Letter from Athens: Kasselakis Turns SYRIZA Hard Right, Left Left in Shock

Letter from Athens by Andy Dabilis
Oct 1, 2023

Let the conspiracy theories begin. One of the best parts about Greek-American capitalist center-left-right-left Stefanos Kasselakis coming out of nowhere at 35 to be the new leader of the SYRIZA-Regressive Alliance is how it happened. Here are a few perspectives:

  1. Some speculate that he may have affiliations with Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, given that his background aligns more with conservative values, which is a departure from the alliance’s previous Radical Left ideology.
  2. Another theory suggests that he might be carrying out the agenda of his predecessor, former premier Alexis Tsipras, who suffered a significant defeat in the June elections against Mitsotakis and subsequently resigned, relocating to the United States.
  3. There are also conjectures about his potential ties to the LGBTQ+ community, with some suggesting that he aims to promote LGBTQ+ interests in education, advocate for the separation of Church and State, and even change Greece’s flag to include rainbow colors.
  4. An unconventional perspective even suggests that he might not be a real person but rather a hologram or an Artificial Intelligence entity. Together with his partner Tyler McBeth, they seem to aspire to become symbolic figures in Greece, akin to a modern-day Barbie and Ken.

One thing that remains certain is that Kasselakis has created a significant social media presence, characterized more by style than substance. He seems to lack a well-defined political platform or agenda beyond his appeal as a charismatic figure.

With his elite American education and impressive background, Kasselakis has the potential to surprise his critics (who largely constitute his supporters in Greece). On paper, he possesses an array of talents, including strong mathematical skills and a degree from the prestigious Athens College, similar to Mitsotakis.

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Kasselakis’s educational journey continued in the United States, where he attended the prestigious Phillips Andover school, which boasts notable alumni, including former Presidents from the Republican Party (although young student Humphrey Bogart was expelled). They don’t teach Anarchy 101 or serve Molotov Cocktails at summer soiree parties by Rabbit Pond there – or where his higher education took place at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, where he earned degrees in Finance and International Relations.

His professional experience includes a stint at the U.S. financial firm Goldman Sachs (“GS”), a company that has faced scrutiny for its role in Greece’s economic and austerity crisis from 2010 to 2018. This background may not sit well with the more radical elements within SYRIZA. GS is allegedly anathema to the anti-business hard core elements in SYRIZA – at least what’s left of them.

In fact, the shipping news service Tradewinds has described him as a “distressed asset maestro” who reportedly profited from the sale of five ships owned by his company in 2022, a parallel that evokes comparisons with Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street, likely causing discomfort among staunch leftists.

In the aftermath of his stunning victory within SYRIZA – surprising left veterans except for firebrand Pavlos Polakis – a former deputy health minister who smoked at No Smoking Days and backed Stefanos to the hilt, Kasselakis now finds himself at the helm of a Titanic-like party that is experiencing internal strife.

While he has called for unity, Effi Achtsioglou, a former labor minister and the frontrunner who was seemingly bypassed – or stabbed in the back by colleagues who jumped on his train – for the leadership role, has declined to join his ranks, citing exhaustion.

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SYRIZA, once known as the Radical Left, underwent rebranding under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras after a dominatrix-like whipping in the 2019 elections. Tsipras attempted to shift the party toward the center, even reaching out to neo-Nazi Golden Dawn voters in a desperate bid to regain support.

Unfortunately for Tsipras, this shift came at the cost of betraying many of the party’s principles, leading to a drastic reduction in parliamentary seats, from 149 to 47, in this year’s elections. This rendered SYRIZA largely irrelevant as a political force, with no substantial influence or voice. The problem isn’t Kasselakis. You don’t get through the schools he went to without having real intellectual and cerebral chops, but how that translates to running a party is unclear.

The challenge now facing Kasselakis is not his personal abilities but rather how he can navigate a party that has grown averse to his perceived centrist direction. He has expressed his desire to reshape SYRIZA to resemble the American Democratic party and promote inclusivity. However, the internal fractures within the party have started to become apparent, raising the risk of an outright schism and further party splintering.

Even prominent SYRIZA figures like Evangelos Apostolakis, a former minister and chief of the Armed Forces, have voiced their support for party cohesion. Apostolakis said, “SYRIZA will operate as a cohesive party – no factions, no internal divisions, no upheavals, and no internal opposition.”… But anyone who disagrees, he said, “is free to step aside.” Unity?

Stelios Kouloglou, a Member of the European Parliament from SYRIZA, has said of Kasselakis’ win: “This is the end of leftwing SYRIZA as we know it … that party died tonight,” the traditional base left in “complete shock.”

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In essence, the challenge facing Kasselakis is deeply rooted within SYRIZA’s complex ideological landscape. The newcomer novice political rookie will have to show the motley crew of Stalinists, Troytskyites, Leninists, Maoists, ecologists and anarchist and terrorist sympathizers he’s one of them, not a mirror image of Mitsotakis, who he praised before, saying he’s the only one who can beat him next time.

Otherwise, Poor Stefanos, we knew him not so well.

Kasselakis faces the daunting task of leading a party that is undergoing a profound transformation. The outcome remains uncertain, and his ability to bridge the ideological divides within SYRIZA will be a defining factor in his leadership.

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