We share with you the position of the Antiauthoritarian Movement regarding the elections in Northeast Chalkidiki, where Eldorado Gold’s plans for gold mining clash with the local citizens struggles. In the recent municipal elections of May 2014, citizens teamed up to create an independent grassroots voting list against the gold mines that in fact won the elections. The text shows how an involvement from antiauthoritarian point of view in (eco-) social struggles can look like. A critical discussion about local elections, their connection to the struggle and direct democratic processes can be an interesting step in the process of transformation to an other society.
Antiauthoritarian Movement’s position on the elections in Northeast Chalkidiki
Elections could not be left uncommented, considering that they have been a major topic of discussion and concern in the villages affected by the extraction plans and among the committees against gold mining. Over three thousand local people took part in the process of electing a candidate that would represent them and chose G. Michos to confront and eventually win the elections over C. Pachtas [Translator’s note: a notorious PASOK politician], who was in favour of gold mining.
The fact that this came as a result of a process that to a certain extent also involved the committees is a key determinant of the future developments of the struggle against gold mines. The whole process of selecting a candidate, all by being a breakthrough in the area, was far from being a direct democracy process, considering that direct democracy is defined by its institutions, not by one-off procedures of electing one candidate over another for any mandate by the people.
Direct Democracy involves such institutions that enable autonomous citizens to immediately revoke their representatives, if and where they are faced with serious issues regarding decision-making; citizens may participate directly in making the decisions, bringing them into effect and eventually implementing them; political duties rotate, as in a system of direct democracy, we acknowledge that there may be technical experts, but there are no experts in politics. Seen from this viewpoint, we cannot equate the process of selecting a candidate with a direct democracy process, because then so would be the recent elections of a president within New Democracy and PASOK parties.
Let us however stretch the matter a bit more and investigate the potential that may well turn into an advantage. Committees’ involvement in selecting a candidate brought another blurry factor into relief, other than gold mining: local self-administration, i.e. what kind of an organised society we want, what would be our own roles as citizens in this context and what institutions we want there to be that will defend such roles. There is certainly no doubt that extraction is a key issue and the committees were right to highlight it as such, but what kind of a local self-government could there be in a area faced with the risk of its own extinction? Everyone without an exception knew that local elections on the future of mining would have the nature of a referendum. Let us not forget that battles are still raging on all fronts, both in the village of Skouries and in terms of prosecutions. Our key stake would now be whether the movement will remain firm in its struggles or whether it will give way to the long-rooted tradition of assigning responsibilities.
We know that the municipal authority does not have and never had institutional competence to authorise gold mining, although Pachtas purported so, siding with the crime committed by Eldorado. Practice however has shown that local citizens and their supporters in solidarity with their struggle can change the pattern of correlations and mandates over alleged competence, in fact in hostile conditions, when they came face to face with the former municipal authority led by deplorable Pachtas. The future of mining now lies in the hands of the movement; there can be no discounts to this legacy.
On the other hand, a response to gold mining could not be effective without the contribution and participation of the local society; traces of such a joint response by all residents of the area are already there, though somewhat faint. This response focuses on 3 main areas: farming, livestock farming and services, mainly tourism-oriented; this is the alternative solution, which however has not been to the depth necessary to enable, take and implement specific proposals that will change the landscape and will bring out the potential of the area that does not lie in the past or in getting engulfed by the current dominant world concept in other ways; the potential of bringing other values to the forefront, such as participatory solidarity, cooperatives and respect for the environment that runs all across the villages down to the coastline.
These changes have nothing to do with the world of trade and business, whose strategic goal is money and profit, inevitably leading to privatisations and to banishing collective efforts out of the public sphere. Struggles in the area have actually given a new meaning to collective efforts; this is their main foothold and this must be made an institutional norm in all aspects of life.
This would imply complete re-organisation of the production sector, placing emphasis on the collective, on equality, on solidarity, the creation of a new, free, public and social linchpin that will connect the mountain to the sea, i.e. new, free and at the same time protective access to the area’s natural and production wealth.
This involves another key consideration that has to do with local self-administration; we knew and still know that self-administration’s basic overarching and dominant feature is its concentrative character, by having control over all those institutions and relationships that make and establish it as a tool of authority directly financially and politically dependent on the state. Good intentions are not enough unless this relation changes radically; and this could not be done otherwise, but by changing the local society’s institutions and structures. Now is the time to do this, now that local assemblies of the movement converge, that the movement has increased right to speak, considering that it defined the electoral result. This would mean equal distribution of the actual power based on the principles that emerge from the movement’s action against mining. “Callicrates” reform merges many municipalities, but at the same time concentrates power to even fewer people as compared to the past.
Radical change means that actual power would pass to the local, open assemblies based on a constitutional agreement on the present and the future of the area. The terms of this agreement must be drawn from the long-standing movement against the mines and from the solidarity shown to this movement at a national and international level; this kind of solidarity can be the movement’s response for a viable alternative in the region. The struggle has shown that assigning power ‘in blank’ can be as destructive as mining itself; we have already witnessed the outcomes of the government’s and Pachtas’ own policies.
Were there no participation, were there no initiative taken regarding the common goal of banning mines, Northeast Chalkidiki would now have been left unnoticed. New institutions should incarnate this participation and initiative, giving residents the ability to feel and to be in fact the ones to control their own lives and the livelihood of their land. Such new institutions can only be formed and established by the movement.
The key concern in the movement of the residents, other than handing power over to one of its own, is to take power itself, thus defining a new relationship with local self-administration elected delegates.
The basic condition of good governance for the Zapatistas is elected delegates to respect the decisions of general assemblies and be immediately revocable in case of violation, which is summarised in the expression “we govern by obeying”.
Local citizens’ resistance may well remind us of the Gauls of the famous comic book, but governance would follow the example of Marinaleda in Spain; far from being the work of fiction, Marinaleda is a tangible reality in today’s world.
These words are not intended to make suggestions or wag the finger to anyone; fully aware of our limits, being an organic piece of that movement, we state our opinion; its fate will depend on all those people who engaged in the movement, were hit for defending its rights, were chased after, imprisoned, prosecuted, besieged and stood side by side at the most crucial moments of the struggle.
We now state our opinion, as we think that the very important defeat of Pachtas was part of the struggle and at the same to stress that a new field of struggles opens up before us; this will concern not only resistance to the corporation and its political mouthpieces, but all aspects of a comprehensive proposal for a different co-existence in community, for another collective and creative life, one that would be free, participatory, co-operative and equal.
Struggles have no expiry dates; stand-off will continue, the fight will go on.