OP/ED: Kotzias, the two choices of the Left

OP/ED: Kotzias, the two choices of the Left

In an article in Documento newspaper, former Minister and leader of the “Pratto” political movement Nikos Kotzias analyzes the two “choices” of the Left; move to the center and converge with the political system, or build a wider democratic front and mobilize those who abstained and are distanced? What can we learn from elections in other countries, particularly in the US?

The full article:

In the public debate unfolding regarding the direction the Left should follow, two “proposals” are formulated:

The first one envisages a shift of the Left “towards the center”, where it considers any potential political gains to be found. Verily, it urges the Left to abandon the questioning of the system of power and its supporters, to become a “good kid”. To limit itself to regular choices towards the center without strategic depth, but also with consents to the government, especially in health and foreign policy.

This proposal is consolidated upon dominant, non-leftist perceptions of a long period of the post-junta political seance. Today, their partisans are the bearers of the perception that the Left must be integrated “quietly” in the system. To keep pace with the “modernization center” and cut off from the patriotic Left.

I must note that the scheme for convergence at the center entails some practical significance when social and political conditions are not polarized. When the two main parties of the system do not belong to the Left. However, when discussing about the Left in a country amidst a multifaceted crisis, with intense social disparities and a political system in division, there are no voters for the Left in a non-existent center. Its aim should be the mobilization of inert popular forces, citizens with a critical view of the Left and distanced from it, such as the 700,000 who voted for the ruling left in 2015, but not in 2019.

This pursuit can be achieved provided that there is a consequence, a program, a vision, a plan and clear goals set out by the Left against the policy of the Mitsotakis administration and its people. Critical voters will be mobilized by consistently addressing the one-sided policy of serving the interests of the oligarchy and its constituents; that policy that leads the country to international degradation and shrinkage of all its magnitudes, from GDP and demographics to labor rights and the functioning of parliamentarism.

To address all this, as PRATTO suggests and explains in the six axes of programmatic convergence and action published five days ago, radical solutions and seriousness are required. Solutions that directly oppose the policies of New Democracy and the oligarchic interests. Solutions rooted not in some convergence with the “center”, but in a policy that manages to mobilize the democratic-patriotic conscience and hope of the voters. The Left needs inspiration, seriousness, hope and relationships cemented upon trust, as well as clarity as to who the enemy is, in order to mobilize the social majority and win it back.

The comprehension of this position becomes easier if one analyzes a “clean” bipartisan system, such as that of the United States, in which elections were recently held. More specifically:

In 2000, Republican nominee George Bush received 47.9% of the vote, or 50.5 million. Although he received 0.5% and 544,000 votes less than the Democratic candidate (51 million, or 48.4%), he clinched the presidency because of the electoral system. In 2004, the Democrats launched a successful campaign to mobilize their voters, especially the leftists. Their candidate received 8 million more votes (59.028 million) than in 2000. However, they lost the presidency once again. What happened? Bush managed to mobilize the evangelists and sections of the far right, receiving 11.59 million more votes than in 2000!

The numbers indicate that the 2004 US election, taking place amid a climate of deep schisms, was not won by some “convergence and redistribution” in the center, but by the distribution and mobilization of 20 million critical voters! The simultaneous rise of both parties shows that the gains derive from the recovery and mobilization of dissident and critical voters. These are gains that came in a climate of dichotomization that was described by the literature of the time as “The Second American Civil War.”

The same recurring pattern can be detected in the most recent elections in the USA. In 2016, Trump received 63 million votes. Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton was defeated, although she received three million more votes than Trump. In 2020, the candidates of both parties received a record number of votes. Trump got 74 million! An unprecedented record for an incumbent President, as he secured 11 million extra votes compared to 2016! A number that drove him crazy in combination with the fact that he lost the elections. Biden received 79.5 million votes! Historical record as well. An additional 13.8 million votes from Clinton. It is evident that, in 2020, as in 2004, there was no convergence of votes and a new distribution of the existing ballots “in the center”. On the contrary, what happened is that almost 25 (!) million “critical and dissident voters” mobilized and joined to the deeply polarized electoral battle.

This conclusion is confirmed by many other similar analyzes: in conditions of social polarization, the rulers resort to authoritarianism and obscurantism. Such a polarization is created, that a left-wing opposition must prove that it is a real and realistic, serious alternative and not a “system-pleasing” force to be praised by its members from within the oligarchy. The Left is bestowed with the duty to ensure that it can defend the rights of the majority of the people. To re-establish a relationship of trust with critical voters; voters who are not at the “center”, but in a policy of duty, responsibility, seriousness and stability around the popular and patriotic interests. Their rapprochement is realized through policies that take into account potential criticism, abstention and distancing. Certainly not by bowing to the logic of the dominant system. An element of such a serious and responsible policy is the contribution to the formation of a great, patriotic and democratic progressive alliance. /ibna