After a spectacular defeat in the elections for the European Parliament, the government of SYRIZA was forced to declare national elections for 7 July. If the polls are to be trusted – hard to tell these days – it seems that another spectacular defeat is in store for them. So much so that it seems as though the experiment of the so-called “first-time left-wing government” is doomed to end in ridicule.
Gore Vidal said that the sweetest words in any language are the following four – ‘I told you so!’
In an opinion that I wrote four days after elections in 2015 I predicted the failure of the SYRIZA experiment on the basis of the incoherence of their policies, their personal idiosyncratic differences and importantly their inability to understand how to govern.
Despite its election to office, SYRIZA seems to have remained a perennial opposition party in behaviour. SYRIZA made-up by 40-50 per cent of failed politicians who escaped the demise of the socialist party PASOK, and by some individuals from small coteries and academic groups who made a name by propagating the idea of class enemies everywhere and especially at neighbourhood cafes.
Greece is country that lives in post-modernity without ever having gone through modernity.
The provincialism and suburbanism in their rhetoric were seductive and uncontested. The usual pop-enemies, bad foreigners, predatory capitalists and pernicious Americans were undermining their nation-saving mission.
The European Union and the Germans became the target of their quasi-religious rhetoric against the enemies of the nation. Whoever tried to make sense of such language they were considered traitors and collaborators.
In May 2015, the SYRIZA government visited Moscow imagining Vladimir Putin as the successor to Brezhnev. Putin of course ridiculed them in public and even revealed their plans to the world. Their humiliation born out of their politics of nostalgia for the world of the 1970’s, coupled with the inability to understand what happened after 1991.
Within six months the government had evolved into a circus though in-fighting and mutual distrust. The 2015 pseudo-referendum was not an attempt to reassert Greek dignity towards the pernicious Europeans but a cynical opportunity for Tsipras to get rid of his opponents.
Frozen in time and a Manichean political language – us versus them – soon the internationalist Left government became more nationalistic and conservative than the old conservative party.
Their economic policies were taken from corporatist manuals that prescribed the over-taxing of the middle class and the destruction of every economic activity.
They practised an intensified form of bureaucratic socialism that sought to control every activity through committees and the random individuals they trusted.
Nepotism and favouritism thrived beyond any imagination. Friends of friends of friends became political personalities in one night: what might have resulted to the renewal of the political class became in the end a laughable array of amateurs and opportunists.
READ MORE: Vrasidas’ Melancholia and Greek Politics
Yet the country had to face serious problems like the influx of refugees, wild bush fires, floods and natural catastrophes of which the government never took any responsibility. It was a tragic display of incompetence and narcissism that projected itself as the new in political life that totally destroyed the credibility of the left in its effort to suggest solutions to the extreme problems of society.
The left in Greece never acted as left radically changing the language, politics and the power structures. SYRIZA with left-wing rhetoric administered power in a right-wing way.
SYRIZA politicians remained tourists after they were elected. They never understood the difference between state and government and that the state functions on institutions, international agreements and obligations. After their election they thought that they could rewrite history and politics; instead they created chaos, as a result of their inadequacy and amateurism. Now, the working and the middle class had to pay for their quixotic fantasies and utopian delusions.
In the end, the conservatives will come back and a new round of antiquated politics will be inaugurated. Greece is country that lives in post-modernity without ever having gone through modernity. The globetrotters of its high class believed Zizek and Badiou were their philosophers but in reality they were discussing with Mikhail Suslov and Karl Kautsky.
On the other hand, the conservative opposition has not renewed itself enough in order to offer any hope for genuine change. They are equally parochial and provincial unable to place the country within the context of the profound geopolitical changes that take place around the region with Turkey, Russia and the Middle East experiencing a deep and long-term readjustment of their political and ideological orientations. It’s too early to condemn them.
They will fail too; if there is no robust middle class to instigate a risk-taking spirit of innovation and productivity, the working class will be reduced to a state of poverty whereas the high classes will simply take their wealth out of the country. And Greece will become a nation of servants for the holidaymakers of the rich northern Europeans.
The end of the left in Greece also means the end of politics as a project of social renewal in the birthplace of democracy. Koulis, Alexis, Fofi, Yanis and some many others have taken over: the era of amateurs has arrived and we are invited to enjoy it. Indeed we are doomed to amuse ourselves to death with them.
* Vrasidas Karalis teaches Modern Greek Studies at the University of Sydney where he holds the Sir Nicholas Laurantos Chair in Byzantine and Modern Greek.