THE OBSERVER

End of a Regime

"Despite the intensity of political scorn in response to calls for reform or improved self-government these last five years, now Spain is acting surprised and indignant, unable to hold talks"

The Spanish government continues to expend energy on losing Catalonia and ensuring the situation has international repercussions in terms of its effect on economic stability, the quality of Spain’s democracy, the right to decide, and the freedom of expression and conscience. Rajoy is prepared to lose Catalonia as if it were just another colony.

Despite the intensity of political scorn in response to calls for reform or improved self-government these last five years, now Spain is acting surprised and indignant, unable to hold talks. The degree of surprise shown by the Spanish government is astonishing, after so many years of sparring and so many years of seeing how a majority in favour of a referendum and the pro-independence cause have steadily grown. After Operation Catalonia —the Interior Ministry’s dirty war—, and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and Enric Millo’s vapid Operation Dialogue, comes Operation Confusion and Operation General Case [1]. Spain assumed that the Catalan government would implode, along with its parliamentary ties with the CUP [the left-wing, anti-capitalist, pro-independence coalition]. The surprise for many has been the strength of the pact formed in the Palace of the Generalitat [home to the offices of the presidency of the Catalan government], in which Puigdemont and Junqueras unequivocally assumed the consequences of pursuing a "referendum at any cost". The final piece in the jigsaw was overcoming the crisis within the ranks of the ruling PDECat party. The self-confidence shown by deputy PM Santamaría, who hoped that moderates within the JxSí coalition would lead to a stalemate, while hinting at the need for a change in interlocutors, was ultimately insufficient. The PP has outsourced political responsibility via the rulings made by the judiciary. The democratic outrage has now reached a point where the number of those involved and their crimes can be counted in the thousands: they are even threatening members of the public who wish to cast their vote in a referendum that is illegal under the Spanish law, but which has been approved by the Parliament of Catalonia. It is another General Case [1]. The Spanish state is determined to stop the referendum from going ahead. However, the date is drawing getting closer and closer. Rajoy has cheered the absurd confiscation of election posters by the Guardia Civil, while the pro-referendum campaign by the Catalan government and grassroots groups continues to go viral on social media, thanks to messages tailored to each new development. The seizure of a bucket and a broom may well become the symbol of the current period in which everyone is perfectly aware that a referendum is being held on 1-O [1 October]: the referendum on independence and the campaign are unstoppable, as are ideas. Traditional methods aren’t necessary.

What they don’t want to happen (or perhaps they do)

Rajoy talks about unforeseen consequences that might force him to take actions he would rather avoid. He is right that the consequences of the current situation are unpredictable, especially for him. It is his inability to treat Catalonia as a partner rather than as a subject that has led to the growth of such a broad, diverse social majority in favour of independence. Repression will lead wherever it leads, and he mustn’t hold others accountable for his own political shortcomings.

In practice, Rajoy is headed straight for the suspension of Catalan self-government, in the belief that the deconstruction of Spain’s autonomic system that is underway can be undone. After years of economic asphyxiation, of the imposition of strict deficit targets which stretched the country's public services to the limit during a brutal financial crisis, and an unjust and out-dated financing system, Spain’s Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro is using the exceptional nature of the measures taken back then as a means to take full control over the Catalan government’s finances at a time of economic recovery. Financial autonomy is over. Montoro intends to control the payment of government employees and expenditure by confiscating the advances made under the current financing system. The Catalan government will only have control over its own taxes or monies ceded to it, the only ones it collects directly. Yet another fundamental reason to argue in favour of the Catalan people’s taxes being managed directly. This measure is a humiliation for one of Spain’s main workhorses and its major exporter. It represents an abuse of power that will have internal consequences and which may well have external consequences, since Catalonia is a crucial economic actor for Spain, which in turn is crucial to the equilibrium within the European Union.

The new pact

One of the main achievements of the independence movement has been the support of more than 750 mayors for the referendum and the position adopted by Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau. Although the exact nature of the agreement between the president and Colau remains unclear, yesterday's photo op showing the mayor embracing the leaders of the movement once more centres the democratic, majority narrative on sovereignty. On the other side, the coercive force of a state that is looking for posters and ballot papers to prevent a specific event from taking place on 1 October, while failing to comprehend that ultimately, whatever happens, Spain has lost Catalonia. This is shown by the opinion poll that we will publish today and tomorrow. 70% of Catalans want a referendum and 52% support it, in spite of opposition from Spain. The Yes vote is gaining ground, while for the vast majority the Constitution is dead.

Today Spain’s excesses with respect to Catalonia’s democratic determination make the desire to vote greater than ever. We are not only witnessing a struggle for national rights, but a fight for fundamental and individual rights.
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Translator’s notes:


[1]. a reference to the Causa General, a lengthy investigation carried out during the Franco era with the objective of cataloguing and punishing Republican “crimes”.

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