A strong state

The government has carried out a review of the Socialists’ economic legacy, set up a parliamentary committee to investigate arms-procurement deals signed by former PASOK ministers, given Ankara the green light for the launch of European Union membership negotiations, and proposed Socialist former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias as its candidate for the presidential race. That chapter is now closed. Most Greeks believe that the country was rescued on the verge of disaster; their aversion for some of PASOK’s ministers has grown, but many still feel the government has not gone far enough. No leadership can expect to win popular support merely by lambasting the sorry performance of its predecessors – the people in any case condemned them in the last elections. Most importantly, the new administration must seek to restructure the country. The state can be the only driving force for such a vital campaign. Those who thought that the predominance of free-market economies would have made the state redundant should have known better. Nineteenth-century Britain would have never been able to impose a free trade system had it not been a global sea power, and American firms would never have been able to play an international role were it not for Washington’s all-mighty military muscle that was flexed whenever American interests came under threat. The need for state power has not diminished but has actually became more acute. In Greece, state power was never manifested in the country’s defense sector (notably, after 1974 the Turkish military force grew to be greater than Greece’s). Instead, state power became more evident in the economic sector. The pathetic administrations that were at the helm of the country in previous years managed to ruin once-powerful public corporations. Later, with the introduction of the new economic doctrines of the 1990s, these firms were gradually privatized to redress the public deficits. At the same time, money contributed by millions of Greek taxpayers was lost as a result of political ineptitude. Save for a few exceptions, economic deregulation did not lead to the creation of robust private businesses. The huge sums of money pumped from the stock market were squandered and Greece has been exporting less than any other EU member – before the May 1 expansion. Nevertheless, we should not pass the blame onto businessmen or employees. The pace is always set by the government, and when the state acts in a consistent and convincing fashion, the labor force will follow. The Greek people expect to see more than a review of public finances from the conservative administration. They want to see concrete political measures which will aim at restoring a crumbling social order and lost hierarchies. They want a remedy for the chaotic situation caused by wrong-headed measures, which, instead of boosting Greece’s creative forces, opened the door to opportunists in the economic and political spheres. This is a daunting task, not so much because decent cadres are lacking but because a clearer and stricter framework is needed. Above all, there is a need for a stronger ideological identity that will clearly distinguish the current administration from the managerial character and tactical maneuvers of its Socialist predecessors.