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

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.

Continue reading “britain: ‘to fight austerity we need a united left’”

a report on the situation in greece

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. Continue reading “a report on the situation in greece”

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

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. Continue reading “the greek elections, ‘workers’ governments’ and the radical left”

is syriza a workers’ government in waiting?

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? Continue reading “is syriza a workers’ government in waiting?”

french and greek voters seek a way out of austerity

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. Continue reading “french and greek voters seek a way out of austerity”

unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and the eurozone crisis

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. Continue reading “unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and the eurozone crisis”

understanding europe’s crisis

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. Continue reading “understanding europe’s crisis”