I really hate to agree with Takis Michas or advertise his opinions – especially now that he’s a fully-fledged member of Dora Bakoyiannis’ new rump grouping – but his analysis of why Greece is far from the path of economic recovery and social and political regeneration is accurate. Greece will fail not because the economic measures demanded of it are too stringent, but because the Greek state cannot enforce its laws and doesn’t know how to govern the country. (Michas’ article on Greece’s descent into anarchy initially appeared yesterday here, in the Wall Street Journal).
Athens Descends Into Anarchy
Greece’s public debt may reach 150% of GDP this year, an alarming possibility that has captivated outside observers. But in the final analysis, the major issue confronting Greece may not be its solvency, but its governance.
The country is at the mercy of militant activists who are inspired by various factions of the hard left. The heaviest hitters are Greece’s Communist Party and the anarcho-Stalinist Coalition of the Radical Left, which is composed of the Ecosocialists of Greece, the “Roza” Radical Left Group, and the Internationalist Workers' Left, to name a few. With total impunity, their followers have taken to harassing citizens and destroying public property – even taking over whole villages.
In one case last year, a group of militants badly beat a former center-right New Democracy minister in front of television cameras. No arrests were made. In another case, a group of thugs accosted a leading Greek journalist while he ate in a restaurant. A similar incident happened last month, the victim that time being a minister of the governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement. No arrests were made in those cases, either. In May 2010, three employees of the private bank Marfin suffocated to death when a hard-left mob firebombed their offices during a riot. Again, no arrests.
Then there are the various movements of “civil disobedience” organized by Greece’s hard left. These include the “Den plirono” (“I won't pay”) phenomenon, which amounts to supposedly brave refuseniks lifting barriers at motorway toll-booths and driving through without paying. This, even as their co-ideologues destroy bus and metro-ticket machines.
These acts of theft and vandalism have also gone unpunished, though to combat fare-dodging on public transport, the government has dispatched a new team of inspectors. This week one of them was shot twice in the stomach by a bus passenger, and he remains in critical condition.
Last summer, the Communist Party organized hundreds of union members to block tourists from boarding ferries to Greek islands. Yet even after the courts ruled that the move was illegal, no arrests were made.
Is it any surprise, therefore, that there exist today areas of Greece where the government no longer exercises sovereignty? One such area is the village of Keratea, near Athens International Airport. Keratea's inhabitants, supported by anarchist “freedom fighters” from the greater metropolitan area, have been engaged for two months in near daily pitched battles with the police, using firebombs, stones and rubble. Their complaint is the government’s decision to construct a landfill near the village.
“If the Keratea model becomes accepted as a method of protesting,” writes Alexis Papahelas in the daily Kathimerini newspaper, "then the country will enter a very disquieting phase.”
What stands out in all these incidents is the authorities’ inability or unwillingness to enforce the law.
“Even if we arrest them, they will be out in no time,” a police officer in Athens told me on condition of anonymity. “Their political patrons will see to it.”
Many argue that Greece’s disintegration is the unavoidable consequence of the government’s attempt to enforce fiscal austerity. This seems doubtful. This meltdown can be seen as the product of the totalitarian left’s open attempt to exploit the economic crisis and destroy Greece's existing democratic and economic institutions. What we are witnessing is not a descent into chaos, but a descent into organized lawlessness. Sowing pandemonium and forcing Greece to default will, according to Greek Stalinists’ analysis, bring the revolution nearer.
What makes the situation worrisome is not so much the political strength of this movement. After all, the Communist Party and the Coalition of the Radical Left together claim no more than 13% popular support.
The problem, rather, lies with the political and ideological passivity of the parties that do represent Greece's broader middle classes. The tolerance these democrats have shown toward their totalitarian counterparts has allowed the latter to play a leading role in shaping Greek public discourse. Do they imagine the favor would be returned if the Coalition of the Radical Left were in charge?
Unless Greece’s political elite realizes the seriousness of what’s happening and acts now to re-establish the rule of democratic law, their efforts to deal with Greece's economic problems will have been in vain.
Mr. Michas is the international secretary for Greece's new centrist-liberal party, the Democratic Alliance.