Earlier this year, The Guardian reported on how these structures are serving to “fill the gaps left by austerity.” A variety of what would’ve been called survival programs in the era of the Black Panther Party have been carried out through such assemblies across Athens: food and clothing distribution, supplementary education programs for children, basic health services, mental health support, eviction defense – all administered via face-to-face, direct democracy.
When a tax increase folded into electricity bills resulted in cutoffs for people unable to pay, lists were made and local electricians were dispatched to illegally restore services, with priority afforded to those most vulnerable (the elderly, new parents). A former military installation seized by residents and converted into a community park and cultural center boasted sizeable gardens, tended by locals of varying ages.
When I visited one of the city’s oldest popular assemblies in 2012, in the neighborhood of Petralona, residents had just opened a kitchen space on one street corner, with the intention of both providing affordable meals and educating young people about food cultivation, preparation, and health. Participation in all of it seemed pretty eclectic, to my outsider eye. Even local government officials joined in—acting as residents like any others, sometimes with their families in tow. Perhaps even more telling, assemblies were sharing resources between neighborhoods. They were confederating, demonstrating both an ability and an intention to scale up.
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