Left to their own devices

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The statement by the leader of the ultranationalist LAOS party outside the Presidential Palace on Monday was typical of Giorgos Karatzaferis.

Among other demands (no fresh wage and pension cuts, no surrender of national sovereignty, and no squandering of public assets) he urged New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to request the abolition of legislation on migrants’ citizenship.

Sure, the law is like a red flag for Greece’s conservatives and it is bound to resurface in public debate. When George Papandreou and Samaras came close to striking a unity coalition in June, the latter set it as a condition -- and Karatzaferis is bringing the issue back now.

Of course, the LAOS chief is too smart to set it as a condition. Rather, he chose to expose Samaras, first in the eyes of conservative voters (a reservoir for both parties); and, secondly, in the eyes of everyone else, by reminding people of Samaras’s misguided terms in June.

In any case, the issue is on the agenda and pressure to change the law will intensify. And though it may be true that Karatzaferis has scored points against Samaras, the damage is more serious for parties on the left. Whether Greece’s leftist parties like it or not, a great deal is at stake at the moment. It’s more than petty political bargaining ahead of the coming elections. Even if this were the intention of the two mainstream parties, political and ideological issues will emerge -- possibly as pretexts in bargaining.

By saying no to everything, the left declares itself absent at a very crucial moment. Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga and SYRIZA chief Alexis Tsipras went as far as to boycott the meeting of political leaders which will decide the future of the country. Even if the future is a gloomy one in the eyes of the left, shouldn’t our “progressive” party leaders use this event as a step from which to advertise their own, brighter future?

Thankfully, Samaras did not set a change in the migration law as a condition. But this did not happen because of left-wing opposition. It just happened that way. We don’t know what would happen if the issue were on the table. Perhaps a desperate PASOK would have given in.

The left’s all-or-nothing policy has historically left it with nothing. Worse, the left is pushing itself out of the institutions and onto the fringe. It gives the impression that all it can do is make noise. It’s a shame. The country needs the left. The fertile left, not the spasmodic nihilists.

Published in ekathimerini.com , Wednesday November 9, 2011