Reading main opposition SYRIZA’s review of what happened in the first part of its four-and-a-half years in power, one cannot help but think: “Are you kidding? You’re telling us now what we were telling you then and you scorned us.”
I am of the opinion that the whole experience of the previous administration’s first term was catastrophic but inevitable, perhaps even “necessary.” Were it not for the expensive lesson on the chimera that deflated like a balloon, we would still be living in our own delusions as a people. We would still be looking for magical and exotic solutions in the Far East, we would believe we could blackmail Europeans into writing off our debt, and so on.
Not that there is not still a significant part of the Greek population that believes all that – on the contrary. But the great majority realized that, in today’s geopolitical, capitalist world system, life for a country like Greece is like an uphill one-way street.
At the time of the “sacred” anti-bailout struggle and before the referendum of July 2015, SYRIZA led a nationalist-populist movement that was amplified and expressed through social media. It dominated a new arena of public confrontation that charmed the justifiably angry citizens. It offered anger, simplistic theories, and poisonous, personal and completely “Trumpian” attacks on anyone who disagreed with the party.
That is when all of that entered public discourse and political life. And SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras himself paid for it when he signed the Prespes agreement and at the end of his term because, as we often discover, the beast of irrational and wild populism will bite the hand that feeds it.
So SYRIZA’s self-criticism says what we were saying back then: that it was not prepared for power at all, that it rushed to take it; that it underestimated the consequences of the national threats facing the country; that Russia and China can and should be countries with which we have very good relations but they do not want to and cannot replace our traditional alliances; and that other countries will take us seriously as long as we remain in Europe and in the eurozone.
The country needs a serious, dynamic main opposition. Tsipras and SYRIZA have learned and matured through the crises they handled. Clearly, they are worlds apart from the party that garnered just 3 percent in December 2008 or even the party of 2014. But they still have some way to go in the process of maturing. There are still many people who want to return the party to its previous positions and cancel any move toward realism. But society has also progressed.
On issues such as the legislation to curb disruptive protest marches that cripple city life, it is no longer a matter of right or left policies: It is about what is practical and self-evident. Tsipras has shown that he can cut Gordian knots, but he takes too long to do it. I believe he now knows that a politician or an actor, no matter how talented, will not be able to sell tickets again playing the same role from other times and circumstances.