The Return of the Public Order Tribunals – Revista Argelaga

Montesquieu

An analysis of the recent totalitarian trends in Spain in the legislative and judicial domains, as exemplified by a recent (2015) Supreme Court verdict sentencing several people to three years in prison for peacefully protesting in front of a government building in June 2011, discussing the continuity between Franco’s Spain and “today’s parliamentary regime”, the myth of “popular sovereignty”, and the concept of “despotism” in its contemporary guise.

The Return of the Public Order Tribunals1Revista Argelaga

The Supreme Court, at the behest of the Catalonian Parliament, the Government of the Generalitat and the anti-Catalonian group, Manos Limpias [Clean Hands], has just sentenced eight of the defendants being tried for their peaceful protest in front of the Parliament building on June 15, 2011 to three years in prison, thus remedying the previous omission on the part of the National Court. As was to be expected, the sentence is fully in accord with the majority sentiment of the Catalonian plutocracy, which has called upon everyone to respect the Supreme Court’s decision. According to a Court whose impartiality may very well be questioned, insofar as its members are appointed by the national committees of the political parties, the freedom of expression and criticism enjoyed by the citizenry has come into conflict with “higher values”, such as the right of the deputies to represent the parliamentary farce and approve cutbacks on public services in the name of all “Catalonian citizens”. The defendants had participated in an “erroneous and traumatic leveling of the right of political participation by way of the legitimate representatives in the legislative institution”, but …. were these representatives really legitimate? Did they represent something more than just the dubious interests of their parties? Did they actually deserve to suffer this “traumatic leveling” of their political rights, that is, did they deserve to be denounced when they took their seats in the legislature to destroy the social rights of the rest of the population with impunity?

It would be a commonplace to say that there is no such thing as what they call “the people of Catalonia” or the “Catalonian citizenry”, in the absence of the minimal preconditions for public debate, impartial information, freedom of assembly, open elections and popular control of the representative function, and therefore those expressions are nothing but fantasies. This alleged “people”, is actually a domesticated mass of voters beneath the ruling class. Princeps est solutus legibus:2 therefore, there is no “popular sovereignty”. If the institutions do not do what they are supposed to do, there is no “sovereign” people that is capable of dissolving them. All representation in this case is illegitimate: the Parliament represents no one but itself. Neither on the day that the deputies gloated over the unjust sentence, nor on any other day, have we ever felt represented by Parliament. The fact that part of the population has resigned itself to what it thinks is inevitable and that it may even come to take pleasure in this farce does not confer legitimacy on that institution: the customs of enslaved peoples constitute part of their slavery, not of their freedom. The Parliament and the Generalitat form part of a State that was never the product of the sovereign will of a people, but the product of a contract between the dictatorship and the opposition forces, by means of which a new party regime was established based on the old dictatorial apparatus. If the current system of representation has any legitimacy, that legitimacy proceeds from Franco’s regime. The result was a partiocracy, that is, an authoritarian political regime with a thin democratic veneer in which the parties abrogated the representation of the popular will in order to further their own particular interests in the general apportionment of power. The politicians have made a job out of politics, and constitute a parasitic class that lives on the social surplus value extracted by way of institutions, often contravening their own laws. Even if their positions are elective, in practice their purview is unlimited: use is confounded with abuse. This self-bestowed legitimacy thanks to conditioned and corrupt elections is nothing but the justification for this thieving and privileged political status quo.

What the parties call democracy is only a modernized form of despotism, the offspring of the usurpation by the political parties of the popular will. In the despotic regimes, the nature of their institutions requires a high degree of submission, because the arbitrariness and corruption that accompany the exercise of the political function is clear for all to see. The authority conferred by elections goes in only one direction: some give the orders and others obey, that is all. It is no secret that the separation of powers does not exist and that counterbalancing mechanisms that are supposed to give the “represented” a way to rectify the misdeeds of their “representatives” are conspicuous by their absence. And that is precisely what the Supreme Court just confirmed: the political rights of the masses cannot operate as “neutralizing” factors with respect to the actions of the partiocracy. The masses only have the right to support the despots, not the right to resist them. Should resistance nonetheless take place, protest is prohibited, violently repressed and then hauled into court. Despotism cannot exist without fear; that is why the police possess a carte blanche in their dealings with protesters and the law backs up their brutality and abuses. No judge will find them guilty, nor will any judge permit evidence that incriminates them to be introduced in court. When despotism rules, justice is gentle and slow with those on top, but harsh and expeditious with those on the bottom.

Once the divorce between the political class and the insubordinate masses is consummated, the logical course of despotism leads to the restoration of a juridical concept from the period of the dictatorship: “public order”. In an authoritarian and despotic regime, any real protest is transformed into criminal conduct. It is directly subversive, because it alters “the normal functioning of institutions”, that is, it is an act that threatens the established order, endangering the prerogatives and the impunity of political appointees. The institutional defense of public order is in fact a defense of class privileges; in a despotic context like that of the Franco dictatorship or today’s parliamentary regime, this defense takes the form of intolerance, repression and injustice. The role that was in the past played by the Public Order Tribunal, is now played by the Supreme Court. The fact that even the latter is not untainted by corruption, and that its previous president, Carlos Dívar, resigned because he was implicated in a case of embezzlement, is merely incidental. What is really sickening is its remarkable position “on the axiological status of the constitutional values that are at stake”, that is, its manifest partiality in favor of unjust laws and the indecent privileges of political impunity. Finally, however, Justice is nothing but another weapon for the despotic governments and their legislatures, the fictitious representation of the abstract people, against the real people, those on the bottom. Montesquieu, the thinker of democracy, offers us some advice with respect to this question: “The principle of despotic government is subject to a continual corruption, because it is, even in its nature, corrupt. Other governments are destroyed by particular accidents, which do violence to the principles of each constitution; this is ruined by its own intrinsic imperfections, when some accidental causes do not prevent the corrupting of its principles.” Let us see if we can expedite its ruination.

No to despotism! Free the prisoners!

Revista Argelaga, March 21, 2015

Translated in March 2015 from the Spanish text, available online at: https://argelaga.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/castcat-el-regreso-del-top/.

  • 1. The Tribunal de Orden Público, established in 1963 in Spain under Franco’s dictatorship, was a parallel Court where certain political crimes, including criticism of the head of state or government institutions, public disorder, illegal propaganda and sedition, were tried.
  • 2. “The sovereign is not bound by the laws” [Translator’s note].