Greece – The Return of Direct Democracy

“We do not owe – we shall not sell – we shall not pay” and “they must all leave now” are now the most popular labels amongst  the greek aganaktismenoi – the outraged.

 

These mass rallies, with their openness and the fact that they look different than traditional union or party meetings, have functioned as an outlet for this anger and frustration. The people refuse to be governed in such a manner and the government is unable to govern them. This textbook definition of political crisis is fully manifest in Greece….

for the majority of Greek people party politics is associated with unjust neoliberal policies, media manipulation, corruption and close links to big business and lately an almost servile stance towards international organizations. In light of the above, one can say that this ‘anti-political’ stance is exactly the foundation of an authentic process of radical politicization, the beginning for an alternative politics of collective action, direct democracy and radical social change.

That is why on the squares of Greek cities we are witnessing a unique experiment in democracy.
Panagiotis Sotiris

 

Three weeks ago, things changed. A motley multitude of indignant men and women of all ideologies, ages, occupations, including the many unemployed, began occupying Syntygma – the central square of Athens opposite parliament; the area around White Tower in Thessaloniki; and public spaces in other major cities. The daily occupations and rallies, sometimes involving more than 100,000 people, have been peaceful, with the police observing from a distance. Calling themselves the “outraged”, the people have attacked the unjust pauperising of working Greeks, the loss of sovereignty that has turned the country into a neocolonial fiefdom of bankers, and the destruction of democracy. Their common demand is that the corrupt political elites who have ruled the country for some 30 years and brought it to the edge of collapse should go. Political parties and banners are discouraged….

The parallels with the classical Athenian agora, which met a few hundred metres away, are striking. Aspiring speakers are given a number and called to the platform if that number is drawn, a reminder that many office-holders in classical Athens were selected by lots. ..

Syntagma’s highly articulate debates have discredited the banal mantra that most issues of public policy are too technical for ordinary people and must be left to experts. The realisation that the demos has more collective nous than any leader, a constitutive belief of the classical agora, is now returning to Athens. The outraged have shown that parliamentary democracy must be supplemented with its more direct version.Costas Douzinas

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