Weep for Catalonia, Weep for Liberalism in Europe 161

The vicious jail sentences handed down today by the fascists (I used the word with care and correctly) of the Spanish Supreme Court to the Catalan political prisoners represent a stark symbol of the nadir of liberalism within the EU. That an attempt to organise a democratic vote for the Catalan people in pursuit of the right of self determination guaranteed in the UN Charter, can lead to such lengthy imprisonment, is a plain abuse of the most basic of human rights.

I was forced to withdraw my lifelong personal support for the EU when, in response to the vicious crushing of the Catalan referendum by Francoist paramilitary forces, when the whole world saw grandmothers hit on the head and thrown down stairs as they attempted to vote, all the institutions of the EU – Council, Commission and Parliament – lined up one after the other to stress their strong support for the Madrid paramilitary action in maintaining “law and order”.

Today we see the same thing. As the Catalans are imprisoned for efforts at democracy, the EU Commission stated that it “respects the position of the Spanish judiciary” and “this is, and remains, an internal matter for Spain, which has to be dealt with in line with its constitutional order.” The Commission here is simply ignoring what is very obviously a fundamental breach of basic human rights. This is far worse than anything Poland or Hungary have done in recent years, and the Commission is also showing a quite blatant hypocrisy in its relative treatment of its Western and Eastern members.

There was a time when the EU was a shining example of economic and environmental regulation and of regional wealth redistribution. My fondness for the institution dates from it being one of our few defences from economic Thatcherism. But it has evolved into something very different, a mutual support club for neoliberal political leaders.

I do not much blog about Brexit because I am less concerned about it than the majority of the population. I neither think remaining inside is essential nor that leaving it is a political panacea. I do desperately wish to retain freedom of movement, and believe leaving the customs union would be economic self-harm on a large scale. A Norway style relationship would suit me fine, but by and large I prefer to stay out of the argument. I do believe that, as a matter of democratic legitimacy, having had the 2016 referendum the result should be respected; England should leave and Scotland and Northern Ireland remain.

But I also say this. A million people are expected to march on Saturday in support of the EU. That is the EU which has just expressed its active support for the jailing of Catalans for holding a vote. They join Julian Assange as political prisoners in the EU held for non-violent thought crime.

I say this to anyone thinking of marching on Saturday. It is morally wrong, at this time, to show public support for the EU, unless you balance it by showing your disgust at the fascist repression of the Catalans and the EU’s support for that repression. Every single person going on Saturday’s march has a moral obligation to balance it by sending a message to the EU Commission that their support for this repression is utterly out of order, and carrying a flag or sign on the march indicating support for the Catalan political prisoners. Otherwise you are just a smug person marching for personal self interest. Alongside the progenitors of the Iraq War, who doubtless will again dominate the platform speeches.


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161 thoughts on “Weep for Catalonia, Weep for Liberalism in Europe

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  • MJ

    “I do believe that, as a matter of democratic legitimacy, having had the 2016 referendum the result should be respected; England should leave and Scotland and Northern Ireland remain”

    The referendum was UK-wide so to respect its democratic legitimacy the UK should leave. How can Scotland and Northern Ireland “remain”? They are not members.

    • craig Post author

      MJ the answer to that is pretty obvious. They should both hold referenda – on Independence/Reunification. As I am quite sure they will shortly.

      • Glasshopper

        Scotland will probably win the Indyref2 in favour of leaving. But Will they win the 3rd which will come a couple of years later? AKA the “People’s Vote”, the confirmatory “once in a generation” referendum.

        After all. They will have spent two years being told by the great and the good that they were thick racist plebs who didn’t know what they were voting for. Little Scotlanders with chips on their shoulders. Fire and brimstone warnings about the consequences would rain down on them. And what sort of independence did they want? Hard independence, or soft? Surely they wouldn’t want to crash out, fall off a cliff………..etc…….etc.

        Btw, good piece Mr Murray. I actually thought of you while reading this sad news this morning.

  • alexey

    “I do believe that, as a matter of democratic legitimacy, having had the 2016 referendum the result should be respected”

    2016 referendum has no democratic legitimacy. The Leave campaign broke electoral law, the campaign issues were lies, and the actual form of “brexit” was never specified giving a carte blanche to anyone to claim it means just what they say it means. That’s why a second confirmatory referendum is all but essential. Then it might have democratic legitimacy.

    • craig Post author

      All of which is why I prefer representative democracy and decry referenda. But having stupidly had it, and the authorities having declared it legal, I fear you are stuck with it. I have no objection to a further referendum in a very few years, but I think you have to have implemented the first one according to the result and tried it first.

      • Jim Sinclare

        The courts did not declare it legal, they were unable to declare it illegal, because it was only advisory. We are not stuck with it!

        • Deb O'Nair

          Indeed, there is no legally binding obligation for the British government to leave the EU. This fact has been hidden behind the insanely repeated mantra of ‘respecting the will of the people’, which is not the basis of the law, and beside which opinion polls consistently show that the majority favour remaining. Brexit is right-wing brainwashing in all it glory.

  • Mist001

    And Scotland wishes to remain a part of the EU/Soviet Union v.2.0, but why? It can only be for financial gain, they get more out of it than they put in and for me, this calls into question the financial position of an independent Scotland. Maybe they’ve factored in the amounts they’ll receive from EU membership to enhance their financial projections?

    • Hatuey

      Just as we must respect the decision of those down south who want to Brexit, dumb as it is, we should respect the will of the Scottish people to stay in the EU.

      Craig is a bit harsh and simplistic here although I agree the EU has let us down on this.

      The EU has a duty to protect its members on a certain level — it can’t be seen to undermine them. And at this moment in history with Brexit and the continuing shock waves from the financial crisis reverberating, it isn’t a good time to be doing anything that risks undermining the EU club. It isn’t impregnable.

      The EU is far from perfect but without it I think the world would lose an organisation that stands for an alternative to unbridled capitalism and provides a stabilising influence. This isn’t its finest hour, I get it, but you shouldn’t judge people or organisations on the basis of episodes where they get it wrong.

      And let’s not forget the European dream, its essential purpose, and the idealism it enshrines. A peaceful and prosperous Europe is as noble an idea today as it was 70 years ago. The EU is an aspiration, a work in progress. Aren’t we all?

      • Deb O'Nair

        I agree, the EU has to accommodate a diverse range of economies, national histories, social outlooks and cultures. In order to do this there has to be compromise, concession, give and take and taking the long-term political view, which sometimes requires short-term discomfort.

        The EU has had immeasurable success in bringing stability to the former Eastern Bloc countries which has benefited, and will continue to benefit, Europe’s long-term stability and peace. The short-term discomfort for the affluent West European population has been a migration Westwards of young, educated, socially mobile people seeking work. A small price to pay in the short-term for long-term stability and peace on the continent that gave rise to two world wars in the 20th Century.

        • Hatuey

          Yes, Deb, well said. Above all else the EU must survive. We can’t take it for granted that it will. And if it starts picking fights with its own members then the chances of it disintegrating would definitely increase.

        • Reg

          Deb O’Nair
          Just to correct some factual errors in your post, you stated, “The EU has had immeasurable success in bringing stability to the former Eastern Bloc countries which has benefited, and will continue to benefit, Europe’s long-term stability and peace”, this is incorrect. NATO is written into the 2 most important, (of 4) EU treaties in force, the TFEU, and TEU both consolidated 2016.

          No the EU has had considerable success in fomenting, and funding civil war and Fascism in eastern Europe, and has acted as an agent for US imperialism in destabilising Eastern European countries to allow eastward expansion of Nato. Ukraine is only the latest example of the EU destabilising countries (with the offer of a trade agreement and the use of debt to force compliance), requiring the Ukraine to cut long established trade ties of a customs union with Russia by an illegal coup against a free and fair election in 2010, (as described by the Guardian at the time). The Euromaidan coup was spearheaded by unreconstructed fascists such as the ‘Right Sector’ and the Asov Battalion, who burnt 39 anti Euromaidan pro Russian demonstrators sheltering in the Odessa trade union building to death, and then celebrated this on national TV. The EU is little more than an arm of US imperialism having been set up largely with CIA funding such as via the ‘American Committee for a united Europe’, set up in 1948, funnelling CIA funding via the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations to various European fount organisations, such a the ‘Action Committee for a United States of Europe’, and the precursors to the ‘European Movement’. The ‘American Committee for a united Europe’, was Chaired by Donavan (previously in charge of the OSS, the precursor to the CIA wound up after WW2, and vice chaired by Allen Dulles, later to head the CIA.

          The EU/EEC and its members has also destabilised, Yugoslavia and Georgia, enabling the eastward expansion of Nato. The neo-liberal policies of the EU have also led to a rise in support for the far right across Europe, particularly Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Baltic states (who still honour their SS war dead to this day). Significant increases in support for the AFD in Eastern Germany, and also in Spain, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Italy, where Salvini will return to power after the Five Stars has finally destroyed its credibility in compromising with the EU and its centerist coalition.

          What stability, with Macron committing crimes against his people leaving dozens blinded in yellow vest protests, Spain committing similar similar crimes against its people, and the the EU as a lackeys to US war crimes in the middle east such as in Libya, Syria? The EU has also been letting refugees from these wars fomented by the US and the EU die in the Med, while the EU continues to crush the economies of the EU periphery with the fiscal compact such as in Greece who are not even given the funding to deal with migration, as the EU periphery acts as a barrier to the EUs racist single market that only allows freedom of movement for white Europeans while allowing non white non Europeans die in the Med.
          Quite honestly the EU cannot collapse soon enough before it does any further damage.

      • Mosaic

        “The EU is far from perfect but without it I think the world would lose an organisation that stands for an alternative to unbridled capitalism ”

        Well, it certainly seems to stand for an unbridled neoliberalism.

    • Rich

      Oh :b I just found it .. ignore me.
      I know this doesnt relate to the above article .. apologies.
      I read an article today on The Canary re Julian Assange which contained errors (which appeared to proceed from the usual mis-/dis-information).
      I have written to them and they have corrected the errors.
      I am now trying to encourage them to research and write more accurately surrounding the issue.
      I wish to use some of your content as research material for them, and will forward links.
      Again, please excuse the departure from the above article.

      • Mosaic

        Actually, I was wondering how to activate the search function.
        Normally I search a website or blog using control + F, but this doesn’t seem to work here.

  • Walter Cairns

    Well you know what they say – there’s two sides to every story. People who actually live there have told me that these sentences were entirely predictable and complied with Spanish law. They also say that the so-called referendum was a sham, that separatists are not a majority and possibly never were. These politicians diverted government funds for their own political purposes and must be held accountable. The separation of powers in Spain is probably the strongest in Europe and the judiciary exceptional. Judges are not appointed from the Bar but start their judicial careers straight from law school and are vigorously monitored and continuously re-tested. So we should not jump to hasty conclusions based on press reports.

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      The Wiki page for: Basque National Liberation Movement prisoners.


      A catalog of political and judicial abuse.
      The Dispersal policy to place prisoners as far from their families as possible as a punishment, including Gran Canaria (and we are discussing post Franco here).
      The 1981 murder by torture of Joxe Arregi during 9 days in Police custody. Two Police were given 3 month sentences for that!
      Ten occasions since 2010 when the European Court of Human Rights has found against Spain for failing to properly investigate accusations of torture.

      With the exception of one vote of censure in the European Parliament, all of this has passed without comment from the functions of the EU.

    • Tony

      Dontcha just love anecdotal ‘evidence’? People who actually live there, huh? How many told you this? Two? Ten? A million?

      So, how were public funds diverted? Into personal bank accounts? Or were they simply used to pay for the referendum costs by the local government? If the latter, It seems a perfectly reasonable expenditure to me. A few years ago in my home city of Manchester, the city council spent a very large amount of public money on a referendum on a congestion charge, most of it spent on publicity pro the congestion charge, because the charge would be paydirt for the city council (polls had shown that the vast majority were against it). Nobody was charged with misuse of public money.

  • nevermind

    If you are reading this and are going to the march on Saturday, please wear a yellow ribbon to remind yourself and the spanish contingent among you of this EU neglect of human rights.
    thank you. I shall not go and march anymore, just as others, I have lost the will to defend something that is indefensible, although I would prefer an EU hiatus that will spring up reform of the top echelon which is steering this madness.

  • N_

    There’s a difference betwen human rights and political rights.

    (H)aving had the 2016 referendum the result should be respected; England should leave and Scotland and Northern Ireland remain

    That would require independence, which Scots said they didn’t want when they were directly asked.

    Then there’s London.

    Maybe all the constituencies which elected MPs who stood for a given party should be grouped together in a country that that party could then rule? Truly, деремократия!

    • N_

      Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon says she wants independence and Scotland to remain in the EU. One has to wonder what proportion of its 37% voteshare the SNP got from those who haven’t got a clue what “independence” means, and who still wouldn’t have a clue if it were explained to them. As for a single market and a customs union, you can’t be in either of those with two countries or blocs that aren’t in one with each other. That’s not wicked English colonialist propaganda. Perhaps it’s all “Project Fear”, to which the correct loony answer is Freedom!

      • Hatuey

        “As for a single market and a customs union, you can’t be in either of those with two countries or blocs that aren’t in one with each other. ”

        Do you even know what this is meant to mean?

        If it means Scotland can’t trade freely with the U.K. and EU blocks, it’s plainly and simply wrong.

      • Deepgreenpuddock

        As soon as I see somene shouting about freedom I think of George Bush. Freedom! was his ugly clarion call but we all knew that Bush’s ‘freedom’ meant the freedom of the grave, and the freedom to have an Amex card. It had no relation to spiritual or emotional freedom.
        As for the EU it is grieving me greatly that the close relationship to the Europeans that we have enjoyed and been enhanced and improved by, since the seventies is now being closed down.despite everything it offers to those who have not attended St Paul’s school or Eton
        John Harris drew attention in his latest essay to the John Lennon line ” the English army has just won the war”(sgt Pepper) referring to the narrowness of the English mentality of the post war period, with its fixation on imagined supremacy ,belligerence and the unjustified affectation of exceptionalism and the petty chauvinism, and the fact that this narrow mentailty was an ‘English’ thing. In Scotland, even in 1968, as a callow 16 year old I understood that line perfectly.

    • Mr V

      They said they “didn’t want’ it after lies independence means quitting the EU (funny how the tables were turned, eh?), rabid propaganda campaign from every single media possible, organized influence campaign across all social media targeting every voter individually, and a lot more nonsense that should disqualify any pretense this referendum was in any way legitimate. Even so, independence lost minimally. This should give you a clue what the result would be if a real vote was allowed.

      Also, funnily enough, supposedly “impartial” queen went to bed with Cameron and supported all of the above personally – and when Cameron let the cat out of the bag recently, royals weren’t furious queen peed all over her supposed station, they were angry Cameron blown a hole in carefully prepared lipstick on a quite fat pig and shown the monarchy as the Tory annex they always were behind the curtain. This should give you a clue too.

  • Dungroanin

    Bloody hell the Groan has actually publisheda piece by Puigdemont!

    He finds a little bit of consolation:
    “What Spain condemns, European democracy absolves.”

    At least they haven’t been deported back to the same fate.

    I do expect that the decision to find the referenda legal as opposed to blatantly rigged will one day be revealed.

    No Pasaran!

  • Ross Stanford

    Please, can we have someone with the common sense and decency of Craig in charge of this country of ours. He puts all but the few politicians to shame.

    • michael norton

      Partido Socialista Obrero Español

      this is the party of government in Spain, so hardly Fascists.

      • lysias

        But the Spanish judiciary is independent of that Socialist government.

        Indeed, it was that Spanish high court that caused the crisis of Catalan secessionism by striking down a law granting Catalonia greater autonomy that had been agreed between the Catalan government and an earlier Spanish Socialist government. If that law had been aowed to stand, secession would never have become an issue.

  • John Goss

    I understand your opinion though it is not mine. I support this:

    “That is the EU which has just expressed its active support for the jailing of Catalans for holding a vote. They join Julian Assange as political prisoners in the EU held for non-violent thought crime.”

    But not this:

    “Every single person going on Saturday’s march has a moral obligation to balance it by sending a message to the EU Commission that their support for this repression is utterly out of order, and carrying a flag or sign on the march indicating support for the Catalan political prisoners. Otherwise you are just a smug person marching for personal self interest. Alongside the progenitors of the Iraq War, who doubtless will again dominate the platform speeches.”

    I marched against the Iraq War and Hyde Park was not a platform for progenitors of the war. It was a platform for opposing the Iraq War. Also you believe that the Brexit referendum should be honoured despite the fact that the far right fascists of this country voted to Leave. I try to be careful whose opinions I am sharing but in any Yes/No ballot I realise there are going to be those who on many other subjects I would heartily disagree. There may be many good reasons why I might go on Saturday’s march without “balancing” my protest by linking the obvious injustice of Catalan prisoners to the march. Lack of time might be one. If that makes me “smug” so be it.

    I do however support the Catalan prisoners as I do Julian Assange though your blog first brought it to my attention. This afternoon I was trying to bring more exposure to this petition.


    Please consider that there is an opportunity cost in time between supporting one perceived just cause against another and people should go on the march for whatever reason they choose and I shall not consider them smug.

    • Malcolm Douglas

      John I think Craig is saying that a few of the people on the stage speaking for the EU and a People’s Vote will be the same people (the progenitors) who voted for us to go to war in Iraq…

    • Hatuey

      I think they’re worse than smug; I’d say conflicted and compromised.

      Brexit looks a lot like a class divide at times. The middle classes oppose Brexit because the price of fine wines and trips to Tuscany might go up by a few pence. Nothing else matters to them, not Catalonians, not democracy, and certainly not the causes of Brexit.

      We’ve had 40 years of the English middle class calling the shots in this country. For most of us that has meant job insecurity, poverty, wars, and a multitude of other sins. Brexit is the first big political decision in 40 years that might hurt the middle classes. And still they won’t reflect on the errors and selfishness of their ways.

      • John Goss

        I don’t know if I’m middle-class or not Hatuey. My origins are certainly working-class coming from a long line of miners on my father’s side who worked in harsh and dangerous conditions to hewer out the nation’s coal. Whatever class I may or may not be I was partial to a drop of fine wine when I could get it. It had no influence on my reasons for voting Remain.

        The fact that we are a net importer of food was the main reason. The second was not wanting to become any closer to Uncle Sam. The third was I am a believer in the rights of individuals to be able to move freely from place to place to try and improve their living standards. I dislike the racists and xenophobes even if Nigel Farage is not the worst example. They played on the voting populace’s worst fears. Although I am as English as they come I am proud to be European and while we are part of the European brotherhood there is less likelihood of brother waging war on brother.


        • Hatuey

          I definitely agree with you on a lot. I voted Remain and believe in the European idea. I don’t see how you can legitimately block Brexit though. I’ve yet to hear an argument for disregarding it or a people’s vote.

          It puzzles me that remainers haven’t attempted to explain why vast area of poverty-stricken England chose to vote for Brexit.

          There’s been almost zero effort to address that from the Remain camp and nothing on how living conditions for poor people in those areas might be improved. All remainers have focused on is stopping Brexit. I hope they fail and I hope Brexit is as hard as possible.

          • John Goss

            ” I’ve yet to hear an argument for disregarding it or a people’s vote.”

            The referendum was too close to call 2% either way and if it had been a General Election the winning party would have to have gone back to the country. We had a referendum in 1975 as to whether we should remain in the EU after Heath took us in. The result was convincing with 67% in favour. This latest referendum disregards the convincing majority.

            I agree things change. For example the majority of people were unaware when they voted about the likely Irish border problems. And all the indications are that there has been a change in public opinion.


            Hope it gives you a new perspective Hatuey.

          • Hatuey

            I’m sorry, John, it doesn’t. I don’t see any grounds there for overturning the Brexit vote. I stress that I think Brexit is a terrible idea that will do cataclysmic damage to the UK economy, but that’s not grounds for disregarding it.

          • Deb O'Nair

            “The referendum was too close to call 2% either way”

            If the referendum legislation had been legally binding it is almost certain that it would not have passed into law unless a clear majority, either a simple majority of the electorate or a 60-40 of those that voted could be shown to support the question.

            The situation the country finds itself in would have been avoided had the referendum not been ‘advisory’, which would also have meant that once it came to light that the leave campaign had been breaking the law the result would have been voided and the referendum held again. Additionally, because the referendum was advisory electoral laws regarding fair and proportional media coverage were not in effect allowing the media, in particular the largely oligarch owned printed press, to run the coverage in such a way that Nigel Farage’s UKIP and Leave.eu garnered more coverage than the Prime Minister (remain) and leaving the official opposition (remain) with less than 20% of coverage.

          • Northern

            Consistently a considered voice of logic and reason on here. What was it you called me the other day, an out of touch idealist? Haha.

            The lack of self awareness among certain sections of the middle class is dizzying. The idea that it’s easier to believe Dominic Cummings works for the KGB than it is to understand why people voted to leave is both hilarious and depressing in equal measure. In 3 years worth of media commentary, the only person I’ve seen attempt to make a positive case for EU membership was someone on here, about as recently as last week. It’s the modern ‘left’s refusal to talk in terms of class I find most nauseating.

            These sentences for Catalonian leaders is just the latest in a long line of events that proves when push comes to shove, the EU is a friend of the capitalist status quo, not self determination.

          • Mosaic

            “We had a referendum in 1975 as to whether we should remain in the EU after Heath took us in. The result was convincing with 67% in favour. ”

            I have read (sorry I cannot recall exactly where) analyses of the historical background of the initial vote to join the EU, that things did not turn out at all as promised by advocates of joining. Also, then it was the Common Market, not the EU, right? A lot has changed since then, and the EU has revealed another personality.

            Not an expert here, and not a UK citizen or is that subject?, but to me that argument—the 1975 vote– sounds dodgy. (Actually, though, come to think of it, I was living in the UK at that time! )

            It does seem to me that the legitimate concerns of the working class in Britain have been swept under the rug and conveniently abgestempelt as reflecting purely fracism and xenophobia.

          • Mighty Drunken

            Reason to “disregard” the Brexit vote.

            It was an advisory referendum so can be ignored and Article 50 revoked.

            The question was badly posed, how many different forms of “leaving the EU” have been put before parliament? Some who voted to leave may have expected to stay within the common market for example, some Brexit supporting politicians definitely gave that idea. If I asked a bunch of people, “Would you like to move?”. I expect most would say, “Yes”. If I gave them a more concrete example, like, “Would you want to move to Oxford?”. I expect fewer people would say Yes.
            The result was very close to 50/50, with most polls conducted giving Remain a slight win. Though Brexit is framed as “The will of the people” it is really, “The will of the majority who voted at that particular time”. With such a close result, neither Brexit or Remain can hope to resolve this divide. The best option would have been to do nothing. Too late now…
            No matter the strength of the reasons to abandon Brexit, the most read newspapers will picture this as an affront against democracy and “the people”.

            Brexit has nothing to do with the living conditions of the poor, that is a domestic issue well within the powers of the executive to improve. Neither leaving or staying in the EU will make much difference to this. Brexit, I believe, has been seen as a rebellion against the “Elite”, unfortunately Brexit will most likely result in an even worse inequality. Many complain that the EU is very neo-liberal and corporate friendly. However the Conservatives and Americans are even more so.

        • Dave Lawton

          John Goss

          “The second was not wanting to become any closer to Uncle Sam.”

          John The EU project was created by Uncle Sam.It was Allen Dulles CIA spymaster who started the project and it was funded by Hitlers best friend in the US Henry Ford. And it is run by crypto fascist criminals today. Fact.

          • Mosaic


            Hmm, I do believe I espy an anti-revisionist!!
            Surely you can imagine the possibility that the EU is a handmaiden to the American imperialist project.
            Not saying this is a fact, just suggesting that it is a possibility worth examining.
            As for the USA-UK-EU relationship, there is a view that the UK represents the USA’s “entree” into the EU decision makers’ parlors.

          • Dave Lawton

            October 15, 2019 at 09:51

            It seems you have never researched the political history of the EU project and the intelligence files which were released a number of years ago.Go search for them as it the only way you will learn.It`s not difficult.

        • seydlitz

          If you work for a wage or salary and that is your only means to keep the wolf from the door you are working class,there is no such thing as middle class only the owning class.

          • Denton Scratch

            Well, yes; or “proletarian”, if you like, according to Karl Marx’s definition of the term.

            The proletariat is that portion of society that does not own any means of production, and so is compelled to sell its labour.

            I debated this with a teacher (political philosophy, at Birkbeck) when I was at university; I tried to claim that an architect could be working-class, if he owned no means of production. My teacher got *very* angry with me. Birkbeck was famous in those days for being a hotbed of communism. “Working class” was supposed to mean miners and railway workers. Marx’s careful reasoning be damned.

            I’m older and wiser now. Nowadays I would include in the definition of “means of production” a share portfolio (or a pension), a house, a car, and even perhaps a case full of builder’s (or plumber’s) tools.

            But the crucial part of the definition is that you are compelled to sell your labour. It doesn’t matter if a plumber looks like a member of the bourgeouisie, if she is compelled to sell her labour. If she’s forced to labour, then it can truly be said that she has nothing to lose but her chains, and so stands to gain from revolution. If she can trade her way out of servitude, then she is bourgeois, and most of her economic interests will be counter-revolutionary.

            BTW I’m not a commie; this is just about how Marx constructed his argument.

      • Marmite

        ‘Brexit looks a lot like a class divide at times. The middle classes oppose Brexit because the price of fine wines and trips to Tuscany might go up by a few pence. Nothing else matters to them, not Catalonians, not democracy, and certainly not the causes of Brexit.’

        This is complete nonsense (though I admit it may be the case for those without much imagination and who are incapable of thinking beyond self-interest). It is what the so-called Brexiteers, which hilariously refer to themselves as ‘rebels’, want everyone to believe.

        Brexit is opposed by half of the country because it presents an extreme form of threat to the poor and to minorities.

        If Brexit were premised on a rejection of the fascism of the EU and on tangible benefits for public transport, education, healthcare, social equality and environmental stewardship, that would be one thing.

        But it is not.

        It is premised on the intensification of neoliberalism in Britain, and on the idea that only white people belong here. That is the apex of disgusting, and should be rejected by any thinking person.

        To subscribe to the silly idea that a vote for Brexit implies discontent or dissensus vis-a-vis the status quo is totally delusional. A vote to leave the EU is the biggest kind of vote for the status quo! It will turn Britain into a rotten place for everyone but rich white men.

        • Northern

          “Brexit is opposed by half of the country because it presents an extreme form of threat to the poor and to minorities.”
          “It is premised on the intensification of neoliberalism in Britain, and on the idea that only white people belong here.”

          Less of this ridiculous binary thinking, please. Save your exaggerated middle class paternalism.

  • Mr V

    The problem with EU is the fact that majority of (especially big countries) in it are ruled by right wingers. Of course they are going to agree with right wing policies. It’s a problem you solve by electing left wing governments, not by doing quite idiotic temper tantrum (see Brexshit, especially it’s success in some really poor UK countries only kept afloat by EU mandated cash transfers…) UK is currently going through.

    It’ as simple as that. EU can’t really go against majority of its members, and if these are right wing, of course left wing course will suffer. Still, as in UK, in Poland and Hungary EU is virtually the only safeguard of rule of law, human rights, and various freedoms. I can both sympathize with Catalonia/Scotland and recognize we won’t get anything better than EU, period, and if it’s broke, it needs fixing, not destruction.

    Incidentally, I have no idea why a lot of people see the EU Commission and Parliament as this one, monolithic, no dissension possible bloc. A lot of people in both would love to see Catalonia, Scotland, and more independent. It’s up to voters to send more like minded people there to break the tyranny of right wing majority, EU, like any democratic institution only does what it is asked to do, nothing less.

    • Mr Shigemitsu

      ”It’s a problem you solve by electing left wing governments…”

      Dream on. There are 28 countries in the EU; 27 post Brexit.

      To counter the neoliberal, pro-privatisation, austerian, free market bias built into the EU treaties, especially those of Maastricht and Lisbon, plus the “sound money” tendency within the Eurozone, you would need every single one of those countries to agree not only on replacing the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties, but on a socialistic content for their replacement/s, plus massive fiscal transfers from the richest to the poorest states, to which Germany will never, ever agree.

      Given that you can currently count left-wing EU governments on half a hand, both you and I will be long dead before this ever happens.

      There is a far, far greater chance of achieving some form of democratic socialism in one country, rather than throughout a bloc of 27, many of whom regularly elect governments that are extremely right wing, and populations among whom genuine neo-fascism, beyond anything the UK has ever witnessed, is prevalent.

      Sadly, a socialist EU is nothing but a pipe dream.

      • Mr V

        The sound money was chiefly enforced by Merkel, supported by Macron and Tories. Boot Merkel, no more economic insanity, quite a few voices proposed sound economic policies. Booting Merkel’s party is easier than doing heavy reform to which she would need to agree anyway, I think we can both agree on that. Linke and more socially conscious parts of both green and SPD already said OK to transfers, it’s mostly the AfD and Bavarian thugs saying no. Hell, they even postulate the Republic of Europe which would go far more than mere transfers.

        Funny how you agree with me replacing half a dozen governments in EU with left wingers is vastly easier than making some imaginary ‘better EU’, conveniently forgot several major countries flipped to left recently, then drew some sort of defeatist message completely ignoring how EU works and the viability of socialism in a single country that wouldn’t be even able to stand up to big US corporation, never mind actual USA or China like EU does. There are literally millions of examples of US ambassador stomping feet to instantly kill ‘wrong’ foreign law, something they were unable to do yet with EU.

        Also, genuine neo-fascism? Please, UK matches the worst continent did, hell, with UK citizens being so thoroughly brainwashed by right wing rags, ironically UK quitting shifts balance of power far to the left in EU, and ironically makes your ‘democratic socialism’ much more likely in the union of 27 countries than in the quitter…

      • seydlitz

        the EU is capital club formed by the capitalism owning elite for their benefit.The workers suffer the same problems as workers outside the rich mans club.

  • ReM

    I think there are distinctions to be made between the different terms in which the notion of state/union is defined/understood: a) a type of organised human community, b) the institutions of governance with their powers and authority and the people running them, and c) a mode of governance that can embrace various ideologies – neoliberalism being the current one.
    Ideologies and political leaders come and go, polities remain. We don’t break down the UK each time we are fed up with the political ideology of the government party or the inadequacy of our ministers – we just change the government. The same goes for the EU.
    In the long term, the EU as an alliance of civilised nations is very useful – it protects us all from barbarism.

    • giyane.


      Very few Western politicians worry about us All being safe,. They think their remit is their own borders at the expense of anybody outside their borders. An incredibly childish and short term view.

  • Sharp Ears

    Channel 4 News tonight showed thousands of protesters inside Barcelona airport being ill treated by police clad in black uniforms with shiny black metal helmets and wielding batons.

    • Iain Stewart

      Jings. Were the batons black too? Of course, they could have been very dark navy blue.

        • Iain Stewart

          Father Ted: Priest’s socks, really black ones.
          Father Dougal: I read an article about priest’s socks, that priest’s socks are blacker than any other socks.
          Father Ted: That’s right. Sometimes you see lay people wearing apparently black socks, but if you look closely, they are really very, very, very very dark blue.
          Father Dougal: That’s true. I thought my Uncle Tommy was wearing black socks but when i look at them closely, they were just very, very, very, very, very, very dark blue.

  • Goose

    The EU’s pure appointees’: commissioners and Council President and elected officialdom: Commission President – elected by the European Parliament are only interested in protecting the EU; protecting the single market and wider integrity of the bloc. Size matters and in crude terms Spain is more important than Catalonia.

    As someone who’d broadly prefer to remain in the EU, I’ve never been starry eyed about the EU. The EU has huge issues in terms of the democratic deficit at the core of the project. The unelected European Commission(effectively the executive branch) combined with Council of ministers’ last minute stitch-ups, are rotting the project’s legitimacy in the eyes of many Europeans. The fact that the European Parliament acts more like a veneer on that which is undemocratic is deeply problematic.
    The European parliament can’t even initiate legislation making it more like a glorified talking shop, with only a blunt veto at its disposal on the commission appointees. Not that I think the UK is setting a marvellous democratic example with Westminster, I don’t I’d reform that root and branch. But that fact doesn’t alter the fact there are problems with the EU. The EU is like an incomplete project that can in no way call itself representative of the citizens of Europe.

    • Iain Stewart

      The EU is a group of states, not of peoples. It will always defend the interests of its member states: that is what it is for.

      • Goose

        It’s got higher ambitions than simply being an echo chamber for member state govts. Certainly MEPs like Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt see the European Parliament eventually gaining the competencies that are currently in the hands of those who are pure EU appointees. I have no problem with that btw, I wouldn’t fear a United States of Europe under some sort of EU constitution, but many would.

    • Denton Scratch

      And indeed the EU parliament is precisely a glorified talking shop. I once (oh, 15 years ago probably) read a report by a journo who was sent there for a week by his paper; the guy said he nearly died of boredom. He said that MEPs are flawlessly polite to one-another, don’t interrupt or heckle, and barely ever even contradict one-another. Every speech is followed by a lengthy pause, while the translators get the story straight.

      But that’s what you’d expect; why bother with all that emotional hassle, if the place is a political dead-zone? Take the £130,000 PA salary, charge the various expenses and first-class travel costs, and eat nice lunches.

      The faultless politeness may have changed since Farage rocked up, but in fact I don’t think he goes there very much.

  • N_

    I’ll say one thing for the Catalan nationalists: at least in their October 2017 kangaroo referendum which was boycotted by the anti-separatist parties they proposed a republican form of government.

    Two months later, when an election was held that neither side boycotted, they won fewer votes than the anti-separatists.

    Catalonia, like Scotland, doesn’t want independence. Or maybe the kangaroo referendum was more legitimate than anything else that came later in Catalonia could possibly be, rather like the Declaration of Arbroath in Scotland and the Second Dail in Ireland?

    It must be so hard being Catalan in Catalonia, the most impoverished part of “Spain” that is always sidelined and that languishes under the iron heel of colonial rule by Castile! GTFU

    • Tony

      Separatists won an a majority of seats in the 2017 election. And this in a climate of intimidation against them. Remainers like yourself bleat about alleged injustice in our 2016 referendum, yet you are able to blithely ignore the circumstances of the 2017 election in Catalonia.

      • N_

        Separatists won an a majority of seats in the 2017 election.” So what? They won a minority of voteshare. A majority of those who voted voted for parties that stood on manifestos opposed to independence. I already dealt with your way of thinking in the very comment you are replying to. I don’t know where you think I have even alleged “injustice” in the EUref, let alone bleated about it, nor which “circumstances” of the 2017 election you believe I have ignored, let alone blithely. The most important circumstances are that both sides accepted its legitimacy and it came after the kangaroo referendum.

        You know what your conclusions are and you spit at those who don’t share them. Why else say I bleat about alleged injustice in the honky “our” 2016 EUref other than because you “know” all “Remainers” are bleaty humanitarian losers, some of whom don’t even have any tattoos ?

        • Tony

          Huh??? You have bleated endlessly on this site about your perceived injustices in the brexit referendum, endlessly trying to discredit it’s legitimacy, endlessly highlighting the ‘closeness’ of the vote. Yet you denigrate the electoral win of the Catalan separatists and flag up the slight minority vote (almost identical to your beloved remain percentage in 2016) they achieved in conditions of repression of separatist agenda (did you even bother reading Craig’s header?) Hypocrisy, much?

  • Caratacus

    Well said,Craig – it is seldom I am moved to tears these days .. but you have managed it somehow.

  • Laguerre

    I am entirely opposed to the sentences on the Catalans, it’s very illiberal. I can’t see why such heavy sentences have been issued. But I can’t see it is right to hold the EU responsible. They did not enthusiastically back up the Spanish, as you claim. There was merely low-toned support for a member – their support for another member, Ireland, over Brexit has been much stronger. I suspect they didn’t have another choice, and there wasn’t really a mechanism for dealing with the problem.

    • Ronny

      Yet there was a mechanism for punishing Austria for merely electing a government which was not to the EU’s taste, in 1999.

      • Tony

        And there was a mechanism for punishing Poland for introducing legislation that the EU didn’t like. And there was a mechanism for dealing with Hungary’s refusal to accept a quota of refugees. And there was a mechanism for dealing with Italy’s non-austerity budget. There is always a mechanism for dealing with member state problems when the EU wants there to be one.

      • Laguerre

        To no very great effect, as far as I remember. A little finger-wagging. They can’t expel an offending state, you can only depart voluntarily, as Britain is supposed to be doing.

  • Ronny

    I don’t think they’re marching in support of the EU; they’re marching in support of British membership of the EU. Supporting membership of one country which holds political prisoners (the UK) in an organisation in which another member country also holds political prisoners is not hypocritical – indeed it would be hypocrisy to object to Britain remaining in the EU because of Spanish fascism, given that Britain has Julian Assange banged up in solitary and is preparing to render him unto the Empire. We’re a nasty lot, they’re a nasty lot, but we should be able to trade and travel freely nonetheless.

    • craig Post author

      You miss the point Ronny. It is not a response to Spain’s actions, it is a response to EU support for Spain’s actions.

      • Hatuey

        Doesn’t anyone think the Spanish people have a responsibility here? It’s their government, they voted for it. I don’t see Spanish people on the streets complaining about the brutality and injustice of all this.

        I suppose we should excuse them on the same basis that we excuse ourselves for doing nothing.

        • Tony

          People are out protesting in Catalonia. And they are being beaten by paramilitary police again. Strangely, the EU can find it within itself to support violent vandals in Hong Kong, and condemn Hong Kong’s remarkably restrained police. Yet the same EU offers no support whatsoever for it’s own citizens in Catalonia, and offers not even a squawk of complaint against absurdly over-the-top police brutality against said citizens.

          • Hatuey

            Yes, thanks for recycling what we all understand.

            I think the Spanish people have more responsibility for what THEIR government does than the EU has.

        • Denton Scratch

          Exqueeze me?

          As far as I am aware, Catalan separatists are still Spanish citizens, at least for now.

      • Goose

        Maybe it’s a cultural thing? I mean,the Spanish are relaxed about bull fighting.

        Brutal scenes like those we saw in the Catalan referendum, replicated in Scotland, would instantly turn all Scotland pro-Independence, I’d imagine.

        There is a salient lesson though from all this; about doing things were the necessary enabling legislation. To have a legally binding referendum, a section 30 order would be required from the British Government, as most here will know. The SNP say an election victory on a pro-referendum platform would serve as mandate enough. But the nightmare scenario then would be a close result or low turnout or both. Realistically, if the SNP govt held a referendum without the section 30, the result would need to be overwhelming eg,, 70 – 30 with ‘yes’ victorious on a high turnout. Otherwise, the UK govt could simply refuse to acknowledge.

        You can see why Nicola’s preference is to seek that UK parliamentary consent via Labour. I honestly don’t see the Conservatives ever granting another referendum after Cameron’s scare.

        • lysias

          Only a minority of Irish supported independence at the time of the Easter rising. What changed their minds was later events: the brutality of the suppression of the rising, holding Sinn Fein leaders in jail, and the efforts to extend conscription to Ireland.

          • Mr Shigemitsu

            The UK govt would first have to carry out sustained shelling of central Edinburgh from a gunship moored off the coast at Leith, and execute 11 of the Scottish independence leaders, for there to be an equivalence!

        • Denton Scratch

          A lot of the people that live in Catalonia are not Catalans; they’re there to work, because Catalonia is the main industrial region in Spain. It’s different with Scotland; most of the people that live there are Scottish.

      • Ronny

        But pro-remain demonstrators can’t very well say “Our country behaves like this, so the EU must criticise Spain for behaving like this too.” You might as well ask them to criticise the EU’s failure to say anything about Julian Assange, while they’re marching for the UK to stay in the EU.

  • Mist001

    BTW, at least 83 people so far in Barcelona station have been injured by the typical para-military ‘police’ favoured by European countries.

    • Laguerre

      Favoured by European countries? Which ministry they’re attached to is only of historical importance. How they came about in the 19th century. The British treatment of demonstrators is just as vicious when necessary. The Brits don’t demonstrate like others do, so the police have an easy time.

  • Samuel Adams

    “Government closest to the people is the best”

    A quote normally attributed to a rebel against the British crown named Thomas Jefferson. Although, it might be one of those things where he didn’t really say it, as I can’t find a direct attribution nor context. But still, it sums up my opinion.

    I believe the best future of this world lies in smaller, more local governments. These can then form trade agreements and travel agreements between themselves. Its the rich and the powerful who want to buy governments who prefer the one-stop-shopping of buying only a big super-regional governments.

    We’ve seen that in US history. It began as a collection of local governments, who tried to form a relatively weak federal government. But we’ve seen the powerful push more and more power into the now strong federal government. You can’t go to DC and sit down with your congressperson. I know, I’ve tried in various citizen lobbying efforts. But, DC is the one-stop-shop where the rich and the powerful can buy whatever they need from the person you can’t even get into the door to meet. Europe and Brussels appear to be headed in the same direction.

    Governments that are closer to home are more accessible. They are more responsive to the people. Thus my support to the people of Catalonia and Scotland in their struggles.

    • Mosaic

      I do agree.
      And I think there is more thinking about state’s rights nowadays.
      In the past one of the strongest arguments for a stronger federal govt was to support and enforce human and civil rights.
      But now there seems to be more energy on the side of small is beautiful, more innovative, more responsive, potentially more radical. And easier to control.

  • giyane.

    Why am I going to weep for neo-liberalism?
    As always with Craig, he omits to mention that he himself rode roughshod over international law in the US colonisation of Eastern Europe, working for right wing UK governments that we refused to vote for. Yes, we ordinary mortals refused to vote for Thatcher and Blair because we could see where they were heading.

    Now the right wing hell raiser in his youth complains that the institution he helped set up is right wing. Delete as necessary. The hypocrisy is terrifying.

    • craig Post author

      Because I expect you to be bright enough to distinguish between liberalism and neo-liberalism, and between the liberalism of John Stuart Mill in advocating personal and political liberty, and laissez-faire economics. Evidently I was wrong.

      • Hatuey

        John Stuart Mill was heavily involved in the administration of colonial India and in fact worked for the east India company for 35 years. He defended imperialism too using language that would be today considered racist.

        You can’t be an imperialist and a liberal, ask any 5 year old.

        Personally I found his political writing extremely boring.

        • Mosaic

          Wow, very interesting.
          William Dalrymple has a new book out on the East India Company.
          I have ordered it.
          I wonder whether he writes about Mill in this context.
          Still it is true that many very able thinkers compartmentalize.
          Actually, I do get a bit tired of people never tiring of pointing out that Jefferson kept slaves—therefore nothing he wrote or said has any value.

      • giyane.


        Liberalism v neoliberalism.
        Are you sure somebody didn’t con you?

        Like Kissinger’s ” some people confuse covert operations with social work. ?

        Are you sure you weren’t confusing US hegemony with the proud achievement of Free movement of people?

        And with the greatest of respect which of the two H es do you think the process of breaking away from England will do?

  • Forthestate

    It doesn’t matter whether or not you support the Catalans’ right to self-determination – and there are many who see it as nothing more noble than the wealthiest part of Spain seeking to slip the shackles of their poorer neighbours in order to become even richer – the behaviour of the Spanish government in initially deploying the thugs of the Guardia Civil, with all its Francoist echos and inevitably brutal consequences, created as they were to crush Basque culture and Basque identity, together with the Francoist sentences just handed down for peaceful protests that could simply have been ignored, are utterly indefensible under a liberal democracy, and I’m surprised but heartened to see Craig rightly condemning the EU so comprehensively for its shameful support of it. It does nothing to burnish the democratic credentials of the EU, a difficult enough task as it is, to see it throwing its weight behind behaviour that is straight out of the supposedly recently discarded handbook of Spanish fascism.

    • Andrew Paul Booth

      Catalan friends and family told me, and my own wide reading confirmed, during my twenty-five year sojourn in Catalonia, that at the time of the start of the Franco-led Falangist and deeply-Catholic uprising that became the Civil War the commanders and a large part of the corps of the Spanish Civil Guard in Catalonia, unlike many of their peers elsewhere in the country (and certainly unlike in the experience of the Canary Islands), decided to support the legitimate government, that of the duly-elected Spanish Second Republic led by Manuel Azaña, with their force of arms. An historical fact that, I was assured, Catalans shall never forget.

      • Mosaic

        A friend who lived in Barcelona for some years (his then wife is from a town north of Barcelona; he speaks both Spanish and Catalan) told me that the scars of the war go very deep, are unhealed, and in fact wounds, resentments, and hatreds are in fact still festering under the surface of most communities in Catalonia. Just anecdotal. I myself have never been to Catalonia.

  • Keith Alan

    You certainly have blogged frequently about Brexit and Scottish independence and in almost every one you have done nothing but support the Remain cause. You have been very vocal in promoting the idea that Scotland should leave the union and rejoin the Brussels empire. You have also criticised Boris for attempting to carry out the democratic decision of the British people to leave. Are we know going to see you renounce this position clearly and honestly and admit that you were wrong? Or more likely, as a typical Remainer, claim both sides of the argument and deny any responsibility?

    • Brian c

      Responsibility for what? He says he is not fanatical for either side and sees a soft Brexit as a sensible compromise. A rare voice of reason in this pointless Brexit culture war.

    • Hatuey

      Keith is what you get when people are deprived and confused and treated like idiots by the media. There are many such people in the UK. They know just enough to make debate pointless and impossible.

  • Marmite

    It has become so easy to throw the term ‘fascist’ around.

    We already know there is a fascist element to the EU? So what?

    The people marching to cancel Brexit are not marching for ‘fascism’, but for the unity, peace, checks and balances that will prevent Britain from becoming more ‘fascist’ than it already is. Britain is already much more ‘fascist’, xenophobic, racist, unequal, morally deficient than the EU at the moment, and on that logic, trying to remain within an institution that is slightly less ‘fascist’ is the lesser evil.

    Hard for me to understand why people keep confusing these things, and I think that Craig and others here should know better.

    I suppose if I was Scottish, though, it would also be easy for me to have the attitude of ‘the hell with the English’, let them commit collective suicide, and let them vote in another decade of Tory rule, so that a small percentage of wealthy men can profit.

    I don’t think that EU-hating people appreciate all that is at stake here, and it is easy to become blinkered if your concerns are only for Scotland or Catalonia, and have no empathy for what will happen to a lot of decent people who have the misfortune of living in England at the moment.

    By Craig’s logic here, it is okay to give up on your mother when she gets ill. Strongly disapprove of that.

    I’m for the independence of Catalonia and Scotland and Ireland, and I believe that England could become a better place through the fracturing of the UK, but I strongly disagree with the autonomy from the EU that would allow England to become a super-‘fascist’ state.

    This is the position of the Greens, and it is the only sensible one. (But as always, the nutters rule the roost; and when that is the case, the nutters find it so easy to discredit the sensible ones by calling them nutters).

    • Denton Scratch

      “It has become so easy to throw the term ‘fascist’ around.”

      That’s been easy for a long time. During my rebellious teens, I accused my father of fascism. In fact he was “mentioned in dispatches” at Dunkirk, and led a transport column up the Italian peninsula during WWII. He was no fascist, and I’m still ashamed of casually bandying around that term.

      As far as I’m concerned, the term “fascism”, properly applied, refers to Mussolini’s particular blend of nationalist populism, corporatism and authoritarianism. Franco’s style of authoritarianism is properly referred to as Francoism. I think it was very similar to Mussolini’s version; but I think words should be treated with a bit of respect. So if you want to refer to a style of authoritarian government, and you want to link it to the Italian fascists, then the term you require is “neo-fascism”.

      • Marmite

        That’s sensible, but to most people, I guess the term has just become generic and derogatory, meaning thuggish and incapable of intelligence (like the police arresting XR members, and encouraging the public to beat them), and so on.

        My point was only that the many puerlie anarcho-libertarians here, who have a superiority complex and claim to have the moral high ground, and which for all I know could be supporters of the bovine mysoginist PM, are completely delusional in thinking that a ‘little England’ forced to make shady deals with the US is preferable to belonging to a larger organisation that stinks in many ways but is less anti-egalitarian, xenophobic, polluting, criminal than what Britain has become.

        I say to those who have their heads buried in their arse: be careful what you wish for….

    • Hatuey

      I’d love to follow the Catalan approach. And I actually I think it’s already been hugely successful.

      • Northern

        Agreed. The way the Catalan’s have gone about things has made the SNP look like they’re far more concerned with getting themselves on the gravy train than they are with stopping it.

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