One of the key debates in the context of Catalan independence is whether the territory should be allowed to hold an independence referendum. José Javier Olivas argues that any decision about the territory’s independence should also involve citizens in the rest of Spain, not simply those in Catalonia. He writes that the Spanish constitution prohibits secession by any Spanish region and that it is up to Catalan nationalists to convince the rest of Spain of the case for Catalonia’s independence.
On 11 September 2013 hundreds of thousands of people formed a human chain to demand the secession of Catalonia from Spain. This well organised and largely peaceful display of patriotic fervour coincided with celebration of Catalonia’s national day, Diada, and aimed to return the attention of the international media to the issue of Catalan independence. “Mission accomplished” claimed the organisers and sponsors of the event, including the Catalan regional government Generalitat.
They describe Catalonia’s independence process as an accelerating train that will not stop until it reaches the inevitable final stop of independence. Nationalist political leaders and commentators have already warned (the rest of) Spain to clear a path and not to interfere or risk a ‘train crash’ taking place. The latest opinion polls and mass mobilisations suggest that many Catalans have taken their estelada flag and jumped onto the train with the hope of leaving Spain and the economic crisis behind. However the final destination may not match the idyllic depiction passengers were given before the trip. Worse even, there are great (and increasing) risks of the train to independence suffering a derailment.
Misunderstandings about Catalonia
Catalan independence is gathering a noticeable amount of support among activists and political movements abroad. Many of them have a simplified and idealised vision of the situation in Catalonia and see this cause as another liberation movement in the line of the anti-colonial struggles in Africa or Asia during the 20th century. But are Catalans voiceless, oppressed and/or exploited by Spain? Would Catalan independence contribute to a more egalitarian world? The answer is no.
Catalonia is one of the richest autonomous communities and the biggest economy in Spain. It displays better levels of public services, education, industrial development and occupation than the majority of Spanish autonomous communities. It also has arguably the most vibrant cultural life in Spain. The tax revenues collected in Catalonia are crucial for the redistributive function of the Spanish government. The GDP per capita in Catalonia is 18 per cent higher than that of Spain and 70 per cent higher than that of Extremadura, the poorest region in the country.
One of the most popular arguments in the nationalist rhetoric is ‘Spain steals from us’ (‘Espanya ens roba’). All Catalan nationalist parties including the left-wing ERC and ICV have claimed that there is excessive solidarity within Spain and that a much larger share of the taxes collected in Catalonia should stay in Catalonia. This anti-redistribution argument is the most compelling of those used by Catalan nationalists and most Spaniards would be in favour of renegotiating the autonomous communities fiscal and redistribution model. However this argument does not justify the claim for outright independence and seems to resonate more with the stance of the Padanian Lega Nord and Flemish Vlaams Belang than with the anti-colonialist ideal many foreign sympathisers of the Catalan nationalist cause have in mind.
Nationalist leaders claim that an independent Catalonia would be like the Sweden, Netherlands, or Massachusetts of the south of Europe. Although Catalonia is a rich region, it is very far from these benchmark cases. According to an EU study, Catalonia has the worst regional government in Spain in terms of corruption, effectiveness and accountability, with a level comparable only to some regions in Greece, Italy and former Eastern Bloc countries.
Similar to the rest of Spain, the area is suffering from the consequences of economic crisis and political corruption scandals. Its regional government is the most indebted in the country in absolute terms and the third most indebted relative to its GDP. The Catalan government has seen its credit rating slashed by all credit agencies and is unable to finance itself in the markets. In addition to this, an independent Catalonia would automatically exit the EU and would have to renegotiate membership with the threat of a Spanish veto.
Indeed, several business associations have warned against independence and hundreds of companies are relocating to Madrid. Due to these problems and uncertainties it is extremely difficult to have an optimistic view about the scenario of an independent Catalonia. In fact, this process of secession seems a typical case of ‘gambling for resurrection’ where the Generalitat takes a highly questionable and risky path with the hope to divert people’s attention away from internal problems such as corruption scandals, unpopular austerity cuts and loss of electoral support.
Freedom is also popularly claimed as a reason for independence. An LSE Catalan academic recently claimed that ‘Catalans are trapped within Spain’. Catalans are as ‘trapped’ within Spain as the inhabitants of Valencia, Galicia or Madrid. Catalan participation in Spanish media, academia, corporate boards and diplomacy is well over the country average. For years Catalans (16 per cent of the Spanish population) counted for up to 40 per cent of the Spanish representatives in the EU. In an independent Catalonia its citizens would be equally ‘trapped’ in a smaller country and would not enjoy different rights or individual liberties. Catalonia currently has a degree of self-government which is among the highest obtained by any region in Europe. An independent Catalonia would be a more centralised state than today’s Spain. Its capital Barcelona would host about half of its total population and there would not be any city to rival or counterbalance its influence. Nepotism and corruption would be unlikely to decrease.
A cause to honour history and difference?
One of the weakest arguments wielded by nationalists is the historical one. According to some nationalists, Catalonia needs to recover its lost independence. The current territory of Catalonia has always been part of other larger political units in the Peninsula. Initially inhabited by Iberian tribes, it consecutively became part of the Roman Hispania, the Visigothic kingdom and the Muslim Al-Andalus. The Frankish Empire conquered parts of the current territory of Catalonia from the Muslims and in 801 established the Barcelona County which was incorporated into the Hispanic March. By the end of the 10th century Barcelona County became hereditary and autonomous. In 1137 it was integrated through dynastic union to the Crown of Aragon. The County of Barcelona remained loyal to the King of Aragon until the Spanish Crown was created with the union of the Crowns of Castile and Aragon in 1469.
Except during the period of the ‘Reaper’s War’ (1640-1659) when, supported by France, it became de facto independent, Catalonia has always been part of Spain. It was also one of the regions in Spain that most benefitted from its colonies. Coincidentally, the first Catalan nationalist parties, predecessors to those calling for independence today, were created immediately after Spain lost its latest colonies, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898.
The Catalonian population and economy are extremely intertwined with the other Spanish autonomous communities, and there are no ethnic or religious differences. Although Catalonia has its own language (as do several other Spanish regions), most Catalans have Spanish as their first language (56 per cent vs 35 per cent for Catalan). Nobody would deny that Catalans possess some distinct traits, but so do the inhabitants of most other Spanish regions. Spain is a multicultural country with a multitude of local, regional and national overlapping identities. It is impossible to objectively claim that Catalans are more dissimilar from Aragoneses or Madridians than Andalusians or Canarians. Even if this degree of difference could be measured, it could hardly be rewarded with more rights or privileges. The fight for independence is not a fight in defence of plurality and diversity, but a fight for a smaller and more homogeneous society.
The way forward
Despite the misconceptions and problems mentioned above, Catalans have the right to pursue the political goal of independence. In democratic systems with commonly agreed rules any major change in the status quo requires an important amount of negotiation and persuasion. Spain is no exception to this. The Spanish Constitution, voted in 1978 by 91 per cent of Catalans, prevents any process of secession in Spain. However, the Constitution can be modified. Thus, if pro-independence Catalans want to change the current (constitutional) status quo they need to convince the rest of Catalonia and Spain that this is a viable option. This means showing that those who are not particularly in favour of independence will gain or at least will not be worse off if that option is agreed.
Unfortunately Catalan nationalists are not particularly taken with this approach. Rather than convincing the rest of Spain of the need and benefits of a change in the status quo, they are planning to impose a unilateral solution: an internal consultation and unilateral declaration. With this solution the rest of the country would not have the capacity to express their views on an issue that strongly affects their future.
Nationalists are increasingly using popular sentiment to legitimise their (extra-legal) process of independence. The extravagant utilisation of flags, uniforms, propaganda (including the indoctrination of children), censorship and popular displays of nationalist fervour may have been useful for enhancing visibility and quickly gaining support, but they have also created alienation and frustration among those that do not share the nationalist ideology or embrace multidimensional identities. The rapid polarisation of a society and the imposition of a (government-sponsored) monolithic political vision have been rarely conducive to any democratic outcome. The demonisation and mockery of the rest of Spain is rendering the democratic processes of dialogue and persuasion more difficult. While claiming that Spaniards do not understand Catalonia, Catalan nationalists have shown little understanding of other Spaniards’ feelings and attitudes.
International allies, including the EU and USA, do not consider a unilateral secession that would bridge legality within a democratic state acceptable. They request that Catalan nationalists negotiate with the rest of Spain within the framework of Spanish laws. According to the Generalitat, 47 per cent of Catalans would prefer an independent state. However, since the first statistical records, anti-secession feelings have always been predominant in Catalonia and the rest of Spain.
Even if supporters of independence become a majority in Catalonia in the future, secession would remain highly questionable. Democracy is not simply the rule of the majority (in this case simply a majority of a subset). Laws and, in particular, constitutions exist in democracies precisely to avoid giving in to the temporary moods of majorities and preserve the right of minorities. In democracies, secession referendums are extremely rare and in the few cases that they were organised, such as in Quebec or Scotland, they always counted upon the acquiescence of the national or federal parliaments that represent the totality of the citizens of the state.
In sum, although Catalan nationalists have the will to split from Spain, they do not have the (legal or military) means to do so unilaterally. They have managed to disguise the debate as being about democratic principles, when in reality it is a debate about territorial units. Dividing Spain into two smaller states would not produce any economic, social or cultural benefits for the large majority of Catalans and other Spaniards. Nor would it reinforce democratic practices such as redistribution, solidarity, transparency or freedom. The independence train should decelerate for the safety of its passengers and those that chose not to board in the first place. The safety instructions in case of collision or derailment should also be distributed quickly.
This article originally appeared on LSE’s Euro Crisis in the Press blog
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Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.
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José Javier Olivas – LSE Euro Crisis in the Press
José Javier Olivas is an LSE Fellow and Associate to the Southern Europe International Affairs Programme of LSE IDEAS. He holds a PhD in Government and other university degrees in Public Policy and Administration, Economics and Marketing. He has worked in the automotive industry and as consultant for European affairs. He is currently teaching at the LSE and preparing the publication of Iberian Military Politics: Controlling the Armed Forces during Dictatorship and Democratisation (2014, London: Palgrave Macmillan).
“Democracy” is a devalued word in Spain. The government of Spain is not democratic, it if was democratic there would be a referendum for the Catalonian people. And what is more, you say that the government of Catalonia is the worst regional one in Europe, according to a study. You don’t even mention the scandal about Luís Bárcenas (PP) and I wonder why, that is a big matter of corruption of worldwide interest. You don’t mention the oppression on the Catalan language nor the new law on education (LOMCE) by minister Jose Ignacio Wert, since his will is to “turn Catalonian students into Spaniards” (“españolizar a los catalanes”). You don’t mention the extravagant utilization of fascist flags (some of them with swastika included, yes, the same one used by Adolf Hitler) by spheres with a close relationship with the government. You repeat that to vote for independence would be illegal. Please, just remember something as simple as that some years ago the vote for women was also illegal until it became a right. Don’t underestimate the hunger for freedom emerging from the Catalonian people.
Some remarks about your post:
1. There is not any oppresion of catalan language in Spain. It is just the opposite.It is the only country of Europe in which, in a part of it, it is impossible to study in the common official language, which is, besides, the mother tongue of 60% of catalans.
In Frisia in Holland, as they speak in the street Frisian and dutch, in the schoolthey study IN both too. In Ireland, as in the street people speak irish and english, in the schools they study IN both languages, and so on in Finland, etc…Cataluña is the only region in which people can not educate their children in their mother tongue, against UNESCO Suggestions. The situation of castilian in CAtaluña is absolute oppresion , because people can speak in the street in both , but in the school not. So, the school does not show the real social situation.
2. The real words of Wert were (DS. Congreso de los Diputados. Pleno y Dip Perm., núm 64 de 10/10/2012).
«Señor Vallès, (…). Y la señora Rigau, …, ha dicho el otro día que nuestro interés es españolizar a los alumnos catalanes. Lo dijo, y no con ánimo de elogio. Pues sí, nuestro interés es españolizar a los alumnos catalanes y que se sientan tan orgullosos de ser españoles como de ser catalanes (Aplausos) y que tengan la capacidad de tener una vivencia equilibrada de esas dos identidades porque las dos les enriquecen y les fortalecen.
So, Wert said that it was to…”live a balanced experience of both identities, because both enrich and strengtehn them”. Given that 70% of catalan say in surveys that they feel in more or less extent , both identities, those words were not so mostruous.
3. As for the hunger of freedom”, if Cataluña is a different state , there will be no more freedom: Nationalism is the thought that the nations have special rights , but the Human Rights Declaration speaks about individual rights, no national rights: the doctrine odf national rights is nationalism, used by states in the XIX and XX centuries just to gather people about the power of government, but the rights are individual: expression, meeting, associoation, life, etc, are INDIVIDUAL rights. The fact that you vote with 47 million of people instead of 7 million does not make people less free.Ad the percentaje of catalans that want to vote with all spanish because that means freedom to them have the same right. In fact, me, as catalan, if inmy province or town we have enough power, we will remain in Spain, is our right , the same as yours.We will not obey the new Governments of teh new State because we want to vote with the democratic people of all Spain.
4. About fascist flags, identify Spain with fascist is an argument of he who has no arguments. All around europe are fascist flags in fringe parties. And there are catalan fascists too.
Excelente explicación del conflicto en el que nos encontramos algunos aquí en Barcelona.
“One of the weakest arguments wielded by nationalists is the historical one.”…
Actually the opposite case could be made: although it is true that Catalonia was not a nation state in the modern sense, it has possessed through long periods of its history of many of the attributes of an independent state. In this regard it might even have a stronger claim than most of the current European Union members that have only relatively recently acquired all the trappings of statehood.
“By the end of the 10th century Barcelona County became hereditary and autonomous”
Although the Count of Barcelona might have been nominally a vassal of the French king, “autonomous” in this context might be kind of an understatement since he was de facto the sovereign who ruled over much of what today we call “Catalonia”, proof of that is that several wars were fought in the Middle Ages between the Count of Barcelona/King of Aragon and the King of France when the latter tried repeatedly to assert its rights over the territory controlled by the former, with the Count of Barcelona losing lands beyond the Pyrenees but holding to most of its domains.
“In 1137 it was integrated through dynastic union to the Crown of Aragon”
True, but this was a dynastic union, not unlike today Queen Elizabeth is queen of both England and Canada, with the two entities having their own separate institutional framework. The fact that during the Reaper’s War, that you mention in your article, and as a response to the Spanish king’s attempts to trample with Catalan liberties, a short-lived “Catalan Republic” was proclaimed is witness to the fact that as early as mid-17th Century, in Pre-Westphalian Europe and more than a century before the American colonists drafted their Declaration of Independence, there was, at least among Catalan elites, a degree of national consciousness that I am sure many of today’s European states, whose historical existence no one questions, would struggle to find.
What an odd, badly argued and inaccurate article! There is absolutely no way that the international community would stand aside and allow the Spanish government to unilaterally ban the holding of a referendum in Catalonia. If they are sensible (which is a BIG if given Spanish sabre rattling so far!) the Spanish government will enter into meaningful dialogue with the Generalitat, along the lines of Cameron’s Edinburgh Agreement with the Scottish Government, and ensure that the democratic will of the majority of Catalans is respected. HOWEVER, it must be made crystal clear to Madrid that, absent this level of sensible compromise, the Catalan government and people are quite within their rights to hold the referendum, and if necessary declare independence unilaterally in the event of a subsequent Yes vote.
The Spanish constitution and/or Spanish law cannot be used as some “trump card” to forever veto Catalan independence, irrespective of the views of the majority of the Catalan people. Independence for Catalonia, or for that matter Scotland, Flanders, the Basque Country or any other self-regarding nation which follows democratic principles, is not in the gift of the supra-national authority! In the case of Scotland for example, if the UK government had refused to negotiate the Edinburgh Agreement, it would not have meant that any subsequent referendum held by the Scottish Government was invalid; to insist otherwise is not only profoundly undemocratic it flies in the face of natural justice and common sense.
Your argument (such as it is) falls at the first hurdle, because you appear not to believe that the Catalan people are “allowed” independence unless Madrid authorises it. I think you, and the many unionists in Spain and the UK who appear to think like you, are in for a very big surprise in 2014. Calls for independence for Scotland and Catalonia ARE about democratic principles, despite your doomed attempt to paint them as being about territorial units. You say:
“Dividing Spain into two smaller states would not produce any economic, social or cultural benefits for the large majority of Catalans and other Spaniards. Nor would it reinforce democratic practices such as redistribution, solidarity, transparency or freedom.”
However, for all you, or anyone else knows, Catalan independence may very well achieve these things. More to the point, even if they do NOT do so, that is no reason for the process to be stopped or decelerated simply because Madrid says so. The same argument pertains in the Scots/UK case; tomorrow is unknowable, and there are risks in the status quo, just as there are in change. Catalonia is not Spain’s airbag; the only people who can or should decide on the independence of Catalonia are those living in Catalonia!
I have a question to those that claim that Catauña has the right to hold an unilateral referendum. What would they do if one of de villages sitting next to the spanish frontere claimed for their right to be independent from cataluña? would they led them to hold a referendum or they would say that they need permision from the rest of Cataluña to go back to Spain?
I am one of those, and so I can reply. Honestly, my opinion is yes, I would let them vote. What reason can I claim to deny their vote? I can’t think of any. However, there are some reasons to make sure the process is fair. First, these things can’t be done in a rush (Catalonia has waited 300 years, 35 years of democracy). I would negotiate waiting some years until Catalonia has reached a fully matured independent state. They know what is being Spanish. They need to fully know how it feels to be free Catalan. To be completely fair, I would also request that if any village inside Spain wants to join a free Catalonia, they should be able to vote, eg, any village from Valencia or theBalear islands. We should fully discuss with them the historical reasons for that village to be Catalan or Spanish (but people ‘s will goes before historical reasons). I would try to convince them to stay in Catalonia, I would try to satisfy their demands ( if reasonable, eg, financial solidarity below 5%) (if they speak another language, like Occitan in Val d’Aran, I would not only tolerate it but protect it as much as possible). But yes, why should I force them if the majority don’t want to be Catalan but Spanish or French or independent? What reason do I have to tell them what to do and what to feel? None. Democracy is always the way to go.
This fallacious argument is often trotted out by those opposed to independence movements; it’s a “reductio ad absurdam” that bears no real analysis. Similar scare tactics are often used in relation to the Scottish independence debate with respect to (for example) the Shetland islands, the Orkneys (or both together). Of course, in the Scottish case, there is zero evidence that people in the Northern Isles want independence, or to stay in the UK if Scotland becomes independent (the only poll on the issue showed >80% wanted to remain Scottish). In addition, because the islands would be deemed an exclave within the Scottish continental shelf, they would have no EEZ of their own, only a 12 or even 3.5 mile maritime limit – thus they would have no access to any oil in the North Sea, which would make economic self sufficiency for them much more problematic.
We can speedily dismiss the “passport to Pimlico” type argument that every town, village, street or house should be entitled to declare UDI for the nonsense that it is. Of course, if there are questions of large areas of territory, ethnic/ linguistic or religious minorities then more care would need to be taken, and negotiations would need to take place to ensure a just settlement, even perhaps some transfer of territory or re-negotiation of boundaries – there are plenty of precedents for this, not all of them with happy endings!
To turn your idea around, what about areas of Valencia which might want to join with a newly independent Catalonia; would they be “allowed” to secede by Madrid? Or perhaps some other Catalan speaking areas outside the current Catalan provinces?
The right for Catalonia to hold a referendum is NOT conditional on Spanish permission. It is a fundamental, inviolable right guaranteed under international law. Special pleading with reference to the existing Spanish constitution, legal framework, or position of particular towns which “might” vote no do not over-rule such rights.
“This fallacious argument is often trotted out by those opposed to independence movements; it’s a “reductio ad absurdam” that bears no real analysis.”
I’m not particularly against the principle of independence, but I think this is putting the case too strongly. What you’re calling “reductio ad absurdum” could be put another way by saying that it simply proves there are tangible limits to the right to self-determination. We’re happy to grant this to Catalonia or Scotland as a whole, but not to smaller areas. Wherever you draw the line it’s clear that there is some limit to the principle and it’s not actually a universal right at all.
You’ve mentioned some criteria here which sound fairly reasonable – “large areas of territory, ethnic/ linguistic or religious minorities” – but they’re still somewhat arbitrary conditions that are open to debate. I personally think Catalonia would meet any of the criteria we could come up with, but I don’t think we can just write the argument off as an irrelevance – or worse, the classic Scottish straw man argument of “scaremongering”.
I didn’t write the argument off in toto though, as you noted yourself. Anyone following the Scottish indyref debate will I’m afraid recognise that there is in fact a HUGE amount of scaremongering going on, overwhelmingly from the No campaign. Why else would they have self labelled it internally as “project fear”? Even many unionists are uncomfortable at the negativity of the No camp and lack of positive case for the union. For you to write it off as a strwa man simply shows that you either have an axe to grind, or that you aren’t as well informed about the Scots situation as you’d like people to believe.
Of course indy for Scotland or Catalonia would involve discussions and negotiations, but international law is fairly clear on what would and wouldn’t be included within the territories of either putative new state; that’s not to say they are inviolable or unchangeable, but the attitude of Madrid in particular hardly makes you feel discussions will be positive!
As for Scotland, the Northern Isles issue is a red-herring put forward by has beens like Tavish Scott the failed LibDem with an axe to grind; nobody takes it seriously. There are discussions to be had about the delimitation of the maritime boundary between England and Scotland.. and I suspect the good folk of Berwick on Tweed might have something to say about being left in England when the county is in Scotland!? 😉
“For you to write it off as a strwa man simply shows that you either have an axe to grind, or that you aren’t as well informed about the Scots situation as you’d like people to believe.”
I think you’ve made some reasonable comments above, but this most certainly isn’t one of them. I’m Scottish and the obsession with scaremongering that some in the pro-independence camp suffer from is the epitome of a straw man argument. It’s a limp debating tactic designed to give an easy mechanism for dismissing any negative comment about independence. More ink has been spilled attacking this nonsense than has been on the practical issues which independence would entail – currency, economy, foreign policy, Europe, etc.
I say this as a floating voter who vainly tries to have reasoned debates about this subject on a regular basis and is nevertheless accused of “scaremongering” or “spreading fear” simply for putting forward an alternative point of view. It’s the basic “go to” response for someone who has an inability to debate the actual issues at stake – i.e. ignore how accurate the argument is or isn’t and simply write it off as scare tactics. The fact that it’s based on a kernel of truth (that there are some people out there who genuinely adopt scare tactics) doesn’t make it any more logical to apply it carte blanche.
Anyway, that’s a side issue. The point here is that we can’t portray the right to self-determination as something universal when we also recognise that it has limits. If we want to make a case for a referendum in Catalonia – something I’d broadly support – then it has to be about more than the simple right to self-determination. There has to be a case for why Catalans and Scots deserve this right where others don’t. In the UK case it’s pretty conclusive because all of the UK’s institutions are content for it to take place, but in Catalonia/Spain it’s more of an open debate.
típica parrafada pro-española… es simple… VOLEM UNA CATANUYA LLIURE
Contrary to what fellow readers have said above, I think this article is very interesting and it is very well argued. I think some readers misunderstand what Constitutions are for, but the author explains that very clearly: “Democracy is not simply the rule of the majority (…). Laws and, in particular, constitutions exist in democracies precisely to avoid giving in to the temporary moods of majorities and preserve the right of minorities”. Some people may argue that some referenda are more reasonable than others, some may like one topic -and therefore agree that a referendum should take place about that issue- but not other, but just because there seems to be a majority of people supporting one cause that we like, we should not let that referendum take place. Because, in the end, who (or what) draws the line? is a referendum about the independence of Catalonia reasonable? What about a referendum about restoring the death penalty if a ruling political party supports it and a majority of people seems to agree? Well, laws and Constitutions are there to make sure that individual rights are protected and there are ways of changing the laws and Constitutions we do not like. But it is necessary to follow a due process. The same about the units and subunits that should be allowed to secede within a larger state. Who decides what is reasonable and what is ridiculous? Again, it is about protecting individual rights that the Constitution is for, not the right of “the people of Catalonia”.
A comparison with Quebec and Scotland does not stand. The political systems are very different. If a majority of Catalans want the independence, their representatives need to work within the Spanish legal framework. If they are not happy with the economic situation, given de level of devolution of power in Spain, Catalan independentists should blame their own regional government instead of “Madrid” as they have made their own choices. If they have less social services than other communities, it well may be because it is in the agenda of their centre-right (I would dare to say more right than centre) government and because they have decided to spend the money elsewhere (for example, Catalan “embassies” and independentist propaganda).
There has been a massive demonstration on Saturday 12 October of people that want Catalonia to remain within Spain and within Europe. It has not been reported with the same enthusiasm as the Diada demosntration by the Generalitat’s and the Generalitat’s sponsored media (imagine that: there is actually some independent media in Catalonia that is sponsored by the regional government. Could that happen in Madrid? the national government sponsoring the national media?). I’m not Spanish (I’m South American), but to be honest, when I saw the images of people holding Catalan, Spanish and European flags, I was much more moved by their cause than by the independentist cause. I hope more and more Catalans understand that their Catalan identity can be inclusive of other identities and not exclusive.
The number attending the demonstration on 12th October was a small fraction of the number who turned out in support of Catalan independence, reflecting the relative levels of support in the Catalan population in general. You may not like it, but you can hardly argue with the numbers on the ground, or the consistent large majorities in favour of independence in the opinion polls, and indeed for pro-independence parties in the Catalan parliament.
Of course the situations in Scotland, Quebec, Catalonai (or the Basque country, Flanders etc) are not identical, but just because the political systems vary certainly does NOT support your view that due process of SPANISH law, or reference to the Spanish constitution can be used to stop the referendum being held, or independence if the result of such a referendum is “yes”. The rights of the people of Catalonia to decide their own fate absolutely over-ride the spurious arguments being advanced by Spanish unionists; you don’t protect individual rights by denying self determination to Catalonia if that is what the majority of Catalans (or Scots) vote for!
I was not comparing numbers. I was just illustrating how in Catalonia it seems only one side is being heard and endorsed by the regional government. The Generalitat is an institution of the Spanish state and as such it should operate within the legal framework and respect and look after the minority (or silent majority?) within Catalonia that do no agree with their independentist and populistic endeavour.
Anyway, the number of people demonstrating in the streets in favour or against one cause does not mean anything. Back in the day, there were massive demonstrations in Madrid supported by the Popular Party, now in government, against same-sex marriage law or claiming that the 11 March 2004 bombings in Madrid were an ETA attack. Mobilising large numbers of citizens does not mean they are right about what they are pursuing.
You say Catalans have the right to self-determination. But who granted them that right? Spain is not a union of kingdoms. The country is not an union between Spain and Catalonia, therefore there is no such thing as an unionists vs independentists debate. Catalonia is one region of the Spanish nation (if such a thing exists) as Andalucia, Madrid, Galicia, Asturias, etc. are. You will be able to vote in a referendum in Scotland because it has been authorised by the British Parliament in London. If pro-independence parties are able to agree to such a thing in the Spanish Parliament, then the referendum can take place. They just need to follow the democratic procedure that have been agreed, also by Catalonia’s representatives, under the Spanish laws and Constitution.
The numbers between Unionists and demonstrations of independententists not support comparison, but if you are so sure of the massive response to the proposal of 12O , why refuse a referendum to find out for sure ?
It is by no means true that the government and the regional television of Catalonia sponsor Catalan Way . I belong to the civil association that organized it and say this is an insult . And the treatment is uneven ? Do not ever mention that most of the media , especially television , are in Madrid and that his vision is pro – Spanish and nobody protest this.
About what the article says that Catalonia has the highest degree of autonomy among European regions is part of a well constructed myth and is outright false : it is purely a range of management and only decides which items of tax collected in Catalonia are assigned in a ridiculous percentage. All serious studies show that 8% of Catalan GDP it never returns to the territory . That itself is a record in Europe !
And finally, how can be argued that the only legal way to exercise democracy and the right to independence is a Constitution that says (Article 2): “The Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the
common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards”. This is pure remnants of the Franco regime that still holds the government headquarters in Madrid, where the ruling party, the PP has never condemned the Franco regime.
There is no “silent majority” in Catalonia in favour of remaining within Spain – if there was the anti-independence movement would be shouting it from the rooftops. Once again, you appear not to understand basic principles of democracy. You appear happy that the Catalan minority within Spain who want independence (and constitute a majority in their own country) are denied a voice, but then try to use the anti-indepence minority in Catalonia as an argument to stop the democratic process.
the huge pro independence demonstrations in Catalonia are in no way comparable either in scale or subject with the ones you mention in your post.
The right of self determination is not within the gift of some over-arching authority; it is a basic right under international law. Whether Catalonia is a region, or a country, is a terminological irrelevance: if the people of Catalonia vote for independence, it is not acceptable for any government in Madrid to attempt to stop it on spurious legal or constitutional grounds.
By your flawed logic few (if any) of the states which have achieved independence in recent times would now be independent.
“There is no “silent majority” in Catalonia in favour of remaining within Spain – if there was the anti-independence movement would be shouting it from the rooftops.”Typical absurd comment from an independentist.People don’t “shout from the rooftops” in a democracy.It would be absurd.But that dosen’t mean most people agree with independence,just because they don’t say anything against it.Acording to that,people are happy with the decreasing social rights in Catalonia,as they are not “shouting from the rooftops”.Here in Catalonia it is very hard to express a different opinion,considering all media and most politician are together.For example,catalanists parties say most peopleare happy with the education only in catalan,that just 17 familes demanded classes in catillian also.Buiut the real number of families is 1000.Quite a difference,I think…
Rubbish. There is no freedom of expression for people living in Catalonia who are not pro-independence. Catalonia is in effect a semi-fascist state with the media, educational establishment, and the public debate for decades now effectively controlled by the pro-independence Catalan bourgeois establishment and authorities. Think Orwell, and you will just about get the picture. What was significant about the 12th October demonstration is that it is the first time that these people (a mix of not-so-affluent liberal professionals and poor working class immigrants from the rest of Spain, the really oppressed minorities in Catalonia) have expressed themselves in public in spite of possible retaliation by the authorities, and overcoming massive fear. It was an extraordinarily significant demonstration which constitutes merely the beginning of something rather major in Catalan politics. Certainly not to be belittled.
That’s a grotesque caricature of the actual situation. What retaliation do those who oppose independence for Catalonia face from the authorities? Violence and threats of violence appear to have come from the Spanish far right from what I’ve seen, including calls from elements in the military to use force.
The turnout on 12th Oct., the polls and representation in the Genralitat give the lie to your grandiose claims for how significant opposition is, or indeed what it’s scale is.
Not at all a caricature. (Yours may well be the grotesque caricature though). Retaliation is exactly the right word for what the authorities will do to you if you do not speak or write Catalan to the authorities. You will face all kinds of discriminatory measures, from punitive fines if you run a business, to social exclusion of your children, to outright persecution and social marginalization of yourself, your family and your friends. And this is the case even though any discrimination against anyone who addresses the administration in Spanish – the only official language throughout the State – is unlawful according to the constitution. There are myriads cases of this sort passing through the lower courts in Catalonia every year, but the authorities make well sure they get no publicity at all. The regime is so fanatical and repressive, anyway, that most people affected by discrimination don’t ever bring their case forward.
As for your comment regarding “threats of violence coming from the Spanish far right” I guess you mean the statement of the commanders-in-chiefs last year that they would ‘protect the integrity of the State’. This was a matter of fact statement regarding what the army’s main charge is according to the Constitution (just like in any other modern state that I know of).
What retaliation?For example,that:http://www.libertaddigital.com/espana/2013-11-26/la-generalidad-acusa-a-jimenez-losantos-de-fomentar-el-odio-contra-cataluna-1276505121/
No, I’m sorry, I just don’t accept your analysis of the Scots indyref debate. As someone who has made my own journey from broadly supporting devo-max to being convinced that independence is now the only viable option for Scotland, but also a positive for the rest of the UK, I have to say that a large part of my reason for making the leap was and is the negativity and scaremongering which appears to come naturally to the no camp. It is a well worn “project fear” tactic to demand detailed and concrete answers to all sorts of issues which are simply not answerable, as though ALL the balance of risks was on the side of opting for independence, whilst remaining part of the UK was somehow risk free. The Yes Scotland web site and on-line media are replete with answers, information and rejoinders to the ever more tiresome negativity, because it certainly doesn’t get an airing in the supine, unionist dominated mainstream media, whether paper, TV or radio.
The reasons for this are not hard to discern: the No camp have effectively lost much of the argument: the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” argument used in the past is now seen for what it is; insulting as well as fallacious. Even the Tories now have to accept that Scotland would be quite capable of not just surviving by prospering as an independent state. The defence and security arguments against look even more unconvincing, both in cost and geo-political/strategic terms. Lastly, the scares stories about the EU, the Euro and NATO serve only to show how desperate and lacking in real arguments the No camp is: it won’t engage in meaningful debate, because it is scared of the potential answers, hence their unwillingness to actually ask the EU for a statement on EU membership – they are far too scared!
As for your point on Catalonia, why do you think it is debatable whether they can hold a referendum? Unless you are going down the frankly odd path argued by some unionists that the rest of Spain (or the rest of the UK in the Scots example) should have a say in whether the referendum went ahead? I repeat, there are simply no grounds either in international law, or in natural justice, for the “larger” state to seek to ban or veto the legitimate aspiration of a self-regarding and long established community like Catalonia, or Scotland, to vote on whether to become independent. the Edinburgh Agreement, whilst useful and demonstrating common sense on the part of the UK authorities, should not be taken to show that the Scots people somehow felt their independence is in the gift of London, or can be vetoed or refused on the basis that the rest of the UK would have to vote on it too…. that’s NOT democracy, and it applies equally with regard to Catalonia and Spain. Madrid is entitled to an opinion, it is certainly NOT entitled to seek to act contrary to international and natural justice!
If you don’t accept that the scaremongering obsession is a straw man argument then answer me this one question: why does it actually matter that an argument is “negative”? An argument is either accurate or it isn’t. Whether it’s negative, positive, or anything else is a complete irrelevance.
I can see from the use of terms like “unionist dominated mainstream media” that you have a dog in this fight, so I don’t expect moderation. All I will say is that for those of us who aren’t rabid unionists or dogmatic independence supporters – i.e. the majority of us in the middle who take the reasonable position that there are both good and bad points to independence – this self-righteous crusade against scaremongering is about as convincing as a paper padlock.
“Unless you are going down the frankly odd path argued by some unionists that the rest of Spain (or the rest of the UK in the Scots example) should have a say in whether the referendum went ahead?”
I don’t necessarily accept that argument – if I need to say it again, I support Catalonia having a referendum (though as we’re evidently arguing in extremes I fully expect to be portrayed as some sort of Spanish nationalist for merely daring to question it). However I wouldn’t describe it as an “odd” argument. I think Jose makes a reasonable case in this article that if something affects a wider population they should be entitled to some sort of say over it. In the UK I think we meet that standard in the sense that the UK’s institutions consent to the referendum taking place, but in Spain it’s more complex.
This is a common theme in the UK debate as well – the desire of independence supporters to make incredibly complicated issues overly simplistic and beyond the realms of scrutiny. So rather than make a practical case for the referendum in Catalonia, it gets turned into a fundamental democratic right – i.e. to argue against Catalonia having a referendum is to argue against democracy. Jose might be a bit extreme in his conclusion, but on that count he’s absolutely correct. It is an open debate, as much as independence supporters seek to shut it down.
Yes, I do have a dog in this fight. No, of course I don’t think there are no potential pitfalls or bad aspects to independence, any more than I think all aspects of the union are bad. I KNOW there are sincere, honest, well intentioned unionists in the UK and in Spain. Of course there are extremists on both sides, and oftentimes the debate generates a lot more heat than light. I don’t share your relatively sanguine view about the quality and nature of the quality of the discourse coming out of the No camp, but we’ll obviously have to agree to disagree on it.
Sadly, I’m afraid you ARE subscribing to an odd argument in the second part of your response. This IS one of those occasions where there is a wrong and a right answer, and in this case you are definitely arguing for something that is both factually wrong and intrinsically anti-democratic. The wider Spanish or UK public is entitled to an opinion about their respective debates with Catalonia and Scotland. What they are NOT entitled to is a say in the result. The decision on whether either country becomes independent is a matter for the people who live there. The Russians didn’t get a vote whether the Baltic states were allowed independence, any more than the Serbs got to vote to stop Slovene, Croat, Montenegrin, Macedonian or Kossovar independence, because that’s not how it works!
Thus, I’m afraid that if the cap fits, you are obliged to wear it. You or anyone else are of course perfectly entitled to argue against independence for Catalonia or Scotland, to campaign to stop it, or publicise the potential pitfalls and negative aspects of such a move. What you are NOT entitled to do, is to argue that it somehow ISN’T a fundamental democratic right to hold such a referendum, when it quite clearly is! If having lost the argument those who are against, or unsure about, the holding of a referendum in either of these cases continue to argue that it is illegitimate, or can be over-ruled, cancelled or vetoed by Madrid or London are simply not democrats in any accepted sense.
“in this case you are definitely arguing for something that is both factually wrong and intrinsically anti-democratic”
I’ve said twice in this comment section that I support Catalonia having a referendum, so I’m not sure what the “intrinsically anti-democratic” policy is I’m supposedly arguing for.
What I’m saying is that it’s an open debate as to whether they should have one or not, and it’s not a simplistic case of one option being “democratic” and the other being “anti-democratic”. Jose has his own arguments for why the decision should be made at the Spanish level – Spain is a single country with a constitution that Catalans supported in the 70s and there’s no provision in that constitution for a referendum. I don’t agree with that, but I’m not going to call him anti-democratic for it either.
“What you are NOT entitled to do, is to argue that it somehow ISN’T a fundamental democratic right to hold such a referendum, when it quite clearly is!”
We already established (half way up the page) that self-determination isn’t a universal right, it’s a right that’s given to some communities (Scots, potentially Catalans) but not others (e.g. those in the North East of Scotland who would happily break off from the central belt). Whatever criteria you use to determine whether a referendum is suitable (size, language, culture, etc.), you can’t argue that it’s universal when it’s not applied universally.
Your response appears somewhat muddled to me. On the one hand you express support for the principle of self-determination for Catalonia, then you totally undermine it by saying that you don’t think the argument put forward by Jose are actually anti-democratic! Aren’t they? How else is one to interpret a line of argument which says that the Spanish constitution is the last word, unchangeable, and can be used effectively to deny self determination to Catalonia for ever. you may not call it anti-democratic, but I’d wager few people would sign up for your definition!
As to your second point, please try to interact with what I actually said, rather than what you “wish” I had said. I specifically said in an earlier response that of course the “Passport to Pimlico” argument is not tenable; that doesn’t however allow opponents of Catalan (or for that matter Scots) independence to claim that they don’t qualify. The default position is that self determination, much like human rights, is universal. Obviously, as countless past and current situations have demonstrated, it is seldom easy to arrange outcomes which please everyone, as the post World War One situation amply demonstrates. In a situation where ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups may resemble a patchwork quilt, easy outcomes are seldom possible.
The situations in Catalonia and Scotland however are somewhat different from many of the more complex self determination examples in the past. Altho’ opponents may not like it, there appears to be a convincing popular majority in favour of independence for Catalonia. The Generalitat has tried to engage positively with Madrid and been rebuffed, yet it has a mandate and a pro-independence majority, much as the SNP led Scottish Government did after its convincing landslide victory at the last Holyrood elections. London of course compromised and negotiated the Edinburgh Agreement, but even if it had refused to do so, the SG had both the electoral and moral mandate to hold the referendum unilaterally.
Your last statement is simply bizarre. The fact that a right isn’t universally applied doesn’t mean it is somehow no longer universal. Human rights are abused and denied in lots of places, and can hardly be said to be applied universally…. does that mean they therefore no longer become universal?
On 11 September 2013 twenty hundreds of thousands of people formed the Catalan Way, according to World Official Record; sixty hundreds of thousands, according to official data (Catalonia has a population of 7.5 millions). Last Saturday, there were only 30,000 people in the celebration of Spain’s national day in Barcelona, according to offical data.
Would Catalan independence contribute to a more egalitarian world? The answer is yes. The Catalan independence process is a grassroots, democratic, peaceful, non-partisan movement. We the Catalans just want to vote. We remember Bill Clinton’s words in Barcelona (october 2001): “The world will be Catalan or Taliban. In a Catalan world we would celebrate the differences, because they are a manifestation of the common Humanity. In a Taliban world, the differences are the only thing that matters.”. Spanish politicians, of course, are not Talibans, but they seem Serbian nationalists. Javier Olivas’ words: “although Catalan nationalists have the will to split from Spain, they do not have the (legal or military) means to do so unilaterally.”.
In plain words, Mr. Olivas writes as a Spanish diplomatic agent. There are many worth reading studies about Catalonia’s independence process, by a lot of academics and think tanks. The Wilson Initiative, for instance, publishes pro-independence studies in the fields of Economics and Political Science. It is made up of six Catalan academics from Columbia, Harvard, London School of Economics, Pompeu Fabra and Princeton who share their knowledge about Catalonia. Further reading is also available in a free electronic book, ‘What’s up in Catalonia’, a collection of essays collected and edited by American activist Liz Castro.
Luckyly, Olivas knows the solution. I quote him: “In democracies, secession referendums are extremely rare and in the few cases that they were organised, such as in Quebec or Scotland, they always counted upon the acquiescence of the national or federal parliaments that represent the totality of the citizens of the state.”. Let’s find an agreement between Madrid and Barcelona. Let Catalans vote.
Eric is correct. Snr Olivas profoundly misunderstands the nature of calls for independence in places like Catalonia and Scotland. Civic nationalism is about giving the people of these countries control of their own destinies, the power to decide their own priorities, and to make their own mistakes if necessary.
Of course the two situations are not identical. The language aspect is not a factor in Scotland for example, and Catalonia doesn’t have oil reserves nor does it have nuclear weapons on its soil.
Independence for Catalonia and Scotland (if that is what their respective peoples vote for) does however exhibit many common factors, which is why contacts between pro-independence campaigners in both countries are becoming deeper, stronger and warmer. We believe our independence WILL result in a more egalitarian world, and will serve as a powerful example internationally of the value of progressive, civic, negotiated secession. Madrid, and those with a faulty understanding of the democratic process like Snr. Olivas would do well to reflect on the profoundly anti-democratic nature of his closing remarks:
“Catalan nationalists have the will to split from Spain, they do not have the (legal or military) means to do so unilaterally”
On the contrary, Catalan and Scottish nationalists have both the will and the absolute legal right to split from their supra-national state if that is what they chose to do following a democratic vote. You cannot use bogus appeals to legality and an over-arching constitution to deny self determination.
Snr Olivas? You could also use Dr Olivas. I think you should explain better why my comments are profoundly antidemocratic. By the way, would you argue that the USA, France, Italy, Finland, Germany, Belgium, etc are also antidemocratic regimes because they do not grant the right of self determination to their regions?
Well, if you are going to get on your academic high horse, you can refer to me as Dr. Ellis, since I have a PhD in International Relations from St Andrews. Standing on your academic title, and refusing to engage in debate (as I see you do with Enric below) seems to me to denote a lack of confidence in either you argument or your abilities; perhaps both?
As for you point, yes I would argue that ANY state which does not grant the right of self determination is ipso facto acting in an anti-democratic way. To insist otherwise appears to be a somewhat eccentric definition of democracy. Do you actually believe that Flanders, Brittany, Sicily, West Papua etc should be denied self determination if that is what the people of those areas wanted? Presumably you would have been happy for South Sudan or East Timor to have been denied independence on the basis that Sudan or Indonesia maintained they couldn’t have it, irrespective of the wishes of the population?
If that IS actually what you believe, and if you continue to maintain that the Spanish constitution and legal system allows the freely expressed democratic will of the Catalan people to be ignored or vetoed, then the charge of being profoundly anti-democratic appears eminently justified.
Dear Enric, I am not a “Spanish agent”, just an academic. I don’t feel like discussing about this topic with someone whose webpage declares (you could all click the link to his name): “We are the pro-independence activist in Saints district Barcelona”
Dear Dr Olivas, we do not agree. Although, as an academic, I hope you will appreciate our webpage http://smxi.cat/english. It includes a fair explanation about the Catalan National Assembly, the civic movement that organized the demonstration of September 11th 2012 and the Catalan Way. Some journalists from the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States found it useful a month ago, around September 11th.
You are right, of course. I purposely chose the link to my name, as I wrote my comment as an activist in Sants-Montjuïc for Independence, a territorial assembly of the Catalan National Assembly in Barcelona. I was in the Catalan Way. In fact, I wrote 3 words in Spain Square, in Barcelona, “We want independence”, as you can see in Guardian Witness: https://witness.theguardian.com/assignment/522f24c5e4b0716040115ef4/540981.
The Catalan train rather prefers the international standard gauge than the Iberian gauge. We consider it safer. Remember Vaclav Havel’s words: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”.
Dr. Olivas makes a good portrait of himself when he says: ” I don’t feel like discussing about this topic with someone …”. If he just added:”using violence”, certaninly it would be a democratic point of view. But the pro-independence Catalan National Assembly is -he knows- just a matter of peaceful, democratic, sensible activism.
I am more than happy to discuss this or any other issue as soon as it does not involve unfounded personal accusations as me being an”agent of spanish diplomacy”. I would rather engage in discussions about what the article says. I am open to any question
That’s a very odd position for an academic to take! You are refusing to enter into a debate, or defend the deeply flawed content of your article, simply on the basis that Enric is a pro-independence activist? Honestly?
It would be preferable, both for the debate, for your academic respectability and that of the institution at which you teach, to engage positively with those who disagree with you. I for one would take a very dim view of an academic who plays the man rather than the ball!
Jose is more than enough. I just don’t think that the funny tone in “Snr Olivas” was very conducive to a constructive exchange.
A phd in International Relations that argue that countries like the US, France, Belgium, Germany,… are not democratic because they do not recognise the right of secession to its territorial subunits. This is quite unique. By the way do you recognise the right of secession to Shetland and the other islands in Scotland? or to Barcelona and the Baix Llobregat in Catalonia?
It’s hardly unique to say that a country which refused self determination to a sub-unit which voted for independence is not acting in an anti- democratic way! Even if they are in all other respects a functioning democracy. Whether it was Belgium with Flanders, France with Brittany, Spain with Catalonia or the Basque country, the UK with Scotland, or indeed an independent Scotland with the Shetlands. (Interestingly the Scottish Government have already said they would have no selfish interest in trying to keep the Northern Isles if that isn’t what the people who lived there wanted; perhaps Madrid should take note?).
The reason I brought the Shetlands example up earlier in the thread was precisely because it is often used by UK unionists as an anti-independence “scare”. In actual fact it is a total red-herring, as there is no local support for such a move, nor indeed would the islands have access to any appreciable oil reserves, which is usually why unionists try to muddy the waters by introducing the issue. The hypothetical for other islands in Scotland is even more unlikely, as I suspect it would be for Barcelona or Baix Llobregat in Catalonia, altho I have no detailed knowledge of the support for independence in particular parts of Catalonia.
I seem to recall that from the point of view of international law, it is a generally accepted principle that the seceding part of the state would not be sliced and diced like a salami. Obviously both states would be free to mutually negotiate boundaries, or whether a certain part of the seceding state stayed within the existing state. From what I’ve seen of Madrid’s modus operandi, I wouldn’t assume they are that pragmatic however.
Sorry, but you have not clearly answered the question. Would you allow that the Shetlands secede from Scotland or remain in the UK is the majority of their voters decide so in the referendum?
In Catalonia there has not been any vote for independence. So according to your argument Spain is not doing anything anti-democratic. I don’t think there is going to be any referendum of independence until the Constitution is reformed. It would be anti-democratic to hold a referendum on something that it is illegal (as it is the case of secession, but also of other things like death penalty, refusal of rights to immigrants, … which potentially could have wide public support). I am not against reforming the Constitution (quite the opposite). But as you should understand call for a referendum against what the Constitution of a country says is undemocratic. This is the same in the USA, France, Germany, Belgium, etc.
You should revise the international law on self-determination. What you describe is clearly a misinterpretation of the law (which was meant for situations of colonialism or severe oppression of the citizens of the region).
The international law on self-determination was meant for situations of colonialism or severe oppression of the citizens of the region. Since 1714, Catalan language has been banned from schools and civil administration for more than 250 years. I think that’s enough severe oppression.
35 years ago, a vast majority of Catalans voted yes in the Spanish Constitution referendum. It was a sound decision. Spain could close 40 years of illegal government and denigration of civil rights. My question is: Are we the people of Catalonia bound to that Constitution? You know it was drafted with fear –in fact, some generals tried to abolish democracy in 1981.
“Your response appears somewhat muddled to me. On the one hand you express support for the principle of self-determination for Catalonia, then you totally undermine it by saying that you don’t think the argument put forward by Jose are actually anti-democratic! Aren’t they?”
Presumably this is because you seem completely incapable of debating this issue without turning it into a self-righteous crusade. You want to portray it as if the idea of Catalonia being denied a referendum is so utterly undemocratic that it’s inexcusable for any modern state, or individual to advocate it.
I’m simply saying that while I think Catalonia should have a referendum, it’s a legitimate opinion to disagree and there are tangible reasons why someone might do so. If you find it “muddled” to accept that the other side of a debate might have some legitimate points to bring to the table then you’re not really debating in the first place – you’re lecturing.
“How else is one to interpret a line of argument which says that the Spanish constitution is the last word, unchangeable, and can be used effectively to deny self determination to Catalonia for ever. you may not call it anti-democratic,”
That’s not actually the argument at all. The argument is that the Spanish constitution is changeable, but as in every country with a national constitution there’s a process for amending it that involves the entire country, not simply Catalonia.
If you actually believe this is what people are arguing then you either haven’t understood the debate (or read Jose’s article for that matter), or you’re deliberately caricaturing the argument because you have no interest in actually engaging with it.
“I specifically said in an earlier response that of course the “Passport to Pimlico” argument is not tenable”
Fantastic. You “specifically said” it’s not tenable. Case closed. You also failed to prove that point (which largely seemed to be based on pointing at the Shetland Islands and Tavish Scott) and brushed off every further counter-argument showing that it absolutely is relevant to the debate.
Aside from making some minor attempt at moderation by making the banal point that it’s difficult to please everyone, you’re still ignoring the implication of the argument. The point that I’ve consistently tried to put to you is that the principle of a nation state – whether that’s Scotland, the UK, Catalonia, Spain, or elsewhere – necessarily involves denying the right to self-determination for certain sub-state entities. The notion of a referendum based on majority voting ensures that you’ll be forcing regions – and indeed, minority communities such as those in Nunavik who voted no in 1995 – to go along with the will of the majority.
What actually matters therefore isn’t this mythical “right to self-determination”, but how you define the territory that gets to vote in the first instance. I’ve said all along that I think Catalonia meets whatever standard we could dream up, but that portraying the argument as a simple defence of democracy and the principle of self-determination is a nonsense. The only reason it’s framed in that way is to try and make it impermissible for someone to take the opposite viewpoint – something you’ve tried (and failed) to do here.
“You want to portray it as if the idea of Catalonia being denied a referendum is so utterly undemocratic that it’s inexcusable for any modern state, or individual to advocate it.”
Please tell me you aren’t trying to argue that it is democratic for for a state or an individual to advocate denying Catalonia (or indeed any other people) a referendum? Note, I’m not saying you or anybody else isn’t entitled to your very own whacky interpretation of of what constitutes democratic, merely that you can’t expect the rest of us to go along with it.
You, Jose, the PP, PSOE, the Falange or anybody else are all entitled to argue that it IS excusable for a modern state like Spain to deny a referendum to Catalonia on the basis that it is not allowed under the Spanish constitution, but the doublethink involved in insisting that such a position is anything other than utterly undemocratic is truly breathtaking.
It isn’t lecturing to point out that in certain cases the opposite side in a debate is simply so devoid of reason or internal consistency that it is permissible to simply dismiss it as wrong.
“The argument is that the Spanish constitution is changeable, but as in every country with a national constitution there’s a process for amending it that involves the entire country, not simply Catalonia.”
Absolutely not. Just as the population of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have no role in deciding whether Scotland becomes independent, the people of the rest of Spain have no say in whether Catalonia becomes independent. It is for the population of Catalonia and Scotland to decide whether they become independent.
Believe me, I have understood the argument in the Catalan context, read Jose’s article closely, and been involved in similar discussions in the Scottish context on the legality or otherwise of the Scottish referendum. The logical concomitant of the line being used, and which you are defending, is that since the potential independence of Catalonia impacts Spain (or in the UK contact that of Scotland impacts the rest of the UK) then the people and governments of Spain and rUK could effectively (given the size disparities) deny independence to either state permanently.
This is exactly what many unionists in both countries argue, so: a) do you agree that such a veto should be available, and b) would you say that such a veto in the event of a Yes vote is democratic?
It’s not rocket science. It’s not a caricature, and it’s not me trying to avoid the debate; it’s simply a function of you attempting to square the circle of believing a profoundly un-democratic viewpoint is in fact democratic.
“The notion of a referendum based on majority voting ensures that you’ll be forcing regions – and indeed, minority communities such as those in Nunavik who voted no in 1995 – to go along with the will of the majority.”
What other model are you proposing? At base that’s how democracy works, no? Whether in Catalonia or Scotland would you propose that in the event of a national Yes vote in their referenda that both countries be broken up into a crazy patchwork quilt allowing those areas which voted No to remain part of Spain or the UK? That isn’t how independence and self determination referenda work anywhere! Nunavik may well be a special case given it’s small population, but all such cases are amenable to negotiation; there are many other potentially “messier” situations – I understand there is even a Catalan speaking area on the island of Sardinia, and of course there is a Catalan speaking department in France.
Of course defining the territory is important; the fact is however that in the case of both Catalonia and Scotland the territorial extent of the putative new states are NOT really problematic at all, or any issues are fairly minor; it’s not like Bosnia, or the Hungarian minority in Romania etc.
You on the other had keep saying that you feel Catalonia meets the standards required, but that the argument isn’t about defending democracy or the principles of self determination, when it quite plainly IS about just that. The logic of your argument (such as it it) allows the will of the majority in places like Catalonia and Scotland to be over-ridden by the majorities in Spain and Scotland. By that logic the Republic of Ireland for example would never have come into being, and probably never would!
“Just as the population of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have no role in deciding whether Scotland becomes independent, the people of the rest of Spain have no say in whether Catalonia becomes independent. It is for the population of Catalonia and Scotland to decide whether they become independent.
Believe me, I have understood the argument in the Catalan context, read Jose’s article closely, and been involved in similar discussions in the Scottish context on the legality or otherwise of the Scottish referendum. The logical concomitant of the line being used, and which you are defending, is that since the potential independence of Catalonia impacts Spain (or in the UK contact that of Scotland impacts the rest of the UK) then the people and governments of Spain and rUK could effectively (given the size disparities) deny independence to either state permanently.”
You absolutely have misunderstood the argument. You said above that the argument was “that the Spanish constitution is the last word, unchangeable, and can be used effectively to deny self determination to Catalonia for ever” (your exact words). In reality nobody has made that argument and Jose explicitly states in this article that the constitution is changeable, but that any amendment to the constitution must be made by consulting the whole of the country – just as a state in the United States can’t change the entire constitution of the United States or pick and choose which bits it wants to uphold.
Not only have you caricatured Jose’s point with your quote above about the constitution being “unchangeable”, you’re also conflating a different argument – that Spaniards across the country should have a direct say (e.g. by actually voting in a referendum) on Catalan independence. That’s not a “logical concomitant”, it’s a separate argument entirely. The point about amending the constitution is a (fairly sound in my opinion) legal view, the point about Spaniards having the right to voice their opinion on Catalan independence is a normative/democratic argument.
To quote Jose:
“The Spanish Constitution, voted in 1978 by 91 per cent of Catalans, prevents any process of secession in Spain. However, the Constitution can be modified. Thus, if pro-independence Catalans want to change the current (constitutional) status quo they need to convince the rest of Catalonia and Spain that this is a viable option.”
Please, explain to me how it’s possible to read that quote and then argue that anyone here is claiming the Spanish constitution is “unchangeable, and can be used effectively to deny self determination to Catalonia for ever”.
“What other model are you proposing? At base that’s how democracy works, no? Whether in Catalonia or Scotland would you propose that in the event of a national Yes vote in their referenda that both countries be broken up into a crazy patchwork quilt allowing those areas which voted No to remain part of Spain or the UK? That isn’t how independence and self determination referenda work anywhere!”
That’s precisely the point I’m making – that this is how democracy works and there’s no other alternative. Forcing sub-state entities to bow to the will of the majority is a necessary component of any nation state. We therefore can’t pretend, as you’re doing, that any state which prevents a sub-state entity from holding an independence referendum is fundamentally undemocratic. That’s a standard that essentially no state in human history has been able to meet.
You seem to accept that principle in your response here, but nevertheless continue to argue that to deny any territory an independence referendum is by its very nature impermissible.
“The logic of your argument (such as it it) allows the will of the majority in places like Catalonia and Scotland to be over-ridden by the majorities in Spain and Scotland. By that logic the Republic of Ireland for example would never have come into being, and probably never would!”
You present that as if it’s some logical flaw in the argument. Of course if you allow a debate over which territories should be allowed independence referendums you open up the prospect of some of those territories being denied a referendum. That’s the nature of a democratic discussion – that you might not agree with the conclusion.
As we’ve already established, though, that’s an issue which can essentially be applied to almost every state in the history of humanity. We’ve already accepted that some territories aren’t candidates for independence – in your words, to avoid creating a “patchwork quilt” – so how else can you determine these issues if not at a higher political level? Who decides which territories are candidates for independence and which aren’t?
Ultimately, I think we’re both approaching this from completely different perspectives. I have my opinion about Catalonia having a referendum, but I’m more interested in having a reasoned debate about the logic of self-determination. I get the impression you couldn’t care less about that subject and are simply intent on throwing arguments and catty comments at anyone who is perceived to be “anti-independence” (read: the enemy).
You’re entitled to do that, but I would say that in the Scottish context making an enemy of anyone who isn’t a zealous independence campaigner – in short, those in the centre, those with doubts – is a spectacularly poor way to win people over.
“In reality nobody has made that argument and Jose explicitly states in this article that the constitution is changeable, but that any amendment to the constitution must be made by consulting the whole of the country – just as a state in the United States can’t change the entire constitution of the United States or pick and choose which bits it wants to uphold.”
No, as I explain elsewhere, I’m NOT saying that the constitution is preserved in aspic, obviously I accept there is a process for changing it by negotiation. My point (which perhaps I didn’t make clear enough) is that given size disparities, there is no guarantee the Spanish government will act in good faith or EVER agree to legalise an independence referendum. That’s NOT the same point as whether, when part of Spain, Catalonia (or US states in the US example) can treat the constitution as a pick and mix buffet.
The argument as to whether in the US example a state can secede or not is rather different. The supreme court of the US would no doubt maintain not, and that it was ultra vires. However, US states are not Catalonia or Scotland – but out of interest, if for the sake of argument the state of Texas held a referendum and voted to secede, would you argue they shouldn’t be allowed to?
“We therefore can’t pretend, as you’re doing, that any state which prevents a sub-state entity from holding an independence referendum is fundamentally undemocratic.”
It’s not a pretence, it is saying (which seems relatively sensible) that to be regarded as fully democratic, the presumption must be that states should not prevent sub-state entities from holding referenda where those sub-state entities have a democratic mandate to do so. Obviously there has to be a sanity check, and hypotheticals about the Republic of Chipping Norton aside, I honestly don’t see what your issue is with seeing that Spain trying to over-ride a majority in favour of independence in Catalonia is anything other than a fundamentally undemocratic action, even if in other respects Spain is obviously a democratic country.
“Who decides which territories are candidates for independence and which aren’t?”
The $64,000 question: in the case of Catalonia, the people of Catalonia. In the case of Scotland, the people of Scotland. Are you seeing a pattern here? Do you honestly believe that the people of the rest of the UK should be able to deny the Scots their independence, or that the people of Spain deny it to Catalonia? Here’s a wee thought experiment for you; imagine going into a pub in Dublin and announcing that Irish independence should only have been granted if the rest of the UK allowed. Good luck with that one!
“I have my opinion about Catalonia having a referendum, but I’m more interested in having a reasoned debate about the logic of self-determination.”
Your position and reasoned debate are two circles which do not intersect at any point in the Venn diagram of life.
This is going to be my last post as I really don’t have time for this. @Andy, I understand you know little of Constitutional law given that there is no Constitution in the UK but telling me I don’t understand basic principles of democracy only disqualifies yourself. In modern democracies, political decisions are made by the representatives of the people in Parliament. There are not referenda about every single issue. There is a national Parliament in Madrid where the Catalan and non-Catalan political parties that support the referendum and support independence can discuss and negotiate a Constitutional change. As things stand now, government in Madrid could allow the referendum in Catalonia but it would be still illegal or para-legal at the very least. It is the Constitution that does not allow for the secession of Catalonia and it is not the role of the Government in Madrid to stop the referendum on “spurious” legal grounds. This is what the Constitutional Court of Law is
for. Decisions by referendum are by no means more democratic than decisions made in Parliament.
And I’m sorry but the right to self-determination does not apply here. Spain is not a colonial state and Catalonia is not a colony. Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, as Yorkshire is an integral part of England. The Catalonians who want the independence have every right to claim it but their representatives and especially the Government of the Generalitat, as an institution of the State, should play by the rules that they all have given themselves in the Constitution of 1978. I come from Argentina where the 1850’s Constitution was changed in 1994 following a reform process. In a democracy, anything is possible but it requires negotiation and persuasion and the safeguard of minorities rights.
I don’t have a stake in this. It is not up to me to stop a referendum in Catalonia to be held tomorrow. In fact, regardless what you said about my comment about “the silent majority”, it is very likely that even today the position against independence would get more votes than the pro-independence position. There is no consensus in Catalonia about what people should be asked to answer in a referendum and there is no consensus about what an independent Catalonia would look like. The ruling party CIU is divided about the independence issue. Even if many surveys reflect now a desire for independence in a majority in Catalonia, historically and until very recently most Catalonians have wanted to remain in Spain. So facing the actual issue, it is not clear how people would react. The problem of holding a referendum now is that it will open the door to endless referenda until the independence wins. And then what? If people in Catalonia realise a few years later that, actually, being a part of Spain was not that bad after all, would they be able to vote again? What would you do if the “No” wins in Scotland? would you give up and accept that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom for ever?
Anyway, I withdraw from this debate from now on. Last thing I want to tell you is that I really don’t get at all nationalism as an ideology. You see, I think it is much more constructive to think about what unite us than to think about what separate us.
“And I’m sorry but the right to self-determination does not apply here. Spain is not a colonial state and Catalonia is not a colony. Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, as Yorkshire is an integral part of England.”
Of course it applies here! the comparison with de-colonisation is a canard which in no way helps your case. For SOME Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, for the majority of Catalans however, that is no longer the case. Yorkshire is not analogous to Catalonia at all – there is no Yorkshire independence movement. It is not for anyone outside Catalonia to tell them that self-determination does not apply to them, or that they are an integral part of Spain – it is as arrogant as it is fallacious, particularly from a non-Catalan like yourself! As David Cameron noted in relation to the Scots referendum, it is a matter for the Scottish people to decide their future; which part of that don’t you understand?
“In fact, regardless what you said about my comment about “the silent majority”, it is very likely that even today the position against independence would get more votes than the pro-independence position.”
Nope, sorry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_independence
Try to produce evidence, not just assert! Polls are easily accessible – all the recent ones show around twice as many Catalans support independence as are against, with the likelihood that the pro-independence vote would rise when those in favour of federalism are required to chose either one or the other.
“The problem of holding a referendum now is that it will open the door to endless referenda until the independence wins. And then what? If people in Catalonia realise a few years later that, actually, being a part of Spain was not that bad after all, would they be able to vote again? What would you do if the “No” wins in Scotland? would you give up and accept that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom for ever?”
Please give me an example of any independent state which has ever decided to give up its independence and asked to be re-united with the former state? Hint: you won’t find any. I imagine however that in the vanishingly unlikely event the Catalans or Scots changed their minds, the Spaniards or UK might think hard about it, and would probably agree if they thought it was a good idea.
If the No vote wins in Scotland I’d be disappointed, but in truth it’s likely to represent independence deferred rather than permanently stopped. Like may others,I believe the process is irreversible; the UK state is broken and can’t be fixed, and there is an increasing gulf between the aspirations of the Scots and those of (in particular) the SE of England and the British unionist elites. Independence would not only be good for Scotland, but would give the cracking, crypto-medieval and deeply regressive UK system the kick in the backside it so desperately needs.
The UK is a dead country walking. Whether the coup de grace is delivered in sept. 2014 or at some later date remains to be seen.
“Last thing I want to tell you is that I really don’t get at all nationalism as an ideology. You see, I think it is much more constructive to think about what unite us than to think about what separate us.”
I don’t think the kind of civic nationalism evident in Scotland and Spain has much in common with many past nationalist movements, or those which are sectarian or negative in basis. The Common Weal approach being advanced by the Jimmy Reid foundation in Scotland is seen by many as a potential progressive alternative to much of the current system. (http://reidfoundation.org/common-weal/).
I don’t see Scots or Catalan nationalism as divisive – if anything it’s returning power to people in smaller units. I support internationalism, but I still want a Scottish, not British passport; I want to live in a republic, not a monarchy, and I want nuclear weapons removed from the Clyde. Unless you are pushing for a world government, or think Argentina should merge with the rest of Spanish speaking Latin America, or all EU members into one super state, your uncritical suspicion of all nationalism doesn’t seem that realistic.
In my first comment, I made a bold statement: “In plain words, Mr. Olivas writes as a Spanish diplomatic agent.”. I do apologize. Two facts mistook me.
[The first fact] Your article originally appeared on LSE’s Euro Crisis in the Press blog. Two weeks ago I read some tweets by @LSEEurocrisis. I copy two examples: (1) ‘The independence of Catalonia: jumping on a bandwagon’ by @josejolivas http://ow.ly/pkFry #Catalonia #Spain @Tonicanto1. (2) On the myths and misunderstandings about Catalonia’s pro-independence movement ow.ly/pkJhr @hermanntertsch @oneto_p @cc_urabayen. MP Toni Cantó is a well known Spanish unionist. Hermann Tertsch and Pepe Oneto are strong unionist journalists in Madrid. I considered those tweets a malpractice. I concluded, Dr. Olivas, they were either yours or dictated by you. I regret. You can read or see them on Twitter: (1) as a result from an advanced search: https://twitter.com/search?q=bandwagon%20%40tonicanto1&src=typd or (2) as an image in our Twitter account IndyBarcelona https://twitter.com/IndySants/status/386792526557900800/photo/1.
[The second fact] Your reasons against a referendum in Catalonia and Federico Trillo’s ones are pretty the same (Trillo is the Spanish ambassador to the United Kingdom). Last year, I read a letter he sent to ‘Financial Times’ in which he claimed that Scotland and Catalonia are very different cases http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/bffe8374-2450-11e2-b38c-00144feabdc0.html?ftcamp=published_links%2Frss%2Fcomment_letters%2Ffeed%2F%2Fproduct&siteedition=intl#axzz2Bd3YYsWQ. I remembered Trillo’s reasons very well because I had discussed them in full detail in a post: “From the Dutch revolt” http://thesweetrevolution.blogspot.com/2012/11/from-dutch-revolt.html. Those similarities misled me. I rather consider them now as a common ideology.
We disagree. May be passion for our countries derails both of us, my friend… I am just an activist. So, I respectfully ask for your opinion, as an academic, Dr. Olivas, about an insightful article that was published some months before the Catalan deluge: “The rise of secessionism in Catalonia”, by Montserrat Guibernau https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2012/05/29/catalonia-secession/.
Dear Enric, Indeed the article was tweeted to many journalists and political figures. It is the standard operating procedure of the blog. It was also tweeted to Lluis Bassets, Javier Solana, Miquel Iceta, Jordi Evole, etc. I think that it is completely normal to send it to anyone who may be interested in reading it. I can assure my political views are in the antipodes of those of ambassador Trillo. I know the work of Monserrat Gibernau who I have seen in person several times. Nonetheless her political proximity to CDC and Jordi Pujol and her commitment to the ondependentist cause is somehow undermining he academic output which has a strong bias.
I do not expect people to change their minds about this issue but I want to provide some evidence that should lead to at least some critical reflection about some of the claims and assumptions usually taken for granted.
In this article I criticise the pro independence stance. There is a lot to criticise about the take on the issue by PP and PSOE as well.
Is Guibernau biased? Well, I do not know. I am just an activist. Anyway, as a reader, I can claim this London School of Economics blog was the first worldwide publication that predicted the social fact we are currently discussing: “the Catalan deluge”, for short. Guibernau’s article was published in May 2012. It showed, at least, a remarkable perspicacity.
I wouldn’t not doubt of Professor Gibernau’s predicting skills. More so in this case were she is actively working to turn the prophecy into a reality. There is a large list of Catalan academics working for the cause of independence. They often receive public funds from the Generalitat and foundations linked to the pro-independence cause and from the nationalist parties think tanks. I don’t think this disqualifies them as academics but I think this type of engagement detracts from the credibility of the conclusions they reach. I think their reports have the same level of legitimacy and objectivity that those produced or sponsored by other foundations such as FAES (which in my opinion worth little in the context of serious constructive discussions). I would suggest you to look around beyond the group of sponsored or militant academics. Probably more independent, and normally nuanced findings could help in the long run your cause. So far there is little serious discussion and excess of propaganda.
Give me some advice, please. I am an avid reader. I will read independent academics, of course. I sincerely thank your offer. I am used to reading pro-independence, unionist and devo-max journalists in Barcelona media. I also read Madrid media, although it is far more homogeneous, overwhelmingly unionist and nationalist (every day, you can read unionist articles in Bcn media; pro-independence or even devo-max ones are rara avis in Mad media).
Your knowledge about Catalan history fascinated me, by the way. I had lived in the center of Barcelona for some years, not far from plaça del Rei (King Square). The King who reigned in Barcelona was the king of Aragon. That’s right. His house was the House of Barcelona. His main palaces were in Barcelona. His flag was a yellow flag with four red stripes. He spoke Catalan and he wrote Catalan. So, I concluded that Barcelona was the de facto capital city of the Crown of Aragon, a confederation between Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia and Majorca. Was I mistaken? Be careful, my friend: by denying Catalonia’s historical rights in so an outrageous way, you seem to suggest that each of the four members of that Aragonese confederation deserve an independence referendum.
Catalans have been trying to convince Spain of the need and benefits of a change in the status quo for a hundred years. The hardest repression was sadly the answer. In 1940, for instance, the Catalan president was captured by Gestapo and executed by Franco. You may remember well our last try, the reform of our Statute of Autonomy. Spain said no. Was it a good decision? I think not. The increasingly strong pro-independence movement is the result of that failed attempt to reform the status quo.
@ Jose 2.49pm
“Sorry, but you have not clearly answered the question. Would you allow that the Shetlands secede from Scotland or remain in the UK is the majority of their voters decide so in the referendum?”
Yes, of course I would if that is what their people voted for. As I also mentioned, the only poll done so far (http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/3201771) also showed 82% of the population of the Orkneys and Shetlands in favour of remaining part of Scotland if there is a Yes vote in 2014, 8% in favour of breaking away, and 10% didn’t know – hardly a ringing endorsement of the UK?
“In Catalonia there has not been any vote for independence. So according to your argument Spain is not doing anything anti-democratic. I don’t think there is going to be any referendum of independence until the Constitution is reformed.”
Yes, it is doing something anti-democratic by insisting that the Spanish constitution over-rides the rights of the Catalan people if they vote either to hold a referendum irrespective of the putative rights of the Spanish state to try and ban such a referendum, or once the Catalans hold such a referendum and achieve a Yes vote, to try and delay or stop independence. If your logic held true, presumably you think Irish republicans had no right to declare independence from the UK?
You are of course entitled to believe that the Generalitat will not proceed with a referendum in 2014, or will seek to delay it, but I have a feeling it is more likely to go ahead than not. I understand elections have been called for November 25th 2013; I’d be interested to hear what you think should happen in the event that an avowedly pro-independence majority is elected, particularly if (as in Scotland after the last Holyrood elections) the pro-independence parties stand on a platform of asking for a mandate to hold such a referendum? Would you still insist on the primacy of the Spanish constitution?
“I am not against reforming the Constitution (quite the opposite).”
That’s fine as far as it goes, however you fail to address the point I made earlier (because I suspect you know there is no acceptable democratic answer) that in the event the Catalans were to accept that Madrid would negotiate in good faith, which you’d have to accept is a “big ask” for many, what happens in the event that Madrid finally says “No – we’re never going to give you full independence, no matter how big a majority you have for independence within Catalonia”?
Your answer (unless you tell me otherwise) appears to be that basically it’s tough for the Catalans, but in the end 40 million Spaniards will be able to prevent Catalan self determination in perpetuity. Perhaps you can refer me to where it says in international law that is right, since you feel I’m in need of revision? I certainly haven’t been able to find ANYTHING supporting your view.
In the Scottish case, there was considerable debate and review about the legality of a referendum without the consent of Westminster. This was of course rather obviated by the Westminster Agreement, which showed both that the UK government is more sensible and in tune with democratic values than it’s Spanish counterpart, but also exposed the inherent weakness of London’s position: trying to ban or veto the Scots indyref would simply have played into the hands of the SNP and other pro-independence forces in Scotland, who would doubtless have gone ahead with the referendum in any case and/or potentially won a majority of Scottish seats in Westminster as well as Holyrood and simply declared UDI.
“What you describe is clearly a misinterpretation of the law (which was meant for situations of colonialism or severe oppression of the citizens of the region).”
As was discovered during the debates about the Scottish indyref, the legal situation is by no means clear cut. There were authorities who supported your type view about the referendum requiring the sanction of, in this case, Westminster. There were however plenty of others who disagreed. Obviously the exact constitutional positions are not the same, but as many of these authorities observed the de-colonialisation situation doesn’t really apply, it just so happens that “most” independence movement since 1945 involved former colonies of European powers.
Once again, feel free to quote me which specific laws you feel I’m misrepresenting though; from what I read at the time there are international specialists who haven’t been able to do it, so I won’t exactly be hanging by the thumbs waiting for you to deliver a knock out blow!
At least you seem coherent by bringing the right of secession to its ultimate consequences. I doubt any responsible stateman would agree with that due to the indefinite unstability that would generate. The argument the right of any subunit to claim independence leads theoretically the individuals’ right of self determination which consequences anyone reading this can imagine. Do you defenfend it as well? If you do not agree with individuals right of secession but you agree with subterritorial units right of secession. which is the appropriate size?
About the right of self determination I assumed you referred to the UN resolutions in 1960 and 1961 but now you let me puzzled. You seem to refer to other international law that dictates the right of secession beyond a colonial setting. Could you provide the evidence. I am very much interested. I hope you are not referring to any uncodified “natural” or “divine” law.
I refer you to the discussion ref. “reductio ad absurd am” arguments elsewhere in the thread. Of course there are limits; the facile ripostes about “oh well, village X, or town Y, or county Z” could declare independence or decide to opt out of independence, are frequently used by unionists to close down debate.
The issues you raise are interesting, but hardly conducive to short pithy answers here. In particular the legal position with respect to self-determination, secession, the size of sub-units could each be the subject of PhD theses of their own!
As already discussed much of the existing international law regarding these matters refers to a colonial setting, and as such does not give much help in situations like Catalonia, Scotland, Quebec etc, even if some of the groundwork is set.
I’m not here to do your homework for you, so I’m sure you can research and google mine just as effectively as I can. My interests relating to the Scottish case, and the debates around the Edinburgh Agreement, certainly showed that there is no consensus in the academic community relating to these issues, nor sadly is there anything in the way of clear +/or generally accepted legal precedent, still less case law, on such situations.
In the end of course it it likely that many of the areas currently being argued about (such as the legality of the referendums, EU and IGO/NGO entry, international recognition etc will be solved by a combination of political and legal negotiation and agreement. Each case, having its own unique characteristics as well as similarities has to be judged on its merits; Scotland, Catalonia and Quebec offer a challenge as well as an opportunity to the international community, as well as to the leaders of both pro and anti independence politicians and activists in all 3 cases.
My reading of the Spanish response to Catalan aspirations is that it has been found wanting, and rests on a profoundly anti-democratic and authoritarian base. Their refusal to negotiate positively as evidenced by Rajoy’s recent response to Mas’ letter, and as Westminster has done with Holyrood, simply strengthens the hand of the Generalitat and pro-independence movement.
Finally, you may not like or agree with the concept of the role of natural law in terms of such debates, but (particularly in the absence of clear precedent or case law) it is likely to play a role. As such, the position of the Spanish government with respect to standing on constitutional veto and legal means, will be widely seen as wanting from the point of view of denying self determination to a people who are attempting to exercise it.
You clearly dodged the question again: what is the appropriate size or type of unit entitle for self determination in your opinion? If you want to introduce that right in Spanish or international law you need to specify the subject of the law. So is it regions, towns, counties, individuals? If you don’t know what you want how are you going to convince the international community or policy-makers of your claim. How do you codify it as a law?
As for the homework I stated that there is no international law recognising the right of secession of subunits in democratic states (only in situations of colonialism and severe discrimination/oppression). You claim the contrary but you cannot provide any evidence. My statement is falsifiable. How can I falsify your claim?
It seems that you are mixing wishes with reality. We cannot discuss an “existing” right of self determination unless you provide evidence of its existence (any international law?) neither we could discuss the introduction of a new right because you do not even dare to define the units entitled to it.
So from my side there is not so much we could do in this discussion.
Since 1980 catalans had ben able to vote almost every two years in local, regional and national elections (as any other spanish citizen, equals in rights). So nobody can say seriously Spain is not a democratic State. Never before 2011 catalans had vote by majority secessionists parties. Now secessionists want an illegal referendum. But there is a much more easy way to vote, just call new regional elections and make it plebiscitarian, because catalans CAN vote WHENEVER their regional government/parliament wants. If indepence is so vital, why is so important to achieve it in a Roussonian or a Siéyesian way?, why argue so much about how to vote?, just VOTE, it is your constitutional RIGHT as spanish citizens. Both ways will break with spanish Constitution, so secessionist leaders must stop complaining and get the faster and easier path to do it (if they really want). Artur Mas has the key, not Mariano Rajoy.
People aren’t denying that Spain is a democratic state, they ARE saying that by trying to prevent an independence referendum from taking place, despite the popular mandate in favour within Catalonia, the Spanish government is acting in an anti-demcratic manner on THIS issue.
As discussed elsewhere in this thread, the real issue hinges on whether, as Jose and other anti-independence campaigners insist, no referendum can take place without a negotiated change to the Spanish constitution. The problem with this approach, which none of its advocates have addressed, is whether it can be regarded as democratic, since the effect (which is of course exactly what anti-independence campaigners want) would be to make independence for Catalonia functionally impossible. The in-built majority in Madrid will always be able to simply refuse to change the constitution, or to impose conditions, obstacles and caveats which may be unacceptable to Catalan aspirations.
The comparison with the Scottish experience is informative, although obviously the conditions are not the same. Happily for the UK, our government is at least more reasonable than that in Madrid, so confrontation was avoided. However it must be abundantly clear that the path chosen by Rajoy and the Spanish government is in the end much more likely to promote the independence of Catalonia than to prevent it.
Unlike Scotland, where the debate is much more finely balanced between the “Yes, No and Don’t Knows”, there is now a solid majority in favour of independence in Catalonia. The anti-democratic attempts by the Spanish government to stop a referendum being held, or once held to abide by a result they don’t like, will simply increase support for a Yes vote in 2014. Indeed that realisation played a part in Westminster’s decision to reach the Edinburgh Agreement with the Scottish Government; a refusal would simply have increased SNP support both at Holyrood and Westminster, increased the number of those inclined to vote Yes, and thus made Scottish independence more likely.
I wrote my first reply ´cause almost every use of the label “anti-democratic” I had read or heard was refferred to Spain as State or Government. Not just limited to the referendum issue as you did. Just read the very first reply (by Mary).
The debate about how democratic this veto on referendum is, the right to decide, and so on, is interesting but senseless, and a dead-end. The main problem here is not theoretical (about rights to secession, integrity of States, etc.) but practical. Only PP and PSOE (big parties are the center of our democracy, not the people, I don´t like it, but it´s our scenario) can promote the constitutional changes to hold this kind of referendum. If big parties want, referendum is possible, even dethrone a king is possible if they are interested. However territorial integrity is the BIG RED LINE in Transition inherited spanish politics (even more than Monarchy). Nobody wants to be in history books as those guys who managed the 2nd 1898 Disaster (ok, IU maybe). ERC and CIU know that, any spaniard know that.
So we can talk for hours about rights, feelings, how poor/rich we´re gonna be the day after or whatever…, referendum never going to happen unless big parties can get benefits on it, and it´s not so, would be suicidal for the national party which allow this. It´s not good nor bad, it´s a fact, and you can label it as anti-democratic, and, ok, you´re close to be right, but it´s only a definition, not a way to reach a solution nor even understanding of how our politics work and why some things have to be done in any particular way.
The only realistic, practical, and possible (in our context) way for Catalonia to get independence from Spain is to call regional elections, make it plebiscitarian and win for majority of popular vote and seats in regional parliament. Actually secessionist could do that in 2011… It´s the only way Madrid parties can´t interfere directly, so it´s the only way.
I don´t like our parties system, but i can´t say it´s anti-democratic, a majority of people vote for them! Talk and talk about referendum is good for nothing but for both sides propaganda and mobilisation, we have to get back to reality, and let the people vote, NOW!, as they had done since 1980. I repeat, Mr. Mas has it in his hands, he has the regional parliament majority, so he has the more powerful tool in the Catalan political spectrum (he can even declare independence tomorrow, without elections), what is he waiting for? That´s the question. (Sorry for my rusty english)
To Andy Ellis: “Please give me an example of any independent state which has ever decided to give up its independence and asked to be re-united with the former state?”: República Dominicana 1861-1865.
OK, I’ll give you that one, but you honestly think that example helps your case in the face of the hundreds of states which have become independent since? Rather shows the desperation of the anti-independence line I’d suggest! 😉
Oh, I didn´t answer to support anti-independence, just to point out this so unknown Dominican “Black Swan” fact.
You mention companies relocating to Madrid I think the tax breaks that are offered for such a relocation should be highlighted. In a similar vein to prohibiting long haul flights out of the international hub that is Barcelona. I am a Londoner who has nothing to do with study or politics but as a supposed academic interested in the subject area I would suggest there should be a bit more rigour and balance in your arguments!!!
“No, as I explain elsewhere, I’m NOT saying that the constitution is preserved in aspic, obviously I accept there is a process for changing it by negotiation. My point (which perhaps I didn’t make clear enough) is that given size disparities, there is no guarantee the Spanish government will act in good faith or EVER agree to legalise an independence referendum. That’s NOT the same point as whether, when part of Spain, Catalonia (or US states in the US example) can treat the constitution as a pick and mix buffet.”
This is just dancing on the head of a pin in a vain attempt to pretend you knew what you were talking about all along. I’ll accept that you now have a better understanding of what Jose was actually arguing and leave it there. If you’re too stubborn to admit a mistake then so be it.
Needless to say if we were to copy and paste your original comment next to what you’ve written here it would look utterly ridiculous – I’ll spare you the embarrassment.
“The argument as to whether in the US example a state can secede or not is rather different. The supreme court of the US would no doubt maintain not, and that it was ultra vires. However, US states are not Catalonia or Scotland – but out of interest, if for the sake of argument the state of Texas held a referendum and voted to secede, would you argue they shouldn’t be allowed to?”
I don’t see what possible relevance this non-existent situation actually has to the point I made. I merely brought up the US as an example of a country with a constitution to illustrate that what you’re complaining about – a constituent part of a larger country being bound by its own constitution – is par for the course.
“It’s not a pretence, it is saying (which seems relatively sensible) that to be regarded as fully democratic, the presumption must be that states should not prevent sub-state entities from holding referenda where those sub-state entities have a democratic mandate to do so. Obviously there has to be a sanity check, and hypotheticals about the Republic of Chipping Norton aside, I honestly don’t see what your issue is with seeing that Spain trying to over-ride a majority in favour of independence in Catalonia is anything other than a fundamentally undemocratic action, even if in other respects Spain is obviously a democratic country.”
So now (just to muddle things even further) the criteria for an independence referendum isn’t size, it’s having an undefined “democratic mandate” – which I assume in this latest framework really means the regional assembly contains a majority for a party/coalition that supports independence.
I think the real question is why, after being asked about 20 times in this comment section by several different people, you can’t provide a coherent outline of what you think the standard is for a sub-state entity having an independence referendum. All you’ll say is that it’s justified for Catalonia, and anyone who disagrees is either undemocratic, or resorting to “reductio ad absurdum”.
“Reductio ad absurdum”, incidentally, is typically brought up when someone doesn’t like the implication that their supposedly “fundamental” principle leads to nonsensical situations when it’s applied indiscriminately. In reality your appeal to the right of self determination isn’t fundamental at all, which is why you feel the need to keep inventing new criteria to limit it – size, ethnic minority groups, linguistic groups, a regional assembly with a majority for independence, etc.
The answer, of course, is that like many independence campaigners (and anti-independence campaigners for that matter) you’re not particularly interested in the logic of self-determination. You simply want to campaign for your own view and write off any dissenting opinion with crude labels like “undemocratic” or “scaremongering”. The reason why you can’t give a straight answer when asked about the criteria for an independence referendum is that by actually engaging with the issue honestly you’d be forced to accept that there is no fundamental right to self-determination for sub-state entities. The right to self-determination is always limited and it’s therefore an open debate as to whether it applies in the case of Catalonia.
Far better to just bleat on and on about the other side being “undemocratic” without offering a single rebuttal to those who point at the countless holes in your logic. About all you’ve offered here is persistence, an addition to block capitals, and a love of punctuating your comments with ad hominem nonsense.
Sadly this brand of self-righteous populist twaddle is probably more responsible for increasing the no vote in Scotland than anything else.
“I’ll accept that you now have a better understanding of what Jose was actually arguing and leave it there. If you’re too stubborn to admit a mistake then so be it.
Needless to say if we were to copy and paste your original comment next to what you’ve written here it would look utterly ridiculous – I’ll spare you the embarrassment.”
Your patronising tone only goes to show you aren’t arguing in good faith. I didn’t make a mistake, I clarified my earlier statement. You continually fail to answer or positively engage with the points I make, doubtless because you know you are on shaky ground. I clarified that I wasn’t saying Spain was not a democracy, but that in this regard it was not acting in a democratic way; you’re free to disagree, and everyone else is free to stand around and laugh that you insist it’s fine.
Given the tone and content of your previous posts, and your continual refusal to engage positively in meaningful debate, the prospect of being able to embarrass me or indeed anyone else in debate can be judged by others.
“I don’t see what possible relevance this non-existent situation actually has to the point I made. I merely brought up the US as an example of a country with a constitution to illustrate that what you’re complaining about – a constituent part of a larger country being bound by its own constitution – is par for the course.”
You were the one who brought the example of US states and the US constitution up in the first place! Now you are desperately trying to back pedal because you know you are on rocky ground. The fact that a country has a constitution which overtly or implicitly bans secession of any part, and whether that is democratic, is the heart of the issue. Whether it is par for the course is irrelevant; that doesn’t make it right, or democratic, nor does it mean that in the proximate case under discussion, Catalonia (or indeed others which can be seen as similar like Scotland or Quebec), that the argument would prove successful when put to the test.
“I think the real question is why, after being asked about 20 times in this comment section by several different people, you can’t provide a coherent outline of what you think the standard is for a sub-state entity having an independence referendum. All you’ll say is that it’s justified for Catalonia, and anyone who disagrees is either undemocratic, or resorting to “reductio ad absurdum”.”
It’s quite clear what the standard is to anyone with eyes to see it. Why do you find this issue so hard? Do you actually accept that Catalonia is entitled to hold a referendum on independence without the explicit permission of the Spanish government? (Same question applies for Scotland vis a vis the UK by the way)? It’s a fairly simple question. The standards for Catalonia are fairly clear, as are those for Scotland, but they may not all pertain to every conceivable example. The fact remains that any person or group taking a position that it is right in this case for the wishes of the majority of Catalans to be denied with reference to the Spanish majority IS taking an anti-democratic stance.
For a Scot to take this stance given the progress of the debate at home is puzzling, but then the unionist side is full of useful fools arguing their case.
“Sadly this brand of self-righteous populist twaddle is probably more responsible for increasing the no vote in Scotland than anything else.”
It’s not worth engaging with the rest of your fact-free tendentious post, I have better things to do that argue with people taking up faith based positions. Your last comment is however just the nail in the coffin for what passes for your case. Anyone with access to the internet can see that the only way the No vote has been going in Scotland is downwards. Recent polls show the No vote decreasing, the number of Don’t Knows increasing, and the Yes vote increasing. When the Don’t knows are either excluded or asked to plump for a side, the No vote lead decreases further.
With almost a year still to go, there is all to play for. The fact you can sit there and claim the No vote is increasing when it is demonstrably falling only shows you are either none too well informed or that you are in fact trolling. Given the foregoing, I’m going for both.
“Your patronising tone only goes to show you aren’t arguing in good faith. I didn’t make a mistake, I clarified my earlier statement. You continually fail to answer or positively engage with the points I make, doubtless because you know you are on shaky ground. I clarified that I wasn’t saying Spain was not a democracy, but that in this regard it was not acting in a democratic way; you’re free to disagree, and everyone else is free to stand around and laugh that you insist it’s fine.
Given the tone and content of your previous posts, and your continual refusal to engage positively in meaningful debate, the prospect of being able to embarrass me or indeed anyone else in debate can be judged by others.”
On the contrary I’m doing my best to engage you in a logical argument. It’s something that’s proving utterly impossible because you’re simply repeating the same argument ad nauseam – namely that it’s undemocratic to deny Catalonia a referendum, end of. When I (or Jose above) ask you to expand on what you think the criteria for a sub-state entity holding a referendum actually are, you just ignore it. All you’ll say is that “it’s quite clear what the standard is to anyone with eyes to see it”.
Well if it’s “quite clear” then why don’t you just say it? It’s not rocket science, it’s an incredibly simple question: what are the criteria for a sub-state entity holding a referendum?
I’m not going to have a silly debate about whether my tone is patronising or not. I’m not interested in throwing snide comments at one another. I’m asking you a simple, honest question. If you have a response give one.
“For a Scot to take this stance given the progress of the debate at home is puzzling, but then the unionist side is full of useful fools arguing their case.”
Once again the implication that because I’m not a mindless “independista” I must be a unionist. Perhaps you could post a single quote in this thread where I’ve argued against Scottish independence. This “I’ll make ridiculously over the top arguments and anyone who disagrees is a unionist” style of debating might work in the pub, but needless to say it’s not very convincing in the academic world.
“It’s not worth engaging with the rest of your fact-free tendentious post, I have better things to do that argue with people taking up faith based positions. Your last comment is however just the nail in the coffin for what passes for your case. Anyone with access to the internet can see that the only way the No vote has been going in Scotland is downwards. Recent polls show the No vote decreasing, the number of Don’t Knows increasing, and the Yes vote increasing. When the Don’t knows are either excluded or asked to plump for a side, the No vote lead decreases further.
With almost a year still to go, there is all to play for. The fact you can sit there and claim the No vote is increasing when it is demonstrably falling only shows you are either none too well informed or that you are in fact trolling. Given the foregoing, I’m going for both.”
The comment was about your style of debating being liable to increase the no vote – i.e. if you treat everyone in the centre as a “unionist” and unload a pile of self-righteous nonsense on them for merely asking honest questions about the concept of independence, you’re not likely to convince anyone to vote yes. I don’t expect you to understand that as you no doubt think of yourself as some kind of missionary for the concept, but from a political science perspective (this is an academic blog after all) I can’t see how that particular strategy is going to help your cause. It’s certainly not the strategy being used by the SNP or anyone else involved in the Yes campaign.
At no point, anywhere, did I say that the overall no vote was increasing in Scotland. Again you’ve chosen to completely ignore what was said and launch into a soundbite about the state of the referendum campaign that seems to be founded on the idea that I’m some sort of unionist troll with a “faith based position”. It’s impossible to respond in a reasoned way to this sort of gibberish.
@ Alphonse 5.33
From a fairly quick search…
Totally ludicrous and really indecent of anyone to give any credence to the single off the record personal comment of some nobody who retired from the army more than 20 years ago (the 3 articles are based upon exactly the same comment). It just comes to show how fanatical and desperate the independentists have become. The way the independent press builds this comment into “a threat from the Spanish state” is beyond belief, and just comes to show exactly what I am saying – that public opinion in Catalonia has been kidnapped by a fanatical bunch of control freaks.
I am left wing, have lived in Spain for ten years, and can say without a doubt that there is no fascist totalitarian right wing left in Spain. It probably is the only country in Europe where the bigoted xenophobic right wing has 0 (ZERO!!) representation in the national parliament.
Agreed. Anyone with any vague understanding of this debate is already familiar with these quotes so I’ve got no idea what linking to them is supposed to prove. The idea that they represent a genuine military threat from the rest of Spain is a bit like saying Godfrey Bloom’s gaffes are indicative of the British army’s policies.
However I do think comments like this aren’t helpful. I personally think Catalonia should be entitled to hold a referendum, but even if I didn’t it would have to be based on law or democratic principles, not military force. I don’t think anyone – other than perhaps ageing, out of touch members of the military – genuinely thinks military force is a reason to deny any territory independence. States may have been built on that principle hundreds of years ago, but in 21st century Europe it’s an irrelevance.
I sincerely hope that Catalonia votes soon to decide whether it wants freedom or not from Spain. I live in Bcn with my family and it’s becoming absurd to wait any longer for this democratic step. I can’t understand what we are all waiting for. When my parents got divorced they decided fair and square to get it over with asap. When the USA became independant from the UK, they didn’t argue whether they wanted freedom or not they declared it, unilaterally. The Scotts are about to vote next year whether they become independant or not. Everyone is moving on except Catalonia. Why?
“Freedom from Spain”. That concept really is a joke given how slaved Catalan society is to both their corrupt regional politicians and their totally subservient local media at the present time. Most of the economic problems in Catalonia (e.g. its huge deficit, unparalleled in Spain or Europe) are entirely of their own making. What you need is freedom from your corrupt, selfish and totalitarian oligarchs. When will you be given a real vote to get rid of them?
Please read Alfredo Pallone’s Report on Public Finances (European Parliament). For instance, “28. Notes that fiscal consolidation efforts should be shared between the different administrations in a fair way, taking into account the services they provide;” http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2012-0425+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN
You may take a look at Transparency gencat http://transparencia.gencat.cat/en/index.html
oh, great, another joke. What fairness is there in asking genuinely poor regions like Andalucía, Galicia and Castilla la Mancha to reduce their deficits hugely to below 1% of their GDP while allowing Catalonia to continue to run its own nearly at 2%. Catalonia alone is responsible for nearly half of the sovereign debt of Spain as whole and if Spain nearly went bankrupt a year ago it was to a large extent because of the Catalan authorities’ irresponsible overspent over the last decade (much of it apparently paid in bribes, as in the ‘Palau’ case). It is the rest of Spain who must be considering whether they are nuts to continue harboring such nefarious spendthrifts, who after nearly bankrupting the country then go on to do nothing but complain about how the rest of Spain ‘robs’ them. A bit more decency on the part of the Catalan politicians, at least on occasion, would really not go amiss sometimes …
I agree in principle with referenda, but only in a context in which public opinion is informed, has been provided with a balanced and dispassionate debate of the pros and cons, has been educated objectively, and is in a position to distinguish genuine historical events from interested fabrications, so as to thus reasonably be expected to take a decision in their own genuine interest (and with some sensitivity and consideration for those who would be affected by their decision as well). In particular it is absolutely essential for a referendum to genuinely express any will of the citizens that the context be one where the political class has not essentially kidnapped the public debate for their own self-interested purposes for decades. None of these conditions at present obtain in Catalonia – very very far from it. Most of them do obtain in Scotland, I think. At least I lived there for four years over a decade ago, and feel that the Scottish people can reasonably be trusted to make a decision based on considered judgement of the facts, not irrational and transient passion, or subjective sentiment. This why a referendum in Catalonia is right now not in any way feasible, and it would be a completely irresponsible government (as the Catalan government has shown itself to be) that would pretend to call it under these circumstances.
I think there are ways around that problem. For example in the UK there’s the electoral commission, which is independent from the UK and Scottish governments and has a somewhat neutral role in making sure the referendum is run properly. It has credibility with both sides of the debate, so it can address any issues and disputes. For example it suggested that the question originally proposed for the referendum should be changed, which the SNP accepted.
In terms of what the parties do, of course, it’s harder to police. I agree that there are problems in the Catalonia case which don’t apply to Scotland, but then I’d say that there are still problems in Scotland as well. In my opinion, the debate here hasn’t focused a great deal on the practical issues and both sides seem more intent on attacking each other than putting a coherent case forward. I’m not sure it’s possible to avoid those problems in a campaign like this, though, and I don’t think it’s a reason to avoid having a referendum in the first place.
Maybe with passions so high there could be an argument that Catalonia shouldn’t hold a referendum immediately, but setting a date some time in the future and finding a neutral body to oversee it (neither pro or anti-independence and respected by everybody) is possible. The debate isn’t going to go away and that’s a better solution than the plebiscite election that’s been discussed, which would be an exceptionally poor way to make such an important decision.
Those sound like reasonable proposals, but to put all those conditions in place in Catalonia would take if not a generation at least an in-depth change in government, style and education. I can’t see the conditions obtaining for an informed referendum that genuine reflects the will of the citizens in less than 7 to 8 years in the most favourable case. And the Catalan government wants to call the referendum next year! (But of course, the reason they want to call it so quickly is precisely that they know that public opinion would be more objectively informed the longer the debate goes on, and therefore far less amenable to being shaped by the current Catalan political castes, and therefore less likely to vote for independence – and therefore less likely to install that very caste in a position of absolute political power for generations to come. That is really why they are in such a rush, and that is precisely why the Central Government, however conservative, is the only one behaving responsibly on this matter at present).
I took the time to read ALL the comments (much better than the article, by the way).
In short, Spain itself turned the CAT national case in a Democratic case. And subsequently lost
And turn it as many times as you wish Mr.Dr
As a former postgraduate student at the LSE and a visitor to Catalunya, I was very disappointed to read such a one-sided and polemical article. The current Spanish constitution is itself the problem: it seeks to rule out nations within the Spanish state from pursuing a path to independence. That in itself is anti-democratic. Neither Catalunya nor the Basque country were permitted the right to choose their own destiny after the demise of the Franco regime. Now the pigeons are coming home to roost.
How can the constitution of ANY country not rule out independent nations within that country? I don’t understand that. It is the constitution ‘of Spain’, how can it provide for its own demise? The UK has no constitution, being essentially a federation of ancient independent nations, but this is not at all the foundation of the Spanish state, nor has it been at any point in its 500 year long existence.
The independentists either i) do not understand basic logic, ii) play semantic tricks with words, or iii) lie. Why can’t you openly say that you want to end (effectively kill, or dismantle) the 500 year old spanish nation and state in order to create your new Catalan nation state? Why is it so difficult just to be upfront? (Let me tell you why: if the independentists were honest and upfront they would have lost most of their popular support ages ago).
With some delay, and being catalan independentist though not nationalist, I’d like to briefly answer these questions:
“How can the constitution of ANY country not rule out independent nations within that country?”
You are right. Constitutions are usually written to defend the interests of that country, not to allow its destruction. But using basic logic not political logic, they should allow the people to decide whether to keep or change any current situation. Surprisingly, some constitutions in the world allow processes of secession.
“The UK has no constitution, being essentially a federation of ancient independent nations, but this is not at all the foundation of the Spanish state, nor has it been at any point in its 500 year long existence”.
Not totally right. 500 years ago there existed no moderns nation-states, but there were ancient nations within old kingdoms and Spain was formed by the union of some of them, by “free” royal marriages. Nations have persisted within Spain until now, and they have been claiming their existence until now, even though one of those nations denies the existence of the others
“The independentists either i) do not understand basic logic, ii) play semantic tricks with words, or iii) lie.”
Don’t worry, we understand and try to use basic logic, which always favors freedom and democracy and not maintenance of abnormal political situations. We do sometimes play semantic tricks, much less than unionists do though, for marketing reasons. I am not proud of that. Most of us do not lie at all, as we think clearly that truth favors our ideas.
“Why can’t you openly say that you want to end (effectively kill, or dismantle) the 500 year old spanish nation and state in order to create your new Catalan nation state?”
You are right. This is one of the semantic tricks. Most of us (not all) love spanish culture and people although we want to politically split from them. We do not hate Spain. We want Spain to be our best friend and ally, just as USA is the best friend of UK. But you “can’t make the omelet without breaking the eggs”. We do want to create a new State and, thus, to dismantle Spain as side-effect. We are sorry, but Spain does not respect our dignity as nation and thus do not accept us as we are. So, we are leaving. We could stay in a plurinational Spain but not in a mononational castillian Spain. When Spain loses Catalonia, Basque country and Galicia, then, Spain will be a truly mononational state as always wanted to be. And it will be free to create a confederation with catalans, etc, within the EU, etc. Wish you/us a happy future as allies.
I don’t agree with the above at all, which again I think either plays semantical tricks or fails basic logical inference – and at any rate I dispute the historical facts as follows:
“there were ancient nations within old kingdoms and Spain was formed by the union of some of them, by “free” royal marriages”
I think this is strictly speaking false. There were kingdoms before Spain was founded as a nation, and certainly there were no nation states as we know them before the 19th century. For a start it was never a mandate of any nation prior to the 19th century to provide universal welfare. But this is as contrary to the logic of Catalan nationalism as anything else. For it shows that there was never a Catalan state.
“We want Spain to be our best friend and ally, just as USA is the best friend of UK.”
This is another semantic trick that does not respect basic mereological rules. If you take Catalonia out of Spain what remains is under no circumstance anything remotely like what Spain has ever been throughout its history. The remaining is an odd mixture of Spanish regions that has no entity of its own. In effect, Spain as we have ever known it would be destroyed if Catalonia is out, full stop. To say that you want to destroy Spain “in order to remain friends with it” is not just politically obnoxious and rather unfriendly, it is simply contrary to logic. (And incidentally, this is where the analogy with Scotland breaks down – if Scotland leaves what remains is recognizably the union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These entities as such would not be affected by the secession, while Catalonia leaving would certainly affect the national identity of any citizen in present day Spain – whether or not they live in Catalonia.
Democracy implies taking into account the interests of all citizens. Thus in democracy, a part of a political entity can not unilaterally choose to destroy that entity, for the consequences are for everyone else. If there is a referendum EVERYONE in Spain must be consulted. The self- interested Catalan government is trying to pass as ‘democratic’ an act that would be sectarial, divisive, totalitarian in inspiration, and profoundly anti-democratic. This is why it must be actively confronted by anyone who cares not just about Spain, but about democracy in Europe.
Well, I do not agree either again. Maybe we are indeed lost within a semantic trap.
“For it shows that there was never a Catalan state”.
Yes, there has never been a catalan state. There were no nation states before the 19th century but nations were definitely there already. And the catalan nation has been aware of its own existence as long as the castillian, portuguese, Scottish, etc.
“Spain as we have ever known it would be destroyed if Catalonia is out”.
I understand your logic. Spain was composed of several pieces. If you take one out, it is no longer Spain but something else. My logic here is that this already happened in 1714, the year were the concept of Spain was destroyed and Castilla took over. Of all nations that formed Spain, Castillia imposed its laws, traditions, language, institutions, etc. Spain should have changed its name for that of Castilla. Spain is no longer Spain nowadays, it is Castilla. Full stop. Catalans fought then to save Spain (not only Catalonia) from being destroyed. Sorry, but it was destroyed. Catalans have been foolishly trying to recompose it, with no success. We understand now it is over.
“If there is a referendum EVERYONE in Spain must be consulted”.
In the same way that all european citizens should vote if UK holds a referendum to to leave or stay in the EU? You may say, well, UK freely joined the EU, so it can freely leave. That is true: we are talking about freedom here. If Catalonia freely joined the kingdom of Aragon, or Spain, shouldn’t we be free to leave as well? You may think that Catalonia has no sovereign entity as nation or as anything other than a region of spain, so Spain has the sovereignty. Well, this is the center of the discussion. We feel, we know, we claim, we deserve, we insist we possess this sovereignty and we do not recognize any other sovereignty over us. As many other nation-without state in the world. There is a very clear logic behind, not so difficult to understand, with all due respect.
Is this post coming from LSE? The author shows a complete ignorance of what Catalunya and Spain are… Starting from the foundations and history of Barcelona (3rd century BC) and Catalunya (only institutionally speaking: first President Berenguer de Cruïlles, not in Wikipedia -please-), and finishing with the cultural reality. This post should be erased. More academic rigor has to be demanded to institutions.
Please define your expressions (since you are so rigorous): What do you understand by a ‘cultural reality’?
Mike says: “And the catalan nation has been aware of its own existence as long as the castillian, portuguese, Scottish, etc.” Someone please have a look at the history books and check when there has been any Catalan (or for that matter Castillian) state along with Spain, Portugal, Scotland, etc.
There was never a Catalan nation, or nation state, ever in history. Catalonia did not at any moment ‘choose to become part of Aragon”. Catalonia breaking out of Spain would leave not historical or regnizable entity behind, and the departure would change the national identities of not just the Spanish citizens that happen to live in Catalonia, but every one of them. This is just not the historical or legal foundation of the United Kingdom, and it is the reason why it makes sense to have a referendum in Scotland, not in Catalonia.
I had a look to ‘The Dutch Revolt’, a book edited by Martin van Gelderen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, reprinted 2001). Formidable Spanish nationalists argue that Catalonia has no history. So, Catalonia has no right. This is the opinion of the Spanish ambassador to the United Kingdom, for instance, I naturally disagree.
In fact, Mr. Redoutable’s position is a very surprising one. He seems to be pushing for a wider independence movement. Will Catalonia’s independence produce subsequent movements in Majorca, Valencia and Aragon? Well, it is true these movements are just beginning, since last Septermber. We’ll see. Mr. Redoutable is really supporting a bolder alternative.
The Dutch Revolt reminds pro-independence activists of the extraordinary difficulties Catalonia can expect and convinces us that the Catalan Revolution makes sense, regardless of how it will turn out. For a further discussion, please read my post “From the Dutch Revolt” http://thesweetrevolution.blogspot.com/2012/11/from-dutch-revolt.html.
This is an example of another semantic and rhetorical trick that catalan independentists shamelessly constantly play: they invariably go from “Catalonia has never been a nation” to “Catalonia has no history” to then argue contrapositively from the fact that it has a history it must be recognized as a nation. But these are not equivalent statements. For example, Shropshire, Hampshire, Devon, have of course histories, but they have never been nations. Scotland by contrast, was a nation, and moreover one at the foundation of the United Kingdom. The two situations could not be more starkly distinct, and Catalonia is in this respect entirely like Devon, and not Scotland.
I do not in any way argue for the independence of any regions. I am a pan-European who believes in further European integration, while respecting current national boundaries and identities. But my beliefs are irrelevant to the point that Catalan independentism is without any foundation in history, law, democracy, or economics. Its only foundation is the interest in keeping power of a local caste of corrupt politicians and elites.
I respectfully insist in making a clear distinction between a state and a nation. This is a very common mistake by those who live or think they live in a mono-national state, which undoubtedly exist around the world. It is not the case of Spain, or UK, or Irak, or Russsia, or China…
There has NEVER been a catalan state, but there has ALWAYS* been a catalan nation. It is now time to build a state for this nation. Nations do not need per se a state for their own as far as their interests are protected and respected by the bigger plurinational state. Spain could have perfectly been the state that Catalonia needs but the spanish governments have always worked against the catalan interests.
I insist again: you say there has never been a catalan nation. I say there is and has been a catalan nation. Who is right? Well, ask the catalans. Ask independent historians. Ask why all kings and dictators have always tried to eliminate the catalan institutions, catalans laws and forbid the catalan language. What is the purpose?
Puerto Rico seems to prefer belonging to the United States. It is their decision. It doesn’t seem to be the case of Catalonia, or Euskadi… or Cuba, or Mexico, or Bolivia, or Argentina, or Chile, and so on. None of these american countries have asked to return to the kingdom of Spain. I wonder why.
(* and by “always”, you know what I mean. I do not pretend to say what a former president of Madrid said about the roman Hispania being the roots of the spanish nation… of course)
It is not enough to ask the inhabitants of X in order to determine whether X has existed as a ‘nation’. I also think the distinction between states and nations is extremely blurry. Since the 19th century both concepts have been inextricably linked and I deny there are nations without states.
Now it is true that there are a number of people in Catalonia like Mike who would like to create the Catalan nation state ab initio and impose it on everyone else. Since its creation impinges on other citizens, in Catalonia and in the present nation state that is Spain, they all should be consulted. I don’t see why it is so difficult to understand such a simple point of logic regarding the basic democratic rights of all citizens.
I also dispute the claim that the Spanish state has treated Catalonia unfairly. Rather the opposite, Franco’s industrial and economic advancement of both Catalonia and the Basque country as against other regions of Spain, continued to the present day, should be reversed at once, since it has produced nothing but abusive and disrespectul attitudes in their citizens towards the citizens of the rest of Spain.
I am pretty sure we could keep on discussing over and over, as we have different views of politics and history. Not totally different though, as I am also pan-european and eager to break boundaries rather than creating them (contradictory? not at all. i just don’t see why the spanish-french frontier is correct but the catalan-spanish future frontier is wrong; all frontiers are wrong; i want the catalan state to integrate much deeper into the EU, if they allow us of course).
“Mike would like to create the Catalan nation state ab initio and impose it on everyone else”.
It might be “ab initio”, following your logic, but never “imposed”. All catalans will vote. If they do not want, there will be no state. Again, you want all spaniards to vote the future of Catalonia, because you think Catalonia is not a nation but Spain is. Well, I truly think the opposite. I think Spain is not a nation but only a state, composed of nations. I honestly think you confuse Spain with Castilla. You might also want to vote the future of Argentina or Chile because it belonged to the kingdom of Spain some time ago. I do not think this is logic. If some day, Girona or Val d’Aran wants to secede from Catalonia, I will try to convince them not to do it, but I have no right to decide if I do not live there.
“Franco’s industrial and economic advancement of both Catalonia and the Basque country as against other regions of Spain, continued to the present day”
Well, it is rather sad, or outrageous, to see how your parents are not able to write in their own mother language because it was forbidden by Franco. I rather think that Catalonia or the Basque country progressed industrially by their own merits. I do not see Franco punishing the catalan language, culture, institutions, etc, and at the same time, rewarding the catalans with industrial advancement that actually depends more on the entrepreneurs rather than the government.
More partisan gimmicks and rhetoric totally devoid of logic of fact. Just two examples: “Again, you want all spaniards to vote the future of Catalonia” (wrong: I want all spaniards to vote on the future of Spain, of course). “Catalonia or the Basque country progressed industrially by their own merits” (an advancement that would have been impossible without a state imposed monopoly on a market throughout the whole of Spain for decades). And on final pearl: “All frontiers are wrong” (except presumably those of the future Catalan state).
This posts shows so nicely how the independentists are either illogical, irrational or indecently and shamelessly playing rhetorics with imaginary facts for their own advantage
Just a couple of comments on particular bits of your assay. I had a close look at the EU study you reference as support to the claim “Catalonia has the worst regional government in Spain in terms of corruption, effectiveness and accountability”. I went directly to the summary table with the statistics because the study is an across-region analysis and does not pinpoint data for specific regions except in the table at the very end of the Appendix. The EQI index, giving a measure of the terms you name, is indeed low for Catalonia. This flies in the face of the general perception of the Generalitat de Catalunya, our regional government, here in Catalonia, and I wonder whether the opinion of Catalans gauged in this study was not referred to the CENTRAL GOVERNMENT, i.e. the Gobierno de España ??.
The second bit is that Catalonia is the most indebted region in Spain. This is supported by a link to an article in a Spanish newspaper. The datum is correct, but I don’t agree with the interpretation in the article. Why is Catalonia, a region in Spain so in debt?. Your interpretation is bad governance. Mine is economic asphyxiation and unjust wealth redistribution within Spain. Latest news only proves this further: 9.5% of Spain’s budget for 2015 is for Catalonia, put it against a relative weight in Spain’s GDP of near 20%…
The time has come for Spain to forfeit its status as a democratic country. It is unacceptable to deny a nation within its borders the right to decide its own future in a referendum. Even the UK conceded that Scotland should decide its destiny. I recall that a majority of Basque people boycotted the referendum on the Spanish constitution in the 1970s.