The lost charm of the Left

One often wonders what happened to the Left we grew up with and which taught us to think politically. Although more than 25 years have passed since then, I remember a Left that questioned common beliefs but also thought for itself. This was a cosmopolitan Left that sought answers to all the big issues and wanted to change the world. There were those who ridiculed it as an «incubator of the bourgeoisie,» an upmarket Left that had not been through the mill of mass movements. Undoubtedly it produced people who at least abhorred populism and excesses and had a sense of responsibility to society, but the populism of the 1980s brought that Left down to a common denominator. The Left we see today depends too much on the fear that things might change, that globalization might swallow us up, that changes might inconvenience us. It is a Left that is continually complaining and has no qualms about clandestine links with even the the most conservative elements, from nationalism to Greece’s religious fanatics. Reading again the 1974 text «Goals of the Nation» by Leonidas Kyrkos and other leaders of the anti-dictatorship movement, one finds references to a consensus in foreign policy, education, health, a reorganized state, a redefinition of the role of civil servants, that is things that Greek society is still demanding 32 years later. Why hasn’t it happened? Kyrkos says it is because coming to power means perpetuating the Right/anti-Right conflict… Perhaps the people want the «us» vs «them» conflict. Extreme populism has got us where we are today, where the Left is denying everything that distinguished it from everyone else – the desire to talk to everyone and to change the world instead of defending a wretched status quo.