R2-M1: Team Michel VS TeamBG1

Future of Europe


The topic for the 2nd debate is:

Civil disobedience and actions are justified when the justice system and rule of law are undermined.

In this debate Team Michel (Affirmative) will face TeamBG1 (negative).

The 1st debater of the affirmative team has 24 hours to post the 1st speech of the debate. Even if the speech is posted before the 24 hours expire, the 1st negative speakers’ 24 hours of preparation time will begin when the initial time expires.

Before posting please consult Guildelines and the Online Debate Guide.

Good luck to all teams!


I thank both teams for this debate.

There were many good ideas and interesting discussions in this match, but I ultimately felt that the proposition, Team Michel, won the debate.

To sum up, the risks and dangers brought into the debate by the opposing team, as well as their alternatives, were not explained well-enough in order to prove that this idea will probably lead to unwanted or disadvantageous outcomes.

Proposition case is fairly to the point: this type of action can function as a pressure valve for civic outrage, and can relieve some of the tension within society, before it escalates to full-blown rebellion. Furthermore, when democratic institutions fails, like those that pertain to the justice system, then this is the only and best course of action.

Opposition brings in some good points, like the fact that what proposition describes and defines can also fit legitimate legal protests, if such actions are ever needed and potential collateral risks and backlash. While all these ideas are valid, they are left to vague, in the realm of possibility rather than probability. It CAN be very dangerous and it CAN lead to backlash, but what does that danger look like? Why is it a probable outcome? What is the backlash and its impact? The “yellow vests” example was useful, but it didn’t correlate with the general idea that “civil disobedience” will likely lead to such unwanted situations. Same goes for the 2nd opposition speech, that tries to convince that such countries cannot or do not exist in the EU, and if there would be “grave” violations, “serious measures would be taken”. What these measures are and how they can be efficient is left unexplained. We already have some countries in the EU that don’t wholly respect all the values and principles of the Union. What has happened to them? Will the same methods work on the situation the motion prescribes?

The affirmative team also leaves some of it’s ideas are arguments unexplained. I can agree that this method might be the only one available, when the justice system is undermined, but whether this method is also likely to succeed, or is worth trying, despite the potential downsides, is left up to the judge.

Ultimately I felt that this method has some serious risks and potential downsides, but that none of them seem likely enough or have a strong enough negative impact to conclude that the motion is more rather harmful than desirable. In conclusion, Team Michel is the winner of this debate.

Speaker points:

1st Affirmative: 17 (Content: 7; Style: 5; Strategy: 5)
2nd Affirmative: 15 (Content: 6; Style: 5; Strategy: 4)

1st Negative: 15 (Content: 6; Style: 5; Strategy: 4)
2nd Negative: 14 (Content: 5; Style: 5; Strategy: 4)

  • Edit

    We agree with the affirmative team that civil disobedience is indeed a non-violent way of dealing with injustices and miscarriages of power although we argue that it is a good course of action and still firmly believe there are lawful ways of approaching the problem.

    As a member of the European Union every country should be one of those working democracies. In order for a country to actually become a member it has to cover certain conditions such as having stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. If anyone ever feels like their rights are violated they can seek help from those institutions. Even if it is the politicians that violate them we can still seek justice within the country’s rule of law. Furthermore, by being a member of the EU it has to comply with all the EU's standards and rules which means that if any of them are broken the member state is going to face the consequences. In such cases the country is monitored and if any violations are discovered serious measures are taken. So for a democracy to be affected by political power plays to an extent that it is threatening fundamental human rights is nearly impossible. As the affirmative team has already said democratic values and the rule of law need to be constantly affirmed and protected. In our opinion this cannot be done with civil disobedience mostly because when people start breaking the law no one can say for sure to what an extent it is justified and to what it is not. For instance, the protests of the yellow vests started as non-violent civil disobedience which gradually grew out of control with some people breaking not only undermined laws but also every other law and even resorting to violence. In our opinion it is exactly civil disobedience that gives rise to violent outbursts and extremist movements by promoting the refusal to comply with certain laws.
    For a country to force its citizens into the streets in search of justice it has to be seriously violating democratic values and laws. As the affirmative team has already said this can happen in states that struggle with the implementation of such values. However, as we have already said, for a country to become a member of the EU it needs to have institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law and the human rights. In order for such institutions to be stable enough these democratic values need to be honored by the citizens. If a country has such unstable rule of law that allows these kinds of violations it would not have been accepted as a member in the first place. In our opinion there are no such states in the EU that are without a functional justice system and rule of law where civil disobedience is justified. As we all agree civil resistance is the better way of dealing with undermined laws simply because the rule of law and the justice system in the European Union are constructed in a way that there is always a lawful course of action. In the past people used to change the rulers with revolutions and other not so very peaceful methods. However, our society is different. We can simply vote for the better person or protest in order to change what we believe needs to be changed. We no longer need civil disobedience which holds dangers for the society like the ones written above. For this reason, we believe that civil disobedience and actions are not justified when the justice system and rule of law are undermined.

  • Edit
    Team Michel

    At the outset of our response, we are pleased to recognise that the adverse party has sustained our argumentation by affirming the substantial importance of civil disobedience as a measure to foster real transformative change in times of social turmoil and political uncertainty. However, in light of their rather blatant discussion, we proceed with a critical examination of their line of thought, as well as an assessment of their factual argumentation.

    To begin with, although we are certainly aware of the distinction between civil disobedience and civil resistance, the latter depicting nonviolent actions in accordance with the law, we perceive no substantial value in raising this differentiation in light of the specific focus of this debate. Surely, civil resistance constitutes an alternative avenue to initiate transformative change. Marches, petitions and demonstrations have all proven to be of substantial relevance. Contingent on specific circumstances, measures of civil resistance can be more effective and appropriate, particularly as to societal demands in what the adverse party has defined as working democracy. In such a functional democracy, civil disobedience might therefore not be truly necessary. However, a democracy, in which the justice system and the rule of law are systematically undermined by a powerful entity, is by no means “working” or functional. Such a democracy is affected by political power plays to an extent that alters the separation of powers and the rule of law, threatening the persistence of fundamental human rights. It is simply dysfunctional. This being the focus of the debate, we therefore reaffirm that civil disobedience is justified in such instances where fundamental democratic values are at threat and a large majority of citizens’ calls for transformative change. Luckily in most EU member states, civil disobedience is currently therefore neither necessary nor appropriate, primarily as the aforementioned elements of democracy are sufficiently provided. However, rising populism and movements towards the infiltration of the justice system in Poland and Hungary, suggest that civil disobedience might at some point be rendered necessary within those societies affected. Accordingly, we argue that civil disobedience, if perceived as the most effective avenue to demand transformative change, is justified and in instances desirable to avoid violent outbursts and extremist movements. The European Union is not a utopian conglomeration. Democratic values and the rule of law need to be constantly affirmed and protected. If any future efforts of governments or political parties will seek to undermine the rule of law and the justice system within a particular state, thereby promoting blatant injustices and miscarriages of power, civil disobedience shall depict one plausible avenue for those affected.

    On the second notion brought forward by the adverse party, as stated previously, we are well aware that civil disobedience exposes a society to harm, regardless of the existing political framework and level of economic development. This is certainly applicable to states that struggle with the implementation of democratic values and the rule of law. Of course, civil disobedience in such fragile societies can result in repercussions for participating individuals, as well as for bystanders. Depending on the specific scenario, such consequences are more substantial and threatening in nations that have not previously been guided by democratic values of justice and human rights. Such repercussions certainly require careful consideration, so do the dangers associated with misreporting and paid aggressors. However, we would like to ask the adverse party, what is the alternative? Shall citizens simply sit, wait and accept their leaders to undermine the justice system and the rule of law, thereby attacking the core values of democracy? Shall they hope for change to come by itself? The answer is simple and rather apparent. Over the course of history, transformative social change never just happened. In order for lasting change to occur, citizens need to stand up for their rights, for a greater social purpose and for a long-lasting process of democratisation. Initially, this can of course be achieved through lawful actions of civil resistance. However, if all legal efforts fail, civil disobedience depicts a justified measure for a population to demand transformative change towards true democracy, without having to resort to violent or extreme means. Overarchingly, we therefore argue that civil disobedience is justified in instances where the justice system and the rule of law are undermined.

  • Edit

    It is indeed true that civil disobedience has been pivotal to most of the great political transformations in a very turbulent 20th century. We agree with our colleagues on many of the merits such nonviolent acts can bring to a society on the brink of major change. However, a few points need to be made in order to fully grasp the essence of this debate.
    The first of them is the distinction between civil disobedience and civil resistance. Although Debau’s definition of civil disobedience gives a good overview of the general cause, the way it is presented by our colleagues is at best ambiguous and therefore dangerous to be used in such a debate. This is most certainly so, because acts of lawful protests and demonstrations also fall in the category of ‘political acts that serve a greater social purpose of bringing about change in the law or policies of a government’. Another important notice is that even though Gandhi spoke of civil disobedience, he did employ law-abiding tactics and often preferred the term “civil resistance” (in a definition slightly different to the commonly accepted one). In the modern meaning it encompasses a broad spectrum of nonviolent actions, which mean to oppose a particular policy or regime, often using pressure, coercion and appeals to the said adversary. Some examples are marches, petitions, boycotts, demonstrations. All of those are justified by our authority as citizens and in democratic societies they can be more than effective enough, especially as they appeal more to the general masses and may bring deeper understanding of the conflict without the repercussions of law-breaking activities. Civil disobedience is therefore not truly and completely needed in a working democracy, this being the case in most EU member countries, not for matters that can be decided otherwise, which in a sense proves it as unjustified, both from moral and legal standpoints.
    The second notion we wish to make concerns the effects of civil disobedience, particularly in countries struggling with the implementation of major democracy principles. In such countries nonviolent resistance actions, legal or otherwise, are a major threat for the oppressing factions and are often met with severe repercussions, both for protesters and non-involved. It is one thing to talk about nonviolent civil disobedience from a position as a citizen in the EU and completely another to do it from the position of a person in a third world country. Even if civil disobedience is morally the right choice, from a practical viewpoint it is very dangerous, in a way that ‘willing to accept lawful punishment’ cannot properly convey. Another way to fight is to continue living for a cause and every drop counts, if done correctly. It is also important to note, that any type of disobedience may result in backlash to other people, which places another question – is it morally acceptable to cause harm with your personal choice to other people, without their consent? Strictly speaking, our freedom extends to where those of the others stop. Not to mention that in such countries even the most throughout organized actions of protest, be it resistance or disobedience, can be misreported or simply deformed by means of paid aggressors in the midst of the protesters, as has often been the case in our own country, an EU member state – Bulgaria.
    Considering the points above we argue that the act of civil disobedience is, although useful and a classical way of showing a change is needed, not necessarily justified, even in systems where the justice system and rule of law are undermined.

  • Edit
    Team Michel

    Civil disobedience and actions are justified when the justice system and rule of law are undermined.

    Large movements are born in those moments when abstract principles transform into concrete concerns. Every once in a while, such societal concerns, promote an outburst of resistance that seems to break open a world of possibility, fostering opportunities for real transformative change. Throughout history, such movements have taken on a plurality of characteristics, one reoccurring concept being civil disobedience and actions, understood for the purpose of this debate in line with Bedau’s definition as: public nonviolent, conscientious and political acts that serve a greater social purpose of bringing about change in the law or policies of a government.

    To begin with, civil disobedience and actions can serve as a firebreak between legal protests and acts of rebellion, thereby providing a safety valve through which those profoundly disaffected can vent their dissent without resorting to extreme or violent measures. Taking the example of the dissolution of communist governments and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, civil disobedience depicted a central driver for transformation. It allowed the German society to liberate, express their dissent to the status quo of the government, thereby demanding change without resorting to violent means of revolution. Moreover, through civil disobedience, democratic societies can maximise their prospect to correct mistakes, providing the opportunity to verify decisions in a manner that assures concerns to be heard and change to be demanded. Overall, as stated by Ghandi, civil disobedience is a system of protest, driven by intelligence rather than by force, emphasising its non-violent characteristics.

    Certainly, civil disobedience can expose a society to harm, particularly if actions lack clarity, focus and a truly equitable motivation. Ultimately, any means of civil disobedience call for deliberate violations of existing laws or a substantial disagreement with governmental ideologies. Hence, it is vital for a greater social purpose to be apparent, required as a device to deal with a clear and blatant injustice or miscarriage of power.

    Undoubtedly, no judicial or governmental system is perfect, most likely they never will be. However, if a justice system and the rule of law are undermined to an extent to which fundamental rights and core principles of democracy are threatened, by a government, political ideology or individual, it is justified and necessary – rather than incorrect – to take a stand against them. Therefore, we argue that conscientious citizens should not abide by policies or laws that contradict the legitimacy and independence of the justice system, particularly not within the European Union that has enshrined the rule of law within a plurality of treaties. Instead, non-violent means of civil disobedience shall be deployed to demand change. In fact, we proclaim that through civil disobedience a society can not solely raise their voice for transformation, but additionally strengthen the rule of law. Disobeying an inherently unjust legal system promotes the substantive and procedural values that underpin the duty to uphold the rule of law. This argument is sustained by the anti-bureaucratic social movement of Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, whereby methods of civil disobedience advanced the causes of workers’ rights and social change, despite the government imposing martial law. Overall, civil disobedience can therefore safeguard and strengthen the justice system and the promotion of the rule of law. Moreover, it embodies a valuable moral concept, namely that when at times, law and justice do not coincide in society, to nevertheless obey the law would be an abdication of one’s ethical responsibility as a citizen. This however does not suggest civil disobedience to be a violation of the rule of law in itself. Instead, in its very essence, civil disobedience of citizens suggests a willingness to accept lawful punishment, the most fundamental form of respect for the rule of law within any state, even at times where a separation of powers no longer prevails within society. Therefore, we argue that such actions are not solely justified but in fact necessary in instances where the judicial system and the rule of law are undermined.