A march in Barcelona that surprised everyone #11S2012

Barcelona, September 11th 2012

This blog has seen plenty of debate concerning the whole independence issue. In May, I wrote that I wasn’t sure that Catalan independence had majority support. I now believe that it does.

As of today, I’m happy to declare myself in favour of Catalan independence. (You can now put the trumpets away)

We went to Barcelona today. It took an hour to get to Via Laetana from Gràcia FGC station. The police say 1.5 million people turned out; more than the organisers expected. The PSC didn’t support it. Convergència was taken by surprise. Unió was utterly shocked. All the parties have been sidelined by a popular movement that can’t be ignored.

Today’s demonstration was a step towards Catalan independence. The largest demonstration Barcelona and Catalonia has ever seen, and unequivocally in support of independence. I find it difficult to believe that Rajoy will offer us a ‘pacte fiscal’ that does the job. When he fails to do so, I expect early elections here and a national platform in support of a referendum.

25 thoughts on “A march in Barcelona that surprised everyone #11S2012

  1. I think independence is inevitable now – you’ve had 30 years of local leaders using the significant resources at their disposal to convince the mob that 100 miles away begins a great universe of thieves, and of national leaders too cowardly and incompetent to use the not insignificant resources over which they dispose to do anything about it. Kosovo’s not going to get into the EU, and Catalonia presumably won’t either, so I guess the fiscal transfer which would have been ordained by Brussels will be eaten up by EU import tariffs. As well as the little matter of setting up armed forces capable of invading Roussillon, Valencia and Mallorca: you surely don’t think independence will be the end of it?

    1. Obviously, the main thing that should be considered if independence really is inevitable is ‘what next?’.

      Regarding trade and the EU, I think this is the most important concern. I really don’t know much about how this works but wouldn’t it be possible to gain EEA membership without full EU membership? Perhaps via EFTA? I’ve got a diplo friend but I don’t think he has much to do with this area. I’ll ask him what he thinks anyway.

      The territorial claims that some (and I believe they are a small minority) independentists maintain over the ‘Catalan Countries’ would have to be officially and formally waived in perpetuity. I guess in the Catalan constitution. I think the vast majority of Catalans would agree with that. But you’re right: the risk of having parliamentarians constantly hollering for ‘return of historical territories’ would be high. It would have to be dealt with somehow in order to have any chance of dealing with Spain and France in the future.

      The France question, which I posed 1 1/2 years ago, remains very important and I don’t think many people here grasp that because they’re so focused on Spain. If Catalonia goes, might not the Basque Country? To what lengths would France go to prevent two new states appearing on its southern border, especially two states which harbour even a minority of politicians who make claims on French territory? Maybe it’s not as serious a question as I reckon but that the fact that it was dismissed out of hand at the time worries me. It points to a lack of clear thought on the difficult process ahead.

      1. The big – and I do mean big – problems for an international acceptance of unilateral secession are two:
        1) Monolingualism – the Catalan movement must pledge to respect Castilian language rights. Any oppression of these rights would rightly be seen as a violation of human rights by Catalonia.
        2) The Catalan Lands claims. These are not as you think Tom held by a small minority; they are the central plank of the ANC-AMI movement.
        These claims naturally make any claim to Catalan sovereignty invalid, as you and any ratonal person sees instantly.
        But it is very much there in the ERC-ANC-AMI programme, and on their posters and propaganda.
        I’m desperately trying to get them to change these two areas, and failing badly so far.
        More later

  2. ” When he fails to do so, I expect early elections here and a national platform in support of a referendum.”

    And Artur Mas, instead of being the man who’s cut Catalan health and education to ribbons, becomes the leader of his people.

    1. I don’t think Mas or people like him will be in charge of Catalonia as much as they think. If ‘independence’ meant ‘CiU Republic’, I wouldn’t support it.

        1. I’m expecting the left to take charge pretty quickly. Another tripartit, I guess. If the PSC finally breaks from the PSOE I think it’ll regain respect from a lot of voters who stayed at home last time.

          But this argument strikes me as being rather specious. It seems like what you’re saying is that it’s simply not worth trying because Mas is bad. I don’t like Mas, you should know that. And I didn’t hear anybody on the march chanting his name. Maybe that will change, I suppose. I won’t change my position on him, though, which you can read here.

          1. I have re-read that old debate. You’ll also find there that the (comparatively) nicest words I say are about CiU.

            I’m not making this point one of likes and dislikes. I sincerely believe in the Messiah effect. Over the past years there has been an insistent call for a leader of the separatist movement. None appeared until the demo. Now it’s Mas. Everybody is now bowing to him, especially since his appearance in Madrid yesterday. He did do a good job there, at the very least in terms of propaganda. Even I liked many things he said, while before his antics about Catalans as the Germans of Spain, Holland of the South, Massachusetts of Europa etc etc sounded more like propagand’uh.

            He’s growing with the challenge, one’s got to hand him that.

            If he manages to pull this through -which I do doubt, and I still fear there are bad times ahead- but just for the sake of the argument… He is the only one who can push it through, if he succeeds he’ll be a complete hero. He will be seen as The One who has righted the Centuries Old Wrong. And with CDC he has a formidable apparatus at his service. Well, and with the Generalitat, this overbearing administration which already Pujol played so well.

            This is the historical perspective from which I come when I say that we’d have CiU country for decades.

          2. “It seems like what you’re saying is that it’s simply not worth trying because Mas is bad”

            No, what it’s saying is – in what direction is this actually likely to go? I take a much, much more pessimistic view.

        2. Interestingly, Mas has just said that he “wouldn’t stand for reelection” if Catalonia became independent. A nifty political maneuver, I’d say.

  3. How could Convergència have been taken by surprise? They’ve been for some time already deeply involved on the local level via AMI, Mas gave the whole demo a crucial boost when he wanted to make it about the piscal fact and later this party called on its members to participate in the demo.

    I’d rather think they’re happy it’s all played out so well. Come a new state, gone corruption issues such as Palau de la Música and ITV.

    On the personal level, I’m happy for you that you are now officially part of The People. Because everyone who wasn’t there now isn’t. You have given Artur Mas a “mandate of the streets”, so you’ve made History.

    1. Sometimes I get the feeling that you think Artur Mas is really in control of this whole thing. It makes you sound like a truther, ever confident in the secret (and yet broadly unseen) capabilities of otherwise generally inept politicians.

      The Mas I’ve been watching has been genuinely caught off-guard by the support for the march. Yes of course he helped promote it and the movement but the fumbling way his federation responded to the sudden increase in support was, I thought, pretty transparent.

      As to ‘The People’ and ‘History’, you’re being unkind. I know plenty of people who support independence but didn’t go to the march. You never know: if your dreams come true we could end up with a civil war. Then you can make history.

      1. Hehehe, you’re right to shoot sarcasm back at me.

        More seriously, I don’t think that Mas is any mastermind, it’s just played out pretty well for him. The ANC has done what they announced. No surprise there. The new fact is how fast Mas has jumped on the bandwagon of independence, and how clearly he already positions himself as its leader. Though not a real surprise either. I’ve written about expecting that he’d soon end up doing so one year ago. See the last five paras of http://iberosphere.com/2011/08/spain-news-3450/3450

        You know I’m no fan of conspiracy theories. Interests have converged. And the interests were, and are, clear to see. (Escaping corruption charges is certainly one of them.)

        The question for me now is whether in the next elections the radical fringe will try to capitalise on having pushed Mas so successfully ahead or leave him the leading role of a separatist block designed to win the game through a maximum of unity. And if the PSC will ultimately, and spectacularly, turn 180 degrees.

        1. PS: To be quite complete, let me add that there is still plan B, which is now the fiscal pact. But that depends on Madrid, too. Mas has kept this option open. Although it seems now more likely that he will indeed not negotiate, prepared to make the most out of a total confrontation with Madrid.

          Right now, the credibility of Rajoy’s government has gone so low that it could have a hard time defending even a good offer, yet below the fiscal pact, to appease those many who’d still drop separatism for more money. There will be a propaganda war which, also given the huge control CDC has over the Catalan media, Madrid is not likely to win.

  4. Hi Tom. Thanks for blogging & keeping the issues highlighted. I genuinely think that given the [lack of] dialogue within Spain, the only real progress will be from creating the international profile to support the movement within Catalonia. I’m rather surprised and delighted by the stir that Tuesday’s events have had in the Guardian!

    Keep up the good work

    1. You have not noticed the lack of dialogue in Catalonia? The consistent drawing on experiences of other countries with the sole intention of confirming one’s preconceived ideas (which, truth be told, is an all-Spanish phenomenon)? The Catalan separatists’ intellectual inbreeding, their almost autistic attitude?

      Not that they are worse than any other group in this debate. But how can you call what anybody does here a progress?

    2. I concur with Candide about this lack of real dialogue both within the independence movement and between Catalan and Spanish voices. In my opinion – as someone who has been working in favour of Catalan independence for a couple of years now – this lack of dialogue and understanding for issues above and beyond the feud with Madrid is the independence movement’s worst enemy. Take for example this “dialogue” in the comments section of La Vanguardia today between myself and Andreu Puig:

      Las dos condiciones imprescindibles para la aceptación de Catalunya como país propio en la opinión pública exterior – la opinión mundial – son : 1) Una garantía de derechos humanos, especialmente culturales, es decir, una garantía del bilingüalismo y protección por los derechos de los no-catalanoparlantes, y 2) una garantía del territorio actual, es decir, una renuncia a la plataforma de la ANC reclamando “Els Països Catalans”, en consideración a su imposibilidad y su condición de potencialmente expansionista.

      Andreu Puig
      Perdona pero es al revés: los no catalanoparlantes (foráneos o descendientes de foráneos) lo que tienen que hacer es integrarse en Catalunya. Es lógico. Yo no me puedo ir a Flandes y exigir que se reconozca el catalán, y que se me respete que yo soy catalanoparlante. Del mismo modo no pueden venir aquí andaluces, murcianos, sudamericanos, etc y exigir que se les respete que son hispanohablantes. El idioma de aquí es el catalán, desde hace mil años, y a quién no le guste que s’hi posi fulles

      Una respuesta que si repetido mucho, condena el movimiento indepedendenista al fracaso total, tanto por via electoral como por via diplomática.

      Andreu Puig
      ¿Realmente es tan difícil de entender? En tu idioma hay un refrán que está muy bien: “Allí donde fueres, haz lo que vieres”. A mi no se me pasaría por la cabeza irme a vivir a Toledo y pretender que mis hijos tengan escuela en catalán, que yo me pueda dirigir a la administración en catalán etc. ¿Cuál es vuestro problema? Es que no entiendo tu lógica

      (continues… not quoted here)

      Notice that Mr Puig immediately supposes that I am Spanish because I’m concerned about the rights of non-Catalan speakers. Moreover he makes my personal argument “vuestro problema”. In other words, though I’m voicing a personal opinion framed within the ideas of international law and outsider acceptance, in his mind I’m just playing “Madrid vs Barcelona”. More dangerously, his argument very quickly degenerates into “if you don’t like it, sod off”.
      And believe me, that’s one of the more respectful discussions I’ve been in on these issues.

        1. Amazing to observe how this agressive intolerance is evolving though. Not least from the “Constitutionalists”…
          Never have so many vowed loyalty to a document so few have read!

      1. Hilarious, you really have resisted the temptation to say you’re not Spanish.

        Good points, especially in you last comment, here not quoted. Rights, once attained, cannot be taken away. What the International Community thinks about the matters you raise can be seen for instance in those parts of ex-Yugoslavia where it had an administrative role, Bosnia and Kosovo.

        The Constitution of Kosovo establishes Serbian as the other official language, alongside Albanian. And that even after the atrocities committed by Serb forces, and even though Serbs make up only a maximum of 10% of the population.

        In Article 1 of the Constitution of Kosovo there also is the provision: “The Republic of Kosovo shall have no territorial claims against, and shall seek no union with, any State or part of any State. ”


        (Oh, and mind that they call it “Kosovo” in English. Catalan nationalists now like to use the Albanian “Kosova” or “Kosovë”, for obvious reasons)

        1. Thanks for info re Kosovo – I’d like to see exactly where it could serve as a model for Catalonia Republic. The constitution, I mean, not the way they got there…

  5. “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”
    Looks as if we’re in for an entertaining dialectic ride as Constitutionalists cling on to the indivisibility clause of Spain’s territory, while Separatists, democratically call victory.
    This is no go nonsense, from the rest of the EU’s point of view, so all the support the two sides can muster from the EU (London and Edinburgh most), UN, UNESCO and anyone else, the better.
    After all, knowledge is power. Recognition will swing fondness towards the peaceful and democratic separatist movement in time i guess.
    Still, the dubious yet unique logic behind the indivisibility factor for Spain’s territory is hampering Catalunya’s independance as do “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding, how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” dialectics (Pink Floyd).
    Indeed, how can Catalunya be independant if the Spanish constitution doesn’t allow it? Aha! now this is the main argument Constitutionalists brandish.
    Sure is logical. Some consider this a “trampa de fireta”, but it’s a major stumble block legally.
    The funny thing is that Spain will actually do better without Catalunya, the PP will be able to implement its reforms without having always to take Catalunya into consideration.

    1. I agree. I’d like to point out, though, that if Catalonia suddenly was sucked into a black hole, it wouldn’t make any difference as far as the constitution of Spain is concerned, because there is no reference whatsoever to Catalonia in the constitution. The problematic articles, in my opinion, are two: one that mentions the “indivisibility of the Spanish nation” and another that says that the army is responsible for defending the “territorial integrity of Spain”. I suppose it all depends on how you read these articles. I think that probably any lawyer can come up with a creative interpretation of these passages that would allow Catalonia to secede legally without changing the constitution, just like now gay people are allowed to marry thanks to a reinterpretation of the word “marriage” that appeared in this very same constitution.

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