An uphill struggle

Grievances aired by Socialist party officials during a political council meeting on Tuesday, on PASOK’s lack of ideological consistency, provoked a fierce reaction from George Papandreou. «I am not a statist,» PASOK’s chairman shouted, pounding his fist on the table. «I don’t want a parasitic, corrupt state that torments citizens.» The response came from an old die-hard aide of Andreas Papandreou: «What’s all that fuss against statism, Mr Chairman? After all, it was we who were in power for 20 years.» The brief encounter speaks volumes about the political drama currently playing out within PASOK. Papandreou is trying to switch PASOK from a nomenclature-driven faction to a modern socialist party. But the majority of Socialist officials merely aspire to return to the perks of power. But this is also a personal drama. Papandreou has opened multiple fronts, the least dangerous of which is with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. First, he is in daily confrontation with party barons, each in charge of their own fiefdom. Second, he is fighting those business interests that are trying to dictate PASOK’s course and make him defend past sins. Whenever he refuses to bow, he is openly undermined. Third, he faces the reformist cadres who accuse him of not defending their legacy. Finally, Papandreou is struggling with hard elements that question his leadership. That said, Papandreou is useful to both PASOK and the country: Only he can guarantee catharsis and renewal within PASOK. Papandreou can help the country precisely because he is not an opportunist but a modern politician who understands the need for reforms. Yet to succeed, he will have to do more than just pound his fist on the table. He will have to push some of the barons off the train. Then the rest will keep quiet.

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