Organizing retrospective 62

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” Other posts are here. This is a retrospective of what has happened during the week. The purpose is to reflect on the work itself. Here is my previous retrospective. Here is my next retrospective.

What has happened? What needs to be done?
This is going to be a political post. I was deeply disturbed by the Spanish police brutality during the Catalonia referendum last Sunday. I’ve been thinking about this all week. I’m really concerned what will happen next, in Catalonia, Spain and Europe.

The statement from the European Commission on Monday that ”violence can never be an instrument in politics” is, to say the least, timid.1 Amnesty International has confirmed on the ground that members of the National Police force’s Police Intervention Unit and Civil Guard officers used excessive and disproportionate force.2 United Nations Human Rights in Geneva urged Spanish authorities on Tuesday to fully respect fundamental human rights.3

And yet, the First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, defended the use of force by the Spanish police in a debate on the Catalonia crises in the European Parliament on Wednesday. He said that ”it’s the duty for any government to uphold the law”.4 Well, here’s the thing. Rule of law isn’t everything. Apartheid was legally enforced in South Africa. And general Franco had his rule of law. Actually, all dictators are big on the rule of law.

What’s happening is that Spain is attempting to impose rule of law without democracy on Catalonia, while the European Commission ignores its obligations under the European Charter of Fundamental Rights in its response. The Spanish police contravened the following articles during the Catalonia referendum:5

  • Article 1: The Right to Human Dignity
  • Article 6: The Right to Liberty or Security of Person
  • Article 11: Freedom of Expression and Information
  • Article 12: Freedom of Assembly and Association
  • Article 54: Prohibition of Abuse of Rights

The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his government has, in fact, ruled primarily by decrees since 2011. Further evidence of the authoritarian turn of the Spanish government is the approval of repressive laws that criminalize many forms of protests in order to protect public order.6

Spain could instead choose to host the freedom of Catalonia, but that would require a different political leadership. When rule of law takes precedence over human rights, we end up with coercive repressive systems. The danger that threatens democracy is the tremendous gap between those who think in terms of human values and those who think in the terms of rule of law.7

What was good? What can be improved?
All I’ve said above about political leadership is applicable to organizational leadership as well. Authoritarian leadership is ubiquitous. Coercive repressive systems are everywhere. There’s a callousness to intrinsic human value behind all this.8 Nothing will change until the underlying values are changed. Do not give your power away to systems and people who are totally unworthy of it.9 Sometimes we allow people to exercise destructive power over us simply because we never question them.10

1 European Commission, Statement on the events in Catalonia (Statement/17/3626), 2017-10-02 (accessed 2017-10-08).
2 Amnesty International, SPAIN: EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE BY NATIONAL POLICE AND CIVIL GUARD IN CATALONIA, 2017-10-03 (accessed 2017-10-08).
3 United Nations Human Rights, UN experts urge political dialogue to defuse Catalonia tensions after referendum, 2017-10-04 (accessed 2017-10-08).
4 Maïa de la Baume and David M. Herszenhorn, Brussels defends use of ‘proportionate force’ in Catalonia, POLITICO, 2017-10-04 (accessed 2017-10-08).
5 Official Journal of the European Union, CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (2012/C 326/02), 2012-10-26 (accessed 2017-10-08).
6 Monica Clua Losada, Catalonia’s referendum unmasks authoritarianism in Spain, The Conversation, 2017-10-05 (accessed 2017-10-08).
7 This is a paraphrase of Robert Hartman, who said that ”danger that threatens life” is the ”tremendous gap between those who think in terms of human values and those who think in the collective terms of non-human systems”. See Robert Hartman, Freedom to Live, p. 124.
8 The ”sickness which we have suffered throughout history can be clearly attributed to our callousness to the intrinsic value of life coupled with our sensitivity to the systemic value of thought”. Ibid., p. 114.
9 This is something John O’Donohue discusses in his books. See, for example, John O’Donohue, Anam Ċara, pp.174–182, 264, and Eternal Echoes, p.93.
10 John O’Donohue, Anam Ċara, p.174.
Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts


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