The following text is written as a commentary on the aftermath of a collision between two trains in Greece, causing dozens of dead people, both train employees and passengers. For more information on the deadly collision, see here.

To better understand the text, here’s a short overview of Greek railways. OSE (Hellenic Railways Organisation) is the national railway company. On the course of time, OSE was broken down into many companies, with OSE being the parent company and the broken-off parts becoming its subsidiaries. One of those subsidiaries was TrainOSE, which was operating the passenger and freight trains on the OSE railways. In 2017, TrainOSE was acquired by Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, ie, the Italian national railways company. Under Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, TrainOSE became a private company given the name Hellenic Train. OSE remains a national company which owns, maintains and operates the railway infrastructure.


SYRIZA’s trolls on Greek social media are spreading fake news that Chatzidakis, a politician of ND, was the one who privatised TrainOSE during his term as Minister for Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks back in 2012-2013. Indeed, the effort to find a company willing to buy TrainOSE started by ND administration, but the privatisation took place only in 2017 under SYRIZA administration. SYRIZA bears the same responsibility as ND for the privatisation of TrainOSE. And if we go even further back in time, to the breaking down of OSE into individual sections, we find a PASOK administration.


The private company Hellenic Train (former TrainOSE) operates the passenger and freight trains on the OSE railways, and collects profits from the fares, etc. The trains that Hellenic Train has bought and utilise are good only for scrap metal and there have been many complaints from the workers about the dangers of these trains.


However, in this case, the deadly event wasn’t due to the trains of the private company, but due to safety flaws in part of the railway network. The railway infrastructure and its maintenance is concern of OSE S.A., which is wholly owned by the Greek state. Traditionally, railway infrastructure is usually managed by government agencies, as the costs combined with the profit margins are prohibitive for private capital. The problem is not the existence of a private capital, the problem is the capitalist business form itself. A profit-driven company, whether it’s private or national, has the exact same problems.


Hence, the profitable part of the railway, ie, the trains that run on the tracks, is administered by private capital. The loss-making part of the railway, ie, the railway infrastructure itself, remains in the hands of the state. The state-entrepreneur did exactly the same thing as any private entrepreneur would do in its position: extreme costcuting, even at safety’s expense, in order to even out the balance sheet. As Bordiga once wrote, “never has free enterprise been so free as when the profit remained but the loss risk has been removed and transferred to the community”.


Capital must be seized by the horns.