Friday, October 6, 2017

Why I Lack Sympathy For The Catalan/Catalunyan Independence Movement

Because like the neo-fascist Lombard League of northern Italy, they are a rich region of a nation that does not want their money going to the poorer regions of that nation.  That is it. Sorry, this is not about language suppression or  anything else.  Catalalunya/Catalonia achieved autonomy on education, health, and local law enforcement a long time ago.  The only thing they lack is all that money they are sending to the rest of Spain.

Yes, they will probably get to keep their money in the future.  I thought it was conservative Spanish  PM, Mariano Rajoy of the PP, who stupidly ordered national police to attempt to break up the independence referendum, who engaged in violence of shooting rubber bullets, clubbing people with billy clubs, and dragging people by their hair, leading to hundreds injured, although nobody dead.  This order that will probably lead to full Catalunyan independence was ordered by a Spanish national constitutional court judge who had ruled the referendum illegal.  If he really thought he was going to stop the vote, he is an idiot.  All he has done is guarantee that "reasonable people" will support the 90% outcome of the vote, with only a 42% turnout, given that opponents apparently boycotted it.  But like those who did not want Crimea annexed by Russia, boycotting a vote organized illegally by those who want a certain outcome, only plays into the hands of those who want that certain outcome.

The path to this has been a mess.  The referendum was voted for by the current Catalan parliament that has a 72-63 members split between those favoring independence and those opposing it.  Like the US, Catalonia/Catalunya favors rural voters in representation, and rural voters are more pro-independence than urban ones, largely in Barcelona.  A poll taken by the government as recently as July showed 48% opposed to independence with only 41% for it.  The pro group has at times beaten the anti group in polls, but in fact the pro group has never gotten above 50% in a poll, although they got 90% in this illegal referendum, which will be taken very seriously by world history, given that this stupid judge sent the national police in to beat people up.

The problem runs deeper.  While indeed the province has autonomy in education and language, many charge that the school system has been taken over by nationalists who are trying to eradicate the Spanish language. Still 60% of the provincial population speaks Spanish as their mother tongue.  This is a very close call, but the critics charge that the nationalists have been going out of their way to suppress their opponents in an undemocratic way.  I can dismiss the national Spanish courts and the EU supporting them, but in fact members of the current government quit in protest over the way the move to push this referendum was done in the Catalan  parliament itself was handled.  They may accuse their opponents of being remnant Franco Phalangist-fascists, but their own tactics resemble that ideology more than those of their critics, just as the Lombard League in Italy goes neo-fascist.

My own personal observations on this really involve a visit I made in 1973 to Barcelona.  I note I was taken to Spain (not Barcelona to my knowledge) in 1954 at Easter time by my parents when I was six and unaware of politics.  I remember getting upset when my sister and I were left in our car in some small town while my parents got something, and a crowd of people came and banged on our car begging for money.  I suggested to my father that we give them some, but he said that there were too many, and if we gave any to some, others would demand more than we had.  Later I saw penitents looking like KKK guys in Toledo.  We bought a figure looking like them and many decades later my grandson Charlie was frightened when young when shown this odd figure. Then in Granada, we saw people living in caves. Really.

Anyway, getting back to well-off Barcelona in 1973, Franco was in charge then, and indeed he totally suppressed  all languages other than Castellano Spanish and maintained a strongly centralized control.  Every sign was in Spanish in Barcelona, but I heard people speaking Catalan, which I figured out because the words they used were neither French nor Spanish, although more like French (and later I figured out more like Italian really).  They did so obviously when no authorities were around, and it was clearly an act of resistance against the dictatorship. I was sympathetic.

Since then they have achieved sufficient autonomy that their language is everywhere and now taught in schools.  Any claim by Catalunyan nationalists that their language is being suppressed is just a pile of horseshit, to use a technical  term.  I have seen now the opposite when visiting Barcelona: people being humiliated and rebuked for speaking Spanish in public.  This disgusts me just as much as the 1973 suppression of Catalan under Franco disgusted me.  I have no sympathy for  these rich and spoiled crypto-fascists with their arrogant public behavior toward anybody speaking Spanish openly, although I oppose any effort by anybody in the central government to engage in violence to suppress the obviously burgeoning and almost certain to succeed independence movement.

A final note is that my old friend Paul de Grauwe, one of the fathers of the euro, has posted (sorry, too lazy to link) comparing the Catalunyan independence movement to the Brexit movement, and implicitly to the Trump movement in the US.  Obviously there are differences, but the similarities are striking.  Among them are outright delusions, particularly for the Catalalunyans that once they are independent they will  be in the EU and have great economic outcomes.  Ooops, but no.  They will have one economic gain: not sending tax monies to the poorer regions of Spain.  Beyond this, they will lose. They will not be in the EU, and will not be let in soon and will not get those benefits, just like the UK, where lots of idiots voting for Brexit thought they were going to get their cake and eat it too, but are now gradually waking up to the fact that this will not happen.  They are going to pay and pay big time.  I shall not draw out in any detail the comparison with the US situation.

Anyway, I think this is tragic, and I think it is partly a response to the election of Trump in the US: irresponsible lying creeps feel free to override normal procedures and rules to seize power and push forward racist nationalist agendas all over the place.  This one is less likely to end up in outright war and people dying, aside from the several hundred injured in this referendum vote, but I fear that there will be nothing at all good  coming from this, nothing, and quite a bit bad, both for those in Catalunya/Catalonia, as well as the rest of Spain, and possibly in the rest of Europe and the world.

Barkley Rosser


Pseudonymous Tontullian said...

Man, your arguments look as the only contacts you have in spain at all are in Madrid or something. This is a popular revolution against a corrupt oligarchy in Madrid. The language/regional thing just happens to bring enough emotional fuel for this revolution not to fade away (which is what happened to the 15M movement all over the rest of Spain)

Reprganizing administrations should not be such a big deal. This mess is due to spanish nationalism being unable to accept diversity. What you said about the catalan education system trying to "eradicate" spanish betrays utter ignorance of reality. Just with that sentence one can tell how deeply disinformed this post is.

I always read this blog and this post was very disappointing

Erec said...

I agree with Pseudonumous Tontullian, I'm very disappointd at this post, and I follow the blog too. As a non Catalan that has lived in Catalonia for a bit, I spoke mostly Spanish and was never humilliated nor saw that happening to anyone speaking Spanish. Ever. What you wrote are simply put, lies. Independentists have their own Spanish speaking organization (Súmate) and their MP in the Spanish Congress, is, as he likes to stress, the son of migrants from other parts of Spain and a Spanish speaker.
Do you want to see people humilliated for speaking their native language? Come to Valencia, where when cops stop you, they usually demand that you "speak Spanish" (because, unlike Catalonia, cops here are not required to speak both the regional language and Spanish, so most of them are not flueny in the regional language).
I dare you find a news piece where anyone in Catalonia has been humilliated by cops for speaking Spanish. I'm not defending cops in Catalonia, but people do NOT experience that there, unlike in Valencia. A small example, where someone is demanded to speak Spanish, has his name translated from Valencian into Spanish and told that "I'm saying your name the way the fuck I want" by a cop:

Peter said...

Center left political parties are failing across the advanced world because of their neoliberal turn. People are looking for solutions and some are seeing them in nationalist revolts. Brexit, Trump, and a far right populist party just won representation in parliament in Germany. The European debt crisis and policies of austerity were very hard on Spain. No wonder nationalist tendencies were inflamed. said...

I confess that I was in a bad mood when I wrote the post, but where I overstated things were in my labeling as neo-fascist the current separatists. I pretty much hold to what I said about the educational system and most other matters, more on that below. But I did overdo it on the neo-fascist label. They are at least nominally center left, and they have been the victims of central government violence, not the perpetrators of it.

That said, one does sometimes hear the nationalists when they are complaining about all those people taking their money in the poorer parts of Spain, these well-off northerners will sometimes get into labeling the southerners as "Africans," in this regard indeed resembling the folks in the Lombard League in Italy in their complaints about those poor people in the Mezzogiorno.


PT: Sorry, but you are way off. I have spent much more time in Barcelona than in Madrid, and that is where most of my connections are and Barcelona and Catalunya have long had my sympathy. But there has been a long slow trend to the current unfortunate situation.

Your claim that this is about "Spanish nationalism being unable to accept diversity" is just a pile of crap, to be technical. That was true 40 years ago when Franco was in, but that has long not been the case. Indeed, the shoe is on the other foot, and the question now is indeed Catalans not liking diversity.

Regarding the educational system, see . This is by a professor at UAB in Barcelona, not Madrid. Bottom line is that no Spanish is taught in pre-schools and only two hours in primary and three in secondary schools. No, Spanish is not gone, but you have kids whose mother tongue is Spanish being taught in Catalan when they first get to school. This is against all educational standards.


Well, I cannot dispute your own experiences, but it really is not acceptable for you to claim that I am speaking lies. You have your experiences, I have had mine. No, the humiliation was not by police, it was by regular Barcelonan Catalans humiliating others. I saw it with my own eyes, so sorry if you do not believe. But I was appalled.

As for Valencia, I haven not spent much time there, but I noted that there are signs in three languages in parts of it, Castellano, Catalunyan, and Valencian. If police there are going around insulting people who speak Valencian or Catalan, I disapprove of that, but that is not happening in Catalunya, just the opposite, although not by police.

Again, police violence against peaceful Catalans voting, even if illegally, was wrong and will probably guarantee Catalan independence. But it may end up being a mess. Businesses are already starting to pull out. Barcelona could end up like Montreal, which was the largest city in Canada 40 years ago, but has fallen far behind Toronto since the Quebecois insisted on imposing strong primacy of French language there.

Pseudonymous Tontullian said...

Everyone in Catalonia's education system ends up with a correct level of both Catalan and Spanish language. This system has been in place for 30 years and is working just fine. People complaining about positive discrimination being given to the catalan language are disingenuous, as outside of the school system predominance of spanish on tv, movies, newspapers, radio stations is overwhelming. You will not find a single catalan who doesnt understand spanish, and you will find many catalans who dont understand or speak catalan: those born in spanish speaking families who grew up with franco. The current education system guarantees new generations can function indistictively in both languages, which is not true for older ones. Go to any cafe in bcn and you will hear people switching languages without notice all the time. Isn't that cohesion? said...

The system "is working just fine," but somehow "People are complaining about positive discrimination..." So, sure, they are to be ignored, which is sort of why when several hundred thousand people showed up in the streets of Barcelona over the weekend without getting much reporting and complained about being afraid to speak out of their views because of domination by the pro-independence people of business and other institutions, well, just a bunch of "disingenous" whiners for sure.

Darned right, P.T., you sure have put all those darned whiners in their place. Congratulations.

Basil Pesto said...

"People complaining about positive discrimination being given to the catalan language are disingenuous, as outside of the school system predominance of spanish on tv, movies, newspapers, radio stations is overwhelming."

Now who's being disingenuous. There's a difference between learning a language in a school, in a pedagogical context, and learning it via television and other media. said...

Indeed, and the effort to more vigorously impose Catalan so that people in Catalunya do not have to send their hard earned euros to poor "Africans" in southern Spain will make the place a backwater, just as the effort to impose French in Quebec turned Montreal into a backwater.

Antoni Jaume said...

Basil Pesto wrote

"There's a difference between learning a language in a school, in a pedagogical context, and learning it via television and other media."

Yes people study a language at school for years and are unable to use it in everyday life. On the other side when they use it in over 80 % of communications they learn it.

Antoni Jaume said...

"[...] will make the place a backwater, just as the effort to impose French in Quebec turned Montreal into a backwater"

Oh, Montreal a backwater? I'd like to be in such a backwater, if it was not so cold.

Antoni Jaume said...

" several hundred thousand people showed up in the streets of Barcelona"

There are some 2 million people from other Spanish regions in Catalonia.

Barkley Rosser said...

Oh, Antoni, are you really going to argue that the people showing up in the pro-unity demos are all outsiders from Catalunya? You are coming on like Donald Trump or some fevered racist Brexiteer.

I like Montreal, but compared to Toronto it has become a backwater, when it used to be the other way around. Immigrants go to Toronto because they do not want their children being taught in French.

As for those of you somehow thinking that the language issue is one for Catalan independence, it is not remotely. Catalunya already has autnonomy over education (and many other things), so that it already has the right to shove the Catalan language down the throats of small children whose mother tongue is some form of Spanisth. The do not need independence to do that, or even to go change signs from being dual language to just being in Catalan.

What they get, which none of you have responded to, is keeping their hard-earned money from being sent to lazy "Africans" in poorer parts of Spain, gosh darn it. You all need to deal with this hard reality, because this is basically it, nothing else. Oh yes, they will no longer have a national defense, but maybe they can get Russia to provide it against all those former allies in NATO, to which they will not belong along with not belonging to the EU or getting recognized by any other nations, aside from maybe Russia. I am sure the Russians would love to have a naval base in Barcelona.

A lot of those voting for independence seem to be as poorly informed as a lot of people voting for Trump or voting for Brexit. We have people from poor towns with no immigrants who want to keep immigrants out and who think in the case of Trump that he is going to revive the coal industry (sorry, no way coal will beat natural gas in the market now that we have fracking, which Trump is not going to stop), and you have also all those anti-immigrant Brexiteers from places with few immigrants who bought the bill of goods that UK was going to get lots of money for the National Health Service from exiting EU, when exactly the opposite will be the case.

So, I read about pro-independence people in Catalunya who are under the delusion that they will be in the EU and that lots of other nations will recognize their independence. Fools, and this is part of why the Catalan government is holding back from outright declaring independence as they face the unpleasant consequences of this dumb referendum they jammed through the parliament to foist on their region.

Again, of course, whoever it was (supposedly a constitutional court judge) who sent troops in to mess with the referendum was/ idiot(s), only adding to the case for independence while utterly failing to block the referendum. Such police violence is not to be accepted or tolerated, although apparently many people in the rest of Spain and even some in Catalunya approve of it.

Pseudonymous Tontullian said...

Well, all catalan children DO learn spanish in school. Of course they do. Only catalan is given more presence overall, as a positive discrimination. And their grades in spanish are on par with the rest of spanish regions. The amount of disinformation coming from the pro-Madrid-oligarchy side is astounding.

Pseudonymous Tontullian said...

I see you take this subject quite emotionally. Can we agree a legal referendum something like 6 year ago would have settled the matter? Two million people have been demonstrating for 6 straight years for a referendum and they have been ignored by the oligarchs in Madrid. 70 to 80% of the catalan population would like to settle this issue in a referendum. Is it that hard to be a democracy?

Barkley Rosser said...


I have made this point numerous times, but I shall repeat it again, since it is clear that you are unwilling to fact it or admit it. The Catalans do not need independence to do whatever they want regarding language policy. They already have that right, and if you think what they are doing is great, well, please explain why they need independence to continue doing what they are supposedly doing so well. They do not.

There is one and only one reason they want independence, aside from vague paranois like you express. That is money. They do not want theirs going to poorer Spaniards. I suggest that if you wish to comment further on this, answer that point, please, otherwise you look like a hypocritical raving nationalist.

As it is, I fundamentally do not care, but I become disgusted when I see lies and hypocrisy, and that is what I currently see going on among Catalan nationalists, lies and hypocrisy, and you are a screaming blatant example of it, PT.