Sunday, October 01, 2017

Is This Spain's Brexit?

The Guardian thinks it could be.

Officials in Catalonia, the northeast state of Spain, claim a 90% "yes" vote for independence.

It might as well have been 60%. A Madrid government so ready, even eager, to visit police brutality on peaceful Catalans seeking nothing more than to cast a ballot in the referendum and also a government in utter denial, may have clinched the very outcome they were so ruthless to avoid.

Spain is in crisis, and its prime minister appears to be in denial. The run-up to Sunday’s referendum on independence for Catalonia made it clear that the country was in trouble. But neither those arranging it nor those rejecting it can fully have anticipated the scenes at polling stations: police in riot gear beating peaceful protesters with batons, dragging voters out by the hair or throwing them down stairs, firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds – even striking at Catalan firefighters and jostling with Catalan police.

The immediate result of the violence was hundreds of casualties by mid-afternoon, according to Catalan authorities, and at least 11 wounded officers, according to the central government. The wider effect is the shock expressed well beyond Catalonia, and Spain. The outcome is almost certain to be that some of the Catalans indifferent or opposed to secession – until now, at least, the majority – are pushed into the arms of the cause. Who wants to be ruled by a state like this, many are asking.


Lorne said...

To see a democracy treat its people like this is nothing less than shocking, Mound. Those ugly images of repression will be seen around the world, and will surely open up eyes about the perilous state of democratic expression these days.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I cannot condone the way the Spanish government has reacted with violence.

However, not unlike Albertans, the Catalonians have bemoaned the fact that as a rich province, they remit more taxes to central government than they receive back. Just so unfair, ain't it? Apparently the thought of federation is too much for them to tolerate. No, they are following the "I'm all right Jack" routine of self-absorbed greed. Not very different from Scotland where dreams of all that North Sea oil "rightfully" belonging to them, not the dreaded Sassenachs, feed the dream of Scottish independence and untold prosperity.

If Alberta held a unilateral referendum on independence that was illegal, and the voters voted 90% to leave Canada, do you not think much the same sort of thing including federal reaction would happen here? I'm afraid I do.

The Quebec referendum WAS legal, and we avoided split up by the narrowest of margins. It's a lovely idea, isn't it, when people decide, hey! I'm not using a service, so why am I paying taxes for it. A progressive blogger decided that since he doesn't use the roads, being an avid bicyclist, why should he help pay for their upkeep to perpetuate nasty car owners use of them. Similarly, why should I with no children have to pay for education?

It's a fools errand. We come together as societies to pool resources for the common good. If sections of society doing well economically decide "why should I help pay for those slackers" and secede, well it's cutting off your nose to spite your face.

That's how I see Catalonia. If they do gain independence from Spain, they now have to duplicate services like armed forces, diplomatic missions, reps at the EU, and so on, giving them expenses they only partially pay for now within the Spanish federation. And bang goes their vaunted standard of living.

So I see it as a form of selfishness to hold a unilateral referendum to secede. And I'm not surprised at all at the reaction, horrific as it is. Nobody with any sense has thought this through in Catalonia. In my opinion.


The Mound of Sound said...

BM, what I've read suggests that the Catalans' grievances go deeper than you suggest, back to Franco and the Republic. Franco, I've read, suppressed the culture and the native language or dialect of the Catalans forcing them to speak Castilian Spanish among other things. It's been a burr under their saddle for generations.

Whatever their less altruistic motives, Madrid gave them a pretty clear demonstration yesterday of how it views the Catalans. Must have been a reminder of Franco and the good old days.

Throwing peaceful citizens down stairs, stomping them repeatedly with riot boots, dragging them by their hair out into the street, clubbing them with riot sticks and shooting them with rubber bullets, injuring and wounding them by the hundreds carries a certain declarative message.

That's the very thing that turns an independence demonstration into a liberation movement. The state has turned on the people, some of those people will be out for revenge on the state.