Some questions for an opponent of Catalan independence

Following on from June's 'Some Questions for a Catalan Independentist' , here are some questions I'd like to pose to those of you who are opposed to the idea of Catalonia becoming independent. These have been harder to for me to formulate for one simple reason: in a debate such as this one, the onus is really on those proposing change (in this case, the independentists) to explain why the rest of us should go along with their proposal. That said, I do feel that there are some questions which do deserve to be asked of those who oppose independence. From my experience in the real world, their arguments against independence often seem to be the most fallacious of all.

  1. If a suitable majority supported it, why shouldn't Catalonia be independent?
  2. How would you describe your stance against Catalan nationalism?
  3. Are you aware of the independentists' historical claims? Do you think they are inaccurate, or irrelevant?
  4. Do you think its possible that your position is the result of political media campaigns against independence?
  5. Do you oppose the independence of all 'nation' states, or is your opposition selective?
  6. Even though you oppose it, do you feel any empathy for those who genuinely  believe that their country isn't 'free' unless it's an independent state?
  7. What action would you take should Catalonia become independent?
  8. What action should Spain take to prevent Catalonia declaring independence?
  9. Do you think that Kosovo's independence from Serbia sets a legal precedent?
  10. Are there any conditions under which you'd accept Catalan independence (e.g. constitutional protection of Spanish speakers)?
  11. Should Catalonia become independent, would you insist that FC Barcelona be excluded from the LFP?
  12. Have you ever found yourself chuckling at the epithet 'Cataloonies' while strumming away to the old Iberian Notes blog? (You don't have to answer this one if you really don't want to).

And that's it for the moment. Let me know if you think I've missed out something really glaring. And do feel free to answer some or all of the questions for an independentist too.

91 thoughts on “Some questions for an opponent of Catalan independence

  1. I'm not a fan of tiny 'nation states' being independent for the simple reason that unless they're sitting on a pile of oilngas, or have an abundance of other natural resources (beaches/tourism included – I'll give you that), they're unlikely to be economically viable. Bigger countries do better than smaller ones. That's why they exist.

    Of course, as an independent micro-state within the EU umbrella, things could be somewhat different.

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    1. Bigger countries do "better"? "Unlikely to be economically viable." Eh? What about Luxembourg – the country with the world's highest GDP per capita, and a mere 2,500 km2, and 175th biggest country in the world? Or Singapore, which is even smaller, and also incredibly wealthy and powerful. And Switzerland, which is only a little bigger than Catalonia, invariably in the top 10 on most indices of wealth and well-being. Likewise Holland, about the same size. How would Catalonia be a "micro" state with 32,000 square km, and a world-class capital (Barcelona)? You mean like Monaco, perhaps, which is only 2 km2, and is one of the richest countries in the world?

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    2. Don't be silly. Have a look at the HDI rankings, or whatever metric of economic development you prefer, and you'll find no correlation whatsoever between the rank and the size or population of the country.

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  2. I had in mind places like wales and scotland. I'll Just go off and kill myself now, if that's ok with you. But i don't see any of the iberian wannabe's making it on their own

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    1. Don't leave us just like that! I think you have a point, I do not think it's applicable to Catalonia (honorably, you have voiced doubts yourself), but more importantly, I do not think that economic viability is at the core of the issue. Not here.

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  3. Oh, here it comes. Finally. As promised. Much appreciated.

    If I may, I'll take a day or two to find time for some (not so) surprising answers.

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  4. (Now that we're at it, Tom, how do you sleep when you are able to ask a question while in the same go you discredit those answers which might not correspond with your own opinion? Is that some new kind of motivation technique?)

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    1. *Whistles nonchalantly* I don't know what you mean. I've appended a note to the last question, by the way.

      Also, I meant what I said in my introduction: it was harder to formulate these questions because the onus isn't really on those in favour of keeping the status quo, to defend that position. Perhaps it should be.

      My own opinion is a secret.

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      1. By what logic is the onus on those who want to keep the status quo? Even in physics you need a reason to change it, or else status quo simply continues to be.

        Politically speaking, if you have a working legality you need a reason to change it for another one, while also keeping in mind that that other one has not yet proven that it works. You may now say "the present legality does not work for me". Well, thank you, you've just proven me right.

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      2. Candide, this is what I wrote in my comment: "the onus isn't really on those in favour of keeping the status quo" and in the post, "…the onus is really on those proposing change (in this case, the independentists) to explain why the rest of us should go along with their proposal".

        Which part of that are you disagreeing with?

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  5. 1. If a suitable majority supported it, why shouldn't Catalonia be independent?

    What is "suitable"? There is a redundancy in this question that clearly wants to induce a positive answer. I don't even think that majority qualifies as the only main condition, even though it is obviously sine qua non.

    Among other things, rule of law and minority rights also have to be looked at.

    More importantly, an independent Catalonia as such is not the issue for me. The issue is getting there. IMO there has to be a great need for independence, especially in a case like this where two nationalisms dispute the same territory. There are obvious risks emanating from such a dispute, and the need for independence has to be big enough to take those risks.

    I am quite certain that in the course of the debate we will get into discussing the nature of those risks.

    2. How would you describe your stance against Catalan nationalism?

    Frontal opposition, like with any nationalism.

    3. Are you aware of the independentists' historical claims? Do you think they are inaccurate, or irrelevant?

    Pretty irrelevant. If historical claims can be used as reasons to change borders then we're in for trouble. Humanity has been there, humanity has done that, let's not repeat.

    4. Do you think its possible that your position is the result of political media campaigns against independence?

    Matter of fact, nationalist campaigns in Catalonia such as the one aimed at discrediting the CC have moved me to take a firmer stance against Catalan nationalism. Centralist campaigns have produced me the usual nausea.

    5. Do you oppose the independence of all 'nation' states, or is your opposition selective?

    When it is normal that certain criteria for the recognition of an independent nation exist, then it is logical that one's position has to be selective. Also: In the case at hand I simply see no suitable reason for independence, while there sure where some in the cases that occupied us during the 90s.

    So yes, if democracy can only be attained through secession then you have a valid reason to run high risks. Once a democratic country is established it should also be recognised.

    6. Even though you oppose it, do you feel any empathy for those who genuinely believe that their country isn't 'free' unless it's an independent state?

    I guess that pity qualifies as a form of empathy.

    7. What action would you take should Catalonia become independent?

    There is no reason not to be living in a democratic state called Catalonia. But I might want to be moving to a safer place in the lead-up period.

    8. What action should Spain take to prevent Catalonia declaring independence?

    Spain should not do anything to prevent the independence of Catalonia. However, it must do a lot to safeguard the security of its own citizens, even to the extent that, should Catalonia's independence provide more security for the people, it would have to withdraw and accept.

    9. Do you think that Kosovo's independence from Serbia sets a legal precedent?

    No, and so it is in the ICJ's ruling. Apples and pears.

    10. Are there any conditions under which you'd accept Catalan independence (e.g. constitutional protection of Spanish speakers)?

    See above. Minority rights are at the essence of democracy. And yes, unlike in the cases of the Baltic states or Slovenia, internal immigrant communities must be seen as autochtonous minorities. Not so much for any legal reasons as for political ones.

    11. Should Catalonia become independent, would you insist that FC Barcelona be excluded from the LFP?

    Ah, the usual football question. No quiz without it.

    12. Have you ever found yourself chuckling at the epithet 'Cataloonies' while strumming away to the old Iberian Notes blog? (You don't have to answer this one if you really don't want to).

    Laughed out loud and using it happily ever since. But who really gave it the meaning it has today? Was it Trevor?

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    1. Maybe it is that nationalist activism works in waves. Or maybe if my comments only got the occasional negative vote while nobody was able to refute my arguments or even call them fallacious I can rest my case.

      I knew this day would come.

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      1. I can't refute your arguments because I haven't seen them. When you say that that somebody "has to" do this, and somebody "should" do that, these are no arguments. This is not something that can be refuted. This is simply your opinion, and I have zero interest in your opinions.

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      2. And this is exactly the level of debate I lay awake praying for.

        Look: as I sit here enjoying my glass of Mas Perinet, looking forward to dual nationalism tomorrow (la Diada, followed by last night of the Proms), I get the feeling that there's rather too much in the way of banging heads together in this thread.

        To my mind, this has something to do with Candide's refusal to express a clear position, while also apparently being clearly in opposition. Candide, you clearly loathe all nationalism, and I don't think that's a bad position to have at all. Do you accept that there can be independentism without nationalism?

        @el Primo – be nice, please. These comments are for arguments, and for sharing opinions. I agree that opinions cannot be refuted but they can lead to greater mutual understanding. Besides, all opinions are based on something that might be refuted, i.e. a fact, an argument or a belief.

        And for what it's worth, how odd that only a couple of people around here ever use their real identity. I understand that some people have jobs that might make public commentary inadvisable. But on the whole, I like openness, where possible.

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      3. Thanks to a full 6 negative votes (so far) but (taking away Tom's justified interjection) only one intelligent being actually going into details with me (Ricard) I am able to reiterate my claim.

        You're toast, Cataloonies.

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  6. I accept that there can be indepedentism without nationalism. That's why I am in principle opposed to one, not to the other. But I think I've made my position quite clear: I see no need for the independence of Catalonia and I think that danger lies on the road to Catalonia's indepedence.

    So I am against it.

    Is it possible to accept that there can be a rational, not nationalist, opposition to Catalonia's independence?

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    1. Absolutely. That's what this blog is about: rational arguments in favour and against.

      My opinion, for what it's worth, is that I'm undecided. I'm not asking you, Trevor, El Primo, GeorgeBCN, Ricard or anyone else to help me make my mind up. But I like hearing what you all say, and reading what you say on your respective blogs (those of you who have them).

      This issue of the dangers that lie on the 'road to independence' is interesting and serious, but only really if it's accepted that this is the road on which Catalonia is bound. I'm not sure that this is the case. But that's another blog post.

      Bon cap de setmana i bona diada.

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  7. Whether or not Catalonia is bound for independence, when adressing independence we have to discuss how to get there. The claims that the society of Catalonia is so mature that it can endure such a fundamental debate without fracturing are moronic. For one, the Civil War is omnipresent still in today's political Spain. Secondly, one cannot talk about the conditions the society of Catalonia alone offers without looking at the larger context of Spain. Thirdly, there is the conceptual approach: two nationalisms, or two nations if you like, disputing over one territory. For the last point I would be able to come up with some precedents. Let's say Bosnia: the comparision is very flawed for a variety of reasons, but I remember well how much the then president of Bosnia insisted that war was utterly impossible in a society so mixed by intermarriage.

    There are also precedents for how to get along without having to secede, i.e. Germany. This one is more comparable to Spain, and if we accept it we'd have to call for a reform of the Senate first of all.

    Certainly, Spain offers a unique panorama and will one day be called upon as precedent for other, future situations. I hope they won't call it a "negative example" then.

    The debate here is all but vivid, so I'll just add another condition for the independence of Catalonia which I wanted to keep for when the time was ripe. An independent Catalonia would have to make it very clear that it has no territorial claims over its neighbours. And this should not only come once independence has been achieved, but it should be uttered by the proponents of independence right now. They should subscribe to this principle in a manner that leaves no doubts, because only then the most basic condition for a dialogue with them would be established: that Catalonia would pose no risk to international security.

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  8. Let's see… this Candide character claims that the society of Catalonia cannot withstand the debate of independence without fracturing, because -he says- is not mature enough. Moreover, he says it's "moronic" to think it can. What are the known facts? The known fact is that this debate has already been going on for the most part of the 20th and 21th centuries. If this Candide was right, the Catalan society should already be fractured and torn into pieces. Since it is not, as any impartial observer can confirm, it's clear that Candide is wrong on that one. No surprise here.

    Candide warns about the terrible, yet unstated, dangers that would ensue should a process of secession be put in motion. What would those dangers be? If we assume a strictly democratic process (a fair assumption, I think), the only "danger" is that somebody may not accept the referendum outcome and take violent action against it. This is certainly an eventuality that has to be taken into account, however it is no different than with any other election. Should we call off all upcoming elections just in case some don't like the result, then?

    Finally, I think the proponents of independence should refrain from denying territorial claims. This would only be used by the opposition as a "proof" that there are such claims. On this matter, we should follow a strict policy of neither confirming nor denying territorial claims

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    1. I have already said that I do not talk with you because I do not want to incur in child abuse. But I do insist on getting my regular negative vote from you!

      (And when you learn to quote correctly, maybe you'll have passed the first test of "how to speak in public without ridiculising yourself".)

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    1. I'll talk with you once you don't force me down to the level of having to say that I didn't say this or that when what I said or not can be read just some centimetres above.

      (Gotta give you that one, though: I just love your "don't confirm, don't deny" game. Works for the Israelis. Perfectly.)

      Thanks for the vote! I see you didn't mind giving yourself one, too.

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  9. For the record, I support independence for Catalonia, but I have always been interested in how arguments against my position are formulated, how convincing they are, and how plausible the facts and evidence used to support them is. For this reason, I’ll answer the questions *as if* I were an opponent of independence – i.e. a rational one, not a bog-standard Spanish nationalist. So I’m thinking of this as a fun intellectual Sunday exercise and certainly not as a provocation. So apologies in advance if anybody gets pissed off. And Tom, your blog is very good so it deserves a bit of engagement by your readers.

    I have enjoyed reading Candide’s well-informed and sophisticated comments here and elsewhere, and some of my own comments here are written in response to those.

    1. If a suitable majority supported it, why shouldn't Catalonia be independent?

    If the word “suitable” means one that both Catalan independentists and Spanish nationalists agreed upon, then the answer is that this is a necessary but not sufficient condition of independence. Sadly, Catalan independentists and Spanish nationalists will never agree on what “suitable” means – partly because the former will be happy with just 50%+ of the Catalan electorate, and the latter will want at least 50%+ of the Spanish electorate.

    So interestingly the sticking point is not so much the word “suitable” but the word “majority”. A majority of which electorate?

    This difference in attitude is not dissimilar to the contrasting positions of Spanish nationalists’ position on Gibraltar and Gibraltarians’ stance on their national identity. Where the UK – regardless of the validity or otherwise of the Treaty of Utrecht – regards Gibraltarians’ desire to remain British as sufficient to support the continuation of Gibraltar as a British colony, Spaniards who want Gibraltar to “return” to Spain regard Gibraltarians’ claims as either irrelevant or insufficient.

    It would be interesting to see how the stance of Spanish nationalists on Catalan independence might be affected by a hypothetical support for Catalan independence not by putative “majorities”, but by other sovereign states or by supra-national entities like the EU, NATO or the United Nations. The official Spanish position on Kosovo gives a clear indication of how Spanish nationalists would respond.

    2. How would you describe your stance against Catalan nationalism?

    If I were a rational opponent of Catalan nationalism (I have yet to meet one, other than those who, on account of their lack of knowledge, are merely unqualified to comment), I would probably have to take the view that *all* nationalisms are odious. This would be the most expeditious and powerful approach, and one I think that Candide takes.

    However, the approach suffers from certain weaknesses. Surely even opponents of nationalism per se must admit that there is an intrinsically important difference between the nationalism of the citizens of a sovereign state and that of the citizens of non-sovereign country? The first is redundant and potentially threatening, and the second is inevitable (i.e. psychologically understandable) and necessary to varying degrees (i.e. impossible to extricate from the county’s condition as non-sovereign).

    I would also be required to distinguish between patriotism – a typical characteristic of cultural unity and collective self-awareness – and nationalism, a complex and often confusing cluster of attitudes, beliefs, prejudices and myths used to define identity and subsequently to justify claims to rights and entitlements.

    They key point for me is that, regardless of the many forms that nationalism takes, the nationalism of already-sovereign states is redundant and merely an expression of insecurity, and the nationalism of some non-sovereign countries or regions is an inevitable expression of frustration and sometimes justified victimhood.

    So I struggle to see how all so-called nationalisms can be seen as identical phenomena, and therefore, how the “all nationalisms are despicable” argument can be deployed.

    3. Are you aware of the independentists' historical claims? Do you think they are inaccurate, or irrelevant?

    Some are not remotely inaccurate, and many are fabrications – just like the historical claims of existing sovereign states.

    The accurate ones are not, in fact *cannot*, be irrelevant. History is always relevant.

    Matthew Stewart’s book about Narcís Monturiol’s submarine contains incredible descriptions of the way in which the Spanish state brutally and continuously oppressed Barcelona in the 19th Century and consistently attempted to degrade, exclude and humiliate Catalan society. It’s not a book with a patriotic mission or a nationalist agenda, and it’s written with grace and humour, in English. Spanish nationalists would do well to read it and cower in shame at the behaviour of their glorious ancestors, and perhaps take with them a small understanding of why many Catalans feel the way they do.

    These facts (and this is just a random sample) are not fabrications – they are well-documented and reliably accounted for.

    Of course any attempt at historical justification for independentist claims must remove the numerous and ideologically-motivated fabrications as well, including the fabrications brandished by opponents to defend *their* claims about the legitimacy of the status quo.

    4. Do you think it’s possible that your position is the result of political media campaigns against independence?

    If I were a rational opponent of Catalan independentism, the answer would be no. But as I said, I have not yet met an opponent one who was both rational and well-informed (this is not to say that they don’t or cannot exist). That the conventional opponents of Catalan independentism, especially in Spain, are manipulated by the media is absolutely and unequivocally beyond dispute.

    5. Do you oppose the independence of all 'nation' states, or is your opposition selective?

    The wording of this question is a little ambiguous. Sorry, Tom, I take it that you mean hypothetical future states that are currently non-sovereign. Unless you are suggesting that opponents of nationalism are against the sovereignty of states altogether, which although interesting, is an unusual position (something like global anarchy?)

    Either way, nationalism (which is a sentiment, justified or not, often used to support a claim for a series of entitlements, normally sovereignty or independence) is neither a pre-condition nor logical requirement for justified independence. You could have a region or country that wasn’t very nationalistic but which deserved independence (an unlikely scenario, but a logically possible one), and you could have a country or region that didn’t deserve independence but that strongly desired it. (This is the case that many think true of Catalonia). The point is that even a rational opponent of Catalan independence would have to be selective – some non-sovereign countries deserve recognition, some don’t. Presumably the factors that would determine desert would be historical, cultural, legal, etc. etc. No different, in fact, from those that determine desert in the case of already-sovereign states. Some already-sovereign states are more deserving of their sovereignty than others. Likewise non-sovereign countries and regions.

    6. Even though you oppose it, do you feel any empathy for those who genuinely believe that their country isn't 'free' unless it's an independent state?

    I would hope that a rational opponent would feel empathy. After all, such an opponent would have no difficulty imagining what it would feel like to lose the sovereignty of the country of which they were a citizen.

    7. What action would you take should Catalonia become independent?

    It would depend on what country this opponent was already a citizen of, and factors like existing ties with Catalonia or Spain, and it would depend on the manner in which independence was obtained.

    8. What action should Spain take to prevent Catalonia declaring independence?

    Spain cannot take any legitimate action to prevent Catalonia *declaring* independence. However, it can take legitimate action to prevent it from becoming independent. Legitimate legal action is enshrined in the Constitution (regrettably, it probably involves military action) and is almost certainly unambiguous. But not all legitimate action in this world is justifiable action. And it is less controversially true that not all legitimate action in this world is prudent or intelligent or desirable or thoughtful action.

    9. Do you think that Kosovo's independence from Serbia sets a legal precedent?

    This is too technical a question for me. My understanding is that informed and experienced legal experts disagree on this.

    However my position is that regardless of whether this case is a *legal* precedent, Kosovo’s claims to sovereignty are weaker than Catalonia’s, and therefore this strengthens Catalonia’s case. It is telling that Spain refuses to recognise Kosovo, and a symptom that it acknowledges that Kosovo’s independence sets an uncomfortable precedent.

    The one to observe is Belgium – this is a country whose current predicament is bordering on the farcical. If it wasn’t for francophone Brussels, inconveniently located in Flanders, Belgium would already be history.

    10. Are there any conditions under which you'd accept Catalan independence (e.g. constitutional protection of Spanish speakers)?

    I think a *rational* opponent of Catalan independence would, by definition, accept that there were conditions, which, if given, would justify independence. The problem with the way the question is worded, Tom (sorry again), is that the example in parentheses does not appear to be an illustration of the question, but an illustration of conditions *after* independence, not conditions *for* independence. So, in answer to the question that your example implies, I think a rational opponent would not be able to oppose independence on the grounds of what the country did next. It’s like saying that I only support the independence of country X as long as it doesn’t vote for government Y afterwards.

    This has been a key objection (among many) of mine to ERC since forever – the platform is one of independence *plus* socialism. Can’t you just support independence and then (assuming it is followed by parliamentary democracy) let people decide what sort of government they want?

    The rational opponent to independence for Catalonia can object to the grounds for independence, yes, but s/he cannot object to independence on what that state might or might not do once it is sovereign. It is none of that person’s business.

    11. Should Catalonia become independent, would you insist that FC Barcelona be excluded from the LFP?

    The rational opponent’s position must be yes, and mine is too. Of course. I would probably, like FC Monaco, approach France to play in their league. I’m sure they would be delighted to gain FC Barcelona. However, if they rejected us, I would be happy for FC Barcelona to become an historical anachronism and wind itself down with dignity rather than play in an irrelevant league. It’s a perfectly reasonable price to pay for independence.

    12. Have you ever found yourself chuckling at the epithet 'Cataloonies' while strumming away to the old Iberian Notes blog? (You don't have to answer this one if you really don't want to).

    No idea. I can’t comment on this.

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    1. If I may continue the debate:

      1. Spain's stance on Kosovo might be based in the fact that there still is an armed group fighting for the independence of a Spanish territory.

      2. I, too, see a difference in motivation and therefore of category in the two forms of nationalism you mention (and I like that you see patriotism as a different concept). My answer stands nonethless: they both share negative elements such as being prone to live on historical and sociological fabrications, chauvinism etc. Nonetheless, "psychologically understandable" they are both.

      However, your comment on this point seems to be in conflict with the one on no. 5: "nationalism (…) is neither a pre-condition nor logical requirement for justified independence".

      3. Maybe my understanding of the question is erroneous, but when I see the word "claims" I can only think of them as something you use to fundament your desire for independence, not in the emotional sense but in the practical one. I immediately think of "territorial claims" and shiver.

      6. I'm a defendant of individual rights and freedoms, and for me collective rights and freedoms only are valid if they emante from the individual ones. Individual rights and freedoms are guaranteed in Spain even in that collective part and here much more than in, say, France. I can only pity those who do not recognise that because they must lead a miserable life.

      And haven't all countries of the EU already lost a large part of their sovereignty to the Union?

      9. How can Kosovo's claims be weaker than Catalonia's? Ah, that's where "claims" leads us. Kosovan Albanians were breaking free from a bloody dictatorship, which means they had a lot more reasons for secession. I think they needed no "claims" at all.

      10. The person that has no business, as you say, would still have to live in the new country, so I think that person is entitled to know what comes after independence and opine on it. That person might actually base his or her vote on this information. So basic principles have to be agreed upon beforehand.

      11. Why would you approach France but not Spain?

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  10. Hello Candide

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. My responses:

    1. I think this is a matter of opinion, but I don’t agree. I think the Spanish authorities are more afraid of Catalonia’s potential for independence than the Basque country. I think it is clear that ETA have achieved nothing at all and do not instil fear or terror, merely a collective contempt and rolling of the eyes. What Spain might reasonably fear is that if Catalonia goes, so will the Basque country, and the “España se rompe” thing will turn out to be true. The Spanish authorities have one option here, and they would be wise to resort to it: create a federal state right now, or accept this continuous, corrosive tension and unhappiness and mistrust, with the very real potential for a complete breakdown of the Spanish state. The “modelo autonómico” is obsolete – and, although a brilliant solution in its time, is now not capable of accommodating the reality. I think Spain has two options: federalism, or dissolution. This is just my opinion. I recommend this article: http://www.elpais.com/articulo/opinion/problema/espanol/elpepuopi/20100106elpepiopi_11/Tes

    2. Thanks for pointing out the possible contradiction between my point in (2) and my point in (5). Sorry, but I do not see the contradiction… Point 2 says that there are two broad kinds of nationalism (a point you agree with) and point 5 says that nationalism is not a logical pre-condition of justified independence. The two points aren’t even related… It’s true that some nationalist sentiments fuel independence movements – that’s hardly a major discovery – so it’s not a *logical* pre-condition but a contingently occurring pre-condition. But my point in (5) is that deserved independence is deserved regardless of how people feel. I think that, for example, Finnish independence in 1917 was deserved after 800 years of a clear and distinct cultural and linguistic identity surviving despite (or perhaps because of!) occupying Swedish and Russian forces. Some groups in Finland supported independence and others didn’t (there was a civil war, in fact, following the declaration, but it was about the kind of state they wanted after independence rather than about independence itself). I do agree, however, that historically, independence rarely comes without struggle and bitterness, and that nationalist sentiment plays a decisive role. But I challenge anyone to go to Finland now and find someone who didn’t think the struggle was worth it (some Swedish-speaking Finns might have concerns, but even though they are a 1-2% minority, their language is co-official). In Sweden they won’t care, and the Russians have enough problems of their own. Some, perhaps most, Karelians would rather be living in Finland than Russia (I mean, wouldn't anyone?!), and other Karelians would like their own state. They had that opportunity in 1917, but they ended up in the Soviet Union and now in Russia, poor sods.

    3. Err… Yes, of course you would use claims in order to provide a foundation for your desire for independence. You are hardly going to just express a desire for independence and then not argue a case for it. You argue a case by making claims about the truth value of something you consider relevant to your case. In the case for the secession of a region from a state, history is always relevant, therefore your claims need to be accurate (as do the counter-claims of the state from which you are trying to secede). I see nothing controversial about this – we are all making claims all the time, in order to support our cases for or against things. What is more problematic is the implication of the word “territorial”, and I see why it makes you shiver. However, there is something tautological about this: this is an argument about nations, and nations are built on land. Territorial claims are inevitable and only make those who are about to lose them shiver. The problem is not territoriality per se, but the legitimacy of the claim on the territory. I don’t doubt for a minute that this is highly sensitive, but for better of for worse, the entire world is built on territories owned or occupied by legitimate or illegitimate nation-states. (This could lead us to a separate discussion about which territory exactly Catalan independentists should be making claims about).

    6. Your first point is a philosophical one which I can’t engage with – whether rights “emanate” from others or not is one debate, and another debate is what rights are, and if they exist at all… I can’t debate this now and I’m sure you have better things to do too! But your second point, about Spanish individual rights being “guaranteed” is very much debatable… People in Spain certainly have many more rights than in other countries (not least because law enforcement in Spain is notoriously lax and therefore you can pretty much do anything you want…) but when it comes to certain collective demands – such as self-determination or sovereign statehood of a stateless nation within Spain – clearly those rights are non-existent. Because the unity of Spain, both in law and by historical convention, for some people is not up for debate. The Spanish right clings on to the unity of Spain as an inalienable concept because they have little else to fall back on. It’s an artificial concept and has long-reached its sell-by date.

    Your third point about losing sovereignty to the EU… Well, states joining the EU voluntarily choose to forfeit some of their freedoms for a series of privileges. They have numerous opt-out clauses and can always drop out of the EU altogether if they don’t like the arrangement. It’s not that big a deal – for most if not all countries, the benefits of being in the EU far outweigh the disadvantages. All countries engage in agreements that limit their powers in exchange for benefits or protections. I don’t see what’s problematic about that.

    9. Kosovan Albanians had an *immediate case* for secession, which they bolstered with the usual claims about historical identity and so on. But the events leading up to that situation were extreme in their level of tension and explosiveness, and secession may or may not have been the right solution to defusing them permanently. Being in an emergency situation surely isn’t the only state of affairs that justifies secession! On the contrary, you could strongly argue the very opposite case: that building up your position over generations, without threats or violence or anger, and slowly chipping away at the patience of your occupiers is a far better way in the long run of earning your entitlement to full autonomy and the respect of the international community. I accept that we have contrasting positions on this, and I also think it’s always going to be highly problematic to make successful comparisons between one example and another, not least because every occupied region or self-identifying stateless nation thinks its situation is “unique” and its claims “special”. I may personally be in favour of independence for Catalonia, but I am not unaware of the ironies and contradictions. I just don’t think we have any more ironies and contradictions than those who are not in favour of independence for Catalonia – especially those who are in favour of the ridiculous and indefensible status quo. They are far more entrenched, infantile and obtuse than we are. At the risk of being boring, I will repeat myself: if Spain wants to get rid of the problem, it should offer a fully-fledged federal solution. If it does not do this, I guarantee this problem will not go away. It will carry on for generations and drive them to distraction, but most of us will remain patient and persevere. Others may not.

    10. I think we were talking cross-purposes here – I did not assume that the person was living in Catalonia. I thought that the person could have been anybody. Someone in Bangladesh, for example. However, if they were living in Catalonia, and had the same rights as citizens and/or residents, they would be entitled to know whether their personal rights would be affected by independence, if at all. Of course.

    11. Because I would assume that Spain would reject the request! They would go on and on about how we were “hypocrites” – I doubt Catalans would be in the mood to listen to the endless whining. I have followed the Spanish league for 30 years and love it, but I accept it’s just entertainment. So I would ask France what they thought. And if they said no, then fine, who cares? FC Barcelona would have played an important historical public relations role for Catalonia and for Barcelona for a century, and now it would be redundant. I see no problem with this – institutions come and go. Like nations, to want them to survive everything and be “transcendental” is just sentimentalism.

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    1. Some brief reply:

      1. All is opinion, if you will. But the relation armed group in Kosovo-armed group here is one that has to be made. Not for what ETA might achieve politically, but for what ETA might conclude from the recognition of Kosovo, and how many more people they might kill in effect. Which is what the Spanish government has to care about. Saying this is doing the step from opinion to analysis.

      I am with you again on the analysis that Spain has to fear a domino effect. This can be a positive one, too, as there seem to be voices within ETA that point out that Catalonia has achieved more through peaceful means. (Now ain't that something to blow the minds of some impatient Cataloonies… Sorry, I said I do use the term, in its due context.)

      Federalism looks like a red herring to me. There is not much difference between a German land and a Spanish autonomous community (waiting for you to call me one some). Certainly, if you want to call the difference "federalsim", so be it. I'd say strengthening of the autonomies, e.g. by ways of re-organising the Senate.

      All too many Catalan federalists are actually aiming for a confederative situation. And not only I have that problem with Catalan "federalism". In the end, it has already discredited itself. Or better, "they" (Mascarell etc.) have.

      I am quite a bit with Burniol, but still I think that he didn't get the drift about the TC's ruling and partakes in (nationalist) efforts to create a black legend.

      2. Understood. I like the Finnish example. So Catalonia will be trilingual?

      3. Why just at the end and in only in brackets you come to the big point? There it is exactly: what territory would be independent? That's if you go according to "claims". As you might have noticed, I prefer to go with "needs". It goes like this:

      People (certainly of one determined territory) have the need to be independent. This need is not the result of any claims, but of their day-to-day living. In brief, they are being oppressed. They are certainly bound by history, they are a society, but I flat out reject history as any reason for independence. Not in such a case as this. The divorce of the Czech Republic and Slovakia only worked fine because there were no mutual territorial claims. The case of Catalonia is quite different, I see it as dangerous, so I do not accept claims, but only needs. Needs are objective, claims are controversial.

      I am against making the move because I see conflicting claims and I therefore think that the risks outweigh the benefits.

      6. There is no philosophy involved on my part. I see it as very practical to put limits to collective rights so that they do not come in conflict with my individual ones. If you want to talk about conflicting collective rights or claims, that's another pair of shoes. Then you come to show that the other's claims are "artificial" and you go down the drain of nationalist lingo and politics.

      Then the other side does the same, for just the same reasons.

      My point of view is different, again: If my indivudual rights are not respected I might even fight for independence. I'd certainly not go through all the pains and risks only for a bit more of sovereignty or collective self-determination. Especially not if there are other ways to achieve that, even though they are not precisely on the fast track.

      The EU was no moot point: limits to sovereignty always exist. The question only is how many limits you are willing accept. And again, my measure is my personal security. For me it always boils down to that point.

      9. You give quite a correct depiction of the Kosovo situation (no patronising: I was there). Point is, over and again, that an emergency situation would be the only reason for me to fight for independence (in the case of conflicting territorial claims, I always have to add).

      Sure, you can go on "chipping away". No problem with that! I'd still call on the occasional fallacies you might use, on the other hand you might see not independence but -hell, if you so like to call it that- the federal solution as the best/most viable settlement. Both sides showing some patience and avoiding open conflict.

      10. Agreed. And since anybody living in Catalonia would have the right to know what awaits them, the IC would also be offered the information, useful to make up their minds whether to recognise the new state. Nice side effect.

      11. I'd still opt to make the offer to Spain. Not doing it would only create more animosity, and when the whining is too much you still can turn elsewhere.

      So, for good neighbourship, gotta give it a try.

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      1. PD: to point 9. (Thought it, didn't put it down.)

        Matter of fact, Kosovo Albanians have in some way shown the approach I defend. They had had their peaceful resistance and Ibrahim Rugova was "the Gandhi of the Balkans". They had had their referendum on independence with some 89% approval.

        They only took up the arms massively when they saw that oppression only mounted, the IC had forgotten them, and a new generation was getting fed up with a situation that never seemed to change.

        Running the risks only when there is no ther way. In this concept I see a possible comparision to Catalonia. In all other ones certainly not. Which translates into: in Catalonia, where there is no bloody oppression, I'd resort to going through the open conflict of independence only if I have to.

        But, as there is no bloody oppression…

        I'd try to change the few (sorry: minor) things within Spain, and run no risks.

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      2. The idea that "needs" can be determined objectively is doubtful to say the least. Moreover, it's not even clear what a need is. Is it the bare minimum to keep the vital organs functioning? Or is it something else? In any case, it's very hard to imagine that political independence can be understood as a "need". The fact that one is being oppressed does not make independence any more of a need, as one needs not a whole separate new political entity to stop being oppressed.
        Independence cannot be understood in terms of needs, certainly not physical needs. It must be understood in terms of wills. Some people want independence, some people don't. Simple as that. The reasons are pretty much irrelevant. I want independence for one reason, you want independence for another reason. It doesn't matter. This issue is not going to be resolved by measuring which side has better arguments, it is only going to be resolved by means of democracy, that is to say, the rule of the majority. If somebody has got a better idea, I will be glad to hear about it.

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      3. Needs are objective because they are common to all human beings.

        Independence can be the means to achieve those needs, so it was in the Balkans with the need for political freedom, i.e. democracy.

        The will, or claims, or just pure caprice can also lead to independence. BUT my point was that when two nations fight over the same turf the situation is potentially so explosive that you need needs to run the risks. And I think I have given ar least one real-life example to back up this "opinion" I just happen to have pulled out of my hat.

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      4. PD: I hope you noticed that in the previous post (maybe it's below) I have only been a little sarcastic, but mostly down to the facts and thus basically friendly.

        But, sorry, I do have to ask this one: "democracy, that is to say, the rule of the majority", is that really what democracy is to you???

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      5. On (1), I agree on all points up to the suggestion that federalism is a red herring, although I *do* agree that the CCAA system is a kind of federalism by another name. So I would support the strengthening of the autonomies by numerous means, like your Senate suggestion, but also, in my preference, by giving autonomous parliaments more legislative powers over their respective regions. So it is a matter of degree, not so much of principle, that perhaps we disagree on. I’m not sure what "Catalan federalism" is – you mean Catalanists who don’t want independence for Catalonia but federalism for Spain as a solution to Catalonia’s “problems”? Or pan-Catalanists who want a federal system for a hypothetically independent Països Catalans? I think (hope) you mean the former. I haven’t followed Burniol’s publishings but I think his reasoning in that article is very strong.

        On (2), not only should (an independent) Catalonia be trilingual, but I would strongly counsel that all sovereign states of the EU should make English their co-official language, and teach classes in primary schools in both their native tongue and in English. And if we want to be the strongest continent in the world, and beat the Americans at their own game, we should also teach Mandarin in our schools at primary level as well. And maybe Japanese, and Arabic. Command of languages is *huge* power. Any attempts to restrict language learning, or to impose languages that people don’t want to speak is totally nuts and will bring about vicious unintended consequences. For example – and the one coming up is *not* the hotly-debated requirement for Level C in Catalan universities – the systematic efforts of Franco to suppress Catalan (likewise the same efforts in the 19th Century), did not result in fewer people speaking Catalan, but more, and better, and, sadly, it also resulted in an exaggerated Catalan language protectionism and counterproductive perversions like the current attempt to require it in universities. What do they want, even more parochialism?

        On no. 3 I think we have some disagreement – the point you call “big” is not what the original point was about, so that’s why it was in brackets at the end. I don’t think Tom, who after all is the owner and custodian of this fine blog, asked what territory the Catalan independentists want, and therefore should one object to one but not the other. There are, as you know, pan-Catalanists who believe in the “unity” and perhaps “destiny” of the Països Catalans (I used to be one of them, around 1982-83 – I have grown up now), and there are those who are more modest and might say, well, look, the Principality is one thing, and the other guys can join us if they want to. They won’t want to, and I’m perfectly happy with that. But there is enough division on this to weaken both the independentists claims and the real-life chances of achieving independence, whatever the territory. You are right to say (or perhaps imply) that claims involve both history and territory.

        What I am not so sure about is your idea that needs are objective, and claims are controversial. This is an interesting suggestion, but I suspect it's not that straightforward. I think needs *should* or *could* be objective – i.e. identifiable and measurable independently and without disagreement from outside – but I suspect that's never possible. One person's want is another person's need. And some people elevate to needs all sorts of things so that their claims can be perceived as stronger. Furthermore, and interestingly, claims aren't intrinsically controversial. I can claim that the 134 bus is scheduled to leave Tottenham Court Road every 7 minutes, and the truth or falsehood, or partial accuracy of this claim can be verified without controversy. We mustn't confuse claims about the truth value of facts with claims in the sense of "aspiration" or proprietorial claims ("I claim this to be mine") – it's possible you're talking about the second definition of the word claim; I am talking about the first.

        Either way, I dispute three of your positions: (1) that history as a reason for independence can be "flat out rejected" – I assert exactly the contrary, that it is *always* relevant, even if it is immediately recent history, such as a military invasion; (2) that needs are objective – I think that is not remotely as clear as you imply; and (3) that claims are necessarily controversial (you didn't say necessarily, but just in case).

        However, at the end of your point, you interestingly say "the risks outweigh the benefits", which suggests that in the last analysis, it doesn't matter whether claims are valid, or needs are real. It seems that what matters is a straightforward utilitarian calculation about the advantages and disadvantages, or the upside and downside, or the happiness of the greatest number. This is another approach entirely, and although we have not had this discussion, it would be an extremely interesting one to have, partly because it removes emotion, ideology, political tendency, cultural/tribal allegiance etc. etc. and just looks at who would benefit, how, and who would suffer and how, regardless of who they were or what they thought. This is a very refreshing and powerful approach.

        On (6) I have to disagree again, sorry! This very much *is* philosophy. Making a general claim about rights is very much the realm of philosophy (political philosophy). I'm not evading the issue here, but I don't think this is a forum to have a debate about rights. Personally, I am highly sceptical of the notion of rights, individual or collective, although I recognise their value as an institution. Independently of this scepticism, I think there are additional problems when the so-called rights of a collective come into conflict with the so-called rights of individuals.

        I thought it was very interesting that your measure of ultimate acceptability of the limits of sovereignty was "personal security". I can see how that can be an ultimate benchmark (politically probably located somewhere in classical conservatism), but I don't share it, because I am willing to take risks to my security for certain goals or ideals or principles or objectives. That is my choice, just as personal security is your choice. Sadly, the two could come into conflict. Hopefully not.

        I have no comments to make on no. 9.

        No. 10 – no comments.

        No. 11 – good point.

        Pleasure to have this conversation, Candide, thank you, and thank you Tom for the stimulating questions, and el Primo for fighting a battle with passion. I think, for me, it stops here. I wish I could dedicate my time to this sort of thing, but unfortunately I cannot.

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      6. 1. It looks like we agree on this point.

        2. We agree on this one too. Youv'e put it really well.

        3. Correct, that's what I think. I see no way of talking about the independence of a people without talking about the territory. Likewise, one has to be talking territory when talking historical claims.

        On the issue of "needs": This one got totally destroyed by the primo. So to recap it in a simple form, let me point out that the use of any term is determined by its context. I spoke of "a great need for independence", I narrowed the actual form of need down to the need for (political) freedom, and when then I spoke of needs being common to all of us I still think it is quite clear what I was aiming at. Likewise "claims" (and see above): isn't it so that when one disputing party come up with claims, the opponent comes up with its own ones, and that by the very nature of the conflict those claims will always be conflicting with each other, but that, on the other hand, the needs of either side are much easier understood by all? Needs like freedom, individual rights, protection of all cultures…

        My use of the word "objective" here was not correct. I should ahve said "inter-subjective". Let's find common grounds on which to solve disputes.

        I do agree that history is relevant. I do not want to see it instrumentalised. Let's not forget that history falls into the claims section: everybody has their own version of it. Likewise religion, and now you might have got what I mean.

        After making this complex clar, I think I can say that what you call utilitarian is not really a new approach. Trying to find common ground with principles everybody can agree upon already was utilitarian, or I'd say simply practical.

        Which led me to the conclusion that once you come to the point of not being able to solve a dispute with the help of ypur opponent, you'd like to make sure that entering into open conflcit with him is worth the risk, i.e. that benefits outweigh this risk.

        Applied to Catalonia: and "ethnically" divided society needs a lot of will for negotiated settlement because the risks of open conflict in such a society are… well, I think the Kosovo example has already been introduced.

        6. Yes, you are right. I do not think differently, I just went very quickly into real-world application of philosophy. I was trying to be practical, and thus I did leave out many aspects to which you rightfully allude.

        Which all is to say that, yes, we're not far apart. And I enjoyed this conversation a lot too. You've made me think and want to think better by showing me the lack of precision in my words.

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      7. Thanks very much for the compliment about precision – it's true, I do care about precision. It's very powerful – it can make people dig deep and remove barriers to mutual understanding like ignorance, prejudice and ideology.

        Very rewarding exchange – I have learnt a lot from your arguments and I'm encouraged that it's possible for people with potentially conflicting views to find common ground.

        All the best and enjoy what's left of Sunday.

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  11. No, wrong. First, you say "needs" are common to all human beings. Then you define "political freedom" as a need. But "political freedom" is not common to all human beings. In fact, most human beings throughout history have not had political freedom, and what's more significant, they were not even able to *conceive* it.
    Anyway, it's clear now that you use the word "need" in a very peculiar way: what you think it's important (e.g. political freedom) you define it as a need. What other people think it's important to them, but you don't like it, you define it as a "caprice". Sorry, but this is not serious. Discussing with you it's a pointless waste of time, because of your penchant for using words in a meaning that is not the one the rest of speakers of the language have agreed upon, making communication all but impossible.

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    1. First of all, thanks to everybody for not calling me on my ridiculous expression "to achieve those needs". That was a serious language issue.

      What was not is the term "needs" itself. We can spend a long time discussing the function of "vital organs", but we can also stick to the topic that has been presented to us, which is in the field of politics.

      Freedom is a need everybody has, and in this debate we can narrow it down to political freedom. You do not agree that political freedom is a need because "most human beings throughout history have not had political freedom" and "they were not even able to *conceive* (sic) it"?

      Where there is no political freedom there is oppression. And even though any number of people might not have the education or imagination to come to a clearly structured idea of all aspects of political freedom, they certainly perceive oppression and want to get rid of it. They want to be FREE of it. The strife for freedom has been a constant element of human history, and its driving force was not political theory, but something deeply ingrained in the human psyche. The need to be free. Not a wish, not a will, not a caprice, but a need. But is that really up for debate?

      This even seems to be the case in Catalonia, at least one can conclude that much from question no. 6. But now, for the sake of never wanting to agree to anything but your own words, you, primo mio, are going to great lengths to avoid not only the term "needs" but even that word "freedom" and instead speak of an ominous will, based on any kind of "reasons", ominously expressed in some way you call democratic; without even being able to give the slightest hint on the nature of democracy other than it being "the rule of the majority". That much I can get from any fifth grader. And then you wonder why I once said you must be 16.

      Indeed, your argumentation is even more hilarious. You use the term "political freedom" understanding it as an existing situation (""political freedom" is not common to all human beings"), which nothing has to do with what I talk about: "the need for political freedom" as being common to all people. You just merrily chop the quotes offered by others into the bits and pieces that suit you most. Then you pass all that through the mincer you carry between you ears, spice it with some arrogance here and some ignorance there, put it through your fingertips and out it pops on everybody's screen. Human digestion has a more agreeable result.

      I give you that much: you were quite right with "one needs not a whole separate new political entity to stop being oppressed". My point on Catalonia, or almost.

      But back to what is keeping us busy in this comment: language problems. I certainly did not describe what you or any concrete others think as "caprice". I first took up one of your terms, "the will", and only then went into other possible forms of motivation so obvioulsy unrelated to your words or your thinking that it must be you who has problems to understand, quote and, in effect, communicate at all.

      I suggest that the onus to be serious is on you, or else you'll get verbally slapped around on any other occasion, again.

      Come to think of it, I'll be happy to give you another serving.

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      1. First, let me explain what a "need" is. Normally, you would assume that a grown-up person would be familiar with such basic notions, but it seems or friend Candide here is struggling hard with them, so let's be nice. Lend him a hand.

        A need is something that is necessary (i.e. something you can't do without) to achieve a particular end. Therefore, needs are always related (and subordinated) to ends. There's no such thing as a "need" unrelated to a particular end. And an end, by definition, is something you intend to do, that is, an expression of your will.

        So, we put it all together and we have that "needs" are merely a product of the will. Of course, there are exceptions, like say persons who are addicted to opiates, bet let's not get into those. In conclusion, this is the basic idea the capitalist mode of production is based on, and by extension democracy itself. If we do not accept this basic fact and postulate that needs can somehow be determined objectively, then the free-market system would make no sense. Instead, it would be much cheaper and efficient to organise the economy in a purely centralised fashion under dictate of a committee of "sages" that would be in charge of deciding for everybody else.

        This is basically it. I do not accept anyone telling me what my needs are, because that would mean that I accept that thay have some sort of authority over me, or that they know better what I want than I do. Maybe this is, after all, what or friend Candide secretly aspires to, to tell everybody what they have to do. I do not know, but one thing is certain: he will fail miserably.

        By the way, I'm going to ignore your retorting because I don't really have time for this, or interest. Suffice to say it speaks tons about the kind of deranged persone you are. No offence 😉

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      2. Thank you, primo! Last time you sent me a smiley you called me a "rat", now you've elevated me to the position of "persone" (sic), even if only a "deranged" one.

        That said, it looks like there are two different people signing with "el primo". Differences in grammar and content between the last two primocomments seem to vouch for that.

        Whatever, none is smarter than the other. Wonderful depiction of the relation between capitalism and democracy. Good laugh, thanks again, but back to the issue.

        I had just the one pertinent observation: that the need for freedom is ingrained in every human being. That was a purely descriptive point. This observation might not be true, then let's discuss it. But I was certainly not telling, in a prescriptive manner, what anybody's needs have to be, even less what anybody has to do.

        So you misquote me again.

        Slap.

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      3. Oh hell! Just gotta:

        "A need is something that is necessary (i.e. something you can't do without)".

        And

        ""needs" are merely a product of the will".

        Just quoting you.

        Slap.

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      4. "A need is something that is necessary (i.e. something you can't do without) to achieve a particular end." To be precise.

        Quoting others:

        "a lack of something wanted or deemed necessary"

        or
        "urgent want, as of something requisite"

        or
        "a condition marked by the lack of something requisite"

        (dictionary.com)

        And for fun:

        "There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot
        stand.
        — "Babylon 5""

        (http://www.flownet.com/ron/freedom.html)

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      5. Yes, you were. You were telling to us that we need "political freedom", which according to you we already have, and you were tellin us that we don't need our country goin independent, which according to you would be a "caprice".. If this ain't tellin us what we need, I don't know what it is.

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      6. Oh most certainly! I included both of you in humanity, I never had any doubts about that. Much unlike you treat your opponents (as rats, see http://cataloniawatch.blogspot.com/2010/07/nationalists-you-gotta-luvem.html).

        Please do then tell me that political freedom is not on your list of needs. I'll be happy to stand corrected.

        Good to know, too, that you admit to being several people ("us").

        The issue of "caprice" has been closed above: I did not say so.

        You are even able to re-misquote me!

        Double slap.

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      7. Well, I don't know what is with this guy. It looks like he tries to flood this blog post with silly comments, personal attacks and demented accusations in order to disrupt the debate. I already made my points at 17:41 and 18:44, which I am not going to repeat.

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  12. Thanks for all the intelligent discourse.

    It's a pleasure reading posts that do not degenerate into name-calling, but stay on track with arguments based on knowledge.

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      1. Yes Candide, I did have you and Ricard in mind when I wrote that, which does not mean I did not appreciate any of the other contributors.

        I would contribute myself but I don't seem to have the vast knowledge base that you two seem to have so I will happily observe.

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      2. On the other hand I see the topic has degenerated a bit since I last posted my first comment. Oh well, I still appreciate the intelligent discourse in parts of this comment area.

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      3. Er, thanks.

        I don't think we have any such vast knowledge base, nor would that be a condition to participate in an issue that requires nothing else but common sense.

        We actually need more common sense here. So do contribute, please.

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  13. I find that the expression "Cataloonies" must have been created for some reason.

    Which brings us back to the topic. One aspect has hardly been touched upon, that of a potentially expansionist Catalonia and the risks for international security it could pose.

    I see this as a real risk for a variety of reasons: the debate over independence centres on the Principate, the autonomous community of Catalonia. However, several independentist parties have voiced claims over all "Catalan Lands" (ERC, CUP, and to a certain extent Reagrupament). This could bring us into the situation of Catalonia being independent and afterwards mounting border conflicts with its then neighbours.

    This might be ok for the Cataloonies, but as long as this risk can be perceived the International Community will not show any sympathy to the secessionist cause. Which makes all ongoing efforts by the Cataloonies to internationalise their cause a bit of a moot excercise.

    At least as far as the recognition of an independent Catalonia is concerned, the territory which should belong to Catalonia should be made more of an issue of this debate.

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    1. "I find that the expression "Cataloonies" must have been created for some reason." – I'm sure you're right. It has always seemed to me that 'Cataloonies' is used to discredit plenty of people because of their identity. It's not quite a racial slur but it's in the same ballpark.

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      1. Oh, I understand how you must come to that conclusion. No, it's not where I put it, and I should make that very clear.

        First of all, it's political, not racial or societal. For me, it refers to all those individuals who not only base their argumentation on hot air, not only call the other a "rat", but by doing so and more gamble with my security and that of others trying to pull this part of the world into what could well be a bloody conflict.

        One may very well not agree with these observations of mine, but one may at least accept that my use of "Cataloonies" is based on this political stance only. I know myself a few non-Catalan Cataloonies.

        I will not hide that behind my use of this expression stands a certain amount of anger. Over the years I have experienced how foreigners are being used in the way of circus animals displaying the convenient tricks to fundament a nationalist perception of Catalonia. I myself have been subjected to this and thus reduced from being a person to having a political function for the convenience others.

        That at some point I have started to retort is no wonder. And if it hurts, maybe some will ask them what is going on.

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      2. It's like calling a Yank a "fucking septic", and then pretending you do it only on ideological grounds. If it's ideological, why use a denomination that refers to the whole lot of the population from that country -regardless of ideology- in the first place? A part from the obvious derogatory, ad-hominem nature of the term, in line with the cheap propaganda and empty rhetoric that those who use this word normally exhibit.

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      3. Er… it's rather like calling a "Yank" a "Yank", but without the purely territorial reference.

        And what authority to speak on the subject has a person who calls the other a "rat"? You better be forever silent on any related issues.

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      4. Dear God. Can't you write a simple sentence that makes a little bit of sense? Calling a Yank a Yank without a "purely" territorial reference? What is this supposed to mean? A "Yank" is an inhabitant of the US of A, it's a fucking territorial reference.

        And let this "rat" thing go already. I'm not going to apologise unless you apologise first for calling people silly names.

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      5. Oh, primo no. 2 speaking. The older one.

        I am not asking you to apologise. Really not.

        And now, let's please continue on the topic.

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  14. Back to the topic, which is all too easy to avoid. It seems.

    I have to refer to this invitation: "Let me know if you think I've missed out something really glaring. "

    Now, I am not sure how glaring this is, but I'd like to bring up the issue of the nationalist gangs that roam this part of the world. Some months ago they chased Rosa Díez out of the UAB, these days I have read in the press (LV) how they threatened a kiosk owner in Barcelona centre to not display (and sell) the Spanish flag; together with all the catalanista paraphernalia, I have to add. Apparently, this man, an immigrant from South America, ended up folding both himself and the Spanish flags and now has only the senyera and its estelada version on display and sale.

    From my experience, gangsters do not necessarily stand for the whole of society, far from it, yet they do serve as an indicator about what is wrong in that society and might foreshadow worse things yet to come.

    Or, in more general terms, controlling (if possible: anulling) these elements would do a service to the "national cause". Not doing so, or doing so only half-heartedly ("lukewarm" was the expression I used in http://cataloniawatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/stupidity-without-borders.html) does a disservice because thus one allows doubts, to say the very least, about what Catalonia is and what one wants it to be.

    So I feel free to bring this up, but hey, the possible security risk an independent Catalonia poses is still on the table!

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    1. Oh, yeah, the "gangs". You forget this old bag was already kicked from the Madrid UAM months before the UAB incident. No mention that? Threatening a news stand owner is right out of order, but how serious is that? It's an anecdote, a very well publicised one. In the mean time, well-organised bands of right-wing Spanish nationalists thugs have been terrorising all sorts persons, organisations and businesses all over Catalonia and the Valencian Country, without anyone blinking an eye. I'm the first to stand against political violence, but please get your priorities right, otherwise you're making a fool of yourself.

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      1. You're right. ANY side (well, here there seem to be 2) must be held accountable by the same standards.

        As to anecdotical evidence… don't underestimate it. It's of those things that have the tendency to mount and metamorph into something bigger.

        Don't just brush this aside, and even if you do, maybe you don't want to do so and even use such terms as "old bag".

        Are there really that many edges to be taken off Catalan nationalism, so that it can finally become digestible to the rest of the world, and all that without the move being called mere lip-service? I'd also have the usual Kosovo reference for that last point, if you so will.

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      2. And what exactly makes you think that you know what the rest of the world finds palatable or not? Strange tendency to speak for others you have got.

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      3. I withdraw that you were right. First of all, it seems that it was not the Autónoma but the Complutense.

        More importantly, out of my wish to always be even-handed I recognised that all sides have to be held accountable to the same standards. But this does not apply here.

        We were talking the risks in an "ethnically" divided society, not the risks any politically motivated gang poses in any society.

        You were really able to confound the concepts and side-track me for a moment. Chapeau. You have earned yourself the post as the Official Pied Piper of Hamelin (OPPH) of this blog.

        The Rattenfänger who fooled the "rat" into following him.

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      4. Well, that is exactly my point. That these marginal episodes of intolerance and political pseudo-violence are as likely to occur here as in Madrid. In other words, I haven't seen any evidence whatsoever that the society in (according to you, ethnically-divided) Catalonia is more prone to engage in intolerant activities than that of the rest of Spain. If you have some, please share with us.
        The rest of my point is the apparent impunity that certain anti-Catalan factions seem to enjoy, operating under the radar of the media, while others are crucified alive for relatively or completely harmless "crimes".

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      5. You think you're safe now and can go on misquoting me? I put quotation marks around "ethnic" for some rason, you most conveniently left them out.

        Plus I explicitly brought the gangs up in relation to the society they are in and then I saw the explosive mix.

        No, you won't side track me again. Not even with you last fallacious call for even-handedness.

        You have no point except you finally get down to speak on the issue.

        Or blabber along. You stand here for a certain political position, which is something I take devilish joy from every time you raise you voice.

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  15. OK… I'm back… I'm still mulling over a response to Candide's thoughtful comments to my original post a few days ago. Sorry I'm so slow! I'll try to write something later. I do have a day-job, people! These discussions require thought and calmness, and I can't let them get in the way of the very real task of bringing home the bacon. ("Guanyar-se les mongetes" – not sure what they say in Spanish – anyone?)

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      1. Excellent, we have now enriched the readership with three nice, complementary gastronomic phrases that show that in three cultures, money = food = money. We have bacon, beans and bread. We could make quite a good stew, and would have something to dip into it!!

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      2. As things go, soon we might have no pot left to put the fire under. Or the pot, but nothing to make fire from. See Tom's latest entry.

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  16. I'll be closing comments on this post some time today.

    I'm thrilled that it has generated so many comments and what was, on the whole, a high level of debate. All of you who have joined in have helped me to identify lots of topics on which I think we can have a more focused conversation in the weeks and months to come. I'm very grateful to all of you for that.

    Bon cap de setmana!

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    1. I'd prefer to have time for a last reply to Ricard, who already said he had sent his last one, but I cannot find enough time in a row to do so today.

      But you're the boss, Tom…

      Bon WE à toi aussi.

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      1. Don't worry if you can't, Candide, what matters is that we had lots of fun discussing this topic!

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  17. 1. If a suitable majority supported it, why shouldn't Catalonia be independent?
    Well, majorities are temporary, and no matter how many referendums vote no, the first that votes yes is irreversible. I'd argue for 3 referendums over a 10 year period, all requiring 50% support.

    2. How would you describe your stance against Catalan nationalism?
    Socialist anti-regionalism.

    3. Are you aware of the independentists' historical claims? Do you think they are inaccurate, or irrelevant?
    They are largely inaccurate, in the sense that they project a modern binary view of Catalan/Spanish national opposition on periods prior to the emmergence of nationalism, or the modern idea of nation.

    4. Do you think its possible that your position is the result of political media campaigns against independence?
    Quite the reverse, it's the product of living in a society where the regionalist argument was dominant in all public discourse.

    5. Do you oppose the independence of all 'nation' states, or is your opposition selective?

    I'm against ethnicist movements, and I support the existance of multi-ethnic states, wherever possible.

    6. Even though you oppose it, do you feel any empathy for those who genuinely believe that their country isn't 'free' unless it's an independent state?

    Yes, but I lose it when they display hatred which happens a lot.

    7. What action would you take should Catalonia become independent?

    I'd sigh, grafitti "Visca Espanya" wherever I could get away with it, and then get on with my life.

    8. What action should Spain take to prevent Catalonia declaring independence?
    Not elect the PP.

    9. Do you think that Kosovo's independence from Serbia sets a legal precedent?
    No, but i support the theoretical right of Catalonia to become independent.

    10. Are there any conditions under which you'd accept Catalan independence (e.g. constitutional protection of Spanish speakers)?
    Triple referendum, Spanish language schools for Spanish speaking families, constitutional protection for Spanish.

    11. Should Catalonia become independent, would you insist that FC Barcelona be excluded from the LFP?
    Yes, but not Espanyol.

    12. Have you ever found yourself chuckling at the epithet 'Cataloonies' while strumming away to the old Iberian Notes blog? (You don't have to answer this one if you really don't want to).

    I have not.

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  18. Thanks a lot, Tom, for keeping the comments open just a bit longer.

    I trust that once you read my last reply to Ricard you will understand why I pleaded for it.

    Truth be told, I also had to retort to the primo.

    And finally I have to state that two problems I exposed remain unanswered to: the potential international security risk of an independent Catalonia, and, not so far in the future, the oppressive atmosphere (or atmosfear) posed already today by nationalist gangs. I see both problems as important enough to remind us of them.

    This is a great blog. The exchanges with Ricard and the primo were most enjoyable, albeit for very, very different reasons. I've just put my own blog on pause, but not without linking both to TheBadRash itself and to this debate in particular.

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  19. Yes, thanks Tom for the opportunity to debate some important issues in depth. Great blog – keep up the good work. I look forward to reading some more posts and perhaps contributing again in the future, especially if Candide is here too.

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