Parties and corner shops

Of all the good things wished upon Alexis Tsipras, the new leader of Synaspismos Left Coalition, the most precious one most probably came from PASOK’s Theodoros Pangalos. If the past is any guide, Pangalos’s verbal attack means that the newly elected leader will have the stars on his side. Dimitris Avramopoulos won the race for Athens mayor after Pangalos called him «Mr Nobody.» Within Synaspismos they hope that, after being scoffed at as «a little corner shop,» the party will evolve into a mega-store. Provided, of course, that it goes further than electing a young leader and does not rush to believe that the now encouraging opinion polls will necessarily translate into votes at the time of the ballot. Nothing can be taken for granted by any party – as the leaders of Synaspismos should be the first to know. Pangalos’s remarks («those Synaspismos cadres see PASOK as a mega-store where they can go and shop without paying,» he said) show he thinks that parties bind their friends and voters for life. The sheep should never leave the flock. But this is what politics is all about. Endless conflict, power swings, rejections, changes of preference. PASOK’s precipitous fall, like its huge success in the 1980s, should have taught the Socialists that there is no such thing as an unchanging society, despite the efforts of the big parties to keep it pinned down. For years, particularly at the time of the late Andreas Papandreou, the Left accused PASOK of pilfering its electoral support. Now PASOK socialists are lamenting the same fate. This time, it’s PASOK officials who failed to see their mistakes and stay in tune with social and historical change. Hanging on to what no longer exists is a denial of politics and presages an even greater defeat.