Spain is a country dear to my heart, I have strong connections to the country, I have friends and family there and I own a house not far from the border with Catalonia (which kind of concentrates the mind a bit). I am an admirer of its art and culture, I have a fascination with its rich history and a deep affection for its people who I find to be funny, warm-hearted and full of life, a people as sunny as their weather and joyful in company. So I thought I would write some words on my take on what is happening. As a Brexiteer I am keen to warn others who seek our own independence to be mindful of making parallels, in other words to be careful what you wish for. The break up of Spain would only serve to empower the EU; it has no benefit to us or the people of Spain.
The events in Catalonia over the past few days have saddened me. The story itself is not a new one however; on my frequent visits to Madrid I am used to hearing the locals bemoan the latest outrageous comments from the Catalonian Government. The agitations by politicians of the autonomy for independence have been there for as long as I can remember although for the past decade or so they seem to have eclipsed that of the Basque region – another fault line in Spanish politics.
One of the false narratives from recent events is that somehow Madrid represents fascism, but it is important to note that Madrid held out to the last against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. More recently in the elections Podemos (the left wing populist party) gained control of the city. Madrid is a city I have come to know quite well and I can assure you that the people there may well oppose the break up of Spain – a view that I share, but they are certainly not fascists. One of my favourite ways to waste an afternoon in Madrid is to walk along the Gran Via; as I walk along I like to imagine in my mind’s eye the scene George Orwell described in his book Homage to Catalonia. Orwell marched with the International Brigades along the Via, past cheering Madrillenos and from there into the trenches dug into the slopes of the University district. Against all odds Madrid held out, perhaps the high point in the contribution of the International Brigades and indicative of the nature of the people of Madrid, they are brave and they will not back down.
This is not to say that the people of Madrid agree with the way the Guardia Civil behaved in order to stop the illegal Catalonian referendum from taking place. My friends over there are pretty mortified by the heavy handedness shown by the authorities, one of my friends observing that they could have just shut the gates and locked them in and waited. Most agree that there was no need for the Guardia Civil to crack the heads of old ladies to uphold the constitution, after all the referendum was illegal but voting isn’t. Blame the politicians not the voters is the message I gather from my friends, their sense of gloom deepening as rumours abound of military units being moved to Catalonia in advance of the expected declaration of independence in the coming days.
The other narrative that I feel should be addressed is that somehow Catalonia cannot achieve a referendum through legal, democratic means. This is simply untrue. The constitution of Spain is quite clear, Spain is a nation indivisible. So the only legal means is to change the constitution. This is not beyond the wit of man. So that leaves us with the democratic obstacle, how is a separatist party going to convince the rest of Spain to change the constitution? Well the recent difficulties Mr Rajoy and the Partido Popular (the Conservative party of Spain) had in forming a Government gives a hint of what is changing. The centre right and centre left parties in Spain are finding it harder and harder to gain an outright majority in elections, coalitions and agreements with other smaller parties are becoming increasingly necessary in order to form stable governments, and so it is only a matter of time before political necessity makes constitutional change part of the deal of forming a government.
More widely – until the ham fisted efforts of Mr Rajoy to uphold the constitution by way of thumping anyone who likes Lionel Messi, there was no outright majority for independence in Catalonia, as is often the case; the voice of the people who believe in the nation state was hardly heard. Certainly given the current mood if Spain were to hold a referendum in Catalonia the separatists could well win – but this is not likely to happen now, at least not for a few years and I do sense that in a calmer atmosphere the majority in Catalonia would probably vote to stay part of Spain – albeit through gritted teeth.
So what of the Catalan politicians that brought this to a head? Much like the Scottish Nationalists I remain puzzled as to why they call themselves independence movements since a common theme is to remain in the EU. That is hardly independence since the sole consequence would be to move the capital city from London or Madrid to Brussels and direct rule by EU bureaucrats, yet oddly this obvious fact seldom gets challenged by lazy journalists in the main stream media. As an apropos I am always amused that the term nativism is used as an insult by those who seek to destroy the nation state and the identity of the people that live there, strangely though in the case of these fake independence parties the nicer term civic nationalism is used. Whatever that means.
As someone who trained in science I do not dismiss theories if they provide a good explanation, if the theory does provide this I then look for evidence that supports the theory. The EU is a political project that seeks to end the nation state and thus create a supranational entity that governs the millions of people across most of Europe. This becomes easier to achieve if you break nation states down into smaller and smaller parts, their power becomes weakened and their voices diminished, the people led into a Potemkin’s village of bagpipes and tartan – or Catalan flags and Cava wine foolishly handing over their homelands to the control of people who care nothing for them, their history or their culture.
I am afraid I do see the EU’s hand in all of this, the breakup of Spain fits with their divide and rule agenda much as they sought the breakup of Britain with the Scottish referendum. The evidence for this? Well it came sooner than I expected, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative in the Brexit negotiations let the cat out of the bag broadcasting to the world via Twitter:
There is a solution for the situation in Catalonia: reform Spain into a federal state in a federal Europe.
So there you have it, as clear as a bell, the EU has offered to solve the problem by breaking Spain up into smaller pieces to be ruled from Brussels. He even wrote it down for us. Thanks Guy.
As for further evidence, the EU has form in this area, in the early nineties the civil war in Yugoslavia was partly caused by Germany recognising Croatia as a nation state when it broke away. EU interference in the Ukraine has seen the country split in two as Russia moved its military in when it realised the agreements with the West to keep Ukraine neutral were not worth the paper they were written on.
I do see a scenario where on the one hand the Rajoy government is being encouraged by Brussels to take a firm line against the separatists whilst at the same time the EU is back channeling to the Catalans to invite in the EU to broker a solution. The solution will of course be the balkanisation of Spain.
Spanish people seldom get to hear voices that question the motives of the EU or its direction of travel, the media tends to follow the EU playbook that we are all on some fabulous journey with a wonderful destination. Of all my friends in Spain I know of only one who sees the EU in the same way that I see it, an anti democratic, overbearing empire that is doing great harm to European civilisation and simply does not care.
Any Brexiteer worth his salt should see the game being played by the EU here and put aside little digs about Gibraltar, there is something much, much bigger at stake, whatever your views on the behaviour of the Rajoy administration for the sake of Europe, its culture and its people Madrid must prevail or Spain will fall.
I am not prepared to stand by and watch it fall and do nothing. It is up to every Brexiteer to get the message out to the people of Spain, your nation is in great peril, do not invite the EU to mediate in the dispute, it will be the end of you.
At the start of the Spanish Civil War, in July 1936, Dolores Ibárruri delivered a speech that became the battle cry of the Republic against the fascists, ¡No Pasarán! – They shall not pass! There is no march up the Gran Via for me, nor a trench at the end of it but I can try to battle for your thoughts and those of others. George Orwell felt that Spain was a nation worth fighting and dying for as did many men and women from these islands, it still is.
Spain is a nation indivisible and they shall not pass.