Wednesday 1 November 2017

The Catalan Crisis Has Become the Catalan Farce

The Catalonian independence crisis has turned into a farce with the leaders who planned the declaration of independence taking refuge in Belgium, of all places, less than a week after they proclaimed Catalonia's freedom.

Let's start from the beginning: pretty much all the countries that have ever declared their independence have done it unilaterally. Countries that haven't tend not have such declarations in their founding documents. Canada, for instance, has the British North America Act, 1867, passed by the parliament in Westminster along with subsequent British legislation. She did not need to proclaim her independence as it was granted by Britain, the colonial ruler.

Countries that issue a declaration of independence do it against the backdrop of a ruling power that can be expected to oppose that declaration. There then follows either a war of independence or at the very least, such a level of civil unrest that it is obvious to all concerned that this is a serious matter that needs to be addressed. The USA became independent as a result of a war and large chunks of the old USSR did it via the second method of popular insurrections on the streets.

Sometimes a country will win and other times it will lose. If the latter happens then a secessionist state has two options. It can do as the Confederate States of America did and accept the defeat with good grace, or it can copy the Irish strategy of trying again and gain down the generations until eventually, the colonial power decides that it has had enough.

What it cannot do is declare its independence and then refuse to defend that declaration. No state is bound to accept the independence of any other state that does not have the means or willingness to defend itself. In the case of a seceding state, nobody will recognise such a state if it shows no willingness to defend its declaration by force of arms.

Following on from the brutality shown to the Catalans by the Spanish authorities during the country's independence referendum, it was widely expected that following a declaration of independence the population would be busily engaged in building street barricades in Barcelona, filling bottles with petrol and tearing up street cobbles to throw at the incoming Spanish forces. Had Catalonia done that then it is highly likely that more than a few countries would have recognised her as an independent state.  Countries like Venezuela and Bolivia had already been talked about as early recognisers, but even Finnish politicians were discussing it as well, so the numbers could have been quite large.

That would have given hope to the Catalan population and encouraged the government, presumably by then living in hiding, to begin the creation of an underground army in preparation for taking the conflict to the next level.

Instead, the senior Catalan political figures, including the president, jumped into a fleet of cars and drove to the French border where they took a flight to Brussels. Meanwhile, the Catalan people seem to be blithely going about their business, as the Spanish authorities turn the screw tighter and tighter.

One of the problems that you have in all the Latin countries is a belief that the striking of postures and the making of noise equates in some way to the making of progress. So demonstrations are carried out at the drop of a hat because people genuinely believe that this achieves something. It doesn't, of course, and neither does the sounding of car horns in a traffic jam, but they still do it.

This attitude seems to have been at the core of the recent Catalonian Declaration of Independence, but it was coupled with one other factor which may have doomed the venture from the start.

If you look at the photographs of the people who were cheering the declaration they all seemed to be very well fed and dressed. They looked to me like the same types who demonstrate in Britain against Brexit. That is to say, arseholes with dentures and types like that don't intimidate anyone.

The people who do put the frighteners on governments are the denizens of the barrios, the tough neighbourhoods that we would call estates in English. The toughest of them are called barrios jodidos in Spanish and they are on a par with what is known in Portuguese as the favelas. It looks as if this whole business was carried out from start to finish by the middle class who wanted to strike a  radical pose. Those types who have now received a serious dose of heavy manners from los federales and have run away with their tails between their legs, as you expect the middle class to do when things get rough. Meanwhile, for reasons that are still unclear, the boys in the barrios are completely disengaged from everything that has happened.

The end result of all this is that Calalonia has become an international joke, and nobody in power in Madrid will even pretend to take the views of Catalans into account when decisions are being made.

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