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Political “new” means demolishing the “patronage state” (with Dimitrios A. Ioannou)

Άρθρα Κωνσταντίνος Γάτσιος
Τhe “patronage state” is the source and the cause of ideological unworthiness, institutional turmoil, social inequality and economic instability and cachexia. It is the main means of the social, intellectual, economic and anthropological decline of the country

The malaise of the modern Greek society, namely its inability during the post-war period to smoothly evolve towards a state of orderliness, rule of law and functional rationality, is mainly formed and manifested through this phenomenon: the existence of the “patronage state” – the source and the cause of ideological unworthiness, institutional turmoil, social inequality and economic instability and cachexia.

The main feature of the “patronage state” is that its holders and possessors reap, manage and distribute “political revenue”, i.e., substantial revenue streams that are on the one hand completely mismatched with the actual production performance of their beneficiaries, but on the other hand they are equivalent to their ties with the possessors and the managers of political power. Whether unlawful (overpricing, bribery) or lawful (parafiscal charges, guaranteed profit rate), “political revenue” pertains to the unfair transfer of social resources, through the state apparatus, to allied groups of “political customers”, without this being dictated by the rules of economic efficiency or by the requirements of social justice and solidarity.

The endemic corruption in the Greek society is not only the inevitable effect of the existence and distribution of “political revenue” by the “patronage state”; it is also leveraged by it

The shares of the “political revenue” are not distributed equally to the lucky “customers”, but, through “lion’s share” agreements, they are distributed, instead, according to the unofficial hierarchy on which patronage relationships are structured. The endemic corruption in the Greek society is, thus, not only the inevitable effect of the existence and distribution of “political revenue”; it is also leveraged by it. The “patronage state”, therefore, exists for the sake of the “political revenue” while this, in turn, is the material with which the “patronage state” is constructed, the force that drives it, its oxygen.

As the properties of the building material are transferred, as we know, to the construction itself, the “patronage state” constitutes an economically inefficient, socially unjust and corrupt version of a state. It is such a state that our country is referred to as by all the international reports and it is such a state that is experienced by its citizens.

More importantly, the “patronage state” is the main means of the social, intellectual, economic and anthropological decline of the country. The structures it creates form a collective consciousness, which considers that progress and prosperity do not depend on hard work and creative toil, but on the appropriate “political contacts”. The perspective and the interpretation of the political and economic reality through such a refractive prism leads, however, to social norms and behaviors that are not compatible with the needs of the late modern age in which, though, we are obliged to live and the benefits of which we desire to enjoy.

The phenomenon of “populism” is created and perpetuated through that dominant in the collective consciousness patronage worldview, with the political demagogues and opportunists serving as its priests and evangelists. It is from that same ideological womb of distorted consciousness that also the pernicious, outrageous mendacity of the politically corrupt emerges, who do not accept any good reason for Greece to find itself today in crisis, other than the alleged treachery of the foreign “loan sharks”.

The “patronage state” constitutes an economically inefficient, socially unjust and corrupt version of a state. It is such a state that our country is referred to as by all the international reports and it is such a state that is experienced by its citizens

A people, however, who believes and grows its children so that they also believe that a society progresses not if its citizens consume sensibly, work creatively and live ethically, but when it begs for economic aid from abroad and searches for “political emoluments” from within the country, then this people is inevitably led to losing control of its country. This is precisely where we have led ourselves to as a people and as a country.

There is no country, at least not in the northern hemisphere and definitely not within the Eurozone, where one can observe the phenomenon of “political revenue” to the extent and degree one can observe it in our country. Although in those countries there are of course relationships of political favors, they do not constitute a “patronage state” as is the case in Greece. Here, the “political revenue” has been established as a national institution, initially and triumphantly, by the right wing winners of the civil war. Later on, in the post-dictatorship period, it was warmly embraced – its importance being recognized – by the rest of the political spectrum, including the whole left wing. Since then, the “political revenue” constitutes the main award of the government’s “takeover”. In reality, all the political parties have been structured and operate based on the rationale of managing, administering and reallocating it. This, of course, is not something entirely unexpected, since the political parties are themselves at the receiving end of a significant amount – evident or not – of “political revenue”.

A people who believes that a society progresses when it begs for economic aid from abroad and searches for “political emoluments” from within the country is inevitably led to losing control of its country

The current crisis is nothing more than the inevitable consequence of both the extravagances of the “patronage state”, which were intensified during the post-dictatorship period and reached a state of frenzy in the period of 2005-2009, and the subsequent and continuous effort of the conveyors of corrupt governance to preserve it, amid the country’s overall collapse.

The belief, though, that there are privileges that could be preserved constitutes nothing but a desperate attempt and a deception by the preachers of clientelism. They preach a social practice, with which, unfortunately, a considerable part of the Greek society still identifies itself – even parts of it that either never received “political revenue” or did so for a while, when the “feast” was still rich, but they are now on the society’s fringe again.

The truth is, however, that the “patronage state” has gone permanently bankrupt. There is no hope of saving the country by trying to preserve and reconstruct it. Yet, it is this reconstruction that the so-called “parties for government” have been desperately struggling for. Their self-destructive irrationality is not difficult to explain: they express the political “old” because they come from it. They have been constructed with the same materials as those of the “patronage state”, they have been incubated and formed within it so that they can all take turns in dominating the Greek society. It is impossible for them to turn against it for two main reasons: firstly, because having immersed the society in the “holy water” of the parasitic corruption and political sensationalism, they would not be able to convert on the way to Damascus, because then their misguided supporters as well as victims, thinking and acting as they have been taught for years by their own political leaders, would consider them bribed apostates. Secondly because, by being the offspring of the “patronage state”, which always aimed at and sought to conquer the state-loot, to seize it from the “enemies”, and to ruthlessly plunder the “political revenue”, these parties do not possess the intellectual and ideological capacity to think beyond this limited horizon, even if some, few, forces within them sincerely wish for it.

The political “new” can only exist as a stream of ideas and political actions against the “patronage state”, as a claim for meritocracy and fairness, as a collective movement of national and individual self-awareness, dignity and autonomy

The promising element in today’s reality is that, in the face of the decline of the patronage state, the citizen that seeks the truth can have an infallible criterion as to who expresses the political “new” in the Greek society, thus recognizing it and separating it from reconstituted versions of the political “old”. Namely, the political “new” is expressed by anyone who opposes, clearly and explicitly, to the “patronage state” and the “political revenue’, trying to drive out of the Greek society these specific phenomena, as the first and most important step towards the society’s restoration and salvation. The “new” can only exist as a stream of ideas and political actions against the “patronage state”, as a claim for meritocracy and fairness, as a collective movement of national and individual self-awareness, dignity and autonomy.

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