One of this week’s worldwide events has been #spanishrevolution. At first there were some people in Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona. At that point they were just a franchise of what was going on in Madrid. A few dozen people of Spanish origins, as for instance, the slogans they were using were in Spanish and not in Catalan as it would have been normal.
Then I wondered why was this tolerated while a proindependence camping attempt in front of the Catalan Parliament last month was instantly aborted by the Barcelona municipal police. And I don’t think the proximity of the elections was the only reason. It also shocked me how exaggerated the initial coverage given to this event which was tiny compared to other protests or social movements that have taken place in Catalonia. Like last year’s demonstration in Barcelona in July the 10th or the popular referendums for independence with a combined total of 900.000 votes that finished on April the 10th.
From a Spanish point of view this was the first popular protest in several generations. Hence the overhype from Spanish media. But from a Catalan perspective it seems clear that there are two types of protests. Firstly, the ones which don’t threaten the establishment, like this one and secondly, the ones that really scare it and are deactivated as soon as possible and if they can’t be are ignored no matter how big they grow.
How does this happen? On one hand we have the Spanish state, a well oiled structure that is very effective in dealing with threats without practically having to lift a finger shielding behind the status quo and a coating of pseudodemocracy and using the mainstream media machinery to protect its interests. Secondly, a Catalan establishment, that could have chosen to channel the social unrest into returning Catalonia its sovereignty but hasn’t out of cowardice and fear to lose control and their current privileged status quo to new players. They have instead effectively contributed to deactivate all the popular movements generated lately towards independence. And finally, that all this is still no excuse and Catalans should accept that part of the blame goes to ourselves for being incredibly good at not staying united to defend our interests.
Going back to Plaça Catalunya, after some days of crazy media coverage it got bigger, things started taking shape and the movement detached from the Spanish label to become the #catalanrevolution. Creating new manifestos that kept the claims for political regeneration but stating that Catalonia, like any other nation, has the right to self-determination and that we don’t recognize the current status quo or any claims of sovereignty of Spain or the Spanish Crown over Catalonia.
But then I kept thinking that something is deeply wrong. In my personal case I spent part of October and most of November of 2010 helping Reagrupament, a new political party, whose program precisely had these two main axis, political regeneration and independence. And we didn’t even manage to make it in the Catalan Parliament. The analysis of this defeat would include some points from the 4th paragraph of this article but in any case our inability to politically channel this popular demand is worrying.
In the meantime, the protest in Plaça de Catalunya is not a revolution and unlikely to take us to independence or political regeneration. But right now with 20% unemployment, political corruption and severe cuts to the welfare state, especially dramatic in Catalonia. Only made worse by knowing that without the Spanish fiscal plundering these adjustments would not be necessary. I keep wondering what needs to happen for Catalans to wake up. Still, you can count me in for the democratic revolution whenever Catalans are ready. I have been ready for a while.
Picture by Mikyatope