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Monday, Jul 16, 2012, 1:07 am

Greek Exceptionalism

By Bhaskar Sunkara

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I was reading The Tailor of Ulm this weekend. It's Lucio Magri's history of the Italian Communist Party, a party that was for many years one of the bright spots on the Western left. The topic may seem anachronistic, but it struck me as relevant. 

With the communist movement long dead and Italian politics vacillating between the dry and technocratic and the bombastic and corrupt, that's an odd thing to say. But the history of the PCI is the history of a vibrant and deeply political organization that in a few short decades embedded itself within the Italian working class, attempting to chart a new course between Stalinism and social democracy. Its premature disappearance left that class in disarray. And today, Italy's anti-austerity movement is as weak and scattered as our own.

So Rome inspired no one at Zuccotti. Unlike, say, Athens. In Greece, the far left has come close to leading a governing coalition and a radical extra-parliamentary movement has been fighting for years to stave off a European Central Bank austerity package.

But it goes unnoticed that the Left's rise in Greece is partially the result of a unique history. Almost alone in Europe, Greece's unapologetically Stalinist Communist Party and its Eurocommunist splinters clung to life after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This tradition of working class organization, even in its ossified “Party” form, has fueled eclectic protests that make Occupy look like a tea party. Or the Tea Party.

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

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