Our brave new world

For the first time since the establishment of the modern Greek state, the country is being led by a government with liberal views of the most advanced, or even extreme, kind. Not even Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s former neoliberal prime minister, dared to make such radical changes in such a short period of time as the Greek Premier George Papandreou – who is also the president of Socialist International – and his Cabinet have. The speed at which Papandreou’s government shed its inhibitions about the political cost of reform has also been quite impressive. The time from tolerating striking dock workers in Piraeus to the commandeering of privately owned haulage and fuel trucks passed in the blink of an eye. Ostensibly, neoliberalism is the realm of New Democracy rather than PASOK but, with the exception of the three-year and rather barren stint of Constantine Mitsotakis at the helm, the conservatives have never really felt comfortable with neoliberal ideas. Dimitrios Gounaris, founder of the People’s Party and the first radical conservative leader, was attacked by Estia, at that time a liberal newspaper, for importing socialist ideas into the country. In the mid-1930s, the dictator and staunch enemy of the Liberals, Ioannis Metaxas, introduced the eight-hour working day and social security. Finally, after the nationalization of Olympic Airways and the Andreadis Group (now Emporiki Bank) by Karamanlis after the fall of the military junta, Andreas Papandreou’s nationalization program paled by comparison. The advantage that PASOK has over New Democracy is that it does not have a rigid ideological platform. Rather, the Socialists have over the years succeeded in bringing together a variety of different ideological elements ranging from the patriotic populism of Theodoros Deligiannis, the aggression of the National Liberation Front (EAM) and the cunning of Eleftherios Venizelos – hence PASOK’s ability to adapt. Interestingly, the current PASOK administration is abandoning its political posturing for the sake of a technocratic approach that is bringing it into conflict with society. Papandreou’s technocrats think that they can save the day by unraveling the old structures – merely because the textbook says so. Here there’s no place for the small family business or the middle classes. We are in for a miracle or the end of politics as we know it.

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