In 1776 the Declaration of Independence of the US made clear that 'natural law teaches that the people are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and may alter or abolish a government that becomes destructive of those rights'.
Some years later the French Revolution institutionalised the ‘Right to Rebellion’ in its Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen. In the well-known article 35 the ruler is warned that 'When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is – for the people and for each portion of the people – the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties'.
Today, sovereignty does not reside in parliament but in transnational entities that no-one elected through methods of liberal election. What is more, not only has no-one elected the IMF or the World Bank or a director of Citigroup, in addition – as if it could be no other way – their conception of government is always that of a war footing. The market is loaded with belligerent energy and rhetoric; the firepower of Clausewitz (a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the psychological and political aspects of war) now resides on stock trading floors that take aim at people's lives.
Although the ritual and the forms are still established, the capacity for political decision is subordinate to the diktat, the ‘confidence’ of the markets and not to the sovereignty of the general interest. The cutbacks are ruthless, the plight of the people secondary; basic rights such as education, health, housing, mobility, a decent income are being trampled down so as to establish a regime of kleptocracy.
We appeal therefore to that natural law, that duty, which is no other than the right to rebellion, to civil disobedience. Without disobedience there is no possibility of democratising a society. To oppose what is legitimate (able to be defended with logic or justification; valid – Oxford dictionary) to what is legal is the basis of every advance in the domain of rights, and of human progress; in this gap, history from below takes place.
Today we are still in yesterday, in the historic time that falls on us to live in. Yesterday, Saint Just declared that "there can be no freedom for the enemies of freedom". Today the squares shout: "if you do not let us dream, we shall not let you sleep".
Everything changes, the spirit remains.
Plagiarising again today – the above is picked from a translation from Spanish by Richard McAleavey of two articles, the first from an editorial in El País about the boycott of the household charge in Ireland, the second a piece about the right to rebellion.