Don Quijones: It Gets Ugly in Catalonia

Jerri-Lynn here: The Catalonia crisis is accelerating, with Madrid’s crackdown increasing support for independence even among those previously not so disposed. This does not look like it will end well.

As Yves discussed earlier this week, Catalonia could exercise the nuclear option of defaulting on its debt– which would have serious consequences for itself and for the government in Madrid. Although this still looks to be a remote possibility, Madrid’s latest aggressive measures have made no headway in defusing that potential bomb.

By By Don Quijones of Spain, UK, & Mexico and an editor at Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street

Spain’s “ships of repression” are coming to help out.

Madrid’s crackdown on Catalonia is already having one major consequence, presumably unintended: many Catalans who were until recently staunchly opposed to the idea of national independence are now reconsidering their options.

A case in point: At last night’s demonstration, spread across multiple locations in Barcelona, were two friends of mine, one who is fanatically apolitical and the other who is a strong Catalan nationalist but who believes that independence would be a political and financial disaster for the region. It was their first ever political demonstration. If there is a vote on Oct-1, they will probably vote to secede.

The middle ground they and hundreds of thousands of others once occupied was obliterated yesterday when a judge in Barcelona ordered Spain’s militarized police force, the Civil Guard, to round up over a dozen Catalan officials in dawn raids. Many of them now face crushing daily fines of up to €12,000.

The Civil Guard also staged raids on key administrative buildings in Barcelona. The sight of balaclava-clad officers of the Civil Guard, one of the most potent symbols of the not-yet forgotten Franco dictatorship, crossing the threshold of the seats of Catalonia’s (very limited) power and arresting local officials, was too much for the local population to bear.

Within minutes almost all of the buildings were surrounded by crowds of flag-draped pro-independence protesters. The focal point of the day’s demonstrations was the Economic Council of Catalonia, whose second-in-command and technical coordinator of the referendum, Josep Maria Jové, was among those detained. He has now been charged with sedition and could face between 10-15 years in prison. Before that, he faces fines of €12,000 a day.

The confiscation of ballots and other vital voting paraphernalia and the detention of key members of the referendum’s organizing committee, together with today’s decision by the Spanish Finance Ministry to completely block the regional government’s accounts — a move that would not be possible without full cooperation of both Spanish and Catalan banks — could be a major setback for Catalonia’s dreams of independence.

Without ballots, voter databases and ballot boxes, organizing a referendum is going to be a tough task, especially if Catalonia’s government no longer has access to public funds. But it will still try. It’s already launched a new website informing the public of the location of voting colleges on October 1. The site replaces dozens of other URLs that have been shut down at the behest of Spanish authorities.

Nonetheless, yesterday’s police operation significantly — perhaps even irreversibly — weakens Catalonia’s plans to hold a referendum on October 1, as even the region’s vice-president Oriol Junqueras concedes. But that doesn’t mean Spain has won. As the editor of El Diario, Ignacio Escolar, presciently notes, yesterday’s raids may have been a resounding success for law enforcement, but they were an unmitigated political disaster that has merely intensified the divisions between Spain and Catalonia and between Catalans themselves.

Each time Prime Minister Rajoy or one of his ministers speak of the importance of defending democracy while the Civil Guard seizes posters and banners related to the October 1 vote and judges rule public debates on the Catalan question illegal and then fine their participants, a fresh clutch of Catalan separatists is born.

In the days to come they will be swarming the streets, waving their flags, clutching their red carnations and singing their songs. For the moment, the mood is still one of hopeful, resolute indignation. But the mood of masses is prone to change quickly, and it’s not going to take much to ignite the anger.

Madrid is sending three ships with a total of 6,000 non-Catalan police reinforcements to Barcelona in the coming week. In reaction, the stevedores at Barcelona Port have voted not to provide any services to the ships, which they consider to be “ships of repression.”

If it spirals out of control, the conflict between Barcelona and Madrid could have ugly repercussions far beyond Spanish borders, as we warned in a 2015 article. Yet the European Union steadfastly refuses to mediate in the crisis, arguing that it must respect Spain’s constitution.

Given Brussels’ long-standing habit of meddling in others’ affairs, including toppling the elected leaders of Greece and Italy at the height of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, it’s a poor excuse. And most of Europe’s governments (with the possible exception of the UK, which is already engaged in a gargantuan struggle with Brussels) refuse to support Catalonia’s separatist movement out of the fear — largely justifiable — that it could fuel separatist tensions closer to home.

But the crisis in Catalonia is not going to go away just by ignoring it.

In the last few weeks alone three major international newspapers — Le Monde, The New York Times and The Times — have called for Madrid to allow a referendum. And with Rajoy and his government seemingly determined to pummel Catalonia into submission, at just about any cost, the chances are that their ranks will grow.

And this is where Madrid is making arguably its biggest mistake. For a new country to be born, it must first be recognized. Thanks to years of sustained, non-violent protest and the often overblown reaction of the Rajoy government, Catalonia has already massively increased the positioning of its brand internationally. Ten years ago, most people in the world didn’t even know what or where Catalonia was. Now, it’s hogging the headlines of the front pages of the biggest newspapers.

“Do not underestimate the power of Spanish democracy.” Read… Catalonia’s Defiance of Spanish Authority Turns into Rebellion

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  1. auskalo

    Peter Sunde and Julian Assange (cofounders of The Pirate Bay and Wikileaks) are helping Catalonia hosting the websites of the Catalonian Government out of Spain to avoid being closed by Spanish police. Even Edward Snowden is writing twits against Rajoy and defending the right to vote.

    DotCat Registry Offices raided by Spanish police:

    Repression and rebellion fighting each other. Where is democracy?

  2. Eclair

    “Ten years ago, most people in the world didn’t even know what or where Catalonia was. ”

    Decades ago, when I binge read Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin novels, I was educated on matters Catalonia. Stephen was adamant that Catalonia was not Spain and the Catalan language was not Spanish. He, of course, was born to an Irish father and a Catalan mother and given the name Esteban Maturnin y Domanova.

    1. Arizona Slim

      I got the same education in Valencia: “No somos Espanoles, somos Valencianos.”

      I also learned how to speak Valenciano. It’s quite a bit different than Spanish.

      1. auskalo

        Eclair and ArizonaS,
        Most linguists in Europe know that Catalan is a language and Valenciano is a dialect of Catalan.
        There was a nationalist movement in Franco’s time for Catalan Countries (Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands and part of Aragon), that was decofeinated in the transition period with coffee for all autonomic system.
        Even Rafael Nadal has problems when he answers in Catalan to newspapers from Balearic Islands among Spanish newspapers.
        Ramon Llull (c. 1932), from Majorca, is considered the father of Catalan writen language, and Ausiàs March, from Valencia (XV siècle) is considered the father or Catalan poetry.

        PS: Sorry I’m a Basque.

        1. DJG

          I didn’t know that Nadal spoke Catalan (Balearic version). His surname is perfect Catalan, though: It means Christmas.

          Language is part of the distinct Basque identity. Care to tell us more what the Basques are thinking about this mess? It seems to me that the Basques would worry that they are next.

          1. auskalo

            Sorry, DJC,

            I’m very bad at typing: I meant 1232.

            Nadal mother and father language is Catalan from Majorca. At press conferences, he politely tries to answer in the same language the press ask him: local press in Catalan, and international press mostly in Spanish and English.

            We, the Basques, are embarrassed and worried seeing how the Spanish government is answering to this mess, but we are with Catalonia. Our problem is that we are very tired of ETA’s history and its consequences in Basque Country. So, we are making demonstrations for Catalonia, but not asking too much to Spain: people here is not taking the streets day and night like in Catalonia.

            We have a moderate right-wing government that’s still asking 37 nuclear laws of Spanish Law signed in the time the constitution of Spain, writen 40 years ago, but ignored. Tons of patience. Just asking to Spain to be careful with Catalonia, because if it breaks, even the monarchy will be broken.

            Personally, I’d be very happy in a federal Basque Country inside a Spanish Republic, but i won’t be easy.

            PS: Fisrt part of message was for yan: 1232.

            1. DJG

              auskalo: Thanks. I just dipped into the photogalleries at Avui. There are some photos with banners in Basque. Demonstrations in the Basque Country.

          2. ToivoS

            DJG: Care to tell us more what the Basques are thinking about this mess?

            I attended a large demonstration in Barcelona for Catalonian independence a few years back. There were a few hundred Basque’s present with their own flags. It was quite inspirational.

        2. yan

          Just a little correction…Ramon Llull was born in the thirteenth century.
          You can also argue that Catalan and its dialects are derived from langue d’oc, or occitan language.
          Further: the “catalan countries” included originally the Languedoc region of France. The french were not amused. All of them were part of the Aragon Crown which merged with Castilla and became the Kingdom of Spain.

          1. Another Anon

            I heard once that Occitan is much closer to the original Latin
            than any of the current Romance languages. Is this true, and if so,
            Is this also true for Catalan given is connection with Occitan ?

      2. Oregoncharles

        Just for perspective: Spanish itself is an artificial language, constructed by a royal commission shortly after the Moors were driven out. That’s why it’s one of the world’s most regular languages (especially compared to English, one of the messiest). Evidently it never quite won out over the local languages, though I understand Galician isn’t spoken much any more.

        Spain could easily lose its entire northern tier, the industrialized part, over this.

        1. auskalo

          Oregon, you are right,

          The first written text in Spanish and in Basque are in the same book, as annotations to latin texts to be correctly interpreted by monks from Navarre. The Basque part is because the monks spoke Basque; the Spanish part is because the monks understood better the degenerated latin spoken by the people of Rioja than latin.
          One important thing: Spanish is the only Romance language that only have five clear vowels in written language and in pronunciation. It’s because at its origin were the basques speaking low-people degenerated latin, with the five clear vowels of Basque: a, e, i, o, u.
          It’s funny to realize that most english people thinks they have only five vowels, but they make about a fourteen different sounds pronunciating them.

  3. Wukchumni

    Book Tip:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Martha Gellhorn’s “The Face Of War”.

    I thought it the best of perhaps 6 or 7 books on the Spanish Civil War, i’ve read.

      1. DJG

        Robert Hughes’s Barcelona, which is now slightly out of date, is a good background book on how Barcelona became Barcelona.

        Also, Colman Andrews wrote a cookbook called Catalan Cuisine that explains through anecdotes just how distinct the Catalans are.

        1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

          I’ve read the Orwell– I also enjoyed Colm Tóibín’s Homage to Barcelona. I’ll look out for the Gellhorn.

          1. DJG

            + + + Colm Toibin’s Homage to Barcelona: Also enlightening. He arrived at a pivotal moment. Interesting theme for Toibin is Barcelona as self-knowledge.

            (And pivotal moments: As Orwell did to write his classic.)

  4. Jesus Martinez

    Ugly indeed.
    My take on things here:
    1 October is the date. The Catalan government is adamant that it is going to happen. From their previous record, I would say it is going to happen. The form is the issue: if there is going to be a register (census), and if enough polling stations are going to be open.
    The key is the city of Barcelona. In (mostly pro-independence) rural Catalonia there is going to be a vote, clearly. In the (mostly Unionist) industrial belt of Barcelona, most likely patchy. Barcelona is the key to a decent participation rate. All opinion polls showed a YES vote before the events this week (some people will get extremely heated about this, claiming it is not true: just check any poll THAT ASKS THE YES/NO QUESTION, BECAUSE THAT IS THE QUESTION BEING ASKED THIS TIME AROUND. And consider that the police raids and detentions have only added to that).
    The question is that the Spanish government can’t let anything remotely similar to a referendum happen in Barcelona.
    So we are all hoping that everything holds until 1 Oct and then we will somehow get to vote, with a relatively high participation and a clear yes expected. But I don’t think the Spanish government is going to stay put to react only on the 2nd.
    They have threatened tougher action. So far they have detained only second tier, unelected officials. If it all looks that the vote is on they are going to arrest the Catalan government, possibly in full. I wouldn’t rule out all the pro-independence MPs. Nuclear beheading, right?
    So what would happen then?
    I am ruling out a political crisis in Madrid. That could be the case on 2 Oct. Not before then.
    The question is how will people react. Their reaction was resolved and quick two days ago. I was extremely surprised, very positively surprised. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Spanish police achieving its aims. If we keep on singing to the police, they win.
    There is a long tradition of burning things in Barcelona. It used to be churches. It will have to be police and (Spanish) government buildings this time around.
    I think that Spain has too much at stake here to allow a a bunch of flower-power brats to drive its police home without a shot, but at the same time it can’t send in the tanks. It can’t do a Tiananmen. Between the Tiananmen option and being utterly ineffective there is a wide spectrum, and that is where we are now. And so far, they are winning.
    There is an anti-system force-de-frappe in Barcelona: the okupa-anarchist-radical scene is there. They (some of them, possibly 50%), plus pro-independence activists should be enough of a first round of a few days. If things start to move we will see them in action quickly. Then a second wave of people from rural Catalonia would descend on the city. That’s big-big numbers. Some Basques would probably join us. They are well-trained and experienced. Good old Basques. We’ll have to buy them a few rounds.
    And that is Barcelona being out of control for the Spanish government. If done intelligently, in two days there is no trace of Spanish authority in the city.
    But then the question is what comes next. If the Catalan government and MPs are in jail, leading from there is going to be hard. And the Spanish government can just sit and wait and recover control weeks later. So keeping our politicians in the game is a big issue. Putting them in jail is what would probably trigger a revolt, but at the same time the only thing that can keep them away from jail is a revolt.
    Fighting the State. Never easy, right?
    These days I am sleeping fine, but I wake up all worked up, as if in expectation for some all-changing event, and head straight to the computer to read the latest news.

      1. Ned


        “If the Catalan government and MPs are in jail, leading from there is going to be hard.”

        Why can’t the real Catalan leaders hide out and communicate via social media to their followers with some assurances that it is really them?

    1. Oregoncharles

      Thank you for reporting, Jesus, but I hope you realize you’re talking about civil war.

      And yes, you’re describing exactly where things are heading. I don’t know what Rajoy thinks he’s doing; he’s tearing the country apart.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Further thought: if it comes to that, the main point of seizing control of the city would be to get your politicians out of jail, assuming they’re still in Catalonia. If not, you might have the anarchists in charge.

      Franco hasn’t been dead nearly long enough.

  5. Ed

    Why is Rajoy being so stupid? Its pretty established now how a central government should respond to separatist referendums. You allow them. Both the UK and Canada (twice) allowed separatist referendums to proceed in Scotland and Quebec. The voters were closer than some people would have liked, but these areas are still part of the UK and Canada. People don’t feel they are in a prison if you allow them to leave.

    Unless you count Brexit, I can’t think of a single instance of a new country established by a peaceful referendum on succession. These things usually happen as a result of wars or the collapse of the central government, and often the public isn’t consulted, and in the case of Slovakia most people think independence would have lost if it had been put to a vote.

    I thought Rajoy lacked a majority in Parliament. Where is the no confidence motion? Is PSOE behind this as well?

    1. auskalo

      Rajoy lacks a marotity, but Ciutadans is even worse and pushing, and PSOE is behind, with problems inside.

    2. Basil Pesto

      I broadly agree with your points, Rajoy’s actions seem to be a massive tactical error. It’s worth pointing out though that the 1995 Quebec referendum really was extraordinarily close.

    3. Sid Finster

      South Sudan.
      Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
      The Donetsk Peoples’ Republic and Lugansk Peoples’ Republic.

      All came into being via referendum.

      1. Mattski

        Yes, and the fact that it has been rare hardly means it can’t happen in future. Or shouldn’t. In the case of both Spain and Scotland, far more progressive quite culturally distinct entities want to rule themselves. This will mean better social programs and can serve as an example to all; I am probably missing something, but I see the instinctive distaste for separation that I note among many liberals as not just a lack of imagination but reactionary.

  6. DJG

    Years ago, I read (and re-read) a book called Blood of Spain, an oral history of the Spanish Civil War by Ronald Fraser. Naturally, Catalunya and the Basque Country received much attention. What worries me is that the same dynamic is now working itself out that his informants talk about: Spain in the 1930s repeating itself. Any time a region asserted autonomy, the central government came down very hard on it. The populace responded by taking to the streets.

    A book worth trying to turn up for some deep background.

    1. JacobiteInTraining

      I second the recommendation for Blood Of Spain, and would add also The Passionate War by Peter Wyden.

      As a 15/16 year old in Oregon of mixed liberal/conservative beliefs and parentage those 2 were recommended by my History teacher after I asked her for more reading to help put some ‘real events’ into my head following the Science Fiction Revolution on Luna that so fascinated me in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Heinlein.

      The 15 year old me was ready to jump on the barricades and smash the State. The 16 year old me (after reading and truly understanding the blood spilled in the Spanish Civil War) was not quite so ready.

      I hope Catalonia and Spain take a step back, and decide talking is always better.

    2. St Jacques

      You are presenting the Spanish Civil War as if it were a war of Spain versus those regions. You do realise that Madrid itself held out against Franco to the very bitter end?

  7. Sue

    The Popular Party has ruled in Spain for several years now . Popular Party’s founder was Manuel Fraga Iribarne who served as General Francisco Franco dictator’s cabinet Secretary… Thousands and thousands of paramilitary Civil Guard officers have been sent to Catalonia and three 20k+ capacity cruise liners anchored in Catalan harbors are being used to lodge them . Despite all basic rights’ violations and other infringements committed by the Spanish government (systematic search and seizures without prior court orders, violation of the sanctity of the mail, violation of freedom of expression and association), the street demonstrations by the Catalan people have been peaceful and, as much as the circumstances allow for, festive. One can see people from all ages and backgrounds optimistically and peacefully asking the entire world to allow the Catalan people to cast their votes. Why is the Spanish government beefing up to the limit the paramilitary police presence in Catalonia?

  8. Wukchumni

    Another seldom read tome on the Spanish Civil War that’s excellent, is Virginia Cowles “Looking For Trouble”.

  9. The Rev Kev

    Gee, I can’t see a problem here. Send in the army, station tanks in all the city and town squares, shut down all local newspaper, TV and radio stations, stage show trials, errr, treason trials, blockade the port of Barcelona to show them that the Spanish government mean business, declare martial law for the Catalonia region (better include the Basque region to play it safe), set up detention camps for protesters. These are all standard tactics in the playbook for authoritarian governments. That should do the trick, shouldn’t it? We’ve all seen this movie before after all.

  10. Pedro Lérias

    If the Portuguese had waited for a legal way to regain independence from Spain in 1640 we would still be a region of Spain.

    Actually, we owe the Catalans because a revolt by them at the same time made the Spanish crown have to choose between fighting an independence war in the West or in the East of the country. They chose the East and we stayed independent.

    Spain never really made peace with Franco’s dictatorship. You cannot have a wedding where divorce is not allowed by law unless it is a forced wedding and the law is undemocratic. Even the European Union has a mechanism for a country to go it’s own way, and democracy is not high on their agenda.

    Spain is an artificial country, not a nation of nations.

    I wish Catalonia all the best in their fight to be allowed to vote on their self-determination.

    1. St Jacques

      All nations are “artificial”. Abraham Lincoln had to use the US army to crush the Confederate secessionists who claimed the right to secede. Modern France has had many secessions that had to be crushed through its history. That the Portuguese nobility were not happy during the Thirty Years War with the deal they were getting from the Habsburg monarchs is immaterial to what is happening now. And to the constant complaint from the Catalans that they are being robbed by being part of Spain looks ridiculous when you compare it with the relative poverty of Portugal. You should also note that Catalonia was not “conquered” by Spain but was an integral component in its creation, going all the way back to the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. Nor has Catalonia ever been a “kingdom” in its own right. This secessionist movement is setting a very dangerous destabilising precedent for not only Spain but Europe.

      1. sunny129

        Yep. The Britain was also very reluctant to lose the ‘jewel’ of the their great British empire, INDIA in 1947!

        The same old story of the oppressor justifying their HEEL over the oppressed!

        Nothing new here!

  11. Sue

    Catalan Breaking News from insider’s source:
    Freedom of press/media being attacked at its core. Company credit cards of Catalan Public TV employees have already been blocked. Highest ranking manager of Catalan Public TV is waiting inside TV site building waiting/expecting to be arrested by Spanish police. Other news: Spanish general prosecutor office files charges against community organizers

    1. Oregoncharles

      Filing severe charges gives the Catalans a compelling reason to declare independence IMMEDIATELY, or pull the trigger on the debt. It become the only way to get their people out of jail.

      I don’t see why any future arrestees would “wait.” Why not go into hiding? Governments have been run that way.

  12. kgw

    What are the real issues? Since these things usually boil down to “filthy lucre,” is it that the province of Catalan does not like the state tax levies?

    1. kgw

      An article at the Vanguard by Francesc de Carreras, a scholar of constitutional law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona:

      “…Many renowned economists reject the major premise and feel this imbalance is commensurate with the fact that Catalonia happens to be a wealthy region. Madrid and the Balearic Islands are subject to an even greater fiscal imbalance. But the economic damage to Catalonia becomes clear if we deduct from this saving in tax revenue the costs of independence. After independence, the cost of services currently provided by the national government would have to be added to current public spending by the Catalan autonomous government. According to the latter, those services amount to 2.7% of GDP (which already scales the savings down to 5.8%), while some distinguished economists put the figure at 4.3% (yielding savings of only 4.2%).

      Above all, however, independence would cause huge changes that would weaken the whole Catalan economy. First and foremost, Catalonia would remain outside the EU for the time being and for a few years to come. That would have devastating effects: first, on its relations with the rest of Spain (which accounts for considerably more than half of its usual trade) and also on tariffs with all the EU countries, the relocation of businesses, and disinvestment. All of that would diminish Catalan tax revenue and increase unemployment. Moreover, to the current Catalan public debt – the biggest in Spain by far – would have to be added the share of Spanish debt attributable to Catalonia in the division of assets according to international law. All that would produce an economic crisis that would last for many years, and the region that emerges from that crisis would not be the one we know now, but a much poorer Catalonia.

      So is an independent Catalonia viable in economic terms? As a theoretical model, yes, given its size and productive volume. Nonetheless, in the current context, considered in dynamic terms, independence would be pure suicide. Only after many years of hardship and struggle would Catalonia regain its current economic level. But in the long run, as Keynes put it, we’re all dead. Some people are apparently eager to die for their fatherland instead of contributing to its wellbeing.”

    2. Sue

      Hard to see it exclusively that way. The carrot-and-stick-money approach has recently been suggested by Spanish Secretary of Economy, Luis de Guindos…and is not working. See for example Financial Times article
      To borrow terms from Orwell’s 1984, the Spanish Ministry of Truth public opinion campaign that is all about money is very false. The charges filed against community organizers are: sedition,TREASON!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sometimes, it’s more than just money, and while in the long term, we’re all dead, people choose to not thinking about the short term.

        We can ask, would a similar analysis have stopped American independence?

        Should they have just given the mad king his taxes?

          1. kgw

            Separated reply, sorry.

            “Paul Revere’s Ride,” by David Hackett Fischer which follows the 2 years preceeding, plus a bit after the events, is a useful, well-written read, btw.

  13. kgw

    From Wiki:
    From langue d’oc (“the language of oc”), from Dante Alighieri’s De vulgari eloquentia, where he wrote in Latin: “nam alii oc, alii si, alii vero dicunt oil” (‘some say òc, others say sì, others say oïl’). Based on the Occitan [Term?] word òc (“yes”), in contrast to Old French oïl (now French oui).

    From Italy to Spain, in all of what is now the South of France, Occitan was, and still is spoken…Would it be terrible if there were two separate states? Would it be worth the trouble?

  14. MisesWasCrazy

    Spain can block an independent Catalonia from being accepted into the EU or even the EEA. I’m not sure what kind of leverage Catalonia think it has. If you think Brexit is a disaster for the UK, Calalonian independence would be worse for Calatlonia. They might go from being the economic powerhouse of spain to being the economic poor house of the Iberian Peninsula.

    I also think that Brussels toppling elected leaders of Greece and Italy is a bit of hyperbole. That honor belongs to the USA, considering the role it played in the Greek military coup, in sabotaging the communists in Italy’s first post war election and, well, technically Moussolini was elected, so there is that.

    1. St Jacques

      The plan is clear; maximise instability and crisis and force their way back in. It is setting a very dangerous precedent, from tearing up a democratically established constitution, to using political and economic chaos as a threat to get their way in Spain and the EU. Furthermore, the Catalan establishment that is cynically orchestrating this is as much up to its neck in corruption and scandal as its opponent. It is a real waste of energy and a diversion from genuine economic and corruption issues.

      1. Ned

        ¡Que Viva España!,—-España es lo mejor!!!

        Think of the bankers who may lose big time, if, payments are defaulted. Wonder whose side they are on? I’ll bet they would sing
        “Cara Al Sol?”

        1. St Jacques

          Oh, you mean great guys like the Pujols, who for years led a campaign of hatred against Spain and other Spaniards while amassing a massive fortune in Andorran and Swiss accounts, or their mates down at the Catalan caixas that worked hand in glove with the local politicians and mayors to help pump a monstrous and corrupt property bubble in Catalonia that brought down the economy when it imploded in 2008 and have spent the whole time since blaming everything on “Spain robs us”, or the Catalan bourgeois elite whose predecessors celebrated the liberation by Franco’s army from the socialist revolutionary Republicans? You mean THOSE great guys?

          And turning Spain into Yugoslavia 2.0 is really going to serve the interests of ordinary people well, because firing up emotionally driven, hate filled, divisive, campaigns has really worked well in the dangerously destabilising nationalist past, hasn’t it?

          LOL !!!!

          1. JTMcPhee

            Goes to show that here, there and apparently everywhere, “nothing is what I/you/we think it is… wheels within wheels.. Cui bono? can help one try to figure stuff out, see what’s actually happened/happening, but is there anything that can be accurately and completely stated about anything in any part of the vast political economy than “It’s complicated,” and maybe “it’s a big club, and you and I ain’t in it”?

            There’s been discussion of concrete material benefits, for some large or small set, but I may be obtuse, but I can’t see any kind of set of organizing principles that might lead to something that most people would see, and define and accept and work to effectuate, as “better.”

            There’s always hope, of course… and occasional little rays of sunshine to keep us striving…

    2. Yves Smith

      The heavy in Greece was not Brussels, it was the ECB. If you read between the lines, most of the governors were really pissed off at Spain, in particular all the support it was getting from the ELA that was supposed to be only short term, for solvent banks, while Greek banks were clearly insolvent and dependent on the ELA for life support. The ECB was eager to cut off the ELA but wasn’t going to do it w/o cover from political leaders, And that was not “Brussels” meaning the European Commission but the individual states (with the Eurogroup acting as their decision-making nexus).

  15. Ned

    As a measure of how extreme faith was and how things were once done in Spain, Mrs. Franco, María del Carmen Franco Polo, had Saint Theresa’s mummified arm carried around with her in a glass box.–as late as the 1970s.

    1. St Jacques

      Empty slogan. Many now looking at Spain will conclude that giving life to local autonomies is a mistake, It just gives local elites a chance to cause trouble and distract people from urgent issues with divisive, hate filled nationalism. Perhaps a model based on that of France would have served the people of Spain better. Marx was right.

      1. Mattski

        This is laughably far from the multitude of issues, not to mention the history, that informs this issue. A Catalan state will be far more progressive than a country that retains a great deal of the superstructure–and infrastructure–of fascism. Purposely. Marx WAS right about a good many things, but your post, filled with a little hot air of its own, reveals no awareness of just what. There will be a struggle between financial interests and the left in an emerging Catalunya, a battle anticipated on both sides. But the notion that the emergence of independence struggles “just gives local elites a chance to cause trouble” is obtuse in the extreme. Have a more lucid day.

        1. St Jacques

          Yeah “Progressive” is that what you call the criminal political-financial elite of Catalonia that have been fomenting the most vile nationalistic hatred you can imagine? They are no better than the elite of the central government. What a load of bull. What is being held out to Catalans is a fantasy escape from their current economic troubles that sets a very dangerous precedent for Europe and could lead to a disastrous Balkanisation of Spain. The only positive way is for groups like CUP to go national and try to re-write the constitution.

            1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

              Mr. Richter has posted a few articles of late regarding Spain, warning of the teetering Liberbank, the strains on tourism in Barcelona & how Spain is very dependent on this income & I imagine that the above is not likely to help these matters.

              Repercussions likely for the many Brits & likely other Europeans who live in Spain. TPTB in Europe would I expect prefer Rajoy to mop this all up, while perhaps not wanting to be associated with the nitty gritty. With talk in it seems an increasingly disillusioned Italy of a parallel currency & the general squabbling within a structurally flawed EZ. I personally find it surprising that in this time of great change, many appear to believe that Europe can continue in the present status quo – perhaps they will, but I would not bet on it.

  16. Jesus Martinez

    Hi again.
    A few short comments here:
    1-This is first a political issue about nationhood, not a financial one. The financial dimension comes second. In my previous post about the Big Madrid I described developments that are threatening to Catalans because we know that after economic provincialization, political and cultural provincialization comes. Some people love to describe it as financial because it allows for introducing a rich/poor regions (selfishness, the greedy Catalans) that suits their Unionism.
    2-The expulsion from the EU: IMHO, not given, not automatic, not desired by any country, not wanted by the Catalans. The issue is complex and it would depend on the conditions at the time. Think that no agreement means that the day after independence Spain’s debt to GDP ratio goes up by 25% (Catalonia is roughly 20% of the economy).
    3-Civil War: the Spanish one was mainly fought on a left-right axis. This is different. And regarding levels of violence, I don’t see civil war as in two sides with guns and stuff. In that scenario, Spain wins. I do see popular turmoil. The timing is the issue here.
    4-Say Spain wins this time around: what after? There is no way that they can curtail severely our rights without curtailing the rights of Spanish citizens in general. If they succeed against us, the political scenario in Spain is also going to get much uglier.
    5-I am still hopeful.
    6-Latest news is that they have opened a general cause for sedition (I think it is the right word in English) and they have started to detain people not linked to the government (2 high profile civil society persons. No news of anyone else, but that means that they are ready to detain anyone who participates in organizing the referendum).

    Thanks to all of you that have expressed support. We’ll need it.

    1. St Jacques

      Before the crisis only a small minority of Catalans were for independence. The support for independence has grown on the back the economic crisis..

      1. Mattski

        In the end, I just don’t think you know much about this. There is a 50-year-plus long quiet movement for indepdence among progressives and the left, especially strong outside Barcelona, that you seem oblivious about.

    2. kgw

      “Civil War: the Spanish one was mainly fought on a left-right axis. This is different.”

      On what basis is it different?

      1. Jesus Martinez

        sorry for the delay in replying. Very busy these days.
        First, re. someone’s comment: I am a Catalan, but I don’t live there. So as to what is going on there, I know what I read.

        Re. your question: this conflict is about nationhood. The left-right axis is secondary. If anything, because of the identification of Spanish nationalism with Francoism, when people become pro-independence they veer to the left, at least nominally. But the right-left axis here is better left out.

        St Jacques sounds like a lot of people that I know: the this is only a reaction to the crisis mantra. False. Podemos is a reaction to the crisis. It peaked around 2014. This conflict has only become worse since then.

        The Pujols. The story here is the Catalan right (governing most of the time since 1980) has plenty of things to hide (corruption and stuff): true; so they came up with this independence story to divert the public’s attention: false.

        The Unionists basically don’t have a proposal (they just want to stay put, but then the status quo is what led us here) and they come up with these excuses. We hear them quite a lot in Catalonia.

        The Carreras whose article in La Vanguardia someone posted is one of the main intellectuals whose public presence is all about explaining away the conflict as petty politicking by a bunch of thieves.
        I could give detail about him that would be lots of fun, but it would take me too long. Sorry.

        Anyway, just today El País, that most enlightened beacon of truth, said that Russia was trying to influence events in Catalonia through internet activism. I am quite worried as to our capacity to win in the short run, but when I read that I thought,gee, it is just impossible to lose against idiots like these!

  17. Eclair

    Wow, a primer on the history of the Iberian Peninsula, with sidebars on the Spanish Civil War, plus outlines of Basque and Catalan independence movements. And Portugal! Thanks to the NC commentariat and Yves and Lambert and all who so graciously and bravely reopened the comments. (I give sweeping bow.)

  18. Sue

    News. Spanish government struggles to guarantee the security of its citizens in the rest of Spain while thousands of police and guardia civil units are being deployed to Catalonia. Police struggles to protect the political party Podemos event in Zaragoza as 12 police officers have to contain a group of about 400 neonazis.
    Next video is a humoristic take on the three huge line cruisers lodging thousands of paramilitary police units who are chasing paper ballots and ballot boxes

    1. St Jacques

      Exactly the sort of thing I fear. The delicate balance called “civil society” starts to break down as the Constitution is endlessly attacked. In its place the rule of the mob threatens to take over and then what, martial law? Well done Independistas, well done!

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