Written for teleSUR English, which will launch on July 24
November 9th, the Catalonian government run by Artur Mas (current President of the Generalitat de Catalunya and leader of the Catalan liberal nationalist party Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and chairman of the Convergència i Unió (CiU) coalition, will hold a referendum to ask the Catalonian people firstly, if they want Catalonia to be a state and, secondly, if they would like this state to be independent. This will take place with the support of several pro-independence political parties like the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana per Catalunya), the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) and Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), among others.
Far from being supported by an overwhelming majority of Catalonians (at the same time rejected by the Spanish population), this referendum is dividing Spain in two positions: those who want independence and those who prefer to keep things as they are. And it is dividing Catalonians themselves.
Independence advocates talk about History, people’s will, the right of self-determination and freedom when they put forward their arguments.
History: a quick view
The aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1700-1715) meant the incorporation of the Catalonian and Aragonese counties, on a political and economic level, to the kingdom of Felipe V, who imposed a series of decrees to unify and modernize the kingdom of Spain at that time.
Among the more relevant decisions Felipe V took, we note the abolition of serfdom, from then on the possibility for any Spaniard (including Catalonians and inhabitants of Aragon) to participate in the Spanish government and, at the same time, to trade with the American Spanish colonies. An exclusive right which was, until then, reserved to the crown of Castilla. This pushed the development of Barcelona’s harbor and the city as well. Pro-independence advocates tend to forget that it is to a great extent due to this that Barcelona is now Spain’s second richest city.
What do Catalonians want?
According to the 2013 polls carried out by the Opinion Studies Center (the official Catalonian statistical bureau run by Jordi Argelaguet Argemí, who is a member of Artur Mas CDC and was appointed for the position by Mas himself), most Catalonians would like to be independent from the central government located in Madrid. But, as many other polls have shown, the YES is not overwhelming, there isn’t a consensus.
…or are told to
When you read or you listen to some of the advocates of Catalonia independence, it sounds like an opportunistic chance to put forward the crisis argument. Like the rest of the country, Catalonians are suffering the consequences of the crisis. According to independence advocates, the Spanish state is responsible for their economic difficulties, although they avoid talking about the austerity measures taken by the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalonian Government). Since A. Mas reached the Presidency of the Generalitat of Catalunya, Catalonian have had to face public workers working hours increase, pay cuts, no free medicine for retirees, retirement at 67, reduction in layoff compensation.
In May 23rd 2013, Carme Forcadell, A. Mas’ current adviser, gave a speech which gives a clear idea of what some members of the elite are encouraging. Here is the translation of the most relevant sentences:
“We’ve started to build it [a new country]. This country will be fairer, with more dignity, more prosperous, more democratic.
“We have the greatest resolve to be ever known in the history of human kind. We are the only ones with this resolve to be.” (Does it sound familiar?)
“We don’t comply with the impositions of the Spanish Government (she refers to the new education Law, also called Wert’s Law). We won’t comply with it. We won’t comply with it. We won’t comply with it. Don’t worry, we won’t comply with it.”
“The Spanish state is our adversary.” We must keep it in mind. We must keep it in mind. Just like the Spanish political parties established here in Catalonia. […] Therefore, they are our adversaries. The rest of us are the Catalonian people.
When I read it, I can’t stop wondering: Are these messages of hate part of the strategy to create a better country? Is dividing the population part of the strategy to create a better country? Are Catalonians currently living under such oppression that these messages of hate are justified?
It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
What do pro-independence advocates want?
According to them, Catalonia is a sovereign country and is oppressed by the Spanish state. Since the Borbon’s troops invaded Barcelona in 1714, Catalonians are oppressed from an economical point of view (If you have a look at the History quick view, you reach the conclusion that this is not true), political (Cf. History quick view), cultural and educational point of view.
So, if I get it right, what A. Mas, Carme Forcadell and others want is a state in which every Catalonian can decide its fate without any foreign intervention. Do they really mean what they say?
Let’s have a deeper look at it.
Will Catalonia be a new state of Europe?
If the government of Catalonia was detached from the central government located in the Moncloa Palace in Madrid and from the Spanish Parliament, it would mean Catalonia would have its own Parliament and government, its own territory, its own army; to sum up, its own decisions concerning everything that affect people living inside the territory defined by its own constitution.
In an interview given to the Spanish TV channel La Sexta in 2012, Artur Mas first stated that “Catalonia has to agree with someone who has an army, which could be Spain, the European Union or NATO to pay for our protection or our defense”. So, there would be no Independence concerning the national defense, they would depend on someone else. In other words, they would privatize the army. This statement also shows that CiU and Co want to stay in Europe to become the 29th or 30th European member state.
As most of the EU member states already know, the EU is not a democracy and almost all its inhabitants are currently living a nightmare: an economic crisis aggravated by public spending cuts, loss of faith in the political class and the European institutions, pay cuts, loss of cultural identity, so on and so forth. Those who really decide in Brussels, the European Commissioners, are not elected by the European citizens. From Maastricht treaty in 1992 to now, we can’t say the EU has been a success, all the decisions taken have benefited a few (multinationals and banks) at the expense of the majority. The now called Euro zone is now even worse since the application of the Treaty of Lisbon began in 2009: the sovereignty of the EU members has been given to a bunch of people who decide for us on a political and economic level. This means that most political and economic decisions do not belong anymore to the national parliaments of France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, so on and so forth i.e. that 28 countries agreed to relinquish their decision making power to someone else.
So, now the question we should ask Artur Mas and Co is: Unless it uses article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon to leave the EU and the Euro, how is the first government of the new state going to protect its freshly won political independence?
If Catalonia was a member of the EU, as political representatives want, will the people accept the decisions dictated by the EU? Or will they say “We won’t comply with [EU decisions] it” if the people don’t like it? What will the political representatives say? What would Carme Forcadell say in this case?
Conclusion: Who will benefit from the independence of Catalonia?
To have a real debate on the independence of Catalonia, we should be able to answer some very crucial questions without being called fascist and anti Catalonian. First of all, who would benefit from the political and economic independence? Would it be the people in general or a small elite?
Secondly, would the independence of the state of Catalonia be granted and protected?
To have a good view of what is really going on here, I think everyone should analyze the independence of Catalonia from a geostrategic point of view, and maybe if we try to answer the question “who will benefit from the division, not only of the Catalonians, but of the Spaniards as well?”, we could make a good analysis of the situation in Spain, in Europe and the World.
Who are the actors and who are the observers? Who is supporting and who will benefit?