Reality Check: What is Really Going on in Catalonia? — (And what does this mean for us?)

When we saw the video recordings of police brutalizing supposed pro-secession voters, we all had the knee-jerk reaction of condemning an anti-democratic Spanish government oppressing an occupied people yearning for freedom. However, as large anti-secession demonstrations by CATALONIANS showed last weekend, the situation in Catalonia isn’t as clear-cut as we outsiders thought.

For one thing, Catalans are split on the issue. In fact, the MAJORITY seems to be AGAINST secession, a.k.a. “independence.” What’s going on in Catalonia, may, in fact, represent a kind of coup supported by a noisy, hate-filled, or even violent minority whipped into action by self-serving, manipulative, dishonest politicians who get themselves cozy elected positions of power and high pay that way. 

If that’s the case, most of those passionate independence-demanding Catalonians are probably about as misguided and deluded as Brexiters, German AFD-lers (and Pegidalers), or our own immigrant-hating Trump supporters, since the economic repercussions and family separations of a new border drawn within Spain could be quite severe — something that simpleton folks never think about when they pour all their passion arising from legitimate frustrations over poverty, inequality, financial fear, and so forth, into the wrong political actions, supporting demagogues who are only taking advantage of their ignorance. (Less legitimate frustrations over things like a sense of being culturally slighted or forced to slightly help others for whom one has a lack of empathy can sadly also come into play.)

Catalonia could be suffering from the machinations of politicians like those who stirred a British eagerness for leaving the European Union with blatant lies that Europe was forbidding the use of tea bags in the UK, or like Lex Luthor wearing an orange wig and claiming he would make “America great again” by having an expensive border wall built.

Opinion polls report that the supporters of Catalonian independence are a minority in Catalonia, despite being far more vocal and visible than their neighbors and family members who wish to stay a part of Spain. Here, if you want to read more about it, is a news report in The Guardian about last weekend’s Stay-in-Spain demonstrations in Barcelona, the Catalonian capital: ‘We are all Catalonia’ march brings thousands out on Barcelona’s streets

And here is the footage:

(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: “Hundreds of thousands rally in support of Spanish unity in Barcelona”)

I also heard somewhere that the now booted Catalonian governing coalition was full of trickery, having been stitched together from two independence-favoring parties and one party which merely wanted more regional autonomy. However, the coalition then misrepresented itself as a majoritarian plebiscite for independence. When that didn’t fly, they arranged for that recent referendum which appears to have been heavily rigged. I am beginning to wonder on which side the police officers we saw brutalizing civilians actually were.

At this point, two interesting commentaries I found in The Guardian add more considerations:


Paul Mason’s normally incisive journalism seems lacking in his latest piece on regional self-determination (G2, 24 October). The common thread linking separatist movements in Catalonia, Lombardy and Veneto is rich regions objecting to subsidising poorer parts of their respective countries. What’s more, the core message from Brexiters is that “we want our money back” because people are “fed up with subsidising less prosperous parts of Europe”.

What we lack in this debate is any appreciation of the benefits of solidarity, with richer regions/countries working hard to help poorer areas catch up.

Instead, the mentality is one of rich regions pulling up the drawbridge to protect their wealth. The greatest example of postwar solidarity remains the Marshall plan. The US recognised that if it didn’t invest in wartorn Europe, it would have nowhere to sell its products and would lose all political influence. Without it, there was a strong prospect of a string of failed states in Europe.

Isn’t there a danger that support for national self-determination swamps any notion of solidarity with less successful regions?

John Rigby

Much Wenlock, Shropshire


Your report (Catalan vice-president says independence is the only remaining option, 26 October) repeats yet again the claim that “770,000 votes were lost after Spanish police stepped in to try to halt the vote” during the referendum on 1 October. This is misleading, at best. The Catalan government says this is the number of potential voters in the places closed by the Spanish police. But not all Catalans wanted to participate in the referendum and many of those who wanted to cast a ballot could have done so elsewhere – as Catalan President Carles Puigdemont did. That there were villages where the number of votes cast was more than double the official population is testimony to this (or perhaps it is testimony to something else). There was no official census and nor were there any mechanisms controlling who voted, or how many times. This was possible because the Catalan government, not the Spanish police, dissolved the electoral commission a few days before the referendum. As a result, the ballots were counted only by people in favour of independence. This is why all supposed vote counts must be taken with a very large grain of salt.

Antonio Cazorla-Sánchez
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


To conclude: The Catalonia people would be more, rather than less, defenseless against global corporatism if they were to form a tiny splinter country. The Spanish party which fights corporatism (Podemos) would be weakened. Businesses have already begun fleeing Catalonia. The small symbolic victory of what appears to be a MINORITY rather than a majority of the Catalonian people would thus be short-lived and followed by a lot of trouble and decline. I think, what we need everywhere in the world these days, is more (rather than less) solidarity, less rather than more borders, and a focus on the things that really matter: a just economy that works for everybody and politics free of bribery. From the looks of it, secession would bring neither of these to Catalonia.

And as for us Americans, there are two potential lessons here: (1) Things are not always what they seem at first glance, especially nowadays when honesty and integrity seem to have left much of the public sphere. (2) Let us beware of similar manipulative operations back at home. It is safe to assume that all powerful, long established political parties and corporate media are awash with them.


Note to the xenophobic Trumpistas who may have fallen off the chair when I just promoted fewer borders: Think about it for a minute. You think that immigrants are taking away your lousy jobs. You are ignoring that hiring decisions are not being made by those immigrants who – like you – are merely trying to survive. Those hiring decisions are being made by the same CEOS who keep so much of the company profits that they make in a single hour what you must work 1 or 2 months or more to earn. These same CEOS are also busy eliminating all our remaining jobs by replacing us with machines and pocketing our disappearing wages. Imagine something much more helpful than Trump’s Wall: a just global economy in which everybody gets to live a good life anywhere on Earth. We wouldn’t need protections against mass immigration anymore because mass migrations would stop dead in their tracks. Instead, with fewer or less restrictive borders, you could work in Jamaica for a spell if you wanted to enjoy the Caribbean climate and beaches. Most people would never leave their roots far behind for long, though, when not forced by economic pressures. Get your priorities right, my fellow citizens.


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