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Home News State of the Left – The threat of Pasokification

State of the Left – The threat of Pasokification

30 January 2015
State of the Left – The threat of Pasokification

While long-anticipated, Syriza’s victory in Sunday’s Greek general election represents a mini-electoral earthquake which has further divided European social democracy.

Parties are split on the implications: some factions see a great awakening, some a useful pressure point against Angela Merkel’s Europe, others either fear ‘Pasokification’ (the annihilation process that saw Greece’s centre-left Pasok party fall from 43.9 per cent in 2009 to 4.7 per cent last weekend) or a dangerous injection of wishful thinking at a time for hard truths.

Matteo Renzi in Italy and François Hollande in France were among the first callers to Alexis Tsiparis. Terrified by Podemos, Pedro Sanchez in Spain moved further in support of easing Greece's burden. In contrast, the German SPD and others further north gave veiled warnings and rejected a haircut on debt. Some simply avoided commenting on the meaning of the result altogether.

As Yannis Palaiologos sets out in our Greek feature, if Syriza manage to get concessions from the troika – be it on investment, interest rates or debt maturation – it will celebrate it as a first victory. Moreover, it will strengthen those advocating a Syriza-like appeal in austerity-hit, economically stagnant countries far beyond Greece’s borders.

Nonetheless, as Palaiologos argues, Syriza does not hold all the cards. Tsipras must now shift from a campaigning to governing mode. If he is to achieve the debt relief his government has promised, he needs allies. Hollande and Renzi will be key. But as each works to drive through sometimes painful structural reform at home, neither is likely to be willing to give Syriza a free pass and allow Tsipras to shrink from this challenge simply because it may unsettle some of the vested interests that helped bring him to power.

In Britain, a country edging towards its own election in May, Labour’s chances of winning a majority, reports Hopi Sen, are under threat from a rise in support for the ‘outside left’, principally in the form of the Scottish National party and Greens. Coupled with the United Kingdom Independence party’s attempt to peel off traditionally Labour-inclined white working-class voters, this challenge poses a strategic dilemma as Sen outlines: “a green-cosmopolitan agenda of socially liberal leftism is fundamentally incompatible with Ukip’s social conservatism”.

Ed Miliband’s dilemma – grappling with the tensions between ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘communitarian’ supporters on the one hand and traditional left-right economic questions on the other – is one that is all too familiar for much of the European centre left. But if Miliband can overcome it, a Labour victory in May, coupled with the centre left in power or in coalition in countries such as France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands offers some hope.

What radical left salvos fired from Greece and most likely Spain will add to this mixture remains to be seen. The populist revolt against the European establishment has reached new heights. In the lexicon of the crisis, Pasokification has now joined Grexit.

This month's State of the Left features critical analysis from Denmark, France, GreeceItaly, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States

This month's State of the Left updates:

   The Danish centre left needs an alternative to the ‘competition state’

Ahead of this year’s election, Social Democrats should remember that the welfare state revolves around a moral obligation. It is not just a means to an end

Kristian Weise

   Je suis Charlie: what next?

January’s attacks have undoubtedly left their mark on France, but the long-term political implications are yet to unfold

Renaud Thillaye


   Now for the hard part

The European centre left can help Syriza deliver some of its promises, but Alex Tsipras will have to show a pragmatic approach

Yannis Palaiologos

   Renzi’s presidential gamble

In bargaining over the Italian presidential election Renzi has bet the house on Berlusconi having a weak hand

Mattia Guidi 


   The populist Pandora’s box is open

The European establishment ignores the populist tide sweeping Europe at its peril

René Cuperus

   The return of the moderates

Syriza’s sister party is on the verge of dissolution, as the centre left are poised to return to power in Portugal

Hugo Coelho


   Labour must be a party of reformers and insurgents to win in May

The Labour leadership must face up to the fact that not responding to the threat of the ‘outsider’ parties will see its voter base eroded from all directions

Hopi Sen

   The Democrats’ electoral and strategic quandary

Only by making an appeal to white working-class voters can the Democrats prevent a repeat of last November’s midterm elections

John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira


   A Greek drama: part three

Besides Grexit or renegotiation, there lies a third possible ending to the Greek drama: the EU must concentrate the European investment plan on post-crisis countries and remove the constraints on innovation

Jo Ritzen

Photo credits: Teacher Dude

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