The creation yesterday of the Catalan Republic on the 27th of October of 2017 is arguably the biggest political event that has occurred in Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. It is absolutely necessary to understand the fundamental meaning of an event of such magnitude, and I would like to make the case here that European citizens should now see this as an internal European affair in terms of human and civil rights and – for the most progressive minds – welcome this new Republic as an inspiring political project worth our warmest support.
As a matter of fact, time has come now to end our pleasant, yet vain, coffee shop conversations pro or against the independence of Catalonia that we are having in France and probably elsewhere in Europe. Since the referendum of the 1st of October and the disproportionate use of police violence by Rajoy’s government, this useless kind of political chit chat has become more than ever totally irrelevant. Today what is really at stake is the defense of OUR democracy, by and for all of us European citizens.
What is currently happening in Catalonia must be indeed a matter of great concern to all of us, as Europeans, contrary to what most mainstream media want us to believe in order to separate us from the fate of the Catalan people. It is, for obvious reasons, necessary for the dominant, oligarchic classes in control across Europe that their populations do not start entertaining the same kind of “wrong and impertinent democratic ideas” that may challenge them in their own anti-democratic drift. Hence their complete support to Rajoy, whatever repressive methods he fancies using so far.
The Spanish state, in the hands of the most corrupt political party in Europe (which shall not be confused with the rest of Spain as a country) has violated on the 1st October all fundamental human rights treaties of the European Union (EU), as the PEN Association of International Writers recalled on the 3rd of October, such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The disproportionate use of state violence in the 1st of October referendum was denounced and acknowledged by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even the Council of Europe who called for the opening of an investigation that was denied by Rajoy. Normally this should have triggered the threat of EU sanctions under the Article 7 procedure, threats that are currently being heaped on Poland for much less than that : again here a typical and farcical case of righteous “anti-fascism” by politically correct circles.
Shame in France on Liberation, once the « great left-wing daily French newspaper », for daring to headline right after the repression of the 1st of October : « Catalonia: no European treaty considers the expulsion of a state for repressing voters ». Sure. Utterly shocking.
Shame as well on Manuel Valls, the former French prime minister with Catalan origins – and a poor example of the authoritarian turn that France has taken since Sarkozy with now routine beating of demonstrators and avoidance of inconvenient parliamentary debates with executive orders in the name of « order and efficiency » – for having minimized police violence by referring only to « images » and saying that, in substance, it was all fine and not to be taken seriously « because at the end of the day nobody died, right ? » : a remarkably fascistic approach that he put into practice in France by beating up harmless Catholic and trade-union protesters alike while he was in power. An approach perfectly consistent with the blatant lies of the equally fascistic Foreign Minister of Spain who had the guts to explain to a BBC journalist, who could not believe what he was hearing, a week ago that the images of police violence on the 1st of October were « fake news ». That such a senior member of the government entertains such a surrealistic discourse can give a sense of the disconnection of the Spanish state from the most elementary standards of truth.
Finally shame on all the pseudo-intellectuals who monopolize French media and on all these great humanistic souls, who are generally so quick to denounce human rights abuses when they are far from home, in Turkey, Russia or Venezuela : and so desperately silent, when they are not vocally supportive, of the repression in Catalonia by their gross ignorance of the subject, their cowardice and fondness for authoritarianism. Michel Onfray, a supermarket philosopher so archetypical of the clowns who monopolize the media space to sell their egocentric platitudes, could have at least – as the supposed « Proudhonian anarchist » he claims to be – been indignant, he who very recently still called for « decolonizing the French provinces « , nothing less as a revolutionary statement, how impressive. Voilà mais non, on its own little telly, he does not react to Catalonia by telling us about Proudhon (and his total rejection of the nation-state, which had inspired the Paris Commune) but casually tells us a bed-time story about Hobbes’s contract theory (how relevant is that seriously ?) without a single word of condemnation for police violence or compassion for its victims, and even a vibrant homage – not to Catalonia like Orwell did – but to the Franco-appointed Spanish monarch who has uncompassionately aligned itself with Rajoy’s brutal policy.
What a profound sign of ignorance that is of the Spanish real world, since this Spanish monarchy is not only deeply corrupt (having among other things mysteriously accumulated two billion euros from scratch since its restoration by Franco as revealed by the NY Times) but is also the exclusive senior sales rep for the procurement of weapons to Saudi Arabia, of which Spain is the world’s third largest supplier. What a depressing charade typical of the current public French “intellectuals”, that once upon a time fought for the colonel Dreyfus, took part in the Spanish civil war such as Malraux and in running resistance clandestine papers such as Camus, or were at the cutting edge of progressive political philosophy with “French Theory” figures such as Foucault or Bourdieu.
After such police violence that everyone could witness on the 1st of October, and which suggested that there would normally be a global outcry and massive pressures put on Rajoy to calm down, the unthinkable has happened, that is to say : that nothing happened, and we have even seen the warmest and total support of Macron (the French business oligarchy puppet) to Rajoy’s atrocious manners.
Then there were incredible public death threats on the 9th October – as sinister as they were explicit – by the official Partido Popular communication head, Pablo Casado, threatening Carles Puigdemont to end up like Lluis Companys if he keeps behaving like he does. He was the first president of the Generalitat, who was tortured and shot after being arrested by the Gestapo in France where he was exiled and extradited to Spain. Can you imagine a Republican White House spokesman, telling publicly Bernie Sanders that if he carries on like that challenging the government’s antisocial policies he is going to end up like Martin Luther King ? In Spain it is not obscure right-wing extremist groups that form these kind of plots, but a government in place, openly, loudly and what’s even more outrageous without any reaction from other European governments.
A wake-up-call (that was not, once again, relayed by the French media) hopefully for those outside Spain who do understand the very neo-Francoist nature of the Partido Popular, which has totally recycled (with their authoritarian ideology and methods) absolutely all of the élites of the 40-year Franco era and their descendants (Aznar is a typical example), and which finances with public funds the Franco Foundation, which successfully fights for the preservation of Franco’s cultural legacy and resists to all attempts to « de-francoize » the country’s cities.
Imagine in France a mainstream right-wing party keeping the memory of Maréchal Pétain, with squares Pierre Laval, schools Drieu La Rochelle and “francisques” on the street plates : that is what you see everywhere in Spain still today. So no, the Partido Popular is not a regular, democratic right wing party, however flawed, as Les Republicains can be in France or the Conservative Party in the UK. If there seems to be no extreme right wing party in Spain, it is precisely because the Spanish far-right is in the Partido Popular.
Non-Spanish media should also say, which they don’t unfortunately, that very recent polls show that more than 80% of Catalans, independent or not, want to decide their own destiny in a proper referendum : this is well in line with the fundamental principle of the self-determination of peoples, stipulated in Chapter 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, ratified by all countries including Spain, and granted peacefully to Scotland and Quebec.
As recalled by Carles Puigdemont during a recent interview at France Inter the rules of international law take precedence over the domestic law of nations, especially on these issues. The right of the self-determination of peoples that Junker now denies categorically : but seriously who is he, this unelected and useless technocrat, on the payroll of all the industrial lobbies of the earth, to say that he does not « wish » independence from Catalonia ? And who cares what he wishes or not ?
Luckily there have also been figures such as Jeremy Corbin in the UK, Benoit Hamon in France, Nobel Prize winners, or a collective of intellectuals organized by Noam Chomsky in North America providing support to the Catalan people by condemning the use of repressive force by Rajoy. And perhaps above all, support came from one the most important intellectual figures in Spain, Ramon Cotarelo (who is not Catalan, but experienced jail during Franco’s regime), whose blog is a gold mine for however wants a scholarly-based understanding of Spain and Catalonia. His 2015 « La Antitransición, la derecha franquista y el saqueo de España » is an essential read for those who want to understand the Francoist regression undertaken by the Partido Popular in Spain under Rajoy’s leadership.
A new increment in the anti-democratic abuses of power by the Spanish state, is the fact that we have now since 16th of October for the first time in the history of the EU two political prisoners in Spain, two leaders of two NGOs, locked up without any trial as if they were criminals, when they had only encouraged the Catalans to demonstrate and vote without any violence : Jordi Cuixat of the ANC and Jordi Sanchez of Omnium Cultural, and of which the Spanish State speaks in a totally Newspak fashion not as « political prisoners » but as » imprisoned politicians. »
Still no reaction whatsoever across Europe and total support of every single government around – including of course Macron and Junker, the great friends of the people that we all know – to Rajoy and still not a word from all these intellectuals always so quick to give morality and human rights lessons to the rest of whole world.
If Spain was a real constitutional monarchy like the United Kingdom – which democratically enabled a Brexit and a referendum in Scotland – it should be Rajoy and his ghastly government who should be in jail today, as Podemos keeps saying with very good reasons. The Partido Popular is routinely referred in Spain as the most corrupt party in the Europe. In addition to the hundreds of cases of aggravated corruption and misappropriation of public funds by the Partido Popular under investigation and imprisonment (accompanied by eleven Partido Popular witnesses who mysteriously died before testifying, and the recent “accidental” fire at the Palace of Justice in Valencia to conveniently erase evidence of a huge ongoing lawsuit), a massive Watergate was revealed this summer and is being investigated against Rajoy and his government.
What we do not know at all in France, and probably elsewhere, is that we have a government that has orchestrated a huge political conspiracy of destabilization – called « Operation Catalonia » – shortly before the 2015 elections (still won by the independence parties, majority in parliament, but which would probably have been a clearer majority without this conspiracy) to harm the Catalan political class with a mega undercover cabinet composed by former members of the Francoist political police, using diverted public funds, and responsible for finding and even fabricating corruption scandals : a mega-Watergate, involving among others directly Rajoy and his former Minister of the Interior, for which any government really democratic would have fallen. This case has now been proven by a parliamentary commission and judicial investigations are ongoing. Have you heard about it ?
This is who Rajoy and his awful team of henchmen are exactly, and so when he talks about « legality », “constitution” and « rule of the law » blablabla we can only laugh out loud, or rather cry in front of such a charade that seems to be believed everywhere in Europe. What means “legality” in Spain when what is “legal” is what the unelected Constitutional Tribunal – conveniently populated by Partido Popular’s friends – says it’s legal ? What means “constitutional” when any change necessary to the 1978 constitution to enable a “legal” referendum in Catalunya is strictly prohibited not by law, which is never carved in stone an can always be modified, but by the will of the sole Partido Popular who controls very undemocratically the institutions.
What we must always remember if we want to make sense of this whole crisis is that it was Rajoy him and his keen sense of “illegal legalities” that initiated the whole independence movement, which was marginal ten years ago, as a healthy political reaction in Catalonia across all sectors of the social and political spectrum to an increasingly undemocratic, reactionary state. Let’s recall that in 2006 the Catalan Parliament voted a new Autonomy Statute (120 votes out of 135, only the Partido Popular voted against, a party that represents in Catalonia 8% of voters) in order to modernize the one derived from the post-franquist 1978 constitution. This was validated in a completely « legal and constitutional way » in Catalonia and then ratified at the Spanish Cortes : how much more « legal and constitutional » this could have been ? But as mentioned earlier the Partido Popular controls in actual fact the Constitutional Tribunal. So what they did (because their francoist-jacobinist ideology could not ber it) was to take « legal » action so that the Constitutional Tribunal could be seized : during four years they blocked and shattered a the text that was truly democratically produced.
This was the real spark behind the independence movement, a spark created by a profound feeling of humiliation and a desire to recover this lost dignity. What’s more is that since 2010, thanks to this watered-down Statute, the Partido Popular in now a position to block every possible progressive law that the Catalan Parliament wishes to implement. They have since 2010 refused 25 progressive laws regarding protection of most vulnerable citizens, gender equality, nuclear energy tax, taxation on banks, fracking, social security… repealed. Requests for a referendum have constantly been denied. Is this « legality » ?
We can also add, in the terms of perfectly illegal practices perpetrated by a supposedly legalistic party, the governmental and monarchical pressures that banks and companies have received to relocate their seats, in order to make the whole world believe that the companies flee due to the madness of separatist fanatics. Incidentally, as in his immense erudition Onfray commented in its improbable video, was not Catalonia supposed to be “a region of selfish rich people who no longer wanted to help the poor in the rest of Spain” ? Such are the utterly stupid ideas and prejudices who are bombarded in France and probably elsewhere across Europe to discredit this movement, since they cannot discredit it for a violence that does not exist.
Whereas in reality Catalan independence is now only marginally a nationalist problem about “regional identity” – in the sense that it is usually meant in France with regard to Corsica or Britany – it is a political republican reaction to a neo-Francoist ultra-reactionary and corrupt monarchy, out of breath, and who sees in these Catalan events an unexpected opportunity to divert attention from the massive corruption cases that would normally lead in a true democracy to the dissolution of this party as a criminal organization, as Podemos keeps explaining for good reasons. We shall note here the total and shameful complicity of the Spanish Socialists of the PSOE with Rajoy, and of Ciutadanos who has recently attracted many far-right supporters and is possibly even worse than the Partido Popular. We shall also point out the pathetic fall of a once reputable paper such as El Pais, which is now totally under Rajoy’s control, and sacking any vaguely dissident view to the official Moncloa party line : such as recently the Times essayist John Carlin who was not even a pro-independence voice, but simply tried to put forward a balanced view : but « balanced views » are, for a neo-franquist, already « seditious ».
After a complex process of missed opportunities to engage into a real political dialogue between the two parties – largely due to the unwillingness of the EU to act as the peace maker it is supposed to be in this conflict, and to take seriously the human rights treaties that are supposed to found it – the dramatic Article 155 (which suspends sine die the autonomy of the Generalitat) has finally been triggered further to the declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament and the creation, however symbolic at this stage, of the Catalan Republic.
But symbols matter and however conceptual this republic seems right now, and regardless of the many threats there will be from the central state, for millions of Catalans it represents the hope to establish a modern, progressive, democratic republic at the cutting-edge of social and political innovation in the 21st first century. Still in its infancy we can see that this Catalan Republic is certainly much more than a nation – i.e. a collection of individuals sharing a same history, culture and language in the traditional sense. It is of course also this, but it has now become the incarnation of a set of more universal principles dear to the Catalan people : peace, citizenship and dignity. As a result, as much as the 1789 French Revolution was in its day, the Catalan democratic revolution – and the massive civil disobedience movement that is bound to begin across the whole Catalan civil society – has now reached universal meaning and can very well attract Catalan citizens from all over the world who believe in this set of principles.
Taking about freedom, elections are supposed to be held on the 21st of December, but what sort of “free” elections are they going to be exactly ?
Will the Catalans be able to vote for pro-independence parties – if this parties are to be considered, as it is now the case with separatists in prison (Carles Puigdement is likely to be next and others to come certainly) as « anti -constitutional and seditious « ? If such political censorship is applied it will really be the definitive shift of Spain into a full-fledged police state outside the rule of law, and there is much to fear that even if this new escalation was to be reached it would still continue to be supported by everyone in high places in France as well as in the EU. And this why once again – whatever our personal opinions regarding this new Catalan Republic are – as European citizens we shall not tolerate the gagging of pro-independence parties because wishing independence is not a crime but an opinion that must have the right to be expressed.
Among the Article-155 measures that will be taken are not only the abrogation of the autonomy of Catalonia and the dissolution of its political bodies, the Spanish central state is on its way to put TV3 and Catalonia Radio the local Catalan-speaking television and radio broadcasters. This is the only Spanish television offering a discordant vision to the Partido Popular party line. However sympathetic it might be to the pro-independence movement, its plurality is vastly superior to what can be seen elsewhere in a Spanish television landscape totally under control of the Spanish central state. Democracy cannot be achieved without some plurality in the media space, and TVE journalists are denouncing the totalitarian methods of communication control and propaganda of the Rajoy’s regime :
The authoritarian and anti-democratic drift of the Spanish state concerns us all Europeans: if we let that happen, by creating such a precedent, tomorrow it will be our turn. And in many ways in France, it’s ALREADY our turn, in an insidious and growing manner in which the view that trade-unionists and protesters are « trouble makers » as Macron likes to say to test how far French people can take it.
That the entire European political and economic oligarchy has chosen Rajoy as his soldier – feeding the lies factory of the dominant media apparatus to anesthetize public opinion – clearly shows that Spain is today the training ground for anti-democratic and authoritarian regimes, something of concern for all French and Europeans.
As Gabriel Jaraba, a renown Spanish scholar and journalist insightfully puts in a recent article, Spain and Catalonia have become the political laboratory of the European dominant class : what is being tested there is the precise level of resistance of citizens towards the imposition of authoritarian policies by increasingly autocratic states. Of course countries such as Turkey are not ideal exercise grounds : an Erdogan is far too gross for that. What is needed is a seemingly soft-spoken Rajoy who can invoke words emptied of their meaning such as « constitution », « law » and « democracy » to perpetrate without EU sanctions the worst political violence with total impunity. Needless to say what is tested as well is the ability of the other European citizens to react – or not – to what’s happening.
Bad luck for the oligarchs, who do not know well Catalans, Catalonia was probably the worst place to pick in order to carry out this experiment : given the tremendous strength and courage of Catalan’s civil society who is very likely to be a complete nightmare for Rajoy to handle in the coming weeks. What is completely clear by now is that, since the 1st of October, Spain and Catalonia form now two distinct nations and that the full recognition and operations of the Catalan Republic is now a simple question of time : the very reason is Catalan’s fundamental commitment to non-violence and that is always in the long run unbeatable no matter how much brutal force you can throw on people. The only way to crush such a non-violent collective opposition would be to send tanks to Catalonia and get into the kind mass murders that sinister characters such as Franco, Staline or Assad enjoy : and we have fortunately not reached a stage yet in our democracies where such things would be allowed.
Yet, however strong Catalans are, they do need our moral support. They need to feel they are understood abroad, that they are not alone. They will also need support from a change in the European public opinion from all us, that will then be able to be converted into pressures on our governments to stop the « material testing » as Gabriel Jaraba calls it.
European democracies abandoned the Spanish Republic when under attack by fascism in 1936, on the equally cowardly and hypocritical motive of an internal affair, and it became the training ground for the Axis forces for the Second World War. Many horrors would have been avoided if France and the United Kingdom had assisted the democratically elected Republic attacked by the fascist armies of a General Franco, who in other hand was fully backed by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.
Let’s not make the same mistake.
Let’s not let down our fellow Catalan and European citizens.
Editorial note :
This article is a translation of a recent post written in French available here on the 21st of October entitled #NousSommesTousCatalans. A couple of Catalan people asked me for an English translation. I would like to thank the friend who helped me just do that. I have simply removed a number of references that apply to purely French matters that have little interest outside France, and I have at the same tried to find political and cultural references that can be understood by any English-speaking person.
Also, since the 21st of October the Catalan situation has significantly evolved and so I have pondered whether the initial article still made any sense at all and had to be rewritten completely. Initially #NousSommesTousCatalans was not supposed to mean that we were all in Europe supposed to take sides with the pro-independence. It basically meant that EU citizens should view the Catalan case as an internal EU affair in terms of human and civil rights that were attacked by Rajoy. After the declaration yesterday of the Catalan Republic this remains perfectly valid and so the bulk of the initial has been kept.
What has changed though is the editorial line of L’impertinent regarding Catalonia and it is a matter of honesty to clarify this change. Initially, since the writer here is a simple French citizen, the position was to support the idea of a proper referendum such as the ones that peacefully took place in Scotland and Quebec, in line with the universal self-determination right of the peoples and EU treaties on human rights. This still stands and if this the outcome in the future, so be it.
However I have become now fully supportive of the Catalan Republic because it represents a tremendous opportunity for a badly needed democratic regeneration of Europe. Clearly the kind of people and the set of principles behind the foundation of the Catalan Republic are not those typically found in stupid nationalistic, xenophobic or populist movements elsewhere. These people and these principles stand for the universal values of peace, citizenship and dignity. This is therefore what in my opinion #We AreAllCatalans stand for : the support to a new Republic, a Republic in which every single person on earth can aspire to be part of.
Mr Carles Puigdemont : how can we get a passport please ?