On constitutive power

The best way to secure the votes necessary for a constitution would, I think, have been to explain what a constitution is. Unfortunately, no one seems to have tried to do this quite simple thing.

The only thing it would have required is to look at constitutive power, the power to constitute something new, by going through previous situations when constitutions have been written. Always constitutions have been preceded by war, civil war or revolution. In short, constitutive power is the same as violence, and historically, violence is the only constitutive power that is known.

This simple historical fact, again showing itself in the constitutive process in the new Iraq, is enough to make most people think, and consider the uniqueness of the process that was attempted in the European Union.

The least convincing thing you can do is to say, as was done in trying to infl uence the French referendum, that the process was actually not a constitutive one, but rather an agreement between states. So that is supposed to convince people to vote for the paper, whatever you call it? Suddenly trying to make it seem less important? That you say that all your big words have been nothing but hot air, and there is no constitution to vote on?

No, the way to make people think is to push forwards, to stress the uniqueness of the vote, the historical fi rst that the option to vote for a “constitution” was.
What the “Yes”-campaigns should have said is that never before has there been the possibility to create something totally new, in a largely peaceful manner.
But that was not to be, because the “Yes”-campaign was the “Yes” of those in power, not of those wishing for change.

There was a lot of good stuff in the proposal for a constitution. A lot of the bad stuff that was in there will be driven through anyway, in agreements and directives driven by the Commission. For the democratizing measures, we are now told, we will now have to wait for years. This is, of course, unacceptable. We must not allow ourselves to be punished as a collective for the fact that some people, rightly, objected to their own governments and to the problems of the current proposal.

The left-right-nationalist part of the “No” must not be allowed to pull down the legitimate demands of those who wish for a different Europe into a backwards-looking swamp of strong national borders. All credit must be given to those who worked for a progressive “No”. However, it seems like their demands, which are the same as those voiced at protests outside the gates of European Union top meetings, will not be heeded only because of this “No”-vote.
The question remains, then, how to participate in the building of a progressive constitutive power for Europe. And let us hope it will be a historical fi rst, that we can have democracy and freedom just by asking for it.

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