Spain is Operating Way Beyond Democratic Legitimacy 351

In imprisoning Catalan leaders for peaceful campaigning for Independence, and in choosing both in rhetoric and in court to treat support for Independence as “sedition”, the Spanish government is acting way beyond the limits of a democratic society. It is ignoring the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It is also undertaking massive blocking of communication and censorship of the internet in a manner never seen before in a “Western” state.

To move now to suspend the democratically elected Catalan administration, which is explicitly offering dialogue as an alternative to UDI, is to escalate the crisis in an unreasonable fashion, in the true meaning of the word unreasonable. All of this is truly dreadful, without even mentioning the violence inflicted on voters taking part in the peaceful Independence referendum.

As regular readers know, the EU reaction to the peaceful movement for Catalan independence has caused me to rethink my entire position on that institution. The failure to condemn the violence and human rights abuse has been bad enough, but the EU has gone still further and offered unqualified support to Spain, with the Commission specifically declaring Spain has a right to use violence, and Juncker saying straight out that the EU opposes Catalan Independence.

What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people. Loss of resources to the ruling elite is therefore a catastrophe. A state is not a collaborative construct voluntarily formed for mutual convenience and protection by its people. If it were, then it would be a matter of indifference to the ruling elite which particular state units people choose to form, and how these morph and form.

The idea, endorsed by the EU, that a state is an economic construct of control, in which it is legitimate to constrain entire peoples by force against their will, is surely abhorrent. The EU is become simply a cartel of power, a club to promote the sectional interest of the controlling elites of European states.

Catalonia will have a few days to decide how to react to Spanish imposition of direct rule, as that has to go through legislative bodies in Madrid. Catalonia has very little capacity militarily to defend itself against Spain. But it is difficult to see how it can be serious about Independence if it makes no effort to that purpose. Some effort at physical, if non-lethal, resistance to Spanish takeover must surely be under discussion.

More importantly, however brief the lifespan of Independent Catalonia at this stage, it must during its existence delegitimise Spanish – by which I mean pre-Independence – institutions and specifically the courts. Within Catalonia, all officers of State, and particularly judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, must be suspended immediately from all duties. They should then be instantly administered an oath of loyalty to the Catalan state and a specific abjuring of loyalty to the Spanish state. Those who do not take the oath would remain suspended, and after a week become dismissed.

The alternative will be an undermining of the legitimacy of the Catalan state by its own courts, and the many corrupt pro-Madrid judges and prosecutors they contain. This will be used to counteract the Independence narrative internationally and domestically.

Spain and the EU are hiding behind “the rule of law”. The violence of the Guardia Civil was validated as enforcing the ruling of Francoist judges. The censorship of the internet, the imprisonment of dissidents, all is in accordance with the “rule of law” in Spain.

I dealt with imprisonment of political prisoners all round the world when I was in the FCO. Very few of them were extra-judicially detained. Uzbekistan’s 8,000 political prisoners have almost all been tried and condemned under Uzbek law. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, all were imprisoned by judges. The “rule of law”, where it ignores human rights, is not enough. That is the line the EU, to its great shame, has crossed.

As a footnote, I am researching my biography of George Murray. In 1710, following the death of George’s eldest brother John with the British army at the Battle of Malplaquet, his next eldest brother William was summoned home from India. The first available vessel was bound for Barcelona. William spent some time there waiting for a ship in the middle of a war. The interesting point is that the family letters refer repeatedly to William being in Catalonia and events in Catalonia. The word Spain does not appear in the correspondence at all.

I mention this purely as illustrative – and one of many thousands of examples that might be given – that the Catalans are a people and have been acknowledged as such in Europe for centuries. The right of self-determination in Article 2 of the UN Charter is given not to geographic regions but exclusively to “Peoples”. The Catalans, like the Scots, undoubtedly qualify as a “People”, something the EU has still failed to address.

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351 thoughts on “Spain is Operating Way Beyond Democratic Legitimacy

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    • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”

      Mahatma Gandhi

      • Phil the ex frog

        Yeah that’s not a Gandi quote. This is;

        “the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”

  • Martinned

    It is ignoring the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

    That’s fair enough, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t interpret the referendum and the surrounding events both as an example of freedom of speech and assembly and as a move towards independence. It’s either “speech” or “an act”, but not both.

  • philw

    “What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people. ”

    Under capitalism as a political system (the rule of capital for capital).

    It does not have to be like this – the state can be reclaimed for the people. But the task becomes more difficult with each passing day.

    • Maxter

      Just to expand upon your statement. We are debt slaves, collateral for the debts of a bankrupt corporation (this is worldwide) , our sole purpose as citizens is to pay the debts of the corporation via ever increasing taxation, licence fees, and more and more statutes that demand payments when breached. We are just building our own debtors prison.
      This new one should bring in a good bit of revenue for those debts!

  • Martinned

    What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people.

    For a suitably flexible definition of “state” and “elite” (a favourite of populists everywhere, that one), this is a tautology. It only becomes interesting (and scary) when people start attaching consequences to this fact.

  • freddy

    It is normal for Spain – not to be a Democracy
    so it is being forced by Carles to revert.

    • reel guid

      That’s very like the male pals of a wifebeater who make excuses for him by saying he doesn’t want to beat his wife but it’s so in his nature and he keeps getting provoked.

  • Martinned

    specifically declaring Spain has a right to use violence

    I’m not sure why that one is tripping you up. All states have the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. That’s what it means to be a state. How else would it “hold them all in awe”?

    • Hmmm

      Not sure who’s tripping themselves up here. If Catalonia is an independent state does Spain have authority to act violently against it? If Scotland UDI can England legally use violence?

      • William Purves

        Scotland is a country joined in a treaty with England, the Scottish people, being sovereign, can rescind the treaty as being not suitable for this day and age.

  • Republicofscotland

    The Spanish government is to on meet Saturday to suspend Catalonia’s self-government.

    Civil disobedience and blockades must surely be the order of the day for the Catalan people come Saturday.

    The world will be watching, will it be a violent removal of the Catalan government? Or has the EU, told Rajoy to not go in so heavy handed.

    I think if the Catalan people truly want independence, they’ll need to fight for it.

    • sentinel

      1. Rajoy’s actions appear counter-productive to some of us, but do they have popular support in Spain?
      2. But should events in Catalonia lead to him losing support might he turn his attention to the border with Gibraltar?
      3. In 2013, it took the EU to sort out a border dispute. Would they be inclined to do so again, bearing in mind the UK might be leaving the EU?

  • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

    Dear Craig,

    many thanks for your articles on the events in Catalonia.
    They are totally spot on. I am a historian myself and i completely agree with your context, narrative and conclusions.

    I used to be a defender of the European Union but the latest events and reactions are beyond my comprehension.

    Spain is now blackmailing Belgium because Belgium spoke out against the violence on October 1: “”

    Juncker doesn’t want Catalonia to become independent, because it might cause more administrative difficulties: “”

    I mean: really?

    Anyway, if the EU wants to drive people towards populists and populism, they are doing a fine job.

    • fredi

      Anyway, if the EU wants to drive people towards populists and populism, they are doing a fine job.

      Indeed, Trump was a reaction to Obama, and Obama was a reaction to Bush, the political pendulum swings from ‘right’ to ‘left’ but little changes, the hidden hand of deep state corporate power always hold the reins.

  • Clark

    Craig, good to see you back.

    Isn’t the Iraqi government doing something similar to the Kurds? Sorry, I’m a bit out of touch.

    • Martinned

      The Iraqi government is sending in the army. The Spanish government doesn’t need to do that, because in Catalunya the rule of law still applies. If art. 155 is invoked, that’s the end of the Generalitat.

      • Republicofscotland

        “The Spanish government doesn’t need to do that, ”


        So it’s just a coincidence that gunships and over 10,000 Guardia Civil are loitering at the docks then.

          • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

            This is really playing with words and semantics. The Garda Civil acted violently against voters and protesters, and will do so if protests continue, which is likely. We have all seen the Spanish definition of ‘keeping the peace’.

          • reel guid

            They are there to intimidate, to impose direct rule and to be violent towards any persons who openly oppose the suspension of democracy. The Guardia Civil amply demonstrated to the world what they are about on October 1st.

          • Republicofscotland

            “That’s for keeping the peace”

            Again really!

            It didn’t look like they were “keeping the peace” as you put it on voting day.

            Infact the pictures, news a uploaded video’s to social media, told a very different story.

  • Martinned

    By the way, the one thing I’m missing in this story is the Senate vote. What’s the point of having a cabinet meeting on a Saturday if you then have to wait for the Senate to decide what to do with this? I mean, I’m sure the Senate could rush this through if they wanted to, but it still means a couple of days extra delay. So why not have the cabinet meeting on Monday and skip the theatrics?

  • fred

    “In imprisoning Catalan leaders for peaceful campaigning for Independence”

    They weren’t imprisoned for peaceful campaigning. They were imprisoned because when Spanish officials and state police went to search a Catalan government building for evidence of a crime they used social media to summon a mob to surround the building, trash their vehicles and prevent them leaving till the next day.

    • Velofello

      Well this a new aspect to the Catalan affair. As always, the devil is in the detail:

      Did the the Spanish officials have a warrant issued by, say the Cataln government, to search government premises? Why were heavily armoured state police necessary to accompany these officials?

      I admit I haven’t been closely following events, were the two persons imprisoned charged and tried in court with calling an assembly of the public? Is that an offence in Catalan? In Spain?

      Charged with obstruction perhaps? Surely not after we have witnessed the Spanish state polish obstruct the public’ access to public buildings.

      • fred

        Under Spanish law the crime is called sedition. This is the incident the imprisonment concerns, subsequent inquiries found the Catalan officials had used a Whatsapp group to assemble the mob and they were remanded in custody because it was feared if free they would make further attempts to obstruct justice.

        • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

          And they directly told the mob, in that whatsapp group (which must consists of a few hundred thousand people, right?) to go ‘fight’ and contain the spanish officials?

          You do realise you are judging people because of what is said in a pro-Government newspaper report, right?

          • fred

            I am stating the facts concerning why the Catalan officials were remanded in custody pending trial. Evidence was presented to the court that they had already perverted the course of justice and there was a real chance they would do it again.

            To my mind “imprisoning Catalan leaders for peaceful campaigning for Independence” does not describe what actually happened.

  • reel guid

    The EU will lose many friends over this if it doesn’t come down on the side of freedom.

    • Parth

      My guess is that the next time someone takes a poll on whether or not it is a good idea for Britain to leave the EU, we are likely to see a major change in Scotland. Many Scottish nationalists are now beginning to realise that Britain remaining in the European Union makes the prospect of Scotland becoming independent in the future less, rather than more, likely.

  • fedup

    state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people.


    As the propaganda movie of the DPRK*states; the “owners”! Aka elite; verily believe, they own the land, the chattel and the citizens without the hassle of slave owners of the past. As the the current self indentured and self sustaining debt salves are much better than yea olde salves.

    * it behoves us all to listen to our “enemies” there are truths to be stumbled upon, that somehow have gone missing in plane sight in our neck of the woods.

  • John Macadam

    Lenin referred to Tzarist Russia as ‘the prison of the nationalities’. Seems the EU is as well

  • Scott

    I’m sure the Spanish government are developing their current playbook using “best practices” for civilian protest suppression.

    The militarisation of the police, and the blurred line between paramilitary police using repurposed military equipment and vehicles and the regular army, is something most people find objectionable.

    However, the militarisation and weaponisation of communications technology is often overlooked. Its just data isn’t it? But if this data is scooped up indiscriminately by security services, and access to this data is asymmetrical (security services can build a case against you, but citizens can’t use the data to prove their innocence) then it is clearly a powerful tool of suppression. The choreographed DOS (Denial of Service) attacks / domain blocking by the Spanish state against the communication and social networking infrastructure that citizens are using for organisation and support, is evidence of the disproportionate use of all weapons of suppression by the Spanish state.

    • giyane

      I agree. I was recently summarily dismissed for making a joke which was well within the boundaries of normal banter where I worked. Corporate spying was always denied, but I can’t see any reason why I was dismissed for the remark I made.

      They can sack you for what they think they know about you, like contributing to this blog, in case something goes wrong, but you can’t sack them for gross negligence in their management of Health and Safety until something has gone horribly wrong. Even then, we await the outcome of the Grenfell Inquiry to find out if managers will be held to account. All I know is that a normal fridge freezer does not catch fire unless, as in Grenfell Tower, it is exposed to repeated surges of over-voltage, all recorded by residents.

      The Western government elites have brazenly denied their involvement in supporting Islamist terror for so long that they appear to have become complacent, like the Corporations about their use of spying on employees’ leisure activities. Like a flood, water eventually comes up the ways it is supposed to go down. There’s nothing you can do about it. Similarly the evil of universal spying will eventually come back to bite the bastards who employ it. Weinstein is an example. Thousands of women have broken their silence and the flood waters will be unstoppable.

      The extremely low levels of intellect in the Conservative Party, which resulted in brexit and have been on display to all during the negotiations, were caused by their brighter devotees being lured into finance and business during the Blair years. Surely in all this flood of governrnent inefficacy chaps like Andrew Parker will be seen by most people to be talking tripe. No? Oh well I’ll just climb up onto the roof and wait to be rescued
      by helicopter from the deluge of Tory sewage.

  • reel guid

    Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry once again doesn’t tweet about the Catalan situation. Wants to pretend, like her opposite number Boris Johnson, that a Western European state suspending democracy is no big deal.

    Labour’s total indifference to the rights of Catalans is proof that they would collude with the Tories over the downgrading or even abolition of the Scottish Parliament.

    Scotland doesn’t want to be governed anymore by either Tory fascists or the fascist fellow travellers of Labour.

      • reel guid


        Well I suppose we can’t pin the smirking Tory tag on Douglas Ross. He had an alibi.

        • Republicofscotland

          Meanwhile Anas Sarwar has denied point blank that he had anything to do with Better Together.

          He’s a bare faced liar. I really, really, really hope Sarwar wins the race to be branch manager. He’s a Frank Spencer, Some Mothers do Ave Them type character.

          He’ll be good for the independence movement.

          • Republicofscotland

            reel guid.

            Still no mention on the Scottish news or unionist press of the Type 31e ships that are NOT going to be built in Scotland.

            Imagine the outcry if the SNP renegade in a similar fashion to Westminster.


            I’m hoping a no deal on Brexit which looks likely, will trigger indyref2 and get us the hell out of this union.

          • reel guid


            Better Together – including the Anas Sarwar doppleganger who wasn’t him – said vote No and 13 frigates will be built on the Clyde. They’ve steadily bit by bit reduced the promise to nothing. And the Scottish media doesn’t report it.

            And Better Together – including the Anas Sarwar impersonator – said vote No to keep Scotland in the EU. Now it’s the prospect of WTO trade rules.

            This union game is definitely a bogey now.

    • Phil the ex frog

      Reel guid
      “Scotland doesn’t want to be governed anymore by either Tory fascists or the fascist fellow travellers of Labour.”

      So not only Spain but also Tories and Labour Party supporters are all fascists now? Very funny.

      And I do enjoy this delusion you have that you speak for what Scotland wants.

    • Old Mark

      Excellent link Henri- and from a source that is usually pro EU in outlook

      Politicisation of the judiciary in Poland by the current government is a bad thing in the EU’s eyes, as that government has told the EU where to get off when it comes to the relocation of TransMed migrants from Greece & Italy.

      The same process in Spain, apparently in train for a decade or longer, is not worthy of criticism by the EU as successive Spanish governments over the same time period have been ‘pro-communitaire’ in their relations with Brussels.

      • Republicofscotland

        Yes Henri, very interesting link, it’s in the opinion section, and a very good opinion it is.

      • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

        That is indeed the problem: double standards.
        The Serbian PM noticed the same double standards regarding Kosovo (recognition) and Catalonia (no recognition).

        The EU stood by silently during the unslaught on the Balkans in the nineties. It has stood by during the whole human catastrophe in Syria (caused in part because of Russian support to Asad). It stood by when the Crimea was snatched from the Ukraine by a referendum where people had two choices: become part of Russia now or after a process of a few years.

        In other words: the EU is an administrative Moloch using double standards and in fact doing absolutely nothing when it comes to it.
        This is all playing in the hands of populists and populism.

      • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

        Forgot to mention. The most important thing is that the problems surrounding the Spanish judicial system go against the (healthy) democratic principles of checks and balances. In that context, Spain cannot be seen as a mature democracy.

  • Seamus

    Look how the Brits behaved in Ireland, they drew about pencil around 6 counties and declared them British in 1922 with promised discussions about the border promised but never happened. When the 35-year war with the IRA, the actions of the Crown forces were a million times worse than what the elected Spanish Government did recently. The British army death squads see the link, the EU is not perfect but it has been a source of some sense of order in Europe and it did receive the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2012, the then PM Cameron snubbed by refusing to go to the award ceremony.

    • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

      Seamus, agree. So what happened between 2012 and now? It is not all about the police violence, but the whole process itself, the fact that 35 (mostly social) law proposals by the Catalan government have been thwarted by the Spanish cetral government over the past years, the fact that the Spanish government systematically refuses to sit down and talk, the fact that the Spanish government is in fact blackmailing Belgium because the Belgium government spoke out against the police violence, etcetera, etcetera. And most importantly: the EU stood by, did nothing, even the opposite: give the Spanish government its full support.

    • Old Mark

      they drew about pencil around 6 counties and declared them British in 1922 with promised discussions about the border promised but never happened.

      Despite having a more Irish name than mine, that is utter bollocks Seamus. The ‘promised discussions about the border’ did happen, the Boundary Commission reported in 1925, it didn’t (as the Free State hoped) mandate the transfer a sizeable chunk of territory to the South, so the Dublin government agreed to the revocation of Article X11 of the 1921 treaty,(which made the Commission’s findings binding on both parties) in return for having its agreed share of the UK national debt (Article V of the treaty) written off.

      • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

        “the Dublin government agreed to the revocation of Article X11 of the 1921 treaty,(which made the Commission’s findings binding on both parties) in return for having its agreed share of the UK national debt (Article V of the treaty) written off.”

        Sounds like some form of blackmail to me…

        • Old Mark

          Sounds like some form of blackmail to me…

          Rather, the shenanigans of 1925 just reflected the power relations between the 2 parties… and in getting the hitherto agreed share of UK national debt off of the Free State’s books, it is arguable that the Dublin government cut a good deal for those of its citizens living in the 26 counties. For Catholics in the border areas who hoped to escape Stormont rule via the Boundary Commission transferring these areas to the South however, it must have looked like a sell out.

      • IrishU

        Thank you Old Mark. Nice to actually read comments from someone who knows Irish history, rather than the usual guff spouted here!

    • Neil

      Seamus, that video doesn’t work – I get a “This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint.” message.

  • Republicofscotland

    Spanish government says it will enforce Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. Puigdemont will openly declare Catalan independence, before Spain takes control.

    Could it be the only recourse open to the Catalan people is civil disobedience, blockades, and if need be gurellia tactics.

    I say that, because the last thing the UN, EU and Spain would want is the eyes of the world, is watching a protracted conflict between Madrid and the Catalan people.

    If Catalan’s want independence, like many, many nations before them, they’ll need to fight for it.

  • AlfaWhiskey

    I find your posts on the issue of catalan independence lack the usual “quality” (for lack of a better word, I’m not a native speaker).

    Why on earth should the EU support Catalan independence? It’s entirely logical for them to be against further desintegration of the union. It also baffles me that it took this disaster to make you see what the EU really is. It’s made up of people sent by our governments which you rigthfully citicise so thoroughly. Did you really believe the EU institutions are somehow better than the sum of their parts?

    Also you frequently cite Article 2 of the UN Charter to support the cause of catalan independence. What you fail to mention is that your interpretation of the article is far from the only one. In fact, from what I’ve seen, the majority of opinions seem to indicate that the right to self-determination does not equal the right for all “Peoples” to have their own state.

    My guess is, your desperate fight for scottish independence (which I support) is severely clouding your judgement of these (and other) issues.

    • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

      Your last conclusion is a bit simplistic. That is putting everything out of context and introducing a new context, which might, or might not, have something to do with Craig’s conclusions. Anyway, it doesn’t hold water when using the whole context (all events since June this year).

      • AlfaWhiskey

        You’re right, it’s speculative and I should have left it out. But it’s there now, so for the sake of the argument would you care to elaborate on this:

        “Anyway, it doesn’t hold water when using the whole context (all events since June this year).”

        I fail to see what you’re getting at.

        • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

          If you look at all the events that have taken place since the Catalan government voted to hold a referendum, a people activist like Craig cannot conclude anything other than that which he has written down in his articles about Catalonia.

          Democracy is not served in Spain on many fronts as explained in Craig’s articles and the comments on these articles.

          • AlfaWhiskey

            “Democracy is not served in Spain on many fronts as explained in Craig’s articles and the comments on these articles.”

            Absolutely, there is a case to be made for an independent Catalonia. There is also one to be made for it remainig a part on Spain. To me, Craigs arguments would be much morre convincing if they weren’t so one-sided. I may be wrong, but I have the impression his approach to issues like this has narrowed considerably the last couple of years.

    • AS

      “the majority of opinions seem to indicate that the right to self-determination does not equal the right for all “Peoples” to have their own state”

      Who determines the ‘right’ in this case, if not the people? That’s the entire problem. Representative democracy, always a poor compromise for people having a direct say in their own lives, has become a farce under late capitalism. It needs entirely rethinking from the ground (or commons) up. There’s no reason why an independent Catalonia can’t exist within the EU, but we need to move on from the nationalism and nation state model, which essentially existed to contain internal war and promote external war. It’s symptomatic that the most destructive legacy of the belligerent nation state model is the arms industry.

      • AlfaWhiskey

        Our democracies are in sorry state for sure, but I don’t believe that breaking them up into smaller parts for all independent “peoples” is the way forward.

        “but we need to move on from the nationalism and nation state model,…”

        Seems to me that nationalism is motivating many catalonians wanting their own nation.

        • AS

          Well, yes, that may be how it’s figured currently. But that’s what I mean. The same applies to Scottish independence. Is the main idea to create another nation state ready to defend its borders militarily. Or is the main idea to devolve power closer to us, the people? Wherever we live?

          • AlfaWhiskey

            @AS “Or is the main idea to devolve power closer to us, the people? Wherever we live?” I like that idea, I just don’t believe we need further division to achieve it. Why not try to overcome differences now instead cementing them first?

          • AS

            @AlfaWhiskey I guess I think the more levels and greater fluidity, the better. Is Catalonia going to attack or invade another country? Or Scotland for that matter? Highly unlikely. Whereas Spain and the UK have a long colonial history and still today become involved in ‘foreign interventions’ like Iraq, Afghanistan etc. that perpetuate colonial relations, resource exploitation and the arms industry. I see breaking up the mechanisms that enable the latter as a global priority. This isn’t idealism, it’s a recognition that conflicts are deliberately sustained for economic purposes. I see the nation state as one of the very worst human inventions. They are directly linked to brutal colonization, genocide, slavery, massive land clearances, evictions and pogroms, ethnic cleansing, massive economic and environmental waste, and perpetual wars that take the lives of millions. They are not a ‘natural’ evolutionary step and real democracy, as well as the global survival of the human species, depend on working past the nation model. It may appear paradoxical, but that means respecting and empowering the local without suppressing minorities (producing ethnic enclaves that persecute the different). I think that’s possible.

        • reel guid

          And the Francoists. Are they not motivated by nationalism?

          Funny how so many people from large sovereign states who are supposedly on the left look at small nations’ civic nationalist independence movements and start taking about nationalism being outmoded. Then they give a free pass to Madrid and London and their aggressive and aggrandising nationalisms.

          • AlfaWhiskey

            Of course they are, but the old “everybody is doing it” excuse isnn’t helpful.

            Funny how so many people like to assume things about other commenters on the internet and then go on to misinterpret their words to fit their assumptions.

    • craig Post author

      I certainly do not believe the EU should support Catalonian independence. But what the EU should support is the Catalan people’s right to self-determination, and a genuine democratic process to allow them to express their view. It is perfectly possible that the Catalans, like Scotland, may vote No. But they should have the chance to vote, and the plan to prevent their voting by force of arms should be derided by all democrats, yourself included.

      • OW ABOUT

        Why do you keep maintaining that the EU should be some kind of international court which should create global chaos? Just think of all the places in Europe which would try to split off from their countries if your advice were followed.

      • AlfaWhiskey

        “I certainly do not believe the EU should support Catalonian independence.”

        Looks like I misinterpeted you, thank you for clearing that up.

        “But what the EU should support is the Catalan people’s right to self-determination, and a genuine democratic process to allow them to express their view.”

        I think so too, but argument stands that it would be self destructive to do so. Especially in light of Brexit. It would also support infringement of article 2 of the spanish constitution (which ought to be changed, but that’s another story).

        “But they should have the chance to vote, and the plan to prevent their voting by force of arms should be derided by all democrats, yourself included.”

        Thanks for the reminder, I absolutely deride it, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the points I’ve made does it?

  • Sharp Ears

    Aaronovitch does not approve of referenda. There’s a surprise. He finds an opportunity to kick Russia in the shins.

    October 19 2017
    Referendums are great . . . if you’re a dictator
    Direct democracy is growing in popularity but there is no substitute for well-informed decisions made by parliaments

    The morning after January 31, 1918 citizens of the new Soviet Union woke to find it was now February 14. That meant that the 1917 October Revolution that had brought Lenin’s Bolsheviks to power had henceforth to be commemorated in November. So (and despite media appearances to the contrary) there are still three weeks to go, comrades.

    Anyway. The decision to change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar was made by a decree signed a week earlier by Lenin on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars, known as Sovnarkom. I can’t find any mention of anyone else being consulted, like the people themselves for example. On the face of it that’s odd, since the Bolshevik revolution was supposed to usher in … paywall

    • Stu

      Whenever I read Aaronvitch it’s a constant puzzle as to whether he’s simply a middle aged man still rebelling against his parents or a paid agent of the state (or more likely states).

      The paywall obscures the article but it would be interesting to know if he acknowledges that the British state also jumped a couple of weeks forward in time during the 18th century.

  • Mike Cooke

    I am reading Marc Bloch’s Feudal Society, which makes frequent reference to “Usages of Barcelona”

    Wiki page has ” James, seeing that some judges ruled by Gothic law and some by Roman law, according to a tradition of usus terrae (local custom), approached the Catalan Courts in 1251 to establish the primacy of the Usages.”

    “Spain” didn’t really exist as a unified state until 1400s with Isabella and Ferdinand and all that.

    • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

      On Sardinia the official history is that the Island belonged to the Catalan Kingdom a few ages back. They never mention Spain.

  • BrianPowell

    I wonder what would happen if every official in Catalonia who supports Catalonia were to refuse to carry out Madrid’s takeover?

  • Stu

    “What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people.”

    It’s not only the modern state, this is the exact nature of the capitalist state.

    Anyone who watched the Universal Credit debate yesterday would have witnessed Tory MPs talk about British people on benefits as if they were livestock to be controlled and profited from. It was horrible to listen to but it serves as an important reminder that the interests of a tiny elite dominates British politics and that the current Labour slogan of ‘For the many, not the few’ is vital.

  • Loony

    How surprising to read yet another simplistic and flawed analysis of Spain and the EU response to Spain.

    You cannot change the past, and actions of the past influence current responses and future developments.

    Consider that Spain has been the recipient of at least Euros 377 billion of ECB bond buying largesse. Question: Does anyone think that the intrinsic value of Spanish sovereign debt will be in any way affected by stripping out the wealthiest region of Spain from the Kingdom of Spain.

    If a financial crisis erupts in Spain will it be confined to Spain? Italy is in an even worse position having benefited from Euros 430 billion of ECB freshly printed cash. The worlds largest hedge fund has just opened a $1.1 billion short position on 6 Italian financial companies plus ENI and ENEL – so someone is answering that question in 1.1 billion ways.

    Take a look at the position of Deutsche Bank and place that position in the context of remarks made by Mark Carney – and you will see that the British hold all of the cards in terms of negotiating with the EU.

    Given this background, what exactly do you expect the EU to do? They don’t care about Catalans and they don’t care about Spaniards and they don’t about you (whoever you are).

    If you are really interested in human rights then you should have protested the greatest ever historical transfer of wealth from poor to rich that began under the cover of the Great Financial Crisis. All that you see now are merely symptoms of this epic theft. There will be many more symptoms, in fact there will be as many symptoms as is required to kill the patient.

    Not all problems have solutions – and seeking to blame Spain is a nefarious exercise in seeking to evade your own culpability in this festering nightmare of systemic bankruptcy which substantially no-one has the willingness to acknowledge.

    • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

      You are confusing two things. Yes your story holds water as such.
      No, Catalonia wanting independence has in that sense nothing to do with any transfer from rich to poor.
      My wifes Catalan friends were already singing the Catalan indepence song in the nineties. Way before any crisis.

      • Loony

        I am not confusing anything.

        The EU cannot allow Catalan independence as they are concerned that it will bring down the entire system. They have this concern because (unlike most of the general population) they know what they have done and hence they know how precarious the situation is.

        Sure, some people have always been in favor of Catalan independence, equally some have not. Both sides have entrenched positions and do not seem minded to compromise. A lot of this has to do with the Spanish view of itself. The position of the EU is dictated by financial and economic concerns. The EU does not care about either Spaniards or Catalans. Indeed they may even prefer Civil War 2.0 as that would allow them to shift the blame and focus from themselves and onto another set of “useful idiots” comprising Catalans and Spaniards. The only real question is whether the Spanish and Catalans are stupid enough to allow themselves to die in order to provide cover for the EU.

        Outside people writing inflammatory and polemical pieces based on no understanding of the tensions within Spanish society merely serve to divert attention from the consequences of the greatest theft in all of recorded history – and one of those consequences is that the EU cannot now contemplate Catalan independence under any circumstances. This aligns them exactly with Madrid – but it does mean that they care at all about Madrid.

        • Old Mark

          The position of the EU is dictated by financial and economic concerns

          Loony- I don’t share your apparently visceral opposition to the idea of Catalan independence but you are spot on here.

          On a more general point about the applicability of Article 2 of the UN Charter on self determination, the Western powers (including the EU) are highly pragmatic on this point. As a rule of thumb, there is no right of self determination to ‘peoples’ in Africa, since that would in all probability lead to the creation of tribally based states- hence the opposition in the late 60s to Biafran succession from Nigeria. (The independence of a congeries of peoples in South Sudan was however supported by the West, as the Khartoum government were deemed to be naughty boys who needed to be taught a lesson).

          As for Article 2 in the EU, there would be no objection from Brussels to NI joining the RoI if a valid referendum mandated the same, but it is clear the Sprouts are not similarly indulgent to the creation of a Catalan state even if a valid referendum where to take place- for the reasons succinctly given by Loony.

        • freddy

          Spain is thought to be the Fifth or sixth largest economy in the E.U.
          The second largest economy in the E.U. is in the process, of removing its self from the E.U.
          This will make the economy of |Spain, even more important to the E.U.
          Catalonia has about one fifth of the economy of Spain.
          If Catalonia leaves Spain, in a peaceful manner, taking its one fifth of the Spanish economy with it, this will again reduce the overall size of the economy of the E.U.
          This is because Catalonia, will have put its self, outside of the E.U.

          If things go bad, the whole economy of Spain, could greatly reduce
          or even implode if there is Civil War 2.

          The E.U. can not afford any more states or statelets to leave
          the budget could not take it, their credibility would be shot away.

  • Rob Ross

    What western democracy isn’t operating beyond democratic legitimacy in this day and age? Defining the term isn’t as straight forward as it should be. The EU is probably the worst culprit in Europe at the moment. It’s condoning the Madrid government, as is the UK, USA and so many others

  • MBC

    As another illustration Craig, the Treaty of Utrecht in 1712 (actually a series of international treaties) which concluded the war of the Spanish succession, there are key differences between the Spanish versions and the ‘British’ ones.

    The Spanish version concludes the war with ‘Ingliterra’ (the entity it began the conflict with in 1702) whilst the British version is framed in the name of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’ an entity which appeared during the course of the war on 1st May 1707.

    The war of the Spanish succession was what ultimately brought Catalonia into the control of Spain, and Scotland into the control of England. The English Crown was clever though and covered up this humiliation with a fancy name change to placate the Scots, but Spain did not.

    The reason Queen Anne’s ministers stepped up negotiations for an ‘incoporating union’ with the Scots from 1702 onwards was the outbreak of the war and the fear that the Scots could restore a Bourbon-backed Stuart king to the Scottish throne, and from there, potentially to England too.

    The incorporating union was orchestrated to remove the Scottish Parliament and the capacity of the Scots to pursue an independent foreign policy during the war.

  • Louis

    Dear one and all

    I was thinking of getting a t-shirt printed, with the following

    Chapter 1, Article 1, Clause 2.

    2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.

    Is the word “clause” the correct terminology to use, in this context ?

    Here is’s interpretation
    “a distinct article or provision in a contract, treaty, will, or other formal or legal written document.”

    Any advise before I start to walk around as a human billboard for self determination.

    • craig Post author

      Clause is OK but I believe it is more commonly called a paragraph. Unlike the Chapters and Articles, there is no name in the treaty itself for the further subdivisions. Maybe Martinned might comment.

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