SYRIZA’s transformation into a “progressive” political party has stirred a lot of skepticism and debate. Some observers realize that the conditions which enabled a party of 3 percent to become government are no more. They know that the 31 percent reaped by the party in July can no longer be taken for granted. They believe that expanding SYRIZA’s electoral catchment is the political antidote to the party’s decline. With the Greek center-left in disarray, the same observers say, now is the time to plunder it.
Meanwhile, more “orthodox” pundits endorse the guiding principle of the so-called “pluralist left,” which basically suggests that there are more left-wing parties than voters. This is no surprise, as the pursuit for ideological purity is endemic to the left. It entails endless discussions about the nature of the left and criticism of “evil society” – while sipping an espresso of course.
Naturally, these folk feel uncomfortable with efforts by the top SYRIZA echelons to open up the party by recruiting former officials from PASOK, Greece’s once-dominant socialists. It would mean having to address as “colleagues” people that up until a few years ago had been denounced as “quislings,” “German foot soldiers,” “sellouts” and other such leftist epithets. Panos Skourtletis spoke for an entire generation of the (purportedly) “progressive” left by saying that George Papandreou, the former premier and PASOK leader, is “toxic.” We were lucky that he did not tweet the name of Papandreou’s favorite restaurant, giving the commandos of “progress” a target. The analytical powers of those who developed a political conscience in the abrupt and, therefore hollow, manner dictated by the crisis are naturally limited. They had neither the time to grasp nor the desire to study the structural causes behind the Greek crisis. In their eyes, it was a “capitalist conspiracy” aided by “obedient servants” and aimed at pauperizing the Greek people, just as the slogans say.
Ideological rigidity is widely regarded in Greece as an indication of consistency. In that sense, those fighting against the idea of diluting leftist ideals would be seen as colorful but consistent. That would perhaps be the case, barring a significant detail in SYRIZA’s history. It is amazing that the same people who balk at the prospect of Nikos Bistis joining the party’s ranks had no qualms about cozying up with Panos Kammenos. For five years, they allied themselves with the most populist and dangerous version of the right. Now they are writing polemics about “a radical, militant and structural opposition to the government of the right” (Avgi newspaper, 21.11.2019). The problem is not ideological rigidity, but double standards.