the old West. This approach does not seem to work anymore.
In the states that spent the 50 postwar years under strict statism in the economy and education, with limited political freedoms and protectionism against international trade, the forces of populism have prevailed, using the weapons of the open society that we crave.
As Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev says in his book “After Europe,” the electoral success of populist parties is transforming democracy from an instrument of inclusion into an instrument of exclusion.
This is exactly what Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s acolytes have in mind. They want to destroy the middle class and turn Greece into a battlefield of class struggle. “It’s us or them,” as he put it. Similar stuff has come from the mouth of Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis.
If neopopulism prevails, you can be sure that we, the postwar generation, will see the dreams that our war-scarred parents had when they brought us into this world come to a horrible death.