Our political parties have decided that the global economic crisis and domestic developments in the economy and society are not so great as to shake their confidence in each party’s ability to lead the Greek people to security and prosperity. No one expected the prime minister’s appeal for consensus to lead to an abrupt reversal of decades-old policies. That would demand that each party and each party leader abandon the illusion of infallibility and thereby also undertake responsibility for the state of the country. New Democracy and PASOK would have to shoulder the blame for the years they have traded places in power, while the leftist parties would have to face up to the fact that as opposition parties they have not only failed to make life better for the working people but have also contributed to a lack of flexibility in adapting to changes and to a trade union mentality that has held the country back in several spheres. The consequences are clear, for example, in the education system’s impasse and in the fact that vulnerable groups of workers and the unemployed do not enjoy the representation that workers with full rights do – lest unions’ recognizing the existence of workers in precarious occupations be misconstrued for blessing those occupations at the expense of the fully employed…
The main parties which have been trading places in office operate as if they have no responsibility for Greece’s plight, doing nothing but blame each other; the smaller parties act as if they live in a perfect world where they can make maximalistic demands without dirtying their hands by any contact with reality. Such “idealism” – the demand for a perfect result and nothing else – often leads to blindness and to the opposite result of that which is desired. The concept of university asylum, for example, was adopted with the best of intentions but lead to universities becoming hothouses of violence and intolerance. Also, precarious jobs are here to stay, and as the economy worsens more and more people will accept fewer rights as long as they can get work. It helps no one when parties and unions pretend that they do not exist.
The lack of consensus, however, is much more serious than the parties’ inability to cooperate in order to deal with the current crisis. However serious this problem may be, however necessary it is to tidy up public finances and carry out structural reforms, the country’s basic problems are much greater.
Where consensus is truly necessary is in any effort to overturn the client-patron system that has plagued modern Greece since its establishment. But which parties will abolish themselves, abandoning the system of favors-for-votes on which they base their existence and their pursuit of power? Which parties will clash with informal centers of power that control the parties and determine developments? Which parties will cooperate for real educational reform? Which parties will work toward fixing the National Health System? Which will agree to the creation of new conditions in the labor market, which will reduce workers’ and employers’ contributions to social security while saving money by simplifying the social security system? Which parties will lead farmers, artisans, businessmen to adopt new technologies and create an economy based on the model of “green” development? Which parties can invest seriously and carefully in our cultural heritage, establishing strict rules of behavior and cleanliness with the aim of providing the highest possible level of services?
Only such substantial changes could create new jobs and new sources of wealth. But this would take work, patience and sacrifice; it demands that we abandon the prejudices of decades. Our parties, however, neither dare to take such steps nor to demand them of the people. They behave as if being in power still provides opportunity for political or material gain. They do not understand that reality has left them behind. Agreeing to continue their disagreements, they agree only on their common retreat from the battle for survival that this nation must wage.
Comment in Kathimerini English Edition, 9 March 2009