Commune Editorial : From Detroit to Greece.

28 07 2013

A woman walks next to the abandoned Packard Motor Car Company building, that ceased production in the 1950's, in Detroit

In Paul Krugman’s view,  (1) Detroit is the new Greece. According to Krugman the Greek economy is only one and a half times the size of  Metropolitan Detroit. They both share economic decline. They also share something else. Responsibility of the economic crisis is not greedy bankers, and greedy public employees. Regional economies will decline. In Free Market Capitalism stuff happens-get used to it. It’s the creative destructiveness of the market.That’s the way Capitalism works.

For Robert Reich, a public policy academic at the University of California, it’s an ethical or policy choice by the affluent and wealthy. (2)  They have abandoned the poor blacks in Detroit City Centre. They have fled to the suburbs.  So It’s an issue of lack of fair redistribution. The rise in income inequality and the under-consumptionism engendered by Neo Liberalism is the problem in Detroit and presumably Greece.

whichever way you look at it,the working class and the poor have to pay in Detroit and Greece : unemployment, decline in pensions,deterioration of the built environment, isolation of the poor.  For Frank Hammer, former union official in Detroit, declaring the city bankrupt is an excuse to privatize everything and obliterate pensions and workers rights. (3) The city assets will be stripped and sold off cheap to the people who caused  the economic crisis.

Although there may be similarities between Greece and Detroit,there is one huge difference.  In Greece there is resistance. There have been 27 General strikes. The state television station ,ERT,has been under workers control for 1 month. Although mass discontent is likely to be channeled into Syriza as a national party of salvation. Alexis Tsipras has called for the unity of  conservatives who value civilisation and bourgeois democracy as well as rebellious youth, in a party of national sovereignty. (4)

Many on the left in Britain view Syriza as a model for a broad party of the left. But in Greece the mainstream left party, PASOK,  lost mass support when it attempted to drive through austerity measures in Government . The danger of Syriza is that outside Government, making itself fit to govern, will lead to attempts to hold back the  class struggle, and in Government the logic of utilising the state will lead to managing capitalism.  (5)


1 Paul Krugman, Detroit  the new Greece, New York Times, July21,2013.

2  Robert Reich, Income inequality ruined Detroit, Salon,  July 22, 2013.

3  Frank Hammer,  Is Detroit’s Bankruptcy really a feeding frenzy for Privatisation? The Real news, July20,2013.

4 Alexis Tsipras, call for a United Party. Links international,  July 13,2013

5 Alex Callinicos, Where is the British Left Going ?, IS 39 July 13,2013.

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4 responses

28 07 2013

I have just looked at an article in the Sunday Times supplement,News Review by that bigot Jeremy Clarkson. He has his own explanation for the decline of Detroit. He blames it on the poor black rioters in 1967. Oh yes they were responsible for the white flight from the city of Detroit. Did they not realise how important the affluent white middle class are to the poor blacks.

In fact totally unconnected with the riots of 1967,between 2000, and 2010 Detroit lost one quarter of it’s population.

30 07 2013

Good editorial which just misses one important point and that is the role of the unions in collabarating with the destruction of Detroits economic base which of course was the car industry. All of the deals they made only facilitated the bosses attacks and a similiar situation is happening across the globe. In Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK the unions in various ways are either refusing to lead any meaningful struggle or in the case of the UK leading no struggles.

31 07 2013

I agree with you Dave.This is the problem with the left in Britain. They look to trade union officialdom to lead a fight. The nature of modern trade unionism is ignored or neglected. They keep repeating the failed tactics of the 1920′s.

14 08 2013

the article is quite good for a such sort text. The only thing that i have to add is that Syriza will not lead to attempts to hold back the class struggle, and in Government the logic of utilising the state will lead to managing capitalism after an election winning but he already has that kind of policy and anti/class struggle angenda. He lost the traditional links he had with the extreme left and the anarchists(who they represent the main body of revolutionary-labor/youth masses) and now the party base is consisted by ex voters of Pasok. The political angenda of Syriza is considered more or less the same with the one Pasok had back in the 80s, the “salvation party”
greetings from greece…..


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