Fighting corruption

Prime Minister Costas Simitis is finally confronting the economic and political repercussions of his government’s policies, which are often amateurish but always arrogant. These policies have been advertised as a model and as «the expression of the new entrepreneurial spirit,» yet they go directly against the basic principles of esthetics and decent social and economic behavior. In his attempt to swim along with the new tide, Simitis has oscillated – either intentionally or in a state of utter confusion – between the fashionable ideas of market deregulation and the transfer of public corporations to state-funded groups, systematically corroding the state mechanism. But the present, problematic situation would not have emerged had the State and its purpose not been totally discredited even before. Successively, the Left fought against the Rightist state; the wretched colonels declared war on the old regime; the first term PASOK government plundered the public sector; and, finally, New Democracy «liberals» and the reformists from other political groups have undermined the public administration which had been long established in Greece. But when the State’s functioning is so fiercely attacked, when State officials are denounced as idle and helpless, they become vulnerable to manipulation from business as well. If public administration is in dire straits today, it is only because Greek governments encouraged a debased public sector so that they could act at will, without any resistance. However, those who brought about the current baseness portray themselves as critics of a public sector which they themselves have created. Rather than fighting for the restoration of the State, they are systematically trying to belittle it. There is no doubt that the days when self-made millionaires felt inferior to senior state officials, military men or diplomats ended sometime back in the 1950s, not only in Greece but even in Britain, which until recently maintained some of the traditional elements of a European society. Paradoxically, however, the need to combine the social stability of the mid-20th century with the supposed dynamism of the present era is becoming increasingly clear. The new version of liberalism, which appeared as a panacea to the excesses of previous years, may indeed, at some point, have released creative forces but they also subjected politics to organized economic interests. This turned the representative system into an oligarchic one, while corrupting the State and the politicians. Its promises of a democracy of participation, in its broadest form, were disproved, as it unleashed chaos rather than harmony, creating the need for more authoritative measures. The problem cannot, of course, be solved with pledges like the one Simitis made last week, when he said that democracy is «not subject to threats or blackmail.» Instead, it requires an unremitting struggle. The question is whether Simitis, whose re-election was supported by this entire system, is able to purge the political system of its malignancies; and there are strong reservations about whether this is possible. Could it be just a coincidence that there is no getting away from the fact that death in lyric theater is manifest in a multitude of works and cases?