The confusion (and history) of Catalonia's efforts towards autonomy
October 18, 2017 12:32 PM   Subscribe

The Catalonian desire for independence goes back almost 400 years, though the siege and ultimate surrender of Barcelona to Philip V, king of Spain was a key turning point. In fact, the Eleventh of September in Catalonia has been synonymous with large demonstrations in support of Catalan independence since 1714, when Barcelona fell to the troops of Philip of Bourbon. Since then, Catalonia has been a part of Spain, but with varying levels of regional independence. It is now facing a very real deadline: Carles Puigdemont, the region’s president, must clarify if the region declared independence by Thursday, October 19, 2017, as Spain is ready to impose direct rule on Catalonia on eve of this deadline.

For a short overview, Sam Jones wrote an article for The Guardian on 21 Sept. 2017: Why do some Catalans want independence and what is Spain's view? For a longer overview of a lengthy, complicated history, read on.

Before the War of the Spanish Succession ended for Catalonia with the siege of Barcelona, there was the Revolt of Catalonia, also called the Reapers' War, which started in 1640, in Philip IV tried to levy taxes and get fighting men from the region to support his three wars (Thirty Years' War, a renewed fight with the Dutch, and war with France). France supported Catalonia at times, but in the end, the Catalonia nobility sided with their Castilian counterparts.

While Catalonia was not central in the War of the Spanish Succession, the end of the Siege of Barcelona was symbolic for the entire war and very crucial for Catalonia. Catalan independence was truly over with the Nueva Planta decrees from Philip (or Felipe) V, with the final decree singed in 1716, where the king suppressed the institutions, privileges, and the ancient charters of the Catalan region in response to what he saw as sedition. The region saw a hope for independence from Spain when Napoleon had his sights set on the Iberian Peninsula during the Peninsular War from 1807 to 1814, but that was relatively short-lived.

The 19th century was a tumultuous time for Catalan self-rule, with the level of local control, with a long dark period under the rule of General Francisco Franco's authoritarian regime that lasted from 1939 until his death in 1975. During that period,
Popular symbols of Catalan nationalism, such as statues, portraits, the flag, were all removed from public view.Even the names of streets that were in Catalan were changed to a Castilian name. Franco's effort to suppress this culture was pervasive. He prohibited expressions of language, traditional dance and culture, and religious practice, yet he only limited the culture.... Franco's repression was not as effective as he would have liked. Although he repressed major Catalan institutions, Catalonians were able to resist this repression, and their culture flourished after his death.
In fact, banning a language may be an effective way of preserving it, as Catalan is the ninth language in Europe in terms of number of speakers, more than Swedish, Danish, Finnish, or Greek. Within Catalonia, 73% speak Catalan, 95% understand it, and 56% can write it (as of 2013).

In 1977, a provisional regional government was restored, again named the Generalitat, with steady advances in regional autonomy in the following years, with the regional government electing its first president, Jordi Pujol, in 1980. He would remain in power with his "nationalists" for 23 years. Unfortunately, he was stripped of his titles after admitting to more than 30 years of tax fraud in 2014.

In 2003, a coalition of Socialists, the Revolutionary Left and Greens claim a coalition majority, and Pasqual Maragall becomes regional president, followed by fellow Socialist Jose Montilla in 2006 in June. That August, a revised version of Catalonia's autonomy statute comes into force, naming the region as a "nation" in the preamble, and giving Catalonia more powers and financial autonomy. It would take Spanish courts four years to strike down recognition of Catalonia as a nation and other elements of Catalan self-governance.
The court’s decision prompted Artur Mas, then the president of Catalonia, to declare that he would call for an independence referendum if his party won re-election with a sizable majority. It did—and the nonbinding vote (which had been made nonbinding after the Constitutional Court stepped in once again) that was held in November 2014 asked voters two questions: “1) Do you want Catalonia to become a State? And, if yes, 2) Do you want Catalonia to be an independent State?” About 80 percent said “yes” to both questions; turnout was estimated at between 37 and 41 percent—so, not high.
Carles Puigdemont went from "a mayor from the Spanish hinterland ... a relative unknown until thrust into the leadership of Catalonia last year" and he came in with one goal: Catalan independence.

So far, he's been successful, insofar that there was a independence referendum vote with 90% support.
Despite Spanish police using batons and rubber bullets to disrupt the banned referendum, which was declared unconstitutional by Madrid, the Catalan government said 2.26 million people had cast ballots, a turnout of about 42 percent.
All eyes were on Puigdemont, and when he delivered a speech last Tuesday, Oct. 10, and he appeared to recognize referendum results, but quickly pivoted to a delay of any formal declaration to provide time to talk with Madrid.

Spain's Constitutional Court again ruled against the Catalan referendum. In its ruling Tuesday, the court says the law was against national sovereignty and the "indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation." This is no surprise, as Spain’s prime minister has called on Catalan separatist leaders to end their “escalation” as several thousand people took to the streets of Barcelona to protest at Madrid’s attempts to stop the referendum on independence.
“Stop this escalation of radicalism and disobedience once and for all,” Mariano Rajoy said in a televised statement on Wednesday night as protesters remained in the centre of the city after a day-long demonstration.
Meanwhile, Catalans protest the sedition case against independence group leaders. On Monday, a Madrid judge provisionally jailed Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, who lead two different grassroots groups promoting independence for Catalonia. The judge ruled they were behind huge demonstrations Sept. 20-21 in Barcelona that hindered the police operation against preparations for the referendum.

If you're looking for more stories of Catalan's strife, another element goes back to an issue behind the Reapers' War -- Spain taxing the wealthy Catalan region without sufficient reimbursements, to the tune of €11 billion to €15 billion in 2011.

And then there are some who see the independence referendum as a smokescreen for (past) allegations of corruption.

If you're looking for voting information and more history from Catalonia, the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT), a public-private partnership designed to foster dialogue and connect the citizens of Catalonia with the rest of the world, developed a website called Catalonia Votes to detail the history of Catalonia's efforts for independence, as well as document current events related to the recent votes, with most detail focused on the 1 Oct. 2017 vote.
posted by filthy light thief (67 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for this extensive post! I was just wondering yesterday how things were going over there, and it looks like I'll have plenty of reading to do now.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:01 PM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


In times of yore there would be cries of "Get your own blog" but that to me is what this place is.
Thanks for this, it's something quite close to me and I appreciate the depth of the few links I have yet read.
Visca Catalunya Lliure
posted by adamvasco at 1:01 PM on October 18, 2017


Seriously, thank so much for this. I have not had the time to do some of the background reading I would need to do to decide how I feel about the current situation, so this is a huge help.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:51 PM on October 18, 2017


Let me add my thanks for putting together everything in one place.

Evidently the original entrant for Spain into the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest insisted on singing a song in the Catalan language, and so was replaced by the Franco regime with the eventual winner who sang the same song but in Spanish.
posted by XMLicious at 2:00 PM on October 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


Evidently the original entrant for Spain into the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest insisted on singing a song in the Catalan language, and so was replaced by the Franco regime with the eventual winner who sang the same song but in Spanish.

Obviously we're not living in the best of all possible worlds, but missing out on the one where Eurovision played a role in multiple Iberian countries overthrowing fascism is still a bummer.
posted by Copronymus at 2:19 PM on October 18, 2017 [6 favorites]


It's hard to imagine an alalgous comparison to something like this happening in the US, where I live. Perhaps California seceding from the Union, or Los Angeles County wanting to become it's own state. In each case, I think the economic effect would be devastating. Many wealthy people live in Catalonia. What percentage of responsibility should they accept for the market crash and it's effects? They appear to be complaining about having to pay for the Spanish government's efforts to recover. And is it worth it to become independent only to be excluded from EU membership?
posted by Brocktoon at 3:36 PM on October 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


We threw out the occupying royalty over 200 years ago, which makes Americans less sensitive.

There are many compromises short of independence that Spain could make if they wanted to, but they've rebuffed every attempt at negotiation because Rajoy can get away with playing the fascist strong man. Rajoy, PP, etc. are spectacularly corrupt, so this crisis plays to their base and helps shield them from prosecution.

"President of Spain's Supreme Court demands that Catalonia shutdown its inquiry into Spanish state violence against voters"

AMC cuts $450M investment in Spain in response to Catalan crackdown

Car maker SEAT reveals it was pressured by the Spanish monarchy to move from Catalonia

It might simmer as some economic war with Spain trying to destroy Catalonia's economy but hopefully Catalonia will prove more successful at damaging Spain's economy.

As an aside, there are plenty of reasons why Europeans should avoid Spanish produce, including excessive pesticide use.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:57 PM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


I’d like to add my thanks to filthy light thief for this awesome and very comprehensive post.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:05 PM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


I’m also pleasantly surprised that we managed a whole five comments before [irrelevant analogy to US states seceeding] + [Catalans are greedy and don’t like paying taxes]
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:06 PM on October 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


Obviously the Spanish central government is not handling any of this well, but if Catalonia becomes independent, won't the poor in Spain (including children and pensioners) suffer the most? If the true motive of independence is a restoration of Democracy and an end to corruption, is there a plan to assist the poor in Spain? Do they just have a "not my problem anymore" approach?
posted by Brocktoon at 5:06 PM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


There are a number of separate questions that it’s worth considering, and important not to conflate them.

Would there be good or bad consequences (for Catalunya, for Spain, for Europe, etc) if Catalunya became independent?

Should Catalunya be able to decide whether it becomes independent?

Is it reasonable for Catalans to desire independence?

Is it reasonable for Catalans to desire a referendum?

Is the Catalan government / Catalan independence movement perfect in every way, and if not, does this make the answers to every question above moot?
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:15 PM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


I think it’s pretty obvious that having Catalunya independent wouldn’t be great for anyone - Catalunya, Spain, Europe. However, I completely sympathise with the desire of a large proportion of the population to be independent. I sympathise even more with the desire of an overwhelming majority of the population to have a referendum.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:19 PM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


I donno if actual independence is likely under any scenario, just greater autonomy, but if independence happened then the E.U. would act as an equalizing force with respect to taxation.

Spain should pay reparations for the 100k+ people murdered by the Franco regime, but presumably to families, not regions. Right now, there is no way to make this happen because Spain outlawed even investigating the crimes committed under Franco. We should all hope that Catalonia gains enough judicial independence to ignore this law, investigate the murders committed by Franco, and seek reparations from Spain and/or the estates of individuals who held power under Franco. We do not want relatively recent crimes against humanity going unanswered.

It's pretty obvious the Catalonian independence movement adore the symbolism of no longer be viewed as subjects of the Spanish king, so that's one major negotiating point that literally costs Spain nothing. It'd cost Rajoy's PP pretty dearly though.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:25 PM on October 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


It'd be wonderful if they manage to actually prosecute the Spanish cops who beat up old people going to vote in the referendum too.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:30 PM on October 18, 2017 [6 favorites]


> It might simmer as some economic war with Spain trying to destroy Catalonia's economy but hopefully Catalonia will prove more successful at damaging Spain's economy.

"Hopefully"? This is bloody hateful.

A lot of Catalonia's economic damage is self-inflicted , or caused by the independence rethoric. For Catalonia, leaving Spain would mean leaving the EU. This is not something that depends only on Spanish veto: the EU have stated it clearly, and so have France and Italy, who have zero interest in giving incentives to their own Alsatians and Lega Nordians.

Catalonia leaving the EU, or the uncertainty around it, means the banks have no choice but to decamp. Their funds are guaranteed by the European Central Bank, and 80% of their business is in non-Catalan Spain. Everybody in Spain knows someone with accounts in Caixabank or Sabadell who were either moving their accounts or taking funds out. It wasn't a fully fledged bank run yet but, for the banks, staying in Catalonia would be irresponsible.

As to the SEAT decision, I would take the source with a big grain of salt. SEAT is a Volkswagen Group company these days, and where their subsidiaries are is decided not in Barcelona nor Madrid, but in Munich.

But yes, Catalonia leaving Spain will hurt Spain in the same way that the UK leaving the EU will hurt the EU, but a bit more. And there are still many reasons to hope it doesn't happen, and that the damage is contained, for all sides.
posted by kandinski at 8:58 PM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


Ambrose Chapell:

There are a number of separate questions that it’s worth considering, and important not to conflate them.

Thank you for that. There are two more distinctions that one can make:

- Catalonia and Catalans are not the same as the Catalan independence movement, which at last count has less than 50% support (and growing, thanks in great part to the PP idiots in the Spanish government).

- Spain and Spaniards are not the same as the current PP idiots in government.

In particular, any American or Brit on Metafilter should be sensitve to these distinctions.
posted by kandinski at 9:02 PM on October 18, 2017


By “at last count”, do you mean the most opinion poll, or the most recent referendum?
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:57 PM on October 18, 2017


Abrose:

I mean both opinion polls and the percentage of total voter population that voted 'yes' in a referendum with dubious procedural validity.
posted by kandinski at 9:59 PM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


I actually tend to agree that it’s less than 50%, and that voters who would have otherwise voted to stay within Spain (my friends among them) stayed away.

But until Spain allows the Catalans a referendum and a voice, we will never know, will we?
posted by chappell, ambrose at 10:04 PM on October 18, 2017


Only 43% of voters participated in the October referendum that was called breaking Catalan laws. That gives you a lower margin.

The last elections from a couple of years ago were supposed to be "plebiscitary elections", as it turned out pro-independence parties got a majority in representatives, but not in votes. In votes, this probably is more accurate of what an independence referendum might give you, but not the same still.

And since then many things have happened, the disgusting police violence (but note, similar to the one the Catalan government used in the worst of the economic crisis), the detentions, the EU saying no to automatic inclusion and the big companies moving away.

Would it make sense to have a couple of referendums separated by two years and if 75% of people want independence, there you go. Or is that too restrictive?

Perhaps as long as you get 50.1% in a given year that's enough.

What's interesting to me is why the hurry for independence. Support for independence has been growing, and apparently it skews young. Does the push really need to happen now when it splits Catalans in half?

There's a saying "the worse it gets, the better", and people on both sides seem to be playing that game.
posted by haemanu at 10:27 PM on October 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


But until Spain allows the Catalans a referendum and a voice, we will never know, will we?

Yeah, as you said earlier, there are several different issues:

- Are Catalonia's independentist historical grievances still extant? Difficult to assert in a rich region with a level of autonomy comparable to that of German länder. But it's the most opinable of the questions, and of course nothing can be argued against feelings of identity.

- Would the majority of Catalonians be better off in their independent country? I'm persuaded not, for many reasons, but the two main ones would be: independence would mean exiting the EU, and the much-quoted fiscal surplus with Spain is inflated, as it accounts only for monetary flow and not the services/benefits that Catalonia currently receives as a Spanish/European region.

It's all a mess, and the people who would stand to suffer the most are low income workers, many of them immigrants (2nd or 3rd generation, but self-identifying as Spanish and Catalan) in the Barcelona metro area.

- Should there be a free referendum over Catalonia's statehood? I think yes, as a majority of Catalans and of left-voting non-Catalan left-voting want.

- If Barcelona votes to stay, should the rest of Catalonia break from Spain, and Barcelona stay? What is a majority for an independence vote? 50.1%? Two thirds? Do the rest of Spain get a say? To that last question I say that we would, because the Constitution would need to be changed. A Spanish Constitution which was crafted in democracy, after Franco died, and which the Catalan people approved with a higher majority than the average of Spain.

- Was the 1-O referendum legitimate? Nope, the transition law was jammed through El Parlament, it gave Puigdemont too broad powers over judiciary and legislative, there were no non-independentist observers, etc. It was an act of brinkmanship designed to make the Spanish government shit their pants, and at that it succeeded.

- Was the response of the Spanish government correct? Fuck no. Beating citizens up in the street was immoral (duh), counterproductive (common to my independentists and unionist friends is the comment that "Rajoy is the person who's done the most for Catalan independence in the past 10 years") and illegal (the independence referendum itself may have been illegal, but citizens coming to vote after being called to do so by their elected representatives are doing nothing wrong).
posted by kandinski at 10:32 PM on October 18, 2017 [7 favorites]


This messy situation may have a solution, but not one to be made in Madrid or Barcelona. Realistically, both parties are well aware of this which leads me to think that the whole independence charade might predominantly be driven by a personal lust for power and self-aggrandization (not to by speak external forces which would benefit from EU's internal woes).

Why?

Independence of Catalonia means nothing in the context of a continually integrating EU. It would make some limited sense to those who want the EU to break up which, to my knowledge, the Catalan nationalists are not.

Spain, therefore, in this respect, is the guardian of low-level integrity, because if it lets Catalonia go (where?), a multitude doors are opened around EU for the same.

Now myself I would like the EU evolve into a federation of regions, without national governments, a central level in Brussels and mechanisms for redistribution (just like now, except for the additional, intermediary and superfluous level of national governments). This arrangement would obviate the need for any more independence of regions like Catalonia, and the development may well go this way.

If, on the other hand, we assume that the power of national states will grow and the purview of Brussels lessen, it is fully logical for Spain to be very clear that it wants to retain 'its' territory contiguous.

The tax money plays a smaller role in this, because, as jeffburdges writes above, some kind of redistribution mechanism would still be there. The Catalan tax money might be of eminent importance to the Catalan government, though, and I would not trust them with it any more than the central government in Madrid.
posted by Laotic at 2:16 AM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


We should hope for Catalonia to do real economic damage to Spain right now, so that Rajoy's PP looses power. If the socialists take over in Spain, then they would be far more likely to negotiate with Catalonia. Those negotiations would invariably result in Catalonia staying in Spain, but with greater autonomy and hopefully the powers to investigate crimes against humanity committed by Franco's regime.

Why would negotiations invariably result in Catalonia staying in Spain? Easy because right now the independence movement has a 90% leave vote, which gives them political leverage. There is no way they can leave without a proper negotiated referendum though, which would invariably come out closer to 50% and cost them enormous political power even if they still won. It's not actually in their political interest to pursue the leave course, merely negotiate for more autonomy. I'd assume the Spanish socialists can negotiate on a range of issues that Rajoy's fascist PP would not touch, like the status of the king.

I'm not bothered by this referendum's turn out since it was never binding anyways, but the turnout is similar to the E.U. constitution referendum in Spain, so you do not want to make the turn out argument, and it suffices that this referendum was not negotiated to require another one before actually leaving.

"The idea that a state is an economic construct to constrain entire peoples by force against their will, is abhorrent"
posted by jeffburdges at 4:04 AM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


Madrid has pulled the Article 155 trigger
posted by chavenet at 4:05 AM on October 19, 2017 [5 favorites]


Only 43% of voters participated in the October referendum that was called breaking Catalan laws. That gives you a lower margin.

The irony of seeing the low yield constantly quoted as undermining the legitimacy of the referendum result, when Brexit Means Brexit on pretty much the same sort of turnout, but with a much much closer result.

Personally, I see little too no reason not to respect a popular call for secession. It may not always be pretty, but the right to self determination is fundamental, I think. Shame on Spain, the EU, and major European powers for their selfish, cruel handling of this on every level.
posted by Dysk at 6:28 AM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


Excellent post about the background to the conflict. But you don't get to the point where millions of ordinary people are willing to face riot police in the streets to vote for a radical option like independence because of historical or financial considerations. This is no longer about who pays the bills or even about what the politicians are saying.

This conflict is a comprehensive crisis of popular democratic legitimacy. A significant majority of the people in Catalonia do not believe in the legitimacy of any of the institutions of the Spanish State. Not everyone believes in independence, but only a small minority believe in being governed by the current system.

We got here progressively over the last 10 years. Support for independence was only about 10-15% before the PP took power in Madrid. The end of the Statute discredited the entire Catalan political class that had bet everything on a multi-year process of negotiation. All of their political careers ended in humiliation. Since then, Rajoy has refused all proposals for negotiation. The Catalans keep insisting on dialogue, but that option has lost all credibility for most people.

Madrid's propaganda strategy is based on insisting on the law and the Constitution. That sounds convincing to the international community, but the Spanish justice system is not what it appears to be and has lost all legitimacy for the Catalans. The Spanish Constitution lacks basic mechanisms for ensuring judicial independence and separation of powers. The government can remove judges they disagree with.

I learned about what "the law" means in Spain many years ago when I first got into the system. When I told my tax lawyer (a hardcore PP supporter) that I wanted to declare everything scrupulously according to the law, she sighed and said "I always have to explain this to my foreign clients. The law here is not what you think. There is no way to say definitively what is legal. All we can do is try our best, but if they decide to go after you, they will always find something." Since then, my friends who grew up under the dictatorship have been teaching me how to live under that kind of system.

Every day brings another judicial outrage. Some examples: a couple of years ago, the Spanish Interior Minister was caught on tape ordering the Catalan anti-corruption prosecutor to look for evidence of corruption by the Catalan President and Vice-President. When the prosecutor replied that he couldn't find anything, he was ordered to look into the personal finances of their families. The courts ruled that there was nothing illegal in those conversations.

The Catalan prosecutor ruled two days after the referendum that the police repression was perfectly legal. He claimed that they acted in self-defense against violent protestors. No images of such violence exist, but the law here is whatever the prosecutor says it is.

Yesterday Amnesty International condemned the indefinite preventive detention without bail of the leaders of the civic independence organizations ANC and Omnium Cultural. The judge justified the detention based on a new crime: "peaceful sedition". She referenced the Criminal Code of 1973 -- leftover statutes from the dictatorship that are still in vigor. 200,000 people came out into the streets the same evening for a silent protest with candles. A counterdemonstration the next day in favor of union with Spain drew 2,000 people.

The Spanish media, even the supposedly left-wing papers, have excluded Catalan voices and hewed to a strict pro-repression line. I have been asking my unionist friends for a few weeks now if they can point me to any Spanish-language media that do not support Rajoy's hardline approach. Finally this week someone pointed me to El Diario, an Internet-only left-wing publication. The Spanish print newspapers and television stations have lost all legitimacy for the Catalans. If you want to understand what the situation looks like from a Catalan perspective, I would recommend Ara in English.

The result is that in a poll taken before the referendum, only 28% of the Catalans said that they supported the Constitution of 1978. The two major parties that rule the country, the PP and the PSOE, represented only 21% of the voters in the last election in 2015. The system cannot establish its popular legitimacy with those kinds of numbers.

Expect massive popular civil disobedience over the next couple of weeks, starting tomorrow morning. This has gotten away from the politicians on both sides. Puigdemont doesn't want to declare independence unilaterally, but popular opinion has been forcing his hand every step of the way. Rajoy believes that by isolating and jailing the leaders, he can control the situation, but I doubt that will work. He has understood that the violence of October 1 was a tactical mistake, and has paused in his approach, but neither the Spanish media nor the EU has made him pay a price for the violence, and so I expect him to deploy the Guardia Civil in the streets with great force when the now inevitable general strikes begin.

Please remember that this is not some exercise in political science theory. It's about people. All of my friends are deeply sad and angry. We're all losing sleep over this and working hard to maintain our personal relationships despite our disagreements. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend from Madrid who had sent me an article he wrote calling for whatever police violence was necessary to put down the rebellion. We decided not to talk about the situation at all. Last night I had dinner with a Catalan friend who comes from a wealthy center-right wing family of real estate developers. He told me that his family used to think that the independentistas were crazy, but that the events of the last two weeks proved that the crazies were right about the impossibility of dealing with the Spanish State, and they all now support independence.

My most radicalized friends come from the middle class that in Madrid they have always dismissively called the "Catalan bourgeoisie" -- doctors, lawyers, an insurance salesman, small business owners, an urban planner who moved to Barcelona from Pamplona. They are deeply pessimistic about how this will end. The discipline of never resorting to violent protest is still holding absolutely firm despite the anger. None of them believe they will succeed in the short term. But they are determined to carry on protesting peacefully but firmly until the end.

We are heading for a great tragedy.
posted by fuzz at 7:10 AM on October 19, 2017 [30 favorites]


We need some boycotts of Spanish products elsewhere in Europe, mostly food products, but it's tricky to identify is a product is Spanish or Catalan.

As an aside, It'll be interesting if this winds up legitimizing tax protests from the left-wing's perspective.
We built Taler from the perspective that customers deserve absolute anonymity but nations are justified in collecting taxes and our software would make this collection more fair. I'm now wondering if that's maybe overstepping on state power. In truth, I do not know the situation in all the myriad countries throughout the world where tax evasion in rampant, but perhaps it should be considered unethical to pay taxes in many extremely corrupt places. Actually Taler could help deploy regional currencies that avoided taxation by some occupying state, like the Catalan situation, but you must continually erase the records and/or hide the servers. We designed it to facilitate tax collection not to support tax protests.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:19 AM on October 19, 2017


The argument that independence means leaving the EU, and that is why it is a bad idea, is pretty despicable. It's straight out of an abusive relationship. "You shouldn't leave because you will be punished for leaving." That doesn't mean it's not an accurate analysis, of course. That's just a throwaway observation, but it bothers me to see that argument presented as not just true but correct.

What my friends who live in the region have to say sounds a lot like what Fuzz is saying above.
posted by Nothing at 9:39 AM on October 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Talking Politics podcast had an enlightening episode on this situation.
posted by idb at 10:58 AM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


That's not a good analogy. People with no interest in independence will be pulled out of the relationship whether they like it or not, and are subject to the machinations of the powerful (who most likely will not have their day-to-day lives disrupted by economic hardship). The EU is trying to protect the economic and strategic interests of the EU, yet nationalism is rearing it's often ugly head. It has every responsibility to push back against what will absolutely weaken those interests. Russia is watching this with intensity, and is most likely fueling propaganda.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:59 AM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


Perhaps I was not clear. Treating an EU exit, and the economic hardship that would cause, as an inevitable consequence of independence (and thus the fault of those who want it) instead of as unnecessary retaliation (and thus the fault of those who would bar EU membership) is what bothers me.
posted by Nothing at 12:17 PM on October 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


Right...so Talking Politics pointed out that Catalan leaders have indicated to the EU that they'd be happy as a state within a federal Europe. Unfortunately, the EU isn't ready for that, although for some it's the long term goal. They are somewhat hoist by their own petard.
posted by idb at 12:21 PM on October 19, 2017


Perhaps I was not clear. Treating an EU exit, and the economic hardship that would cause, as an inevitable consequence of independence (and thus the fault of those who want it) instead of as unnecessary retaliation (and thus the fault of those who would bar EU membership) is what bothers me.

Unnecessary how? The EU was built as a collection of sovereign states. What if Northern Italian separatists succeeded and Lombardy and Piedmont were headed for a potentially-violent confrontation with the Italian government? What if the Spanish Basque country then decides to secede from Spain? What if Belgium splits in two? Should the EU just let all of this happen?

I would love to see the vision of a more-federal Europe become a reality. And I think, given all the stirrings of nationalism recently, it might be time to think about some creative ways to redefine the nation-state. But that's a very long-term project.

The EU is in an untenable position here. There's no good resolution to this and I don't see how the EU can just stand by and let the Catalan government unilaterally declare independence, as odious as Rajoy's response to all of this has been. If it's part of a negotiated settlement, fine. But that doesn't seem to be happening right now.

Also I just really really dislike comparisons between geopolitics and personal relationships. It reminds me of how US conservatives decry budget deficits by comparing federal government spending to household budgets. It's just not the same thing at all, despite some superficial resemblances.

Brexit Means Brexit on pretty much the same sort of turnout, but with a much much closer result.

Turnout for the Brexit vote was 72.2%, which kind of stretches the definition of "pretty much the same."

I think jeffburdges' point about it sufficing to say that the referendum was not negotiated is a good one (and presumably a legal, negotiated referendum would have a higher turnout). I also think there's something to be said for big decisions like this - and Brexit - requiring supermajorities, or maybe two separate votes, or something like that. But the turnout wasn't remotely the same.

Finally, despite my USian opinionmongering, I really appreciate the posts from folks who are on the ground in Catalonia and Spain. This has been a very enlightening post and thread.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:39 PM on October 19, 2017 [4 favorites]


You'd need a 77.5% turnout before the stay votes could match the 90% pro-independence vote with 43%, turnout, breakin' the law, so independence would still win at Brexit's 72% turnout. It's actually quite similar if you assume massive numbers of stay votes stayed home, while only a few percent would change their vote from pro-independence to anti-independence.

There is zero reason this needs to impact the E.U. elsewhere, idb. All that's required is for Rajoy's PP to fall from power, allowing the Spanish socialists to take power, and for the socialists to say roughly "We cannot recognize your referendum's literal independence results due to its irregularities, *but* we must recognize that Catalans want more autonomy, so you may run a second referendum with a negotiated list of specific autonomy questions." Those questions would deal with issues like the the king's power, judicial autonomy, etc. If negotiated well, the answers could increase the socialists' power in Spain, by weakening the PP long term, making future austerity measures unworkable, etc. It'd become easier to be a Spanish socialist if Catalonia were periodically prosecuting your adversaries grandfathers' for crimes against humanity or rejecting austerity deals or whatever.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:05 PM on October 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


I mean I live in the US so it's very easy for me to say but

What if Northern Italian separatists succeeded and Lombardy and Piedmont were headed for a potentially-violent confrontation with the Italian government? What if the Spanish Basque country then decides to secede from Spain? What if Belgium splits in two? Should the EU just let all of this happen?

Yeah? They should? About the only circumstance they shouldn't is when whatever secession movement is clearly in the name of evil (we want to secede from $COUNTRY so we can kill all our Roma).
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:12 PM on October 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


Don't expect the EU to be OK with it. It weakens their economic and strategic positions, and Russia is an imminent threat to European sovereignty. The EU is not trying to punish anyone.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:25 PM on October 19, 2017


For those of you in the US that are pro-regional-secession, we here in Tennessee have some statues we can show you.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:58 PM on October 19, 2017 [6 favorites]




Turnout for the Brexit vote was 72.2%, which kind of stretches the definition of "pretty much the same."

Right, but only with 52% of that 72% voting for, which works out to a very similar proportion of the votes for Catalonian independence (90% of 43%), so there are similar turnouts for both referenda.
posted by Dysk at 2:46 PM on October 19, 2017


Don't forget that according to the Catalan government, the confiscated ballot boxes corresponded to an extra 14% of registered voters. Not all of those 14% actually turned out to vote, but if they turned out and voted yes in the same proportions as those whose votes were actually counted, a little math shows that it's likely that more than 45% of all registered voters turned out to vote yes, despite the referendum being illegal and scenes of police beatings showing up on Catalan TV and the Internet from the very first hour of voting (those images were not available on any Spanish TV stations until La Sexta started running them late in the evening). Anyone who claims that the independence vote represented a small minority of Catalans, or that they are all fanatics manipulated by the politicians, is refusing to face the social reality of this crisis.

But arguing over the detailed numbers is irrelevant. In people's minds, the referendum was really about whether Catalonia's current situation within Spain is acceptable or not. I have no doubt that if Spain were actually willing to negotiate a legal referendum, independence would lose, because that would be a different Spain from the one that actually exists.

Similarly, the EU membership debate is irrelevant to most Catalans right now, because as long as Spain doesn't recognize Catalonia as a separate state, they remain EU citizens. In a fantasy land where Spain were to recognize independence, then EU membership would be as easy as it was for Slovenia. What the Catalans forgot was that Slovenia only got to that point with the EU after fighting a war and successfully resisting a Yugoslav invasion.

The Catalan politicians all stated very explicitly during the 2015 election campaign that since all attempts at negotiation of an acceptable status for Catalonia had failed, the strategy was to hold a referendum as a way to establish Catalonia as an independent political actor with a popular consensus that would force negotiations on a suitable way forward. That strategy has failed in the face of the refusal of the Spanish public and the EU to push the government to deal with the crisis, and the next steps will be uglier.
posted by fuzz at 3:52 PM on October 19, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'd forgotten about confiscated ballot boxes! If those 14% goes 90% for independence then independence wins no matter what the remaining voters do.

In fact, there are only two ways independence could fail in a second referendum, either (a) enough independence voters change their vote when the referendum definitely counts, like say due Spanish campaigning, or else (b) those 14% favor independence less strongly, maybe due to being residence of Barcelona. If however residents in areas with high confiscation rates voted differently enough for (b) to hold, then it indicates that the 10% stay voters represent a much higher percentage of potential stay voters, which again ensures a victor for independence.

It follows that any future yes-no referendum will come down solidly for independence, unless that future referendum could be pushed enough years into the future to give the Spanish time for extensive campaigning.

I do still think the Spanish socialists could derail independence with a second referendum that offered more choices, but they'd need to do so with appeals to the Catalan public, not just by making deals with the independence movement like I assumed before.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:49 PM on October 19, 2017


> "Don't expect the EU to be OK with it. It weakens their economic and strategic positions ..."

How?
posted by kyrademon at 5:27 PM on October 19, 2017


It weakens the position of certain larger EU members who are facing potential secession movements in some regions, and the (larger) members comprise the EU. It's not that it's bad for the EU as an institution in itself, so much as that it's bad for Spain, and Italy, and Britain, etc. and collectively, those parties have a very large influence on EU policy.
posted by Dysk at 5:36 PM on October 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


Right, but only with 52% of that 72% voting for, which works out to a very similar proportion of the votes for Catalonian independence (90% of 43%), so there are similar turnouts for both referenda.

Got it. Sorry, I misunderstood what you meant.

jeffburdges: Upon further reflection, the EU's position probably should be something like "We're not gonna recognize Catalan independence right now but the Spanish government needs to deal with this," then push Rajoy to do something that's close-ish to what you outline. And I suspect that if this had happened 10, 15, 20 years ago the EU's position would be something like that. But now we're in the age of Trump, and Brexit, and Le Pen's still lurking out there, and AfD's gonna be in the Bundestag and the new Austrian PM has some ties to the hard-right and I think they all feel like they've gotta hold the line against nationalism. So we get, mostly, silence.

A better-functioning EU could actually be a pretty strong brake on this. Hell, the existence of the EU is basically what made the Good Friday Agreement work (and Brexit threatens to unravel it). It's a goddamn shame.
posted by breakin' the law at 6:54 PM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


> "Don't expect the EU to be OK with it. It weakens their economic and strategic positions ..."
How?


If it helps, imagine California wanting to secede, Michigan to join Mexico, Arizona to form a union with Canada and New Jersey to join the EU.

Also, Russia is not the only strategic danger to the EU, the other major one is the US, whatever you hear. So it pays to watch who supports what separatist and nationalist movement in the EU.

As for Catalonia, Spain could easily concede it some greater degree of autonomy without really losing anything, so unless the government is really that stupid, there must be a reason - perhaps they are overly afraid that other separatist movements will receive a positive impetus.
posted by Laotic at 7:57 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


It feels like a "can't see the trees for the forest" moment to me. The fear of nationalist movements spreading across Europe is extremely rational, but it seems like the lack of response (motivated by a desire not to be seen acquiescing to a nationalist movement in Catalan) is going to cause this specific situation to boil over.

The question, then, is whether emboldening other nationalist movements by forcing independence negotiations between Catalan and Spain is a bigger danger than letting the Catalan situation blow up under Rajoy's horrific mismanagement. I'm inclined to say that it's not and that Catalan could end up sparking a new European powder keg if the EU doesn't rein in the Spanish government, but things could just as easily go in the other direction...
posted by tobascodagama at 8:00 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


tobascodagama, I would agree with you on the "horrific mismanagement", but it's so outrageous, that short of assuming Rajoy is a complete dick, there must be reason for this harsh response that we are not seeing.

Also, what I take from various negotiations between the EU and Spain I have the impression that the EU needs Spain a lot.

Just to hazard a guess, the western entrance to the Mediterranean would be a candidate for a geopolitical reason that could motivate such relationship. I can well imagine that after Brexit the EU might become very interested in obtaining full control of that entry point, and for that it will need Spain's cooperation. But I might be wrong.
posted by Laotic at 8:23 AM on October 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Independence movements are handled cleanly with negotiation throughout Europe, tobascodagama. We'd have 50-100 E.U. member states if nations took a hard line approach.

In most cases, if a region has any claim to independence, then they should receive slightly more funding than they pay in taxes, and be otherwise well treated. Italy is not a rich country, but they do this. It only requires enough that local governments cannot balance the books without this edge. Spain should've payed similar bribes to Galicia, Basque country, and Catalonia.

Afaik, there is no broader "regionalism" movement throughout the E.U., not more than years ago anyways, presumably thanks to negotiations. It's possible Brexit stoked one along with stoking the anti-E.U. movement, but nothing comes to mind, and the defeat in Scotland presumably hurt. I think before that the last major change was after 9/11 when small time local armed separatist groups decided to disarm.

After Rajoy's actions, independence movements might gain steam off around Europe of course, which might "raise the rent" nations like Italy pay. I think protracted conflict will only make that worse though, not better.


I assume Rajoy and the PP are simply fascists who know their supporters to be fascists who get off on nationalism and repression. It's likely they miss-calculated the Catalan resolve and resourcefulness of course, but they sought out this conflict because it strengthens their position with their core supporters and doing anything sane would weaken their position with that group.

Rajoy et al. might want extra support to avoid unrelated corruption charges too, not sure. Also note the Prestige oil spill.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2017 [2 favorites]




Open Democracy's Francesc Badia i Dalmases shows up in the Guardian with the clearest article I've read so far about the whole process: In Catalonia and Spain we’re all asking: what have we done to deserve this?
posted by kandinski at 9:37 AM on October 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


From that article:
Dealing with a major crisis always requires buying time. The gesture of a last-minute meeting between Spanish and Catalan government officials to agree on freezing both the declaration of independence and the triggering of article 155 would contribute to the de-escalation of a clash that risks ruining long-term Spanish efforts to build a free and open society – a reality that, not long ago, seemed so successful.


That kind of talk is perfectly well intentioned, but it is already ridiculously out of sync with the reality of the situation. Puigdemont had already frozen the declaration of independence on October 10 to buy time for dialogue. Today Rajoy went ahead anyway and invoked the most hardcore version of Article 155: destitution of Puigdemont and the entire Catalan government to be replaced by ministers from Madrid, criminal charges against Puigdemont, placing the Catalan Police under the orders of the Guardia Civil, new management of Catalan television and Catalunya Radio by people designated by Madrid, veto rights by Madrid of any new legislation from the Catalan Parliament, and new elections in a maximum of 6 months.

450,000 people have already come out this afternoon to demonstrate in Barcelona. The Catalan wing of the PSOE is now in an untenable position where their slogan of "neither 155 nor declaration of independence" has been disavowed by their own party leader in Madrid, and politicians are defecting from the party. Puigdemont will speak in a couple of hours and probably there will be declaration of independence in response.

The only options left for the Catalan people at this point are a humiliating submission to autocratic rule from Madrid, or civil disobedience to try to create pain for Rajoy on the financial markets.
posted by fuzz at 10:49 AM on October 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's pretty obvious the Catalonian independence movement adore the symbolism of no longer be viewed as subjects of the Spanish king, so that's one major negotiating point that literally costs Spain nothing. It'd cost Rajoy's PP pretty dearly though.

This is a perceptive analysis. One of the characteristics of the post-Franco decentralization of Spain is that, thanks in great part to the Catalan participation in the constitutional process first, and parliamentary budget control later, economic and political decentralization was almost complete, but the symbols remained. Compare the Spanish case to that of the UK: Wales and Scotland are nations with their own flags, participation in international football competitions, etc. But the devolution of powers to their Parliaments is much lesser than that enjoyed by Spanish Autonomías.

Most left-voting Spaniards support a Federal Republic. However, this would not have flown at all in 1978, so we got wide economic autonomy with strong centralist (and monarchist) symbology.

The Catalan tax money might be of eminent importance to the Catalan government, though, and I would not trust them with it any more than the central government in Madrid.

This is an important factor in my non-independentist Catalan's friends decision. Convergència is a kleptocratic party, much like PP except wearing better suits and wrapped in a different flag.

We should hope for Catalonia to do real economic damage to Spain right now, so that Rajoy's PP looses power. ... We need some boycotts of Spanish products elsewhere in Europe, mostly food products, but it's tricky to identify is a product is Spanish or Catalan.

I don't think you realise how little economic damage Catalonia can do to Spain, nor how much any Catalan-sympathetic foreigners would harm Catalonia by boycotting Spain. Catalonia is not a colony under a extractive foreign power. This is a fully integrated region in a bigger whole. Catalonia is very much part of Spain not only politically but economically. About 45% of Catalan sales are to the rest of Spain. The trade balance is also quite favourable to Catalonia vs RestofSpain, some ~50 Bn Euro exports vs ~25 Bn import. So depressing the Spanish economy will also depress the Catalan economy.

We should also account for financial services, as banks #2 and #4 in Spain are Catalan, and about 80# of their business is in #RestOfSpain. They may have moved their address to other Spanish regions, but their main offices are still in Catalonia. If you depress the economy of Spain, and they take out fewer mortgages and car loans, it's Catalan workers that are going to suffer the crunch.

Here in Australia I buy Carbonell brand olive oil (Pepsi Olive Green alert!). It's a Catalan brand, but most of the oil is from Andalusia. Who should boycott it? People who are for Catalan independence, and want to hurt Spain? People who are for Catalonia staying in Spain, and want to boycott Catalan products?

I should add that the Catalan products boycott by RestOfSpain is real, and happening now, despite calls for serenity. Freixenet has seen their sales go 15% down as people all over Spain, where Cava Catalán was a prestigious brand, are now switching to wines from other origins (Source: Josep Borrell's speech during the recent-anti-independentist rally, calling for solidarity).

This boycott is something I'm opposed to, but it's difficult to blame people from other Spanish regions, who keep hearing the refrain that they are leaners and bludgers living at the expense of the hardworking Catalan people's largesse?

Last night I had dinner with a Catalan friend who comes from a wealthy center-right wing family of real estate developers. ... My most radicalized friends come from the middle class that in Madrid they have always dismissively called the "Catalan bourgeoisie" -- doctors, lawyers, an insurance salesman, small business owners, an urban planner who moved to Barcelona from Pamplona.

I have a big quibble with that: It's not only "the middle class in Madrid" that calls the "burguesía catalana" by its name. It's also the left, and it all Spanish regions, in RestOfSpain and in Catalonia itself.

In the past 40 years, a big elephant in the room has been that support for independence strongly correlates with income and land ownership. Independentist vote is strong in rural areas and in richer urban neighbourhoods. If we were to count the independence vote per Catalan province, Girona and Lleida would vote secession, but Barcelona would vote to stay. I'm not sure about Tarragona right now.

From the rest of Spain, sympathy for Catalan independence correlates with anti-Francoist sentiment and lower ages.

Of course, Partido Popular hasn't been able to make a case against independence based on arguments of class. Duh. However, the unionist case from Catalans has simply not been heard until a couple of years ago. First, because nobody agitates for the statu quo: “In the end, the people fighting are the ones who support independence,” said Gemma Martín, 33, a cashier at a crystal shop in the old city. “The rest of us are just watching.”

Second, because of the stranglehold on Catalan TV by the ruling independentist coalition.

Third, and most importantly, because most of these working class non-independentists are "internal immigrants", the children and grandchildren of Spanish-speaking economic migrants after the Civil War. And these are only counted as Catalan when it's convenient. Otherwise they are "charnegos" o "españoles".

Please remember that this is not some exercise in political science theory. It's about people. All of my friends are deeply sad and angry. We're all losing sleep over this and working hard to maintain our personal relationships despite our disagreements.

This is sadly true. I follow my independentist friends on Twitter and we mutually like our posts against Rajoy's violence and pro-Republicanism, but the conversation is tense, because they want an independent Catalonia, and I've slowly moved over the years from sympathy to strong opposition. But if you say it's about people, consider this: there are a lot of Catalan non-independentist voices, hereto unheard, that are angry about being dragged into this, for them, useless debate.

Similarly, the EU membership debate is irrelevant to most Catalans right now, because as long as Spain doesn't recognize Catalonia as a separate state, they remain EU citizens.

It's important not to conflate EU membership of a country with the right of the EU citizens of that country. Catalonia leaving the EU by leaving Spain would affect the Catalan economy as a non-member state, independently of whether Catalan citizens are dual nationals with Spain (or France, or wherever) therefore having free circulation rights in the EU.

The EU membership of Catalonia is an important political debate. It matters because Catalan voters have been repeatedly told that, on breaking from Spain, Catalonia would immediately become an EU member, a "Denmark of the South". I'm sure that many of these voters (those that voted CUP and ERC) would still vote for independence even if it meant exiting the EU; I'm not so sure about Convergència voters. In fact, I'm very sure that Convergència voters are the most likely to say "business first" and vote to stay in Spain so the Catalan economy can be part of the EU.

It also merits saying that, in the case of Catalonian independence, all current Spanish citizens residing in Catalonia would continue to be EU nationals even if Spain recognises Catalonia. The Spanish constitution disallows stripping away Spanish nationality from citizens against their will, and I doubt Spain would change its constitution to strip Spanish nationality from the roughly 50% of Catalans who don't want independence.

In a fantasy land where Spain were to recognize independence, then EU membership would be as easy as it was for Slovenia.

This is, again the kind of wishful thinking that leads to phenomena like Brexit.

Even if Spain were to recognise Catalonia as a separate state, it would be a long way before the EU would accept it as a member state, for several reasons.

The first one is veto from other EU countries with their own regional separatist movements. Italy doesn't want to give incentives to Umberto Bossi's Lega Nord, nor France to l'Alsace, or to France's own ancestrally Catalan and Basque regions. If Catalonia deserves statehood, why doesn't it deserve also to encompass Catalunya del Nord? Same with Germany and Bvaria.

There's also the EU's coordination problem. The EU of the 27 is barely manageable, and the EU as a body has expressed they don't want further fragmentation. I apologise for not having the time to find a reference.

And beyond coordination and manageability, there's also opportunity cost. The EU have a complex set of goals and roadmaps. Dealing with bullshit like Brexit or regional independence has a big opportunity cost: it requires the EU to devote resources that could be better used towards common goals.

The argument that independence means leaving the EU, and that is why it is a bad idea, is pretty despicable. It's straight out of an abusive relationship. "You shouldn't leave because you will be punished for leaving." That doesn't mean it's not an accurate analysis, of course. That's just a throwaway observation, but it bothers me to see that argument presented as not just true but correct.

Everybody has the right to manage their own house however they want, and that includes the EU. Above are the reasons why the EU might want not to deal with regional secession.

Beyond that, I fail to see how the non-EU membership of Catalonia can be construed in any way as a punishment. You leave a EU member state, you are no longer an EU member. EU has stated that they won't accept a region resulting from a breakup of a member state, and no organisation, including the EU, can be forced to take a member they don't want.

It's a bit like brexiters who still want free trade access to the Common Market, but not freedom of movement. That wasn't the deal, and that isn't automatically the deal just because you wish it to be so.

But I'd like to add something considering Catalonia's accession to the EU as a Spanish region. Many Spanish regions had to give up a lot for Spain to get into the EU. Galicia lost its milk industry, Andalusia had to reduce its olive oil production, the industrial North and Northeast had to close or privatise its previously public or heavily subsidised steelworks, mines, shipyards. Meanwhile Catalonia, having a more modern economy (services, chemical and automobile industry) had a smaller sacrifice to make. Later, in the lead up to the 92 Olympics, Barcelona soaked up a big chunk of Spain's share of European funds, despite being a rich city in one of the richest regions of Spain. Catalonia's industry has also benefited from the influx of cheap Spanish labor from the internal migrations since the 1950s, and from being an economic center in industries not initially affected by the EU, like publishing and media.

We all got into the EU together. The whole of Spain, the 17 Autonomías. That was the deal. It was a common effort for common prosperity, and the EU understand it so too. So it's difficult for anyone in the EU (as an organisation) to understand why the rich countries like Germany and France have to subsidise the poorer ones, but the rich regions in EU-member countries are the ones that want to break away from their countries.

I would love to see the vision of a more-federal Europe become a reality. And I think, given all the stirrings of nationalism recently, it might be time to think about some creative ways to redefine the nation-state. But that's a very long-term project.

The EU is in an untenable position here. There's no good resolution to this and I don't see how the EU can just stand by and let the Catalan government unilaterally declare independence, as odious as Rajoy's response to all of this has been. If it's part of a negotiated settlement, fine. But that doesn't seem to be happening right now.


I don't have anything to retort. This is exactly my thought on the matter.

In most cases, if a region has any claim to independence, then they should receive slightly more funding than they pay in taxes, and be otherwise well treated. Italy is not a rich country, but they do this. It only requires enough that local governments cannot balance the books without this edge. Spain should've payed similar bribes to Galicia, Basque country, and Catalonia.

This is so wrong that it's not even wrong.

To begin with, what does "any claim to independence" mean? There are 17 Autonomías or political-economically autonomous regions in Spain, and why would any of them have any more claim to independence than any other?

Galicia, as a poor region, already gets more in funding than they pay in taxes. Euskadi, having a special tax agreement, doesn't even pay tax to Spain and then get funding back: rather, it collects its own taxes and then pays a chunk of them to the Central Spanish Government as agreed. And why should Catalonia, a richer region, get more money than they put in?

If you're looking for more stories of Catalan's strife, another element goes back to an issue behind the Reapers' War -- Spain taxing the wealthy Catalan region without sufficient reimbursements, to the tune of €11 billion to €15 billion in 2011.

It's time to remind everybody that regions don't pay taxes. People and companies pay taxes. Madrid, Baleares, Valencia, Catalonia are higher-tax-paying regions because they have more higher-tax-paying individuals and businesses. And the principle of equality in the Spanish constitutions is that all citizens are entitled to the same level of services, regardless of their income.

So yes, the people in the richer regions pay more, and that helps pay for healthcare, and education, and pensions, and roads and other public works all over Spain, including for the people in the poorer regions. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's the fundamental basis of a redistributive state.

Fuck anyone who objects to that, and particularly Junqueras, who started the lie of the 16 billion euros "stolen" yearly by Spain from Catalonia. And using some argument from 1640 in a discussion on taxation in the 21st century is obfuscating tribalist bullshit, for fuck's sake.

Because yes, Catalans (and people in other rich Autonomías, like Baleares, or Madrid) pay more into the Spanish kitty than they get back, but we all (Catalans and Madrileños and Baleares) also get back more than our Autonomous budget. The Madrid-Barcelona flight corridor is served by Air Traffic Control in Zaragoza. Someone has to pay for it. Similarly, the high-speed train line between Madrid and Barcelona runs through a lot of land, serving almost no population, in Castilla-La Mancha and Aragón. Someone has to pay for it, because just building train stations in Madrid and Barcelona won't cut it. And, since the high-speed network also passes through poorer, less populated parts of Andalusia on its way to Sevilla and Malaga, well, you can't tax anyone to build there, but the Catalans and Madrileños.

Catalans abroad have the benefit of Spanish consulates and Embassies, as do Madrileños and Baleares and Gallegos and everyone else. Someone has to pay for it. We don't have a big army, and it's something I don't particularly like, but NATO is not going to defend us if we don't put up our own forces and pay our membership fees, so all of Spain pays for it, including Catalonia.

Less money gets back to Catalonia than it pays to the central government, but some of it gets given back in services. So it's not 16 billion euro. The rest is used in solidarity, as when the Germans and French helped pay for the Barcelona Olympics. Nothing wrong with that.

If the socialists take over in Spain, then they would be far more likely to negotiate with Catalonia. Those negotiations would invariably result in Catalonia staying in Spain, but with greater autonomy and hopefully the powers to investigate crimes against humanity committed by Franco's regime.

I sure hope the socialists take over in Spain, particularly now that the blairite wing has given way, and the current leadership seems more inclined to redistribution and less towards austerity. But something worries me abut this line of argumentation, and it is that it seems to see the Civil War as Catalonia vs Spain, like the rest of Spain didn't suffer the War and Franco's dictatorship. One would hope that a Socialist government in Madrid would fix the Historical Memory Law, so relatives of Franco's victims can open the mass graves for their dead, and we can all reach justice. If restorative justice for the war crimes of Franco's insurrection is what you want, you should be supporting the (Spain-wide) Asociación para la recuperación de la Memoria Histórica, and also the (Spain-wide) Federación Estatal de Foros por la Memoria. This would help all the victims, not those just in Catalonia.

Framing the Franco atrocities as something that Spain uniquely did in Catalonia, or an uniquely Catalan problem caused by Spain, is simply wrong, and a symptom of something bigger.

Casting the Civil War as Franco vs Catalonia, Spain vs Catalonia helps sell the myth of Spain a land of Francoists versus Catalonia a country of anti-fascists. This is the framing that most annoys us non-Catalan Spaniards, and also many Catalan leftists of a certain age. It is self-serving propaganda by the Catalan elites, who largely collaborated with Francoism, and by Catalan independentists, who will speak of the Spanish Army taking Catalonia at the end of the Civil War when, in point of fact, it was the Spanish Republican Army that was defending Barcelona against the Fascist insurgents.

Why would negotiations invariably result in Catalonia staying in Spain? ... It's not actually in their political interest to pursue the leave course, merely negotiate for more autonomy. I'd assume the Spanish socialists can negotiate on a range of issues that Rajoy's fascist PP would not touch, like the status of the king.

I wouldn't say "invariably", even though most pro-indepe voters would actually prefer staying with more autonomy.

The question is what "more autonomy" means, and how that interacts with the rest of Spain. Remember that Spain is not just the Spanish central government. Spain is 17 Autonomías, two of which (Euskadi and Navarre) already have their own tax offices, but otherwise with roughly the same level of political independence. The fact that Euskadi and Navarre have their own tax agreement is something wanted... by the rich regions, who want to share less of the pie. The poorer regions would like to share in any measure "more autonomy" that the richer regions want, but would rather keep the current level of redistribution. It's the rich regions that would like to have the same type of agreement with the central state as Navarre and Euskadi do.

The other issue is the merely polytical-symbolic: Federalism and the Crown. I, for one, would love it if the price that Catalonia extracted for its permanence in Spain were a Third Spanish Republic. Please, Rajoy and Puigdemont, don't throw me in the briar patch!

However, opening the Constitutional pie is difficult in a fractured and economically depressed Spain, and the current face-off between the Catalan and central governments favours Partido Popular in the central elections. Not good.

And my family is calling me for dinner, so I apologise for typos and lack of citations where I've not been able to find them.
posted by kandinski at 11:32 PM on October 21, 2017 [5 favorites]




I also realise I messed up a link. Here's the correction:
Most Catalans (including most secessionists) would back constitutional compromise for more autonomy.
posted by kandinski at 4:19 AM on October 22, 2017


Update: Catalonia Declares Independence, As Spain Prepares To Seize Power (Scott Neuman for NPR, Oct. 27, 2017)
Lawmakers in Catalonia have voted in favor of declaring independence from Spain, as the government in Madrid readies for a takeover of the semi-autonomous region.

Secessionists have a slight majority in the parliament, but the vote on Thursday was 70 in favor of independence, 10 against and 2 blank ballots, the Associated Press reports — because most of the pro-unity opposition left the vote in protest before the ballots were cast.

One member of the opposition protested the declaration of independence, saying it will leave pro-union Catalans "orphaned without a government." Pro-independence Catalans, meanwhile, celebrated outside the parliament building.

Thousands of people had gathered to watch the vote, waving flags and chanting "freedom" as regional lawmakers debated. After the vote, there was cheering and dancing, the AP writes.

Spain says it will not tolerate any claim of independence.

Earlier on Thursday, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has asked the country's Senate for the power to impose direct rule over secessionist Catalonia and says he would use it first to depose the region's president.

Rajoy delivered an impassioned speech to loud applause in the chamber, insisting that Catalonia's declaration of independence is "a clear violation of the laws, of democracy, of the rights of all, and that has consequences."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:14 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I guess the one thing we were missing to make this decade a true repeat of the 1930s was another Spanish Civil War.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:54 AM on October 27, 2017


I guess the one thing we were missing to make this decade a true repeat of the 1930s was another Spanish Civil War.

There is already a Cold War, but it's mostly a Catalan civil war. The Catalan people are divided pretty evenly between pro-independence and pro-remain with Spain. The most telling number is that Puigdemont is President of a Catalan Government with the support of 51% of the members of the Parlament. These members were elected with 48% support of voters, which were 75% of the elligible voter census. In Spain voting registration is automatic, so census = elligible over 18's. This tweet (by a Sociologist) claims even tighter numbers.

I follow a number of mostly-leftist Catalan unionists on Twitter [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], and they aren't pro-PP at all, but they consider themselves both Catalan and Spanish. They're pretty angry at what they consider a shitshow from the indepes in the Catalan Government, who they blame for having lost the Catalan self-rule and impoverished Catalonia [twitter search]. They're also sore at the Spanish left (including the only leftist newspaper left, the Internet-only eldiario.es) have thrown their support with the pro-indepe burgeoisie.

Also, I know the comment is tongue-in-cheek, but you do know that the Spanish Civil War was not between Spain and Catalonia, don't you?
posted by kandinski at 7:52 PM on October 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


A spokesperson for Spain's top prosecutor has said the office will seek rebellion and sedition charges against those responsible for the independence vote.
The prosecutor is currently looking into whether charges should be limited to the Catalan cabinet, including President Puigdemont and Vice President Junqueras, or if they should also include members of the parliament’s governing board and MPs.
What next for Catalonia?

posted by adamvasco at 7:06 AM on October 29, 2017


With apologies for the self-link, please note that the meanings of "sedición" and "rebelión" in the Spanish Penal Code do not map 1:1 to the English words "sedition" and "rebellion". For instance, the authors of the 1981 coup were charged with rebelión. In this case, if any charge sticks with the Catalan independentists, it will most likely be sedición.

If you want the view of a Spaniard from a different historically autonomous region (Galicia), here's Miguel Otero Iglesias' Sedition in Catalonia (Part 1 of 3).
posted by kandinski at 7:27 AM on October 29, 2017


The view from Scotland. Sympathetic to Catalan independence (its author, Gordon Guthrie, is a member of the Scottish National Party): Catalonia, Scotland and Europe.
posted by kandinski at 7:31 AM on October 29, 2017


Those 3 articles by Miguel Otero Iglesias are very good and informative. Thank you.
This could well be the Solution as he sets out
I believe the solution must be to reform the Spanish Constitution in a way that it can better embed Catalonia and the rest of regions within the Spanish state. The solution must be federal..
However I do not think for one minute that the loathsome Rajoy will encourage this route.
One of the more telling sentances was this:
I guess if you are from Castilla, Madrid or Andalucía speaking another language of Spain other than Spanish sounds weird. You think everyone speaks Spanish at home. This difference is seen with surprise and sometimes suspicion, and this should not be the case..
The poorer and generally less educated areas of Spain disdain Catalunya as do the Madrilenos.
Puigdemont is a chancer but this is now an open sore that is beyond the festering stage.
Federalism could definitely work but this would mean getting rid of the Royals who have mythical status in many households and who are held equally in awe as the church, even by those who claim to be educated.
posted by adamvasco at 8:07 AM on October 29, 2017


Those 3 articles by Miguel Otero Iglesias are very good and informative. Thank you.

Glad you liked them. His experience and background match mine quite closely. I too studied high school in Galician/Spanish, depending on what the teacher decided (except Galician classes and Spanish classes, of course). I too was sympathetic to independentism until otherwise persuaded by non-indepe Catalan friends. I think his politics are more right-wing than mine, but this isb only a guess reading between the lines.

I had missed that PP and PSOE are starting a commission on Constitutional reform. The linked article says that the pact between the parties is to deal only with the "territorial question", and not, for instance, the Head of State or electoral system. So no Federal Republic for us, alas.

The newspaper article also talks about not touching article 2 of the Spanish constitution, so no independence referendums. Seems to me that anything offered to the Autonomías will be on a "take it or leave it" basis. Note that I say "Autonomías", plura. Spain is made of 17 regions, and other regions won't be comfortable with Catalonia being offered perks that they don't get.

It's hard to decide what to think about this. I hope the Basque, Andalusian, Valencian get a say in the process, so there is a rough consensus. It's also understandable that neither major party wants to open a full constitutional process, because there are pressing issues of government (unemployment, pensions) that need attention too. But it's still fucking frustrating that we carry the dregs of the compromise of 1978: special relationship with the Vatican, the monarchy. One can't always have everything, but...

> Federalism could definitely work but this would mean getting rid of the Royals who have mythical status in many households and who are held equally in awe as the church, even by those who claim to be educated.

In 2014, for the first time in democracy, over 50% of Spaniards did not support Monarchy as a form of political organisation. But many other measures were positive, and the new king has since cleaned up the monarchy's public image. We're a long way to go, there.
posted by kandinski at 8:43 AM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


For those who wonder whether Catalonia's complaint about domination by the central Spanish government is proportionate, here's some data:

The linked tweet contains a chart from an article claiming that after Germany, Spain is the second most decentralised country in the world, tied with Belgium and with the USA a close fourth.

Looking at the source, the Regional Authority Index, I'm not sure it's second, but definitely top five.
posted by kandinski at 7:05 AM on October 31, 2017 [1 favorite]


So a democratic government which negated going into discusions is nowjailing elected Political representatives.. I can't see this turning out well unless the Spanish have a fit of reason, which is unlikely, and get rid of Rajoy.
posted by adamvasco at 2:01 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Catalonia isn’t just Spain’s nightmare – it is Europe’s - Simon Jenkins in the Guardian Comment is free section where you can't comment.
Two days ago, the Madrid government reneged on an agreement that it would not suspend the Barcelona government if it did not declare independence and agreed to new local elections next month. Madrid then proceeded with suspension, and Catalonia duly proceeded with declaration – though with no mention of implementation. Madrid immediately arrested those Catalan politicians (and officials) it could find, on charges of rebellion and treason.
Never in the long and far bloodier fight of the Basques for independence was the Basque leadership ever imprisoned. Catalonia now faces an election next month with the prospect of its entire independence leadership in prison.
posted by adamvasco at 9:18 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's all just Party Politics
How the crisis in Catalonia is helping Rajoy consolidate power.
Conflict with Catalonia strengthens Rajoy and the Partido Popular.
posted by adamvasco at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


NPR has done a decent job to continue providing coverage, so here's a quick round-up:

Hundreds Of Thousands Take To Barcelona Streets Against Catalan Independence (Amy Held, October 29, 2017)
Hundreds of thousands of protesters decrying the Catalan government's push for independence came together in Barcelona on Sunday, in one of the biggest gatherings of Spanish unity supporters.
For Some Catalan Officials, Coming To Work This Monday Was An Act Of Defiance (Camila Domonoske, October 30, 2017)
On Monday morning, Catalan officials showed up at their offices — and, in some cases, were escorted out by police just minutes later.

The Spanish government instituted direct rule over the formerly semi-autonomous region of Catalonia on Friday, which had declared independence from Spain.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the regional government immediately after assuming direct-rule authority. That means Catalan officials have essentially been fired — and prominent secessionist leaders have also been charged with crimes, including sedition.

Josep Rull, a regional minister, tweeted a photo of himself at work despite Spain's dissolution of his government.

"In the office," he wrote, "exercising the responsibilities entrusted in us by the people of Catalonia."
Separatist Catalan Leaders, Now In Brussels, Deny Seeking Asylum Abroad (Colin Dwyer, October 31)
Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says he and several of his fellow politicians might have fled Spain for Belgium, but they have no intention of seeking political asylum there.

Rather, he told a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday, they had "decided to err on the side of caution" by leaving the tumult in Catalonia. The statement comes after the region formally declared independence Friday, then saw Spain retaliate by taking over direct rule and announcing sedition charges against Catalan leaders.

"I did this to avoid the threats that I was receiving," Puigdemont told reporters through an interpreter. "The five ministers I'm with have no protection. We also wanted to avoid any confrontation that may possibly have occurred had we stayed in Barcelona."

Just hours after the news conference, a Spanish judge ordered the separatist leader and members of his deposed administration to testify before the court. They have been called to appear Thursday to speak on the charges lodged against them by Spain's attorney general, which include rebellion and embezzlement and carry a possible sentence of 30 years in prison.
Judge In Spain Issues International Arrest Warrant For Catalan President (Camila Domonoske, November 3, 2017)
A Spanish judge has issued an international arrest warrant for the president of Catalonia, currently in exile in Belgium after his government declared independence from Madrid.
Ousted Catalan President Turns Himself In To Police In Brussels (Maggie Penman, November 5, 2017)
The prosecutor's office in Brussels says the former president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, has turned himself in to police, along with several of his former government ministers. Now, a Belgian judge must decide whether to extradite the ousted officials to Spain, where they face charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds for their roles in Catalonia's attempt to secede from Spain.
Catalans Unsure Of Next Steps Following Independence Vote And Leadership Removal (Lauren Frayer, November 6, 2017)
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Sabadell is a city of 200,000 in the Catalan industrial heartland north of Barcelona. They call it the Manchester of Catalonia, a reference to Manchester, England, which also got rich from textile mills in the 19th century. Sabadell is where many of the wealthy titans of Catalan industry are based.

VICTOR COLOMER: We are in the middle of Sabadell, where are the three big powers of the town. Banco de Sabadell - this is a very old bank from 1881. On the other side, we have the church. They still have some power. And of course politics - the town hall, yes.

FRAYER: Victor Colomer, retired local journalist, took me on a tour. When we got to City Hall...

COLOMER: On the top of the building, it should be four flags. There is the Sabadell one, the Catalonia one. But the Spanish flag and the European flag have been taken down.

MATIES SERRACANT: Welcome.

FRAYER: Mayor Maties Serracant took them down - the Spanish flag after Catalonia declared independence and the European Union flag because he's angry with the EU for not supporting Catalonia's secession.

SERRACANT: We thought that with the declaration, we could took off these symbols.

FRAYER: He says thought - past tense - because now the situation looks precarious. No country has recognized an independent Catalonia. The separatist leader Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium. And Mayor Serracant is vulnerable. Spanish prosecutors are investigating him and 700 other mayors who allowed an independence referendum to be held October 1 in municipal buildings.

SERRACANT: I could be banished. I know. But that does not make me afraid. As a political representative of the citizens, I could do nothing else.

FRAYER: Sabadell's citizens voted overwhelmingly last month to separate from Spain, though Spanish courts ruled the vote illegal. College student Guillermo Fernandez says he nevertheless feels like he's already living in a new country.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:05 AM on November 7, 2017


« Older "You’re gonna show up naked sometimes."   |   rage Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments