In Greek Debt Crisis, New Potato Movement Shows Karl Marx Theory Alive and Well

In Greece, the Potato Movement demonstrates that people hit hard by the recession are employing the Labour Theory of Value professed by theorists such as Karl Marx to reignite their economy. Since the recessionary downturn began in Greece about five years ago and austerity measures were forced on them by the European Union, about 21% of the workforce has become unemployed, and salaries for the rest have been cut drastically. The mammoth decrease in the trading of basic goods and services that is both the result and cause of these economic problems, has prompted people in Greece to sell their wares at rates that are more reflective of the labour and production costs they put into them, and not at rates that are inflated by speculation and contrived supply and demand.

Impromptu markets have exploded all over Greece, in what has been called the Potato Movement. Marketers are doing things very differently these days. The movement was so named when potato farmers in the city of Piera sold their produce right out of their trucks instead of directly to distributors or wholesalers.

In supermarkets the same potatoes would go for 0.60 euros per kilogram. Instead the farmers were selling them directly to local consumers at 0.25 euros a kilogram. The savings, which consumers in a recessionary economy loved, were the result of the fact that wholesalers were not charging extra due to their own cost of distribution, and the value determined by how much potato produce was grown that year. The farmers were able to charge for cost of production and their own labour, any more would be too costly to be purchased.

Other areas of Greece were doing the same. Many volunteer shops sprung up selling various necessities such as cloths, and selling them at cost. If they were being sold at cost, then prices were not being increased due to fashion and trends.

People in the city of Volos started to use online bartering sites to trade basic goods and services. Instead of using the euro, they used the website-based currency. This meant that the value of the currency was attached to the value of the goods being sold, and not the product of government currency policy, and sovereign debt.

It is clear that what all of these new markets have is that, out of necessity, they are all trading at the cost of labor and production. Average households in Greece can no longer afford luxury goods and brand names, and seek to purchase necessities at the best possible prices. Marketers were selling their wares at the prices that meet this demand, without going out of business. The Labour Market Theory of Karl Marx profess that cost of labour and inputs should be the only determinative factor in price. In this case, Greeks are resorting to this to get their economy moving again and so that they can keep their jobs and businesses.

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Kieran Verboven

Like almost everyone else here I am very interested in politics and public policy. I am willing to engage in discussions on any topic related to global issues. I studied History and International Relations at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. I currently work as a consultant in immigration, global migration, and refugee matters.

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