Welcome Spain to the twenty-first century!

   UK JUNE 2013 Edition – Headlines:

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“FROM MONARCHY TO THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC”

The word “federalism” comes from the Latin “foedus”. This expression was used for personal bandajes and treaties between people in the Middle Age. Federalism defines a state in which: 1 – There are at least two levels of government rule in the same land and the same population. 2 – Each level of government have some area of ​​action in which it is autonomous. 3 – Sub-national units (Cantons, Landers, etc …) participate  in important decisions of the central government. This last point makes the essential difference between a federal system and a decentralized system.                                          See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalism

FEDERALISM: 2 Models to debate:

• “Swiss Political System– Wolf Linder and Andrea Iff (E-book)

• “Canadian Federal System– Canadian Privy Council Office, et Al.

Analisys:

“The privileges of Catolic Church in Spain”  Francisco Delgado

Also:

• “For a European Republic –  Ulrike Guerot and Robert Menasse

  “The (boundless) cost of the monarchy in Spain” – Sara Orellán   

• “MANIFESTO FOR A NEW PARTY LAW IN SPAIN“: VOTE!

Interview with: Luisa Martin (JER) and Carlos Hermida (RPS) (Spanish Republican Associations)

Invitation :  International Conference: “FEDERALISM, DECENTRALIZATION and CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Book review:  Federalism: An Introduction– Author:Professor Dr. George Anderson (President of the Forum of Federations in 2005). 

 

Email: destinorepublicano@gmail.com

Twitter: @destinorepublic

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Swiss Political System

Landsgemeinde_Glarus_2006Landsgemeinde, or assembly, of the Canton of Glarus, on 7 May 2006, Switzerland.

An introduction by the authors

When in 1848 the Swiss federation was founded, it faced problems similar to those of many young democracies today: The nation state was weak, the economy poor. The societies of the 25 cantons had no common history. They were divided by cleavages of different religions and languages. The Swiss constitution was the compromise between protagonists of a central state and its opponents who had a past of belligerent conflict.

Some 160 years later, Switzerland is prosperous. Cleavages between religions have cooled out. In contrast to many countries in Europe and beyond, multilinguism has not led to discrimination of minorities, and the country is known for its political stability. One could say that this success is the product of political institutions. Switzerland is a paradigmatic case of political integration. Its democracy is different from others: The state has been developed bottom up. Federalism brings the state closer to the people, has kept the central government small and guarantees utmost autonomy for its 25 cantons. Power sharing between the major political parties – instead of majoritarian rule- gives minorities an effective voice and has led to their social integration. Direct democracy in the form of referenda and popular initiatives makes political elites more sensitive for the preferences and needs of the people. The e-book “Swiss Political System” explains how these elements work together, not without mentioning critical aspects and challenges.

Federalism, political power sharing and direct democracy, the main features of the Swiss system, attract increasing interest of academics, politicians and media abroad. Federalism and decentralisation, especially, seem to be an effective institutional device to strengthen regional autonomy and responsibility, at the same time making political institutions more effective. It would be misleading, however, to take Swiss federalism as a “model” for others. First, federalism and decentralisation can serve different objectives, and are perceived in different ways from country to country. Second, institutions are to be embedded in the specific political culture of a country, can therefore play a different role for citizens and their polity. There is not one idea of federalism, but federalisms that each have to grow on the cultural heritage of a specific political society.

Nevertheless, we invite the readers of this e-book to share with us the account on the history and the functioning of the Swiss political institutions. We hope that the living experience of Swiss democracy may be inspiring and encouraging for others. In this sense, Swiss democracy is not a model for export but a subject of dialogue.

Wolf Linder and Andrea Iff

Swiss Political System (e-book):

Canadian Federal System

Canadian Parliament-hill, Ontario

Parliament of Canadá, Ottawa.

Federalism in Canada1

(A brief review)

The fundamental basis for federalism in Canada was and remains the need to reconcile, balance and accommodate diversity 2

It is generally agreed that the following characteristics are among those shared by states with a federal system of government3 :

  • at least two orders of government;
  • division of powers between the orders of government defined in the constitution;
  • division of revenue sources to ensure each order of government certain areas of autonomy, also set out in the constitution;
  • written constitution that cannot be amended unilaterally.

Reasons for a state to adopt a federal system include the need to reflect linguistic, economic and cultural differences of a population, especially one that is concentrated geographically.

British North American colonies unite4

Up to 1867, the colonies5 of British North America had no political or geographical links. Each had its own governor appointed by Britain and its own administration including customs and postal system.

In 1867, three colonies in British North America – the Province of Canada6 , New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – agreed to be “federally united”,7 and form the Dominion of Canada8.

A number of external factors encouraged those colonies to unite, including:

  • the possibility that the United States would not renew the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, which ensured market opportunities for the colonies’ products; the colonies had already lost a substantial share of British markets with the end of the British Preferential System, which until 1848 had provided tariff protection to the colonies’ products;
  • growing insecurity over American expansionism as well as over diplomatic incidents and border incursions in connection with the American Civil War;
  • Britain’s desire to reduce its obligations and responsibilities towards its colonies.

But it was the political conditions prevailing in one of the colonies, the Province of Canada, that favoured a federal type of union.

The Province of Canada (also known as United Canada)

1791-v3-e

Canada, 1791
Source: Library and
Archives Canada

1849-v5-e

After 1841
Source: Library and
Archives Canada

The Province of Canada had been established in 1841 following the Act of Union which amalgamated two hitherto separate colonies, Lower Canada (majority Francophone) and Upper Canada (Anglophone), which had their own elected legislative assemblies that enabled them to make certain respective domestic political choices.

After the union of 1841, it proved virtually impossible for a single government to ensure political stability, despite measures designed to preserve the specificity of each of the communities. Those measures included :

  • two prime ministers, one for the Francophone section (Canada East) and one for the Anglophone section (Canada West), located on either side of the Ottawa River;
  • two attorneys-general (the common law remained in force in Canada West and the civil law in Canada East);
  • some laws applied to only one of the sections, so that such matters as education could be governed differently.

Another compromise would considerably aggravate the political situation. One of the provisions of the Act of Union provided that an equal number of members be elected from Canada East and Canada West to the single legislative assembly of the Province of Canada. That measure had been taken in response to a demand by Canada West, to guarantee it equal representation even though it had some 200,000 fewer inhabitants than Canada East.

As of 1850, Canada West’s population was greater than Canada East’s. Equal representation was no longer to Canada West’s advantage, and it called for representation proportional to its population. However, a substantial portion of Canada East’s political class was opposed to such a change, as it feared for the survival of French-Canadian institutions.

By the early 1860s, it had become clear that a certain level of autonomy had to be given back to the two sections forming the Province of Canada. It was also clear, however, that in light of the prevailing economic and international situation, it was in the best interest to maintain a certain level of unity.

It was proposed that the Province of Canada be divided into two entities united within a federation. The powers would be shared between two orders of government, which would ensure unity (federal order) while allowing for the expression of diversity (provincial order). The possibility of the other British North American colonies being a part of that federal union was also considered because of the advantages that an expanded union would bring.

Colonies opt for the federal union

An initial meeting to discuss the union was held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in September 1864. A proposal for a maritime union of the Atlantic coast colonies quickly gave way to the proposal for a federal union of all the colonies advocated by the delegates from the Province of Canada.

The maritime colonies expressed interest in the proposals by the Province of Canada, which were to their advantage as well. Although similar with respect to language, they were different from both an historical and socio-economic standpoint; through their own elected legislative assemblies, they already exercised a certain level of autonomy over domestic policy.

A second meeting was held in Quebec City, Province of Canada, in October 1864 , at which the division of powers between the constituent entities and a federal government was discussed, among other things. The 72 Resolutions of Quebec included proposals that the existing legislative assemblies (or re-established, in the case of the Province of Canada) would exercise responsibilities related to local issues and that a new federal Parliament would assume powers related to common policies, including in the economic and military fields.

Sigue leyendo

“For a European Republic”

 europa

For a European Republic

Whether political leaders or citizens, the pragmatics have failed to build a prosperous and wholly democratic EU. Now it’s the turn of the dreamers. Today, they are the true realists, write political scientist Ulrike Guérot and writer Robert Menasse. 

Ulrike Guérot | Robert Menasse

The European heads of state and governments are sitting in a burning house haggling over the total sum they will have to rustle up for the water damages from putting out the fire. The reproach that they have lost contact with the citizens doesn’t ring true: the fact is, they never had any to start with. The system we live in neither provides for nor admits any legitimate representation for the citizens of Europe.

Whoever makes “democratically legitimate” policy at the European level – that is, who has been elected to do so – has come into that position only through national elections and must, to survive politically, defend the fiction of “national interests”. Whoever today at the summits of the European Council always obstructs Community interests to win the approval of the national electorates harms all the others – and, considering how interlocked the nations are within the European single market and the eurozone, harms his own.

And the voters who celebrate that politician will become, not wiser, but stupider from their own mistakes. No European nation state today can solve a problem on its own; and yet the institutional structure of the EU community hinders solutions. What we call the crisis today is this very contradiction, and what we are discussing is only its symptoms.

This is tearing apart the European Union. An abyss yawns between political representatives – those who reckon themselves as pragmatists – the citizenry and a few dreamers. We can thank the pragmatists for the crisis. Because they have only ever tried for the “possible”: for example, a transnational currency that cannot possibly work and that can only undermine their idea, because national concerns have obstructed the tools needed to manage that currency.

Dreamers are the true realists

The problems that arise from this contradiction are being renationalised, debt declared national debts, and nations forced to struggle to deal with them at the national level. How do these pragmatists want to solve the crisis? We can thank the citizens for legitimising those who created the crisis. They compel their representatives to mimic the voices coming out in defence of the nation and to turn away from Europe.

And the dreamers? They were and they are the true realists. To them we owe them the realistic and practical enforcement of the reasonable, the outcome that seemed utopian at the time, those consequences that had to be drawn from the experiences with nationalism and European political interests that had left the continent in rubble and ashes. The first President of the European Commission, Walter Hallstein, a German, said: “The abolition of the nation is the European ideal!” – a phrase that neither today’s president of the Commission nor the current German Chancellor would dare utter. But that declaration is the truth.

Today, we could have been thanking the dreamers for the solution to the crisis. The dream, the solution: the European Republic, the idea of a European Republic, in which the regions, without giving up their character, continue on in a free association within a joint legal framework, instead of remaining organised in nations. The competition from the nation state is not turning around the crisis – it is creating it.

The Europe we live in is unsustainable in its current political and economic framework, and it will implode because national democracy and the transnational economy are falling apart. We live in a currency zone yet act as if the economies were still national and must by necessity compete with each other.

The new European project

That is why Euroland needs a transnational democracy: a European Republic, with equal political, economic and social rights and rules for all.

The Republic is the new European project: to organise its territory through voluntary membership, agreed through treaties based on the assurance of sustained peace, to overcome the idea of the nation and to build the first supra-national continent in history. The model of the United States is retro. EU – we’re the avant-garde.

The European Council, and through it the member states, claim authority over European integration – which will not come about if at the same time the mendacious melodrama of the defence of national sovereignty is being played to the gallery, to the national electorates. The sovereignty of the nation state is the illusion afflicting Europe.

If Europe can evolve into a union of shared liabilities through the banking union and the debt repayment fund, then the joint decision on spending will have to be organised differently. Euroland as the nucleus of a European Republic needs a eurozone parliament with the right to take initiatives and a voting right independent of national lists; a budget cycle coupled to the legislative period and at least partial European fiscal sovereignty; in the future, Eurobonds must resolve the shortcomings of the euro.

By the logic of a European res publica, the gains of the Pan-European value chain would also be distributed transnationally and thus an economic balance established between the centre and the periphery. By this logic, a Europe-wide unemployment insurance in this recession would bring within reach the shift to a European welfare system.

The economy, the currency and policy are all interlinked, and only a pan-European body politic, legitimised by a supranational democracy, can begin to win back control over the economy. National export balances are no strategy! When 80 per cent of exports are to the domestic market, they constitute a European accounting fraud.

Res publica at Europe’s core

The concept of res publica is by far the most valuable political idea to be born in Europe since Plato. It is the European unique selling point that can justify a “we Europeans” sentiment, because res publica includes a commitment to the political organisation of the community, from which social justice and the general welfare can be derived as normative goals. This does not exist in the United States, nor in the autocratic oligarchy of Russia, let alone in a pre-democratic China. Res publica is the core of Europe

No one knows today how this avant-garde project, namely supranational European democracy, will take form institutionally in the end. To discuss this with all the creativity that this continent is capable of is the task that faces us. Otherwise, the European peace project will wander Europe as a mere ghost of itself.

150px-LibertyEqualityorDeath

Long live the European Republic!

“MANIFESTO FOR A NEW PARTY LAW IN SPAIN”: VOTE!

Ley Partidos

MANIFESTO FOR A NEW ELECTORAL LAW IN SPAIN

VOTE NOW!

28th May 2013
The Spanish society is concerned and shocked when it sees the deterioration of politics in this country. After 35 years of democracy, political parties are not working. According to every survey, citizens feel that politicians’ skills are below the difficulties that the country is facing.

Corruption has become a disease that affects (either in a big scale or in a smaller one) the main parties. There is a crisis of confidence in politics. Things cannot go on like this.

There have been laws and agreements to rein back corruption. But they have failed. There are many laws that punish corruption, but there are no rules that create a form of counterweight, that give more competences to politicians of a same party and that limit the power of the main leaders of these political organizations. Those are rules to prevent corruption from growing without any control.

Political parties have a unique role to play in any democratic system. Unlike other advanced democracies, the current Spanish legal framework does not allow the purifying of parties when necessary. Spanish political parties regulate themselves: congress and management meetings are organized whenever they serve best their leaders; the normal method to select candidates for some posts within the party and for representative posts is co-option (a method in which an association elects internally its own members); the auditing of accounts is done by a court of auditors (Tribunal de Cuentas in Spanish), a highly politicized body whose members can only access to the office with a political quota. The last year that has been audited by this body is 2007.

In more advanced constitutional democracies, political parties are highly regulated by law or, in the British case, by custom. This is not done on a whim. Political parties are not private entities such as a football club or an agricultural company, which can organize as they see fit. They are special entities that are given the monopoly of political representation and that are publicly financed. Its way of functioning is more transcendent than any other company or society. That is the reason why meeting periodicity is regulated by law, along with the methods to select members and the auditing of accounts through independent audits.

None of those regulations are applied in Spain, and this anomaly is one of the main causes of the current situation. Corrupt politicians can be found in every country, but internal democracy, sharing of competences among leaders and those who want to become leaders, and transparency obligations imposed by law allow the quick expulsion of these corrupt politicians. This is not the case in Spain. Corruption is growing; it weakens government action in a critical juncture, provokes disaffection among citizens and ends up causing a serious political and institutional crisis. But there is more. The co-option method, which is used over and over again, is an unfavorable way of selecting people that, eventually, gives power and responsibility to those who are less critical and capable. This must change immediately.

Among the many modifications that we must do in our political system, we believe that the most urgent one is that of a new electoral law (Ley de Partidos Políticos), that will regulate the activity of political parties, and will ensure their internal democracy, transparency and the control of their accounts, thus getting politics closer to the people. This is a necessary condition if we are to undertake successfully a much broader institutional reform process that will include, among others, a Justice reform, lobby regulation, and a strict separation of political and administrative posts to guarantee the independence and professionalism of the public service.

The basic points that this new law should include can be found in many European democracies. It should require specifically:

  1.  The organization of meetings at least every two years and always at a fixed date. 
  2.  Meetings of administration control bodies and internal congresses at a fixed date. The agenda should include a vote on the management of the administrators (by secret voting). Limiting the number of members, not including those who are part of the administration. 
  3.  Composition of the congress and control bodies in proportion to the number of affiliates or the votes of the party in each province or district. Limiting the term of office at least in control bodies.
  4.  Election of executive bodies, delegates in congress and members of the control bodies by secret ballot of affiliates and delegates in congress.
  5. Election of candidates for representative posts by primary elections.
  6.  Limited terms for treasurers and members in charge of accounts. Election of auditors in the different levels of the party. Annual audits carried out by independent companies before the presentation of the accounts that will be approved by the main governing bodies of the party.
  7.  Creation of independent commissions to verify costs of campaigns, and inspections to verify that electoral cost limits are being respected.

This electoral law is an organic law that cannot be subject to a popular legislative initiative. Nevertheless, the Spanish Constitution grants, in article 29, the right to petition, which we (the undersigned) appeal to in order to demand the Courts to create a new electoral law with the above mentioned characteristics.

We ask you to join us in this petition (Link):

  http://porunanuevaleydepartidos.es/manifiesto/

The privileges of Catholic Church in Spain

THE SPECIAL TREATEMENT OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN SPAIN IS OUTRAGEOUS FOR THE RULE OF LAW

columnas-y-arcos-de-la-mezquita-de-cordoba

Cordoba’s Mosque is an “inmatriculated” building by Spanish Catholic church.

Francisco Delgado

The Concordat between the Spanish State and the Holy See in 1979 is in harmony with those signed by Queen Elisabeth II of Bourbon in 1851 and the Spanish fascist dictatorship in 1953. It is important to note that the latter has never been abolished, even if many of the articles have been superseded by the 1976 and 1979 Agreements.

Back in those days these Agreements were a ruse to the secularism established (if in a very confusing way) by the Monarchic Constitution of 1978.

After 35 years, not only has the Catholic Church kept those privileges, but its power has increased remarkably in economic and fiscal matters, as in education and social services, and even in areas related to symbolism (with the complicity of the majorities in Parliament and the Governments in power until this day). Furthermore, Spanish Governments have often allowed themselves to be “intimidated” by bishops with a faith-based morality. In other cases, they simply concur with it, as is the case with the current People’s Party.

As opposed to the confessional-state position of the public institutions, the Spanish society is widely secular, especially the younger citizens. This fact is proved by dozens of sociological studies. 20% of the Spanish citizens define themselves as “practising Catholics” —only 10% of the citizens under the age of 35. Approximately 30% of the population under the age of 50 is composed by agnostics, sceptics, freethinkers, atheists and people indifferent to the subject. Less than 5% of the population is formed by citizens who actively practise other non-catholic religions. Finally, those who profess a deistic spirituality (or other forms of spirituality) aside from official religious corporations reach approximately 50% of all citizens.

As for the privileges that the Catholic Church enjoys in Spain, some conclusive data have been published indicating that the majority of the population rejects these privileges and stand for the annulment of the Agreements with the Holy See.

In a recent study published in May 2013 by the Spanish radio network Cadena SER on “politics and political parties”, it was shown that 60% of voters of all political parties stand for the abolition of the privileges that the Catholic Church enjoys under the Concordat. Only 22% of the population that was interviewed supports the special treatment of the Church, whereas 18% did not answer. Nevertheless, it is of utmost importance to note that 81% of the voters of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE in Spanish), and 88% of the voters of the United Left (Izquierda Unida in Spanish) are against those privileges.

*The complete survey can be consulted in the following link [in Spanish]:

The great privileges of the Roman Catholic Church in Spain are also criticised by many Catholics, even by important ecclesiastics and theologians. For instance, the organisation “Cristianos de base de Madrid” (“Basic principles of Christianity in Madrid” [non-official translation]) has sent a letter to the current Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy. In their letter, members express that “it is difficult to understand the current situation, which is nothing but an anachronism”. Regarding Education, they said that “teaching a religious faith does not belong in schools but somewhere else, and other agents must be in charge of it: temples, synagogues, mosques, etc. If it still persists nowadays like this, it is because of the fact that the Agreements with the Holy See guarantee and protect the ideological control of consciousness of the Church. Furthermore, we find most irregular that the State has to pay the salaries of religion teachers, while bishops have a complete freedom to hire and dismiss them. This is an exception to the regulation applied for the rest of the Spanish teaching staff.”

The organisation also claims that the Government of Prime Minister Rajoy must adopt measures on the social and cultural front: “(…) Furthermore, the Agreements are contrary to the democratic logic, since they strengthen the omnipresent position of the Church in institutions and other places where its presence is not required, such as hospitals, the Army, civil ceremonies, etc. One must never forget about its constant attempts to interfere in social policies and the legislative processes that regulate civil rights, public order, researches, etc. This coercive power is incompatible with the ethical and cultural pluralism of the Spanish society, and is also incompatible with the preservation of the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.”

As a result, the missive concludes by asking for the State to provide “a new legal frame that protects the freedom of conscience and engages in the consolidation of a public ethics, based on the respect for Human Rights and the democratic principles and values that are enshrined in the Constitution”. The organization adds that “no religious faith or world views of any kind can impose a moral code to the society. The freedom of conscience comes first and must prevail over the liberty of organisations to extend their own set of beliefs and opinions.”

On the economic front, this group of citizens who profess the basic principles of Christianity holds that “the Agreement on Economic Affairs, as many other legal rules adopted afterwards, assign a set of privileges to the Church that ‘cannot be justified in a democratic State’, such as subsidies, tax exemptions and special rights for the acquisition of real estate properties. (…) On the contrary, the Catholic Church is the largest owner of real property in Spain, and fails to meet its commitment to finance itself. This was admitted by the very Church in the abovementioned Agreements, but it still asks for more state subsidies, even if, right now, these are above €10 billion every year.”

Casilla IRPF iglesia

Income tax return form in spain ( 0’7%) to benefit to the Catholic Spanish Church.

This is a matter of political will. It does not have anything to do with legal aspects, like some hypocritical politicians suggest. With this aim, since its foundation in 2001 the partnership project Europa Laica (“Secular Europe”) has organised programmes, public campaigns and actions, signature campaigns, and complaints. We have been agitating and trying to promote a public opinion that will support secularity as a political process in the institutions of the Spanish State, so that all faiths are respected (always in a democratic frame). In order to accomplish this, we intend to push politicians to:

  • Change the current tax legislation, as it gives the Catholic Church the possibility to enjoy some tax exemptions, especially concerning the tax on ownership of real property (“Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles” in Spanish). This means that the Church is not bound to pay this tax, unlike the rest of the citizens.
  • Change the legislation relative to mortgages and the existing regulation. This legislation allows the acquisition by the Catholic Church of public property, in a legal process called “Inmatriculación” that is detailed at the end of this article.
  • Change the tax legislation. Under this legislation financing is being provided to the clergy for masses and the search for religious affiliation.
  • Change the laws so that religion is never again in schools and so that the dogmatic catholic teachings are not partially financed by the State through educational subsidies. At this point, it is important to note that cases of gender segregation can be found in many of these schools that receive state subsidies.
  • Change the legislation in order to do away with the symbolic confessional nature of the State institutions, including the monarchic Head of State, the result of a fascist heritage.

Thanks to different economic circumstances and tax allowances granted by the State, the Catholic Church receives each year more than €11 billion in Spain. Its lack of transparency and enormous wealth are of utmost importance. Under the abovementioned mortgage legislation, it has managed to acquire more than 4,500 public properties in the last ten years, such as the Mosque of Córdoba, all this with the consent of State authorities.

*You may find this information with more detail in: www.laicismo.org [in Spanish]

Some years ago, Gonzalo Puente Ojea (Spanish ambassador in the Vatican with the first Government of the Spanish Socialist Party or PSOE) had denounced that former Prime Minister Felipe González told him that “we do not argue with the Church”. This is the culture that the political power has transmitted throughout these 35 years in a very unfair way.

The dictator Franco and Toledo’s Bishop, Enrique Pla y Deniel, in 1954, Palacio Real, Madrid. The Catholic Church and the Franco dictatorship supported each other.

Not only because of political reasons (in a country which is supposed to be mainly catholic) or because of the possible actions from bishops, but especially because there have been a series of lobbies that have been acting with impunity inside the political formations, like advocates of the historical privileges of the Catholic Church. They have often served the hierarchy and its “moral cravings” and sometimes, like nowadays, they support the charity work that manages to conceal the multiple “cardinal sins” that the ecclesiastical power has committed.

These catholic lobbies had names, and still have them. They are formed by individuals and organised groups that have operated inside all political parties since the democratic transition, and thus since the beginning of democracy. Some of these people (and their “political heirs”) collaborated with the fascist dictatorship and “moved to democracy in a blink of an eye”: becoming affiliated to right-wing, centre and left-wing parties (especially from 1976 on), adopting Christian democratic political positions and also promoting the Catholic unionism. (*)

In order to leave things unchanged, the different political majorities (PSOE and PP, minor groups and nationalist parties such us PNV in the Basque Country and CIU in Catalonia) have given systematically the explanation that the Agreements are part of the International Law. But they are a legal fiction, since they cannot be considered as such under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), because the Vatican is not in fact a State. But, mainly, because they violate undoubtedly some principles of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 (articles 93 and 96), so they are null and void.

This will not change without majorities in Parliament, and the Church will continue to enjoy its prevailing role in economic and symbolic affairs, a role that is more and more embedded in a time of crisis like this, thanks to the “charity work” of the Church. Beside this fact, in a moment when public powers refuse to accept their mission to compensate disparities and are obsessed with privatising everything, they give huge amounts of public resources to the Catholic Church so that it can organise its particular “Christian charity”. This means millions in economic contributions to the healthcare and education organisations of the Catholic Church.

These privileges are humiliating for a democracy. The Church is taking advantage of its position in order to lobby the civil power with its particular set of moral rules, eliminating rights and freedoms, especially the freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, and so putting an end to the human dignity.

Catdral_Almudena_en_Madrid

The Catholic Church in Spain collected around €249 million from the tax-form checkbox last year, according to Spanish newspaper “Público”. Photo: Almudena`s Cathedral, Madrid.

This evil situation that surrounds us and that kills progress, equity, and justice stems from the neocon ideology, promoted in the financial sector, but also in powerful religious institutions (specially the Catholic Church and the most conservative Evangelical ones) that see religion as an instrument to provide institutions with exclusive and segregationist ideologies in the political, economic, social, philosophical and scientific spheres (pseudoscientific, given the rise of creationism and the limitations to the progress of biological research). They are becoming stronger, but at the same time they risk destroying themselves…

We are deeply convinced that the road to a Secular State is the utopia of all utopias, but that does not mean it is not beautiful to fight for it. Because of this and all the things that the Age of Enlightenment taught us, we try to stay enlightened with the ideas of fraternity, solidarity and justice in the res publica.

Consequently, among other urgent measures, we support:

  1.  The annulment of the Agreements with the Holy See.
  2. The organisation of a debate in the Parliament for the passing of a Law for the Freedom of Conscience.

Francisco Delgado – President of Europa Laica (http://www.laicismo.org/europa_laica)

Since 2009 “Europa Laica” (“On the one secular Europe“) has proposed the following article:

http://www.laicismo.org/data/docs/archivo_123.pdf [in Spanish])

(*) The Catholic trade union is a model proposed in the Rerum Novarum encyclical, issued by Pope Leon XIII. Its objective is to reduce the revolutionary force of class-based unionism that appeared in the 19th century. In Spain they adopted the form of groups of workers, brotherhoods, cooperatives, savings banks and friendly societies. In 1916 the National Federation of Free Catholic Unions was created (“Federación Nacional de Sindicatos Católicos Libres” in Spanish), which was probably the predecessor of the Workers Brotherhood in Catholic Action (“Hermandad Obrera de Acción Católica”), founded in 1946.

The two faces of the Church: the Catholic Church realised in the midst of the fascist dictatorship that the people was becoming more and more dissatisfied with the political regime, and thus it had to take into account the possible repercussions if it continued supporting the dictatorship, especially in a moment when some important catholic, secular and ecclesiastical individuals started to separate from the political regime by criticising it. With this move, they intended to lay the groundwork for a catholic opposition movement that could claim the right to play the main role in the Spanish political life, if the dictatorship should fall.

Christian workers and activists from the Workers Brotherhood in Catholic Action adopted a very important role in the process of recreating the Spanish labour movement. They helped found the workers union “Unión Sindical Obrera” (a part of which was later absorbed by UGT, the General Union of Workers). Furthermore, they participated in the formation of the first Workers’ Commissions (“Comisiones Obreras” in Spanish), working with renowned communists and independent workers.

Officially or tacitly, the Catholic Church has approached democracy in three different ways: during the transition to democracy, a great number of bishops, cardinals, ecclesial movements such as Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, etc. adopted the most reactionary political positions. They started to support centre and right-wing political parties and the newborn monarchy, heir to the fascist dictatorship. Others turned to nationalist and separatist positions in the Basque Country and Catalonia. The third option was that of the social or charity work (“obra social” in Spanish), supported by some Christian democrats and the catholic unions, opposed to the dictatorship and included in left-wing parties.

What are the so-called “Inmatriculaciones”?

“Inmatriculación” is a legal form that allows the Catholic Church to claim ownership of properties that are not registered in the Spanish land registration system, under the article 206 of the mortgage legislation established on the 8th of February 1946 and José María Aznar’s decree-law of 1998. Thanks to this, the Catholic Church is considered to be at the same level as Public Law Corporations, such as municipalities, provinces and the very State, and bishops and archbishops are given the same rank as any public official when it comes to certifying that a property “belongs” to the Church.

 

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Interview with Luisa Martin (JER) and Carlos Hermida (RPS)


JER logo  Republicanos 2

Interview: Luisa Martín (JER) – Spanish Republican Association and Carlos Hermida (RPS) – Republicanos    

 

1.   How would you define JER?

The Spanish Republican Association (Junta Estatal Republicana in Spanish or JER) is formed by a wide group of organizations, collectives and individuals who share republican ideas and that have committed themselves to working in order bring about the Spanish III Republic. In my opinion, that could be an instrument in order to create a republican popular front.

2.   How was it created? What are its objectives?

JER was created after the First National Republican Meeting, held in Madrid at the events hall of the Friends of UNESCO Association (Club de Amigos de la Unesco in Spanish), last 21st of January 2012.

In the Second National Republican Meeting, held in Rivas-Vaciamadrid last 19th of January 2013, JER’s objectives were clearly defined: to separate from the current regime and to establish a Federal Republic, which will be secular and supportive, and will have citizens as its core element and as the main character of politics. It will also implement an economic model that will give priority to the public sector. This Republic must seek once and for all the Truth, Justice and Compensation for the victims of Francisco Franco’s criminal fascist dictatorship.

3.   Your call for a public demonstration last 14th of April in Madrid had a massive response (more than 20,000 citizens turned up). Were you expecting such a response? Why do you think so many people answered the call? Does this pave the way for other courses of action?

The massive response to the 14th of April protest is mainly due to the corruption scandals that affect the Spanish Royal Family, which has enhanced dissatisfaction of the citizens, since they have been hit by the economic crisis and spending cuts in social services. This protest has given way to a new political scenario in which an important social sector is openly questioning monarchy.

4.   In your point of view, what are the mistakes that the Republican movement in Spain has made? How would you correct them? Are you doing anything on this front?

The Republican movement in Spain has had in many occasions a purely testimonial character.  It has defended the II Republic, but it has not set any political objective.  This situation has changed with the creation of the Republican Federation (Federación Republicanos in Spanish). We have precise plans and objectives: abolishing the monarchy and establishing the Democratic and Federal Republic of workers of all classes in Spain.

5.   If I go out to the street of any Spain city and ask to an girl or boy 20-year-old  about the 7th of July, 98% will say will say “San Fermín” without any doubt. But, if I ask about 14th of April, a very high percentage of them will have doubts or say that they cannot link that date to any important event. Only a few of them will give the correct answer (the “Day of the Spanish Republic”). Just one or two will finish saying “Bourbons to Estoril”, as the saying goes in Spanish. Do you agree with my hypothesis?   

It is true that there is a deep historical ignorance about the II Republic, but I believe that is changing. There are more and more young people who are becoming interested to know what really happened in Spain during the 20th century.

6.   Do you agree that history education in Spain still focuses on Philip II’s Imperial Spain (16th Century), the Bourbon Restoration under Alfonso XII (1874), and the Constitution of 1978, while other parts of the history are only mentioned? If yes, why?

17 and 18-year-old students in Spain study the II Republic, the Civil War and Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. Nevertheless, how textbooks and teachers explain these subjects is a completely different story. Some neo-Fascist ideas lacking any historical basis have been spread. It is fascist propaganda but some people buy it and we must fight against those interpretations.

7.   Are the altar and the throne (Church and Monarchy) still the references to the identity of Spain, as the Constitution of 1812 said? Do we keep looking to the past rather than the future? Are we risking petrifying ourselves if we only look backwards?

First of all, the Constitution of 1812 was very advanced, and it set an example for other European and American constitutions. Its content should not be reduced to that reference to the altar and the throne that is made in the question. The Spanish right-wing has managed to keep some myths of the Spanish identity which are absolutely reactionary and that have nothing to do with historical facts.

8.   Many people believe that Spanish Republicans are nothing but a bunch of nostalgic dreamers whose only objective is to try to reinvent or to rewrite  the Second Spanish Republic. What would you say to them?

We republicans are not nostalgic dreamers. The II Republic is a fundamental reference, but we look to the future, we want to transform this country. Thanks to our work, the republican sentiment is spreading and, mark my words, one day the Republic will be a reality in Spain.

9.   The Republican movement in Spain is formed by many groups with different ideologies, such as socialists, communists, Marxists, agnostics, Catholics, trade unionists, etc. They talk about union, consensus, but how are they to form a common front?

In the Republican Federation we believe it is crucial to form a republican social front, a popular front to achieve the Republic. In order to accomplish this, the left-wing must unite, but that does not mean that the different organizations have to renounce to their names, nor their past or their programs. It only means setting aside what separates us and focusing on what unites us, as was done in February 1936, when the Popular Front was formed.

10.    The objective is to achieve a republic, no doubt about that. But, what republic? A Spanish Federal Republic? Is Federalism an option for you?

We hope to achieve a Democratic and Federal Republic of workers of all classes in Spain. This new Republic will answer to the interests of a new power, which will be formed by workers, small and middle-size bourgeoisie, middle-classes and intellectuals, all of them against the current oligarchy power. This Republic will be a Federal one, because we believe it is the only way to successfully answer to the historical national aspirations in Spain, making coexistence possible between the different peoples in Spain.

11.    We are living an interesting political moment in Spain. In the last two years, 15M Movement has been created, as “the outraged” or the Platform of those affected by the Subprime mortgage crisis (“Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca” in Spanish). Minor left-wing and nationalist parties are getting more votes and seats in Parliament. Real Democracy Now movement (“Democracia Real Ya” in Spanish) is thinking about running to the next elections as a political party, following the example of the Italian Five Star Movement. Is this the end of a political era in Spain?

That is right. We are at the end of a political era. The model created during the Transition is obsolete. The Monarchy and the Constitution of 1978 represent an obstacle to the social and economic development of our country. There must be a real democratic breach and that can only be achieved through republican ways.

12.    Judge Baltasar Garzon recently spoke about his possible participation in politics. What is your opinion about that?

Baltasar Garzon, as any other citizen, is entitled to intervene in the political life of his country. The question here is what program is he going to do it with and what are his objectives. If he wants to reform the Constitution and the institutions, he will fail. This system cannot be reformed. It must be demolished and superseded by another regime.

13.    Surveys show that citizens are more and more dissatisfied with “traditional parties” such as PP and PSOE and the institutions that were born during the Spanish Transition. Is this the end of the two-party system? Is there a need to regenerate politics in Spain? Would it help if the electoral law was modified?

Yes. Everything must change. The only regeneration can come with the Republic. But I insist there is no possible regeneration with the monarchy. Its origin is in Franco’s dictatorship, it has the genetic print of fascism and that is the reason why the current system is not democratic. It was designed by the same people who ruled this country during Francisco Franco’s cruel dictatorship.

14.    As indicators of “the quality of a democracy”, we can list, among others, the active participation of citizens in the political action of a country, as the fact of demanding transparency and that politicians respect the laws, denouncing and showing “zero tolerance” to corruption and privileges. Because in democracy politics is a work of everybody. It is no longer enough to vote every four years. Do you believe that politicians have risen to the occasion?

Democracy is about real and active participation in politics by citizens. If everything is reduced to voting every four years, that is only democracy in appearance. A false democracy. That is happening now.

Most of today’s politicians are not up to the circumstances, and they have formed a corrupt caste in the Spanish society. Nevertheless, it is a terrible mistake to say that all politicians are the same. True, some are, but not all. Furthermore, this is not only a mistake, but a dangerous statement, since it opens a door to fascism with its demagogy against politics and a false message —“neither right nor left, they are all the same”.

15. Finally, is there anything else you would like to add?

I just want to add that Monarchy is the problem and the Republic is the solution. A republic will give freedom back to the people, and also social justice and national sovereignty. On behalf of JER and RPS, thank you very much for your interview.

Luisa Martín (JER) – http://jer-spain.blogspot.com.es/

Carlos Hermida (RPS) – http://federacion.republicanos.info/

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*Real Democracy Now Manifesto

Tuesday, 17th of May 2011

We are ordinary citizens. We are like you: people who get up every morning to study, go to work or job-hunting. We are people with families and friends. People who work hard every day to live and give a better future to those close to us.

Some of us have progressive ideas, others have conservative ones. Some of us are religious, others not. Some of us have very fixed political ideas, others are apolitical. But we are all worried and outraged because of the political, economic and social situation that we are living. We are worried and outraged because of the corruption that can be seen among politicians, businessmen and bankers. We are worried and outraged because the ordinary citizen is defenseless.

This situation is hitting us daily. But if we all unite, we can change it. It is time to move, time to build together a better society. That is why we believe firmly that:

Equity, progress, solidarity, free access to culture, ecological sustainability, development, welfare and happiness of the citizenry must be priorities in any advanced society.

There are basic rights that these societies must defend: the right to housing, work; the right of culture, health, education; the right to participate in politics, of the free personal development and the right to consume the goods that are necessary to live a happy and healthy life.

The current way of functioning of our economic and government system does not respond to these priorities and is an obstacle to the progress of mankind. Democracy begins with the people (demos: people; cracia: government), so the government must be the people. Nevertheless, in this country the biggest part of the political class does not listen to us. Its mission should be taking our voice to the institutions, making political participation possible through direct channels and trying to do it in the best interest of the overall majority of the society. Right now, the mission of the political class in Spain is to become rich and more prosperous and powerful at our expense, and it only listens to the dictates of the big economic powers while clinging to power in a particracy led by the never-changing PP-PSOE.

Things like greed and the fact that only a few are getting all the power generate inequalities, tension and injustice, and that leads to violence, which we refuse. The unnatural and obsolete economic model which is nowadays used is leading the social machine to a spiral that forces it to consume itself and makes rich only a few, while condemning the rest to scarcity and poverty. Until the system collapses. 

The main purpose of the system is to amass wealth. That is its priority, above efficiency or the welfare of society. It does not matter if resources are being wasted or the planet destroyed. It does not matter if that means higher unemployment or unhappy consumers.

We citizens are part of the machine which is destined to make rich only a few who are not even aware of our needs. We are nobody to them, but none of this can happen without us, since it is us who are making the world move. If, as a society, we stop giving our future to an abstract economic return that is never for the benefit of the majority, we will eliminate the abuses and deficiencies that we all suffer.

There must be an Ethical Revolution. Money has been given more importance than the Human Being and it must be put to our service. We are people, not market products. I am not what I buy, why I buy it, or who I buy it from.

For all those things, I am outraged.

I believe I can change things.

I believe I can help.

I know that, together, we can make it.

Come with us. It is your right.

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