Rosa, Cornelius and Ebert

The government-opposition rivalry has descended into absurdity with PASOK leader George Papandreou’s «socialism or barbarity» barb. Government officials who reacted with outrage had obviously not heard of the activist Rosa Luxemburg who coined the phrase back in 1916, nor the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis, who continued the tradition after 1948. In short, they are blissfully unaware of major trends in 20th-century political thought. Hence their absurd responses. Yet Papandreou’s own claim to be heir to «red» Rosa is equally absurd. Luxemburg was murdered by the parastate Freikorps, as Social Democrat leader Friedrich Ebert turned a blind eye. But those were troubled times, when Germany and Europe were emerging from the ruins of World War I and the Russian Revolution was changing the flow of history. Paradoxes are inherent in history and, when they are used deliberately, they only undermine and even make a mockery of the speaker. It is precisely that mockery which – naturally – even Communist Party of Greece leader Aleka Papariga was unaware of, when she once again staked her own party’s claim to orthodox socialism, damning Europe once more and ridiculing PASOK, which she claims has no right to call itself truly «socialist.» Papariga also has her own claim to Rosa Luxemburg’s legacy, in the same primitive way that her party uses Stalin as its ideological bulwark. Ignorance, resorting to history for sound bites, socialism as a lifestyle, the worship of doctrines, a lack of education and selfishness, are all elements of this absurd squabble over names and images. They are all elements of the pointless verbalism which characterizes nearly all public debate among our politicians today.

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