In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx wrote that “a specter is haunting Europe — the specter of communism.”
That image has been much adapted. The specters that have been held to haunt the Europe of today include Americanization, privatization, the far right, and the breakup of the euro, among others. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said recently that today’s haunting specter is “economic stagnation,” daring to invoke Marx from the heart of the City of London.
But now, the original specter in 1848, wandering unheeded for many decades, is back, hovering again over the old continent. Communism is again haunting Europe.
Syriza, which won the Greek parliamentary elections last month and is the dominant party in the country’s coalition government, is a layered confection of mainly hard-left parties, survivors of — and combatants in — the splits, wars and betrayals of a Greek left whose members had been, over the years since the war, outlawed, imprisoned, tortured and, in the last three decades, marginalized.
The new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, was a leader of the youth wing of one of the communist parties. Its finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, says he is a libertarian Marxist. The party has promised to raise wages, rehire sacked public-sector workers and nationalize sectors of the economy. In an interview with Britain’s Channel Four news, Varoufakis said that his government would confront the “oligarchic system” in Greece — the mix of political leaders, wealthy business people and their media — and “destroy” it.
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