Recent days have seen a tendency toward forgiving the sins of former Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis and those who have joined or are about to join his newly formed SYRIZA splinter party, Public Unity. This tendency appears to be driven by an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend mentality.
Bigger parties no doubt have an interest in seeing SYRIZA lose some of its strength. That said, domestic politics is largely in uncharted waters at the moment, also because of the summer lull.
There are no reliable opinion polls and, in any case, we must not underestimate the resounding “no” vote in July’s bailout referendum.
The fact that Lafazanis and his aides were in the past members of Greece’s Communist Party (KKE) is not necessarily significant. That has not prevented other politicians from reconsidering their views. The problems with the Lafazanis folk is that they remained loyal to the Leninist mantra and they played a key role in shaping SYRIZA into a neo-communist party, influencing the party’s founding principles, the decisions of the Central Committee, and its Euroskeptic rhetoric. The same people also backed populist protest movements – such as the “I Won’t Pay” group – and they now extending a hand to the so-called indignants of Syntagma Square.
Lafazanis and his followers liked to see themselves as the soul of SYRIZA. And they were right. The infamous “Thessaloniki Program,” SYRIZA’s anti-bailout manifesto, pretty much reflected their groundless views. They still express the same views, only back then they were less honest about their intention to guide the country out of the euro system and away from the West. It was them who pushed for pro-drachma economist Costas Lapavitsas to be included on the party ticket (a man who admits that if Greece switched back to the drachma, things would be very hard for an indefinite period of time, before they improve – one has to assume by means of the “alternative solutions” and “productive restructuring” that Lafazanis has vaguely described.
More striking, the Lafazanis crowd had no qualms about working with the populist nationalist party of Panos Kammenos, nor taking an Independent Greeks MP into their party. Similarly they are now willing to work with Parliament Speaker Zoe Constantinopoulou in forming an anti-bailout party. They combine their Leninism with a good dose of populism and nationalism, although they are supposedly internationalists.
To be sure, their behavior does not absolve Alexis Tsipras of his responsibilities. They are the two sides of the same coin, which makes them unsustainable political currency.