On Friday, 27th. October, 2017, the Catalonian government proclaimed its independence from Spain. This is not the first time it has happened. In fact, it is the fourth, after the 17th January 1641, 14th April, 1931 and October 6th, 1934.
If you believe the Spanish media, this is a recent movement, caused by the manipulation of the Catalan people by their greedy politicians. The truth, however, is more complex.
There is an important independence grassroots movement in Catalonia which has always existed. It goes back to the 17th century.
These are the most recent developments.
“The Catalan independence movement (Catalan: independentisme català;[a] Spanish: independentismo catalán or secesionismo catalán) is a political movement historically derived from Catalan nationalism, which seeks the independence of Catalonia from Spain. The Estelada flag, in its blue and red versions, has become its main symbol. The political movement began in 1922 when Francesc Macià founded the political party Estat Català (Catalan State). In 1931, Estat Català and other parties formed Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia; ERC). Macià proclaimed a Catalan Republic in 1931, subsequently accepting autonomy within the Spanish state after negotiations with the leaders of the Second Spanish Republic. During the Spanish Civil War, General Francisco Franco abolished Catalan autonomy in 1938. Following Franco’s death in 1975, Catalan political parties concentrated on autonomy rather than independence.
The modern independence movement began when the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, which had been agreed with the Spanish government and passed by a referendum in Catalonia, was challenged in the Spanish High Court of Justice, which ruled that some of the articles were unconstitutional, or were to be interpreted restrictively. Popular protest against the decision quickly turned into demands for independence. Starting with the town of Arenys de Munt, over 550 municipalities in Catalonia held symbolic referendums on independence between 2009 and 2011, all of them returning a high “yes” vote, with a turnout of around 30% of those eligible to vote. A 2010 protest demonstration against the court’s decision, organised by the cultural organisation Òmnium Cultural, was attended by over a million people. The popular movement fed upwards to the politicians; a second mass protest on 11 September 2012 (the National Day of Catalonia) explicitly called on the Catalan government to begin the process towards independence. Catalan president Artur Mas called a snap general election, which resulted in a pro-independence majority for the first time in the region’s history. The new parliament adopted the Catalan Sovereignty Declaration in early 2013, asserting that the Catalan people had the right to decide their own political future.
The Catalan government announced a referendum, to be held in November 2014, on the question of statehood. The referendum was to ask two questions: “Do you want Catalonia to become a State?” and (if yes) “Do you want this State to be independent?” The Spanish government referred the proposed referendum to the Spanish Constitutional Court, which ruled it unconstitutional. The Catalan government then changed it from a binding referendum to a non-binding “consultation”. Despite the Spanish court also banning the non-binding vote, the Catalan self-determination referendum went ahead on 9 November 2014. The result was an 81% vote for “yes-yes”, with a turnout of 42%. Mas called another election for September 2015, which he said would be a plebiscite on independence. Pro-independence parties fell just short of a majority of votes in the September election, although they won a majority of seats. The new parliament passed a resolution declaring the start of the independence process in November 2015, and the following year, new president Carles Puigdemont announced a binding referendum on independence. Although deemed illegal by the Spanish government and Constitutional Court, the referendum was held on 1 October 2017. Results showed a 90% vote in favour of independence, with a turnout of 43%.” (Source-Wikipedia. Catalan Independence movement)
UPDATE: After declaring independence on Friday, on Monday 30th. Carles Puigdemont and five of his ministers have gone to Brussels, where they will stay until the Spanish government guarantees that they will not be put in jail and they have accepted the snap elections that the Spanish government has scheduled for the 21st. December. Some of the ministers have come back, but not so Puigdemont. Eight of them are now in prison. Many argue -and I agree- that he never had a proper plan in place in case people actually voted favourably and is just trying to elude prison.
I am going to try to clarify this for anyone reading this in the hope of shedding some light on this issue.
- Why would the Catalonian government call for a referendum knowing it will not be considered legal?
Because they have tried-and failed- to do it legally. Allusions to the Constitution not allowing it boil down to, “We (the government of Spain) don’t want there to be a referendum, any referendum because it challenges our idea of what Spain was, is and should be. Although there is no legal base for it, we don’t want to lift the rug where we swept all the icky stuff that happened when we started the ‘Transition’ in order to put the past behind”. Thus, no choice. There have been some quick and convenient modifications of the Constitution (to outlaw certain political parties) but when it comes to monarchy (our king, Felipe VI, is the heir to his father, Juan Carlos I, who was put on the throne by Franco, the dictator who caused a Civil War, dragged it out over three years when he could have won it in 6 months just to assure that any attempt to overthrow him would have minimal chance of prospering due to exhaustion and a vast propaganda campaign instilling fear of the reds; and then proceeded to rule over Spain for forty years) or independence for the different autonomous regions (which is a curious name for the division of regions as it implies much less self rule than the name implies). So therefore, Catalonia had to risk it and go. They weren’t going to get any negotiation, ever.
- Why do so many Catalonians want independence if they are much better off than other regions in Spain?
Spain has long had a grudge with Catalonia about its ‘superiority complex’. Being proud of who you are and your culture apparently means you’re conceited. Many so called Spanish ‘unionists’ are mostly against anything that is not pure Castilian Spanish. No Catalan, no Galego, no Basque, no dialects. It all goes against ‘the union of Spain’. Nevertheless they love being in the EU because (as I’ve been told by one such Spanish nationalist) it’s more important to learn English, German or French than to speak our backwards, peasant dialect. These languages and dialects that hark back to the origins of our cultures are seen as a menace by defenders of the Spanish state because they are not pure Spanish, or Castilian. Think back to Columbus and the discovery of America. The languages and cultures survived in spite of the colonisers, not thanks to them. Under Franco, in Spain you were penalised for speaking anything but Spanish in public. In a country that had strong familiar and religious beliefs, to go against the majority was to be an outcast. Unfortunately, as he himself was quoted for saying, Franco left things ‘tied and well tied’. This referred to the situation once he died (he was kept alive by aggressive medical therapies for months) but I have come to believe that it also wired the collective psyche of Spaniards for generations. People are very social and very prone to collectivism and gregariousness. This means, in practical terms, that if you do not adapt and participate in the social life, you are not going to have a support system. Your family and friends will shun you. Life will be difficult if you have a problem. People may not openly reject you but they will not put too much interest in helping you, either. You will be met by a bewildering lukewarm, viscous wall of apathy and at times, barely veiled contempt. Any problems will be solely attributed to your lack of sociability/ resourcefulness/ planning/ logic/ capability.
Given the historical evolution and this general idiosyncrasy, who can blame the Catalonians for wanting out of a country that looks at them with mistrust and accuses them of thinking themselves ‘too smart’ for their own good?
- 3. Why does the unionist idea of Spain have so many supporters on all sides of the political spectrum? Why do people support the police brutality used against ordinary citizens in a peaceful, albeit ‘illegal’ act?
See point 2.
To complete the point: Spanish idiosyncrasy is mostly about belonging, about being part of a group, the larger the better. There is a deep seated fear of being left out of the Herd and as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, the Herd instinct is very strong in Spain. The smaller the Herd, the more difficult it is to control it because each member will be more alert to the dangers surrounding it, while in a large Herd the sheer numbers will offer protection from certain menaces. It will also make them more vulnerable to a cunning ‘farmer’ who knows how to direct them towards his purposes. In this case, the Spanish government has raised the red flag of “the destruction of Spain”. In comparison to that, everything else pales: the fact that the Spanish government is the most corrupt in Europe, the fact that with the excuse of these ‘uprisings’ in Catalonia they have passed legislation cutting down on health and education right under our flag-waving noses, the fact that they feel justified to use force when force is not required. Franco did, in fact, leave it all tied and well tied. He did it so well that people don’t even know why they think it, they just do. Like a boar in front of a car with its headlights on, they run towards it without realising that it can destroy them.
Spain is different, as is often said jokingly to explain our peculiarities. We are fiercely proud of our traditions while wanting to be and appear as modern. We are friendly and sociable but wary of allowing strangers to share our space if it’s not a total, soul including integration. Most of all, Spaniards want to belong. They equate individuality and self affirmation as selfishness. This is something that they will heartily deny, but being a Cuban-born Spanish citizen, I know this to be true.
With his last manoeuvre the Catalonian president has proven that he is fickle and never expected to have to deal with the consequences of his actions or either has an ace up his sleeve, which I doubt. Accountability is not to be expected for Spanish politicians when people are more interested in football and reality shows; when the media is bought and paid for by the ones who rule to echo their triumphs and delete their failures.
What can be expected when what a corrupt government- the most corrupt in Europe- does is accepted and sanctioned by at least half the population? Corruption is then made virtue and the people, frightened of being left to fend for themselves even by a corrupt and mindless government, actually feel they rule. They see the government handle an issue that worries them more than unemployment or terrorism, national unity, with promptness and security.
In this way, people are given a sense of achievement, of control. Somebody has heard them at last! They want to make sure that those who dare step out of line are punished. The Herd of Sheeple willingly sacrifices strays.
It would seem that Spaniards have interiorised the concept of living in a dictatorship and in times of trouble they look for an authority to punish the odd ones out, the ones that make their cosy vision of Spain crumble.
In the end, these events have once again confirmed that inside many Spaniards there lives a dictator that only peeps out in certain circumstances and when enough of these little dictators peep out at once, public life becomes the dictatorship of the sheeple.