The fall guy

George Papandreou’s decision yesterday to relieve Dimitris Thanos of his duties in organizing the rallies of PASOK party and, most importantly, the reasons the newly installed Socialist chairman gave for doing so are cause for bewilderment, not to say indignation. Thanos was removed «after a visit by PASOK’s chairman 10 days ago to Messinia that was in every way a failure.» Thanos was held responsible for the fact that during his visit to some village near Ancient Olympia, Papandreou, instead of receiving a warm welcome, «was subjected to harsh criticism over PASOK’s agricultural policy.» The dismissed official had been responsible for mobilizing the scores of people that were to «instantaneously» hail Papandreou’s visit to Messinia. He was also responsible for the «spontaneous» public expression of love, loyalty, and enthusiasm for PASOK’s new leader. But this never came. Finally, Thanos had been expected to gag all criticism or complaints coming from the party faithful while Papandreou went on to press the flesh. So much for the transparent, clear and democratic reasons that Papandreou invoked to justify his decision. The incident is indicative of how the new Socialist leader perceives the much-hyped vision of «participatory democracy.» The participatory role of Socialist cadres and, above all, of party followers, does not include any decision-making. Policy-making is the exclusive privilege of the leader. The part played by PASOK officials and supporters has been reduced to willingly and actively furthering the visions and the decisions of their leader. A failure is never the leader’s fault but that of the party cadres and supporters, who failed in their duty to uphold the decisions of their leader.