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Letter from Athens: The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Left: SYRIZA’s Right Misstep

If Stefanos Kasselakis ever gets weary of leading Greece’s fast fading minor opposition SYRIZA Regressive Alliance – or is driven out – the Greek-American former bank trader and ship owner has a future in the toy business making tops.

His tops would never stop spinning, just as he doesn’t, in order to keep up with all the reasons he’s given in apparently trying to convince himself – and what’s left of a party that’s so in tatters you couldn’t make one suit out of it – that he’s resurrecting it.

Once upon a time, it was filled with Looney Leftists before he properly made them crazy enough at him to walk, some 46 – including two Members of Parliament – leaving because he was taking SYRIZA toward the center.

The hard-core elements in what used to be called the Radical Left before former leader and one-time premier Alexis ‘Silent Movie’ Tsipras tried to move it – toward the center – yearn for the good old days of their failed 2015-19 reign.

They loved yelling like rebels in public and capitulating in private to the European and international lenders putting up a third bailout, for 86 billion euros ($93.46 billion) when SYRIZA was in power.

That saw Tsipras, who envisioned himself the Fidel Castro of Europe to lead a Leftist revolution before he found out that there’s no sugar cane fields to work in for the proletariat, agree to impose austerity he swore to resist.

That, along with reneging on his 40-point program (Crush the Oligarchs! Take Greece out of NATO!) and becoming what now looks a lot like Kasselakis in training, was the beginning of the end for SYRIZA.

When he was ousted in 2019 by Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos ‘Blue Blood’ Mitsotakis – and again in 2023 in a beating no mule has ever taken – he pulled the cord and left, leaving the party in disarray.

Enter Kasselakis. The openly gay Capitalist, only 35, with no political experience, used the TikTok and Instagram generation, whose attention span is shorter than Donald Trump’s original thoughts, to propel himself to power via social media.

It was a slick campaign and it worked to make him SYRIZA’s leader, beating former finance minister Euclid ‘Red Backpack’ Tsakalotos and the then-frontrunner, former labor minister Effie Achtsioglou.

Then he said he was taking SYRIZA into the light, leaving Tsakalotos to wonder if he and the party veterans were left in the dark, and beginning a mutiny that’s still going on. He had to shed SYRIZA of the far Leftists to have any hope of saving it.

But that means also destroying it, and he still hasn’t explained why, if he really wants to Make SYRIZA Sane Again, that he’s keeping Nikos Pappas, a criminal convicted of trying to sell TV licenses while a top Tsipras aide.

Kasselakis also has former deputy health minister Pavlos ‘Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em’ Polakis as a confidante because the SYRIZA stalwart was one of the first on the bandwagon for him.

Pappas was sentenced to two years in jail but put on probation and is a lawmaker who broke the law and will never see the inside of a jail, while Polakis almost single-handedly ruined any chances Tsipras had of showing himself respectable.

What’s left of SYRIZA is a hodge-podge of a crew of light Communists and LINOs – Leftists in Name Only – ready to embrace his vision of making the party like the United States Democrats, who are on a crash course to get Trump elected again.

He told journalist Maria Nikoltsiou at the Thessaloniki Summit held by the Federation of Industries of Greece (SVE) and the Delphi Forum that he wants SYRIZA  “to resolve society’s issues in the next 50 years.”

He added that: “I have the will, a clean past, and international experience. I will bring a good team and we will showcase great changes in Greece,” he said, and with his Ivy League education and intelligence he has the chops to do it – if he ever gets the chance. And the polls show that he won’t because there’s few left in SYRIZA who are Left – with a capital L – enough to ameliorate conditions or have a voice persuasive enough to take him away from veering right.

The problem for Kasselakis is that he’s right – make that ‘correct’ although he is also right – in trying to reshape what was really the Anachronistic Left that Greeks had given up on, tuning out the dull drone.

No longer trusting mainstream parties, they elected Tsipras and SYRIZA in 2015 with 2,245,978 votes – 36.34 percent – and 149 seats in the 300-member Parliament. By June of this year, that was reduced to 930,013 votes and 17.83 percent, losing 1,315,965 votes and their base cut in half.

Now it’s worse. Kasselakis is adored by his fans but not the electorate, his brief tenure seeing the party first fall to third behind the PASOK-KINAL of Nikos Androulakis, who is dull as dishwater.

Now the most ignominious blow.

SYRIZA, which came out of nowhere to ascend to power, is now back to nowhere, finding itself tied for third with the KKE (Cuckoo-Ay) Communists, who have somehow captured enough attention to rise in polls despite having no ideas.

This is the kind of mess that no messages on TikTok are going to fix. Roll the video. Show Kasselakis, his spouse Tyler and their dog.

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