For the first time since 1974, the judiciary has stepped in to ban a parliamentary party from taking part in an election. The ban applies to the Spartans party and didn’t come as a surprise—not even to those it angered.

Because, for a decade now, and for the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1974, our democracy has had to live with a canker sore — a cancerous tumor on the body politic.

A “serpent’s egg” which extracts a toll, even if it doesn’t hatch. And an egg rendered especially dangerous by the generalized “anti-systemic” context in which it is incubating, in terms of behaviors and votes cast.

Right or left, it’s all the same: the audience the Spartans are addressing—and (Ilias) Kasidiaris and Golden Dawn courted in the past, the ‘Outraged’ citizens who camped out in Greece’s squares and various other far-right and far-left tendencies and organizations—are primarily defined by their opposition to the democratic parliamentary system, not by nebulous ideologies, which most people don’t even understand.

Still worse. The slaps and punches, aggression and hostility, the indifference to norms and consequences, have more to do with anti-social behavior than a rejection of a detested system.

Meaning that the cancer grows under the guise of a movement against a system which many supposedly despise and denounce. And as it leaks its poison from election to election and challenge to challenge, the canker functions as a reservoir of displaced contempt for democracy.

Without this reservoir and those who keep it replenished, there would be no way to connect with these different audiences and turn them into a permanent threat—albeit one that has lost some of its virulence in recent years.

But while it may be weakened, it is still very real. Not because these formations exist, engage in politics and are sometimes elected. But because they express the backwardness, irrationality and intolerance of a segment of society. Because they are the dark side of the moon.

Obviously, the judiciary intervenes when it can. It stepped up with Golden Dawn and it’s taking a stand now with the Spartans. Of course, it’s entirely right to do so, but it’s equally obvious its interventions cannot cure the cancer.

No, the canker will remain unless society itself—the body politic in person—takes its own stand against the anti-systemic incubator that keeps the cancer fed.

Because, ultimately, it’s not the far right or the far left that poses a threat, it’s society’s tolerance of extremist deviations from democratic norms, whether this takes the form of punches, slaps, curses or denunciations.

Now a menace like that can’t be dealt with by committees, authorities and workshops; only a “militant democracy” can fight off such a threat.