Is there a clash between the
individual citizen and
Keynote speech for the JMK/FES - Conference on
“Values of Social Democracy yesterday, today and tomorrow”
by Andreas Gross (Switzerland)
Director of the Scientific Institute for Direct Democracy in St-
Ursanne, Swiss MP & Leader of the Social-Democrats in the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
Tallinn, 19th of November 2010
An overview of my
I. Some definitions for a common understanding
II. A first answer
III. A first conceptional precision
IV. The double crises of Democracy - a double
challenge for Socialdemocrats
V. Two main reform perspectives
Socialdemocrats have to
overcome the banalisation of
the terms Freedom and
Democracy is more then a choice;
it enables us to be free.
Freedom means, to act together on our common life
(« Life is not a destiny »)
Democracy constitutes the rules, rights and proce-
dures in order to enable us to solve the ordinary
children of freedom, conflicts, without violence !
Democracy: Since 1789 a
ongoing and never ending
process and project
• The people is the only source of
legitimate political power
• To be able to participate in all decisions
which concern you !
• Freedom is not a privilege !
Democracy is also a promise: A fair distribution of
life chances as a base for all to be able to be free
A political order to empower as
well as protect the citizens
• “For the people, with the people and by the people”
• Human (Fundamental) Rights protect the individual
citizen against the state/power: “No tyranny of the
• Modern democracies are more than representative
democracies: By direct-democratic elements
representative democracy’s are more representative
and the citizens have more to say
You can not consume
Democracy and Freedom:
Citizens have to act in order to
be free and to strengthen Dem.
• Alone you can only despair, you can not be free.
• In order to realise your power to make a difference,
you have to be able to meet and to organize with
other likeminded citizens
• We need to strengthen a positive notion of power:
Hannah Arendt, not Max Weber alone !
The sphere to think and argue
about what could be the
• Democratic engagement is more than the defence of
• The common/general interest is more then the sum of
all private interests
The public sphere, where such arguments and
discourses have to be considered, can not be based on
private media !
Otherwise our Democracies can not produce their most
important products: Integration and collective learning !
Socialdemocrats can not
defend a “Democracy” which
excludes the citizens and
ignores it’s social conditions
That’s why we are confronted with the “double”
crises of the democracies of our times:
For many citizens there Democracy looks like a “Democratic
absolutism”: Exclusively “representative”.
Our democracies are too national only: National democracies can
not civilise transnational market forces, on the contrary: Trans-
national markets lead to the erosion of the social bases of the
The democratization of Democracy
is an ongoing, never ending
Democracy was reduced to represent. Democracy in
a time, where most people couldn’t read or write and
were enable to make political judgments !
Today modern citizens know often as much about
politics as MP’s: They feel frustrated that ID excludes
them and reduces them to objects instead of the
subjects of politics.
A society in which citizens feel excluded looses a
enormous amount of creative potentials, misses
collective learning options and undervalues itself !
A bit more Direct Democracy
means that you share better and
more power with the citizens
Nobody should have so much power, that he or she
has the “privilege” not to have to learn...
Sharing the political power, that means, giving 2 % of
the citizens the power to ask for a Referendum on a
law voted in the Parliament or a legisl.change they
propose to the society, means:
Everybody has to listen more -
Everybody tries to convince and to discuss
Politics become softer, more inclusive and more
When citizens are able to overcome
their homemade alienation/exclusion
from Democracy, they find the power
to build up a European Democratic
Citizen Movement for:
For a real European (Federal)
Constitution (of Decentralisation) of the
EU in order to empower citizens also on
the transnational level.
Such a democratically constituted EU
would be able to defend the social
conditions every Democracy needs.