Homage to Catalonia: a message for Europe

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Originally posted 2017-10-02 13:12:05.

Yesterday, a referendum was held in Catalonia, in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula, to decide whether the region should become independent of the Spanish State. To try to prevent this legitimate expression of speech, the Spanish State has used every device it can, finally unleashing its National Police and Civil Guard — whose reputation for brutality is notorious — to prevent people casting a vote. It’s the sort of thing one does not readily associate with a modern State which allegedly, conforms to the rules of membership of the European Union

Should we be surprised to have witnessed the scenes of extreme violence and brutality inflicted on the citizens of Catalonia this Sunday? No, we should not.

Police State

I remember Spain under Franco. It was a Police State. The Civil Guard, Spain’s paramilitary police force, were universally loathed. And so they should have been; they were the cudgels of the State, answerable only to Generalissimo Franco.

Free speech

In Franco’s Spain free speech was non-existent. There were spies everywhere, acting as a conduit back to the Guards — the ‘Benemeritos’, as they are called in a new book by Ronald Mackay, to be published in November. One was not even permitted to utter the name ‘Franco’. One had to use one of his many colourful and boastful official designations. In Spain then, so long ago, I learned that free speech was the most valuable thing we had.

The Benemeritos, under Franco, would not have hesitated to use the sub-machineguns and rifles they always carried, against the crowds in Catalonia yesterday. And let us be under no illusions, it was only the fear of the world’s opprobrium that held them back and restricted them to using baton rounds and nightsticks. Estimates of the injured civilians range between 400 and 800 and the likely toll is higher. Those counted are just the ones who were severely harmed. Still, they are lucky; fifty years ago, they would be dead.

Many of us, who knew Spain under Franco, were overjoyed when he died and passed the controls of power to King Juan Carlos; who immediately ordered free democratic elections. The old swine must have twirled under the sod. But for the rest of us, it signalled a new beginning, for this most passionate and mysterious of European nations.

Violence in Catalonia

It seems to have been a hope betrayed, and not just by the violence in Catalonia. Spanish democracy long since fell to corruption and gerrymandering. It seems to be a characteristic of the Spanish State. Indeed, as far away as the Philippines, where corruption is also a problem, academics have pointed accusingly to the traditions left behind by the Spanish colonists and note that wherever the Spanish once ruled, corruption flourishes.

Mariano Rajoy

Old dogs don’t learn new tricks and the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is a case in magnificent point. He has, for years, consolidated himself in an authoritarian political enclave that is disturbingly reminiscent of the Falangists who supported Franco. And yesterday, in Madrid, while the Benemeritos were carrying out their State-sponsored suppression of free speech, crowds gathered to sing Falangist hymns. Make no mistake, this is a dangerous precedent.

Were the paramilitaries, thousands of whom were literally shipped in, suppressing an armed insurrection? Were they defending Spain’s borders against a foreign attack? Has Catalonia descended into anarchy? None of these things. Their intent was to prevent people from speaking their minds. That simple. No other reason. They were sent by an authoritarian State which does not wish the world to hear what 13% of its population want to say, and is prepared to beat and imprison them to that end.

Iron Curtain

When last did we hear of this in Europe? Oh, I can tell you. Behind what we called the ‘Iron Curtain’ in the satellite States set up by Stalin after WW2. And we even saw it again in Russia, when Boris Yeltsin, an unlikely hero of freedom if ever there was one, defied the tanks sent to the Duma to arrest him and turned the tables.

I remember each one of these, from the mid-sixties on and the children who now think themselves so knowledgeable should take note: your freedom of speech is the only thing you have. Do not be so quick to dispense with it, for you do the State’s dirty work for it.

But for many decades we have not seen the likes of the humiliation perpetrated in Catalonia. This was a hundred times worse than the French riots of 1968 or anything else we have seen. This was not disgruntled malcontents desiring to attack the State; this was the State attacking the people it is supposed to serve, for the infraction of desiring to exercise their right to free speech and expression. It is the largest expression of authoritarian State violence that Europe has seen since 1945.

EU deceit

Catalonia has sliced open the deceit of not only Spain but also Europe itself. Has the leadership of the European Union spoken out against the outrage? No. In fact, rather the opposite. It has whined platitudes about ‘abiding by Constitutions’ a slimy and cavilling attempt to dissemble — as is the tradition of the EU. Were anyone in the UK in any doubt as to the wisdom of Brexit, I suggest they reflect. Europe is a remorselessly centralising institution that considers democracy a nuisance it could do without; its project, to make Europe a Greater Germany, might have been stalled, but waiting in the wings is a ghastly alternative that could only have been dreamed up by a French functionary — which is what Emmanuel Macron is.

What will happen now, in Catalonia? The result of the ballot, which did take place, was over 90% in favour of secession. It is likely that the Catalan government will take steps to act on this.

The ball is therefore landed firmly in Rajoy’s court. It should not be forgotten, at this point, that the Spanish Civil War of 1936 began in Catalonia and, although history does not repeat itself, it rhymes.

Rajoy has shown himself to be both ruthless and unsophisticated. At every turn, his response to defiance has been to implement more extreme measures. If the Catalan government declares independence, then he will have no choice but to do so again. He might try to arrest the leaders of the government, but that is not without risk and might not be easy to do. The local Catalan police turned out yesterday to protect the voters from the Benemeritos, as did fire departments all over the region. An arrest, too, would just add fuel to the fire.

There is no chance of economic sanctions, since Catalonia is a net contributor to the Spanish economy — clearly one of the reasons Rajoy wants to hang on to it.

Direct Rule

All that would be left for him would be the suspension of Catalan autonomy and direct rule from Madrid. This would have to be enforced by a powerful force not only of Civil Guard, but also the army. As the crisis proceeded, Rajoy, who knows no other strategy than to keep head-butting the wall harder and harder till it falls down, would be obliged to declare martial law.

Are we seriously deluded enough to think that the people of Catalonia, having come this far, will just lie down and let themselves be crushed into the ground by the State’s hired thugs? Not a chance.

Rajoy, today, has a choice. He can supplicate forgiveness and promise a second, binding referendum, which would be properly conducted and open to international observers. And agree to the outcome, whatever it is. That might buy him time and defuse the bomb.

Or he can go for civil war. He can attempt to whip the people of Catalonia into submission. He might even succeed in the short term, but in the longer he will foment a torrent of terrorist attacks spread throughout Spain and into Europe, and a ratcheting-up of pressure until open warfare is being fought in the streets. The edgy truce in the neighbouring Basque country, bought at no small cost in blood, might break; that conflict would inevitably spread into France.

Leadership failure

The failure of the European leadership to immediately condemn Rajoy and his belligerent tactics and, even, worse, to attempt to condone them, speaks volumes.

I learned when I was a teenager that the only way a State can be made to relinquish power is by force. They never do it willingly. They always try to accrue more. And they always support other States — as long as they are not actively at war with them — in their attempts to grab and to keep power.

But if democracy means anything it is that sovereignty resides with the people. Whether we cede that to representatives to wield on our behalf or do it directly, the moral authority behind the State is the will of the people. But large States in particular are rarely unitary or homogeneous. Consider the United States, for example. Does the Federal Union have the right to wage war to force member States to obey its laws? Well it did so once, resulting in the bloodiest civil war in Western history, the consequences of which are still being felt, 150 years after its end.

The US Civil War was fought for two completely different reasons. The South fought to keep its slaves — perhaps not the most noble of causes. But the North did not fight to ‘free the slaves’, it engineered a war to punish the South for daring to secede — an even more ignoble cause. The State never gives up power lest it is forced to.


Spain was united, by force, 300 years ago; prior to that, Catalonia was an independent State. Ever since, it has been trying to escape the clutches of Madrid. Catalonia has its own culture and language and by any measure, qualifies as having the right to self-determination. Madrid’s efforts to deny this are nothing short of Imperialism. And the European Union should, of course, have condemned them at once. Why did it not do so?

Because the EU aspires to be the United States of Europe. It wishes to become a supra-national State with, at its centre, not the most beautiful Constitution the world knows, that exists to preserve the rights of the individual, but a bureaucracy that is in every measure, fanatically dedicated to suppressing those rights. The EU would make George Orwell, the author of the original Homage to Catalonia, smile most wryly. It is everything he predicted; a monster that would, unquestionably, had it the power, use Rajoy’s tactics itself. It does not condemn them because a large number of Eurocrats would gleefully use them.

They never had any chance against the UK, with its lingering military and economic power; the UK voted to leave in the nick of time. But look how the EU has tortured Greece — tricking it into joining the Euro debacle and then pauperising it for doing so. These are the actions of the State and States do not readily condemn their own. Rajoy will not be sanctioned — even verbally — by the EU, until the bodies begin mounting up. Both sides know that, but the trouble is that Rajoy is not able to change course, even if he wished to; he has let the genie of Spanish Imperialism out of its bottle, and used it to gain power. Now the genie wants payback — the suppression of Catalonia; its Calvary.

Rajoy’s pride and civil war

Rajoy is not adept enough to swallow his pride and make peace with Catalonia in a manner that would keep him in power; his intransigent approach makes civil war likely. And when it breaks out, we shall see the true colours of the European Union establishment. If they do not immediately round on Spain and isolate it, sending in peace-keeping troops to protect the Catalan population against Madrid’s agents, then we will know what the EU really is: the enemy of the European peoples.

8 Replies to “Homage to Catalonia: a message for Europe”

  1. In the 19th century, Simon Bolivar, along with Jose de San Martin, led the nations of South America to independence from Spanish colonialism. Bolivar’s claim — “A people that love freedom will in the end be free” — may well be as relevant today in the Iberian Peninsula as it was almost two centuries ago in Venezuela. The European Union must respond to how the Spanish Government is choosing to handle events in Catalonia.

    1. Hi Ron. The EU is the part that worries me TBH. They are implacably opposed to Catalonian independence. This could rapidly slide out of control and moderate voices need to be heard.

      1. Yes Rod – They are worried, because of the “Domino” effect. There are about 10-12 other regions in the EU that want Self Det or Independence they worry if the accept this, it will open a can of worms.

        Also when will the EU finally die. I hate that institution its worse than my Federal Government!

        Is it currently on Life Support?

        1. Rick
          I wish! The EU is not just undemocratic it is both anti-democratic and virulently opposed to the democratic nation-state, a model which appeared thousands of years ago in Greece and has never been bettered. Underneath its friendly skin, the EU is Marxist in its intentions and philosophy and the sooner it crashes and burns the better

          1. @ Rod Fleming – I agree however even our (current form of democracy) is being destroyed by feminism and ID Politics However I don’t see this lasting too much longer. People can only take so much BS and Social Engineering. You can only push the un-natural so far before people say ENOUGH!

            Also I would say Switzerland via its Direct Democracy is superior to the UK and USA system of Government. I also think (In the US or Fed Republics) the States should be able to overturn any Supreme Court and Federal Law. Our Court system is activist based!

  2. I spent last week in the Spanish regions of Cantabria in the North of the country and then in Adalucia in the South. In every bar and restaurant we ate in this was the only topic on anyone’s lips. especially so in Cantabria where they were already talking about how the the proposed referendum would embolden the the Basque hardliners on their doorsteps. Men of the elder men were very serious about their fear of civil war.
    The only thing which will suppress this brutality by Madrid will be economic force, a destabilised Spain will have serious effect upon the stability of the single currency and this is only where and when the Bundesbank and Banque De France will start to pull on their puppet strings and mobilise the EU into action.
    The other danger is if this becomes a protracted civil war with the EU embroiled and distracted in peacekeeping it could convince our crazy neighbour Vladimir to entice discontent on the eastern borders of Europe, while Donald is busy in a pissing contest with his “Rocket Man”.
    As somebody who grew up and lived through the “Cold War” which flourished through inaction. I can’t help but wonder at stupidity of our species in that we seem to learn nothing from our past mistakes.

    1. Hi Amanda. hmm. I don’t think there is room for a conventional civil war. The Catalans have no army and no materiel. If push comes to shove and Rjoy re-annexes Catalonia, then it will become a guerilla war. As you say, Basque separatism has not gone away and an outbreak of conflict will certainly play into their hands.

      It depends on Rajoy. He can try to defuse the situation and back down, but he has never shown the political refinement necessary to do that; he’s a thug, not a statesman. The Indie yesterday was saying that the Spanish response, to quell Catalonia, could be worse than the Black and Tans — and we kno9w where that ended up. The EU is the problem. The major EU leaders could just instruct Rajoy to negotiate and he’d have no choice: they are the paymasters and the puppeteers. But they are terrified of the collapse of the old nation-state.

      Clearly that collapse is partly a function of the EU itself — as it becomes more powerful and centralised, and encourages regional devolution, the need for national governments becomes questionable. This is the dilemma at the heart of the EU — it is an organisation of nation-states which makes the nation-state redundant. But it wants to appear, at least, to support the nations because 1 they pay it and 2 they are instrumental in persuading people being governed by an unelected bureaucracy that democracy does still exist.

      The EU will throw Catalonia to the wolves to pay lip service to the Spanish nation-state but the consequence will be years of instability in Spain and ultimately, with its economy ruined and its cities destroyed by bombs and tanks, Catalonia will get its independence anyway.

      If there is any positivity in this it is that it appears to me, at least, to be one more crack in the monstrous megalith of the European Union, which is not just undemocratic but resolutely anti-democratic and at the same time is the greatest homogenising force active in Europe since Rome. Well, Rome over-extended itself, crashed and burned; with any luck, the EU is doing the same thing. The downside is that the fall of Rome left Europe wide open to invasion.

  3. “We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity.”
    Stephen Hawking

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