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Catalan Independence: A view from the demos

October 30, 2017 - by Pablo Ouziel, University of Victoria

On October 27th of 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence from Spain. Following from this, the Spanish Senate activated Article 155 of theSpanish Constitution. Since then Catalan parliament has been dissolved, andearly elections in Catalonia have been scheduled for December 21st of 2017.

At present the citizens of Catalonia are living in a socio-political and legal context in which two different parties are telling them which nation-state they belong to. On the one hand, the Spanish state which has applied Article 155 reducing the rights of citizens in the autonomous region. On the other, a Catalan Republic that has been declared by the Catalan parliament and automatically been rejected by the international community.

 Democracy has been the catchword used by both the Catalan and the Spanish governments over the past few months, while the population as a whole has seen its rights being crumpled.

This is the first unilateral declaration of independence by a region within a European Union member state. It is important to make sense of the process in order to understand the vicious cycle we seem to have entered. Better understanding can help democratize our democracies and present virtuous responses to the threats we face as citizens.  

 

For more

Listen to the last  radio interviews of Pablo Ouziel:

http://www.gorilla-radio.com/2017/10/26/gorilla-radio-chris-cook-pablo-ouziel-robert-hunziker-janine-bandcroft-october-26th-2017/ / This interview starts at the beginning of the show.

http://www.iheartradio.ca/cfax-1070/pablo-ouziel-post-doctoral-student-in-u-vic-s-centre-for-global-studies-1.3390844?mode=Article&autoplay=1.3390844 / This interview runs until minute 9:45, and then it should be forwarded to minute 19:35 for the second part (it was rendered wrong and at minute 9:45 it repeats what has already been heard so one needs to just jump past it to minute 19:35

Why Russia Finds Democracy so Hard - Putin and the Legacy of the 1917 Revolution

 October 27, 2017  - by Derek Fraser, Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria

 This paper was presented during the  conference "1917 and Today - Putin Russia and the Legacy of Revolution"

Those of us who live in well-established democracies tend to forget how difficult it is, and how long it takes, to achieve relatively stable democratic institutions and practices. It took the French over eighty years after their Revolution to reach this state of affairs. Of the European countries that emerged from the First World War with democratic systems, a large number in Central and Southern Europe succumbed, in the course of the next twenty years, to dictatorship, often precipitated by political or economic crises.

Russia has little democratic experience to fall back on. Instead, what is remarkable about Russian history is the strength of the tradition that the Russians had inherited from 250 years of Mongol rule, - that of a strong state ruled by an all-powerful sovereign as a means of mustering the resources of the country for war.[i]

By the time of Peter the Great at the beginning of the eighteenth century, Russia had none of the limits to the powers of the monarch that existed at that time in Western Europe even in absolutist monarchies: the Church was nothing more than a government department, the nobles were reduced to functionaries, national and regional assemblies had atrophied, cities were not autonomous.[ii] Peter also increased the repression and strengthened the secret police. Peter’s Russia has been described as a police state.

The basic elements of Peter’s absolutist monarchy lasted until the Revolution in 1917. The two major reforms of 1861: the emancipation of the serfs and the supervised local assemblies, did not diminish the Tsar’s powers.  Neither did the parliamentary assembly, the Duma, conceded after the defeat by Japan in 1905.

The repressive Tsarist regime following the defeat of Napoleon spawned the Russian revolutionary movement. The revolutionaries wanted to destroy the aristocratic, slave-holding Russia and establish a new and more just society. The repression that followed the defeat of the Decembrist revolt of 1825 produced in due course further revolutionaries.

The radical intelligentsia that emerged were not democrats. Indeed, they were not influenced to any significant extent by Western ideas. Instead, they were, like Tsarist officials, hostile to pluralism, liberalism, or common law. They had no concept of human rights and a constitutional government.  They shared the traditional Russian idea that the rights of the individual had to be subordinated, to one degree or another, to those of society[iii] [iv]

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