Do you want Catalonia to be a State? If so, do you want Catalonia to be an independent State?

Today there are only six days left until I vote in the independence referendum. I usually use my personal blog for non technical bits but I thought some readers of my KDE Blog might be interested in this as it does affect the geopolitics of pretty much the whole world.

What's going on?

Three hundred years ago Catalunya was an independent country trading its way through the world under the monarchs of Aragon with the capital in Barcelona. Then they ran out of kings and picked the Austrians to supply the next monarch. But they didn't even have time to check the map and realise Austria was nowhere near before the Spanish invaded and took over. Since then monarchs were disposed, dictatorships came and went, the Catalan language was suppressed (sometimes more sometimes less), the Catalan government was kicked out, Catalunya grew an impressive amount of industry and the rest of Spain based much of their economy on tourism and constructing blocks of flats for the tourists. Then 2008 happened and Spain suffered The Crisis when the construction based economy stopped overnight and the country had to be bailed out by the Germans.

Hang on, I've read this somewhere before

Regular readers may recognise some similarities to a blog post I wrote a couple of months ago. There's a lot which is the same between Scotland and Catalunya but also a lot which is different.

What happened in Scotland?

In Scotland the polls looked like it could well go for Yes. The London politicians panicked and made a front page article with The Vow on it which said they'd give Scotland lots of new political powers, keep the funding formula for Scotland which is generally beneficial and please please don't leave. A daily stream of scare stories came out: the oil was about to run out, the supermarkets would raise prices, the banks would leave and you're too small and too wee. The day after the referendum with 45% voting for yes and 55% for no and relieved David Cameron mopped the sweat from his brow and announced he'd be taking away the power of Scottish MPs to vote on English matters, not something anyone had mentioned before and something which damages Scotland because all the English votes affect the Scottish budget, plus it just makes the UK government setup even more weird because you can end up with a government who don't have a majority on many issues.

There are UK elections next year and there is a real danger that the current right wing Conservative party will get back in and call a referendum on EU membership causing Scotland to leave the EU against its will and the economy to be largely destroyed.

So what's going on in Catalunya

Catalunya (English: Catalonia, Spanish: Cataluña) is in the north east of Spain and depending on who you ask is either a nation or a region. It has its own language, Catalan, which sounds a bit like a faster Spanish with some French thrown in. After the 2008 financial crisis in Spain there is now 25% unemployment (50% for the under 30s) and life is hard. There has grown a very strong and rapid growth in the movement for political independence for Catalunya since then. Unlike in Scotland this isn't led by the politicians but by hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, see the photo above with the people in Barcelona making a Catalan flag all through the middle of Barcelona. The Catalan politicians have caught up and have called a referendum on independence with two questions "Do you want Catalonia to be a State? If so, do you want Catalonia to be an independent State?".

Except the Madrid government took the Catalan government to court and had it declared illegal because it might threaten the existence of the Spanish realm. So the Catalan government changed it into a non-binding consultation. Which Madrid then had declared illegal too. The Madrid controlled riot police started to gather outside Barcelona. So now the Catalan government is having a voluntary poll using no civil servants but instead a large team of volunteers to help out. This may also be illegal but it seems too late to stop it and who knows what all those riot police are doing there, it may get interesting.

Why would you vote Si?

The way the debate ended up in Scotland the most important reason to vote yes was for a government which reflected the opinions of people in Scotland. There are different political wishes in Scotland on topics like university tuition fees, private running of the health service, nuclear weapons and invading countries at random. The second most important reason was the money, there were endless debates about whether Scotland was richer or poorer than the rest of the UK and how much of a difference the oil made with not much agreement by the end. The least important reason was national identity, it's nice to wear a kilt and drink irn bru but it's not necessarily a good reason to define your political borders.

In Catalunya the reasons seem to be reversed in priority.

The most important reason when I ask people is always national identity. They want to speak their own language, make large towers of people and not have any bull fights. They genuinely have suffered repression under years of dictatorship with Franco when they were forbidden from speaking Catalan. This only ended in the mid-70s, since then there has been a pact of forgetting. While Spanish investigators have helped various South American countries find the graves of their disappeared and prosecute people who took part in war crimes as part of a dictatorship here in Spain they are only just beginning to dig up graves of those killed by Francoistas and even then with massive resistance from the right wing political parties. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for crimes under the dictatorship and records in Madrid are kept firmly locked down. A TV documentary looking into mass graves was shown on Catalan TV but banned from Spanish TV. There is still a giant mausoleum near Madrid where Franco's body lies and each year hundreds of fascist supporters go to salute it. Who's want to be part of a country like that? But on the other hand the Catalan government has plenty of freedom now to speak whatever language they like and everyone here is bi-lingual so it's unclear what problem gets solved.

There's a lot more certainty that Catalan is the richest part of Spain and they contribute a lot more to Madrid than they get back in taxes. Like in Scotland the Catalan government has minimal powers to raise taxes, everything goes to Madrid who then decide what to give back. This level of money leaving Catalunya through taxes does grate especially since the crisis and the people here feel they are subsidising all the Andaluthians who only work three months a year and claim benefits for the rest. All the infrastructure like motorways and high-speed railways are built to benefit Madrid and to take resources away from Barcelona. Given independence, I've been told, the Catalans can use the extra money saved to build schools and hospitals. But this means taking away schools and hospitals from the rest of Spain which isn't terribly pleasant to do.

Political policy differences was the most important reason in Scotland but hardly seems to feature in Catalunya. In their independence white paper is hardly features at all with all the space being taken up by process. Both Catalan and Spanish governments are right of centre political parties. When I've asked the only differences people can come up with are a desire not to have a monarch and wanting to ban bull fighting. But the head of state is a superficial position and bull fighting is already banned.

What to vote?

So I've no idea what to vote, I'm not sure national identity or taking away schools from poor little Andaluthians is a good reason to vote Si. But on the other hand a Yes vote would help Scottish independence and it would make a government which was closer to the people who voted it but still united under a bigger European Union.

In this two question poll there's the middle option of Si No but nobody knows what it means to be a state but not an independent state.

In the end it's unlikely to matter, the vote will result in a Si vote but Madrid will point out it was mostly those who wanted Si who voted and the silent majority didn't bother for this hastily organised voluntary questionaire. (This silent majority is personified by a naked lady with her finger over her mouth in a curious display of the state of feminism in Spain and what feels l like another reason to vote SiSi).

Answers on a postcard please.


Being an half-portuguese, half-german expat in Italy I'd have no business in the Catalan refererendum but I've seen a couple of inaccuracies in the article. My german half rejoice in the "uber alles" assertion that Germany single-handled saved Spain. My portuguese half not so much. I can't say that Portugal gave one single euro to save Spain banks since we had, and have, problems on our own, but Germany was just one of the countries on which behalf Europe loaned money to Spain. Are the money of the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, France, UK (including Scotland) and so on and so forth worthless? Give credit where credit is due. As for Catalunia being an independent country three centuries ago... it is not so unless I totally misunderstood what I read of it's history (not that it's impossible, I'm no history expert). Catalunia was a principality of Aragon which together with Castille formed the Spanish crown. So, by all means, it was Spanish. And it is true that they chose an Habsburg as the next king but since the former king, recognized by Catalans and so being in his full right, chose a different heir I don't think anyone can talk about a Spanish invasion since Philip V was the true heir and he didn't took over. He, if any, stopped Charles VI from taking over.

That said, I think that Catalans should have been able then, and should be able now to decide for themselves, but facts are facts and I believe they should presented as they are.

BTW, I don't want to stir up a controversy and if any of the above is inaccurate I apologise in advance. AFAIK it is correct but mistakes are just around the corner for me as with anybody else.


By Marta at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 15:49

As a catalan, I am utterly confused by your post.

First of all, three hundred years ago Catalonia was not independent. You mistake autonomous for independent. Second, your simplification of the war for the throne of Spain would be funny if it weren't because you probably believe it to be true (hint: until 1705, almost all of Catalonia supported Philip d'Anjou, not the Austrian candidate, and some cities and towns, like Cervera, still did until the end of the war). Also your simplification of the pillars of the economy in Catalonia and the rest of Spain border on the insulting (why haven't you considered why Catalonia was able to grow an impressive amount of industry, who financed it and favoured Catalonia over other regions, from where did the majority of the workers that made it possible come, etc?).

Furthermore, neither the referendum nor the consultation have been declared illegal. They have been put on hold while the Constitutional Court decides whether they are illegal or not. Granted, the Court will most likely decide that they are illegal, but that is because they most likely are: like it or not, the Constitution says that the territory of Spain can't be divided, and that sovereignity over it belongs to all its citizens (not just a part, like the referendum and the consultation presume). The proper way for such a referendum and/or consultation to be held legally would be through changing the Constitution first, something that the Catalan Government hasn't even considered. They apparently feel entitled to ignore the law and think they should be allowed to disobey it.

As for the police gathering outside of Barcelona... I don't even know what you're going on about there. The riot police that threw the people protesting in favour of the referendum out of Catalunya square was the Catalan police, sent there by the Catalan Government. And if any police does anything to stop Sunday's vote it will be the Catalan police, since it's their job to uphold the law.

Lastly, Catalonia is not the region that gives the most money nor the one that receives less, but even if it were, why should that be a problem? Catalonia is richer and has lesser needs regarding services and infrastructures than other regions, simply because we already have them. Now go to Galicia, Andalusia, some parts of Castille, etc. and compare their situation to that of Catalonia. Also, what is that nonsense about Andalusians only working three months a year and claiming benefits from the rest? That does not border the insulting, it is outright defamatory, and that "all the infrastructure like motorways and high-speed railways are built to benefit Madrid and to take resources away from Barcelona" is outright false.

Oh, and about the naked lady... She does not personify anything. Others, both men and women, posed similarly (albeit clothed) for a campaign to reclaim a space of freedom for those against the independence process, which are being silenced and discriminated against, here in Catalonia. If you care to inform yourself, find that picture on twitter and read the astonishing amount of insults and hate that woman received from some of those that will vote SiSi.

By Luther Blisset at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 17:25

Please keep these sort of blogs off KDE otherwise it turns into Slashdot

By Ian at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 19:25

I think you are totally biased writing this post.

I'm Andalusian with Catalan parents. I've never met a single person in my life who works during 3 months in Andalucia and have the rest of the year paid. This is just a fallacy Catalan government use for their own benefit.

Yes, Catalunya might have a bit more money (just a bit) than other regions since they are more industrialized. But they always forget that it was industrialized with the decision of the Goverment during Franco's period moving lots of factories from other regions to Catalunya to be closer to the rest of Europe.

I am annoyed how the media and politicians manipulate everything for their own benefit. Just check, Jordi Pujol, the biggest advocate for the Catalan independence now the biggest corrupt politician and thief of the whole nation.

Me, as a person who had the chance to be raised in Catalunya, Madrid and Barcelona and with love for the three regions and many others of the country (and not nationalist) I am just sad how this situation is driven by politicians and not by the people, lying and manipulating. Both sides.

I totally agree on letting Catalans decide their future. They and we have the right to vote. But please be careful with the arguments you write. I dont think they are totally correct..... you make me feel even more sad.


By Victor at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 20:48

You fucker don't have any respect for us, Andaluthian people. You say that we don't work. OK, that is the generalization that all people say about us. But you know, what generalization say all people about you catalonian people? that you are fucking SELFISH, self-interested, only seeking for yourself, you don't share neither the fucking time. OK, so you can go your own, we don't need your fucking money nor your fucking industry that WE, Andaluthian workers, built for you.

PS: Futbol Club Barcelona would be very good playing only with catalonyan teams.

By Andaluthian WORKER at Mon, 11/03/2014 - 21:19

I am a Catalan citizen, born in Barcelona, who has family in the rest of Spain. I disagree with some of the information you have written. I will try to be as polite and respectful as I can.

I am sorry, but I believe that your summary of the story of Catalunya is full of errors, half-truths, and false statements. First of all, Catalunya was part of the Crown of Aragón and shared the king with Castilla since 1469. We didn't "run out of kings and picked the Austrians to supply the next monarch". Austrians (Charles) and French (Philip) royal families fought to get the throne. Actually, they turned succession into an European war. Different regions of Spain supported different contenders. Some parts of Aragón favored Charles, some parts favored Philip. Some parts of Castilla favored Philip, some other parts favored Charles. It was Philip who attacked Barcelona in 1714, not "Spain". Just like Charles attacked it in 1705. Finally, Philip won and Spain has suffered the Bourbons' endogamy for the last centuries.

...feel they are subsidising all the Andaluthians who only work three months a year...: this is plainly insulting. Andalucía is a (mostly) rural part of Spain and workers are subsidized BY THE EUROPEAN UNION so the countryside does not get deserted, just like many other depressed regions in Europe. People from Andalucía work hard just like any Catalan. This is proven by the fact that millions have immigrated to other parts of Spain during the last decades to be able to get a job. Attributing negative qualities to Spain and the Spaniards is something that Catalan nationalists have been doing since 40 years ago.

Unlike in Scotland this isn't led by the politicians but by hundreds of thousands of people on the streets. In protests fueled, subsidized and promoted by the politicians in the Catalan TVs for months (it turns out that, in the middle of the economic crisis, they have money for that). Politicians have been spreading the "Spain steals from us" message for years, just like the Lega Nord in Italy. Everything is Spain's fault and we Catalans would do it better. In the context of the economic crisis, this is creating a very nasty atmosphere in Catalunya.

A TV documentary looking into mass graves was shown on Catalan TV but banned from Spanish TV.. WHAT? I have watched tens of documentaries studying all the atrocities committed by Franco since I was a child. Tens of movies. Have you seen any documentary in the Catalan TV explaining how Francesc Cambó (the leader of the conservative nationalist party La Lliga Regionalista de Catalunya, whose name is in streets) funded Franco during the war thus helping him to establish his dictatorship; which we all had to suffer from 40 years. It was the fascists fighting against the communists, just like in the rest of Europe. And the majority of democratic citizens suffered the consequences. It was not Spain vs Catalunya, which is the image that nationalists try to disseminate.

I am really tired of discussing with nationalists. They are like religious fanatics. Meanwhile, the Catalan government is not governing, laws are not being passed in the Catalan Parliament, and many companies are running away to Madrid.

By Javi BCN at Tue, 11/04/2014 - 09:16

Andalusians who only work three months a year and claim benefits for the rest is no more the case in Spain.

Anyway, if the economy, schools or hospitals of Andalusians or other spanish regions still depends of the solidarity of Catalonia, 40 years after Franco, maybe the problem is in the politicians of those regions who don't make them the necessary infraestructures to own industry... You know.. Why need I increment taxes to people - and rise unpopularity - to make infraestructures and attract industry to generate money, if I will get the money from other regions of spain doing nothing anyway?

But it's still worse than that. A simplified example: Catalonia, thankfully to its industry, infrastructure and people earns 12 buckets a year. And other region of spain only earn 6. Catalonia give 4 (FOUR!!) buckets in concept of solidarity, so after "solidarity" Catalonia have 8 buckets and the other region have 10. Catalonia are poorer than other regions who do nothing!! And with this 8 buckets after solidarity, Catalonia still needs to maintain more infrastructure and more people than other regions.

But mysteriously, Catalans are treated as insolidaries. Catalans are slighted by his language in Spain, and by his culture. Do yo know that Wert (the spanish minister of culture) had said that Catalan children needs to be more "Spanish"? [1]

So no, thankyou Spain, but NO. No way, no more... Good bye Spain.

9N I'll vote SI-SI.

[1] -

By Ivà at Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:12

I don't really know you, but I hear so often the excuses to "add reasons to vote YES"...they are only self-justifications because in the end you don't have any particularly strong reason for that. Everything seems to add reasons for a "YES", so please if you want to vote YES do it, but please do not "add" stupid excuses to that. One thing I'll give you: among the dozens of stupid reasons I've heard, this one about the naked woman I had not heard about before. I can give you more stupid ideas so you can keep "adding strong reasons" to justify a vote you've probably already decided years ago: the callos a la madrilenya, the TV Madrid, the case of La ciudad del Medio Ambiente in Soria, the cold of the meseta, the Greenwich meridian, or..why not..the general stupidity and ignorance of everyone west of the Noguera Ribagorcana (the PISA reports must be also manipulated)...

By Javi at Wed, 11/05/2014 - 12:59

Please shut up and leave this bullshit for your personal blog. Thanks

By Wolfus at Wed, 11/05/2014 - 20:10

I'm a 32 year-old American man living in California and in talking to many people in my community we all have the same notion that we'd probaby stop vacationing in Barcelona if Catalonia seceded.
The feeling of separatism the last couple of times we've been there is really off putting.
Maybe it's the Yankee ingrained into some of us. Don't get me wrong, I'm from a rich state too, California, and we know what it's like to carry the rest, not a direct comparison, I know, but does Catalonia really not care about what the fractioning will do to their brethren? Just saying.

By Sean Peterson at Sat, 11/08/2014 - 23:07