Suspending the Catalan Parliament, Spain Destroys the EU’s “Rule of Law” Figleaf. 221

It takes a very special kind of chutzpah systematically to assault voters, and drag them from polling booths by their hair, and then say that a low turnout invalidates the vote. That is the shameless position being taken by the Europe wide political Establishment and its corporate media lackeys. This Guardian article illustrates a refinement to this already extreme act of intellectual dishonesty. It states voter turnout was 43%. That ignores the 770,000 votes which were cast but physically confiscated by the police so they could not be counted. They take voter turnout over 50%.

That is an incredibly high turnout, given that 900 voters were brutalised so badly they needed formal medical treatment. The prospect of being smashed in the face by a club would naturally deter a number of people from voting. The physical closure of polling stations obviously stopped others from voting. It is quite incredible that in these circumstances, over 50% of the electorate did succeed in casting a vote.

To enable this of course required some deviation from norms. People were allowed to vote at any polling station. The right wing German politician from the Bavarian Christian Democrats, Manfred Weber, leads the largest group in the European Parliament, which includes Rajoy’s Popular Party. He was therefore the first speaker in the EU Parliament debate on events in Catalonia, and managed not to mention police violence or human rights at all in his speech. He did however find time to mock the Catalan authorities for making these last minute changes in procedures to voting rules, which he said invalidated the result.

Weber is no stranger to using spurious “legalities” to support the jackbooted oppressor. His party has attempted to close down EU Commission programmes to build schools and clinics for Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, on the grounds they do not have planning permission from the Israeli authorities.

The obvious answer to the objection of Weber and others on the running of the referendum, is to have another one agreed by all and run in strict accordance with international standards. Yet strangely, despite their complaints about the process, they do not want to have a better process. They rather do not wish people to be allowed to vote at all.

There are however no arguments that the Catalan Parliament was elected in anything but the proper manner. Its suspension by the Spanish Constitutional Court – a body on which 10 out of 12 members are political appointees – is therefore not due to any doubts about the Catalan Parliament’s legitimacy.

No, the Catalan Parliament has been suspended because the Constitutional Court fears it may be about to vote in a way that the Spanish government does not like.

Note that it has not even done this yet. Nobody knows how its members will actually vote, until they vote. The Constitutional Court is suspending a democratically elected body in case it takes a democratic vote of its members.

This makes the EU look pretty silly. It was looking pretty silly anyway. I telephoned the Cabinet today of Frans Timmermans, the EU Commissioner who told the European Parliament that Spain was entitled to use force against the Catalans and it had been proportionate. I spoke to a pleasant young man responsible for the “rule of law and fundamental rights” portfolio in the Cabinet. I got through by using my “Ambassador” title.

Here is the thing. He was genuinely shocked to hear that people thought the Commission’s support for use of force was wrong. He stated that it had not been the intention of Timmermans to say the use of force was proportionate, rather it must be proportionate. He became very agitated and refused to answer when I repeatedly questioned him as to whether he thought the use of force had in fact been proportionate. I suggested to him rather strongly that in refusing to acknowledge the disproportionate use of force, he was in effect lying. I pointed out that Timmermans had supported use of force and said “rule of law” over and over again, but scarcely mentioned human rights.

Here is the thing. It was plain that his shock was genuine, and he had no idea whatsoever of the social media reaction to Timmermans speech. I told him to search Timmermans on twitter and facebook and see for himself, and he agreed to do so. The problem is, these people live in a Brussels bubble where they interact with other Eurocrats and national diplomats, and members of the Establishment media, but have no connection at all to the citizenry of the EU. Nor had he seen the Amnesty International report, which I subsequently emailed him.

The rule of law is not everything. Apartheid was legally enforced in South Africa. Mr Weber’s Nazi antecedents had laws. British colonialism was enforced by laws. Nor is the administration of the law always impartial. Apartheid had its judges. Pinochet had judges to enact his version of the “rule of law”.

Actually all dictators are very big on “the rule of law”.

The most sinister thing Timmermans said to the European Parliament was “There can be no human rights without the rule of law”. Sinister because he did not balance it with “there can be no rule of law without human rights”.

What Spain is attempting now to impose on Catalonia is rule of law without democracy. I am going to be most interested to see how Brussels manages to justify that. We are seeing a whipping up of hatred by a central government against a national and linguistic minority and a suppression of its freedoms and institutions.

The highly politicised Spanish Constitutional Court, in suspending a democratically elected parliament because it does not like its views, has pointed up today that it is not sufficient for the EU to simply parrot “rule of law”. Spain currently has a Francoist Party in power with a Francoist judiciary intent on closing down democracy in Catalonia.

The rule of law within the EU has to stem from democracy, and to respect human rights. Neither is true in Rajoy’s Spain.


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221 thoughts on “Suspending the Catalan Parliament, Spain Destroys the EU’s “Rule of Law” Figleaf.

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  • Stefan

    Franco, Hitler, South-Africas Apartheid-Regime, Pinochet: Really?! Are these historical parallels appropriate? Is this where Spain stands at this moment in time? Is Rajoy killing Jews, is he suppressing a racial majority, is he installing death squads to randomly execute political opponents? Are these comparisons helpful to get a proper view onto the situation?

    What I am really afraid of, is how fast we reach into the bottom-drawers of history to make our arguments look flashy and how quickly all sides are willing to abandon the painfully slow and ugly democratic processes of arguing, bargaining, compromise in favor of “give me what I want”.

    • stan van houcke

      it is inverted totalitarianism, as sheldon wolin has formulated. and in this respect it does not differ from other totalitarian regimes. it is telling educated people can’t see this.

    • nevermind

      Stefan, what is your reaction to Timmermans and Webers right wing speeches in the EU parliament?
      Are you disturbed that Human rights are only mentioned by the Greens? that EU voters and Citizens seemingly don’t matter anymore.
      Why do you think that Commissioners of the EU in the 21st. Century should not be elected by us all? they are a law to themselves and lobby fodder to some, imho, it could be argued, spreading damaging impacts on our varied societies. (GM for example)
      The past and present will always determine our future, not that Germany takes much care of their fallen 1st world war soldiers or graves, es war eine grosse Schande, am besten vergessen.

    • mog

      Stefan, I agree.
      I listened to a few things on the radio last night, I have read just a few articles on Catalonia, yet I am none the wiser as to what are the precise grievances held by the roughly 50% of Catalans who want to secede from Spain.
      I have not heard examples of the Catalan language and culture being suppressed; their economic situation appears-in general terms- better than that of the rest of Spain; they have a relatively high degree of political representation for a semi-autonomous region within a larger state; and they have parliamentarians in Madrid.
      All I have read/ heard is that (prior to Sunday) they were pursuing expression of a ‘national identity’ (in the tradition of romantic nationalism), that and ‘full fiscal autonomy’. Now of course there are other grievances.

      Nationalism in the cause of ‘breaking from the Neoliberal order’ is no more than a chimera. People are being played, and effectively calling for social breakdown and war for…… what, I do not know?
      It seems to me that the Madrid government, the Catalan government and the EU are all to blame for this situation, and responsible people should all be calling for a dialogue and peaceful resolution.
      This is not how I interpret the nationalist writings and identity politics here on this blog.

      • Geordie Bordie

        They’ve had their autonomy diluted, they’re pissed off with austerity and they’re not allowed to pass laws to alleviate the financial pressures on their people.

        Even though they have the resources to do so.

      • Achnababan

        We are all nationalists – whether British, Scottish, Spanish, Catalan. What is Spain other than a nationalistic device?

        Nationalism is often used as an accusation but we are all nationalists in the sense we know what nation or perhaps community we want to live in? With globalisation people are searching not only for identity but also for a community that will represnet them. I am not British and Westminster does not represent me – it represents the banks and the corporations and I am Scottish. What is your problem with that? Should I be sent for reeducation or perhaps stronger ‘treatment’ is required.

  • GA

    In any democracy, people have the right to vote. Whether Catalonia has the right to secede or not is debatable and is being debated in these comments.

    What is not debatable is the acceptability of the violence perpetrated on the people of Catalonia.

    If the voting for independence is illegal, then declare it so after the fact. Don’t beat innocent people into submission to stop them from voting (and then declare too few people voted to make it binding).

    Can you imagine what would have happened if Scots and Québécois were violently denied their right to vote? Well, we are about to see.

  • jon

    Hello I am Catalan. I was born near Barcelona in the 80s and never thought I would see brutality up close. I went to vote with hope and hours later my heart was broken. The screams of peaceful people and now the silence of the EU… A great article.

  • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

    This article is spot on.
    The Catalans want independence because the Spanish government refused to talk in the first place. The Spanish government refuses any mediation as well. And now that the Catalans want independence, the Spanish PM replies by stating that he only wants to talk if the Catalans quit with the independence process. However, that process came about because the Spanish government, including the Spanish PM, refused to talk in the first place.
    One of the fundamental principles of a democracy is the goal to work towards an agreement, or at least a consensus. One of the most essential tools to obtain that is having talks, which includes listening to others, and the will to reach said goals.
    The Spanish government has shown that it is unwilling to live up to those democratic principles by deliberately denying the Catalans any talks. Therefore, the Catalans see themselves resorting to this, what some may seem extreme, measure. And that measure is a Referendum, which happens to be the ultimate democratic tool. In that referendum one question was asked: ‘Do you want Catalonia te become a independent republic?”. Nothing more, nothing less.
    In the Netherlands, the majority view is that if a province wants to hold a referendum on independence, then we should let them. After all, who am i to stand in anybody’s way regarding their (not mine!) future. But before that, if any argument arises then we sit down and talk. Mostly with a good cup of coffee. I fail to see what is so hard about that.
    Even our King declared that he would abdicate if the majority of the public would vote for that, stating that he would respect that as a democratic decision.
    It is precisely this attitude that prevents provinces from wanting to declare independence. It is about the basic recognition of ‘others’ or ‘the other’, their language, their culture, their identity and therefore the right to govern (or have a say in) their own destiny.

    In Spain however, the refusal to apply basic democratic tool is backed up by sending about 10000 national police and now 20 army trucks of battle hardened soldiers are on their way to Catalonia. 180 degrees away from democracy.

    I can wholeheartedly say that i am glad i do not live in Spain, because the Spanish definition of democracy is fundamentally different from that of ‘the Dutch’.

    Another thing that worries me is that all Spanish people i talk to deliberately equal nationalism with fascism. This is no exaggeration of mine, they really do. I think this has to do with the Spanish trauma of the Franco years, where nationalism indeed equalled fascism. However, to apply that trauma to the current situation (or to the rest of Europe) is unhelpful to say the least.

    For the rest… see the article. Like stated; totally spot on!

    • Ba'al Zevul

      And where you’re living, fascism is unknown. Or is it?

      Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.
      (Giovanni Gentile, Mussolini’s ghostwriter)

      Doesn’t remotely resemble our politico-economic setup, does it?

      • Henri Kerkdijk-Otten

        Completely agree. I only transmit what people from Spain said to be. I don’t make the automatic connection between nationalism (as such) equals fascism.

  • Alan Black

    Craig it is not obvious at the end of your tweets how to physically donate. There is no stand out DONATE link. I eventually found it by clicking on uncategorised but suggest you make it clearer. I’m sure you will receive more if it is easier to donate.

  • fred

    One thing I do find concerting about the Catalan affair is the way social media was used to skew people’s perception of events. Right from the start pictures started appearing, a picture of the police apparently attacking someone in a wheelchair which turned out to have been taken in 2011, a picture purporting to be Spanish police attacking firemen which turned out to be Catalan police attacking firemen during an anti-austerity protest in 2013 and the woman claiming the police had broken all her fingers one by one which turned out to be a complete fabrication, it didn’t happen.

    This false reality is still circulating on social media, people are still seeing it and believing it and reposting it and I have to wonder if the propaganda campaign wasn’t planned in advance.

    • Aim Here

      But there’s *plenty* of genuine footage of the Spanish police beating the shit out of protesters over the current referendum, including Catalan firefighters.

      I didn’t see these supposed ‘fake’ clips until today. Are you sure this isn’t a case of ‘fake fake news’ where some fraudulent footage is mixed in by supporters of Spain to cast aspersions on the very large amount of very real footage of the very real thuggery of the Spanish state?

      • fred

        But how do we know what is real and what isn’t when there is a concerted effort to flood social media with fake pictures?

        It makes no difference whether it is fake news or fake fake news, it’s just as disconcerting as who is doing it, someone is using social media to control peoples minds as which side it is.

        • Geordie Bordie

          It’s called hybrid war, and it’s supposed to be confusing.

          There’ll be a lot lot more of it until a new Pax Whatever comes to be.

          I hope the Scots are brushing up.

        • JOML

          Fred, social media is abused by individuals and organisations to mislead and confuse people. However, this is no different to our printed press, albeit social media is much faster. The press compound matters when they ‘copy & paste’ from the internet to fill their pages, as they don’t have the finances for proper journalism. Not sure what can be done about fake news, with the onus on us to be alert.

        • D. G. Neree

          When I see a video of armoured police throwing people down the stairs like sandbags and then jumping down on them with stretched leg, there is no doubt in my mind that it is real.

  • giyane

    I think the young man you spoke to might have been genuinely worried about losing his job.

    • craig Post author

      No, I did not pick up any feeling of that at all. Bewilderment at why anyone was so concerned by all this, rather.

  • fred

    It seems what we think of as Catalonia and what the Separatists think of as Catalonia are two different things. They claim a large chunk of Spain and France is rightfully theirs. This irredentism is equivalent to Norway claiming much of Britain is their territory and is a favourite ploy of another Nationalist government on the Mediterranean coast.

    Even if they got independence that wouldn’t be the end of it, just the beginning.

    • Geordie Bordie

      That’s happening all over the world.

      As empires break down, issues which have remained unsolved for many years due to the hegemon’s control, suddenly become live again.

      You’re watching history unfold.

      What a wonderful time to be alive.

        • Geordie Bordie

          Not really.

          The usual claim is that the rise of Germany produced WWI, and then poor choices by the victors went on to produce WWII.

          But it didn’t have to be that way.

          It doesn’t necessarily follow.

          Those who objected to Germany’s economic rise could, for example, just have worked a bit harder, produced a bit more.

          As Trump is talking about doing.

          The bigger danger is when trade is blocked, as for example through Eastern Europe.

          No need for that really.

          So, the Europeans need to grow some balls and stand up to the Americans.

          Problem is none of them have any balls.

          And i suspect most of them are half-pissed most of the time.

          • fred

            Hitler justified the invasion of Poland by claiming he was protecting the Volksdeutsche.

            The invasion of Poland led to Britain declaring war on Germany.

          • Geordie Bordie

            Hitler was a product of the poor choices made by the victors of WWI.

            That’s the accepted narrative.

            My point is that it’s not inevitable.

            Obviously politicians can make poor choices and incite wars and all manner of bad things, as for example the Spanish authorities are currently doing.

            But it doesn’t follow from the fall of an empire that war ensues.

            It’s not inevitable.

            There are other choices.

            The UK, for example, passed the baton to the US after WWII without global conflict between them.

    • reel guid

      Has it never occurred to you that Catalonia was Catalonia before becoming a large chunk of Spain, as you so elegantly put it?

      Irredentism by the way is when people in a sovereign nation want a bit of another country because of historical, ethnic, cultural ties etc.

      So Catalonia and Scotland are countries wanting to gain sovereignty. Not sovereign countries wanting a bit of another country.

      Therefore no one in Scotland is an irredentist. Although Anas Sarwar is an irritating dentist.

      • nevermind

        Anas Sarwar, his father and his family clan have history as jack Straws cheerleaders.

    • craig Post author

      Except Fred there are not areas where people speak Norwegian in the UK.

      There are indeed contiguous Catalans in France, and one day I should be happy to see them in an independent Catalonia if they wish. No current indication they do wish.

      You have a fanatical obsession with all national boundaries remaining as is, irrespective of the fact that they shift continually and have always done so.

      • fred

        I have seen no evidence the majority of people in Catalonia want to separate from Spain but they seem to be being railroaded into it by Nationalists.

      • Kerch'ee Kerch'ee Coup

        Surely in the Shetlands,Orkney ( and Caithness),Old Norse place names and words survive just as with Kernou in Cornwall or Manx in the IOM(not UK,but…,).Certainly ,people there are rather different in their thinking and speech to those in the West or the Edinburgh/Holyrood bubble. And Vive la difference
        .I recall seeing a plan for EU regions that grouped these areas with Southern Scandinavia rather than the Scotland/Northumbrian region.
        While the EU’ s founding fathers sought to break down the nation -states they saw as bringers of war, their intellectual descendants seek to break down differences by also dissolving strong regional identities.

  • Carolyn Thériault

    As much as I condemn and abhor the violence of this past week (& I truly do – it sickens me), I call bullshit. “What Spain is attempting now to impose on Catalonia is rule of law without democracy.” Catalonia did the same thing. This referendum was illegal *by Catalonian law*. The bill to set aside Spanish law was illegal *by Catalonian law*. The bill was not passed democratically. Why is the international press not mentioning that?

    • Geordie Bordie

      The Spanish government has acted very very poorly and encouraged this negative media attention.

      I believe that Rajoy did this to enhance support amongst his more Francoist supporters.

      Big mistake, and now you’re paying the price.

      And the king only made things worse.

      I’m not sure Rajoy and the king are really cut out for the big league.

    • craig Post author

      Because people are – rightly – not comfortable with the idea it is illegal to hold a democratic vote on something.

  • James Chater

    The Spanish government should not have interfered at all, let alone use violence. No they are trying to block the Catalan government from going about its lawful business. They should just have declared the vote invalid. I don’t know that Catalan independence is a very good idea – who needs yet more borders? – but any chance that it can be stopped has probably vanished after the heavy-handed Spanish reaction. The Catalans have now been made to seem in the right.

    • reel guid

      Borders and territorial arrangements have been in flux since the late Neolithic era. Why should it stop now because some people can’t accept change?

      • Geordie Bordie

        It’s vested interests in the current arrangements that stop what needs to be done.

        It’s terrible really because the vested interests aren’t productive at all, just parasitic waters.

      • D. G. Neree

        Mostly the change of these borders were paid for in blood. Now that the people want to do it democratically, already blood has been spilled by the Spanish government for this possible future border.

  • reel guid

    The Madrid government’s representative in Catalonia Enric Millo – the Spanish Davie Mundell I suppose – has apologised for the behaviour of some of the police. But also blamed the Catalan government for “provoking” the violence.

    Predictable really. I kept saying that because everyone was referring to the “police violence” instead of state violence that it would give Madrid a chance to distance themselves from the police “excesses”. And that’s exactly what they are doing. It’s an old trick of course.

  • N_

    @Geordie Bordie

    Rajoy acted as he did, sending in his thugs, not to quell a budding secession, but rather to shore up his own Francoist base with memories of Franco’s merciless beating of the Catalan people.

    Which they cheered and cheered.

    He had been losing support to the Socialists, but when he unnecessarily beat the Catalan, up goes his vote.

    This is in large part accurate, although you omit to mention the context of the economic differential between Catalonia and the rest of Spain.

    Remember also that Franco wasn’t an accident. He was the elite and monarchy’s guy, brought in to suppress democracy during a period of decline.

    The monarchy? Are you joking? That was abolished in 1931 and wasn’t brought back during 1934-36, or when the fascists won the war in 1939 either, and Franco only restored it on paper in 1947, for successor reasons – he had no sons. As for “elite”, you could be more specific. Of course he was the man of the oligarchy, yes: the few hundred families with large landownings, represented ideologically not by “nationalism”, or at least not much (the idea that the Spanish Falangists should call themselves “National” came from the German propaganda guy Goebbels – it wasn’t something that occurred naturally to them at all), but mainly by a traditionalist and Jesuit-hating strand of Catholicism, beloved of senior priests and their order called Opus Dei. (You get a prize if you can tell me which country Ignatius of Loyola was from, and about the role that that fact played in Opus dislike of the SJs in Spain 🙂 .)

    When he’d done his work, and the world was moving towards financial capitalism back comes the king and the rest of the elite wasters to reclaim their wealth.

    Franco was just doing their dirty work for them.

    Franco and they are one.

    You write as if the elite ever left Spain. Don’t forget who WON the civil war.

    • Kerch'ee Kerch'ee Coup

      He was of course Basque. Is the prize open to all or just your addressee?

    • Geordie Bordie

      I certainly was trying to connect the monarchy to Franco, in the sense of his keeping the seat warm, but yes, I overreached with this nonsense.

      “and the rest of the elite wasters to reclaim their wealth.”

      It doesn’t matter that the monarchy was abolished by Leftists in 1931. This is irrelevant.

      The point is that it was restored by Franco and he did keep that seat warm during a period of economic decline. To that extent the crimes of Franco are related to the monarchy.

      Would it be unreasonable to argue that?

      You say that the restoration of the monarchy is because Franco had no sons, that had he a son then that son would have succeeded him.

      That’s the implication, at least.

      I’m interested in this.

      How do we know this for sure. Franco was a monarchist.

      What evidence is there that he was not acting for the monarchy. I don’t mean the exiled king particularly, though that would be interesting , but why do you think he only restored the monarchy because he had no sons and didn’t intend such a thing all along.

      You’d expect a monarchist to hold to some branch of the family line. That’s quite important.

      Isn’t it possible that he simply wished to distance the monarchy from his crimes?

    • D. G. Neree

      That’s right. The landowners you mention (glass of Sherry anyone?) are still there. They own enormous pieces of Spain. You can drive for hours and only see their olive groves and grapevines.

  • Republicofscotland

    What the world saw was the fascist paramilitary Guardia Civil, beat, stamp on and shoot with rubber bullets, anyone who had the audacity to vote to determine the future of the Catalan people.

    Old ladies and parents holding children were given no quarter, they were clubbed and bloodied and thrown to the ground, by fascist thugs on the orders of Rajoy, and no one can tell me that the king of Spain didn’t know what Rajoy’s intention were towards the Catalan’s on the day of voting.

    The fascist paramilitary thugs, dragged people by the hair, who showed no resistance whatsoever, they smashed their way into schools intimidated and verbally abused those trying to vote.

    The fascist henchmen, then proceeded to steal the ballot boxes. Not content with showing the world that Franco’s old guard thinking is very much alive and well in Madrid, the fascist Guardia Civil, clubbed punched and kicked fire fighters, who tried to defend innocent women and children.

    There are those who see the vote as illegal and unconstitutional, is self determination, unconstitutional? Does the Spanish governments laws, come straight from the hands of god? I think not.

    No matter your opinion the violence carried out by the Spanish government, was deplorable. Spain has gone way down in my table of respect, as with many others.

    • E F Nicholson

      “fascist paramilitary thugs” Really, what does that make actual “fascist paramilitary thugs”? That liberal and lose use of the term devalues the meaning and denigrate those in Spain who were actually murdered and tortured under an actual fascist ruler. You want to see how free independent Catalan police, under its current right-wing government treat civil dissent? Do you know why the Catalan police don’t use rubber bullets anymore?

      • D. G. Neree

        “That liberal and lose use of the term devalues the meaning”
        Not in this case. The Guardia Civil was founded by Franco and the GC was for him what the SS was for Hitler. This paramilitary police unit should’ve been disbanded when Franco died, but now it is back in full swing and better equipped miltarily than in the days of Franco. Don’t forget that Franco had a lot of support too and the falangist were never neutralised. The right wing governments were always supported and manned by the ex-falangists. Furthermore, the step from throwing people down the stairs to torture is a very small one indeed. Like Frans Timmermans said: “proportionate violence is accepted to uphold the rule of law”. So this is proportionate when people want to vote? Then what is proportionate to a protest march? Live ammunition?

        Although the term has deliberately has been devalued, the thing itself is still there, whatever you call it.

      • Republicofscotland

        Bashing the infirm, elderly and parents with children, with batons and rubber bullets, just because they decided to vote on their futures, is in my opinion the first step of the fascist ladder.

        • David Rawlings

          The point of Nicholson’s post is that previously the police of the Catalonian province conducted a very similar attack on peaceful and legitimate protesters using extreme violence, and that because the said police had removed their identifying insignias, and covered their faces, it is implied that the violence, apparently as bad as this last lot, was premeditated. Two wrongs don’t make a right of course, but perhaps adds to the perspective of the current debate.

      • Antonia Donda

        E F Nicholson, yes, absolutely right. The Catalan police in 2011 under the rule of neoliberal conservative Catalan Artur Mas (predecessor of Puigdemont) brutally cracked down on Catalan citizens when they were protesting against the social cuts imposed by the Catalan government.

        It is amazing how people have selective amnesia.

        The current Spanish government ist unfortunately the worst partner for dialogue, I absolutely disagree with their politics and their promotion of last week’s Policia National and Guardia Civil irrational attacks.

        We should discuss a new model of Spain, for instance a federal and Republican state. Possibly in that new model, fewer people would be attracted to separatism. But of course in case that new Spain never happens, we should promote the declaration of a legal agreed-upon referendum in Catalonia. But there cannot be a mock “Pseudo-approval” of a referendum in the Catalan parliament as happened this time, were opposing parties were silenced and largely ignored (I don’t mean only the PP) during the discussion.

        Let’s not get lost in the fantasy of “liberating the Catalan” people and be blind to the dangerous tactics of the Catalan neoliberal conservative party: their tactics so far do not look so different from those of the PP (Rajoy’s party): social cuts, crackdown by their police on people (under Artur Mas in 2011), silencing and ignoring opposing parties and voices in the Parliament, controlling the media:

  • N_

    So nobody here knows about the SNP’s position on the Spanish civil war when it was actually going on, or about which side or sides, if any, SNP members supported?

    Strange. I thought some people here were interested in the SNP.

    Remember that “support” in those days often didn’t mean empty resolutions, or bollocks posted to websites, or clicktivism, or letting off steam. For a lot of people it meant actually going to Spain to fight against the fascist army literally, including in the trenches. Many were killed. Or of course to fight FOR fascism, because some foreigners did that too.

    • reel guid

      The SNP was only founded in 1934. And in those days was a tiny party. The SNP was though the first party in the first world to pass a conference motion condemning the US created war in Vietnam.

    • Republicofscotland

      Most who fought in Spain from Scotland were affiliated to communist or labour organistations, maybe you should be addressing Rob Griffiths, or Jeremy Corbyn on such matters.

      As for present day Catalonia, the SNP, and its independence supporters have a connection with Catalans through the struggle for independence.

      • E F Nicholson

        RepublicofScotland are you aware the ruling party pro-independence party PDeCAT and its leader Carles Puigdemont are on the far-right?

        • reel guid

          Puigdemont’s party is a member of the ALDE group of liberal parties in the EU Parliament. This group includes the UK’s Liberal Democrats.

          Far right you say? LOL.

          • Republicofscotland

            reel guid.

            I don’t see his point anyway, what bearing would it have on the self determination of the Catalan people.

            Far right, AfD, of Germany or France’s Front National.

            The only fascism I saw during Sunday’s vote came from the Spanish government.

          • reel guid

            E F Nicholson

            Pro-austerity can mean anything. All governments round the world have had to take austerity measures since 2008 whatever their political orientation. A Corbyn government would have to take some austerity measures given UK debt levels, which are hardly likely to improve with Brexit. There’s a big difference between prudent austerity and vicious Tory austerity deliberately aimed at the vulnerable of society.

            And wherever the PDeCat are on the political spectrum – and I know they’re not far right – Catalan independence is about a pluralistic democracy. And socialists can try to win office same as everybody else. Same as any other democracy.

            Are you really saying you’d prefer the people of Catalonia to have to knuckle down under PP Francoism for maybe years while you hope for some socialist millennium coming to Europe?

          • Antonia Donda

            PDeCAT is centre to centre-right
            Among many things, they are Republicans, but as my favourite leftwing Republican politician in Spain writes (in abstract terms not referring to Catalonia): he’d rather embrace a Swedish monarchy than a right-wing republic.

            In any case, it is worth checking some facts on the PDeCAT, as e.g. why they re-named their Party a few years ago to separate themselves from the sudden bad reputation of their party’s former name Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya. As it happened, their all-time leader Jordi Pujol was involved in a huge corruption and money laundering case (just like the PP politicians).
            Even a funnier fact, Pujol and his CDC party (predecessor of PDeCAT) had been ruling Catalonia for like 16 years and they were in coalition with the central Spanish government, be it socialist or PP. And all scholars agree that Pujol never had the goal of promoting independene for Catalonia.
            So, yes, a few fun facts that really make me doubt the real intentions behind Puigdemon’s strategy to fight for independence.

            Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya we may like more or less but they seem more consistent in their programme and strive for an independent Catalonia.

  • E F Nicholson

    I think this is video worth watching that give a Catalonia on the lefts perceptive. If you don’t speak Spanish he basically asking under Carles Puigdemont and his party PDeCAT what will be different. As a far right party they are not questioning capitalism, austerity, they are not willing to re-nationalize utilities, roll back the privatization of education that’s now rampant in Spain, or openly investigate there massive corruption in their party and across the spectrum in Catalonian politics.So he is saying “you want me to wave a flag and call for freedom.Freedom from what? Free from Rajoy and PP so we can replace with your right wing neo-liberalism?” followed by some foul language telling them where they can shove it.

    • mog


      Do the Catalan nationalists (or nationalists anywhere) have anything approaching a real alternative to the austerity Neoliberalism that their supporters here keep telling us is their just cause ?

  • Republicofscotland

    In my opinion King Felipe’s emergency message was divisive and full of blame apportioning, aimed squarely at the Catalan people.

    Felipe went on to say that the Catalan government had been disloyal. Of course now that his fascist thugs have given the Catalan’s a right good thumping, I’m sure loyalty will be the last thing on their minds.

    Interestingly whilst delivering his tirade towards a people who’s only crime was to vote on their future. Felipe sat at his desk and behind him the portrait of Charles III, the present king’s Bourbon ancestor who imposed the Spanish (Castillian) language at the expense of Catalan in the education system in 1768.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Here we have a Spanish Government official making an apology for the infliction of state violence in the Catalan region.
    So – when the vote was to take place and was impeded by the Spanish authorities – then what credence can one give to any statement coming from the Spanish Government regarding the accurate count of turnout and voting results in the referendum:-

    The Spanish government’s official representative in Catalonia, Enric Millo, said in a television interview as quoted by Reuters.

    “When I see these images, and more so when I know people have been hit, pushed and even one person who hospitalised, I can’t help but regret it and apologise on behalf of the officers that intervened,”

  • reel guid

    Coming soon on the BBC. An old favourite updated for the modern era.

    When The Boot Comes In

    Self-made northerner Jack Ford decides to return to his socialist roots and goes to Iberia to fight the fascist Guardia Civil. Once there he realises hardly anyone in Labour gives a toss. So he returns home and opens a wine bar in Chelsea.

    • Carl

      Catalan independence has nothing to do with socialism (read E F Nicholson’s post above), and the British Labour party was not committed to achieving it for Spain in the 1930s.

      • reel guid

        Independence has to do with freedom. So I would have hoped there’s some connection between independence and socialism.

          • E.F Nicholson

            Tory on wiki are defined as centre right. So lets considered them Catalonian Tories. 😉

          • Republicofscotland

            The way you described them earlier, you’d have thought Marine le Pen or Gert Wilders was the current leader.

            You Sir like Spain, are fast loosing credibility.

        • Carl

          It depends how freedom is defined. For two centuries, it’s been the chosen buzzword for the most pitiless right-wingers on the planet. There’s ample evidence that the vision of freedom driving Catalonia’s ruling elite is freedom from having to help Spain’s poor regions, as opposed to freeing poorer Catalans from precarity and insecurity. That does not justify Madrid’s reaction to the referendum vote, but let’s not liken the ideals of the leaders of the independence movement with those of socialists.

          • E F Nicholson

            RepublicofScotland the definition of what constitutes left, center, right and far right are fairly subjective. Could anyone really consider the Tories center-right? The left has moved to the center, the center to the right and the right even further right.Call it further right, hard right, far right and the likes of Le Pen extreme right. Either way if that lose me credibility then I’m not sure where it leaves any moron who thought Carles Puigdemont and his party PDeCAT were on the left.

        • Phil the ex-frog

          reel guid
          “Independence has to do with freedom. So I would have hoped there’s some connection between independence and socialism.”


  • Kerch'ee Kerch'ee Coup

    Not directly related but Yanis Varoufrakis is having a live facebook Q&A session for
    at16.00 (London/Edinburgh time/18.00 Athens))today. Might be a chance to clarify or further muddy our thinking on the reformability of the EU.

    • J

      “…all political parties consider themselves owners of their members…”

      Indeed. Real democracy is at the heart of Diem25. The control of policies is with the membership. Twenty first century politics.

  • D. G. Neree

    ““There can be no human rights without the rule of law”
    Truly sinister, because it implies that human rights like freedom of epression are “given” to the people as a kind of privilege by the state.

    But it is the other way around. Human rights are natural rights, not given rights and the constitution is not made for restricting these natural rights, but to defend them against the government (and other people/organisations)

    Timmermans is a dictator pur sang. He believes in freedom UNDER the law(s) and that is a way of thinking that is all too common. Sadly so. People should wake up to the fact that the state is not the guardian of the people, but that it is or must be the servant of the people to ensure there are no breaches in their rights. Now it is the other way around, at least that’s what the powers that be like everyone to beieve.

  • E F Nicholson

    What I would like to ask Craig when it comes to …………………………”The rule of law is not everything. Apartheid was legally enforced in South Africa. Mr Weber’s Nazi antecedents had laws. British colonialism was enforced by laws. Nor is the administration of the law always impartial. Apartheid had its judges. Pinochet had judges to enact his version of the “rule of law”. ”

    If or when Catalonia becomes independent, how do you think PDeCAT and its leader Carles Puigdemont will deal with those who do what they are doing? PDeCAT being as right wing and as corrupt as Rajoy and PP doesn’t logic say they will do exactly the same. Isn’t it a case of pot, please to meet you kettle? When working-class Catalonian’s rise up and resist PDeCAT neo-liberal economics and harsh austerity, what rule of law will be applied then? Do you think Mossos d’Esquadra will have the same principled stand they are taking now?

    • Republicofscotland

      “Mr Weber’s Nazi antecedents had laws. British colonialism was enforced by laws. Nor is the administration of the law always impartial. Apartheid had its judges. Pinochet had judges to enact his version of the “rule of law”. ”

      Yes, but they didn’t have social media we do, those horrendous and brutal images of the Spanish fascist paramilitaries beating and shooting the old and infirm with batons and rubber bullets, were quickly shared around the world.

      King Felipe and his attack dog Rajoy, have definitely lost the moral high ground.

      • E F Nicholson

        I think you missed the point or ignored it. When or if Catalonia becomes independent, what will they do when if their citizenry applies the same logic against their rule? Say, takes a referendum to join back into Spain. Do you think Mossos d’Esquadra will follow orders or take political stand against it’s suppression? What do you think will happen to those police who defy orders under the “right wing” PDeCAT and its leader Carles Puigdemont?

  • nevermind

    Spain has officially apologised for its violent excesses, whilst the Catalan administration says its going ahead with its Independence declaration next Tuesday.

    One weekend to talk and the Swiss have offered to mediate. Why would that be? Could a Spanish Government/ banking crisis spread?

  • Republicofscotland

    This seems rather interesting, what do we make it?

    Questions put to international communications for the Government of Catalonia.

    He spoke to EURACTIV’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.

    “I understand your way of presenting the case, but at the same time, the referendum is illegal
    according to the Spanish constitution…?”

    I’m sorry, but I have to disagree. The referendum was not illegal. Calling a referendum is not illegal under Spanish law.

    “The Constitution says nothing about referendums. And in the penal code, there is nothing about calling a referendum illegal. [Former PM] Zapatero took this out from the penal code. And in any democracy, when something is not in the penal code, it’s not illegal. That’s how it should be.”

    “This is our first point. Our second point is that it was not illegal, because there was a law in the Catalan parliament that governed it. But even in the case that it would be considered illegal by some, which it is not, and I insist, this does not justify beating, mistreating, insulting people.”

    • giyane

      Brilliant. Just the kind of hard-hitting punchy stuff someone should say when they know they are in the right.

  • craig Post author

    Some spectacular stupidity being displayed on this comments thread.

    The right to self determination is reserved to “peoples”. The Catalans plainly are a “people” with a thousand year old documented history of existence as a people with their own culture, language and identity. Clackmannan, places in Aberdeenshire with Norwegian derived names, London or any other stupid example some right wing bore wants to posit to try to ridicule the notion of secession, are not a “people”.

    The self determination of a people is not dependent on their political orientation. Just as with Scots, I am sure there are Catalans of all kinds of political persuasions, and those will shift with time. Left wing bores who posit “they can’t have a right of secession they are not socialist” are equally daft.

    • JOML

      Craig, people often deliberately talk shit to support their perspective, unwittingly undermining the case they are trying to make. I’m sure you are often exasperated by some comments added to your articles, I only hope I don’t add to your exasperation, as I know I’ve provided a few frivolous looking no’s on occasion!
      PS. Hope you enjoyed the football ball last night – a burly youngster grabbed me and almost broke my ribs, as he swung me round when we got the goal – even the stewards and police joined in – a sharp contrast to events in Barcelona.

    • E F Nicholson

      I agree Craig , I don’t think the question of Catalonia’s right to succession should determined by political leadership of the ruling majority, as that will change with time possibly in either direction. Yet i think its well within reason to question the motives and outcomes of party such as PDeCAT and its leader Carles Puigdemont, who are at the forefront of whats going on. There is a legitimate concern expressed in the video i posted earlier in Spain where i live, that all the corruption, austerity and right wing polices current felt under Rajoy and PP will just be replicated under a free Catalonia. Its very difficult to separate those two issues, the right to succession and the parties and politics that driving that forward. If the Scottish conservatives were the face of Scottish independence that would impact how that is seen and sold. Its no different here in Spain. Its rich that Carles Puigdemont can be aghast at the brutality of Spanish police when Mossos d’Esquadra have shown equal brutality and I have no doubt under a Free Catalonia would continue to do so. States deem they have a monopoly on violence. Independent Catalonia won’t be any different, in particular under an equally as right wing party such as PDeCAT.

    • Carl

      Nobody’s said they can’t secede because they’re not socialist, just responding to nonsense that the Catalan secession movement has some relation to socialism.

  • Velofello

    Good question Fred – “How do we know what is real and what isn’t?”. Still watching the BBC? Worked examples for you there to learn.

    Where’s Loony? I ask him/her it if it was correct that Franco annexed Catalonia in 1938 and he/she has yet to respond, whilst claiming knowledge of Spanish history. Oh well.

    Fred, international accredited observers have confirmed the violence. Regards the young woman who claimed her fingers were broken, the guy holding her fingers one by one didn’t seem to be clipping her nails. And the lady with the huge bruise on her right eye following a “clip’ from a baton, it didn’t really appear that she’d been clumsy with her mascara.

    Seems to me it would be quite a production feat to stage manage the two referenced events as false news. Then there is the cast of thousands on the streets, fake news?

  • Loony

    So I return from a hard day in the fields to discover that I lack intellect and am boring.

    Not to worry. Let’s carry on with witless polemic based on no understanding at all. Or here is a better idea: You claim intellect so why not use it to write a balanced piece on Catalonia. How about addressing the corruption in Catalonia, asking who benefits and who loses. If the ultimate losers are the general population of Catalonia then why on earth would they vote for independence to be governed by people who are robbing them? What, if any, role are anarchists playing in Catalonia? If anarchists are playing a role then how come they want an independent state? Is this not a contradiction in terms?

    What could explain this? What if any role does the Catalan education system have to play in producing a population willing to vote for people that are stealing from them or to vote for people that basically want no state at all?

    Why not explain why, apparently under Catalan law, it is easier to declare independence than it is to appoint the head of a local TV station. Does this sound reasonable? and if so why?

    What about the rights of the (probable) majority of the Catalan population that do not want independence. Who is responsible for safeguarding their rights – or don’t they have any? and if not why not? If they have no rights then what happens if they revolt – are they to be repressed, or are they to be rescued by Spain?

    What about the significant minority of the population of Catalonia who identify exclusively as Spanish? What obligations does the government of Spain have toward these people? and what is the mechanism by which Spain will fulfill these obligations?

    What about Spanish people outside of Catalonia that do not want to see the break up of Spain. What rights do they have and how are those rights going to be exercised?

    How do you reconcile the competing interests of those who wish to abide by the law (specifically Article 8 of the Constitution) and those that do not wish to abide by the law? Given that the military most definitely wants to abide by the law and believes that it is ultimately charged with enforcing the law then exactly how do you de-escalate the situation? Please bear in mind that there is insufficient time available to adopt a program of re-education for the senior command of the army. Please also bear in mind that the President of Catalonia is only the President because he swore an oath of loyalty to the constitution which he now does not want to abide by. Does this in any way call the legitimacy of his position into question?

    I believe that Spain is in a very dangerous situation and stands on the precipice of disaster. If this wrong then why is it wrong?

    With regard to Spain this blog is taking on a tone similar to the RTLMC hate radio in Rwanda. What possible good can come of this?

    So, here is the deal:

    You go away and use your intellect and wit to write a balanced analysis of Spain and the problems that it faces, and play your small part in seeking to de-escalate the situation. You can come to any conclusions that you want but I want intellectual and non boring answers to the general themes outlined. In return I will contribute GBP 500 your libel defense fund, (roughly twice what I have managed to earn this week) and more importantly provide you with the satisfaction that if the corpses start to pile up then you will know that you did nothing to provoke the killings.


    You simply delete this post and both you and I will know that you are a fake and fraud


    You entirely ignore this post and let and stand, in which case at least some infinitesimal measure of reality will be recorded.

    • SilentCatalonia60%population

      Thank you Loony! You have expressed it perfect!

      The non secessionists are not only silent, WE HAVE BEEN SILENCED by fear to loose our jobs if we say what we think, our kids has been segregated signaled by secessionist “teachers”, insulted in the street if wear a small Spanish flag in a bracelet…. and so on.
      This will stop NOW. No matter what you say and how biased your article is.
      If you defend the law and the human rights of the weak indefense citizens, then you are in the wrong side.

  • Max_B

    I thought the courts had suspended the sitting of the Catalan parliament on Monday as they were going to discuss independence, and that subject has been judged to be outside of the Spanish constitution… or summat like that… daft obviously… nice article.

  • Dale Newton

    They didn’t need to do any hair-dragging or anything of the sort for the referendum to be invalid (for this reason, it puzzles many that they sent in the riot police like that).

    I live in Barcelona. Everyone here excepted the most indoctrinated knows perfectly well that the referendum has no democratic legitimacy whatsoever. Virtually none of the citizens who don’t want secession voted in the attempted referendum. Even a large proportion of those who want secession didn’t vote either because it has no legitimacy done like this and because of the democracy agnostic opportunists who are currently running this independence drive.

  • Michael

    The referendum was illegal so law abiding citizens didn’t vote for it. However the Catalan nationalists will use it as a pretext to declare independence.

    I hope the Daily Mail crush you.

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