Catalan Independence? Democracy dies in Spain.


I know this is of minor interest to Arrsers at the moment, though it may grow if things hot up and those serving may well have a new place to visit.
Sorry for banging on at length about it but it could be important, and it certainly is important to those of us living here. Democracy and common sense seem to be in short supply and the EU will certainly have a chance to show if they are truly on the side of democracy, or as many of us suspect bang against it.
Please take a look if you have a few minutes and I'll be happy to receive PMs.

In the last 15 months Catalonia has had two massive demonstrations of the desire of many Catalans to see their country as an independent state. The first was a huge pacific march in Barcelona on the Catalan National Day -11 Sept 2012,-for which estimates oscillated between 2,000,000 (the organisers) and 600,000 (the central government) participants. The local police estimate was 1,500,000 which if you divide the two is not far off a figure of 1,300,000 which sounds reasonable. The second, again on the 11th Sept, involved a 400 km chain of people from the north to south of Catalonia. The Spanish government stated that the numbers were only 400,000 but that is by all reasonable calculations woefully short. In much of the chain people were shoulder to shoulder, certainly where I was we were finding hard to squeeze in. The major population centres unsurprisingly saw large concentrations of people, in Barcelona alone a half a million estimate was given. A figure of 1,600,00 was arrived at which may well be reasonable and certainly closer to the true total than the government claims, but less than the 2,000,000 of some claims. This shows that a large proportion of Catalans are pro-independence, and who wish their voices to be heard, and at least for the subject to be debated.
The result of the Spanish Government, a seriously right-wing party (PP) who have a majority in Parliament, was a deafening silence. The PM said that he was prepared to talk, but took absolutely no steps to do so. His refuge is that the constitution says that any secession or referendum about the same is illegal. Though it can be interpreted that it does allow for powers to consult to be passed to local authorities. This is ignored or denied by the PP.
On the 12th of December the Catalan Parliament voted in favour of holding a consultation with the Catalan People to determine how many would be in favour of Catalonia as a) a country in its own right, b) independent. In a democratic society this would seem to be a reasonable step to find out where people stand and what sort of support the path to independence would have. One of the big problems is that we don't know how many people agree with the idea, and this leaves a great incognito. Not all Catalans are in favour, and depending on the area this varies. Barcelona is full of Spanish who have moved here, mainly for work, and this would be a big shift to a no vote, however away from the capital there is a huge majority in favour of a Catalan state. But we all want to know the real situation, and polls state that between 70 and 80% of Catalans are in favour of a consultation whether they are pro-independence or not. In a democratic society it would seem reasonable to allow one, such as is happening in Scotland.
When the consultation, set for late 2014 was set, the reaction of the Spanish PM was immediate and within the hour. He stated that the consultation was illegal and that it will not take place. With this reaction he demonstrates a major misunderstanding of what democracy and democratic processes are by denying a significant part of his population the possibility of answering a question that they wish to be answered. Furthermore he then undelined his anti-democratic stance and total lack of statesmanship by failing to take the opportunity of bringing together all Catalan political parties with the central Government in a conference to arrive a a mutally agreeable solution. He continues in his obstinate posture of denial and rejection of any form of debate, thus showing that his original offers of dialogue before this event were merely an empty gesture. He has since come out as saying that he will fight unceasingly to ensure that the Consultation does not take place, a truly democratic posture.
The Spanish political structure has become a classic of how democracy can be perverted by having two major political parties who alternate power between themselves and therefore take away any genuine popular voice, and this happened in a short space of time. So it was no surprise when the opposition party who had been advocating a form of federalism agreed with the Central government that the consultation shall not be permitted. Two corrupt parties whose only interest is the maintainance of the system and their survival are showing clearly that true democracy is at present non-existent here.
The EU and others simply say that it is an internal Spanish problem, thereby going into denial of what is happening within their borders. There is a People crying out for their voice to be heard and they are told to be quiet and get on with producing. Where is the Catalan voice to be heard?

Some Background:

I've heard a number of Spanish arguing that Catalonia has never been a separate state which isn't actually true. It developed as an entity in medieval times and eventually became joined to the Kingdom of Aragon. However it did so as a separate entity to Aragon on the understanding that it's laws and customs would be respected, again much as Scotland. Once joined to Castille for the traditional reason of having a King or rather Duke die without issue the Spanish managed to ignore the laws and customs wherever possible.
Over the years Catalonia tried to secede on occasions, the last attempt being in the War of the Spanish Succession. They lost when abandoned by their allies (us) and by right of decree and conquest Spanish law was proclaimed in the territory in 1714 and maintained by force of arms.
The Catalans have had to accept the subject state, the last time there was an opportunity to assert themselves was in 1936-9 and the status quo was restored.
Catalonia has been one of the motors of the Spanish economy and is a net contributor to the coffers yet receives the lowest return of money per head of the 'regions'. There is a constant view of Catalans as being 'bad spanish' by many Spanish and this produces anti-catalan feeling.
Many Catalans feel Spanish and Catalan, but many don't, and want their sense of identity confirmed.
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Book Reviewer
Throw in the Basque country and Spain begins to balkanise.


Book Reviewer
wasn't the granting the states more autonomy designed to kick this ball down the road when they were trying to join the EU?

they said then this would kick them in the arse. beyond all the borrowing they did which they couldn't afford


Book Reviewer
and it certainly destroyed spain in the process - I blame cleggs father in law.
I'm minded to look at the response from Madrid and observe that turkeys don't vote for Christmas. Losing Catalonia and the Basques would eviscerate the Spanish state and cause a great deal of short and medium term unrest and uncertainty, financial, political and social. Given the problems the EU has had recently I'm not surprised they aren't jumping at the opportunity to destabilise an already wobbly member further.

Plus if the Catalan / Basque populations in France decide they want to join Paris will get involved and I can't see them meekly acquiescing either. And like they say, other European independence movements exist so it won't stop there.

I also think that in this case there's not really an EU plan, the EU is made up of nation states and has always tacitly assumed that that is the level at which they operate. Tinkering with the make-up of said nation states is something quite different. I think that it really, really doesn't want to get involved in this cluster and is quite happy for Madrid to make the problem go away.

All of this is of course why an independent Scotland will be stitched up something rotten when it tries to join the EU. Spain - and other EU members - see a successful independent Scotland as an existential threat, as if Scotland succeeds they will fragment. Plus if Scotland fails the English will pick up the tab as they don't want 5 million economic refugees flooding south. Win-win, don't you think ?
The dons have been playing silly buggers with gib isnt it time we flew a catalan flag or two? :)
Spain and Spanish politicians are hugely corrupt. There are numerous cases being prosecuted at the moment and some of the amounts of money involved (to individuals) are totally mind boggling. In one case a chauffuer is making millions -imagne how much the boss he was working for at he time was getting.

The Spanish legal system is shit - no other word for it. An avaerage time for a 'big' case to come to court is 12 years. Even then the number of 'not guilty or aquittals' are obscene - not what you know, but who you know or pay.

Yet the rank and file Spanish just do the shruggy shoulder thing. Due in no small part to corruption we now have (I think) the second highest priced electricity in the world. Possibly because the chairman of the board (and all his friends and family) are drawing truly huge salaries. Even the Royal family are now implicated in a fraud trial.

Happy days!

I'm not sure exactly what position you want the "EU" (whatever you mean by that) to take.

Are you, possibly uniquely on this website, proposing that the EC and the EP should assume greater power and say over the running of member states, or that they should interfere when they deem basic human rights being ignored or what?

Wider picture, Spain's still recent history goes some way to explaining the position taken by central govt and the fears of secession; even if last time it became polarized and characterized by political stance (republican vs nationalist), the roots lay in the sense of injustice between the peasants (for want of a better word) and their remote feudal masters. Beevor's book on the Spanish Civil War is an excellent read. Dwarf - if you know all this, please ignore and skip to next section, as I'm not trying to patronize you. Granny/Eggs etc...

From the EC's viewpoint, devolution is a threat to their short-term plans but plays beautifully into their long-term plans - as devolved countries/states can only become less powerful than their megalithic former entities: think of Germany split 7 ways if you like.

From other member states pov, the threat is clear. There are growing/extant Nationalist movements in UK, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy in addition to the unstable cauldron that the Balkans still is.

So - many moving parts and considerations here. Expect Catalonian local politics to be disadvantaged and harassed on a National and a multi-national basis but (possibly) quietly encouraged by Brussels.
The dons have been playing silly buggers with gib isnt it time we flew a catalan flag or two? :)
Maybe, but then all the SNP canvassers in Glasgow would have dodgy 'Spanish' accents and really good tans...


Maybe, but then all the Labour councillors in Liverpool would have dodgy 'Spanish' accents and really good tans...
Fixed for you!

I could live with the break up of Britain, provided it meant the break up of the Eu.
This has been talked about more-or-less seriously around Barcelona for a couple of decades. Catalonia was stauchly Republican in the Civil War and suffered for it during and after the event. Even so Spanish manufacturing industry is centred on Catalonia, the Basque country and around Madrid so any attempt by one, or worse two, of those centres to leave a sinking ship will be resisted by the national government as it'll leave them in charge of a couple of million idle, skiving small-scale farmers.

Historically Catalonia has included a large swathe of what is now SE France so the Frogs will look at this with care. Mind you, since the Renaissance national boundaries have changed a lot - Aragon then included Sardinia and even the modern version of France isn't that old.

Should we be considering new versions of Wessex, Mercia etc - even a Muslim Republic of North Pakistan centred on Bradford?


Thanks for the interest lads.

Crepello to answer the question, and yes I have the Beevor book by the way, I would like to see the EU bite the bullet and say that voting is democratic. However as it has a range of people in it so far we have just seen a few high-ups expressing opinions ranging from 'seems fair' to 'we really hope not'. I would really like the EU to say to Rajoy (PM) that he should bloody well allow it, but that isn't likely as so far he has bent the knee to Brussels and taken on austerity measures that have hurt the average Spaniard quite a lot. Plus he has shown no urge apart from vague promises, to alleviate the little man's pain and create employment, people have been evicted from their homes onto the street so that banks can have another empty house, and suicides have occurred over this. He does nothing saying that his hands are tied by Brussels, who are unlikely to want to lose such a willing tool. Dame Angela who considers that the E German way should be adopted by everyone must surely love him because he shuts up and does what he is told. This must be the worst PM in history, and the last one was a total dill so that is an achievement. Tonight he has told Obama that Independence will not happen, not that he thinks it won't but as an affirmation.
General opinion around here is that he is capable of putting the Army and Guardia Civil (National Police force under military discipline) onto the streets. Should he do this he will gain the applause of a large segment of Spain but will lose Catalonia's hearts and minds completely, and make clear the effective reality that Catalonia is a colony. But the PM believes in the sacred indivisibility of Spain.
Yet the Spanish have never asked the question 'what is Spain? and what makes a Spaniard?'. Certainly the Catalans have never really felt part of Spain and speak a different language to Castillian Spain, one the Spanish cannot follow, even if the languages do have common roots. But what makes the country? Territory? Language? National sentiment? All three fall down here in most people's minds.


Here I will declare my interest just to clear the decks. I have lived out here for 26 years now, and raised a Catalan daughter who has a nearly squaddie sense of humour. She-who-bends-lugs-unpleasantly isn't Catalan, she's from Burgos, but has lived here for over forty years and is just as Catalan as anybody in this town. The dogs however do answer in English and not Catalan.
I have a Catalan surname because my dad was born here, though he left when he was a boy due to the civil war and grew up British. This link led me to holiday here in NE Catalonia where I met SWBLU and decided to come out here and settle.
My friends are Catalan, I watch Barça every week, and communicate mainly in Catalan although I do speak Spanish, albeit with a Catalan accent. Both languages I learned whilst over here.
Whilst remaining firmly British I identify with Catalonia and think of Spain and the Spanish as a different country, much as the Jocks regard the English, but acknowledging the common State.
Do I support Independence? Yes, though it was the Spanish that convinced me rather than the Catalans as I always thought that the UK model of a country of countries could work here.The the constant anti-Catalan stance from many Spanish and who then get irate when the Catalans say 'well if that's the case we are off', has turned me round. The current PM and his predecessor in the PP used an anti-Catalan stance to gain votes, as a calculated gamble. It worked in the short term but alienated so many Catalans that most no longer trust this government or anything it does.

OK, hope that shows my cards and bias.
Visca Catalunya.
I wonder how many other states are at risk of fragmentation in europe?

Spain and the Uk seem quite far advanced, despite being some of the oldest states in europe. Makes you wonder how relatively 'new' states like belgium, germany and italy will fare in a few decades time. Particularly if the eu grows in influence - the irrevelance of nation states could be ideal breeding ground for 'ferderal' states like catalonia, walllonia, wales ect to form

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The dons have been playing silly buggers with gib isnt it time we flew a catalan flag or two? :)
It was the Catalans that got/gave us Gib in some way that was explained to me a couple of years ago by a couple of Esquerras. I've no recollection of how though


Bon Dia Nobby,

We got Gib and Menorca because after supporting Catalonia and, in a less than glorious campaign, lost. The Peace Treaty effectively said to the Spanish 'OK we will drop the Catalans but we want something out of it or we continue'.
Hence Menorca and Gib, we eventually lost the former but not the latter.
Not a glorious episode in British history and thus not widely known.

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