football politics
October 2, 2017 12:05 PM   Subscribe

(FC)Barcelona in the strange and symbolic eye of a storm over Catalonia "That identification with Catalonia, while nuanced, shifting, unevenly embraced, sometimes vague and often problematic, is part of what gives Barça an explicitly socio-political dimension. It comes together, of course, in the slogan: mes que un club, more than a club. And that meant this was always going to be more than a match even if in the end it was less than one.'
posted by dhruva (33 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pep said that he wouldn't have played this match if he were the current manager, but that might be easier said than done when facing a 6 point penalty while sitting on top of La Liga. While it's clear that the government and Spanish FA handled this awfully, this article made me question some of my reflexive assumptions.
posted by beisny at 12:12 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


While it's clear that the government and Spanish FA handled this awfully, this article made me question some of my reflexive assumptions.

Yeah, had they not freaking attacked voters the Spanish government would have held at least a big chunk of the moral high ground in this debate.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:24 PM on October 2 [14 favorites]


(Not sarcasm, I 100% agree that there are big problems with the Catalonia independence movement and the way the referendum was organized, but the national government managed to make itself the unequivocal villain in spite of all that.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:27 PM on October 2 [12 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish, I totally agree. It is baffling as this plays to the cards of the pro-independence movement in such a seemingly obvious way.
posted by beisny at 12:30 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I watched that match--Barça is my team. It was eerie to watch them play in a silent stadium. I think the Spanish Football Federation really let them down--the situation in Barcelona was dangerous, emotions were high, and the match should have been postponed. But there was no way they wouldn't play after they were told they were going to be docked 6 points when they're at the top of the table. But I was surprised that Gerard Pique took the pitch--Pique, who gets booed at every stadium outside Catalonia for his outspoken comments favoring independence.

Madrid really handled this badly. They went in and attacked peaceful voters and now they've lost the moral high ground and international opinion and just riled up people who may have been leaning away from independence before.
posted by ceejaytee at 12:34 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


It is baffling as this plays to the cards of the pro-independence movement in such a seemingly obvious way.
It also plays to the cards of the fervent nationalists/monarchists/falangists, and considering there's no way Catalonia would get independence without starting a civil war, it seems to me they played to what was closest to their interests.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:43 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


http://m.novinite.com/articles/183780/Serbia+Claims+EU+%27Hypocrisy%27+Over+Catalan+Vote

Serbia's right-wingers are egging these people on.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:46 PM on October 2


While it's clear that the government and Spanish FA handled this awfully, this article made me question some of my reflexive assumptions.

The article is pretty one-sided, to put it generously, and the myths have a strong smell of straw. No, Catalan indepence does not map 1:1 onto any other particular independence struggle. No, Spain is no longer a fascist dictatorship (although it was in recent living memory).

Many Catalans (though not a majority according to most polls) want outright independence, but many Spaniards want a say in the future of their country too. And while the Madrid authorities’ mostly legalistic approach has been met with strong criticisms (sometimes justifiably so), it rests on an impeccably democratic claim: Rajoy has no mandate to allow for a vote of self-determination in Catalonia without substantial reform of the Spanish constitution first – and this requires support from Spaniards.

This is some impressive question begging. Catalunya = Spain, and so everyone in Spain should get a vote on whether it should be independent? This isn't a very useful axiom to adopt when the entire political question is whether Catalunya should in fact be part of Spain, or whether it should be an independent country.

This passage (like many others) also appeals to polls to emphasise that "hey, independence probably wouldn't happen even if we did give them a referendum!" - but skirts the fact that, while polls have shown a minority of Catalans in favour of independence, they also show a large majority (~70%) in favour of having a referendum.

All of this amounts to a clear violation of the rules set forth by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, which requires, amongst other conditions, an equal opportunity process, a neutral administration, and legislation of at least statutory rank passed at least one year in advance of a referendum.

Following recent events, it probably won't surprise anyone to learn that the Spanish government has been... hmm, "reluctant" to start this process. Instead, they've tended to threaten to use the army to maintain a united Spain. Here's a threat from the Spanish Minister of Defence in late 2015.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 1:06 PM on October 2 [4 favorites]


This is some impressive question begging. Catalunya = Spain, and so everyone in Spain should get a vote on whether it should be independent? This isn't a very useful axiom to adopt when the entire political question is whether Catalunya should in fact be part of Spain, or whether it should be an independent country.

Maybe not (and I'm sympathetic to Catalans), but that's typically how it works. Nation states don't allow their constituent parts to 'opt out'.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 1:41 PM on October 2


Yeah, unilateral secession = civil war. Even if you frame the question as whether Catalonia should ever have properly considered part of Spain, the fact that Spain itself believes it is and has been visibly keen to keep it that way answers the question of how they'd react if handed a letter of secession.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:12 PM on October 2


I found this article from Deadspin helpful in explaining the issue, and it also talks a lot about the nationalism involved.
posted by sleeping bear at 2:16 PM on October 2


Maybe not (and I'm sympathetic to Catalans), but that's typically how it works. Nation states don't allow their constituent parts to 'opt out'.

Really? Can you name a single independence referendum where everyone in the parent state got to vote? In the two Quebec referenda of 1980 and 1995, only voters in Quebec got to vote. In the Scottish independence referendum, only voters in Scotland got to vote. In the UK Brexit referendum, only UK voters got to vote.
posted by enn at 2:48 PM on October 2 [9 favorites]


I think there's a good argument for a replay of the plebiscite before actually going ahead with separation ... before last weekend people thought that there was a good chance that it would fail, in order to vote people had to risk police truncheons and rubber bullets .... one can guess (but not be sure) that "yes" voters maybe took the risk, while "no" voters decided not to.

I think that the current results are almost a mandate, but not quite, holding the election again without the government threats, assuming one can do so, would create a real mandate that can't be argued about.
posted by mbo at 2:52 PM on October 2


However, enn, those were done with the agreement of the central government, which means that in fact the whole of the nations involved had a say, through their elected representatives. As others have said, unilateral votes generally lead to civil war *because* of that lack. There are certainly cases where I think unilateral succession is valid, generally when the subunit is being oppressed by a non-democratic central state, but that's not true in Spain.

Honestly, Madrid's handling of this is so wildly, wildly incompetent and counterproductive that I am half wondering if the central government is deliberately trying to foment a crisis that will allow them to take even more autocratic measures. It's certainly been a gameplan of a lot of rightwing governments over the years.
posted by tavella at 3:09 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


The case for independence was less than clear-cut (there was no indication that the majority of Catalans would have voted in favour, and there was much scepticism, particularly from the left and urbane liberals). Though, in its response Spain seems to have kicked a massive own goal, reawakening memories of the Franco regime and driving many into the “yes” camp. If there is a rerun (as part of an externally negotiated truce), this may yet end in a victory for the secessionists.

Why Spain reacted this way is a mystery. It can't be that they're trying to drive those troublesome Catalans out, given that the province contributes greatly to the Spanish economy. (This isn't Northern Ireland or the Falklands.) Perhaps it was a dog whistle to a faction of voters who remember the Franco years as a golden age of order and stability, and to whom the PP seem to occasionally dog-whistle that they're upholding the Generalissimo's legacy (such as with abortion laws, for example).

Of course, if any sort of brokered truce is likely to end in the loss of Catalonia (and possibly the Basques making increased demands for their own sovereign state), Spain might reason that the Turkish approach is the least-worst case: bring overwhelming force to bear, crush the insurrection, mop up (i.e., dismissing from the press/universities anyone who so much as liked a pro-independence Facebook page and jailing anyone whose involvement was greater), and then salt the earth (reorganise Spain's administrative subdivisions, partitioning Catalonia amongst neighbouring units, eliminate official uses of the Catalan language, and remove anything that might nurture the idea of a nation named “Catalonia”). It has worked in Erdogan's Turkey against the Kurds, and Turkey is, at least in Europe, officially a member in undiminished standing of the club of democracies (“just please don't open the refugee floodgates, your excellency Mr. Erdogan!”).
posted by acb at 3:19 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


I know this is a political discussion and all, but that first Messi goal is just... rude! He just kind of wanders in with the ball, a little pop off the left foot to slip it out of the keepers hands, then dink! into the back of the net.

Anyway.

Back to the tearing of hair and rending of raiment.
posted by prismatic7 at 3:22 PM on October 2


The problem is that, once a part of a country clearly wants to find out whether they want to leave the rest of it (because there's a large proportion of the population that at least might want to), the central goverment has two choices: let them have a referendum (e.g. Scotland), or try their level best to prevent that happening (e.g. Ireland). Whether they go for the IndyRef or the Troubles is up to the government. What the population / local government of the region does is less clear cut, especially if the government isn't amenable to option #1.

In this case, the Generalitat seems to be trying to push the government into accepting option #1, in the face of a strong desire on Madrid's part to choose option #2.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 3:28 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


(In fairness, the Troubles came after the Irish War of Independence. But feel free to substitute any long simmering civil conflict over independence that applies.)
posted by chappell, ambrose at 3:32 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


prismatic7: but that first Messi goal is just... rude!

He actually slowed down to give the keeper a bit of hope. Cat and mouse.
posted by dhruva at 3:35 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


It might be hard to believe from my posts, but I'm strongly in favour of recognising commonalities between people, not differences, and find nationalism of any stripe somewhere between distasteful and outright scary. I would have been disappointed if Scotland had left the UK, and am heartbroken about Brexit. I'd also rather that Catalunya stayed within Spain, for a host of reasons. But... I also think that people's right to self-determination overrides my ideal political preferences. Federations, yes. Empires, no.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 4:35 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


It also plays to the cards of the fervent nationalists/monarchists/falangists

Perhaps, but at the cost of alienating all reasonable Spaniards who, one would hope, significantly outnumber all of the above. I mean, even dyed-in-the-wool unionists can see what panicking cowards the leaders of their party are being, right? It's not much of a demonstration of strength to cry "eek" and jump on a chair at the sight of a mouse, which is what they are doing -- and all they are doing -- when they so desperately scramble to oppress what is at most an occasional nuisance. If they're trying to impress anyone with their national manliness, they should try filling the other side of their pants. It's just embarrassing. If this moronic 'tactic' somehow works in the unionists' favour, I'd want the hell out of that dumbass country too.

The only sane thing to do was so stupefyingly easy! Just sit back, let them vote, then later remind them that the vote was illegal and worthless, and give an I-told-you-so re: the results. So, so, so easy. An eyeroll. That's all. No stifled speech, and especially no armoured thugs with truncheons and rubber bullets, ffs. I mean, really.

My most heartfelt congratulations to the PSOE on the result of the next general election. Chevy Chase quote here.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:31 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


tavella: However, enn, those were done with the agreement of the central government, which means that in fact the whole of the nations involved had a say, through their elected representatives.

I'm not deeply familiar with all four votes, but at least in the case of the 1995 Quebec referendum, it was carried out more with the tolerance than the agreement of the central government. "Have your referendum, but it's not legally binding on us," was more-or-less the Canadian government's position. I suspect that the same was true in the other Quebec vote and the Scottish vote, though I'm happy to be corrected on that.

The Canadian government took the question to the Supreme Court, and three years after the vote it said that, so long as a people has the meaningful exercise of its right to self-determination within an existing nation state, there is no right to secede unilaterally.

However, I think that most Canadians recognized that a "yes" vote would've had a blunt moral force, no matter the niceties of constitutional procedure. Quebecers had the right to vote, and their vote had meaning. The Spanish government seems to be attempting to deny both principles.
posted by clawsoon at 6:13 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


I was trying to stay away because I don't have the time to give the issue the attention it requires, but this is what I could do during my lunch break:

> I mean, even dyed-in-the-wool unionists can see what panicking cowards the leaders of their party are being, right?

Sys Rq, I liked your comment, but you probably meant "the leaders of their country", not "of their party". Both Catalonia and RestOfSpain have unionists of many parties, or unaffiliated. The panicking cowards of Partido Popular are currently in the Spanish government, but in no way represent all unionists. Many of which are also republicans, bot inside and outside Catalonia.

For background/disclosure: I'm Spanish. I have close friends in Catalonia, both on the unionist and separatist sides. One of my grandfathers was jailed by Franco for being a (Galician) separatist, and the other fought on Franco's side. I'm also now Australian via immigration, which colours my perspective of both Spanish and Catalan nationalisms.

I used to be much more sympathetic to the separatist side, but now I'm firmly on the side of the unionists. Not just for what it means for Spain, but also because I think that secession will be disastrous for Catalonia.

So I'll just drop this here, with apologies for not being able to take the time to link throughout.

The closest analogue to the Catalan case for independence is Brexit:
  • A movement based on the votes of rural/provincial citizens, with much lesser following (or outright rejection) in the more ethnically/culturally diverse and cosmopolitan main city/economic center: check.
  • The economic arguments for "Spain/The EU steals from us" because a rich region dominated by a big city contributes more to the common budget than it gets back: check.
  • These fiscal arguments for secession being fudged because they only count the net money outflow and not the secondary benefits received: check.
  • Voluntarily leaving the EU (and the individual EU members, who have a veto, aren't going to be friendly to seccessionists, because they don't want to give any incentive to their own rich regions): check
  • A ruling class bent on secession based on huge exaggerations/lies about the economic advantages of independence, without care for consequences, "vote now and we'll make the spreadsheet later": check.
  • A power grab by said ruling class, where the executive sets to claim competences of the legislative/judicial during a transitional period: check
  • Xenophobic sentiment against those 'foreigners' (read: Spaniards not from Catalonia originally): check.
  • Old historic grudges about being "a different people", "not really part of the whole", while having been part of driving economic and territorial policy at the aggregate level for the past 40 years: check.
The main differences are that Catalonia doesn't have an Article 50, that the EU isn't run by idiots, and that Catalonia is also waving the carrot of doing away with the Monarchy, which is really attractive to many.

And just to make myself clear: this weekend's images of cops hitting citizens on the street are horrifying, and Rajoy should resign. So should the gormless fucks who let him form a minority government (Podemos leadership, and the PSOE blairist wing), and the craven fucks who helped him with their vote (the hypocrites at Ciudadanos).

But this doesn't change the fact that Catalan independence would be a very bad deal for most Catalans, and would reduce the opportunities afforded to the younger generations. You can't eat the national flag.

To bring it back to the subject of football, Barça would also be in trouble.

Not only because they would likely be barred from playing in La Liga, but also because, even if they manage some kind of keyfabe exemption to play as the league's main villain, their catchment for young players would be much diminished. Iniesta came up in Barcelona FC starting at La Masia, their football school. But he was born in Albacete. I don't think his father would have taken him there after a secession.
posted by kandinski at 7:15 PM on October 2 [16 favorites]


Unionism versus nationalism conflicts are a little like family disputes - very hard to get a handle on what is going on from a distance. Language differences make this trickier still: The Catalans can follow the Spanish language coverage about them - but the reverse does not hold true for those Spaniards who don't speak Catalan. So interesting to hear the views of Catalans who are not absolute backers of independence: Interesting article by Irene Baqué who fits this description.
posted by rongorongo at 4:15 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Paul Mason also has an interesting article - including some more subtle points about language and the way in which the voting occurred.
posted by rongorongo at 4:42 AM on October 3


A friend reminds me that Podemos voted against PP in the Rajoy election for Prime Minister at the Parliament. I apologise for the error. I'm still too angry that Podemos and PSOE couldn't get together a coalition with Ciudadanos.
posted by kandinski at 5:35 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Rajoy has set the stage for a bloody civil war.
posted by NeoRothbardian at 9:46 AM on October 3


I was Catalan, Spanish and European. But Mariano Rajoy has changed all that.
The ignorance is of medieval levels as early last week videos appeared of hundreds of people in the south of Spain seeing off police cars leaving for Catalonia to help the central government, shouting “Go get them!”, while waving Spanish flags.
The Catalans pay for their infrastructure but they refuse to realize it.
posted by adamvasco at 11:27 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Well, the king could have tried to unify the country for a bit, denouncing the illegal referendum and for that to happen a more substancial reform of the constitution which (I suppose) isn't supported by most Spanish citizens, but also the needless violence this weekend that went well past all norms established by a civilized EU country, but nooooooooooooooooooooo. Instead, because he's a fucking royal who lives in a time where he doesn't have to fear having his head chopped off, he brings his can of gas to the fire.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:56 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Wow, lmfsilva. I just got up in Australia and had not seen about the king. This confirms what I said: to many, the fact that the separatists are advocating for a Republic is the most interesting part.
posted by kandinski at 2:57 PM on October 3


However, I think that most Canadians recognized that a "yes" vote would've had a blunt moral force, no matter the niceties of constitutional procedure. Quebecers had the right to vote, and their vote had meaning

Interestingly the Canadian Armed Forces stations an all French Canadian regiment, The Van Doos, in Quebec with most at La Citadelle in Quebec City. So Quebec would have an instant army with 3 battalions and 2 reserve battalions. This is the complete opposite of what other imperial powers do! It is almost as if Canada is/was making it as easy as possible for separation to happen.

Except of course for the anti-separatists in Quebec who argued that what should logically follow was not a provincial ruling but ruling based on how particular regions within Quebec voted. So you'd have ended up with Montreal and Ville de Gatineau remaining (2 of the top four largest cities in Quebec) with the rest of Quebec leaving and all of the First Nations bands in Quebec being either independent nations or remaining part of Canada (very few would have voluntarily joined Quebec as a nation because the provincial government has been a pack of assholes to the natives - which is something to say given how bad the rest of Canada is on this issue).

It would have been referenda all the way down. Enjoy doing limits during AP Math? That's what you would be looking at.

And then the bill for the Quebec portion of the national debt would have come up. A simple per capita amount or the more exact reflection of per capita federal spending in Quebec which was high in precisely the way you would expect a gov't pandering to a extortionate separatist movement would be?

And I say this as someone who is self-interestedly marginally pro-Quebec separation because I would get another passport and be able to very easily visit a foreign country and above all maybe get genuine stinky french cheese in North America!

It'd suck for Canada though because Quebec is a left wing anchor that stops the flat part of the West from pulling Canada to the right in the same way Scotland moderates conservative assholery of the south of England.

In summary: referenda are the 'taking my hockey net and going on home' of politics. It's probably your right but you're also probably an asshole for doing it.
posted by srboisvert at 3:14 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


In summary: referenda are the 'taking my hockey net and going on home' of politics. It's probably your right but you're also probably an asshole for doing it.

In a secession dispute "I'm taking my hockey net and going home" really maps to the making of a unilateral declaration of independence - if you check the link you will see that this is a not uncommon way for countries to start out. In terms of the country achieving international acceptance , the strategy seems to work about half the time - often but not always after hostilities. The USA is the most prominent country amongst those who have been born via this route.

By contrast there have been approximately110 referendums on independence (many of which are repeated attempts by the same putative nation) - with about a third leading to separation.

A referendum is socially more akin to saying "can we agree that we take our hockey net and go home". The assholery that prompts this can start on either side - but the evidence would seem to support it coming more often from the country that is seceded from.
posted by rongorongo at 3:13 AM on October 4


It's becoming a black eye against the E.U. that their leadership supports such excessive violence against innocent voters.

We had another thread about this that started by discussing the seizure of the .cat TLD, which included numerous gems like Rajoy's previous crimes and corruption, more on the police brutality, and this lovely quote :

"I have no particular love for the idealized “worker” as he appears in the bourgeois Communist’s mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on."
- George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Also, Spanish law prohibits investigating crimes against humanity committed under Franco, including "the disappearance and assassination of 114,000 victims of the dictatorship between 1936 and 1952." We should all hope that Catalonia gains enough judicial autonomy to reopen those investigations inside its borders.

As I understand it, Rajoy's PP is full of pro-Franco families, so obstructing such investigations might be one component of their goal here, along with with rousing their jingoistic base.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:53 AM on October 6


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