Can you imagine the outrage and shock if Westminster imported 6000 armed police officers from the rest of the UK in order to prevent the people of Scotland peacefully and democratically exercising their right to determine their own future? Can you imagine those police officers causing hundreds of injuries? That’s exactly what’s going on in Catalonia today. When the response of a state to a demand on the part of some of its citizens for a referendum on self-determination is violence, you’re no longer a democracy.
Today’s the day that Spain died. The concept of Spain as a liberal democracy is dead. This is supposed to be a modern liberal democratic state where the right to freedom of expression and freedom on opinion is sacrosanct. You can’t claim to be a democratic country when police fire rubber bullets at people who are peacefully queueing up to vote. You can’t claim to be a democratic country when your answer to the voicing of an opinion is a cosh over the head. You can’t claim to be a democratic country when the ballot box, the symbolic altar of democracy, is charged at and forcefully removed by armed paramilitaries. You can’t claim to be a democracy when you make voting illegal and voters are dragged kicking and screaming from the polling station, coshed on the head and abandoned bloodied and bleeding in the street.
In Catalonia masked and armed paramilitaries have been marching into ballot stations and forcibly ripping the voting papers from the hands of the people waiting to express a legitimate and peaceful democratic choice. Those are the actions of fascists. Those are the actions of a state that is afraid of its own citizens. Those are the actions of a state which believes that citizens have a duty to listen to the state but the state is under no obligation to listen to the citizens. It is fundamentally anti-democratic to refuse to allow citizens in a modern European country to express their peaceful opinions in the first place.
The Spanish government claims that the Spanish constitution makes an independence referendum in Catalonia illegal, but constitutions are supposed to serve the people, the people aren’t supposed to serve the constitution. The correct response, the democratic response, of a state which claims that its constitution forbids a peaceful independence referendum on a part of its territory is to allow that peaceful vote to go ahead and then to negotiate afterwards, to deal with the political consequences in a mature and calm manner. By refusing to concede that anyone in Catalonia could express their view on the future of Catalonia, Madrid took a problem and converted it into a crisis. Now they’re converting it into a tragedy. The blood of the Catalans is on Rajoy’s hands.
A government which refuses to recognise the right of a national minority to self-determination has no right to call itself democratic. Spain is telling the Catalans that they are a minority and that they will forever remain a minority, that Catalans don’t have the right to determine the future of their own nation. And if the Catalans don’t have the right to express themselves democratically, then neither does anyone else in Spain.
Any state in which a large part of its population wants independence from that state is a disorded state, and dysfunctional state. It’s a state which has problems. Scotland has its independence movement largely because of the failures and shortcomings of the British state. If we were all just thrilled with Westminster rule we wouldn’t be campaigning for a Scottish state, a state in which we can do things better, in which we can remedy the shortcomings of British rule. It’s exactly the same in Catalonia. Catalans want independence because of the shortcomings and problems of the Spanish state. Ignoring those problems won’t make them go away. Violently repressing those who seek to exercise a right to self determination won’t cure what ails Spain. It only makes the situation worse in the longer term. It’s the politics of anger, the politics of desperation, the politics of a state which has nothing to say and nothing to offer. It’s the politics of a state that has only achieved the appearance of democracy, but not its essence.
Mariano Rajoy has signed the suicide note of the Spanish state that existed until today. The Madrid government with its repressive and violent actions has shown that there is no space in Spain for peaceful and democratic dialogue between the state and supporters of Catalan, Basque, or Galician independence. There will be no compromise. There will be no dialogue. There will only be rubber bullets, batons, and a bonfire of ballots. Hundreds of thousands in Spain who were previously undecided on the question of independence will be looking on today’s appalling and unnecessary events and saying that there is no space for them in Spain either. All that happened today was a retrenchment and reinforcement of the independence cause, not just in Catalonia but also in the other Catalan countries, in the Basque lands, in Galicia, in the Canaries. Before they were determined. Now they’re determined and angry. Madrid’s iron fist is choking the democracy out of the Spanish state.
The Spanish state can continue to oppress the Catalans with force and violence, but the desire for Catalan independence is not going to go away. The Catalan independence movement isn’t going to go away. It’s going to continue to challenge Madrid. The great danger now that Madrid has closed down peaceful and democratic avenues of protest is that some will resort to other means. That would be a tragedy for Catalonia, a tragedy for Spain, and a tragedy for all of us.
The world is watching. If we are silent in the face of this injustice we are part of the problem, we are on the side of the oppressors, on the side of the violent ones. There will be more tears, and more pain, but one thing remains – the unstoppable will of the people of Catalonia to express their right to self-determination. They will have their say. Their voices will not be silenced. Independence for Catalonia will come. Because of the violent and oppressive response of the Madrid government Catalan independence is now more certain than ever.
Visca Catalunya lliure.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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