Richard de Boer on Tue, 31 Oct 2017 09:57:57 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Less Orwell & flag waving romance, more listening needed to understand Catalonia independence

Hi nettimers,

What is obscured by the flight of Puigdemont to Brussels, is that Catalan coalition parties PDeCat and ERC (together: JxSi), and even the anti-capitalist CUP, announced they will participate in the Catalan elections that have been called by Madrid on December 21. A schizophrenic situation since the same parties have backed the proclamation of independence in Catalan parliament last Friday. So is there a Catalan Republic or not? 

In that light, I found the reflections by Barcelona citizen Oscar Reyes straightforward and instructive. Copy/pasted below.

Cheers from the Frisian north,


Oscar Reyes [1]
October 28 at 10:29am

Too many hot takes on Catalan “independence” already, so apologies for another but I can’t help it as I’m seeing a whole lot of celebratory/ “support the Republic” postings from international leftie friends. The tone of that feels really off from where I'm sitting (a part of Barcelona where the level of fireworks celebrating independence was less than what you’d hear when Barca score against Real Madrid). 

“Ni DUI ni 155” means neither a unilateral “independence” declaration nor article 155 of the Spanish constitution. “Not in my name”, as Ada Colau (Mayor of Barcelona) wrote.

The case against direct rule from Madrid is fairly obvious, I think. It’s massively undemocratic, and it means Catalonia will for now be ruled by the PP (governing right-wing party), which got just 8.5% of the vote here in the last elections. The Spanish Senate, whose second string politicians woke up for once to actually pass this direct rule vote, was able to find just 1 Catalan senator to vote in favour of the motion.

The DUI is a disaster too. It really seems like a premature ejaculation by over-eager politicians who haven't yet built a broad social consensus for independence (judged by either successive polls, or the last regional elections). The DUI will lead to inevitable disappointment and, moreover, seems to pass up the opportunity (which would require years of careful political work) to build a broader "democratic" front against the Spanish state, which isn't short on giving away political opportunities for that to occur. It looks to me like a disastrous miscalculation on the part of politicians trapped by their own rhetoric: the electoral platform of JxSi promised an independence it couldn't yet deliver, and was particularly delusional on the role of the EU. I think the CUP’s utopia that a socialist-feminist Catalan republic could be built by allying itself with the centre-right was also a bit fanciful, to be honest… 

What will actually happen now, alongside a whole lot of repression, will be direct rule (in the short term), which will try to dismantle aspects of Catalan institutions, followed by elections on 21 December. There’ll be a lot of state repression that needs to be resisted, and they’ll likely take a bunch more political prisoners (a process that already started). 

It's not clear yet who will stand (or even be allowed to stand) in the December elections, but the agenda from Spain’s right wing parties (PP and Cs) looks like it always looks: cuts and privatization. What they don’t achieve through direct rule they’ll hope to achieve via some kind of pro-Spanish Bantu sham government. Encouraging big banks (and other large companies) to re-register their headquarters outside Catalonia will be used to justify cuts: the Spanish government will use these “moves” to claim Catalonia is less productive, thereby squeezing revenues that go to the Generalitat. Call it what you will: austerity, shock doctrine or simply a punishment beating. But please consider that before you start cheering. 

Please also consider what’s at stake: the Generalitat (Catalan gov't) that was just taken over by Madrid controls a €24 billion budget (including €4.8 bn education, €8.8 bn health). 

Cuts and endless repression aren’t the only possible outcome. It’s just about possible to imagine positive scenarios, if you wear glasses that have a sufficiently rosy tint. Maybe Catalunya en Comú stands for election, does well and absorbs a lot of support from pro-independence and pro-referendum (not the same thing) voters, just as En Comu Podem did in the last national elections. Maybe a stronger route will emerge for continuing the fight for self-determination in Catalonia, and a constituent process across Spain (all of which starts with bringing down the PP). According to the latest polling, there’s a clear majority of support for socially and economically progressive parties here in Catalonia, although whether that’ll find expression in any election called by Madrid (which would require a lot of tactical nose-holding) remains doubtful.

One final thought. As a shorthand, I'd say: put away the Orwell and the flag waving romances and try to watch what Ada Colau says, or Pablo Iglesias, or many more people on the Spanish and Catalan "plurinational" left who aren't celebrating right now but are lamenting a political disaster.

[1] Facebook post:

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