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Speaker: Catalonia, interrupted

15 Responses

  • Tom Semmens,

    What a load of hogwash. For all the nice leftism of the Catalan independence movement it has as it’s base exactly the same conceited logic as the Fascists of the Italian Lega Nord – cultural snobbery and a selfish rejection of the poorer parts of Spain as an albatross around the Catalonia’s neck and a desire to abandon their poorer fellow countrymen and women in places like Estramadura for the sake of being unfettered in the sunlit uplands of posh, progressive Europe.

    a massive grassroots movement had taken root wanting a vote on Catalonia becoming its own independent state within Europe.

    Really? A good 50% of the region isn't keen, if election results are any guide. I guess though if you don't want independence you opinion doesn't count in Catalonia, a selective definition a bit like if you want Brexit your view doesn't count in the minds of the ultra remainers I guess.

    Most Spaniards I know are deeply unsympathetic to the Catalonian chauvinism on display every day there, and the Catalans themselves are so wrapped up in their own self-importance they refuse to face certain political realities.

    From 1938-75 Spain was a deeply socially conservative, fascist dictatorship where the army and the Church were the standard bearers of “Spanishness” and of the highly reactionary values of Francoism. These values might currently lie dormant, but have not necessarily vanished from Spanish society, let alone the military.

    The semi-federal, highly autonomous nature of Spain’s internal organisation created by the seminal 1978 constitution is in a large part a reaction to the enforced and suffocating narrowness of the Francoist cultural and social agenda. Regions wished to express their identity again, and the 1978 constitution recognised this. These concessions to autonomy were negotiated within the context of a highly politicised and dangerous military and one of the key aspects of the 1978 constitution over the line against the far right’s objections is the first part of section two –

    “…The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish Nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognizes and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all…”

    In other words, to gain their semi-autonomy without losing everything in another military coup, the Spanish regions (including the Basque Country and even regions like Asturias as well as Catalonia) agreed to the INDISSOLUBLE UNITY OF THE SPANISH NATION. The Catalan government is trying to renege on this key promise – and take the wealthiest part of the country off with an insouciant two finger salute and an attitude of “I’m all right, Jack” and they then disingenuously claim they don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

    None the less, the Spanish constitution is clear and is the legal basis to the claim by Madrid that the independence referendum was illegal and unconstitutional. It wasn’t that “Some laws were broken” the whole damn thing was a massive exercise in illegality under the 1978 constitution Catalonia signed up to, and why – as you put it – the Spanish government doesn’t “…even acknowledging that Catalans might have a legitimate political demand…” and the reason why the EU did nothing.

    And anyway, Catalonia’s claim to independence is piss-weak. Catalonia has always been a possession of the crown of Aragon, with the uniting of Aragon and Castille (Ferdinand and Isabella) Catalonia became part of Spain, with significant local autonomy. Catalonia has NEVER been an independent state and has less claim to independence than, say, the Lega Nord where Piedmont had at least been an independent state in the 19th Century.

    The Catalonians need to get over themselves.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Armstrong,

    cultural snobbery and a selfish rejection of the poorer parts of Spain as an albatross around the Catalonia’s neck and a desire to abandon their poorer fellow countrymen and women in places like Estramadura for the sake of being unfettered in the sunlit uplands of posh, progressive Europe.

    Yeh nah. if you have to send your police in to bash the fuck out of people inside "your territorial zone" I say abandon and spexit, calling a minority or their opinions sort of names speaks volumes about your own place in the world Tom.

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    The two opinions most commonly expressed by friends in Barcelona:

    1. The independence movement is driven by wealthy families who stand to gain financially and the extent to which Catalonia has been in any way negatively affected by the current system is vastly exaggerated. Cf Brexit.

    2. The central government’s response of using force to shut down the referendum was wrong and counterproductive.

    Since Nov 2016 • 353 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The two opinions most commonly expressed by friends in Barcelona:

    1. The independence movement is driven by wealthy families who stand to gain financially and the extent to which Catalonia has been in any way negatively affected by the current system is vastly exaggerated. Cf Brexit.

    2. The central government’s response of using force to shut down the referendum was wrong and counterproductive.

    I wasn’t going to mention the accusations that the whole independence movement was stirred up by Catalonian politicians looking to avoid investigation for corruption and nepotism, but yes – that is also a reason.

    The use of force is counter-productive, but you have to ask why it was deployed. Why was Madrid so confident it could get away with a crack down? It was confident because it had a cast iron legal position, the backing of the EU and crucially, most of the rest of Spain. Electorally, making an example of Catalonia was the easiest call ever, especially given the intransigence of the pro-independence groups.

    Everyone in Spain knows the Civil Guards are next level – conservative and absolutely reliable in defense of the perceived “honour” of the Spanish state. Once they turned up, their actions were inevitable.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Southon,

    Just a little update. It’s Monday morning 8am in Barcelona. The court verdicts (and sentences – they are delivered together at the same moment) are likely to be announced in a few hours, with even defence lawyers kept in the dark about exactly when up till now. The defendants don’t have to be present in the court and will have the sentences read to them in their prison cells (the 9 out of 12 of them who have already spent close to 2 years in jail). And yet, despite all this “secrecy”, in an appalling but very typical development for the Spanish justice system, the court’s decisions have apparently been leaked and all weekend the Madrid-based media has been telling its audiences what the sentences will be, to the extent that it will be very surprising if the official announcement is significantly different.
    The media say that the nine leaders already in jail have been found guilty of a major charge of “sedición” and have been sentenced to 8-15 years jail. “Sedición” in Spanish law is not the same as what might come to mind when you think of “sedition” – what Wikipedia calls “overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward insurrection against the established order”. Bascially, the Spanish crime consists of actually carrying out such an insurrection, which is defined as a “public and tumultuous uprising” (and differs from the other apparently-rejected charge of “rebellion” in that the latter involves a “public and *violent* uprising”).
    We have yet to read the details of when and how the court sees this “tumultuous uprising” as having occurred (assuming that the leaks are correct). Spoiler: it didn’t. Unless you say the police violence counts as the “tumult” which the independence movement was responsible for. Or unless you want to criminalize dozens of very large and sometimes violent demonstrations (by unions, students, practically everyone except the independence movement) over the last 20 years in Spain. Might be seen as an idea with a future by some, of course.
    We currently have the airport and major train stations pretty much on lockdown, occupied by the piolins, the Spanish police. There are lots of protest mobilizations and they are all very open ended. It’s going to be an intense week.

    Barcelona • Since Aug 2008 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Robert Southon,

    The sentences are counterproductive, making martyres of them isn’t going to help resolve the conflict.

    But they are not guiltless. They declared independence on the basis of a referendum they ran which had a turn out of just 43%. If they had been able to continue with that I can’t see how civil unrest could have been avoided.

    The essential conflict seems to me to be not between Catalonia and the central government but within Catalonia society based on how people identify. Stirring up that sort of situation with exaggerated grievances never works out well.

    Since Nov 2016 • 353 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    The Catalonians need to get over themselves.

    Would you also agree that the Spanish government should stop sentencing political leaders it finds troublesome to very long jail terms?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Philip Bendall,

    Here's a response to the sentences from Carles Puigdemont (the former president of Catalonia) published TODAY in The Guardian:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/14/spain-imprisonment-catalan-leaders-supreme-cout-jailed-nine

    Auckland • Since Feb 2016 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Many years ago the West Pyrenees Football team went to a swish Madrid hotel, they had never seen a revolving door before and all tried to go through at once - jamming the mechanism and crushing several players - this event lives on in the phrase 'Don't put all your Basques in the one exit'!*

    Meanwhile over on Ibiza...


    *apologies to Frank Muir and Denis Nordern

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    It’s a bit hard to take seriously Puigdemont‘s claim to be merely implementing the democratic will of the people. From Wikipedia:

    The referendum was approved by the Catalan parliament in a session on 6 September 2017 along with the Law of juridical transition and foundation of the Republic of Catalonia the following day 7 of September, which stated that independence would be binding with a simple majority, without requiring a minimum turnout.[17][18] After being suspended, the law was finally declared void on 17 October,[19] being also illegal according to the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia which requires a two third majority, 90 seats, in the Catalan parliament for any change to Catalonia's status.

    The independence parties which had at the time a slim parliamentary majority - but not a majority of electoral votes - organised a referendum that would be binding with a simple majority with no requirement for a minimum turnout. I don’t think that comes anywhere close to being democratic.

    It’s little wonder the Catalan High Court declared the referendum illegal.

    Since Nov 2016 • 353 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I feel there’s a rule of thumb this sort of constitutional change requires a super-majority, say a 2/3 majority, otherwise the results are chaos and recriminations (for a great modern example the ongoing brexit clusterfuck)

    (which doesn't excuse the Spanish government's overreach)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Southon,

    Thursday afternoon in Barcelona and everything is going according to the script that Pedro Sánchez envisaged. Or is it? The court sentences severe, the strong Catalan reaction, the overspill into street violence, the law and order clampdown.

    But I’m wondering if another genie has got out of the bottle. The reaction on the Catalan streets has not only been stronger than many people expected, but it’s much younger and has a new attitude. I’m not talking about the street violence which we have indeed seen from a fairly small minority (partly in reaction to some completely unjustifiable policing, in addition to the almost certain presence of agents provocateurs in the crowds), but rather the core mass of people who have come down to the street and marched and blocked roads and infrastructure and then repeated the same thing the next day. The key to what happens next is with this group. Naturally there is a huge campaign on to discredit all the protests. But it goes on, there are huge protests every day of all types and it’s not going to stop – just yet anyway.

    Barcelona • Since Aug 2008 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    Catalan independence leaders appear to have learnt all the wrong lessons from Brexit. Holding ill-conceived referenda to force through major changes without significant support doesn’t lead to any peaceful democratic solution. Especially if it’s a bad solution in want of a problem.

    They may benefit instead from looking at the New Caledonia independence referenda process.

    In New Caledonia there is a real issue of independence as a legacy of colonialism. But the population is quite divided with no clear majority either way.

    What has come out of the Matignon Agreements (1988) and Nouméa Accord (1998) is a process of 3 referenda. The first of which was last year and the 2nd next year. That time frame gives a good picture of how the leaders of the various communities have understood the need for considered action to avoid the risk of communal conflict.

    It’s a complex process that serves to a degree to buy time and diffuse tensions.

    It’s a genuine attempt to reconcile genuine major communal differences that last year got an 80% turnout. Holding an ill considered and illegal referendum and declaring independence on a 43% turnout, as the Catalonian independence leaders did, looks very shoddy and authoritarian in comparison.

    Since Nov 2016 • 353 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Would you also agree that the Spanish government should stop sentencing political leaders it finds troublesome to very long jail terms?

    I never knew the Spanish government controlled the Spanish judicary.

    Anyway, judicaries everywhere tend to reflect the consensus of elite establishment opinion in their rulings on topics with strong political elements, be it the UK Supreme Court ruling Boris Johnson’s prorogation of UK parliament was unlawful or the status of Catalan politicians engaging in illegal political activities or indeed here with the Waitangi tribunal or the NZ Supreme court.

    Novara media have an interesting take on the upcoming Spanish elections in relation to the crisis in Catalonia. It is a mess.

    Suffice to say, no one comes out this analysis looking very good – and for New Zealand’s armchair revolutionaries who have reflexively supported the Catalan case for independence it contains some uncomfortable analysis and conclusions.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Southon, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    I never knew the Spanish government controlled the Spanish judicary.

    You never knew? Tom, you really haven’t been keeping up.

    A few things you might like to check out:

    1. The appointment of the top judiciary in Spain by the two main political parties is an unquestioned part of the system. The parties directly appoint the members of the Judicial Council, which then essentially places judges in roles that keep the parties happy. The presiding judge of the Catalan leaders’ trial, Manuel Marchena, was at the centre of a scandal that exposed this relationship a year ago. Everyone knew about it, no-one has denied it.

    2. Before and during the Catalan trial, Spanish government ministers made frequent public comments asserting the defendants’ guilt. It was done almost gratuitously, arrogantly, and if the government members were ever called out on this (which they usually weren’t) they would react as though their honour had been wounded.

    3. Why do you think independence leaders were tried for “rebellion” – a completely inappropriate and excessive charge, according to every neutral expert who ever looked at the case? They were found not guilty of this charge, but the grave accusation served a clear purpose. It enabled nine defendants (most of them elected Catalan political leaders) to be jailed for two years before the trial: absolutely gross judicial interference in politics, which completely hamstrung the Catalan political scene in 2018 and 2019. The Spanish deputy leader of the time bragged that “our party has decapitated the pro-independence parties”.

    4. Spanish politicians not only believe they can obtain acquiescence from their own judiciary but also that of other EU countries. Last week, Spain’s deputy PM threatened “measures” against the Belgian government if its judges decide not to extradite exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

    5. In fact, PM Pedro Sánchez is so sure he can get his way in the courts that he has committed to securing the handover of Puidgemont from Belgium to Spain as an election promise! When taken to task about this, he claimed he was not talking about influencing judges but rather the public prosecutors “who do depend on the government” – which has, even in Spain, raised a huge storm about lack of respect for separation of powers.

    In short, the relationship between executive and judicial powers in Spain is miles from what you would expect in a “consolidated democracy” (the phrase of a recent desperate propaganda campaign by the Spanish government). There is no mature, transparent separation of the two branches. A whole generation of Spanish politicians has become specialised in passing their politically difficult decisions to the courts, and many key judges are more than willing to oblige and pull on their political boots, and they don’t even realise they are doing it, since the sacred unity of Spain constitutes the law, the political goal and the shared nationalist fervour.

    Barcelona • Since Aug 2008 • 5 posts Report Reply

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