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Was Catalonia ever a sovereign state?

Was Catalonia ever a sovereign state?

This is one question that perplexes me: Was Catalonia ever a sovereign state? I understand that Catalonia was developed out of the Frankish counties of the Marca Hispania, but it still seems disputed whether Catalonia ever had sovereignty.


As Confold remarked, a "sovereign nation" is a modern concept that does not apply to medieval times. Since 12 to 18 century there existed a Principality of Catalonia, which was ruled by a Count of Barselona. At various times it was dependent of Aragon, Spain or France.


Was Catalonia ever a sovereign nation? Not quite, but it has come close.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_Republic

  • The Catalan Counties were de facto ruled by Barcelona and declared independence from France. They eventually merged into the Count of Aragon. Although Catalonia was sovereign, the concept of nationalism didn't really exist before the 1700s.

  • The Catalan Republic declared independence in 1931 but immediately caved in to the central government.

  • Revolutionary Catalonia existed from 1936 to 1939. However, revolutionary Catalonia pretended to not be a state, and only controlled part of Catalonia.


The Shortest-Lived Independent Country in History

In a rather manic video essay on Half as Interesting, narrator Sam from Wendover talks about which nation has had the shortest lifespan of them all. Unsurprisingly, the answer is complicated. Among the candidates for the shortest-lived country is the Sultanate of Zanzibar for one day in 1963, the Republic of Crimea for one day in 2014, and the Russian Democratic Federative Republic, which only lasted about six hours in 1918. The apparent winner of the title, however, is the Independent State of Catalonia, which lasted only eight seconds of a 2017 speech.

On October 10, 2017, the Catalan leader held a speech where he declared independence. Saying I assume the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent state in the shape of a republic. But right after that, he asked Parliament to suspend his declaration of independence so that he could negotiate with Spain given the independent nation of Catalonia a life span of exactly eight seconds


History

The area first emerged as a distinct entity with the rise of the County of Barcelona to pre-eminence in the 11th century. In the 12th century, the county was brought under the same royal rule as the neighbouring kingdom of Aragon, going on to become a major medieval sea power.

Catalonia has been part of Spain since its genesis as a united state in the 15th century, when King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile married and united their realms.

Initially retaining its own institutions, the region was ever more tightly integrated into the Spanish state, until the 19th century ushered in a renewed sense of Catalan identity, which flowed into a campaign for political autonomy and even separatism. The period also saw an effort to revive Catalan as a language of literature.

When Spain became a republic in 1931, Catalonia was soon given broad autonomy. During the Spanish Civil War, Catalonia was a key Republican stronghold, and the fall of Barcelona to Gen Francisco Franco's right-wing forces in 1939 marked the beginning of the end of republican resistance.

Under Franco's ultra-conservative rule, autonomy was revoked, Catalan nationalism repressed, and use of the Catalan language restricted.


What does the crisis mean for the country?

Catalonia has its own language and distinctive traditions, and a population nearly as big as Switzerland's (7.5 million). It is one of Spain's wealthiest regions, making up 16% of the national population and accounting for almost 19% of Spanish GDP.

It's also a vital part of the Spanish state, locked in since the 15th Century.

Barcelona has become one of the EU's best-loved city-break destinations, famed for its 1992 Summer Olympics, trade fairs, football and tourism.

Generations of people from poorer parts of Spain have moved there for work, forming strong family bonds with regions such as Andalusia.

During this crisis, the Catalan economy has suffered. Thousands of businesses, including major banks and energy firms, have moved their headquarters out of the region.

The EU has treated the crisis as an internal matter for Spain, deaf to the separatists' pleas for support.

However, there have been warnings that the issue is damaging Spain's democratic credentials.

In 2017 the Economist Intelligence Unit, which compiles an influential annual democracy ranking, said Spain risked being downgraded from a "full democracy" to a "flawed" one over its handling of the situation.


Geography

The provinces of Tarragona, Barcelona, and Girona have a Mediterranean shoreline, and the low-lying Catalanides range separates the coastal plain from the Ebro river basin. The Catalanides have historically separated the industrial towns of the coast from the predominantly agricultural settlements of the hinterlands. North of the Catalanides is a high tableland that comprises most of Lleida province. The principal rivers in Catalonia are the Ter, Llobregat, and Ebro, all of which flow into the Mediterranean. A Mediterranean climate prevails throughout most of Catalonia, with hot, dry summers and mild, relatively rainy winters.

The towns of the Catalan coast have dominated the development of the region, with the result that the population is heavily concentrated along the Mediterranean, increasingly depopulating the hinterland. In the 20th century there was additional concentration of population in the city of Barcelona and its satellite towns.

Catalonia’s traditional agriculture was centred on the production of wine, almonds, and olive oil for export, as well as rice, potatoes, and corn (maize) as staples. Slightly more than one-third of Catalonia remains under cultivation, and the traditional crops of olives and grapes are being supplanted by fruits and vegetables for consumption in the cities. The raising of pigs and cows is the dominant agricultural activity. Agriculture accounts for only a tiny fraction of Catalonia’s domestic product, however.

The autonomous community of Catalonia is the richest and most highly industrialized part of Spain. The Catalan textile industry first achieved prominence between 1283 and 1313 and long remained the region’s premier industry. The manufacturing sector underwent rapid expansion and diversification since the 1950s, however, and metalworking, food-processing, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries had overtaken textiles in importance by the 21st century. Textile, papermaking and graphic arts, chemicals, and metalworking industries are concentrated in Barcelona Sabadell and Terrassa are also textile centres. One of Barcelona’s plants produces electric automobiles for Nissan. Catalonia’s growing demand for petroleum products led to the expansion of Tarragona’s petroleum refineries. Services, particularly those of tourism and transportation, are highly developed.


Why does Catalonia want independence from Spain?

Anti-independence demonstrators during a protest in Barcelona on 4 October 2017 Credit: Francisco Seco

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T his article was originally published on 22 October 2014, weeks before Catalonia held their first vote for independence, where 80.8% of voters said they wanted Catalonia to be an independent state.

The history of Catalonia

Catalonia was an independent region of the Iberian Peninsula – modern day Spain and Portugal – with its own language, laws and customs.

In 1150, the marriage of Petronilia, Queen of Aragon and Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona formed a dynasty leaving their son to inherit all territories concerning the region of Aragon and Catalonia.

This lasted until the reign of King Philip V. The War of the Spanish Succession ended with the defeat of Valencia in 1707, of Catalonia in 1714, and finally with the last of the islands in 1715 – resulting in the birth of modern-day Spain.

Subsequent kings tried to impose the Spanish language and laws on the region, but they abandoned their attempts in 1931 and restored the Generalitat (the national Catalan government).

General Francisco Franco, however, set out to destroy Catalan separatism and with his victory at the Battle of Ebro in 1938 he took control of the region, killing 3,500 people and forcing many more into exile.

T he region was granted a degree of autonomy once more in 1977, when democracy returned to the country.

Calls for complete independence grew steadily until July 2010, when the Constitutional Court in Madrid overruled part of the 2006 autonomy statute, stating that there is no legal basis for recognising Catalonia as a nation within Spain.

The economic crisis in Spain has only served to magnify calls for Catalan independence – as the wealthy Barcelona region is seen as propping up the poorer rest of Spain.

The region's politics

T he conservative Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, is only the fifth-largest party in Catalonia, and is strongly opposed to any moves for independence for the region.

The president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, is backed by a coalition of Catalan nationalist forces from the conservative CDC and the leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) parties, which, together with the radical Left-wing CUP party, command a majority in the region’s parliament.

In September 2017, this majority approved the holding of a binding referendum on independence for Catalonia, but Spain’s constitutional court suspended the process.

The Catalan authorities went through with the vote, leading to violence inside and around polling stations as Spanish security forces seized ballot boxes and attempted to close down the vote. They said that 2.26 million votes had been counted, with 90 per cent in favour of independence.

M r Puigdemont says the result is a mandate for a unilateral declaration of independence, although he says he would prefer to negotiate the terms of secession from Spain with the government in Madrid.

How does their economy affect the issue?

The Catalan region has long been the industrial heartland of Spain – first for its maritime power and trade in goods such as textiles, but recently for finance, services and hi-tech companies.

It is one of the wealthiest regions of Spain - it accounts for 19 per cent of Spain’s GDP, equal with the Madrid region. Madrid, however, has a higher per capita GDP, as do the Basque Country and Navarre regions.

Secession would therefore cost Spain almost 20 per cent of its economic output, and trigger a row about how Catalonia would return 52.5 billion euros of debt it owes to the country’s central administration.

It would have a gross domestic product of $314 billion (£195bn), according to calculations by the OECD, which would make it the 34th largest economy in the world. That would make it bigger than Portugal or Hong Kong.

Its GDP per capita would be $35,000, which would make it wealthier than South Korea, Israel or Italy.

A nd Catalonia's contribution to the Spanish economy is twice that of Scotland’s to the UK.

Food and football

I t's not just in politics, economics and language that Catalans see themselves as different.

They are deeply proud of their food and their chefs, such as Ferran Adriá, from El Bulli, and Jordi Cruz, who won his first Michelin star at the age of 25 – the youngest Spaniard to ever do so. El Celler de Can Roca was named the world's best restaurant for 2013, and is third this year.

And the footballing rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid is the stuff of legend – with "El Clásico", played biannually between the two teams, a huge event for both cities.


Qualities of a Sovereign State

State, nation, and country are all terms that describe groups of people who live in the same place and have a great deal in common. But while states and sovereign states are political entities, nations and countries might or might not be.

A sovereign state (sometimes called an independent state) has the following qualities:

  • Space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries
  • People who live there on an ongoing basis
  • Regulations governing foreign and domestic trade
  • The ability to issue legal tender that is recognized across boundaries
  • An internationally recognized government that provides public services and police power and has the right to make treaties, wage war, and take other actions on behalf of its people
  • Sovereignty, meaning that no other state should have power over the country's territory

Many geographic entities have some but not all the qualities that make up a sovereign state. As of 2020 there are 195 sovereign states in the world   (197 by some counts) 193 are members of the United Nations (the United Nations excludes Palestine and the Holy See). Two other entities, Taiwan and Kosovo, are recognized by some but not all members of the United Nations.  


Emissary from Catalonia. Shouldn't he rather represent Kingdom of Aragon?

I'm no historian so probably I'm wrong but wasn't Catalonia in the early 1300s just a region in Kingdom of Aragon?

I know Iberia is not the british isles, but this is no need for such comments. The Kingdom of Aragon, the Principality of Catalonia, the Kingdom of València and the Kingdom of Mallorca, among others, were the constituent parts of the Crown (NOT the kingdom) of Aragon. It was a confederacy of states, a loose alliance with a preponderant supremacy by Catalonia, which was most of its population, the main spoken language, the reigning dynasty, the artifex of the conquests both in the peninsula and overseas and also the source of most of the people who went to settle the new conquests and the source of the law of such new territories. The kingdom of aragon was given in dowry to the count of Barcelona in the XII century by the last aragonese king, Ramirus. I mean real history is not crusader kings II, a count could be much more powerful than an emperor, titles were honours, but not an indication of real power, and it is clear that the Catalan counts of Barcelona (the title of Catalonia until the union with aragon) were much more powerful in any way that the landlocked, mountain based kingdom of aragon (or any such small isolated kingdom such as the scandinavian ones or the heptargy ones. To say that Catalonia was part of the kingdom of aragon makes little sense when they mantained separated administrations and didn't collaborate in times of war


Was Catalonia ever a sovereign state? - History

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

The rhetoric by Arab leaders on behalf of the Palestinians rings hollow. Arabs in neighboring states, who control 99.9 percent of the Middle East land, have never recognized a Palestinian entity. They have always considered Palestine and its inhabitant's part of the great "Arab nation," historically and politically as an integral part of Greater Syria - Suriyya al-Kubra - a designation that extended to both sides of the Jordan River. In the 1950s, Jordan simply annexed the West Bank since the population there was viewed as the brethren of the Jordanians. Jordan's official narrative of "Jordanian state-building" attests to this fact:

"Jordanian identity underlies the significant and fundamental common denominator that makes it inclusive of Palestinian identity, particularly in view of the shared historic social and political development of the people on both sides of the Jordan. . The Jordan government, in view of the historical and political relationship with the West Bank . granted all Palestinian refugees on its territory full citizenship rights while protecting and upholding their political rights as Palestinians (Right of Return or compensation)."

The Arabs never established a Palestinian state when the UN in 1947 recommended to partition Palestine, and to establish "an Arab and a Jewish state" (not a Palestinian state, it should be noted). Nor did the Arabs recognize or establish a Palestinian state during the two decades prior to the Six-Day War when the West Bank was under Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control nor did the Palestinian Arabs clamor for autonomy or independence during those years under Jordanian and Egyptian rule.

And as for Jerusalem: Only twice in the city's history has it served as a national capital. First as the capital of the two Jewish Commonwealths during the First and Second Temple periods, as described in the Bible, reinforced by archaeological evidence and numerous ancient documents. And again, in modern times as the capital of the State of Israel. It has never served as an Arab capital for the simple reason that there has never been a Palestinian Arab state.


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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]

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.

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]

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 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 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]

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

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).

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.

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]

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]

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

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]

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

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.”

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.

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]

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."

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]

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

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]

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

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."

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.

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.

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.

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5. The Indian Stream Republic: 1832-1835

The Connecticut River in NH, once part of the Indian Stream Republic. (Credit: Danita Delimont/Getty Images)

In 1832, the residents of the tiny New England community of Indian Stream declared independence𠅏rom whom, they weren’t entirely sure. Ever since the end of the American Revolution, Indian Stream had been at the center of a border dispute between the United States and British-controlled Canada. Both sides claimed that the prescribed borderline placed the land under their control, and both sent tax collectors into the region. This so annoyed the 300 residents of Indian Stream that they voted to establish their own independent republic. In their constitution, they mandated that home rule would remain in effect “till such time as we can ascertain to what government we properly belong.”


Watch the video: Γιατί οι Καταλανοί θα ψηφίσουν υπέρ της ανεξαρτησίας (December 2021).