Democracy and civil disobedience. By Jordi Cuixart (President of Òmnium Cultural). La Vanguardia
By Jordi Cuixart @jcuixart
I have now been a political prisoner for 600 days. The Supreme Court will pass sentence in due course on a trial in which the State prosecution requests 17 years in prison from the president of Òmnium, up to 214 years in prison for exercising fundamental civil and political rights. But as Antigone said to the king of Thebes when disobeying him: “I was born to share love, not hate”.
Rawls gave a canonical definition of civil disobedience: “A non-violent, conscious and political public act, contrary to the law, usually committed for the purpose of bringing about a change in the law or in government programs.
In democratic societies, only the pressure of citizens is capable of changing the stagnation to which legality and the Rule of Law tend. Thanks to the pressure exerted by civil disobedience, women today are exercising their right to vote. In the United States, racial segregation laws were legal, as today are also evictions of families to whom the State has a constitutional duty to guarantee decent housing.
The hundreds of cases of non-violent resistance, in exercise of internationally recognised fundamental rights, arise from the collective awareness that people cannot renounce changing laws and norms considered unjust. It is a commitment that must be respected, not necessarily adhered to, because it pursues the common good.
October 1st 2017 was the largest act of civil disobedience in Europe in the last 30 years. 2.3 million Catalans turned out to vote because they were convinced they had the right. But also because, faced with the dilemma of choosing between fundamental rights or abiding by a suspension of the Constitutional Court not addressed directly to them, they did not renounce the most basic rights. To associate this with any kind of violence or to compare it with a coup d’état is as scandalously false as it is dishonest. Non-violent action is not violence. Nor here, nor anywhere else.
The civil disobedience of 1-O is protected by three fundamental rights: freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and political participation. It always ends up becoming an examination of the legitimacy of existing laws and is a reflection of democratic health. The questioning of laws should attract the maximum interest of the legislator because, as Dworkin points out, civil disobedience is a constant test of the constitutionality of laws.
To persecute those who question the laws is to contradict the spirit of any democratic constitution. The problem is not why a law is collectively disobeyed, but rather why a law considered unjust should be obeyed. “Everyone has a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws,” said M. Luther King. And the same Supreme Court Chamber that is judging us today created doctrine with ruling 480/2009: “[…] civil disobedience can be conceived as a legitimate method of dissidence against the State, and such a form of thought and ideology must be accepted within a democratic society.
Instead of moving towards more open and participatory, fairer and more equitable societies, we are on the verge of the criminal conviction of a radically democratic tool. If it were confirmed, it would be sad news for collective freedoms and, at the same time, a great incentive to continue advancing towards a mature and consolidated democracy in the form of a Republic.
Original: La Vanguardia
Author: Jordi Cuixart@jcuixart
Published on: 8 June 2019