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”

Advertisements

electoral parties: let’s not put old wine in new bottles

by David Broder

If June’s European election results were disastrous for the traditional social democrat parties like Labour, France’s Parti Socialiste or the German SPD, they were unspectacular for the so-called ‘radical left’, despite the capitalist crisis. Yet recent general election results for Die Linke (‘The Left’) in Germany and Bloco de Esquerda (‘Left Bloc’) in Portugal have bolstered some left groups’ keen-ness to try and create something similar in Britain.

dielinke

Die Linke won more than 5 million votes; 76 of the 622 seats; and the most votes in two of Germany’s 16 states. The Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal increased its support to over 10%. Certainly these results are the envy of any coalition the British left has managed to put together: from the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Labour Party to Respect and, worst of all, ‘No2EU’, the various unity initiatives have failed to make any impact on the national political scene, despite the size of movements such as Stop the War or the significant rightwards drift of the Labour Party. Continue reading “electoral parties: let’s not put old wine in new bottles”

portugal’s cultural revolution: 35 years on

In April 1974 the fascist regime in Portugal was overthrown by the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), with the ensuing collapse of the old state apparatus unleashing two years of militant working-class struggle, with sharp antagonisms even within the army. The new organs of collective democracy established in towns, villages, factories and other workplaces during this ‘Carnation Revolution’ pointed to the possibility of radically reorganising society — but the workers’ movement was eventually subdued by state-socialist parties and their allies among the army generals. This Passa Palavra article looks at the efforts of those who tried to combine radical culture with participatory democracy.

by Manuela de Freitas

The army vans went out from Lisbon, carrying MFA soldiers and the actors. Upon arrival in each city they set up shop for one or two weeks: each day they went to towns and villages in the area where they were based, setting up the stage and preparing the seating for the audience. They went out in the villages calling on people – at home, at the cafés, in the streets – talking with them and getting them to come to that evening’s meeting. These ‘stars’ never knew for sure what attracted the people’s attention: the protagonists of the shows, or the protagonists of the Carnation Revolution. Continue reading “portugal’s cultural revolution: 35 years on”

links added in ‘ideas’

today we have added three more links to the ‘ideas‘ page of the commune.

the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in marx and engels, by hal draper, explains how marx and engels used the term ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ not to mean a specific form of government but rather to denote the class rule of the working class once it has overthrown the bourgeoisie. in this vein draper attacks the understanding of the term elaborated by plekhanov, who proclaimed “when we come to power, we will allow no freedom for anyone but ourselves”.

anton pannekoek’s world revolution and communist tactics, written for an organ of the comintern in 1920, effectively combats statist visions of working-class power and bureaucracy in the workers’ movement, and looks at the new organisational forms workers must use to re-shape society: “the formation by the workers of the soviets, their own organs of power and action, in itself signifies the disintegration and dissolution of the state. as a much more recent form of organisation and one created by the proletariat itself, the trade union will survive much longer, because it has its roots in a much more living tradition of personal experience, and once it has shaken off state-democratic illusions, will therefore claim a place in the conceptual world of the proletariat. but since the trade unions have emerged from the proletariat itself, as products of its own creative activity, it is in this field that we shall see the most new formations as continual attempts to adapt to new conditions; following the process of revolution, new forms of struggle and organisation will be built on the model of the soviets in a process of constant transformation and development”.

ubu saved from drowning: worker insurgency and statist containment in portugal and spain 1974-77, by loren goldner, is of particular interest in that focuses on the struggles of the portuguese working class rather than merely the history of the sects that aspired to lead it (much like mailer’s the impossible revolution). the fact that the portuguese revolution represented the end of an era of class struggle rather than the beginning of a new one, and that the onward march of state capitalism had also petered out by the end of the 1970s, by no means devalues the lessons of the portuguese revolutionary crisis, which saw mass working-class mobilisation, factory expropriations and efforts at workers’ self-management.