On Friday 7 February, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras spoke in Rome.
In the little Teatro Valle, Rome’s oldest theatre, under occupation for the last two and a half years, he addressed a packed crowd in response to the invitation from a section of the Italian left to nominate him as presidential candidate in the forthcoming European elections. He has already accepted similar nominations from other sections of the left in Europe.
On the basis of an article written in support by Toni Negri, an Italian intellectual once imprisoned for “political crimes”, right-wing Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras has claimed that anyone who stands for office with such support osmotically absorbs the previous “guilt” of Negri. He has called for Tsipras to be prosecuted.
But, apart from those occupying, the audience in Rome was mostly people in their 50s, for the most part veterans and longsuffering footsoldiers of one retreat after another. And for many in the audience, and certainly all their leaders, the struggles in Greece have little relevance. For them the “spontaneous” revolt of the Greeks reflects the unique conditions imposed by Europe’s leaders, especially Germany (the demonisation of Germany is another trope much in vogue), not the general need for battle against capital.
Alexis Tsipras’s stirring call from the platform for the masses of Europe to unite as one against their oppressors received huge applause.
But the masses in Italy are now weak, divided and disillusioned, prey to the populist, racist blandishments of Grillo and worse, because of the squalid compromises of the left leaders.