Regardless of the Catalan referendum’s flaws, Catalonia’s leaders were forced into illegality by the obduracy of Mariano Rajoy and his masters in Brussels and Frankfurt. Another disastrous case of EC mismanagement brings the anti-democratic nature of the European Union into even sharper perspective….but some of the ramifications will be positive for Citizen Power.
Much as I support fully what the Catalonian separatists want to do, yesterday’s referendum result was, at best, a goalless draw between Madrid and Barcelona. Just 2.2m out of 5.5m registered voters turned out (just under 43%) and this cannot be explained by polling station availability alone: only 10% of polling centres were closed by the police, the “around 90%” vote for independence has yet to be verified, and the Catalans themselves estimate that illegal double-voting was at a level around 750,000.
In fact, the last survey conducted (two months ago) showed 49.4% of Catalans were against independence and 41.1% were in favour. Looking at yesterday’s “result”, 90% of the 43% voting in favour comes to 38.7%. This suggests very strongly that the referendum was boycotted by almost all those opposed to independence – and that does support the survey finding that a majority of those against independence would opt for abstention.
Totally neglected by the mainstream media thus far, however, is why half the Catalans aren’t separatists. Digging and asking around brings some answers, but they too are disputed and at times frustratingly vague. “I’m a Catalan but I’m first and foremost a Spaniard,” say some. In other cases (as with Brexit) the main emotion is fear: a belief that separation from Spain will be complex, very risky and involve repressive violence.
Judging by yesterday’s antics from the Guardia Civil, they’re not wrong: officers raided a dozen regional government premises in Barcelona, and arrested 14 senior officials, including Catalonia’s secretary general of economic affairs and the secretary of taxation. They then seized nearly 10m ballot papers, confiscated more than 1.5m referendum leaflets and posters, and started beating people up. In violent scenes beamed around the world, officers in riot gear fired rubber bullets into crowds and beat would-be voters with batons as they queued at polling stations.
However, that a sizeable proportion of those against separation have strong Falangist sympathies is hard to deny. The shot below is one of several taken yesterday afternoon amid much enthusiastic saluting and pro-fascist slogan-yelling.
Interestingly, pro-EU media in both France and Britain have studiously ignored this element. They have also soft-pedalled on the long history of arrogant refusal by Madrid to consider any form of referendum.
A large part of the confrontation overall has been caused by Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s government. Rajoy is and always has been a hardline apparatchik of the Brussels mafia; a right wing Spanish centraliser and rabid Financial Union federalist, he has also seen both himself and his Party embroiled in financial scandals, gerrymandering accusations, and other forms of “fiddling” in relation to Spanish bank viability….with his ally, Mario Draghi.
Many Catalans see themselves as the chief losers in all this. Just a week ago, Madrid announced some €47bn in austerity cuts, and regional government takes more than its fair share of the brunt: yet Catalonia contributes $12 billion more taxes than it gets back from central government, and it is by some distance the most prosperous part of Spain. Economic considerations in fact – Catalonian secession would produce a balance sheet hole Rajoy doesn’t need – are key to understanding the hard line being taken against the separatists.
But the key question lying similarly unaddressed is exactly who is primarily responsible for the hard line.
As long ago as 2012, Spanish Deputy PM Saenz declared the need to “face down” Catalonia on the issue of the burgeoning separatist movement, but his boss introducing a 9.7% budget cut immediately afterwards (despite Catalans’ relatively small debt imbalance) didn’t help. On November 9th 2014, more than 2.3 million Catalans participated in a sound and peaceful consultation to express concerns about the way their homeland was being treated.
As their President Carles Puigdemont Casamajó commented in retrospect last Spring, “On the 9th of November 2014, Catalonia sent a message, one of many sent in over a decade since the Party governing today in Spain began collecting signatures against the Statute of Catalonia. It was a day of joy and democratic strengthening, filled with hope for a nation that won a well-deserved victory, by working hard and contributing like no other to bolster our society, as well as the State as a whole”.
But hopes were dashed, and intimidation from Madrid continued: ealier this year, the President of the Government of Catalonia, Artur Mas and his Vice President at the time,
Joana Ortega, and the then Minister of Education, Irene Rigau, were told they will face trial for something that – if reasonable people were involved – should never have reached the courts in the first place. President Puigdemont’s comment was telling: “If democracy is to fear every time there is disconnection with the citizens, what happened on November 9 2014 is just the right cure for such perversion”.
However, as with so many other issues from ECB lending policy via African migration to Brexit, the European Commission went into la-la-la-la-land mode on the issue. The Catalans have committed the same mistake the Greeks and Brits made: believing that Brussels will (a) listen to self-determination realities or (b) negotiate when they get out of hand.
We should not be hoodwinked into dismissing close EC and Eurogroupe involvement in the Catalan crisis.
By the time Eurogroupe “President” Jeroan Dijesslebleom met with Rajoy in Spain last October, it seems, Catalonia was high on the agenda for both men. There were three reasons for this. First, French officials had expressed severe concern about the ‘knock-on’ effect of Spanish separatism in relation to the Basques….many of whose inhabitants live in France. Second, wannabe EU Fiskalunion Führer Wolfgang Schäuble (already by then under domestic attack from Merkelists in the CDU) did not want his European super-job facing any further threats beyond Italy in the eurozone. And third, 20% of the entire Spanish gdp is generated from Catalonia. Even that high number understates the region’s importance: Catalonia attracts 35% of inward investment into Spain, and produces over third of Spain’s exports.
But the truth is that the EU’s federalist élite have done what they always do: deny there’s a problem, then shoot all the messengers who tell them there’s a crisis….and then resort to lawless dirty tricks when somebody calls a vote.
Thus, in March 2017 (having ignored a massive Catalan separatist rally) European Commission vice-president Joaquin Almunia abruptly gave an address in Barcelona saying that if part of a member state becomes independent, “the segregated part is not an EU member”….effective immediately. The EC had a right to say this, but it was blackmail – and it was inflammatory: surveys conducted in Catalonia show that most do want to keep the euro. There’s nothing Brussels enjoys more than applying a hammer to an Achilles heel.
Since then, following her historic 4th election success, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has moved swiftly to kick Wolfgang Schäuble upstairs to the Bundestag Presidency. More than ever, therefore, little Wolfie is dependent on the eurozone fiscal union goal for his European power base.
And now EC “President” Jean-Claude Juncker has decided to drop any pretence of recognising the right of human beings to self-determination:
The process of Western citizens choosing social anthropology instincts over superstate hubris is under way. What the Catalonian débacle shows us (sadly) is that the megalomaniac dreamers will never give up their self-appointed power willingly. While often sensing that the only likely way to remove them is via revolt in one form or another, being a pacifist I continue to hope that financial instability and community revival in the EU just might produce a confusion the puppeteers can’t control.
In truth, Europe is engaged in a race: not so much against time alone, as a need to beat Federica Mogherini into a poor second place. For her EU “defence” army will be a defence of the EU army….a Standing Army designed to crush community will.
There is far, far more at stake here than the devolution of power to a successful European region. What we are witnessing is the stuttering progress of a movement to wrest power back from the 3% hellbent on pretending that citizens want remote government, global banking, reality denial and non-stop work in return for shallow material rewards.
The Spanish crisis may well not be enough on its own to nudge the stock market avalanche over the edge and into its downhill disaster. But it is at the very least another clear sign that Aonymous Big – be it socialist or neoliberal – is not what the real People want.