Are we really moving left?

The triumph of Alexis Tsipras, who was last week elected leader of Synaspismos at the age of 34, has met with various reactions. For a few days, the focus appeared to have shifted from scandals to politics proper. Some hailed the emergence of the youngest politician in Greece’s modern political history and many were perplexed or surprised. Some heralded the arrival of the sinless generation, while others indulged in thinly veiled ridicule. The reactions reflect skepticism toward anything new, and by extension Tsipras, the young newcomer. They also reflect a certain attitude toward the leftward shift recorded in opinion polls. This comeback of the Left coincides with a crisis in Greece’s two-party system, citizens’ mistrust of political elites and a general disenchantment with politics. As a political force, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has grown from a meager 3 percent into a 5 percent underdog. Now, it’s grabbing media headlines while enjoying unprecedented, relatively high popularity ratings. Its performance, combined with the decline of the two mainstream parties, is changing the mood. So is Greek society moving leftward? There is no easy answer. First of all, which Left are we talking about? Synaspismos is not sure where it stands. After all, there is no comprehensive plan – Tsipras virtually admitted this recently. The party needs to come up with a comprehensive platform (environment, education, labor, migration and so on). But is society really moving to the Left? Or are opinion polls merely reflecting a rising protest vote? Could it be a vote for the clean politicians, who are not directly identified with the bankrupt two-party system? These are the questions that the Left must answer. And it must do so in political terms, not PR exercises and moral lectures.