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Thanks for the limpid summary of a complex and fluid situation, exactly the sort of analysis that the news media don't provide (and it's not the journalists' fault : the situation is too complex for the attention span of the news consumers. Like New Zealand.)

But I don't get the 1930s analogy, I think you need to be clearer on this. If you're talking about Spain in the 1930s, then frankly no (or at least, you need to develop the question extensively). If you're talking about the rise of fascism in Europe, then I can't see that either.

Perhaps I'm missing the point because I don't see the collapse of the centre as an inherently bad thing. Whatever happens, a majority government of either extreme is an unlikely outcome; multipartism imposes coalition. Perhaps I'm underestimating the explosiveness of the nationalism issue, because I tend to see it as a lot of empty posturing (there being no constitutional route to independance), butwWhat I see is a major shift to the left, which can only be a good thing for the people of Catalonia, and by extension, for Spain, insofar as it can be a catalyser for a wider recomposition. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:47:39 AM EST
My take on the center is that when you get into a situation where the middle ground position is unoccupiable, the extremes get strengthened and in a proportional representation setting coalitions get shortlived or can not be formed.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 06:53:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, this is the point I was trying to make, and is the definition of polarized pluralism in a nutshell.  The archetype of polarized pluralism is Germany during the 1930s.  

The idea is that the polarization of the electorate into right and left ensures that radical solutions (aka Catalan independence vs. banning the public use of the Catalan language) are on the agenda instead of more moderate ones (enhanced regional autonomy) which depend upon a solid center.

Eventually this leads to politics spilling out of electoral conflict, into the street.  The ensuing chaos forms the basis for a rejection of politics in favor of a Caesarian solution, aka Hitler or Franco.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no Caesarean solution in Catalonia. Are you suggesting the formation of a single-issue independentist majority in Catalonia will cause a coup in Spain?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:45:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No.  I'n suggesting that if the status quo is untenable. Please explain to me how to form a viable coalition from the seat totals that recent polling suggests.

The balance of politics in Catalonia is to the Left, but there's a cleavage between the nationalist left (for whom independence is the issue) and the economic left (for whom austerity is). The problem is that you have parties (ERC) who have managed to seize upon independence as a solution to austerity.  

With the ERC running the show, the probability of a unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan regional government becomes a possibility.  If Podemos signs up for this, it becomes a much stronger one.

How do you think Madrid will respond if that happens?

I'm going to say that a solution involving the revocation of Catalan self government is in the cards if that happens.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:06:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A revocation of catalan self-government is not a "solution", it's just one more step in the escalation of the political crisis.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:27:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Rajoy know that?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:53:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if he does, can he resist the demands of those in his party who don't?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:56:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying it's unlikely, I'm just saying it wouldn't be the last word.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:12:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I worry that the last word won't be words.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:15:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you say that sitting in the US midwest...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:00:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True enough. I'm an outside observer, but if this thing goes sideways the consequences will run way beyond Spain.

Suspending the regional government, let alone arrestjng elected officials.  I just don't see it going over well on the world stage.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:36:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would probably be with clear legal cause.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:51:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, can I crash in your couch if it blows up? I'm not staying for the fireworks once they are scheduled.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:52:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have an extra dog bed.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 22nd, 2014 at 12:42:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Going well on the world stage? Of course it will.

Just see how ignored the whole issues regarding Hungarian democracy have been.

As long as it does not impact the financial elites or the construction of the EU utopia and the expansion of globalization, it is wholly acceptable.

by cagatacos on Wed Oct 22nd, 2014 at 04:15:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please explain to me how to form a viable coalition from the seat totals that recent polling suggests.
With these results

ERC     34
CiU     26
C's     18
PPC     17
PSC     15
Podemos 12
ICV     8
CUP     5

I see three more or less viable coalitions:

(Centre-Right)
CiU C PPC PSC           76 = 26 18 17 15
(Centre-Left)
ERC PSC Podemos ICV     69 = 34 15 12 8
(Catalanist)
ERC CiU ICV             68 = 34 26 8

And a bunch of arithmetically possible unnatural coalitions:

ERC C PSC Podemos       79 = 34 18 15 12
ERC CiU C               78 = 34 26 18
ERC PPC PSC Podemos     78 = 34 17 15 12
ERC CiU PPC             77 = 34 26 17
ERC CiU PSC             75 = 34 26 15
ERC C PSC ICV           75 = 34 18 15 8
ERC PPC PSC ICV         74 = 34 17 15 8
CiU C PPC Podemos       73 = 26 18 17 12
ERC CiU Podemos         72 = 34 26 12
ERC C PSC CUP           72 = 34 18 15 5
ERC C Podemos ICV       72 = 34 18 12 8
CiU C PSC ICV CUP       72 = 26 18 15 8 5
CiU PPC PSC ICV CUP     72 = 26 17 15 8 5
ERC PPC PSC CUP         71 = 34 17 15 5
ERC PPC Podemos ICV     71 = 34 17 12 8
CiU C PSC Podemos       71 = 26 18 15 12
CiU PPC PSC Podemos     71 = 26 17 15 12
C PPC PSC Podemos ICV   70 = 18 17 15 12 8
ERC C PPC               69 = 34 18 17
ERC C Podemos CUP       69 = 34 18 12 5
CiU C PPC ICV           69 = 26 18 17 8
CiU PPC Podemos ICV CUP 69 = 26 17 12 8 5
ERC PPC Podemos CUP     68 = 34 17 12 5

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:11:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But in Germany before the Nazi takeover, radical solutions were on the agenda and militancy was on the street (remember Rosa Luxemburg) right from the end of WWI due to the war loss and the unreasonable reparations demands; and these radical solutions didn't become majority opinion and street violence didn't escalate until centre-left-supported and centre-right-pursued austerity in the face of recession, that is, the polarisation was a result of the unworkability of the 'moderate' agenda rather than the other way around.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:48:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is much oversimplifying the situation.The decline of the center-right e. g. started much earlier.
by IM on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 02:59:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geometric reasoning is not always a good guide to political interpretation.

No one in the catalan or spanish parliament has proposed banning of catalan language. What is very timidly supported by some (PP) and more valiantly by others (Ciutadans) is to allow parents some choice, according to the law, in the dominant language of schooling for their children.

The "extreme"  opposed to a unilateral declaration of indepedence is the rule of law.

by IvoCrouchback on Fri Oct 24th, 2014 at 02:54:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome to ET, IvoCrouchback.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Oct 26th, 2014 at 04:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Catalan case is one where there are several clearly distinct ideological axes. there's not just economic left/right and social left/right, but also a nationalist/centralist axis, This means there's room for many more parties, the center is rather small, and moreover the correlation of forces is very sensitive to changes in the relative importance of the various axes.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 06:57:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is entirely the case, and if you move from a two dimensional (aka lets plot party strength on a right left line)analysis to a three dimensional one (aka let's set up a nationalist/centralist axis and a left/right one) you may see things differently.  But, that's much harder to interpret.  And, I think that you still find that the center has emptied out. So same problem with a real inability to form a viable governing coalition. (And, even to get parties to abstain from voting to allow a minority government to be installed.)

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:13:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The collapse of the centre is really the collapse of the Social Democrats. To put some numbers on this, let's look at the sequence of vote shares gained by the PSC from its peak 15 years ago:

2012 14.4%
2010 18.4%
2006 26.8%
2003 31.2%
1999 37.8%

Pretty impressive, is it not?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:38:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the CiU's collapse is similarly impressive, no?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:43:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CiU:

2014 polls (average of last five) 18.5%
2012 30.7%
2010 38.4%
2006 31.5%
2003 30.9%
1999 37.9%

So a fluctuation above 30% until 2012 and a collapse now.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:52:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CiU's is not a secular collapse, it's just ERC recently eating its nationalist lunch.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:13:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why I doubt they go into coalition with ERC again. And that.  That wipes out two of the coalitions you mentioned below.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:28:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That may well be, but then repeat elections tend to clarify the landscape. So, the question is how would voters react to a hung parliament and a second round of elections. Which parties would drain support to which other parties?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 11:34:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed. I imagine that we only see more polarization.  And I think that the CiU splits open.

In the long run, ERC wins out.  And they opt for a unilateral declaration of independence.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 12:09:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does unilateral independence work, politically and on the ground?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 12:22:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably as well as it did in 1934.

It was an ERC President of the Generalitat that proclaimed the Catalan Republic in 1934.

He was imprisoned and replaced by a military governor, with the Catalan government suspended.

Presumably this time the new governor will not be a general.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 03:52:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point being, does ERC have, or think they have, strength on the ground to pull off a unilateral declaration of independence? The current independence referendum drive didn't get past Artur Mas' unwillingness to ask Catalan civil servants to carry out illegal orders.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 06:59:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does politics always have to be rational?


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:37:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is, but I think  we can agree these voters didn't leave the PSC for CiU.  PSC is unionist, and moderate.

This collapse of support probably didn't benefit CiU.  These voters most likely walked into either ERC, ICV, or C's. All of which poses accentuates the nationalism issue.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:43:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do participation rates look like?

In the rest of Europe, collapsing social democratic parties have lost a lot of voters to the Sofa Party, from which they then leak back into assorted left-wing or ugly parties over the course of the next few election cycles.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 02:56:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have the numbers from the early 1980s (which would presumably be very, very high) but from the late 1980s:

1988  59.4%
1992  54.9%
1995  63.6%
1999  59.2%
2003  62.5%
2006  56.0%
2010  58.8%
2012  67.8%

There may be public opinion polling from the CIS (the Spanish government social research body) but I'd have to look. I don't think that the dynamic of decreased participation is as relevant here. I think that austerity is the issue.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:00:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And now I've found me some toys.

CIS has  opinion polling on public perception of where each party lies on Catalan nationalism, with 1 indicated the least support and 10 the most. From the Nov 2012 numbers:

PPC 1.63
C   2.48
PSC 4.37
ICV 5.62
CIU 7.66
ERC 8.99

 

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 04:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps I'm underestimating the explosiveness of the nationalism issue, because I tend to see it as a lot of empty posturing (there being no constitutional route to independance)
Precisely because there is no constitutional route to independence the nationalistm issue is so explosive. There is no middle ground and if the "centre" shifts towards independence there are no constitutional solutions.

As well-respected constitutional scholar Javier Pérez Royo noted already years ago, there is no legal solution to the current impasse, but a political solution because only through politics can the constitutional contradiction be resolved. But statesmanship is notoriously absent here.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 07:19:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps I'm missing the point because I don't see the collapse of the centre as an inherently bad thing.

The way I understood it, the problem is that in the current situation, the collapse of the centre is not the end of the process, as the parties will compete to reach ever further extremes in opposed directions(and fracture not just along a single dimension as Migeru suggests), resulting in several incompatible but potentially militant medium to small parties.

Regarding a 1930s analogy, I'm not sure there is a really good one. In Germany, there have been several parties throughout Weimar, and there really were just 2-3 elections where the fringes in general strengthened, then the NSDAP bloated up on one side and the nominal centre parties folded and voted for the Gleichschaltung before the centre truly disappeared in a real election. In other Central European countries, fascist and semi-fascist forces took over without a prior total disintegration of the party landscape, even if the parallel strengthening of fascists and communists was common. And France was a rather different story, with true-blue far-right movements having been kind of marginal as extra-parliamentary movements, and the Communists joining a government coalition.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:26:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think ManFromMiddletown may be thinking of the formation of People's Front governments in Spain and France as the operative 1930s analogy here. That is, of cource, if the Catalan nationalist parties decide to band together into a single list to try and make the next regional election into a referendum on independence (the rest of the Calatan parties will not bad together into an anti-independence front, and so their vote will be diluted by the imperfect proportionality of the election system).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:31:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes and no.

History rhymes, rather than repeats.  But, the idea of social science is that you can distill certain abstract patterns from what's happened in the past.

Polarized pluralism says that as the center empties out, the normal tendency of politics to push parties to the center disappears as the unimodal distribution of voters we associate with functioning democracies gives way to a bimodal one.  Over time, the absence of a center makes functioning government virtually impossible.  A disfunctional political system discredits itself, making room for men who don't see the need to be accountable to mere parties. (aka Franco)

It's worth noting that in the 1930s it was the issue of Catalan independence that ultimately was the final straw, Espana una y grande and all.

Now as to a common front of the Catalan parties, I just don't seeing it happen.  I see either CiU splitting open with CDC moving towards ERC, and UDC moving in the direction of PPC, or I see the left wing of CiU emptying out in favor of ERC.  To some extent, the latter has arguably already occurred.

The problem is that this is all leading to a situation in which Catalonia is ungovernable, and the unity of Spain is seen to be in danger by people willing to act on that.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 09:58:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's worth noting that in the 1930s it was the issue of Catalan independence that ultimately was the final straw, Espana una y grande and all.
Can you spell that out?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:00:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two things happened during the right wing CEDA government in 1934 which ensured that the generals would act if a new left wing government took charge at a later date.

The Asturian miner's strike and the proclamation of the Catalan Republic.

The Asturian miners revolt began on 4 Oct 1934, and the Catalan regional government  (led by the ERC) proclaimed the Catalan regional government on 6 Oct 1934. Members of the Catalan regional government were imprisoned.  The Popular Front government released them  in 1936 (and restored Basque local government) which convinced the generals that the unity of  Spain was in danger. So they plotted.

Spain is different today, but that same terror that Spain will be torn apart remains.  Military action is much harder to coordinate, but I could see a right wing government in Madrid acting to suspend any regional government that tries to repeat the proclamations of a Catalan Republic which occurred in 1931 and 1934.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Oct 21st, 2014 at 10:38:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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