For many decades the Greek Left assumed that Americans were no more than murderers of “the peoples” and that imperialism was the one and only enemy. For members of the communist party’s youth, wearing Levi’s jeans and buying American rock and jazz records was a major ideological issue. Those who did succumb to the temptation to buy these items would desperately try to conceal these “weaknesses” in order to avoid being expelled from the party. As for Hollywood movies, they were considered as the “seeds of evil” and were heavily criticized by leftist movie critics who praised the greatness of the Soviet movie making industry.
Everyone has the right to wrong ideas. But some wrong ideas are akin to tight shoes you can’t wait to take off your hurting feet. As it happens, a large part of the Greek Left has taken off these “tight shoes”.
The leader of SYRIZA (Party of the Greek Radical left leading the opposition), Alexis Tsipras is a former member of the communist party’s youth. It was his progression through the ranks of this party that brought him finally into a position to claim the leadership of the country. Now, he most likely realizes it takes a lot more than moving through a party’s rank to achieve this.
A couple weeks ago we wrote about Alexis Tsipras’ planned journey to the US. We’ve confirmed it will take place the week after next. His itinerary has not been finalized yet, but it will certainly include a public speech at the Brookings Institute, which in the past has organized many visits of Greek politicians to the US. Socialist PASOK’s leader Evangelos Venizelos also gave a speech at the Brookings Institute and talked about the crisis (though many hinted that the entire trip was an excuse just to see his daughter, who studies at Georgetown University.)
What else is there for Tsipras to do in the US? They are still trying to figure this out at the party’s headquarters. They say that meetings will not be officially announced and there will not be publicity photos just like during his trip to Latin America. Did they learn their lesson from their previous highly publicized failure of his other trip? We shall soon see. His goal is to at least try and see some members of Congress. From then on, meetings with members of the Greek-American community and entrepreneurs will be the “easy” part of the visit.
The president of SYRIZA will be accompanied by two party officials who are active in the economy sector, George Stathakis and John Milios. I wonder what kind of discussion anyone can have with the Americans if they don’t endorse a market economy. But, this is a puzzle SYRIZA’s officials must solve. Rena Dourou, who is head of foreign policy will also be going along. Is Dourou’s capacity sufficient for such a trip? This I have mentioned in my previous article.
It appears Alexis Tsipras is going on this trip for no real reason. He made sure that he will have visited Berlin prior to his trip to the US. Tsipras is moving along an axis of symbolic publicity moves, but I seriously doubt if there is any substance to all this. As a communications professional I understand that these trips are part of a publicity effort similar to Merkel’s visit to Athens and Samaras visit to Berlin.
If Mr. Tsipras was capable of describing how the country would look like the day after SYRIZA would take over the reins of governance that might help his trip to America. Alexis Tsipras cannot deliver this. He does not have a programmatic proposal for the economy, nor for international relations and its place in the global system. And for him to find help from his party in this quest he unfortunately will go fishing in muddy waters. His party is busy battling in defense of the occupiers of … Villa Amalia – a building in downtown Athens which has been used as a hideout for more than two decades by left extremists and which has been recently seized by the police!
The Greek left’s attempt to absolve their guilty conscience for having anti-American sentiment is one thing. But, to visit the US as a potential prime minister is not as simple and easy as wearing Levi’s or listening to jazz. It requires knowledge, experience and a network of connections, which isn’t Tsipras strong point. In the previous election, it was published that Tsipras was supported by communication consultants from “the other side of the Atlantic” and the entourage of Gianna Angelopoulos (member of the Greek business elite, former President of the Athens Olympic Committee during the 2004 Olympic Games). I don’t know if this is true or if they helped organize this visit. The schedule seems too poor to have been professionally planned…seems like Mr. Tsipras is going to have to … discover America on his own.
P.S. # 1: Currently all the Greek Diaspora in the US is discussing the possibility that for the first time in history there might be a Greek Mayor in New York’s City Hall. The self-made businessman, John Katsimatidis, (although a staunch supporter of the Democrats under President Bill Clinton and later switched to the camp of the Republicans), is thinking seriously about running for Mayor of New York, after Michael Bloomberg steps down. Will Alexis wish him good luck? And if he does, how is he going to justify this to his party members?
P.S. # 2: Since there is always room for surprises, we’ll deal with the results of the visit when the president of SYRIZA returns from the US.
P.S. # 3: We are anxiously expecting the results (if there is any outcome at all) of the Prime Minister’s trip to Qatar.