COMMENT

The left’s summer of discontent

By Pantelis Boukalas

Party congresses and meetings – barren rites for the most part – usually attract less than a modicum of attention, much like cabinet meetings, which is probably why ministers are making their visits to the prime minister all the more infrequent. Nevertheless, the interest in political developments over the past few days, at least on the level of news coverage and commentary, has been dominated by the Communist Party (KKE), SYRIZA and Democratic Left (DIMAR).

This interest is not due to what little policy is being worked out as the summer lull sets in and politicians’ attention is rather being absorbed by where to spend their holidays without being recognized. Rather, the reason is that developments in SYRIZA and DIMAR in particular don’t just concern their own limited sphere of interests, as once was the case, but may affect what appears to be an impending change of government in the next national elections, the terms and ideological principles along which the country will be governed, as well as the alliances that may or may not emerge.

The two parties are looking at very different numbers in terms of voter support and the leadership of each will have an entirely different set of issues to deal with in the event that elections do drastically change the political landscape. What they have in common is strong in-party minorities and a different political culture that has sought to embrace the right of individual members to publicly voice opinions that may not fit in with the official party line. And they can do so without being lambasted and branded by the so many derogatory terms that lend a religious tone to matters of dogma. Only a handful of enlightened leftists had the courage to fight for this right even during the dark days of exile. And one of the main reasons why KKE wants nothing to do with the “reformist,” “opportunistic” (and so on) SYRIZA is its leadership’s fear that the (rather wonderful) disease of in-party democracy may be contagious.

Neither the leadership of SYRIZA nor DIMAR can be certain that developments within the parties are being as closely followed by the people as they are by the media, and this is something they need to factor in when drawing up their respective strategies. They need to account for the fact that the rise in the popularity of the left during these times of austerity is not the result of the sudden radicalization of one-third of the electorate and does not mean mass social action. This has been so obviously overlooked, especially by SYRIZA, and it means that it ultimately cannot count on any of its newly wooed voters. DIMAR also overlooked this and saw its portion of the vote decline from 6.3 percent in June 2012 to 1.2 percent this year. Of course the real paradox lies in the fact that if anyone should be praying to the unknown god of the left for DIMAR to survive, it is SYRIZA.

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