Some questions… #1: Why exactly should Catalonia be independent?

When I published my post Some Questions for a Catalan Independentist, I hoped that people would engage with the questions and enter into spirited debate. I later realised that to deal with them properly, each question deserves its own thread. I hope that this helps to foster a polite and friendly debate on the topic. I should also add that these are my questions: I don’t claim to have presented an infallible or complete list of concerns, and I’d be happy to receive suggestions for new ones from readers. I’ll deactivate comments on the original post, so as to continue debate in these new ones.

The first question is the shortest: Why exactly should Catalonia be independent?

41 thoughts on “Some questions… #1: Why exactly should Catalonia be independent?

  1. At a question per week this might keep us busy until summer. May I suggest guest appearances of publicly known advocates of Catalan independence? Many of them want to internationalise the issue, so here could be a good place for this.

      1. Yes, him too. The present panorama could make it possible to invite all the proponents of independence plus foreign and domestic journalists to join the debate. Nobody should be cut out.

        I know that this an ambitious idea, but hell, why not aim a little higher. I reckon that Tom has ways to disseminate it and his would not be the first blog to become one of reference overnight.

  2. Catalonia shouldn’t be independent per se, nor should any other country. It should be independent as long as a majority of its citizens want it to be independent. As simple as that. The reasons why people might want Catalonia to be an independent country? For one thing, I think it’s a matter of principles: I can’t find no reason why my country should be politically subordinated to another country. Secondly, I think Spain has a terrible reputation internationally. Nobody is going to take you seriously if you say you come from Spain. Of course, Catalans also suffer the same problem, although not to the same extent. What I propose, is not only that we go independent, but that we change our name as well and call ourselves Occitans. Nobody knows what or who the Occitans are. It’s a new, exciting thing! This would be the greatest marketing operation of all time.

    1. I know who are Occitans. If I didn’t, I’d have internet (the thing I’m writing on right now) to tell me instantly.

      There are more problems: Occitania is usually referred to as part of France. And it would not be a “new, exciting thing”, but, yes, a “marketing operation” so transparent that it could only provoke laughs, if not anger.

      But again, let’s please stick to the question asked. I cannot answer it affirmatively, come those who can and let’s see them make their case.

      1. Funny how you admit you can’t answer the question, yet you’ve already posted six or seven comments by now. I see my advice that you should find some other hobby fell on deaf ears.

          1. If somebody needs to learn how to read, that is you. If you did, you would know that the question that Tom posed is not a question that can be answered affirmatively or negatively.

          2. I won’t continue this stupid battle with you. You are an extremely bright guy, and you know by yourself that making us lose time by sidetracking the debate is a lack of respect towards the Lord of this Blog and the other commenters. The same lack of respect you showed by laughing about quotes I had asked from boynamedsue a few days ago, only because you did not like the sources.

            People put an effort into the debate, Tom spends time to maintain his blog and come up with interesting topics, others spend time making their points as good as we can.

            Stop making us lose time and speak on the topic.

          3. Excuse me? I’ve already spoken on the topic. The topic is questions for a Catalan independentist. I am a Catalan independentist. You are not. What you are doing here, I don’t know. Accusing others of smudging the issue at hand, when it’s clearly you the one constantly rambling on about unrelated topics and sabotaging the debate.

          4. Primo, please stop being so aggressive. Saying that Candide has no right to comment because he is not a Catalan nationalist is an appalling statement to make. I answered your post constructively and seriously, and all you did was click “don’t like”, then attack Candide for having posted at all.

            This blog, and the World in general, are not like the opinion section of Avui. You actually have to listen to other people , accept they have a right to their opinions, and engage with them. If you don’t do this you have no chance of ever convincing anyone of anything.

            The main limitation of the “independentist” movement is the fact they only ever talk (in Catalan) to people who agree with them, thus creating a situation where they are unable to convince enough people of the justice of their cause to ever achieve independence.

            If a pro-independence party ever once recognised the importance of Catalonia’s Spanish speaking heritage, as well as its Catalan traditon, it would do more for their cause than a hundred years’ worth of back-slapping butifarrades.

          5. Sue,

            I didn’t say he’s got no right to comment. I simply don’t understand why he makes so many comments, that’s all.

            Second, I read your reply to my comment and I’ve got nothing to say about it. It’s your opinion. I have read it. Do I have to reply everything?

            Finally, my apologies if I have been too aggressive. That said, I find your constant stereotyping of “nationalists” and Catalans in general far more aggressive and insulting, to be honest. According to you, we only talk to each other (in Catalan), we only watch TV3 and read the Avui, and we only like things as long as they are Catalan. Well, this is one of the reasons I won’t argue with you, because I find it extremely boring replying to that sort of arguments. I don’t mind discussing these issues with other people, in fact I enjoy it very much.

        1. Primo says:I’ve already spoken on the topic. The topic is questions for a Catalan independentist. I am a Catalan independentist. You are not. What you are doing here, I don’t know.

          And also: I didn’t say he’s got no right to comment.

          Well, I’m sure you could type a self-justifying paragraph explaining why the two statements aren’t contradictory, but I’m afraid it’d be waste of everybody’s time reading it.

          It is a clear trait of the nationalist movement that debate is conducted in Catalan, and conducted largely in their own circles. To a certain extent that is true of all political movements, but I doubt you could argue convincingly that the fact many nationalists refuse to even speak Spanish in public debate, never mind recognise the fact it is an integral part of Catalan culture, alienates lrge numbers of Catalans.

          1. Thanks for trying to help, boy. Let’s just all not go there again, and you and me maybe wait until more arguments for independence come up.

            primo has has stated two: a) his country should not be “politically subordinated” to another one, and b) this other country, Spain, has a bad reputation internationally. You have replied well to the second point.

            Maybe no further arguments in favour of the independence of Catalonia will be brought foreward. Then we could move on to the next question, there are still 24 of them to go.

          2. Go out. Try to socialise a little bit. You’ll realise the portrait you’re trying to paint is all but a load of bollocks. I met a girl some time ago. She speaks Spanish all the time and makes fun of my accent when I speak Spanish. She has a Catalan flag sticker on her helmet and says she voted for Laporta. This is just an example of the hundreds I could mention. The debate conducted in their own circles? More bollocks. There is this thing called the Internet with message boards full of rows between Catalan nationalists and Spanish nationalists. We know each other’s arguments in and out. The nationalist Spanish media from Madrid has splendid audience figures in Catalonia, which can’t be explained alone by the presence of a minority of Spanish nationalists. As for the allegations that “many nationalists” refuse to “even” speak Spanish in public, I don’t know what to say. I suppose when someone feels uncomfortable speaking Spanish they are evil nationalists who refuse to speak Spanish. When someone feels uncomfortable speaking Catalan however everything is hunk-dory and no questions asked. Enough said.

          3. Primo, it’s true that nothing in this life is black and white, which is why we generalise and use terms like “largely”. The fact you know a girl who speaks Spanish all the time and supports independence does not change the fact that the political independence movement (as oposed to everybody who votes for them) doesn’t use Spanish very much at all. This is not, as you know, just a case of them being more comfortable in Catalan: Montilla is evidently more comfortable in Spanish, but he makes the effort to speak Catalan in order to appeal to the section of the community that view it as their language.

            It’s also true that they argue that Catalan should be used as the first (and sometimes only) language in Catalonia, and seem to view Spanish like it were a fart that had crept under the door. A temporary and unpleasant invasion that will hopefully disappear before too long.

            That ideological attitude, although not shared by your scooter-riding nymphette, is widely held amongst the political proponents of independence and is, ironically, the main obstacle to independence.

          4. I think the main obstacle to independence is that it fails to get a majority of citizens on board. I don’t think that this will change any time soon, and the latest elections may serve as an indicator. Never before was an issue so hotly debated and received such a push from the media, to then play such a minor role in the elections that followed immediately afterwards.

            In some circles it’s cool to be independentist, but not enough people share the feeling that independence is the way to go to solve the problems. And I don’t think this will change with Mas.

            I understand you, boy, in the way that if indepedentism wold make itself attractive to the Spanish speakers it would open up for that majority. But it would have to give up core beliefs and take up an entirely new rhetoric. In part this is being tried with the money argument, but that one just doesn’t stick, and in the next four years we will see it disappear.

          5. Sue: there is nothing wrong with making generalisations, provided you infer them from a sufficiently large sample that is representative of the population. Unfortunately, this is not what you do.

            Saying that the proponents of independence think this or that is purely and simply a straw man argument. As I said before, I haven’t got the slightest interest in this kind of “debate”. You may tell me what you think, but please don’t tell me what others think, because this is as fallacious as it gets.

          6. Primo, if my analysis that the Catalan independence movement deliberately doesn’t use Spanish is based on an insufficient sample, perhaps you could direct me to the Spanish language version of the websites of the ERC, SCI or even CiU.

            Perhaps Marca have them archived…

          7. I think you are right Candide, the advocates of Catalan nationalism have bet everything on the language and nothing on the nation. They can’t bring themselves to make the kind of accomodation with Spanish speakers tht Plaid Cymru are bending over backwards to try and do with English speakers.

            The idea of “ny, good, ñ, bad” is now too deeply rooted.

          8. 1. The two statements are in no way contradictory. The first statement demonstrates Primo’s ignorance as to what Candide is doing posting so much when he has made no attempt to provide an answer to “why exactly should Catalonia be independent?” The second is a perfectly coherent defense. What you are doing here, I don’t know does not = you have no right to comment. Or did I learn english incorrectly?

            2. What is Candide doing here? It seems to me that he is trying to “internationalise the issue” and moderate the “debate” before it has even begun. Does it bother me as much as it does Primo? No.

            That being said, I was, let’s say, missinterpreted, for lack of a better word, on the original thread and I’d hate for the same to happen to Primo, because it could potentially take the focus away from his answer to the question which as Candide has pointed out below is that a) Catalonia should not be politically subordinated to any other country and b) this other country, Spain, has a bad reputation internationally.

            As to the rest of you comment, I’m going to allow myself the luxury to reply breifly by quoting someone because I don’t have the time to spend writting the equivalent of a doctorate thesis on a blog most likely won’t get as “internationalised” as some might like, not that I don’t wish it such honour. Furthermore, I’ve also decided not to translate the quote into english. It’s not so much because of a time constraint as much it would take away from the point I’m trying to make, and rest assured that my intention is not to provoque -although I could see how one might think it were- but that if it pisses you off, the truth is that frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

            Tot allò que es considera normal i natural en les
            altres cultures, nosaltres ho hem de conquerir.

          9. Nin, I do not remember anybody getting itchy here about the use of Catalan, Spanish, French, German or any language other than English on this blog.

            Maybe you would like to explain your last sentence. Is it the expression of a feeling or the result of an analysis? I especially wonder because of the use of the introductory, all-encompassing “tot allò” and because it is written in present tense.

    2. I would disagree about Spain’s international reputation, Spain is viewed affectionately by the rest of Europe, and many people consider the Spanish to enjoy a high quality of life (as opposed to a high standard of living).

      I agree that if Catalonia voted for independence they would have the right to become so, but the only just independence would guarantee the linguistic rights of the Spanish speaking majority at a much higher level than exists now. The right to educate their children in their own language is a basic human right which is denied them, and equality legislation should either demand the presence of both languages in signage or neither.

      1. I disagree that this is a human right per se under the present conditions. It is, however, a constitutional one, and one that would have to survive in an independent Catalonia if you determine Spanish speaking people as an autochtonous minority, or even as several minorities (not Spanish, but Extremaduran, Andalusian, Castilian etc.). Then it could be defined as a human right.

        It’s a really tricky question. Yey I think that it is trickier now than in the event of Catalonia being independent, because then the simple declaration of any group of Spanish speakers as autochtonous minority could lead very speedily to their recognition and the recognition of their rights.

        We are digressing, but it’s hard not to.

  3. boynamedsue says:
    “Primo, if my analysis that the Catalan independence movement deliberately doesn’t use Spanish is based on an insufficient sample, perhaps you could direct me to the Spanish language version of the websites of the ERC, SCI or even CiU.”

    Let me see if understand what you’re saying. . . you say that the independence movement is predominantly composed of people who use Catalan as their primary language? This is your analysis? Well, then it’s correct, yes. Still, it’s a strange choice of words, defining something people do in terms of what they don’t do. They deliberately don’t use Spanish, in the same way that Spanish speakers deliberately don’t use Catalan, and in the same way the French deliberately don’t use Berber. It seems to me that you were trying to imply something here but were afraid of saying it openly because you know you can’t prove it and it’s bullshit. Speak freely man, don’t keep your prejudices to yourself.

    1. “Bollocks”, “bullshit”, what a level. C’est dégueulasse.

      I side with *da boy*: when talking politics in general and nation building in particular, the use of both official languages, or of any strong minority language, is recommended. The absence of Spanish is based on the attitude that it is an “imposed language” and that Spain is “the occupator”, without paying due regard to the persons who, although they speak Spanish as mother tongue, are Catalans by law, and who, even though they respect Catalan, are being alienated.

      This is everyday experience, it’s empiric evidence before which you can only claudicate and cease your attempt to degrade da boy’s apportations or follow up on your repeated threat to not talk with him about this issue.

      “Bullshit” is certainly no key-word that will gain you any credibility, nor will the comparison of Spanish (in Spain) to Berber (in France). That said, even in countries where there is a foreign language spoken by a large number of out-of-country immigrants, like in the US with the use of Spanish or even Creole, politicians do well in selling their policy in those languages instead of sticking to an English-only approach.

      This is how politics works, except in Catalonia, which seems to be a place where everything has to be reinvented, and if anything is learned from abroad it only is being accepted under the condition that it serve the local tribal mindset.

      Not catering to the needs and idiosyncracies of a large part of the population (actually the bigger part here) is not disgusting, mais c’est stupide.

    2. Primo your pissing into the wind and getting yourself soaked in the process. You are not constructing anything near a coherent argument here.

      I stated that that the Catalan Independence Movement largely uses Catalan and refuses to use Spanish, (in clear contrast with their opponents who use both), you denied this, citing some bird with a scooter as your source and accused me of offering unsubstantiated arguments. I then pointed out that Catalanist parties don’t even have Spanish websites, clearly signposting their distaste for Spanish in Catalonia. And you answered with …. well is there any content in that post?

      In a bilingual society, addressing your arguments to the public in only one language is a clear rejection of the second, and by association its speakers. You won’t get independence that way.

      That’s what I’m saying, I’ve said it clear and backed it up with evidence, which you haven’t. What is it you believe me to be implying?

      1. Damn, we’re actually giving them hints on how to improve their strategy, which if anything will only translate into lip-service, but bad enough already.

        This is one of those moments when I wonder if I should not better shut up.

        But then, they’re unable to accept any criticism, and self-criticism simply does not translate into Catalan (if I may paraphrase Laputa).

      2. You’re right that I’m not constructing a coherent argument. And you’re right that I’m accusing you of offering unsubstantiated arguments. These are about the only things that you got right, by the way.
        Let’s see. . . the bird thing. Yes I mentioned a bird. It was the first person who came to mind. As I said I could mention a hundred other examples that contradict your Disney-esque depiction of what you call the independist movement. Yes, I could go on talking about my acquaintances and their attitudes towards languages and politics and I could write an essay on sociolinguistics and the relation of language and national identity. This would be constructing a coherent argument, but why would I do that? You can’t expect that I do all this work only to disprove every silly thing you say. Ok? Then you come up with these websites from the political establishment and you think they represent who knows what. Are you serious? Nobody absolutely nobody in their right mind would try to make a point about the average PP voter based on just looking at Sanchez-Camacho and the PP top brass or their website for that matter. This is ridiculous. Same about ERC voters and voters of other parties. I don’t accept either that not doing or not using something is the same thing as rejecting it, finding it distasteful or wanting to get rid of it. These are deductions you make based on no evidence at all. To summarise, I reject your argument as bogus, libellous, preposterous and unsubstantiated. I agree with the fact that political parties that lean towards Catalan nationalism do use mainly Catalan and that this could alienate Spanish-speakers that would otherwise be sympathetic to independence cause. This is hardly a new idea, I’ve been hearing it since the 1990’s, which is when I started paying attention.

        1. (Note: This was *not* about the use of language of the single voter and/or citizen. It was about the use of language in politics.)

          primo said: “I agree with the fact that political parties that lean towards Catalan nationalism do use mainly Catalan and that this could alienate Spanish-speakers that would otherwise be sympathetic to independence cause.”

          primo has accepted the point made by boynamedsue. We have an understanding.

        2. Primo, at no point have I argued that every single supporter of independence uses exclusively Catalan, indeed I explicitly stated this in the post after you brought up Vespa-girl. I have argued, that the CATALAN INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT rarely, if ever, uses Spanish.

          If you can contradict this with evidence, do it, if not, stop kicking lumps out of straw men.

          1. Boy, calm down. He’s explicitly accepted your point (even if with the usual degree of noise). I understand why you are annoyed, but let’s move on.

            There are so many more points to be made.

  4. For now, the outcome of the debate on this point is a bit meager, especially given how much we like to fight over the issue of independence.

    One thing has been agreed upon on both sides of the “aisle”, it is that Spanish is not being used by the independentist movement and that this is potentially damaging to this movement. Thanks to primo we even have received the insight that this is an old problem, which means it is all the more severe than *da boy* might have thought when he brought it up.

    primo’s point that Catalonia should be independent because it “should not be politically subordinated to any other country” (as Nin put it, who seems to agree) has so far remained the only unchallenged reason for the independence of Catalonia of only two that have been brought up in this entire thread. And it does smack a bit of circular logic.

    Well, that’s what I call meager. If this is an indication that we can have a rest from the eternal identity debate, and can spend the next years attending what I call the real problems, then that’s quite fine.

    Do we see here a result of CiU winning the elections? I wonder.

  5. Hey boynamedsue, the Supreme Court has read you before the independentists could even catch their breath. (Your argument about) the use of Spanish language in Catalonia is from now on going to be the central point of the debate on independence, even if some will not dare to admit it.

    Bon nadal, and an interesting new year.

  6. I’d like to compare the situation in Ireland in the 19th century, where there was a growing Home Rule (=autonomous self-government) movement that, when finally frustrated, erupted into a full revolt in favour of independence beginning in 1916.

    It’s difficult to get hold of original sources, because to access the archives of important journals, you have to pay a subscription, and I lack cash to do so.

    However, in this New York Times archive piece from 1886, we get a taste of what the opposition to Irish autonomy was based on:

    It refers to “the orthodox Tory view of an Irishman as a being incapable of self-government. In the first place because he is an Irishman, and in the second place because he is a Roman Catholic. The theory has this much of fact behind it that the Irishman has proved particularly intractable, not when he has been allowed to govern himself – which has never happened to him – but when he was subjected to a foreign government.”

    OK, what’s my point? My point is that opposition to limited Irish self-government, and punitive restrictions on what few political freedoms already existed, were motivated entirely by prejudice.

    This kind of prejudice I believe is what motivated the Constitutional Court to overturn the symbolic definition of Catalan nation in the preamble – the preamble, which has no binding clauses, for God’s sake – to the 2006 Catalan Statute.

    On Monday last, 11 April 2011, on the Cuní programme “Els Matins de TV3”, after the 10A referendum, Miquel Roca, one of the seven “Founding Fathers” of the Spanish constitution, and no separatist, attacked the Constitutional Court.

    Paraphrasing him, he said that the CC had the obligation, if it rejected the terms of the Catalan Statute, to make a legal argument why these terms were inadmissable. But the fact that they didn’t even bother to back up their judgement with any kind of legal argument signalled their extreme contempt for Catalunya. He said that the CC was creating independentist support by being so casually contemptuous of Catalan aspirations, and I can confirm that this is certainly true in my case.

    On Wednesday on the same show, an Irish guy like me resident in BCN expressed an argument in word-perfect Catalan which I would subscribe to fully, based mostly on the sense of frustration at the lack of recognition from Spanish authorities (government and judiciary) of the right to improved self-government:

    (The phone-in bit starts at 12.55 minutes on this clip)

    To which I would say that the sense of being, not politically oppressed by secret police and detainment camps, but oppr€$$€d by fiscal policies which punish Catalan society to the tune of more than €20bn per year, just adds to the sense of injustice.

    These seem like negative reasons, sure, but the flip-side of these negatives is a positive hope for the future: a properly constituted Catalan Republic will have an independent judiciary, will control its own fiscal income, and will offer free and equal rights to both Catalan- and Spanish-speakers.

    For the sake of our future, I see it as the only way to make any kind of progress away from the Reino Bananero which Spain has sadly become, The “Caso Gürtel” being a disgusting example of corruption in the judiciary at the very highest level.

    A side-benefit to Spain itself would be that a Catalan independence challenge would force it to modify its own constitution and in the process, offering hope that it can make progress towards a truly democratic state, validated by a new referendum on constitutional amendments to guarantee transparent justice, finance and institutions.

    Personal note: I’m not just active in Catalanist movements like the new MxI/ANC, but also in Spanish social movements like Democracia Real YA, Elecciones Justas 2012, No Les Votes, AVAAZ, and Anontymous España. Anything that can bring us towards a real democracy is valid in my view. And I’m not a “cultural Catalanist” or exclusivist by any means, I speak Spanish by preference though I’m very happy to converse in my poor Catalan.

    I just think Catalan independence is the most realistic and feasible option, at least for us here – no matter how much pressure builds within Spain for democracy and reform, nothing will ever happen because nothing ever has since 1979.

    Leaving Spain would be good for Catalonia and good for Spain, maybe even more so for Spain, by forcing it to mature and realise the hopes we had for it back in the 80s and 90s, before we realised the stagnation had set in for good.

    1. Thanks for those links, Murph. Only one brief and quick remark:

      What Roca criticises is not the absence of any reasoning in the sentence as a whole, but that the CC did not dedicate time and space to justify it’s verdict in the face of a foregoing referendum. Even if that referendum was not reflecting the will of the sovereign, all the people of Spain, it did however reflect the will of a significant part (qualitatively and quantitatively) of the people, and I agree that such a thing demands to be dealt with with the utmost institutional respect.

      (I am yet to re-read the sentence, which I have downloaded again.)

      Non-jurist that I am, I have read the argumentation Roca finds amiss referring to cases of the anglo-saxon tradition. Central European tradition is less about the courts making the law but rather about implementing it, but we deal with such a highly sensitive issue that Roca has got my attention.

      I think we should read before continuing on this matter.

    2. I’ve started reading the sentence and already in the first 50 of its 881 pages it does discuss the concepts of sovereignty, historical and/or inalienable rights and the will of the people along the allegations, as is due, of the Generalitat.

      Roca has also claimed that the verdict was politically motivated. He does not reason this point more than refer somehow to his intrinsic knowledge of what goes on in those circles. I can accept this point. Actually, if Roca shows a will to learn from Anglo-Saxon tradition, he indeed invites to politicise lawmaking. Along the same line is his insistence on the spirit of the law vs its letter. You only have to watch Boston Legal to get an idea how spirit vs letter can play out in the US.

      Apart from all the differences, that conflict is also present in Central European tradition. Now, what Roca cannot do is to both criticise politicisation and demand it. To me that looks hypocritical: your politicisation is bad, mine is good.

      Roca has been on the point of spirit vs letter in many of his public writings over the past year or so. What he does not say in the interview, and neither have I read it from him before, is that the CC’s ruling was in any way illegal or illegitimate. I think to remember that he has indeed criticised the drawn-out process and the fact that some judges had “overstayed their mandate”, but while these facts are indeed deplorable, even Roca does not conclude from them that the ruling of the CC itself was in any way legally affected.

      Or in other words, could the CC’s ruling be attacked from this point, the Generalitat would most certainly have used all legal means against it.

      So what we’re faced with is a ruling that takes into consideration the political situation but is not legally flawed. It is uncomfortable to some, but perfectly understandable taking into consideration both the mandate of the court and the legal and political situation it had to work in.

      I do find Roca’s point of view inspiring. He is right that the whole has to listen to its parts. But the parts also have to listen to the whole, and in any case that is now pure politics.

      And as he observes, there is no brains, no leader and no concept in Spanish politics. Neither are they there, if I may add, in Catalan politics.

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