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Democracy on trial

by IdiotSavant Thu Feb 14th, 2019 at 12:41:14 AM EST

Twelve Catalan political leaders went on trial in Madrid yesterday. Their crime? Advocating peacefully for an independent Catalonia and organising a referendum on the issue. The Spanish government calls this "sedition" and "rebellion". But what it really is is democracy. In a democratic state with freedom of expression, people can and should be allowed to advocate for independence. And in a democratic state, when people peacefully demand independence, it is entirely right and proper for them to vote on it. Spain attempted to crush that vote with brute force - and failed. Now they are attempting to crush its advocates. But in a democratic state, democracy should not be a crime. If Spain thinks it is, then it shows that that country is not a democracy, and not a fit member of the civilised world. Democratic countries should condemn this political trial, and demand that Catalans get what they have demanded all along: a free, fair and binding referendum on their independence.


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While there is no denying that the Spanish government acted stupidly and, on October 1st 2017, brutally, the Catalan political leaders now on trial did subvert the Spanish constitution, the Catalan statute of autonomy, and the rules of procedure of the Catalan parliament, and ended up declaring independence in the full knowledge that they could not make it stand. And, as with Brexit, the did this with no serious plan for how to make an independent Catalonia work. They were convinced that the EU needed them more than they needed the EU, and would allow them to secede directly into EU membership even over Spain's objections when the EU had made it clear that wouldn't even have been the case for Scotland (whose referendum was not organised in violation of the country's constitution). In my own area of expertise (monetary and financial arrangements), the Catalan leaders' plan was totally half-baked and amounted to unilateral use of the Euro outside the European Union. I used to call this the Montenegro model, though the Catalan leadership styled themselves a new Denmark. The whole thing has been a sham from beginning to end, and the joke has been on the Catalan separatist grass-roots. Take this for example:



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 Feb 19th, 2019 at 10:04:39 AM EST
Even conceding every point you make, is there ANY constitutional way in which Catalan separatists or their leaders could have pursued their prime objective? Revolutions often happen in constitutional chaos and the mere practicalities of running a state have to sorted out afterwards. I don't take the Catalan side in all of this - the purpose of the EU is to reduce, not exacerbate inter-regional or international tensions - but it seems to me the prime responsibility for containing and managing those tensions rests with the Madrid government, and it is they who should be in the dock.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 19th, 2019 at 04:36:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree Frank, that in slamming shut every constitutional avenue, the Spanish government pushed the Catalan government into ... doing something stupid.

Will the whole sequence improve, or damage, the prospects for independence? Probably the latter. Also, it's severely queered the pitch for the left in general in Spain (and in Catalonia, where the left has better things to do than be split about independance/autonomy/whatever).

The PSOE minority government assumed a hard-line centralist attitude, despite needing Catalanist bloc votes in Parliament, to avoid bleeding more support after taking a beating in Andalucia... So the government falls, new elections, enter the nationalist hard right.


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

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 19th, 2019 at 05:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think framing this in terms of constitutional avenues and doing something stupid misses the point. At least in the minds of a couple million Catalan separatists, this was a serious attempt at secession. Which reminds me of the epigram

Treason doth never prosper. What is the reason?
For if it prosper none dare call it treason.

The prosecution's case may yet unravel or the defendants may yet appeal successfully to the European Court of Human Rights. But we should be under no illusion that the politicians on trial attempted anything other than to stoke an actual insurrection 18 months ago. It could all have gone terribly wrong.

And if Spain gets a nationalist right-wing government after the snap elections in two months' time, which the separatist parties brought about by defeating the budget of the PSOE government they helped install last June, things may yet go terribly wrong. I am under no illusion about the character of the current leadership of Spain's three main right-wing parties, which are currently polling close to 50% of the vote together.

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 Feb 19th, 2019 at 10:00:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally I'm neither for nor against Catalonian secession (quite the contrary, in fact). If they had successfully seceded, then it would have been, de facto, legigimate (hat tip to Harington).

But you can't secede without EITHER consent of the federation, OR sufficient military force. So no, it wasn't a serious attempt at secession, despite the illusions of a couple of million sincere Catalanists; it was a comic-opera coup, as the leadership well knew, doomed and therefore grossly irresponsible on their part.

What escapes me is what sort of end-game they actually envisaged.

I find I don't care much what happens to those on trial, or to the exiles. I would hope for clemency, on the grounds that the whole thing was a farce, and barring them for running for public office.


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

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 09:16:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking on from far outside I always wondered what the separatists were thinking. The government was drowning in corruption scandals and breaking the country to save the party is the done thing these days, but a coalition of FYGM "no money for Madrid" people and anarchist remnants never sounded like a good basis to do anything at all.
by generic on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 10:16:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anarchist remnants, surely not!
"No true anarchist" would waste their time with the creation of a nationalistic statelet...

My contacts in Barcelona are anarcho-municipalists, and strictly neutral in all this. Which may pay off in the long run (re-election of the Mayor would be a good start)

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

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 11:22:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
libertarian-anarcho-muncipal-syndicalists, surely

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Feb 22nd, 2019 at 02:46:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Libertarian, but in the absolute, not the American, sense. Left wingers, obviously.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Feb 22nd, 2019 at 02:51:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
m'k.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Fri Feb 22nd, 2019 at 03:37:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The nearest parallel I can think of is the Irish 1916 rebellion which was militarily stupid and without a widespread popular mandate. But as usual, the British over-reacted, executed some leaders, and hey presto - a large majority of the population suddenly favoured secession and made life impossible for the Brits.

This was a conscious strategy on the part of the Rebellion leaders. They were heavy into "blood sacrifice" and knew their escapade was militarily hopeless. They hoped to provoke a British over-reaction and rally the people behind them at the cost - if need be - of their own lives.

Basically that is the only way a secession can succeed.

But the opposite may now be the case in Spain. The half hearted, half assed, secession attempt could provoke a Spanish counter reaction and bring a hard right government to power intent on suppressing Catalonian separatism and enforcing Madrid centralism - distracting from corruption scandals and enabling a hard right agenda on all manner of other things unrelated to Catalonia.  

If that is the case the left in Spain will have good reason to be pissed with Catalonian nationalists, and not just for bring the Socialist Government down.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 12:36:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A terrible beauty is born, eh?

NOT.

They might have done their cause some good by getting themselves shot; but no. They buggered off to Brussels, and the dustbin of history.

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

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 02:29:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not a gun or even a piece of paper in sight. Are these people for real? Do they think independence will simply be handed to them? Democracy is what can happen within sovereign states. Achieving sovereign statehood is an entirely different process and often involves war.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 04:39:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It worked with Slovakia, didn't it?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 04:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Czechoslovakia was a Post World War One cobbled-together state formed from the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The Slovaks never went all icky-gooey over the union and were granted a semi-independent existence by Hitler in 1939, they were forced back into one country under Stalin, were given their own Socialist Republic in 1968, were "normalized" back into one state during the 1970s.  The "Velvet Divorce" happened because the Czechs didn't give a damn about Czechoslovakia either and when Václav Klaus very sensibly said, "lets make this thing work or separate" they amicably separated.

Naturally there was some irritations along the border area up until 2007.  Now both countries are in the Schengen Agreement Area and so that whole thing is pretty much moot.

tl;dr -- Czechoslovakia was a forced marriage that the two parties got out of as soon as it was practicable.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Feb 21st, 2019 at 07:05:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It worked fine, except for the "Czecheslovaks". I knew one of those. The Czechs told him he was Slovak and the Slovaks told him he was Czech. As he was a permanent resident of the US, this gave him an incentive to get naturalized.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Feb 22nd, 2019 at 07:01:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a friend in New Zealand who identified as Yugoslav. That was before...
It turned out she was a Bosnian Serb. Poor thing.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Feb 22nd, 2019 at 11:26:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Everybody knows the question of the Czechoslovaks' independence has been settled since WW1:

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It: Today -100: October 20, 1918: We have done so much to bring about peace that we have finally made ourselves a laughing stock

Indeed, he recognizes the Czech government-in-exile as a belligerent against the A-H Empire and has decided that the Czech g-in-e has "the proper authority to direct the military and political affairs of the Czechoslovaks." From whence this proper authority is derived, Wilson does not say. He says that the Czechoslovaks and Jugo-slavs shall be the proper judges of what actions "will satisfy their aspirations and their conception of their rights and destiny as members of the family of nations."
by generic on Fri Feb 22nd, 2019 at 01:33:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Catalonian independence movements have a history of resembling the Judean independence movements in "Life of Brian": lots of noise, lots of swagger, no plans for actually accomplishing anything.  Patrick O'Brian's descriptions of Catalonian nationalist groups in the Aubrey-Maturin series are pretty much spot on.
by rifek on Tue Mar 5th, 2019 at 06:27:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the politicians on trial get severe sentences and the separatist movement manages to use their imprisoned martyrs as recruitment tools, they could refill their bench and then repeat their actions. This could make Catalonia ungovernable, as cooperation becomes morally reprehensible and give an unending parade of new martyrs. And if the separatists doesn't use violence, they can occupy a moral high ground.

More India than Ireland. I am not saying that they had this as a plan, but strategies you stumble into can still work.

by fjallstrom on Thu Feb 21st, 2019 at 01:29:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More India than Ireland.

With Valencia playing the role of Pakistan?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Feb 21st, 2019 at 02:52:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, considering the Catalan separatist leaders trampled the rights of the opposition in the Catalan regional parliament with the support of just 47% of the vote - not even 52:48 in favour as in the case of Brexit...

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 Feb 19th, 2019 at 09:46:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, they had no moral mandate for secession on such a close result (Catexit means Catexit, spare me!), even if the para-constitutional situation made it possible.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Feb 20th, 2019 at 11:15:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... However I do agree that putting people on trial for organising votes is not a good look...


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Feb 19th, 2019 at 06:00:34 PM EST
This may have something to do with the fact that Celtic fans like to wave the estelada.
Celtic fans in Valencia for a European match were warned not to display Catalan flags after reports of police attacks with batons, riot shields and rubber bullets.

People as young as 15 were allegedly hurt before the club's Europa League game against the Spanish club last night. Witnesses on Wednesday night said they did not see any signs of provocation.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Feb 22nd, 2019 at 11:07:49 AM EST


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