The responsibilities of the political system and the crisis in Greece: is the crisis merely economic or national too? What must be done.
Dr. Georges D. Contogeorgis (translation: Dr. Nicholas C. Georgantzas)
If you wish to find the cause of the current crisis in Hellas, we must first see if and how is it different from the global crisis and, secondly, if different, what creates the difference and why. Which is to say: what is the hellenic cause of the crisis?
§1. In the first case, therefore, we find that: The hellenic crisis is not due to a malfunction of the banking system and, therefore, the deregulation created via its choices. In the hellenic case, the state, namely the political leadership and, by extension, the state apparatus are the primary cause of the crisis. In this context we can ask ourselvesB why did the government create the crisis, why was it the cause of the crisis?
The answer to this question is unequivocal: this is the very nature of the extant political system. Historically, the hellenic political system, and not that which was created after the recent dictatorship (1974), is summoned for two things: a) One is the deep‐rooted societal privatization and degradation of the state apparatus, the political staff and forces of intermediation or interlocking corruption.
b) The other is the establishment of a relation between society and politics, based on the de‐collectivization of the social fabric, i.e., the personal direct dependence of each citizen on the politician. It is what we call the client or customer political system, which at the political level simply entails the partitocracy (κομματοκρατία).
Why is this status of party politics problematic in Hellas, but not so in other countries, given that the political system is basically the same in all countries of the world? Since King Otto’s era, the rule already imposed functioned as an institution in possession of our hellenic society. Transforming the country into a protectorate is in line with the fact that our modernity’s political system is ‘suboptimal’ for the hellenic society. What I mean by suboptimal is not in the sense that it is too sophisticated on a political and societal levels but, rather, it lacks in political spread, i.e., it is pre‐political, i.e., it is deduced —despite what is said on the contrary— to a ‘prerepresentative’ system, where the state intends to retain the political system as a whole. This is what the concept of political sovereignty means, which leads to our society’s privatization.
The main problem lies in the fact that our hellenic society did not pass through feudalism. Instead, before the establishment of our modern state of Hellas, our society lived in a system of personal, societal and political liberty. When a citizen, even during the Turkish occupation, had a financial, personal or any other problem, e.g., widows, orphans, the poor, etc., s/he would present it to the township. That is, the society made up the political system. After the nation‐state was created, however, because the politicians took over the political system, the citizen’s problem would not be presented on a collective level but on personal level, to the politician. The relationship became uneven, and generally lead to a complete mismatch between society and politics. This is why we see today that the political cost is not focusing on the sensitivities or the reactions that occur on society’s behalf, i.e., a gallop’s ‘public opinion’, but on the reactions of authority figures. The political weight of a guild‐leader (e.g., of a pressure group, like a union, NGO etc.), of a student‐faction leader or of any citizen or non‐citizen of this country, who
holds a special place in the political machinations, is much heavier than the society as a whole. Why? Because the citizens’ societal body is not organized politically and, therefore, it cannot collectively meet politics anywhere. This is the problem. And this problem causes a total appropriation of the state, which historically plunders and, through this plunder, the society itself gets looted, leading to dead ends. It is not our first dead end. But it is the impasse that screams about the character of the state. And if you wish under this prism to define the political system since the last dictatorship and its side effects, we would say that it is not, as some contend, the purest democratic political system that the state of Hellas has faced, but which marks a full restoration of political corruption of the 19th century.
§2. If we now wish to talk about the exit from the crisis, I think we must keep in mind the fact that the state created it. So, without removing the cause, the state of occupation and its side effects, we can not talk seriously about leaving the crisis. But if we wonder about its policies or those so far proposed by the political class for ending the crisis, then we see the impasse that the country has reached. Because all measures taken so far to restore the economic balance in society and government, have a completely revenue‐crank at the expense of ordinary ‘pack animals’ and, certainly, do not in any way affect the pillars of the system that has led to the crisis: (a) the political system, (b) the public administration and justice, and (c) the legislation that enforces political interweaving and corruption. The political class and the forces that have hitherto ravaged the state or evaded taxes, still are in control and continue to behave as if nothing is wrong. Despite society’s aggressive opposition, the mechanisms of looting public goods remain in place. Not only there have been no measures taken to effectively recast the state, but everything undertaken under pressure by the ‘troika’, simply reproduces the state’s bad self. If we wish to identify the main problem, let’s see how politicians manage the issue of political liability. Given the general societal outcry, they have made some basic embellishments, only not to provoke public opinion but, anyhow, they do not even touch on the two main issues that have to do with political accountability: the abolition of political immunity and competence of the parliament to decide on the unlawful conduct of its members. And, concurrently, bringing civilian personnel to justice for the harmful policies of the state itself.
Today, they believe that they can destroy our society and harm people, but have no recourse to it in court.
When they say that they bear “political responsibility”, they simply mean that “they do not give a damn about the society”; “Do not vote for us next time”. But that concerns another issue, having nothing to do with the damage they caused. To grasp the magnitude of the misery of this system, it is sufficient to consider what would happen if each of us claimed the right to decide whether s/he will be subject to justice for wrongdoing or demanded to judge her‐ or him‐self.
Consider what it means not to recognize the citizen’s interest in politics, i.e., the right to seek justice in order to become whole again from the damage suffered by the politician or to bring the politician to justice for scandals related to political controls or their looting of the public space. The political class has created so many mounds in order to discharge any and all its responsibility toward the society that, literally, were the relative power entrusted to an infamous villain, the villain could not possibly create as many mounds as the political class has created to protect itself. Against whom? Who is the enemy? Society! The political class does not feel that it has a duty to serve the public or national interest. Partisan patriotism takes precedence over national patriotism.
§3. You might ask me what can be done, which is the way out? I do not think that that can come from the political class. Not just because it is responsible for the crisis. But because, while it knows what to do, that is contrary to the logic of its system and interest. We see that even towards the troika, the political class operates in a manner reminiscent of ‘guerrilla war’. That is, it shifts the crucial decisions needed for the reconstruction of the administration, justice, the state and the political system in general, with enormous costs to our society.
We see that it limits spending, e.g., in hospitals, but it does not take any action in order to provide services, so the operation of hospitals is such that it would not compensate for the losses and, of course, it will not reduce corruption. The same has happened with the famous case of ‘Callicrates’ and the same happens everywhere. This is why I conclude that it is the logical evolution of our time, but also of this crisis, the enemy, in this case the society, to join in the functions of the [political] system, so that it creates a counterweight to the terrible tipper of the balance between society and politics, which feeds back into the internal occupation status, which party politics attaches to Hellas.
This now becomes a general matter of urgency, as the political sovereignty of the state has mutated into a political domination by the markets and threatens human societies doubly to turn them into commodities. Fortiori, since the European societies that function politically as masses —and not in terms of political individualism as the hellenic society does— we see that the old recipe of the society meeting politics on the level of ideology, i.e., non‐institutionally, is no longer functional. When, for example, a socialist voted for the Socialist Party, s/he hoped for something. Was s/he a liberal? S/he would vote for a liberal party. There were two roads between which one would choose, in order to meet her or his idea of the society and about self interests. Today this is no more. Today the ownership of the financial system (the market) dictates its decisions and the purpose of the policy the state must follow, and those are complete mismatches with the interests of the society and its social will. So, today, the state, and much more Hellas, does not offer to restore a balance with the society because the civil society (the society of citizens) has reached a political failure for many reasons and, therefore, it can not force the politicians into politics toward the society’s interests. Politics is strictly dependent on the market and, of course, the society and politics do not meet anywhere, so that the latter would be obliged to exceed the status of party politics and, thereafter, to be hostage to the logic and the interests of the markets.
What must be done? In my opinion, there is only one way: to institutionalize the political functioning of the society. Instead of people descending on the streets or going on strikes, i.e., operating non‐institutionally, running to knock on the door of power in order to request its demands to be heard, to rebuild the political system, in order to enable the society to become an institution of the state or to have its wishes taken into account in political decisions.
In practice, the scientific potential of demotic ownership could be exploited, without the need to gather our entire society in Syntagma Square... Before taking any decision, it must become obligatory to survey what the society wants. Or create a continuous‐survey demos, which will discuss and decide on the country’s problems at the political level. This is just an example. We can find a thousand and one ways. But it is necessary for our civic society to enter into politics. To participate in the decisions!
For a society to exist, however, we must all agree on its collective responsibility. We must accept the basis of its connective tissue, around which the will of the society will accumulate and create its solidarity. Before all, it is necessary to lift the immunity status and subject the political personnel to justice, just like any citizen, and to the content of politics.
Aristotle tells us that, in democracy, the political offenses are punished more severely than private ones because the former, not only are evaluated as to their severity, but also according to the number of those injured. The individual who steals, steals from someone else and hurts someone else. The politician damages the whole. So, for this reason, [the politician] is punished more.
Here, the absurd happens: the injurer politician is not punished at all! And, as we know, when one knows that s/he will not be punished after s/he either causes damage or steals or commits another, whatever offense,
then the person will not hesitate to make it so. This is what happens with the politicians in Hellas, who have also managed to break down – literally to demolish– our society, so that they are not subjected to its pressure.
Therefore, the necessary steps must be taken to reverse the status of party politics, measures that will institutionally compel the politicians to act politically in the common‐national interest. That will remove all the partitocracy pillars, from the partitocracy‐leaders in universities to all of the political interlocking mechanisms and corruption, which create rigidity or hold the society hostage. Which would also repeal all legislation that hinders the development of our society’s creative forces. If political interweaving and corruption exist today is, of course, because of the fact that the state is structured to promote them. The entire system is based, however, for the most part, on legislation.
Through legislation, the political class creates the preconditions to appropriate the state, to function as an occupier of the society, transforming it into a beast of burden, carrying political interlocking and corruption. If therefore, to conclude, we wish to look straight in the eye the very cause of and deal with the crisis, we must realize that the problem is neither the society nor its familiarity with corruption, but the state, which creates a mandatory operating framework for the society. If the society’s members wish to survive, then they must play by the terms of the partitocracy system’s logic, i.e., the terms of the political class, which are terms of political corruption and interlocking, which hence involve the operation of the state. The government of Hellas blindly believes that its role stops where it should begin. When the law is not implemented –the responsibility of the state, i.e., the politicians– no civic care is taken for its implementation. The politicians just vote for a new legal pretext and are thus left free to prey on the public good, they and their ‘acquiescence eaters’. This pretense operation of the political class explains why in the state of Hellas the concepts of public efficiency, public interest, control and sanctions remain unknown. In the state of Hellas, hierarchy as well as the punishment of the indifferent, the wrong‐doer and the thief are unknown concepts.
The country’s impasse is due to this, and I fear that the international guardianship of the country will not allow the removal of the partitocracy system, i.e., the cause of the problem in Hellas, because the guardianship itself creates more resistance in the political mixture that has a deterrent effect on the hatching of the new politics.
The impasse in which our hellenic society is currently in focuses on the state of Hellas, so that we can fear the worst, not only on the duration and depth of the crisis, but also to the possibility of a societal explosion, which will be uncontrollable if done wrongly and it erupts. The society has already accumulated an explosive mixture of anger, which focuses on the political class in a very aggressive manner. If the forfeiture continues, one thing is certain: an external ‘protection’ will be established, which will possibly lead to a giveaway of Hellas [just like in the Imia island case].
§4. In view of the crisis, I had an early first series of proposed measures that would lead to the antiprivatizing of the state, forcing politicians to behave in the public interest. Naturally, systematic efforts would then be needed for the permanent removal of the rigidities that maintain the crisis, holding our hellenic society hostage. I had also proposed how‐to measures for this development, given that each one of us pretty much knew what must be done, but a now absent implementation path must be formed. Primarily, as a prerequisite, I moved that in order to rescue the country, we must first change the political system. It suffices to see that this political system generates destruction and not any national or social ambition.
So I asked that our civic society must encircle the parliament, but must not follow the traditional way of protest. Because the latter would have a very small chance to succeed. We would thus continue to protest against the third and fourth memorandum. We must change our mode of action and see that a precondition to our rescuing the country is a radical change of the entire political system, i.e., our dynamic political interdependencies.
• The very first step is to formulate our demands in legal terms, clearly toward this direction.
• The second step is to adopt an effective way to render our demands respected.
• To see that the power of social solidarity is explosive.
• To act as a ‘civic‐society body’, i.e., as a ‘demos’, before the parliament and the parliamentarians, and not to withdraw unless the demanded reforms get voted for.
• Force them to see that no one is entitled to refusing our society’s will free of charge.
I also proposed the following legislative reforms:
1) To repeal the immunity and liability laws of the political personnel.
To subdue the political personnel to the damage caused by its political acts under common law, aggravating the observation that political offenses hurt a disproportionately large number of people, compared with common offenses. The appropriate court must be composed of judges elected by lot and must entail the participation of a civic jury.
2) To institutionalize our societal power to control the political personnel (and also the administration and justice) from a dedicated court.
The respective audit must also cover individuals (e.g., the parliamentarian, elected by lot, every six months among the citizens of her or his constituency) and the state bodies (such as parliament, government, etc.).
3) Introduce the political accountability (the ‘duty’) of the political staff for its political acts or omissions that harm the society of citizens.
It must be clearly stated that the purpose of a career in public affairs is in the interest of the nation and of the society and not the nation of a state. It is inconceivable that in the 21st century we live in a political system earlier than that of Solon.
4) Must give to the citizen the right to ‘legitimate interest’ for the harm caused by the bodies of the administration of justice and the political personnel.
Facing the citizen, they must be answerable directly to the administrative, judicial and political officer or, alternatively, the state.
5) Require the mandatory opinions (the will) of the civic society before every policy decision (governmental or legislative) and the ability to raise policy issues that it believes should be addressed
(e.g., the effective functioning of the administration). In practice, the scientific potential of the polls could be exploited, so that there will be no need to collect each time the whole society in Syntagma Square. Before taking any decision, it must become mandatory to conduct a survey about what the society needs. Or, even more, to create a continuous survey of demos in order to discuss and to decide on the country’s problems at the political level. This is one of the many examples of arrangements that would make possible the transition toward a relative simulation of representation. But it is essential that civic society institutions do enter into politics. To participate in the decisions. The outcome would show what the society considers to be its interest and what not. The obligatoriness of the society’s opinion would currently suffice, even without the mandatory character of its political power. Societal control and political accountability, in conjunction with the election process, will balance the desire of the political authority for autonomy.
6) Require the parliament to waive its abuse of ‘power’ to legislate on issues of civic liability of its members and, particularly, from being involved in controlling their responsibilities.
To qualify all asylum cases and scandals since the new (1974) polity and beyond to justice. The cases that date back to the politicians’ accountability, by their nature, are not barred.
7) Most of above legislative reforms do not require revision of the Constitution.
For other required reforms, it might be sufficient to waive from the parliament its abusive privileges. Otherwise, the civic society of citizens must demand the suspension of those constitution articles that reserve for the political power the property of the principal.
8) These reforms are of course the bare minimum that must be followed in other sociopolitical sectors, in order to create a deep rift with our current dynastic state.
Otherwise, the possible exit from the Euro, by the European Union itself, which might return Hellas back to the 1960’s, should not be excluded.