Sadly, the self-determination of a people is not often decided via democracy. Sure, there are exceptions but for every Norway-Sweden, Serbia-Montenegro, or Czech Republic-Slovakia break up decided by vote, there’s a Former Yugoslavia, Sudan, Israel, and I don’t know how many other independence or state-forming movements that were the result of outright war, not a referendum.
And here we arrive to Catalunya and Spain in the final week before the Catalans continue to push and hold their official referendum on the independence of Catalunya. To date, I’ve tried to stay out of it as much as possible. For starters I’m neither Spanish nor Catalan by birth and I’m merely a resident here so I can’t vote. These leaves me largely on the sidelines which to some extent is less stressful but at the same time not as I can’t really do nor say all that much, especially given how hard Spain is coming down on Catalunya at the moment. This is not a a moment to be a free-speech flaunting American, although I question how possible that is in the US at the moment as well.
There are some general observations to look at heading into this week. The first and most important is that this issue of Catalan Independence is nothing new and has been going on for at least 300 years following the end of the War of Succession where Catalunya (as well as the UK) came out on the losing side although somehow the UK ended up with Gibraltar. The second most important issue is in how absolutely poorly Prime Minister Rajoy has handled this whole situation.
A more able leader would have done any number of things such as give the Catalans the same tax deal as the Basques and thus take the entire economic aspect out of the question. But the problem is that the Partido Popular and Mariano Rajoy are under investigation for corruption in a very long-running trial and thus, distracted. PP is also in a coalition with Ciudadanos and have formed a minority government which is essentially impotent as they can’t pass any real legislation given that it can simply be voted down by a casual coalition of opposition parties.
It’s not like this is a real issue as Rajoy has been largely ineffectual during his tenure as Prime Minister. He’s like a janitor that was found cleaning the CEO’s office one day and has been mistaken for a leader ever since. From what I understand, he was very effective as an underling in the party but in a leadership role, he has floundered and the entire Catalan Independence issue is proof of this and it may very well prove his undoing although the man has shown to have the survival ability of a cockroach.
Anyone who has been following the polls on the topic might think he should have just let the referendum happen and in another country like say the UK, he would have been right to do so. Despite Spanish polls being extremely unreliable, they generally show that the vote would be a No and that would have settled the issue. The only problem in this is that it wouldn’t have solved the problem in the Basque Country as they would have demanded their own referendum and it probably would be a Yes vote.
So there was no way to let the vote proceed without additional state problems and it’s far too late to offer any olive branches. So what does Mr. Rajoy do? Pretty much what anyone who forgot their homework assignment does in class which is to pull the fire alarm and make everything go batshit.
Rajoy might think that cracking down on printing ballots, attempting to destroy campaign posters, arresting officials, taking over the Catalan police, and the latest, parking several cruise ships in the Catalan ports to house 5,000 national Spanish police is going to stop the vote. But the reality is that he’s already lost. While the Catalans don’t have world leaders on their side as the general attitude to any question of self-determination these days is “Blah blah blah, I can’t hear you with my fingers in my ears.” they have managed to attract attention of various internet rebels and with what is now the occupation of Catalunya by Spain, even international news is starting to side with the Catalans as this is very reminiscent of the Franco days. It shouldn’t come as a surprise given that PP is the party formed of the Fascists left over from Franco’s regime.
It’s my opinion that the Catalans are fully welcoming the most heavy of crackdowns possible. They want photos of Guardia Civil drawing weapons on civilians to seize ballot boxes. They essentially want a Spanish Shit Show which it appears Spain is fully planning to given them. I won’t be surprised if I don’t have internet or phone by the end of the week and martial law is declared end of day, September 30th.
Why would the Catalans welcome something such as this? The politicians in Spain’s richest region aren’t stupid and they’ve been managing to hang on to and dominate the Catalan Parliament with the promise of a referendum which Spain has continually thwarted. My guess is that how things are shaping up in terms of the Spaniards doing everything they can to stop this vote, it will give the Catalans what they see as free reign to unilaterally declare independence from October 2nd onward.
They’ve been planning all of this for some time and already have all the organs of a state, including a constitution pretty much ready to go from what I’ve heard and seen. The reasoning behind this would be along the lines of: Spain has ignored us, Spain has been continually eroding away at rights that were guaranteed in the 1978 Constitution, and finally, Spain has blocked a binding referendum or at least hampered it from occurring in a free and clear manner so much that it opens the door for this declaration of independence. At least, this is what someone would suspect they’re thinking because if not, they’ve really backed themselves into a corner with nowhere to turn.
Where it goes from there, I have no idea as the Catalan police, the Mossos have already stated that they will not yield to the Spanish authorities and thus we potentially come back to the original theme that most of the independent nations in the world today have won it by at minimum massive civil disobedience if not all-out war. About all I can do is wait and see.