This is a translation of a post by John Brown on the subject of the Spanish republic, from a couple of weeks back.
Perhaps the greatest damage done to Spanish republicanism has been the confusion of the Republic with a form of State. Initially, the term republic (res publica) alluded directly to that which is common to all citizens, to that which belongs to everyone and upon which particular rights can be established, including that of private property (proclaimed in Rome, not as an attribute of the individual but rather “ex jure Quiritum”, in keeping with the common right of citizens). Republic means the primacy of what is common over property: for this very reason, the republic is the rule of the free multitude, not of kings or rich people, not of sovereigns or owners of property. There have been and there are, however, republics with a monarchical core: these are the ones constituted based on property whose ultimate aim is the preservation of property and not the safeguarding of the commons. These nominal republics have a statist character, since they were configured as a combination of apparatuses of domination and representation and not as a free space of political intervention for the motley multitude of the citizens. They are, as monarchies are, a type of rule that aspires to transcendence over society.
A republic is, however, something else, a mode of rule that is fused with democracy and as such does not aspire to represent/take the place of the multitude. The multitude is unrepresentable and only in this paradoxical sense is it ‘sovereign’. The combined holders of property, on the other hand, have access to representation; or to put it another way, property holders –separated among themselves on account of their private property- only exist as a grouping in so far as they are represented. The sovereign represents the property holders and submits them to a closed regime of legality that permits freedom of the market and freedom in the market and excludes any political freedom, any exercise of constituent power. The republics of the owners of property –essentially absolutist regimes that can also have a monarchical form- give the name of rule of law to the prohibition of constituent power. It is for this reason they see to it with totalitarian zeal to criminalise any attempt at substantial change of the legal order and any actions beyond the law that is not that of the sovereign itself. This is what we are seeing today in this republic of the property holders led by a monarch that is the Kingdom of Spain, when attempts are made to treat peaceful resistence to authority as criminal violence or to repress any dissent with regard to the capitalist order recognised by the laws and the constitution.
A true republic recognises dissent in its essence, because it is not based, nor can it be based, in any consensual illusion: the republic is the regime of the multitude, the rule of the common. The multitude in itself can only be plural: hence the classical figures of radical republicanism such as Machiavelli or Spinoza always claimed that freedom was not based in the excellence of legislation, but in the correlation of forces between sovereign and multitude and among the different sectors of the multitude. The republic can never forget its foundation, which is the constituent power of the multitude. A republican regime can never be –as the republics of the owners of property intend- the incarnation of the rule of Law beyond which there is only crime, illegitimate violence and terrorism, but is rather a system where the law is flexible and always admits margins for reality, margins for anomaly, for dissent and for disobedience which cannot be regulated and with which every power must negotiate.
The Spanish Republic of 1931 never became a republic of the property holders, above all because the main representatives of the owning classes never wanted it. The Republic was brought about by the popular classes who occupied the Puerta del Sol 80 years before the 15M and threw out a corrupt monarchy that tried to survive in its final years through a dictatorial regime. The popular classes were those who in 34 and 36 saved the Republic against the subversive efforts of the owners of property and, for three years, prevented Franco’s victory. Today, the Republic has to become once again a frame of freedom and democracy, but at the same time a regime of the multitude and the rule of the common. The Republic of the multitude is not a form of State but the very form of self-determination of the multitude as an open and unrepresentable community. To lay claim to the Republic in the Spanish State is to drive a constituent process that opens new possibilities for organisation and relations for the ensemble of individuals and peoples that are today included in this State that Gil De Biedma said was dominated by “every demon”. This is what has allowed today, the 14th April 2012, in various town councils in Euskal Herria and, particularly, in that of Donostia, for the tricolour to be flown, and for a considerable segment of the 15M movement to participate in the demonstrations in favour of the Republic because they consider these the ideal frame for the tough battle for the defence of freedoms that is approaching.
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