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.

Alexis Tsipras: the crisis and the threat of Golden Dawn

22 03 2013

In a number of interviews, and speeches,  in the USA and Britain, Alexis Tsipras has put forward his views of how Greece can exit the crisis. Barry Biddulph provides a critical appraisal.


Recently, Newsnight’s economic  editor Paul Mason (13/02/13) and left-wing author,Seumas Milne(19/03/13) ,asked Tsipras what he thought about the threat of an authoritarian solution to the crisis in Greece.

In response to Paul Mason’s question about what he would do about the racist actions of Golden Dawn, Tsipras answered: we will implement the law! He would use the State against not only the counter-revolutionary violence of the fascists, but all groups which use violence. In other words, he stands for a bourgeois constitutionalism against  any violence from the revolutionary left, including the anarchists, who are defending  working class communities from fascist attacks.

Read the rest of this entry »

from syriza to scotland

26 12 2012

Eric Chester provides an analysis of the Scottish Radical Independence Conference within the context of Syriza.

Greece has become the flashpoint for Europe. The Greek economy has collapsed, but Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and even Italy are also spiralling downward. Nevertheless, only in Greece does there seem to be an organized political response that can directly challenge for power.


SYRIZA began as a loose coalition of parties and organization that sought to present a non-dogmatic left-wing alternative to the mainstream social democratic politics of PASOK. As the crisis has deepened, SYRIZA has snowballed in strength to the point that current opinion polls show it with more popular support than any other party. At the same time, SYRIZA has been evolving into a unitary organization with a recognized leader Alex Tsipras.

Read the rest of this entry »

the greek crisis from within

21 12 2012

By Nikos Libero

Greece is living through its biggest crisis since the downfall of the military junta in the summer of 1974 – a consequence of the world economic crisis and the historical decadence of the Greek bourgeois elite.


The same internal tendencies – with more or less the same characteristics as in the USA in 2008, at the beginning of the world economic crisis – are manifested in Greece today in an explosive form.

All the social conquests of the working class since 1974 have been lost in the last three years. Since the end of the second world war, there has never been, in a period of peace, such a dramatic decline in the standard of living of the majority of the population of any country in Europe, or such a violent redistribution of wealth in such a limited time.

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syriza government of the left : the way forward?

19 12 2012

The leaders and leading component of Syriza,  Synaspismos, have proposed  a constitutional and parliamentary way out of the political and economic crisis, which continues to inflict deep hardship and suffering on the working people of Greece. Barry Biddulph looks at the politics of Syriza. 


Yiannis  Dragasakis, the economics spokesman for Syriza, proposes a common European solution, of renegotiating Greek debt with other European countries, through the institutions of the EU. (1)  The goal?  Reform of the EU; to stabilise the economy in Greece and promote Keynesian style  economic growth throughout Europe. Yiannis Bournous, a member of the central committee of Synaspismos emphasises  the constitutional aspect of Syriza’s politics, by stating the aim is to negotiate a change in EU treaties, to avoid exit from the Eurozone (2)

The party leader, Alex Tsipras, has underlined the respectable nature of these politics by repeating his resolve to keep Greece in the Euro and has argued for a Roosevelt style New Deal in Europe. (3) Tsipras has been keen to show he is fit to govern, by insisting Syriza would be a responsible  government.

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britain: ‘to fight austerity we need a united left’

15 10 2012

Simon Hardy of the Anticapitalist Initiative says the urgent need for unity on the radical left is something that has been eloquently put forward by Dan Hind on the Al-Jazeerawebsite. Asking a very pertinent question as to whether there can be a SYRIZA-type organisation in Britain, Hind draws out some of the most important lessons of the Greek struggle and poses a challenge to the British left — can we break out of the ghetto as well?[1]

To plot a possible trajectory we have to be clear of the political alignment that has emerged for the left under the Conservative Party-Liberal Democrat coalition government. While Ed Miliband’s Labour Party might be surging ahead in the polls, the possibility of a Labour left revival is simply not on the cards. The Labour Party is hollowed out and bureaucratically controlled and all the best intentions and actions of Labour left activists will not change that. The Labour left is reduced to the old argument that there is nothing credible outside the Labour Party. They mockingly point to all the twisted contortions of the far left in Britain in the last decade (Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Respect, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Left list, Respect renewal, etc.) to forge a new unity and conclude that the Labour Party is the only show in town.

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a report on the situation in greece

1 08 2012

During a recent visit to Greece, Eric Chester was able to get some sense of the enormous problems confronting that country.

Greeks are very proud of their past, not only the legendary era 2500 years ago, the time of the Parthenon, but more recently when Greeks fought the Nazi invaders. Nevertheless, along with the national pride is a bitter sense of despair, a feeling that there is no way out of the current catastrophe. The number of suicides has been increasing rapidly, as young Greeks try to cope with massive unemployment and the disintegration of the educational system, along with clear indications that the crisis will only grow worse.

Walking along the streets of Athens I saw people living on the street everywhere, children begging, sidewalks crumbling, and riot cops ready to come down on the next demonstration. Greece is a poor country, perhaps comparable to Mexico in economic development. Furthermore, global warming has hit Greece with a vengeance. Temperatures climbed to over 40 degrees every day, and the stagnant, humid, polluted air was oppressive.  Heat wave of this sort can last for weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

the greek elections, ‘workers’ governments’ and the radical left

26 06 2012

Conrad Russell replies to Barry Biddulph’s previous article

The premise of the article (‘is syriza a workers’ government in waiting?’) is whether or not SYRIZA – the coalition of the radical left, who won 27% of the vote in the Greek elections on the 17th of May – can form a ‘worker’s government’ at some point in the future. The first question which needs asking is; who is saying it can? The answer, alluded to in the article, is; ‘Worker’s Power is saying it can’. Given that this tiny British ‘post-trotskyist’ organisation has no section in Greece, and therefore no direct involvement in the movement there, this raises another question; who cares? The article falls into the trap of rehearsing old arguments (and animosities) within the British ‘Left’, rather than offering any concrete analysis of the social forces engaged in the struggle in Greece, or the actual arguments being put forward on the Greek Left. Read the rest of this entry »

is syriza a workers’ government in waiting?

25 06 2012

By Barry Biddulph

The elections in Greece have solved nothing. They have only provided a brief respite from intractable economic problems. The free food queues grow longer, as living standards collapse, the generalised political and economic crisis goes on. Larry Elliot, the economics editor of the Guardian, puts forward the view of many economic observers in Greece that the new Government is unlikely to remain in power.(1) A Guardian editorial agrees that a defeat for SYRIZA might yet prove to be a victory.(2) A view echoed in the Financial Times editorial.(3) The new government coalition will be weak. Democratic Left and PASOK will support Antonia Samaras and the New Democracy government, but not participate fully in the administration. In his victory speech, Samaras pledged to honour financial commitments to the Troika of capitalist economic powers. The New Government will have to implement a further 12 billion cuts by July 2012 . This will prove deeply unpopular with the Greek working class. So SYRIZA is a government in waiting, but can it become a Workers’ Government? Read the rest of this entry »

french and greek voters seek a way out of austerity

9 05 2012

Adam Ford on the recent elections in Europe.

Hollande has spoken of his admiration for Greek destroyer-in-chief Papandreou

The financial markets went into a petulant sulk today, in response to the election results in France – where incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated by his ‘centre-left’ challenger – and in Greece, where two thirds of the electorate voted against avowedly anti-austerity candidates. It seems likely that we will now see some attempt at rebranding austerity – ‘neoliberalism with a human face’ – but this will be nothing more than ‘lipstick on a pig’. The international financial gamblers will allow no let-up in the transfer of wealth from the overwhelming majority to their own decadent and diseased milieu. Read the rest of this entry »

unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and the eurozone crisis

4 08 2011

Oisín Mac Giollamóir explains the meaning of the current European crisis, and the relationship between debt and class struggle

Happy economies are all alike; every unhappy economy is unhappy in its own way. The well-worn acronym PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) conceals more than it reveals. The PIIGS are not all alike.

Consider the difference between Ireland and Italy. Pre-crisis Ireland had a debt/GDP ratio of 25%, one of the lowest in Europe. Today it’s over 100% and is projected to rise to over 120%. Ireland’s crisis is not due to an over-expanded public sector, unsustainable spending, persistent budget deficits or anything like that. It is due to the bubble in the property market and the ongoing mismanagement, largely at the European level, of its collapse . Over the last four years Ireland’s economy has been wrecked by the crisis.  In contrast Italy has had major problems for sometime. Italy’s debt, which has already reached 120% of GDP, does not reflect the kind of rapid shift that has happened in Ireland. Rather Italy has had a long run budget problem. Italy’s debt has not been below 100% of GDP since the early 90s. Italy’s debt problem cannot be blamed exclusively on the crisis in the same  that Ireland’s can.

It is therefore important not to conflate the differing problems faced by the PIIGS. When we talk about the Greek crisis we need to be aware of the particular nature of Greece’s problems. Read the rest of this entry »

understanding europe’s crisis

31 07 2011

John Keeley argues that it’s more than just Europe’s periphery that’s in crisis; it’s the entire capitalist system.

Democracy is derived from the Greek Demos (People) and Kratos (Power). This is what we are seeing on the streets of Athens – people power versus the EU/IMF dictatorship. But what are the roots of this debt crisis and why does the EU/IMF demand austerity?

To understand why each Greek owes €30,000 in debt requires an understanding of the role of credit in the capitalist system. Fractional reserve banking allows banks to lend more money than they actually have. In boom times everything looks rosy to the capitalists and credit is extended and profit rates look healthy. But this expansion of credit fuels overproduction. It then starts to dawn that debt-saturation means not all loans will be repaid. Banks become reluctant to lend to one another and credit dries up. This is a credit crunch. As capitalists retreat to cash, effective demand in the market reduces and a recession occurs. Read the rest of this entry »

greece solidarity meeting in london

28 05 2010

by Sharon Borthwick

Here’s an attempt to give a brief overview of Wednesday’s event at Conway Hall: Can’t pay, Won’t pay: Solidarity with Greece organised by Counterfire: an SWP offshoot, with Lindsey German, John Rees and Andrew Burgin at the helm.

We can only hope that left unity over the coming cuts, expressed at the meeting will be upheld considering various SWPist cock-ups of the past. But this was actually a very positive meeting and there were some great, rousing speeches. Read the rest of this entry »

greek revolt haunts the rulers of europe

18 05 2010

by Mark Ellingsen

A class war has broken out in Greece, and there is a palpable fear amongst the international ruling class that workers will not submit to paying for the bailout of financial institutions. Stock markets tumbled during a week in which public and private sector workers in Greece went on strike and only recovered when the EU agreed an emergency fund to defend the euro. But even now doubts still linger amongst investors as to whether this will actually resolve the underlying problem of state debt.

The turmoil in Greece has seen protestors storm the Acropolis unfurling banners appealing to Europe to rise up; teachers interrupting an interview with the Education Minister on state television; and a general strike on 5th May with a demonstration of at least 100,000 in which some workers tried to storm the Greek parliament. Read the rest of this entry »


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