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Home » Content » New coup d’état techniques: the case of Catalonia
Neo-violence adopts novel, subtle, even sophisticated forms, which is why it is difficult to typify it in penal codes that do not incorporate these changes.Today the most effective impulses for the subversion of the constitutional order originate in cyberspace and institutions. The seizure of power does not go from the street to the institutions, but from the institutions to the street. Under the new techniques of a coup d'état deferred from the institutions and partial territorially, what has happened in Catalonia should be analysed.

Jordi Garcia-Petit, 23 February 2023

Joan Coscubiela addresses Carles Puigdemont and Santi Vila in the plenary session of Parliament that opposed the disconnection laws /ACN

Curzio Malaparte published ‘Technique of the Coup d’Etat’ in 1931. The book acquired a well-deserved renown, partly because its early publication left out two notorious coups d’état: Hitler’s delayed and phased one in 1933 and the military-falangist-right-wing coup of 1936 in Spain.

Nonetheless, Malaparte’s work remains a classic; it is used as a template for verifying whether or not certain political events should be classified as coups d’état. Although Malaparte analyses specific cases, those of Bonaparte in France (1799), Lenin in Russia (1917), Kapp in Germany (1920), Mussolini in Italy (1922), Primo de Rivera in Spain (1923) and Pilsudski in Poland (1926), he is a generalist in his theorisation of coups d’état, and this is the main value of the work today.

Some of Malaparte’s contributions are highly relevant: “To defend the state it is necessary to know the art of seizing it”; “It is not necessary to use force of arms to seize power”; “In any democratic country it is possible to stage a coup d’état, even without a critical situation or popular support”.

Let us apply the template to recent events.

What were the assaults on the US Congress building (6 January 2021) by supporters of Donald Trump and on the Brasilia headquarters of the branches of state (8 January 2023) by supporters of Jair Bolsonaro? In both cases there was violence – and deaths in Washington – because there was forced entry and occupation of the headquarters by overrunning the security services, but no “force of arms” was used.

In assessing the facts, the technological and cultural changes of our time compared to the times studied by Malaparte must be borne in mind for their political and criminal qualification. Today, the masses are summoned, seduced and deceived not by the proclamations of swordsmen and saviours, but by the internet.

And neo-violence does not require rifles in the first instance. It manifests itself in the peaceful occupation of streets and institutional headquarters, preceded and accompanied by agitation on the digital social networks. Although the occupation is never Gandhian, no matter how much democratic justifications and peaceful intentions are invoked.

Neo-violence adopts novel, subtle, even sophisticated forms, which is why it is difficult to typify it in penal codes that do not incorporate these changes.

Hitler ended up taking power from the institutions themselves and he did it without any sophistication, brutally and criminally. Today, the technique has been perfected, but it remains basically the same: to reach the institutions by legal procedures in order to undermine them, empty them and fill them with new power, illegitimate in procedure and objectives, from within the institutions, using their powers, means and resources.

If successful, it is a delayed coup d’état, which can last days, months or years; if unsuccessful, it remains a failed coup d’état, and those responsible end up in courts and prisons.

After the Second World War, the moral and political reconstruction of Europe and elsewhere was done by “constitutionalising” societies. Never before have constitutions been as widely recognised as they are today in their function of legitimising and, at the same time, guaranteeing the political and social order. Constitutional order has become the fundamental pillar of democratic society. Subverting it throughout the territory of the state or in one of its parts by preventing the application of the laws that emanate from it is the new form of coup d’état.

Trump and Bolsonaro attempted this subversion by trying to prevent the implementation of the election result. Both of them, as instigators, can be charged with subversive intent, even if they did not directly participate in the events.

The laws that protect the constitutional order, starting with the Constitution itself, have not (yet) incorporated the new, convoluted ways of subverting it. As Byung-Chul Han explains, we have entered the era of psychopower, as a manifestation of psychopolitics, and legislations are still in the time of biopower. Today, cyberspace occupies the place that barracks and the street used to occupy for the seizure of power. Criminal codes continue to qualify street acts – the subversion and sedition of our Code – when today the most effective impulses for the subversion of the constitutional order originate in cyberspace and institutions. The seizure of power does not go from the street to the institutions, but from the institutions to the street.

Under the new techniques of a coup d’état deferred from the institutions and partial territorially, what has happened in Catalonia should be analysed.

https://cronicaglobal.elespanol.com/pensamiento/nuevas-tecnicas-golpe-estado_775367_102.html

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