Sunday, May 27, 2012

Only a new political order can rescue Greece

by Pavlos Eleftheriadis

Financial Times

May 27, 2012

Why is Greece sleepwalking to disaster? As a Greek citizen I have been aware for years of the dire state of our public finances. Yet the political system failed to react, just as it has failed to produce a coalition government. The June election is a gamble because the extremist parties have the initiative. How did we come to this? The reasons lie in three largely unnoticed facts about Greek political life.

The first is the cultivation of hatred. A legacy of the civil war of 1946 to 1949 was the persistent and humiliating persecution of the left. Greek society in the 1950s was deeply hierarchical along lines of family and class. During the cold war another hierarchy was put in place. Leftwingers and other nonconformists were considered dangerous and unpatriotic and were persecuted by an apparatus of oppression that was dismantled only with the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974.

When the Socialists won power in 1981 they created a new hierarchy. Left supporters were now given civil service jobs, promotions and government contracts. The right was branded dangerous and unpatriotic.

The rhetoric of hatred survives today. Greek public life is still theatrical and poisonous. The parties of the left speak of the EU bailout as a “barbaric act” and a “crime”. Parties of the extreme right call pro-EU leaders “traitors” and “collaborators”. Their rhetoric rarely pauses to ask what caused the debt crisis or how it can be resolved. Forming a coalition would question everyone’s official outrage.


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