Practical guide for Spanish governments on how to increase Catalan independentism

I have come to the conclusion that the Spanish Government are infiltrated Catalan independentists plotting to get Catalonia out of Spain as quickly as possible. You may be tempted to think I have completely lost it but it is the only conclusion I can reach after carefully analysing some of their actions in the last year only:

1- ignore all claims to negotiate a fair financial deal with the area which produces most of the exports in your state so that they can produce and export more, generate employment, increase your tax income and get you out of the crisis

2- attempt to minoritize even more their beloved language by sabotaging their educational system by attempting to enforce language segregation instead of fixing the real problems that make you score at the bottom of the PISA report

3- insist on squandering billions of public money to build the longest high speed train network in Europe which has already proven a financial disaster instead of building the mediterranean freight railway line that would boost trade and exports (as the European Union is asking (ca))

4- instead of increasing infrastructure investment in your most dynamic area to boost its economy reduce it by 45% (ca) while only reducing it on average by 24% in the rest of the state

5- plunder 8% of that area’s GDP for the last 30 years and at the same time accuse them of being the culprits of the crisis. Top it by threatening to intervene them even though they are the only ones having acted responsibly and started reducing their budget one year before you did

6- bail out Madrid’s toll roads by extending the toll road concessions of Catalan toll roads (ca). Making Catalans, who already have 67% of the toll roads in the Spanish State, pay also for Madrid’s toll roads (Catalans were already paying for Spain’s non toll roads through their taxes)

7- refuse to pay 1.4 billion euros you owe the Catalan government claiming that because of the crisis there is no money left. Immediately afterwards bail out Madrid-government controlled savings bank with 10 billion euros of taxpayers’ money.

8- sabotage Barcelona’s airport international connections to favour Madrid’s expansion using a government controlled agency, AENA. (Being, together with Portugal and Romania the exceptions to the rule in Europe, where airport competition is encouraged)

9- block international recognition of Catalan language in Europe instead of being proud of having such a cultural asset and promoting it

10- reply the increase of Catalan independentism by threatening with economic and physical violence (for example, here and here)

10- finally, get your head of state and his family members involved in several scandals within a few weeks: corruptions charges in cases involving public money, underage people getting shot while playing with guns, being caught hunting endangered species in exotic countries. And to make things worse do all of this in the midst of an unprecedented crisis when you should be closely following what is going on.

They deserve my applause. Way to go Mr Rajoy!

17 thoughts to “Practical guide for Spanish governments on how to increase Catalan independentism”

  1. Yes. This is a good guide for those who continue with a ham-fisted approach to the issues of Catalan language rights and cultural/territorial sovereignty.

    But here’s a cheeky challenge to you. Can you also write a list of things Catalonia or (individual) Catalan activists have done that have increased the bad temperature and tensions around these issues.

    From my position outside Spain, it seems this list could also be written, although the ‘balance sheet’ of actions leading to non-dialogue seems to be much heavier on the side of the Spanish state and ‘Castilian Nationalists’.

  2. Hi Acutia, thanks for your comment. Now I’ll challenge you to substitute the word Catalan for black people/gay people/women in your comment. Now read it again.

  3. Hi Albert,
    I tried your suggestion but it did not reveal to me what I think you hoped. I proposed this question to see if the author of this piece was able to consider if any poor choices have been made by Catalans during these times of asserting Catalan autonomy, nationhood. As an outsider, I don’t have enough knowledge to deeply answer my own question. I think it is a (small) factor in the whole equation. I never meant to suggest Catalans are ‘responsible’ for others bigoted views of Catalan or Catalonia. Just because I suggested that some on the Catalan side may have made mistakes does not mean I don’t see truth in nearly all of your post’s points.
    The reason I read blogs such as yours is to gain more understanding of the issue of Catalonia. Your choice to see my invitation to take up a critical perspective as akin to denial of rights to oppressed minorities (racism/sexism/homophobia) suggests I did not clearly communicate my somewhat confused/subtle point or that you are unwilling to both advocate for Catalonia/Catalan rights and see how actions by Catalans may sometimes feel/seem right but in reality harm their cause.

  4. Hi acutia, could you be more specific? Maybe you could provide some examples to illustrate your point but in my experience Catalans play a small role in the perception of the issue from the Spanish side since their media and state machinery outputs the same message regardless of what catalans do.

  5. I’ll try, but please accept that I’m still learning about the complex situation of Spain’s minority languages and Autonomous communities. One recent example is the proposal by some FC Barcelona/Athletic Bilbao
    fans to whistle during the Spanish national anthem when it is played at the Copa del Rey in Madrid. This to me is an example of something that might seem a valid demonstration of Catalan (and Basque) difference of identity and their desires for independence, but will be received by others as insulting ‘their’ valued identity and symbols. Note I don’t have an opinion on which side is ‘right’ but I’m interested in seeing how different people will see the same action very differently and how to deal with that.

    I’m irish and in the North of this Island there is strong feeling and arguments about the symbolism and meanings of very small things like the names of places. For example one community (Loyalist/Unionist) refers to a city in Northern Ireland as ”Londonderry” while another (Nationalist/republican) would NEVER use that and uses “Derry” instead.

    In some of the articles advocating complete Catalan separation from Spain there is a lack of awareness of how such a change to Spain as a territory might feel to those who strongly identify hold dear a nationalist view of Spain’s history. I’m not saying that one sides history is true and the other false or that they are both valid. But I do notice that some Catalans writers sometimes seem to forget that Spaniards may have as strong an identification and love for the idea, symbolism and history of a Spain (that includes Pais vasco and Catalunya) as they have for a Catalan nation, history, land and language.

    The situation in Northern Ireland has some similarities and differences, but a solution adopted so far by many (not all) has been for the different communities to grudgingly accept that the other community will never accept or adopt their historical interpretations or allegiances. One result of this cultural and legal shift is there is also a lot less bigoted attacks on the other communities valued symbols, traditions of aspirations.

    Hopefully that explains a little better what I was asking about.

  6. Sorry, the second last line should read

    “One result of this cultural and legal shift is there is are fewer bigoted attacks on the other communities valued symbols, traditions and aspirations.”

  7. I think you try to establish similarities between Catalonia and Northern Ireland but from what I’ve seen we don’t have the problem of the communities division. Catalonia has always been a country of immigration and we are quite good at integrating people. Some compare our way of integration to the American, if you come here, respect our culture and work hard you just become one of us.

    My case is quite typical, my mother’s family came from Spain in the 60’s and married my father, Catalan. My mother was Catalan and Spanish. I am Catalan. The great majority of the descendants of Spanish immigrants who arrived 40-50 years ago speak Catalan, have integrated themselves and are not the problem for independence. For not having a state we have done remarkably well, better than other similarly sized countries that I have personally lived in which do have a state but where integrating is very difficult. I’m not saying it’s perfect but it’ll be enough for becoming independent.

    Everyone here gets discriminated for being Catalan regardless of their family origins, also the new immigrants. And they will be the most benefited from independence. The main problem for independence are the Catalan elites who have interests in Spain and keeping their status quo. They also control the political parties.

    Catalonia was completely independent until 1714 when the ancestor of the current King of Spain abolished our constitution and since then they have tried to exterminate Catalan culture and nation. Spain denies our status as a country, our language is not official and instead of working for making Catalonia feel proud and comfortable of being Spanish they work against our interests. They also have instigated hatred and racism for centuries and just can’t accept that we love our culture, language and lifestyle. They want us to, in order to be Spanish, stop being Catalan. And there lies their mistake, for people here are Catalan and you cannot stop being what you are if you are proud of it.

    So, for now all we can do is whistle while the steal our wealth and deny us of our rights. If you believe that makes things any worse is because you don’t know the Spanish. It doesn’t make a difference, it is ingrained in Spanish culture to hate Catalonia.

    If the Spanish feel offended because the Catalan and Basque whistle the Spanish anthem is clearly because they know we are different countries since whistling your own country’s anthem as a protest is not so strange in civilised countries.

    I also don’t see why the Spanish anthem has to be played since both Catalonia and the Basque country have their own anthems. If Catalonia and the Basque Country were in fact Spanish there would be no contradiction here, those anthems would be played instead and everybody would be happy. Therefore we can conclude that it is an imposition and against imposition it is our duty to rebel.

  8. Thanks for you response. It is illuminating.
    My only comment is that while my outsider point of view is very ignorant of the everyday reality of many of the things you describe it may also have a slight benefit, where I can see some things from a ‘Spanish’ perspective. You argue clearly for the legitimacy of a Catalan perspective but you don’t seem to see any way to consider a non-catalan perspective. Maybe the negative actions of Spanish state make that seem a waste of time to you, but for me it seems worthwhile to try see the wider picture.
    Gràcies per les seves respostes. All the best…

    1. You cannot put the Catalan perspective and the Spanish one at the same level, firstly because the Spanish rule stems from military occupation and that takes away all of its legitimacy. Catalonia never voluntarily agreed to become part of the Spanish State.

      Secondly, because the discriminated party here is Catalonia while at the same time being the local culture and one of the few places where this culture is used. That alone is reason enough to be like in any normal country where the local culture is the default one just like nobody questions Danish culture in Denmark. In Barcelona I often struggle to find someone in a bar, restaurant or shop that as a customer can speak to me in Catalan. Why? because of the strength of Spanish. Why? because we don’t have a state and current one does the opposite of what is needed to protect Catalan. That situation would be unthinkable in Helsinki or Copenhague.

      That Spain puts so much effort into destroying it in spite of its insignificance in size compared to Spanish culture gives you many clues about that country. Thirdly, the Spanish have a state which grants their rights while we don’t. I do see the broader picture, because of my Spanish ancestry I know that country and their people very well. I have lived there. And that knowledge is what makes my compromise to Catalan independence so strong.

  9. You write “You cannot put the Catalan perspective and the Spanish one at the same level, firstly because the Spanish rule stems from military occupation and that takes away all of its legitimacy. Catalonia never voluntarily agreed to become part of the Spanish State.”

    When I say I want to understand the range of perspectives on these issues I don’t mean that all perspectives are equally true, or valid or right but that they do exist and people believe them and their emotions and actions are based on them.

    I know you don’t agree that there are useful comparisons to the issues in Northern Ireland, but it still seems to me that for all the obvious differences to the situation in Catalonia, there are similarities in how discussion and the rhetorics different camps have used. The argument implied in your point above is that due to historical illegitimacy of the Spanish occupation, one perspective is of course wrong and can be easily dismissed. A version of this exact argument has been used by Nationalists for hundreds of years against illegitimacy of the protestant/loyalist populations history and existence in northern Ireland because it was the result of a colonial occupation and plantation of settlers by the English state.
    To many, this is historically accurate, but as a part of a dialogue to achieve political ends (equal rights, representation or a united Ireland) the only thing it accomplished was polarization and gridlock. The partially satisfactory solution currently achieved in Northern Ireland, that most citizens approve of, was not achieved by each side using that kind of argument.

    Maybe that made my position clearer. I’m not sure if we have much more to say on this aspect. But I hope to return soon to read your future posts.

  10. I understand that you may try to draw similarities with the Northern Ireland situation but here we don’t have such a polarised divide. In northern Ireland you seem to have a internal problem while in Catalonia we have a problem with Spain.

    However, I know Spain will play dirty and use their infiltrates to stir such a conflict but I doubt it will succeed. Only 8.5% of the people feel “only Spanish” or “more Spanish than Catalan”. And those are very likely not born here.

    In Catalonia political centrality has shifted to independentism and now parties who were traditionally Catalanists but not independentists have to show an independentist programme if they don’t want to lose votes to clearer independentist options.

    On the other end, parties which are 100% Spanish nationalistic disguise themselves at least as Catalans, like PP and Ciutadans, even if in practice they are not. And they only get 15.5% of the representation.

    There is currently no party in the Catalan Parliament which openly displays only a Spanish identity. That is how low the popularity of Spain has dropped.

    The problem we actually have here is how to translate what the people in the street want, independence, into the political arena since Spain does not have a track record of being very democratic and their state structures never truly reformed after Franco’s dictatorship. Only 30 years ago there was a military coup the Spanish Constitution doesn’t give Catalonia any official status and since Spain will not negotiate an improvement of Catalonia’s situation, we already tried with the Statute of Autonomy, it will have to be a unilateral action from Catalonia. Which in a conservative country like Catalonia is is a scary step to take for many people.

  11. You say “The problem we actually have here is how to translate what the people in the street want, independence, into the political arena.”

    Yes, that is it exactly. After I discovered that a majority of Catalans identify with Catalonia and not Spain, as I had assumed, my interest in the whole Catalan situation is how that identity and it’s flavours (dual-identity, autonomy, independence) are received by the Spanish state and those who do identify primarily with Spain and Castilian.

    On that topic, who would you recommend to read (in English, ho sento) on how Catalonia hopes to proceed with this political project? Also, are there any rebellious writers who are proud Spaniards but also advocate for Catalan self-determination? I’ve recently discovered some interviews with José Ramón Lodares who seems interesting on the language issues but unfortunately little of his work is translated.

  12. There is not much stuff in english about the issue, that is why I started this blog. I can also assure you that there is not very much interest either, which is to be expected. Being such a small country and luckily currently not having a violent situation makes it not so appealing from a news point of view.

    But I can recommend you “What Catalans Want” by Toni Strubell and “Barcelona, Catalonia: A view from the inside” by Matthew Tree (I made a review of both books in this blog).

    Also Col·lectiu Emma, and are interesting resources in english.

    It is very astonishing but there are practically no Spanish intellectuals who would at least acknowledge that Catalonia is a nation, and even less advocate for self determination. There is one exception, as always, which confirms the rule and it is Juan Carlos Moreno Cabrera. But I don’t think he has any material in English. When I saw his conference “La lingüística i el nacionalismo lingüístico español” in youtube I couldn’t believe he is Spanish.

    I thank you for your comments because it gives me a new perspective on things that I take for granted but people don’t know about. I think I’ll write a summary post on this conversation we’ve had. Thanks for your interesting comments.

  13. Thanks, I’ve come across most of those resources except Col·lectiu Emma. Matthew Tree’s videos and articles were the first things to my open my eyes to the view from inside Catalonia. Though I have not read any of those books. TV3’s “Goodbye, Spain ?/Adéu, Espanya? was a good comparative attempt at Catalonia’s history and situation. I also spotted those videos of Juan Carlos Moreno Cabrera. I’d love to know what he is saying. It really is kind of silly for me to try to do this kind of intercultural research without having any Catalan or Castilian. Thanks again. Que vagi bé.

  14. Yes. I’ve also seen that one. It’s good. Maybe you’d consider collecting these talks, videos, together with links to articles) in a post on “The Catalan Situation – A Guide for the Perplexed”.

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