Perhaps those who voted for Kasselakis are unfamiliar with U.S. politics and the true color of the Democratic Party, but it is a vision that undoubtedly sends shivers down the spine of the members of the old guard.
The Third Way is a political term that gained currency in the late 1970s and early 1980s and is associated with the New Labour administration of Tony Blair, who served as UK’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007, but also with those of Bill Clinton in the US (1993-2001) and Gerhard Schroder in Germany (1998-2005), respectively. The term itself was developed by British sociologist Anthony Giddens and denotes a distinct political ideology that argues in favor of so-called “centrist” politics.
Essentially, Third Way proposals seek to reconcile right-wing and left-wing policies. More specifically, the “Third Way” aims to integrate center-right economic policies and center-left social policies. As such, the “Third Way” is really nothing short of a political stratagem whose underlying goal is to maintain the hegemony of capitalism by making the system sensitive to cultural and social sensibilities. Disregarding the left flank, embracing the “catch-all” thesis, and loosening the influence of labor in the economy and society at large while promoting at the same time the politics of multiculturalism define the politics and strategy of social-democratic parties that became part of the "Third Way" movement.
Make no mistake, Syriza is entering a new era with Kasselakis in charge of the party.
Indeed, by the late 1990s, virtually all the social-democratic parties in advanced capitalist societies had fallen prey to the fatal attraction of the Third Way mentality while the traditional values and beliefs of the old Left joined the dustbin of history. The only country in the western world with a radical leftwing party that did not fight for power on the ground laid by the Third Way was Greece.
Until very recently, that is.
Part of the explanation for the “delay” of Greek leftwing parties in adopting the approach of the "Third Way" is that social democracy was never established in Greece. Throughout the 20th century, the bulk of the country’s left had aligned with a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, named KKE, but a major split occurred in 1968 following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. A big group broke from the KKE, forming KKE Interior, which eventually came to identify itself with Eurocommunism, a political movement that flourished in the late 1970s in several western European communist parties and sought to introduce socialism beyond the political and ideological orbit of Soviet communism.
The Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) traces its roots to the KKE Interior, although Eurocommunism disappeared as an international current shortly after its birth and, for all practical intents and purposes, the Syriza party that rose to power in Greece in 2015 was a political organization that had no discernible ideological traits whatsoever other than an expressed aversion to the fiscal austerity measures that had been imposed on the country by its international creditors -- namely, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – as a condition to the bailout deals that had been crafted in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
The answer to that mystery was revealed during the leadership election that was held just this past Sunday when party members elected a gay, liberal, former Goldman Sachs trader, shipping investor, and political neophyte Stefanos Kasselakis to head the once radical left-wing Syriza party.
The ideal scenario for Syriza’s future that its new leader has envisioned is that it becomes the mirror image of the Democratic Party in the United States. Perhaps those who voted for Kasselakis are unfamiliar with U.S. politics and the true color of the Democratic Party, but it is a vision that undoubtedly sends shivers down the spine of the members of the old guard inside Syriza for they surely know that this is a recipe for the complete disappearance of the Left from the Greek political scene.
Most likely, then, what lies ahead for the party are divisions and conflict, rather than unity and peace. Eventually, an actual, formal split of the Syriza party also cannot be ruled out. Indeed, senior Syriza cadre and former education minister Nikos Filis said in a TV interview the other day that Kasselakis is “a cross between Beppe Grillo [an Italian comedian and co-founder of Italy’s Five Star Movement political party] and Trump.” In the same interview, Filis also blamed Tsipras for Syriza’s demise. And Effie Achtsioglou has already turned down every party post offered to her by Syriza’s new leader.
Make no mistake, Syriza is entering a new era with Kasselakis in charge of the party. Under Tsipras, Syriza abandoned any pretext of being a radical leftwing party. Under Kasselakis, Syriza will cease having affinity to leftist politics in any form or shape, which means that Greece will now be left with a Leninist-Stalinist Communist Party as the only large-scale organized political force fighting for the interest of the working class.
Oh, the unbearable lightness of the Greek left.