Oligarchs vs. Democrats

 2500 years ago.

The next passages quoted, written as a general reflection on the Corcyraean Revolution of 427 B.C., are interesting, first as an excellent picture of the class situation; secondly, as an illustration of the strong words Thucydides could find when he wanted to describe analogous tendencies on the side of the democrats of Corcyra. (In order to judge his lack of impartiality we must remember that in the beginning of the war Corcyra had been one of Athens’ democratic allies, and that the revolt had been started by the oligarchs.) Moreover, the passage is an excellent expression of the feeling of a general social breakdown: ‘Nearly the whole Hellenic world’, writes Thucydides, ‘was in commotion. In every city, the leaders of the democratic and of the oligarchic parties were trying hard, the one to bring in the Athenians, the other the Lacedaemonians … The tie of party was stronger than the tie of blood … The leaders on either side used specious names, the one party professing to uphold the constitutional equality of the many, the other the wisdom of the nobility; in reality they made the public interest their price, professing, of course, their devotion to it. They used any conceivable means for getting the better of one another, and committed the most monstrous crimes … This revolution gave birth to every form of wickedness in Hellas … Everywhere prevailed an attitude of perfidious antagonism. There was no word binding enough, no oath terrible enough, to reconcile enemies. Each man was strong only in the conviction that nothing was secure.’12

Popper, Karl R.. The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton Classics) . Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition. 

Less has changed than we might hope. 

 

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