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The neo-liberal project will not collapse on its own - we must replace it

The neo-liberal project will not collapse on its own - we must replace it

For many of those who want a break from the asphyxiating policies of austerity, Syriza's failure to top the polls in Greece was a real disappointment. In itself, that a party which won 4.6% of the vote three years ago seemed so close to power is testament to its dazzling political success. It is now in a strong political position as the main opposition to a government which will continue to introduce economically ruinous policies.

But there are more reasons for optimism. The balance of power in Europe has already shifted dramatically in the last month, and is set to continue to do so. The pro-austerity hardliners - led by Germany's Angela Merkel - are in retreat. As jobs and growth are sucked out of economies, even as debt-to-GDP ratios continue to soar, opponents of austerity can no longer be convincingly dismissed as 'deficit deniers'.

With François Hollande in France now offering a rival centre of power in Europe, policies are changing. As Larry Elliott put it in the Guardian, Germany has been forced to 'surrender' over using bailout funds to buy up Spanish bonds. It is a strategy that Merkel previously had no truck with and - had Nicolas Sarkozy prevailed in the French Presidential elections - it is highly unlikely she would have changed this stance.

In another development, leaders of G20 economies are set to publish a communiqué pledging support for pro-growth policies. Because of Syriza's electoral breakthrough, EU leaders are set to offer Greece concessions on an austerity programme which is currently dismantling a modern European society.

Is it good enough? No. Austerity still prevails; over half of young people are still out of work in countries such as Spain; and the crisis is still being used to push radical policies of mass privatisation and attacks on workers' rights, Greece and Portugal being just two extreme examples. The euro is unsustainable in its current form, so long as the structural imbalances between Northern and Southern economies remain. But there are now large cracks in the economic consensus, and that gives those who want a more decisive break from austerity more political space.

That means the need for a coherent alternative is more pressing than ever if we are to make headway. Ideas seen as out of the question just months ago now have a receptive audience. The mood is drifting in the right direction, but it needs to be tapped into. After all, the neo-liberal project will not collapse of its own accord: it must be replaced by something else.