I will describe as briefly as possible the way I perceive the general political context that emerged after the elections of 25 June in Greece.
In a nutshell, it was an unprecedented (in the years following the regime change of 1974 that is known as Metapolitefsi) success of the Right-wing bloc in all its manifestations, against the backdrop of the simultaneous collapse, with the sole exception of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), of all versions of the Left and Social Democracy. The election result sets the conditions for a medium-term dominance of the governmental version of the Centre, insofar as it manages to effectively lead a broad political, social and ideological coalition. Empirical research shows that this coalition includes almost all the ruling classes and their leading sections, the majority of the upper, middle and lower middle classes, the rural population, the relative majority of the civil service and, it would appear, considerable sections of the working class.
The centre of government has already openly expressed its intentions to intensify the implementation of the political line followed over the past four-year term, while from now on it will also be under systematic pressure from the far Right to move in a more authoritarian direction. For anyone who opposes the choices of the government and the ruling bloc, the only rational option, in my opinion, would be to form an as broad as possible counter-alliance at a social and trade union level, while at the same time initiating a public discussion aimed at formulating credible programmatic alternatives.
Taking the above as facts, I would like to highlight four axes of issues that, in my opinion, have not been sufficiently addressed when discussing the reconstruction of the Left and social democracy. All four refer to deeper causal processes that are of a structural nature and cannot be reduced to ephemeral factors. However, they are crucial because they shape the overall underlying context that both generates and constrains all political and social strategies, regardless of whether they are positioned on the right or the left of the political spectrum.
The first and most important axis is the persistence of the demographic shrinkage trends observed in the Greek nation-state. This shrinkage is taking place against the background of mid-term forecasts which, based on the highly probable scenario in which there will be no halt or reversal of these existing trends, predict conditions of demographic collapse by 2050. Demographic factors may explain to a significant extent – although not independently, i.e. without the mediation of other causal factors such as class and state structure – certain crucial political and social developments that took place between 2010 and 2023.
I would like to cite here some conditions that I believe should be empirically investigated in a systematic way, in the form of working hypotheses: (a) the ageing of the population as an explanation of a more structural political shift towards the Right; (b) the mass exodus of a significant part of the younger middle strata, which possess cultural but not necessarily economic capital, part of which could make up an opposition to the dominant economic and political elites; and (c) the absence of social and cultural dynamics, which corresponds to the relative depopulation of the demographic profile of the country by people belonging to the 20-40 age group.
The second axis concerns the progressive shift of the regime to a form of authoritarian plutocracy through the gradual – yet accelerating – undoing of the post-Metapolitefsi democratic compromise, which was based on the inclusion of certain aspects of the interests of broader ruled strata within the power bloc.
The basic mechanism of this shift is the political and ideological convergence of major business groups or even the merging of their leading shares with the government centre, through the adoption of state policies that significantly increase the profitability of capital while exacerbating the exploitation of wage labour and producing increasing income and wealth inequalities. It is important to realise that, setting aside the discussions on the forthcoming revision of the Constitution that started after the government’s programmatic statements, the plutocratic transformation of the regime is also possible without formally altering the institutional structures.
A typical example of such a so-called democratic plutocracy today is the USA. Elements that support this claim of a similar transformation in Greece include, among others, the concentration of state and legal power in a narrow circle of people directly linked to major business interests, in whose conflicts of interest they act either as mediators or arbitrators, or the verticalisation and control of media owners by businessmen, a process that increases the ideological impact of the ruling bloc by giving it the ability to shape the public agenda.
The third axis concerns the relative decrease of the State’s capacity to implement policies effectively, especially – but not exclusively, as the very recent example of the collapse of the core of state mechanisms with the fires in the Nea Anchialos camp showed – in the field of what is generally called “social policy”. Without dwelling on the well-known particularities of the establishment of the modern Greek state, it suffices to point out that the fiscal compression of the period 2010-2019 under the memoranda regime, drastically changed the Greek state’s capacities for the worse. To the mid-term factor of fiscal compression, we must add the facets of the gradual consolidation of a plutocratic management, to which we have already made reference. These facets are rearranging state priorities and transforming a vast grid of state matter primarily into an arbitration between business groups, thus affecting even some theoretically “immune” sectors, such as the judiciary.
The fourth and last axis refers to Greece’s geopolitical orientation. As the main political forces’ stance on the Ukrainian crisis has shown, the now predominant strategy is that of a close attachment to the Euro-Atlantic axis and its allies in the Eastern Mediterranean region, with whose interests Greece’s nation-centred aspirations are considered to be identical. The issue is of course huge, but it is worth asking ourselves, beyond any moralistic assessment that might tend to cloud the political crisis, firstly, whether such a stance is realistic given the tectonic changes taking place on a global scale and, secondly, whether it is correct even from the narrowest, and by no means universal, perspective of the interests of the Greek nation-state.