The political pendulum swings ever from left to right and back again, in all countries and at all times, and today it swung to the left in Greece. What is different about this victory however, in a European Union that is, after all, only twenty-two years old, is that it is the first time that a national party has enjoyed boots-on-the-ground support from similar parties from other European countries. Campaigners came from Spain, Portugal and Italy, the other austerity-ridden southern countries, but also from Germany, which is Europe's paymaster, but also the home of a powerful new left party, Die Linke.[tag]
Where did this new left-wing impetus come from?The significant rise in right-wing representation in the European parliament in 2014 rang alarm bells across the continent. Also in 2014, two referenda were held, both of which failed, undoubtedly convincing voters to turn to the left. One was for Catalan independence from Spain, the other was for Scottish independence from Great Britain, in which the conservative leader David Cameron made last-minutes promises to voters, backtracking as soon as the results were in.
And then cane the stunning electoral success of France's National Front Party under Marine Le Pen at a time when information about the Nazi character of the government the West brought to Ukraine was beginning to seep out of a closely guarded European press. Then the Charlie tragedy boosted Europe's increasingly assertive far-right, fanning the flames of Islamophobia, finally motivating a flagging left to reassert itself. For the first time, campaigners from across Europe's left came to Greece to support Alexis Tsipras's campaign to become the new head of government. The country where Northern Europeans love to vacation because of its carefree sun and surf atmosphere, repeatedly overspent its budget in pursuit of the American social model. What has made Syriza different from Europe's traditional left-wing parties is its espousal of sustainable growth as opposed to consumerism as a way of life, and that is why it has garnered the support of other new left European parties.
These parties may eventually supplant the continent's traditional left-wing parties, those based on the working class, with its strong, century-long trade union tradition. They too defend workers, but they also reveal the emptiness of the American-inspired 'dream' that took over Europe, gradually but relentlessly, after the Second World War, culminating in the 2008 financial crash that threatened the very survival of the Welfare State with draconian austerity. The question now is whether the Davos Summit that started the week, planned for the possibility that by its end, Greece would have a government capable of actually exiting the Washington-backed Euro.