Catalonia Versus Spain: Conflict Escalates as Constitutional Court Nixes Independence Declaration Pre-Emptively

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Wednesday, the head of Catalonia’s separatist movement, Carles Puigdemont, reiterated his stance that Catalonia was on the verge of seceding from Spain. In a televised speech, he rejected the fierce criticism made by Spain’s king King Felipe VI the day before, when he decried the independence referendum as illegal, anti-democratic, and as undermining the unity of Catalonians and Spain generally. Puigdemont criticized the monarch for backing the central government and rejecting compromise, and maintained that Catalonia was on track to declaring independence. The parliament’s earlier bill stipulated that it would withdraw from Spain within 48 hours of getting final referendum results approving the split. The Financial Times indicated yesterday that the expected timetable was for an official declaration this week or early next week. Member of Catalonia’s parliament indicate that it would take place shortly after a vote this Monday.

Spain’s constitutional court reaffirmed its position that any moves towards secession were illegal by pre-emptively suspending the Monday parliamentary session in Catalonia. From the Guardian:

Spain’s constitutional court has moved to stop the Catalan government making a unilateral declaration of independence by suspending the regional parliament session in which the results of Sunday’s referendum were due to be discussed.

On Thursday, the court upheld a challenge by Catalonia’s Socialist party – which opposes secession from Spain – ruling that allowing the Catalan parliament to meet on Monday and potentially declare independence would violate the rights of the party’s MPs.

The court warned that any session carried out in defiance of its ban would be “null”, and added that the parliament’s leaders could face criminal action if they ignored the court order.

This ruling gives Rajoy’s government the leeway to bar Catalonia’s parliament from convening Monday and arresting separatist leaders then. Reader Sue had thought earlier that the procedural mechanism for authorizing the crackdown on the separatists would be via having the Spanish Senate invoke Section 155 of Spanish Constitution, where Rajoy’s Popular Party has the votes to pass the measure via the support of Ciudadanos and perhaps the PSOE but I am no longer certain that nicety is necessary.

If the separatists do not back down (and they have signaled they won’t), on Monday, the central government will at some point apply Section 155 to take over the Catalonia government. It will also, either using the Constitutional Court ruling or Section 155, arrest the leaders of the independence movement, declare the secessionist parties to be illegal, and crack down on protestors. The ones who try to interfere in arrests and try to allow passage of legislators to the parliament building will be roughed up the most.

Readers who know the surrounding area in Barcelona are encouraged to pipe up. Supporters are certain to be massed outside the parliament as the vote is set to take place on Monday. It seems likely as before that the local police will stand aside. The Guardia Civil does not seem to believe in finesse. Even so, the number of people who can mass in the square and streets outside the parliament building can’t possibly be as many as wound up clashing with the Guardia Civil during the referendum. In other words, the total number of people injured (and there are guaranteed to be injuries) is likely to be in the dozens, not hundreds. The flip side is that if anyone dies or is very badly hurt, that will push more Catalonians who have been fence-sitting or only weak supporters of independence into a more radical stance.

Major businesses are getting edgy. As reader Frenchguy pointed out on Wednesday, pharmaceutical company Oryzon Genomics SA announced it was leaving Catalonia and would move to Madrid as a result of the referendum. Its share spiked 33% as a result of the announcement before giving up some of its gains.

Seeking to apply more pressure, the Spanish government will announce today that it is relaxing rules allowing companies to move headquarters. From Reuters:

Spain’s government will issue a decree on Friday making it easier for firms to transfer their legal base out of Catalonia, two sources said, in a move that could deal a serious blow to the region’s finances as it considers declaring independence.

The decree is tailor-made for Spanish lender Caixabank, sources familiar with the matter said, as it would make it possible for the bank to transfer its legal and tax base to another location without having to hold a shareholders’ meeting as stated in its statutes.

As reader Sue commented yesterday afternoon:

Huge mistake by PP [Popular Party] Spanish Government! By getting ready to pass/issue a decreto ministerial (law without Congressional approval) to allow Caixabank to bypass a Shareholders Meeting and have directly the Board of Directors to decide on relocating Caixabank’s headquarters from Catalunya to somewhere else in Spain. Catalans are furious: is the PP Government promoting the relocation of corporate headquarters, all staff, all these good jobs( including high management positions) while very soon will be taking over the Catalan Government (applying sect. 155)?

Readers in Catalonia may differ on how much support for independence has increased as a result of Rajoy’s thuggish suppression of the referendum. The solidly neoliberal Financial Times claims a “silent majority” in Catalonia rejects the secessionist movement:

Amid the political drama of the past few days, it is easy to overlook that a clear majority of Catalans did not endorse secession from Spain on Sunday. Of the 2.26m votes cast, 2.02m were in favour of independence, or less than 40 per cent of the Catalan electorate. Neither can the pro-secession camp claim that it is winning converts at the ballot box: the number of people voting — and voting for independence — has been broadly stable since 2014.

“About 3.5m Catalans are not in favour of independence, or at least not in the current way,” says Miquel Iceta, leader of the Catalan Socialist party, which opposes secession. “To get to independence you have to at least get the majority of votes. And the pro-independence parties haven’t got a majority of votes. So why are they trying to impose independence on a majority that doesn’t want it?”

This is clearly overegging the pudding, but a broader point remains true: the results of the referendum don’t provide support for the idea that a majority of citizens supports it. Yes, the Spanish government made getting a true count impossible. But the separatists’ claims of the number of votes they got in favor of an exit don’t stand up either. The voting was chaotic, and none of the measure to prevent duplicate votes were in place.

Even more important, for a secessionist effort to succeed in the face of central government opposition, you need both the support of a solid majority of a public that recognizes and accepts that they will suffer considerable hardship in the process, and considerable preparation. Those critical elements aren’t remotely in place. And as we described in detail in an earlier post, Spain holds trump cards not just via its ability to muster greater physical force, but via being able to shut down much if not all of the payments system in Catalonia if it so chooses.

So Catalonia is about to have what autonomy it has stripped away, apparently to poke a stick in Rajoy’s eye. This may feel good, but it does a great disservice to the bulk of the population. Even though I have no love for Rajoy’s heavy-handed, austerity-lovin’ rule, it’s hard to have any respect for the amateurism of the separatist leaders.

As PlutoniumKunm pointed out in comments:

Historically (in Europe anyway) countries have managed to become independent from a larger state either when the larger State either doesn’t object strongly (e.g. when the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia collapsed, or when Czechoslovakia divided), or then the new nation had a big friend who was able to ease the transition and prevent hostile acts from the ‘parent’ State – for example Ireland, which almost certainly could only have gained independence due to the powerful Irish lobby in the US which prevented London from taking the sort of ruthless approach that could have crushed its emergence.

Due to the constitutional make-up of the EU, which is strongly predicated on the absolute right of the member nation States to veto acts they disapprove of, it is almost impossible for a region within the EU to declare independence without the co-operation of the parent State. This is not of course impossible – it could have happened if Scotland had voted for independence.

But in current circumstances Spain has an effective veto on Catalonian independence, unless the Catalonian people are willing to withstand a complete collapse of their economy. The only possibility is if Spain agrees to independence, or if Spain is forced by external forces to not interfere with a newly emerging Catalonian State. Neither seems very likely.

While I have no time for Rajoy or the Madrid establishment in general, it must also be said that the Catalonian government has simply not done the groundwork to allow for independence. I think Slovenia is a good example of how a new nation can form – in their case by slowly building external friends and internal administrative structures, and taking their opportunity when it arose.

Even though Rajoy’s crackdown will probably hurt him in the long run, if nothing else due to damage to the Spanish economy, it is the Catalonians who are likely to suffer even more. And no one seems predisposed to pull out of a lose-lose situation.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It does seem to be a widespread phenomenon. I’d blame it on terrible leadership everywhere you look, both in politics and business.

      1. nostromo

        The way I see the interlock, one can understand that it will not break easily:

        * One of the Catalan independentist forces is republican, and the independence, even in mild federalists ways, fuels the anti monarchic feelings in a moment where the King is not in a strong position
        * The PP is in a relatively weak position, but there is not an alternate majority: PSOE is strongly divided, with a big part of it supporting the government re: the Catalonia stances (see today this open letter, from particularly right winged “socialist” militants). And the current arithmetic is that only with PSOE can an alternate majority be built
        * There is a strong (roughly 1/3) part of the population in the rest of Spain that has strong anti Catalan feelings or elsewhere support ANY measure to keep Spain united. So any negotiation position weakens whoever supports it
        * Catalan independentists know that unilaterally declaring independence is not a viable option, but they have no other way out of their process, because the Government is not willing to negotiate, and they will not surrender

        There is no easy way that does not imply a lose-lose situation, as the Spanish government is in a terminal state, loosing support since 2012, much like the Catalan one. They are both in a flight forward.

        1. KFritz

          “…they will not surrender.”

          George Soros says that one of his important strengths is quickly recognizing and abandoning losing positions. Methinks the Catalan leaders don’t possess this trait.

      2. cocomaan

        Why are the leaders so damn rotten? Too much television as kids? Bad education? How the laws are written? It’s bizarre.

          1. TroyMcClure

            “Stuff and Money in the Time of the French Revolution” by Rebecca L. Sprang is a great primer on that question.

            One of the key drivers was that the emerging bourgeoisie saw a political opening to take control and initiated the necessary crisis by insisting that France was “bankrupt” (it wasn’t) and it’s king was to blame for the “fiscal irresponsibility.” Sound familiar?

        1. IsotopeC14

          My hypothesis is cocaine. I think if the whole production lot of 2-3 years was contaminated with di-methyl mercury the world would suddenly become sane. Only reason you need more money when you have billions is that you need more money for more coke. Either that or They Live was actually a documentary…

      3. Sue

        Yves, a widespread phenomenon. I agree with you to the t.
        Regarding latest developments in Catalunya. Banc de Sabadell and Caixabank are moving their legal headquarters (in Spanish “sede ,domicilio social”) to Valencia and Alicante. This is a very quick process, it takes very few days. We are of course talking about the legal headquarters and not the corporate headquarters . The consequences of this are that these banks secure their remaining in the E banking system no matter what, with the ECB as creditor of last resort (to use a Minskyan expression) ,maintaining the up to 100,000 euros insurance for each depositor, access by the banks to the ECB d window, etc. Under a non-independence scenario this is not economically a big deal. We do not know if these institutions would move their legal headquarters afterwards back to Catalunya. If they were not, Comunidad Valenciana “gets credit” for the corporate tax payments from the two banks, with adjustments later on to the corresponding fiscal flows. Just a drop in the bucket! A few non-financial corporations are moving or are considering moving their legal headquarters too (notably, Gas Natural) . I hope to add something to the latter tomorrow. Thanks for the article

      4. John k

        Neo liberalism drains demand and decent jobs, creating massive discontent. But end game is messy because Tina is the barricade that makes planning and preparations so diffecult… polling the electorate is a logical early step, but not just illegal, pop is bludgeoned by military thugs.
        Some advise preparing a new currency in secret… is this possible?
        So all efforts will look impossible, as do all revolutions at the beginning. Most are stomped out, but stomping, especially brutal ones, reduces happiness with status quo, preparing the soil for new shoots.
        Bound to affect tourism, obviously in Barcelona, but likely throughout Spain.

      5. JBird4049

        It’s their experiences since the end of the Cold War, rather like the European elites enjoyed before 1915. The war, which nobody expected right then, happened because of governmental screw ups, including it be vacation season.

        However horrible the war was, it gave experience and the perspective that comes with it. The world wide Great Depression gave everyone more perspective, and more training in dealing with actual serious problems. As did the Second World War, the Red Scare, the social up heavels, riots, terrorist organizations, and reactionary governments active the Americas, including the United States, and Europe, and the actual not sold Cold War.

        The Great Grandparents, Grandparents, and Parents of all our current leadership lived through all this and whatever their beliefs and ideology was, it was strained through this. In the quarter century since the Cold War ended what has been the experiences of our current leadership?

        It’s not that they are stupid, but unlike all the survivors of the previous seventy-five years, they have never needed to grow up.

    2. ebr

      No vlade, it is not just you. From the midwest I argue that Trump is lose-lose : a great protest vote against coastal elites, but afterwards you have Trump.

      I agree with the analysis above. Charles Peugdemont & the separatists are “Fire-Eaters” and unless they open fire on Fort Sumner this is all over but for the shouting. But never underestimate the power of human stupidity. So then what are the guns laws in Spain?

      3 million registered weapons in Spain (as a whole) the hands of 1.1 million owners, many of which are carbines. Andalusia has the most privately held guns at 612k registered guns. The ANARMA association (Spain’s NRA) has only 2k members. The black market is consists of ‘deactivated’ guns from old Eastern Europe armories. I can’t imagine trying to equip an armed militia around several different sorts of weapons with different calibers & no reliable bullet supply.

      I don’t know enough about Catalan politics to know if Catalan IRA could become a thing. Anyone?

      1. todde

        They won’t use guns anyway.

        They will try a prolonged general strike and try to disrupt the economy.

      2. nostromo

        The process has been extremely non violent for the moment. I would not expect any militia until long after a prolonged repression in the name of the Spanish State ensues.

        I’m also not expecting an armed response from the Spanish Government. There are two most probable developments:
        * Spain uses the Constitution to stop the Catalan Autonomy and take the power temporarily until elections in Catalonia are heldl. Strikes or other pacific resistance ensues, and the independentist forces try to capitalize the situation in term of votes
        * No matter how difficult it looks, some dialog happens. In order to get out of the legal mess, a constitutional change is needed, but agreeing publicly to follow this way could lessen the conflict. See my previous comment to see why this looks almost impossible to happen.

        1. St Jacques

          There is talk of talking seriously about everything, implying the Statute of Catalonia, better demarcation of central-autonomous competencies – which was the long fuse that lit this crisis, but only if the Catalan regime backs down from its threat to declare independencel I think, behind the scenes, everyone can see this is a potentially lose-lose in every way imaginable. I have to give credit to Rajoy for his patience. He has realised his mistake trying to enforce the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling to cancel the illegal referendum and is trying to provide an opening for some other way out than firing Article 155 of the Constitution – which I think he’d only do after a declaration of independence. He has already brought huge public pressure onto the minority Catalan government by saying he wants to help the rapidly swelling ranks of businesses that want to shift out of Barcelona into other cities. So, for now, I think there is light at the end of this tunnel. Just a little but it is very real. The key game changer in the central government’s favour was the stonewalling of the minority Catalan administration by the EU.

    3. Louis Fyne

      there are “barriers entry to meritocracy” seemingly everywhere:

      whether it’s technological/financial oligarchies,
      credentialed class nepotism (preferred alumni/famous-wealthy children admits),
      generous estate tax breaks (and loopholes in addition those breaks),
      a ruling class who literally won’t leave until they’re dead (US Senate),
      undischargeable student debt,
      even a lousy publicly traded management team can reap millions using stock incentives (thanks to lofty valuations and uninvolved index fund manageraged)….

      free feel to add your own.

      1. Eclair

        Oh good! “Undischargeable” student debt. Will the next move of the corrupt ruling class be to offer a solution: debt-ridden, but well-educated, grads can sell themselves into slavery for a set period. After time served, if they survive, they will be released debt-free. I can see a whole new market opening up for the GEO’s and CCA’s of the world.

      2. tony

        Upward mobility also means downward mobility for those on the top. Of course they want to freeze the social classes into a caste system.

  1. DJG

    I agree with Yves Smith’s analysis, although I am not sure that Madrid will strip away Catalan autonomy. The central government and the Guardia Civil have made a mess of things, and the king shows why the Spanish monarchy has had troubles with legitimacy the last hundred years or so. Don’t forget that he is the first king to inherit the crown and reign in some 80 years. (His father managed to wrangle the crown out of Franco.)

    I do have some bones to pick with PlutoniumKun’s analysis: I think that the Catalans have been successful in laying the foundations of an independent state: The Mossos d’Esquadra replace the Guardia Civil and have shown where their loyalties lie–to the locals. The promotion of the Catalan language has generally shored up a national feeling. The resoration of the Generalitat and its vigor have demonstrated self-government. The infrastructure is tested better than Slovenia’s was before the collapse of Yugoslavia.

    There is, though, the factor of supranational agencies like the EU and plain old imperialism. David North points out that Yugoslavia was no longer convenient for the U.S. or Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union, so preserving Yugoslavia didn’t matter. (The behavior of Serbian nationalist didn’t help either, to put it mildly.)

    [I’m reminded of the causes of the endless stalemate in Cyprus: Colonialism and imperialism.]

    In the case of the Catalans, you have them in the same situation as the Bretons and the Scots: Distinctive groups of people with their own traditions and a history of self-governance (less so the Bretons) who simply aren’t going to get independence. The minority / majorities of non-Catalans, non-Scots, non-Bretons are a helpful pretext for the powerful to maintain the nation-state.

    The Catalans also have geography against them. Like the Kurds who are divided over four countries, Catalans are divided over three countries (Andorra, France, and Spain). Not to mention the Valencian community and the Balearic islands.

    Just as the Kurds are unlikely to achieve independence, the Catalans made the “mistake” of being on the wrong side of geographic lines. The Irish were lucky to be on their own island, although imperialism meant that even that fairly small island was split by the English overlords.

    In short, we are seeing Castilian nationalism and intransigence being portrayed as “the real Spain.” And “the real Spain” is likely to win.

    1. charlie

      “The resoration of the Generalitat and its vigor have demonstrated self-government.”

      Err, the “vigor” is based on a minority government.

      If anything, what has demonstrated vigor is municipal level institutions. The Generalalitat has been pretty non-functional since Pujols went away.

      The Catalans have to break a record for failed attempt at independence. What is this, the 4th time? 1713, 1922, 1931?

    2. Frenchguy

      What bothers me with all this attention on Catalans/Bretons/Scots is that many regions actually also have strong local traditions and history of self-governance.

      In France, except in the center of the country, there were strong local power center everywhere. Here is the map of local parliaments (technically these were justice courts not legislative bodies but in any case they did have great influence on local law) during the ancien régime:

      And they also had their own languages until very recently. My own region, Provence, has one of the few Nobel Prize of literature in a minority language (Frédéric Mistral).

      Anyway, my point is the obsession of independantists with their own immortal history is, from my point of view, ignoring that they are not special, quite strange and, frankly, a bit racist. For the life of me, I can’t compute how supposedly left-wing people can tolerate such a reactionary movement. There must be better ways to disapprove of Rajoy…

      1. Frenchguy

        Btw I really don’t mean to be disrepectful and to deny the strong feelings of people in Catalonia. It’s just that when I look at Catalonia, I see a region that is doing very well economically, which has a large degree of autonomy and where the locals have basically won the cultural war. See the language stats below, all children speak catalan now. So I really don’t see the oppression. On the other hand, every other state in Europe is looking at them and is thinking: that’s what you get for going easy on them and giving them what they want. Catalonia may win its independance in the end, but it will doom ever more regional cultures elsewhere…

      2. Ignacio

        Anyway, my point is the obsession of independantists with their own immortal history is, from my point of view, ignoring that they are not special, quite strange and, frankly, a bit racist. For the life of me, I can’t compute how supposedly left-wing people can tolerate such a reactionary movement. There must be better ways to disapprove of Rajoy…

        My belief is that what sustains nationalism is tribal attachment. Because tribalism provides with a meaning of life (like religion for instance), nationalism is strong on its beliefs. I believe that for the same reason, provokes sympathy among people not involved in the issue.

        Tribalism by itself is not a bad feeling, in fact is good, but it can turn wrong when too much emphasis is placed on it. Like religions. Europe has suffered a lot because of nationalistic excesses. A typical excess is racism.

        1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

          My own personal view is that for many Catalonian nationalism is probably something for many that is simply something to hang one’s battered hat on, & at the risk of being proven wrong, I do not believe that the majority who voted yes are raving Nationalists. As with Brexit, the little Englander contingent are from what I have seen are largely outnumbered by people who are just basically fed up of getting the short end of the stick & felt rightly I believe, that their interests were being ignored. It is also apparent from the great work of this site that it is a similar situation with Trump.

          As for Catalonia doing well which it might be doing in relation to Spain & further afield – I have read many reports particularly from Barcelona in which that does not appear to be the case. Now forgive me if my figures are incorrect here, but Ireland was recently trumpeting it’s 26% growth in GDP. i read somewhere that the real figure is around 6%, but even at that you might think that the government who achieved this feat would be topping the polls, but it is not & as is the case almost everywhere Neoliberalism is dipping it’s beak, resulting in widespread inequality. On a recent visit to Dublin, it was not hard to spot the more visible element of those losing out.

          I don’t believe that these statistics & the stark photographs that accompany them from around two years ago can be seen as a success, but rather illustrate the same sense of hopelessness that appears to be the new norm.

          1. Ignacio

            humm. Pretty much agreed. In fact I believe that the title of this post is not correct. There is not such a Spain vs Catalonia thing except, may be, at the level of the powerful A bid for power.

        2. Deplorable Basketdweller

          Your view that Europe and its independent nataion states are in trouble because nationalism makes me wonder exactly what is in the water you drink and the food you eat? Ask 100 people on the street in any European country and they will tell you, as long as you aren’t recording, that their nation is in deep trouble because of the multiculturalism of their respective governments that has been rampant since the EU formed! The multicultural neoliberal elites ruling the European nation states have ramped up their anti sovereignty campaigns over the last several years and murder, rape, robbery all crime, white and blue collar has exploded at almost exponential rates, ethics and morals are declining and the governments do more for immigrants and refugees than they do for their own citizens? The EU governments wont publish statistics that show the truth for fear of offending an immigrant class? Merkel is destroying her country to make amends for a war and crimes that happened 70) years ago? There is virtually no German currently living that had anything to do with the Germany of WWII and yet they are paying for someone else’s actions? She cant change what happened and destroying her own country will not erase any pages from the books of History! The modern day immigrant or refugee who are at the heart of this multicultural experiment claim to be feeing tyranny od oppression yet they make no attempt to assimilate into their foster country’s culture fighting assimilation at every level, seemingly doing all they can to recreate the tyranny and oppression they claim to flee? The full explanation of the EU’s failure would require more of my time that I care to spend and it would most likely be a waste of that time anyway! The world is far to vast and its beliefs and practices are to diverse to not have independent and sovereign nations that lead and protect their own peoples! The key to a peaceful and successful world is Nationalism! The multicultural experiment of the last several decades at the urging of groups like the UN has been a miserable failure, at best! Your implication that nationalism foments racism is false and unsupportable while cramming huge numbers of dissimilar peoples into a long established cultural system of indigenous people with many status quos of behavior is quantitatively proven throughout history to cause strife at the least and war as the typical result!

  2. Jack

    I have been reading NC’s reporting/commenting on the Catalan independence movement with interest. I was paying attention to the referendum mainly because I had visited Barcelona last year and really enjoyed the city and its people. Recent events though are of particular interest to me because of how the movement there circumvented the governments attempts to limit their use of the internet to coordinate the election. I have the feeling that Catalan is just the first of many instances that will be happening soon where local and regional pockets rebel against the central government. I think something like this is even going to happen soon in the US. People are just getting fed up.
    When you read about how the separatists and in particular their leader, Carles Puigdemont, is going about this though you have to wonder. What really is their end game? Surely they have to know they will not succeed, at least in the way they are going about this. Who benefits?
    Maybe they know they will not win but are goading the Spanish government into making an extreme error which will benefit their chances of independence later on. Carles Puigdemont was a journalist most of his career and only recently became a politician. As a journalist he was a strong supporter of Catalan and independence. When he was sworn in as President of Catalan he refused to swear an oath to Spanish Constitution and the King. I get the feeling he is willing to burn it all down because of his political passion. Catalonia has a history of being a hotbed of anarchism and socialism. They had many early successes against nationalist Spain during their civil war in the 1930’s, but ended up losing in the end. Hopefully, this situation will be settled peacefully. I have the feeling though that Carles Puigdemont will end up being a martyr to his cause.

  3. Eclair

    I have been trying to shed the trappings of language, culture, historical wrongs and ‘nationalism’ and look at the situation in terms of what is the optimal size for a group of people to be effectively-self governing (and I am sure that there are papers out there exploring this dilemma). There is so much of ‘you’re not the boss of me’ as well as fear of the loss of power and prestige on the part of the larger entity (is there a word for the larger entity that is facing the break-up, as well as a word (nonjudgmental) for the group wishing to break off?), that it is difficult for me to look at this process analytically.

    I have been, for the last two months, embedded, as it were, in an Amish community. But not part of it. What I have observed has fascinated me. One, that the group is a distinct threat to our consumer culture! I mean, everyone wears exactly the same clothing, depending on whether you are male or female. And the styles have not changed since the 18th century. Same for housing.

    My Amish neighbors are part of a very conservative community. For religious and governing purposes, they form into what we might term ‘parishes.’ A parish contains only the number of families that will fit within a typical house, which is where the group holds Sunday services, rotating among all the houses of the community. Once a parish becomes too large, there is an established protocol for members to break off and form a separate parish. The process is friendly, at least to an outside observer; there are family and friendships bonds among all the parishes. One male is always in a leadership position …. but his power is limited to the set number of families in his parish. No amassing of great wealth and power and setting out to create an Amish Empire.

    The Amish have deliberately eschewed our ‘civilized’ mindset … that a nation (actually an elite ruling class; the Spanish king, queen and princess are members of the Bilderberg Group, quelle surprise!) must always be acquisitive, in terms of money, land, power over others. They have given up trying to change the larger structure and chose instead to concentrate on governing themselves.

    Sorry, I’m not sure what I am trying to say here. I’m just asking questions: why do we have this bias towards forming larger and larger nations? Since language has a huge influence on the way we view the world (or vice versa, chicken or egg), is trying to force a group with a distinct language and culture to be part of some artificially-created ‘sovereign nation’ just asking for trouble? (What’s so great about ‘the Spanish identity’ anyway? Other than one of the Bourbons gets to be king (or queen) over a bigger piece of real estate.)

    And, then there is the question that I started out with: what is the optimal size for a nation; one that allows them to function effectively yet prevents them from becoming a predator? A size that allows us to develop the deep social bonds that are such an essential part of governance, and emphasizes that it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in governing. What is the size of our national ‘living room?’

    1. Irrational

      Alesina and Spolaore have tried in “The size of nations” if you can bear two mainstream economists.

      1. Eclair

        Oh goddess, will I need to brush up on my calculus? Thanks for the tip, I will order a copy once I get to a place where there is an independent book store. Well, once I get to a place where there IS a bookstore.

  4. Ignacio

    The push for independence is fading. The main catalonian bank (Caixabank) moves headquarters to Valencia. Gas Natural (utilities) to Madrid. Artur Mas declares on british TV that Catalonia is not yet ready for independence. Puigdemont delays his parlamentary intervention, when he was supposedly declaring independence, from monday to tuesday and everybody is telling him that proclaiming independence wouldn’t be such a good idea rigth now.

    1. St Jacques

      Catalonia is deeply divided and poll after poll has shown a majority have been against independence for whatever reason. It has even affected Catalan institutions like the police force, the Mossos d’esquadra – they are deeply divided.

  5. Ignacio

    There is a hidden bank run from Banco de Sabadell and La Caixa. I can tell anecdotically that these days public attention in Banco de Santander branches is problematic because they have to deal with many new accounts. Many more companies afraid of the consequences of secession are leaving or considering it in case of secession. Catalonia is already suffering the consequences. As Plutonium Kun put it, catalonian leadership did not do the necessary groundwork, and I wonder which work should have they done.

    Catalonia is too entrenched with the rest of the country to act as the catalonian leadership has acted. It has been quite irresponsible. Puigdemont must go.

    1. nostromo

      In my analysis, the delay in the independence declaration is due to hidden negotiations going on. Either there is people negotiating a solution, or the only rational way of the independentists is forward: declare independence, let the Spanish forces suspend the autonomic government, take power and send them to jail, and try to capitalize the standoff in electoral terms after several months of Spanish “oppression”.

      We are seeing that the Spanish Government is waiting without suspending the autonomy. Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution enables the central Goverment to suspend a regional government and call elections there after a while. But Rajoy seems to not want to take the responsibility yet.

      Unless a secret negotiation is going on, this is what is going to happen, Tuesday or so. First Independence Declaration, which will be quickly counteracted by Article 155. This will hold the situation temporarily, but it will make for a strong long term conflict in Catalonia.

      1. St Jacques

        Again I must emphasize, though there is a large minority supporting independence, it was always a minority, it peaked several years ago and has been sliding ever since. This coalition of Catalan political forces in charge now represents a minority of Catalans and is only held together by having a common enemy, the PP. It ranges from the right, all the way to the far left group CUP who have very little in common. It was only able to pass its Law of Rupture in the Catalan parlament on the 6th and 7th of September, which has been rightly called a legal coup – by taking advantage of a half empty chamber at the end of the holiday season and ramming the constitutionally illegal “Law of Rupture” (rules to enact a constitutionally illegal regional referendum and ensuing declaration of independene). How anybody can respect this banana republic campaign is beyond me, and to somehow characterise it as “Catalonia versus Spain” when Catalans themselves are very bitterly divided on it and a clear majority, who refused to participate in the dodgy referendum of the so-called “process”, is beyond me. Guess people need to see things in Hollywood “goodies and baddies”: or “leftists versus rightists” which it isn’t. And ” the procés is straight out of the book of banana republic populism. ” It is now in a very weak position, especially as the announcements of big name businesses and banks out of Barcelona has turned into a sudden torrent and ordinary people are getting very deeply fed up with the constant strikes led by hard left affiliated unions. Don’t be surprised if there are soon huge demonstrations for unity with Spain.

  6. Jesus Martinez

    Hi all,

    1-Violence, IRA scenario and guns: in my opinion, we are years away from that. Not worth discussing now.

    2-nostromo’s comments, again, are very good, even if I disagree with some of his points. (By the way, Nostromo the novel was about the birth of a new State if I remember well. A coincidence?)

    3-Events: Spain hasn’t arrested Sànchez, Cuixart or Trapero. The Spanish government has apologized for Sunday’s crackdown. Giving the conflict some pause? Puigdemont has put off any decision until Tuesday. Mmmmm… are both sides manouvering to avoid the final clash?

    4- The headlines according which Catalonia is not ready seem to have come out from an FT interview with Mas. His tone (cut here:
    is hard, but I don’t know against whom he is speaking: Catalan government who doesn’t get it would be the number one option, but then he has come out again sort of saying that he didn’t sort of say exactly what he said. Sort of confusing. Sings of doubts in the PDCat?

    5-Getting ready for it:
    It is a report written months ago by experts in each field about the future State. There are chapters translated into different languages, and all of them into Spanish. It is a report about the new State, not about the moment we are living now, but some thought has certainly gone to some issues.

    6-Just as I dismissed Oryzon’s move as not related to the situation, anything having to do with the financial and government regulated sectors (energy…) is related to the conflict. Some quick thoughts on that:

    a-we have to distinguish between three scenarios: messy scenario is when the Spanish government loses control of the territory for some hours/days/weeks; de-facto independence is when that control is lost indefinitely, the Catalan government rules, but there is no international recognition by anyone; formal independence scenario is that lost control leads to a formal State recognized by the EU and by Spain. Always keep in mind too the difference between EU and the EES. EU membership is not a requirement for access to the Common Market.

    b-The official reason is to keep access to ECB money in the case of independence. Independence here means formal independence. Banks have only access to ECB financing against bonds of their parent countries. I think that that hasn’t changed. The official reason means that, in whatever conditions (legal and real), Catalonia is a new state recognized by those that matter.

    c-The messy scenario means that they have gone for now but that they will return. Choosing Alacant as their headquarters is signalling that they would return to Barcelona. Avoiding Madrid as a way to avoid a politically motivated bank runs?

    d-The de-facto scenario is the most interesting one: is it possible that they foresee that they will be forced by the Catalan government to do things that they want to avoid and that they move out of Catalonia because they want to make the submission to Catalan government orders harder? In any case, when discussing these things you need to keep different scenarios in mind.

    e-In my opinion, financial warfare by the Spanish government is not on the table. I think that the TBTF logic applies here. People (bank runs) would not be that self-restrained, though.

    f-Shutting down the Catalan economy: months ago the talk of general strikes was on the pro-independence side. Now it is talked about as a Spanish government option. Mmmmmm… I wonder if Yves, who has repeatedly mentioned this Greek-like scenario has any inside information about this. I can only see it coming out of sheer desperation by the Spanish government in a most extreme case in a messy scenario. Dunno.

    7-One option that no one seems to be discussing at the moment: Puigdemont dissolves the Parliament and calls for immediate elections.

    1. Sue

      Great info, Jesus! From these reports and studies from Generalitat, an independent Catalunya formed without Spain’s consent/negotiation would start with a 34% GDP public debt

      1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

        Jesus – Just a note on the IRA aspect.

        II have a cousin who has lived in Northern Ireland for a few years & I am actually there at the moment for work purposes. He has been involved in cross community work but most of his contacts have been within the Catholic community. He told me of a meeting he had with an ex top IRA man who somehow had a version of Google Earth on his phone which could zoom down to around the size of a front door – the normal version accessible to anyone is pretty awful in comparison.

        The upshot of this was the realisation that this type of technology was imminent influenced Sinn Fein to negotiate. In his opinion it would now be impossible for the IRA to operate as it once did in terms of rural guerilla warfare & at best any armed resistance would be limited to urban areas, where finding cover would be possible, although since that meeting, drones have also appeared.

    2. nostromo

      I have been using Nostromo as nick for years. From Italian “nostro uomo”, it is sometimes used in Spanish though we have the orthodox “nostramo”, word to address a “contramaestre”, a boatswain. A “nostromo” is one of the sailors that, at the same time, talks with the officers. I took it after Conrad’s character in the homonym novel. Nostromo the novel is about the interaction between the individual and the social in a changing power balance. It always fascinated me because of the way it is written, as all Conrad’s works.

      Re: choosing Alacant, as part of the banking mess after the crisis, Banc de Sabadell took CajaMar, which had strong presence in Alacant, including a big computing center, which I’m not sure is currently the main one or a secondary one of Sabadell. Also a big Culture House there, close to my family’s home. So Alacant was already de facto a secondary central office. Yes, it is mostly a formal move to ensure they remain under EU-Spain jurisdiction in any event, mostly to calm the markets.

      Re: immediate Catalan elections, Rivera is screaming for them while PP is trying to keep him cool, which probably means he is wrong as usual and they would benefit the independentist forces, but it is very difficult to know.

      My guess is that nobody wants to go for immediate polls, too much uncertainty. I see two possible scenarios:
      a) negotiation is going on, that they are going to stage some deescalation and agree on a way towards a referendum, probably with elections in Catalonia soon and maybe a Constitutional reform in Spain.
      b) there are no talks, A chicken game ensues between Rajoy, who does not want to implement repressive measures first, and Puigdemont, who does not want to declare an empty independence. It will probably end, no matter who plays first, with both an Independence declaration and Article 155 intervention. This forces catalan elections, but not right now. This scenario benefits PP in South/Central Spain and the independentist forces in Catalonia, which is the reason why I think they will go this way. I hope I am wrong.

  7. Jesus Martinez

    By the way, Section 155 has been discussed a lot. Here it is:

    Section 155
    1. If a Self-governing Community does not
    fulfil the obligations imposed upon it by the
    Constitution or other laws, or acts in a way that
    is seriously prejudicial to the general interest
    of Spain, the Government, after having lodged
    a complaint with the President of the Self-governing Community and failed to receive satisfaction
    therefore, may, following approval
    granted by the overall majority of the Senate,
    take all measures necessary to compel the
    Community to meet said obligations, or to protect
    the abovementioned general interest.
    2. With a view to implementing the measures
    provided for in the foregoing paragraph,
    the Government may issue instructions to all
    the authorities of the Self-governing Communities.

    In Spanish:

    Artículo 155.
    1. Si una Comunidad Autónoma no cumpliere las obligaciones
    que la Constitución u otras leyes le impongan, o actuare de forma
    que atente gravemente al interés general de España, el Gobierno,
    previo requerimiento al Presidente de la Comunidad Autónoma y, en
    el caso de no ser atendido, con la aprobación por mayoría absoluta
    del Senado, podrá adoptar las medidas necesarias para obligar a
    aquélla al cumplimiento forzoso de dichas obligaciones o para la protección del mencionado interés general.
    2. Para la ejecución de las medidas previstas en el apartado anterior,
    el Gobierno podrá dar instrucciones a todas las autoridades de
    las Comunidades Autónomas.

    Question is: nowhere is mentioned the suspension of Catalan institutions. I think it is clear that the “all necessary measures” are to make the Catalan officials (at all levels) comply with Spanish orders, although of course that can be stretched (and probably would be) by many actors here.
    Point is: all this legalistic talk is noise. Fear tactics involved. The game is political first and then a power fight in the raw. People vs the police? The military?

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