Gieri Cavelty, Editor-in-Chief of SonntagsBlick.
Gieri CavetyEditor-in-Chief of the SonntagsBlick
Modern Switzerland is celebrating its 175th anniversary. In other words: it just doesn’t do it. In 1848, the old Confederation became the first democratic republic in Europe that still exists today, but the list of anniversary events planned for 2023 is extremely short: an illustrated book on parliamentary activities, an open day in various administrative buildings, an art installation on the facade of the Federal Palace.
Our Knorz with its own history is legendary in the truest sense of the word. The Confederation glorifies legendary heroes from the Middle Ages and ignores those personalities to whom we owe our state and its functioning institutions. The focus is not on individual people, but on ideals.
Thanks to such a mentality, the Swiss are less likely to submit to a single leader. However, historical oblivion prevents important insights. Like how cosmopolitan inspired the state is. Its foundation was shaped by the European Enlightenment, American democracy and the French Revolution. The two-chamber system with the National Council and the Council of States was adopted from the USA, and the Federal Council was designed on the basis of the Paris constitution of 1793. And five of the first seven members of the state government had studied abroad, where they internalized the ideas of liberalism.
The fact that the founding of the federal state was preceded by years of hard conflicts between liberals and conservatives, which recently even escalated into a civil war, also has no place in our culture of remembrance.
However, this is also part of dealing with Swiss history: 1848
the state was by no means finished. In fact, for all its progressiveness, it was extremely patriarchal and racist. The new Federal Constitution guarantees: “All Swiss are equal before the law. There are no subordinate relationships in Switzerland, no privileges of place, birth, families or individuals. » Of course, women and Jews were excluded from this equality. It was not until 1856 that the Jews received the right to vote and to be elected at the cantonal and federal level by federal decree, but not in the communities; As is well known, women were categorically kept away from political life for well over a century.
In the 1860s, the Democrat movement criticized the power of people like Zurich National Councilor, government councilor and railroad magnate Alfred Escher. The democrats wanted, in their own words, “to develop the previous sham sovereignty into a real and genuine popular sovereignty” and achieved their most important success in 1874 with the introduction of the optional legislative referendum. The fact that the popular initiative was introduced another 17 years later was mainly due to the conservatives. In this way they integrated themselves into the very state they had fought for a long time.
The history of modern Switzerland is the history of the emancipation of various social groups. The purpose of a democracy that actually deserves the name is the participation of all its inhabitants. Which also means that this story of emancipation is by no means over. Today our country has a total of 2.2 million foreigners, a quarter of the total population. Of these, 1.1 million are adults, meaning they have lived here for at least five years without having any political rights.
If the organization Operation Libero now announces a popular initiative to introduce a less restrictive naturalization practice, this corresponds to contemporary republican and democratic thinking. Such a cause is, of course, far more important than any celebration of the state. It’s just a pity that neither the Federal Council nor anyone in Parliament came up with this idea to celebrate the anniversary year with a good deed.