Human rights vs the snake’s egg

Democracy is about to be put on trial in Catalonia, with the far right and the State working as one, once more

“If due to ego you think: I shall not fight; this resolve of yours is vain. Because your own nature will compel you to fight.”  Bhagavad Gita 18.59

Last Friday, the same day when the State celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution with a display of pomp, was the seventh day since my friends and colleagues Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Quim Forn began a hunger strike. Also on Friday the head office of Òmnium Cultural (1) was the target of a new fascist attack when a display bearing the word “democracy” was destroyed. We are having a black and white flashback: Spain’s monarchy and politics are stuck in a time tunnel.

In contrast, today marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a reminder that rising against tyranny and oppression is a duty when basic rights are not protected by the state. Not only is civil disobedience legitimate, but it becomes a universal civic duty in the face of injustice and the global drift towards authoritarianism. The totalitarian procedure repeats itself under the umbrella of xenophobic populism, an adaptation of pure fascism that never went away. Fear-mongering and pointing fingers at a common enemy as the target of all the irrational hatred have always been useful tools for the conquest of power. The likes of Hannah Arendt, Viktor Frankl, Palmiro Togliatti, Neus Català, Amos Oz and Rob Riemen set an example that we can use as an antidote and historical memory. With the strength that stems from determination, Leone Ginzburg urged us to “show courage” shortly before being shot dead by a Nazi firing squad.

In the Spanish state, the continuity of the Franco regime is pervasive in the defence of the holy unity of the country through police and institutional violence, through the judicial persecution of dissidence and the violation of individual and collective rights and liberties. The electoral rise of the far right [Vox] is further proof of the charade that we call the Transition (2). By allowing the crimes of the Franco regime to go unpunished, we condemned ourselves to amnesia and to continue suffering their consequences. For this reason the Catalan Republic also becomes an exercise in democratic culture and radicalism.

Democracy is about to be put on trial in Catalonia, with the far right and the State working as one, once more, against anyone who dares to question the 1978 regime (3). The lawsuits filed by Vox provided the ideal electoral platform, hence the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the challenge we filed. Still, we will put in the dock the only EU member state that keeps nine political prisoners in jail, over ten people in exile and hundreds of people prosecuted for defending the right to self-determination.

For all that, we will turn our trial into an international denunciation in support of human rights. The EU keeps ignoring its own fundamental and foundational values, but calls such as those made by Amnesty International and the World Organisation Against Torture are evidence to the fact that the Spanish case will never remain an internal affair. European society cannot put up any longer with the institutional cynicism of recognising political prisoners in Russia (on Wednesday Oleg Senstov, the Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned by Putin, will receive the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize to the defence of human rights), while flagrant violations of basic rights are permitted in Hungary, Poland and Spain.

As Benet Salellas wrote in his 'Jo acuso. La defensa en judicis polítics' [I Accuse. Defence in Political Trials], we cannot sit on the fence and believe that a political solution will crop up following a hypothetical favourable ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Sixty years after the Declaration, our fate is bound to this bill of love and courage for which so many men and women gave their very best. This is our humble contribution: we do not wish to leave as free men but as honourable people. The democratic solution to the conflict is a collective cause where we stand for the human condition, its rights and liberties.

Today four good men have been on hunger strike for ten days. Next Sunday it will be one year and two months since we first held in pre-trial detention. But what goes around, comes around: no fear, no sadness, we foster hope and determination. Against the snake’s egg of fascism we know there are thousands of fighters all over the world willing to pursue a decent, shared future. This makes us both enormously happy and unshakeable. Always forward!

Jordi Cuixart is the president of Òmnium Cultural and has been held on remand since 16 October 2017

Translator’s notes:

(1) Òmnium Cultural is a pro-independence grassroots platform that promotes Catalan culture and language. It has over 100,000 paid members.

(2) and (3) In Spain the Transition is the period immediately after Franco’s death when the country formally transitioned from a dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy. Those who are critical of the current political system often refer to it as the “1978 regime” because the current Spanish Constitution was approved in 1978.

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