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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012, 11:34 am

Losing in Greece

By Bhaskar Sunkara

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It looks like a coalition government is going to be cobbled together in Greece—it just isn't the one the Left was hoping for.

Under the leadership of 37-year-old Alexis Tsipras, The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) has increased its share of the vote from 4.6 percent in 2009 to 27 percent. The party’s rise is testimony to the resonance its principled anti-austerity platform has found in the Greek working class. Yet despite the far left’s astounding capture of what had been in the center-left’s place in a two-party dominated political system, SYRIZA once again finished a close second to the conservative New Democracy formation.

SYRIZA’s defeat meant that a fifty-seat bonus was ceded to New Democracy, losing any chance at forming a left-wing government that could have attempted either to force concessions from the European Union, utilizing the ensuing crisis to strengthen the Greek workers’ movement. That movement, it appears, will still be fighting from the outside in opposition.

Antonis Samaras, New Democracy’s leader, will probably end up forging an alliance with the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, long one of Greece’s two major parties, and the smaller Democratic Left, a right-wing split from SYRIZA.

In short, this coalition government will play on Europe’s terms and continue extracting painful cuts to public services. Winning wouldn't have been easy. Capital panic would've sent the country's economy into even more chaos had SYRIZA won and governing a capitalist state is never an easy proposition for a coalition with major anti-capitalist elements. But had SYRIZA been victorious, the ball, as the old cliché goes, would have been in its court.

The result that actually came to pass, no matter how impressive the radical vote tally, is a defeat for the European working class and makes even more unlikely a settlement in its interests.

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @sunraysunray.

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