A cynical view of progress

A cynical view of progress

Alexis Tsipras has issued a call to arms “to all those who define themselves as belonging to the progressive wing and who recognize that the great issue of our age is to avert the rise of the extreme-right in Europe and also to deal with neoliberal choices and neoliberal policies.” The prime minister’s effort to give an ideological slant to the pre-election period is understandable, given that his government has been based mainly on applying whichever tactic would keep him in office, given that he is betting on handouts to help him in the elections.

For years it has been clear that the old ideological divisions no longer apply. The real division today is between those who seek to strengthen the country so that it can deal with the time’s challenges, and those who believe that we can turn our backs on the rest of the world and live well simply by redistributing the untold wealth that we possess.

The first group sees the need for Greece to be a serious member of the European Union and the global community, the second is given to delusions of grandeur, conspiracy theories and the refusal to deal with reality and its dangers. Representatives of both trends can be found across the political spectrum.

In 2015, Alexis Tsipras came to realize – with great delay – that if he did not ensure Greece’s continued membership of the eurozone, he would be saddled with a national disaster. So he did whatever was necessary to keep Greece on course and his party in power, to the great disappointment of extreme-right-wingers elsewhere (including France’s National Front), who hoped that the clash between Greece and the EU would weaken the Union.

At the same time, the Tsipras-Kammenos government was doing all in its power to undermine anyone and anything that it considered part of the elite, while favoring the growth of various groups which functioned at the expense of the rest of society. But strengthening the “anti-systemic” wave lifted not only groups of the extreme-left but also those of the extreme-right.

The irony is that even as SYRIZA’s populism helped strengthen extremist groups, its own “neoliberal choices,” as in accepting the terms of the third bailout, as in the Prespes agreement, drew strong reactions from groups to the left and right of SYRIZA.

Now, as if it was absent over the past four years, SYRIZA insists that anyone who is not on its side is extreme-right-wing or neoliberal – as if these contradictory terms were the same, as if the persistent cultivation of division and cynical vote-buying determine progressiveness.

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