Class-oriented Policies and Shameless Populism in the Greek Spin

The recent government decision to use its primary budget surplus in order to distribute a “social dividend” comes with yet another class-oriented policy spin. In the three years it has been in power, the SYRIZA-led government has a string of policies earmarked with some old fashioned ideological self-righteousness.

The banks’ capital control imposition in the summer of 2015 was officially blamed on the “money laundering, extortionist troika and its local allies” rather than on the prime minister’s six-months-old amateuristic bravado in the Eurogroup summits. The ensuing referendum (which, until this day, nobody has any idea what exactly it was about), had a clear ideological motive aimed at inciting the illusion of a sense of pride in the working class masses.

Having gotten rid of both the hard leftist ideologues and centre-left pragmatists in his own party in the autumn 2015 snap elections, Alexis Tsipras has been governing with a populist compass ever since. His loyal MPs have reached critical insanity levels, declaring class warfare while eagerly voting for the most extreme neo-conservative agenda ever imposed on the country.

The excuse for this schizophrenic duality has always been “the dire straits of the economy we inherited” and the “awful circumstances under which we are dictated to by the conservative EU and international economic establishment.”

One might think that such an excuse would have gotten old after the mess with which this government has left the economy, the marketplace and the younger generation in the past three years. Then again, one would be mistaken not to take into account the Greek voters’ addiction to populism in the past 35 years too.

The debate for the “social dividend” the government is voting for in parliament these days, carries the same mixture of ideological cries and shameless populism. In all but name, the most hardcore of SYRIZA MPs are spinning the idea of a “redistribution of wealth” of sorts.

Their claim is that by using the high primary budget surplus to offer a fixed Christmas bonus to the lower classes, they are redistributing wealth (well, subsidies, really, but that’s just… semantics) – like modern, Marx-educated Robin Hoods, taking from the “sheriffs” of Notting-Greece and giving to the poor.

Little should we care that the surplus itself was “funded” by middle-to-lower-class citizens, unable to avoid the non viable high taxation imposed by the same leftists who have done nothing to fight the excessive tax evasion by wealthy and state-funded “entrepreneurs” alike.

The government’s economic mix is almost transparent: Gather as many taxes as humanly possible (so that your public servant clientele remains intact), withhold every last penny of state-owed return taxes (mostly to small businesses), create an unrealistic and ultimately fake budget surplus, and then play Marxist revolutionaries by offering a measly bonus to those barely surviving the recession.

It’s a perfect storm of poorly executed ideology, poisonous class polarization and opportunistic populism – a mirror of the political raw material this government was actually made of. And as long as the voters keep falling for it, they remain willing accomplices to the con.