In the heat of the moment, some people say that Spain is a dictatorship and that police are even worse than the grises, the grey-uniformed officers of the Franco regime.
These people don’t know what they are talking about. Dictatorship is China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc. In Spain, hardly anyone under 50 knows what dictatorship means in practice. Me neither.
In theory it has to do with open and violent repression, pure fear, absence of protection from the law, among other things. This is the classical idea of dictatorship. But the concept is changing, it’s adapting to 21st century reality.
In Italy, during the Berlusconi years, the modern variant was dubbed ‘sweet dictatorship’. It was no longer about brutal repression, it was much more subtle. Sweet dictatorship means ridiculing, delegitimising and criminalising any kind of opposition with the active collaboration of mass media.
In Spain, the governing Popular Party is the direct heir of the Franco regime. Instinctively they don’t like people who voice their opinions. They prefer the ‘silent majority’. Only when the opposing Socialist Party is in power, they send their supporters onto the streets in defense of conservative Spain’s ideals of nation, church and family.
Since they returned to power last November, the Popular Party has been working on its own version of ‘sweet dictatorship’. It would take a detailed analysis to show you exactly how it works, an analysis which I’m not able to make right here. But I can highlight some of its aspects.
On repeated occasions, people participating in popular assemblies have been subject to identifications by police. In many cases, people were fined for minor offenses.
Hitting people in their wallet is very effective. You scare them out of demonstrating or simply getting together in the street to talk, and at the same time you increase government revenue when it is most needed.
If fines are not enough, you scare people with the phantom of prison. This is what happened to the 36 people who were detained on 25S. Under pressure from the ministry of the interior, six of them were charged with crimes against the higher institutions of the state.
This morning they were judged. A small crowd had gathered outside the high court to support them. “We too organised 25S” were some of the slogans they brought. Police identified every one of them.
To back up the charges, the information brigade of the police had asked Google and Facebook to provide details on the people who operated the 25S website and mail accounts.
According to SER news outlet, the two companies handed over 50 IP addresses and one telephone number, but refused to give names or other information. The judge also asked two banks to turn over names and account info of the people who had rented a bus which would take protesters from Valencia to Madrid on #25S.
Alarm bells went ringing all through the social networks. Is the sweet dictatorship turning into a real dictatorship?
The answer came this morning. ‘Not yet.’ The Spanish justice system gave a formidable demonstration of independence, maybe too formidable. The high court upheld its original reaction to the charges. ‘You must be kidding.’
The requests for information on the part of banks and Google and Facebook were dismissed as no longer necessary. All defendants are free to go. There was no way that organising a demonstration or trying to jump a barrier constituted an attempt to enter Congress with the intent of altering the normal proceeding of the parliamentary session. In his verdict the judge explained he was surprised that authorities wanted to make it look that way.
He even went further, and this is where things got ‘too formidable’ to be true. According to the judge, “calling on people to ‘surround parliament indefinitely, to demand the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament, the decadence of the constitution in order to start constituting a new system of political, social and economic organisation’ cannot in any way be called a crime, because no such crime exists under Spanish law, and even if it did, it would be a serious assault on the freedom of speech. For we will have to agree that it is not up to us to banish the expression of any idea, however distant it might be from our own ideas, or however contrary it might be to the current constitution of the state. And neither are we to banish any idea about historic or contemporary events, especially in the face of the acknowledged decadence of the so-called political class.”
The key word here is ‘decadence’. The judge fully admitted the decadence of the current political class. This is as true as can be, but in order to give a neutral verdict, a judge shouldn’t give his own personal opinion, whether it be favourable to the cause of the revolution or not.
It’s not the political class that’s on trial here. Not yet, at least.
Check out today’s events on bambuser: