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“Only in Spain is a man’s mistress uglier than his wife.”

So goes an old Portuguese saying, I was told. With the violence of the Spanish State towards the organisation of a referendum on independence for Catalonia, declared to be against the Spanish Constitution, which refers to the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, as well as adding in lots of social justice evil, the ugliness of the Spanish State is quite clear.

My first reaction to the Spanish State’s conduct was that this was the best way of going about winning a battle and losing a war. The Spanish Prime Minister, Rajoy, is of the Popular Party, often described as heirs to Franco, but they are more simply the ‘not-socialist, not-communist’ Spanish party. Rajoy seems to have the attitude and beard of a Communist in power. Quite why the powers-that-be did not simply say that the Referendum was void, not properly conducted, biased in favour of independence and having the sampling error that any unofficial poll would have, with mostly only those dedicated to taking part doing do, and hacked by the Russians, is a mystery. It could have ignored it and got along with surcharging the officials involved for wasting public money, but bear in mind that after Franco’s death, the officials responsible for scrutinising increases in public spending were sacked.

The only part of Spain that has, so I understand, actually ever voted, on a limited franchise, to be in Spain is Ceuta. Ceuta was Portuguese from 1415 and after King Sebastian‘s insane expedition into Morocco left the Portuguese throne vacant and Spain annexed Portugal until 1640, when the Portuguese rose for their independence. At this point Catalonia also rose, but was defeated. Ceuta opted to join Spain. So here we are 377 years later, with a dodgy referendum against a dodgy central government. Given yesterday’s events, I wonder how many minds have changed thinking that the mistress of independence is more attractive than the bullying bride Spain?

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72 comments to “Only in Spain is a man’s mistress uglier than his wife.”

  • bobby b

    Maybe it’s different in Europe, but here in the USA, our press have given us almost no basis for understanding the motivations of the various actors.

    I can understand the immediate reaction of, how dare those scum interfere with people seeking liberty, but I have no understanding whatsoever of what led the people of Catalonia to seek independence. Who are the good guys in that mess? Who are the bad guys?

    Is this similar to a conservative Texas talking about seceding from an overly liberal USA, or is it closer to socialist California seeking to secede from Trump’s America?

    Does Spain unfairly tax or burden Catalonia? Are Catalonians trying to steal from Spain resources that properly belong to all of Spain? These aren’t subjects that attract much discussion or coverage here.

    If anyone can recommend any (English-language) reading that sheds light on this, I’d be thankful. What I’ve found so far hasn’t been helpful.

  • Berenguer Alpicat

    It is not just or even mostly economics so but culture and history. Catalans are different people and to see reason many for antipathies, look simply at news footage of police injuring 800 people. Scotland voted NO but Scotland VOTED. UK Government was not to be sending police to beat people and this explains many difference between London & Madrid, and why Catalans will now be forced into a more tragic path to be free of Spain.

  • John K

    On the plus side, it is quite possible that Gibraltar will still be British when Spain has ceased to exist.

  • John B

    Spain, indeed most of Continental Europe for that matter, has never known democracy what with its rich history of empires, absolute monarchs, revolutionary committees, dictators, military juntas, EU.

    The EU policy towards voting… ignoring ‘wrong’ results, intimidation and repeated voting until the ‘correct’ result is obtained is a clue.

  • Paul Marks

    Like the American Constitution these European Constitutions are very selectively enforced.

    For example the very first Article of the Irish Constitution (Article One) clearly states that Ireland must be an independent sovereign country, and that no vote by the people can change this (were they frightened that there might one day be a honest vote in Ireland rather than “vote early and vote often”?) – this clearly forbids rule by the European Union (just as much as rule by Britain), yet the Republic of Ireland is now inside the E.U. ruled from Brussels and Frankfurt. Its Constitution IGNORED.

    As for Catalonia – what the people do there is up to them, a piece of paper from 1978 is not going to stand in their way.

  • Mr Ed

    Is this similar to a conservative Texas talking about seceding from an overly liberal USA, or is it closer to socialist California seeking to secede from Trump’s America?

    As Berenguer says, there is culture and history in this. In terms of what Spain is at politically, it is a typical social-democrat highly regulated country with a quasi-federal structure. When Franco died and his regime fell, a new Constitution was introduced in 1978 which did not so much devolve power away from Madrid as introduce a new layer of government, particularly noticeable in Catalonia and the Basque Country. However, whilst certain local languages are given equal status within their areas, the presumption in the 1978 Constitution was that all those in Spain were Spaniards and Spain was an indissoluble nation. The Catalan language is quite distinct from Spanish albeit a Romance language which is quite similar. Having learned Spanish myself in Spain, I found Catalan quite easy to get the gist of, perhaps German and Dutch would be a good yardstick for comparison, totally different languages but sufficiently similar for a significant degree of mutual intelligibility.

    In terms of the political differences between the Catalan government and the Spanish government, the Catalan coalition for independence is pretty much social democrat or screaming socialist, and in Spain, there is the Popular Party which is the non-socialist, non-Communist party, and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, which is more or less like the Democrats. Generally, an independent Catalonia ruled by its current coalition would probably be more socialist than it would be from remaining in Spain, but at least it could get rid of one layer of government, and of course it would (try to) remain in the EU. Spain would lose face and risk disintegration, with a fear that the Basques would leave, cutting the remainder of mainland Spain off from France (what an opportunity!), but also those two areas being quite prosperous, the rump of Spain would be quite a bit poorer.

    So it’s more like something between Quebec wanting to leave Canada to California wanting to leave a Nixon-ruled America with all his regulations.

    In terms of economic and legal liberty, it would not make much difference, but it would not be convenient for the great and the good of Spain and the EU for this to happen. It would however, go towards satisfying a long-held aspiration of many.

    Spain is no more necessary that the Soviet Union was, but it has been many orders of magnitude less evil.

  • Natalie Solent

    bobby b,

    I am not claiming to know much about it either, but my impression is that it is much more about national identity than left vs right.

    On the one hand, Mariano Rajoy is a Conservative and the Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, is widely described to be left wing. However the Wikipedia link for his party describes it as into “economic liberalism” and “Europeanism”, which may change given that the European Commission has just issued a press release saying,

    For the European Commission, as President Juncker has reiterated repeatedly, this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order of Spain.
    We also reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union.
    Beyond the purely legal aspects of this matter, the Commission believes that these are times for unity and stability, not divisiveness and fragmentation.

    Supporters of Scottish independence (who tend strongly to the left) are anxious to see Catalonia as a parallel. The parallel is weakened by Catalonia being richer than Spain’s average. Scottish independence supporters who were relying on the fact that most Scots voted “Remain” in the EU referendum to act as a lever to get a second independence referendum will find the EU Commission’s reaction a nasty surprise.

    Also note that recent opinion polls in Catalonia indicated there was not majority support there for independence. That may have changed now as a reaction to police brutality yesterday. Why Rajoy had to send the riot cops in I shall never know. He could have just said, “Enjoy your playacting, but this referendum has no legal standing”, urged “No” supporters to boycott it, and it would probably have been a damp squib.

    Puigdemont and his government are not blameless. They were quite happy to raise the temperature, and if they go ahead and declare independence with a large chunk of the Catalan people not just opposing it per se but denying the legitimacy of the process, things are not likely to end well.

    Also, the EU did not help by publicly flirting with the idea that if Scotland were to have a second referendum and become independent before Brexit then Scotland could seamlessly take over the UK’s EU seat. When push came to shove, that wasn’t their position, as today’s press release demonstrates. But it was fun to murmur sweet nothings into Nicola Sturgeon’s ear and annoy the Brits just after the EU referendum. Unfortunately supporters of Scottish independence were not the only ones listening; supporters of Catalan independence were too.

    I have no opinion as to whether Catalonia should or should not be part of Spain.

  • Laird

    I am as ignorant of the Catalonian issue as the next American (which is pretty pathetic, when you get down to it), but doesn’t Spain also have a long-standing problem with Basque separatists? (Haven’t they been known to commit some terrorist atrocities?) So isn’t it possible that the government in Madrid sees even a “pretend” vote for independence in Catalonia as giving aid and comfort to the Basques? And if both were to break away and declare independence, would that not pretty much mean the end of Spain? It’s already in a precarious financial condition, as I recall. That could push it over the edge.

  • Jacob

    “As for Catalonia – what the people do there is up to them, a piece of paper from 1978 is not going to stand in their way.”

    Well, it’s the Constitution of Spain, adopted by referendum, with 98% of Catalunians approving it in 1978 (so I read, not sure). Are Constitutions meaningless suddenly? I thought we generally respect Constitutions, such as the Constitution of the US, and it’s only the lefties who disrespect them unless it suits them.

    If Catalonia wanted to secede it should have found some way compatible with the Constitution. All possible courts in Spain have declared the referendum un-(or anti) Constitutional.

    And: bear in mind that Catalunians are MORE left-leaning than the rest of Spain – Barcelona was the cradle and stronghold of the leftist-anarchists (POUM) and Communists of the Civil War.

    Now – about enforcement: supposing that some of the Catalunians wanted independence and some not – should the law be enforced or not? Do the anti-independence Catalunians (even if a minority) deserve the protection of the law? It was not an arbitrary act of suppression by Rajoy, it was an act mandated by the laws and supported by all tribunals.

    The situation reminds somewhat the secession of the Southern States from the Union in the US, in 1861. Did they have a Constitutional right to secede unilaterally, or was their secession un-constitutional and therefore a “rebellion”?

    As to Catalonia: as far as I know, it was never independent, and always a part of the Kingdom of Spain.

    Catalonia enjoys a provincial government with very wide and great autonomy and rights. What’s so urgent about formal independence and severing all ties to Spain? Is it so urgent as to justify a rebellion?

    I am far from familiar with all the details of the matter, but it seems to me – the crux of it is that some Catalonians feel Spain isn’t Communist enough.

  • Mr Ed

    Laird,

    The murderous Basques separatists ETA have pretty much given up killing. They were always more violent from when they started in earnest, killing Franco’s Prime Minister Admiral Carrero Blanco in late 1973, until recently. ETA never had a significant percentage of support, but it did have a significant impact, killing over 800 people, and creating a climate of fear. in the 1980s, the Spanish Socialist government did in fact create a form of death squad GAL to attack ETA suspects and members, so yesterday’s violence is at the mellow end for Spain.

    If both the Basque Country and Catalonia left, Spain might have to start cutting public spending and reducing regulations and bureaucracy, and people would have to stop lending it money. Would that be so terrible? It’s not as if anyone is going to have to do anything more demanding than lead an economic and productive existence.

  • In my opinion, anyone who turns up armed to beat someone until they desist from writing something is automatically the “baddie.”

  • Jacob

    For example: Spain has an enormous foreign debt. What happens with it? Which part of that debt is Catalonia (the richest region) proposing to accept?

  • Mr Ed

    Well, it’s the Constitution of Spain, adopted by referendum, with 98% of Catalunians approving it in 1978 (so I read, not sure).

    That may be, but what were they offered as an alternative? To not have adopted the Constitution would have presumably left the Francoist Constitution in place, which was even worse from their pov. There was no line-by-line agreement to the lumbering beast of a Constitution with its demented Article 128.1

    “1. Toda la riqueza del país en sus distintas formas y sea cual fuere su titularidad está subordinada al interés general.”

    ‘1. All the wealth of the country in its distinct forms and whatever may be its ownership is subordinated to the general interest.’

    Yes, I hear you say ‘Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz‘ as they used to say in Germany.

    But there is a mechanism in the Spanish Constitution for it to be amended, in Chapter Ten, but from what I can see, you cannot amend the Constitution during a state of siege (Article 116), that wonderful term found in the Hispanophone world. The problem is that if the rest of Spain wants to leave things as they are, the Catalans are stuffed. However, perhaps they should have at least attempted to take that path to allow for peaceful secession before taking the step of holding a referendum.

  • Watchman

    Laird,

    ETA, the Basque terrorists (no idea what it stands for, as Basque is a language isolate and therefore wierd in comparison to the Indo-European languages) declared a permanent ceasefire in 2011. They did kill people, but were ineffective for most of this century. The last violent Catalan separtists presumably were killed off by Franco. So I think this suggestion would be a bit of a red herring – this argument is probably on the same level as using the existence of the IRA in Northern Ireland a few years ago to oppose Scottish independence.

    I suspect the major concerns for the Spanish government are twofold. Firstly Catalonia is probably the richest region (other than perhaps Madrid itself) in Spain, and is a net tax contributor to the rest of the union. It would be the equivalent of the south-east of England seeking to leave the UK. Secondly, Catalonia and the Basques are not the only groups with their own identities within Spain. Asturias and Galicia in the north-west are also culturally separate, and Valencia (just south of Catalonia) also has its own language (which is conveniently effectively half-way between Catalan and Castilian Spanish) and identity. The south of Spain also sees itself as different from Castille (the central and central-northern bit). I’m sure I’ve missed someone in all that as well.

  • Mr Ed

    Spain has an enormous foreign debt.

    Yes, what sort of idiot lends Spain money? (see my post above about Article 128.1). Let them lose it all and then we might move towards a world where no one lends governments any money expecting to get it back.

  • Watchman

    Mr Ed,

    I suspect most of the debt is rolled over, so the original debt and interest is repaid repeatedly. Even Spain doesn’t default that often, and now it is effectively (if unofficially) backed by Germany, so it doesn’t look that bad a bet to me.

    And the price a country pays to roll over or take out more debt is not fixed – the market determines what price they have to pay, and this presumably involves taking the risks into account.

    Jacob,

    From the Scottish independence referendum campaign and its assorted useful facts, I believe that if there is no agreement between the states concerned, there is an international mediation service available which can fix the question of who gets what – the analogy of divorce is very accurate here. Anyway, if the will of the Catalan people is to leave Spain (not actually yet demonstrated) then technical questions are an irrelevance at best, and an attempt to derail the popular will (see the EU referendum campaign in the UK) at worst.

  • Jacob

    “In my opinion, anyone who turns up armed to beat someone until they desist from writing something is automatically the “baddie.””

    It’s law enforcement. Are you against it?

    The referendum was declared illegal. Policemen came and told people: “Would you please leave, go home” – and the policemen got pelted with rotten eggs and sticks and stones. So a few heads got hit.
    It is by no means evident that the police acted wrong or used too much force.

  • Jacob

    By the way: the Catalans are no more different from the Castilians than, say, the Bavarians from the Saxons or Brandenburgers. Or the Sicilians from the Piedmontans.

  • James Hargrave

    Jacob.

    Merely proves the folly of 19th-century Italian and German ‘unification’ and those who promoted them.

  • What Natalie said (October 2, 2017 at 1:41 pm) is a good summary, according to my understanding.

    The Spanish government’s effort to suppress the vote obviously puts a question mark over the otherwise unmistakable meaning of the (apparently) 42% turnout – but does not alter the fact that 90% of 42% is worthless for justifying this sort of change. At first glance, the counter-measures did not seem something that would actually have prevented a majority of Catalans from voting if a truly sizeable number had wished to vote. However Spain is not the UK and I was not there, so the issue remains debatable.

    Another way in which Spain is not the UK is that they’ve had a full-blown civil war within living memory (and kind-of had it instead of the potentially-unifying experience of fighting in WWII). This cuts both ways. Thus it will be interesting to see whether the Spanish government’s calling the Catalan bluff so forcefully benefits or hurts them. In Scotland, if the natz tried something formally illegal and the result was violent confrontation, then I would expect the natz to lose big time in the strategic sense, whoever got blamed for specific incidents at the tactical level. But which way Spain’s familiarity with civil war will push things is something I will observe, not try to call.

  • Mr Ed

    Jacob,

    What James said. And:

    It’s law enforcement. Are you against it?

    said every Kapo. Context is everything.

    Policemen came and told people: “Would you please leave, go home”

    Well, they were bussed in from other parts of Spain, into an area where they are not the primary police force (the Mossos d’Esquadra are the local police) and they came to stop people putting marks on pieces of paper either ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Whatever’, because this is ‘sedition‘ according to the Spanish Supreme Court. They managed to injure 844 or so people in upholding the Constitution, rather than simply staying in their barracks and saying ‘This referendum is null and void’.

    the Catalans are no more different from the Castilians than, say, the Bavarians from the Saxons or Brandenburgers. Or the Sicilians from the Piedmontans.

    Well, Catalan is more distant from Spanish than Portuguese by my reckoning, speaking both Spanish and Portuguese, and if language proximity is a basis for rule, the Reich should extend from Germany into Austria, Liechtenstein and most of Switzerland, and the Netherlands and Flanders while you are at it.

    And Italy should invade the Ticino, and San Marino.

    And Spain should rule Portugal.

    Or perhaps that is no argument at all.

  • Mr Ed

    Niall,

    The Scots Nats will lose big time as soon as the welfare cheques stop.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I spent a few months working in Barcelona in 1999. Talking to Catalans I was left in no doubt about their attitude towards Spain. “Can’t even pronounce the name of their capital city properly.” was one choice remark. However, with the exception of one forlorn sticker on a lamppost I saw and heard no evidence of a desire for independence.

    Fast forward to my most recent trip in 2014 (I think) and the change was incredible. Catalan independence flags were everywhere. I even passed an independence “shop”. And this was in Barcelona which rural Catalans regard as dangerously Hispanofied.

    With peaceful change apparently rendered impossible I dread to think what is going to happen.

  • Sam Duncan

    Natalie’s 1:41 pm comment just about sums it up. People like to take sides, or at least know who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are, but really both sides are at fault here. The Catalan administration ignored advice from its own lawyers, rammed through the Act enabling this referendum in the dead of night, and treated the opposition parties in the assembly with brazen contempt. And we can all see how stupidly the Spanish government is acting.

    Thank {whatever} that HMG had more sense when the Scottish nationalists came knocking.

  • Onkayaks

    For the sake of disclosing my personal predilections, I ought to state that I am a Spaniard who was mostly schooled in Catalonia, and that I do not favour secession. Most of my friends do, though.

    To Berenguer Alpicat: Catalans do have their own Romanic language, a wealth of cultural traditions, while a sizeable and vocal percentage but not yet and absolute mayority, of the population supports independence. However, Catalonia has never been independent, neither as a nation state nor as feudal counties. The idea that “Catalans are different people” is true in the same sense that Geordies are known for drinking everyone under the table and for their amazing accent.

    Regarding the police action against the poll stations, I must add that though I am not much a police person myself, the standards of Spain’s police forces for civility may be below the British one, but certainly they are Pollyanna if compared to France, Germany or Switzerland, and certainly Catalonia’s, whose local police has a dubious record of dead and injured detainees while under custody. Truth is the police action on the polling stations was hoped for, and scrupulously provoked by the Nationalists who relied -wisely- on their impact on foreign media. As for the number of people injured, one day after the events, just four are still in hospitals, while the rest have needed ambulatory medical assistance. Adding to that, a good number of the most blatant photos of injuries have proven false or doctored. I know however, first hand of a case of a friend of mine whose wife and son were harassed by police officers, and one of the car’s windows broken after they took a photo of a police patrol in the outskirts of Girona. My friend though, did not press charges as no one was injured, and the police officers excused themselves after the incident.

    The reason of deploying anti-riot police yesterday —I believe they were grossly misused by the Home Office— was because for more than three years the Catalan Regional Government had announced its intention to secede from Spain after holding a vote in the region. It is true that they have asked repeatedly for an agreed plan for a referendum; it is also true however, that their offers amounted very much to: “We’ll hold a secession referendum, or we’ll hold a secession referendum”.

    As for the real deal: taxes. Nationalist claim that Catalonia is overtaxed, and that it receives in return less than it pays to the Treasury. This is true. Basques on the contrary are not overtaxed as a territory as they keep a tax convention that is very favourable, and that the Catalan Nationalist rejected in the draft of the Constitution, or so I’ve read. However the point is that the Spanish tax system does not take into account the territory, but just wealth that is taxed progressively. This does not bode well for individuals making money in Catalonia, nor it does for wealthy chaps elsewhere in Spain. There have been endless op-eds about tax balances between Catalonia v. Spain, but most papers agree that if the odious effect of taxes is examined on territories, Madrid comes out far worse in Catalonia, and I have the feeling that the Balearic Islands are if we believe that places share our pangs and worries, experiencing the same problem.

    Again on taxes: the Catalan Regional Government —the right term is Autonomous Community, but I’ll refer to it as Regional for the sake of clarity though I know how much the term regional offends Nationalist— leans on heavier taxes than the Government of Spain does, and that is saying a lot. Taking into consideration that the same enthusiastic approach to taxes is shared by the parties that endorse independence, and that Spain is so de-centralized a country that most of public spending is done by the regional governments, it is safe to say that the meme of a prosperous Catalonia deprived of their tax revenue by undeveloped Spaniards, is nothing but a sophism. In short it is individuals who are unfairly taxed at disproportionate rates, not territories, and if so, rural Catalonia is the one milking wealthy Barcelonans, and not Spain.

    Yet, would the Nationalists had made the case for an independent country outside the EU with rule of law, reasonable taxes, a sensible degree of bank secrecy, I would have started polishing my Catalan, and considering a move since day one. Sadly, the project is wildly different.

    To resume it my opinion, the case for independence in Catalonia rests not in History, nor in actual grievances, nor in a oppressed culture by Franco (which begs the questions of how then was possible that literary awards were hosted in Catalan right after the Civil War, and why it is not possible for schoolboys to study their curricula in Spanish language anywhere in Catalonia but in a few private schools), but in the perceived wrongs instilled by Nationalism, a longeur of what could have been in an imaginary country would they have been left alone, a desire that transcends patriotism as the abiding purpose of every Nationalist is to force their wishes on other people living in their territory, the passion to fulfil the duty to spread their own language to the detriment of rival languages, the urgent obsession to doctor History school books removing facts, and placing the focus of Geography in Catalonia.

    In short, as much as I like Catalonia, I abhor Nationalism as backward. As a ending note, I leave this quotes from Orwell who knew and liked Catalonia well, and from a favourite Czech of mine, Ernest Gellner:

    “Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered. He spends part of his time in a fantasy world in which things happen as they should.”
    —George Orwell

    “(Nationalism believes that) just as every girl should have a husband, preferably her own, so every culture must have its state, preferably its own.”
    —Ernest Gellner

    “Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist…”
    —Ernest Gellner

  • Alisa

    A very informative comment by Onkayaks – thank you sir.

    “(Nationalism believes that) just as every girl should have a husband, preferably her own, so every culture must have its state, preferably its own.”

    I favor decentralization of government, even when such decentralization is the result of a nationalist agenda. Not that I see anything wrong with non-belligerent nationalism either, but I can understand the objection as it seems to be implied by that quote.

  • Alisa

    Speaking of referenda on secession, one recently took place in Iraqi Kurdistan.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    If one believes in democracy and self-determination of peoples who is he to judge that the people of Catalonia should not be permitted to secede by popular referendum? Their language isn’t sufficiently different from Spain? Their tax rates are insufficiently burdensome? Their culture and heritage are insufficiently distinct from that of Castilians? Their dynamic economy is insufficiently restrained by the lackluster economic performance of the rest of Spain to justify secession in your view?

    Who are you to judge? What gives you the right to deny a group of humans calling themselves a people to self-determination?

    Constitutional law from decades ago that a majority of living Catalans never agreed to is your excuse? Legally arguable but anyone who in general supports democracy and self-determination of peoples must concede that morally speaking he supports the right of Catalonia or any people/region to secede. Moral consistency demands it.

    Believing in self-determination and democracy while not accepting this referendum as legitimate is much like supporting freedom of speech in general while wanting mean comments about [insert religious/ethnic group here] to be made illegal.

  • Mike

    Onkayaks…superb comment.

  • Alisa

    What Shlomo said.

  • bobby b

    My experience continues to be that this is an excellent place to ask questions.

  • Mr Ed

    Thanks to Onkayaks for his input, although I would differ that Catalans are to Castillians what Geordies are to other English.

    It seems to me that the Catalan nationalists in power are worse than the SNP in Scotland, whose main fear is that their tyranny, or paradise to them. could be undone in an afternoon in Westminster, and whose hatred of England is an implicit recognition of a vestigial association of England with freedom.

    Were Catalonia to become independent under current conditions, it would probably lurch leftwards and, in the EU or not, would experience capital flight and a brain drain, and with 2 football clubs of note, have a rather silly league of 1, for those who care about such things. Spain might lose a bit of Leftism, and improve.

    Anyway, what has happened shows all the more reason for low-tax Gibraltar to sit tight, but as they are Remainers, I don’t really care.

  • Onkayaks

    Shlomo Maistre wrote.

    “If one believes in democracy and self-determination of peoples who is he to judge that the people of Catalonia should not be permitted to secede by popular referendum?”

    Boker tov, Shlomo!

    I am going to wear my lawyer’s hat: I do not believe in self-determination as it is limited to decolonisation process, not to sub-units of nation states.

    As a liberal I would be inclined to support self-determination, but wait, freedoms and civil rights belong to the individual; collective rights are constructs that beget monsters.

    “Who are you to judge? What gives you the right to deny a group of humans calling themselves a people to self-determination?”

    Well, I am a lawyer, and Constitutional Law is my area of expertise. Then, I do not judge nor I would seek such a position; I was just putting down my ideas on the subject on writing. Secondly, I do not deny anyone the right to secede; I just point out that such right does not exist in current laws anywhere in Europe or in any Western country, but now that you speak about denying the right to secession, I am glad to point out that Catalan Nationalist are inflamed when inhabitants from enclaves in the Vall D’Aran (Pyrenees) who speak an Occitan language, and not Catalan, and are far more peculiar than Catalonians, aspire to not be part of an independent Catalonia.

    “Constitutional law from decades ago that a majority of living Catalans never agreed to is your excuse? Legally arguable…”

    No, it is not arguable. It is quite a stubborn fact.

    “Anyone who in general supports democracy and self-determination of peoples must concede that morally speaking he supports the right of Catalonia or any people/region to secede. Moral consistency demands it.”

    I do not think much of democracy without a vigorous system of checks and balances that protects individuals. What I believe in is in men, their families, and their personal freedoms. My moral consistency is in shambles, I must admit. In my sorry state, I put my trust in good manners.

    “Believing in self-determination and democracy while not accepting this referendum as legitimate is much like supporting freedom of speech in general while wanting mean comments about [insert religious/ethnic group here] to be made illegal.”

    That is not a proper simile. You are comparing collective rights which are politically charged constructs that applied to political concepts such as nations without State, or society —an ideal entity that does not exist but in the world of ideas—, with true freedoms which as I said belong to true, real-life individuals. As for free speech, I concur. Hate speech is free speech.

    Shalom!

  • Henry Cybulski

    I live in a town up the coast from Barcelona. This whole independence drive started over money (the historical and cultural arguments are basically fig leaves). Anyway, Catalans believe, and it may be true, that a lot of the tax money collected in the region goes to help poorer regions in Spain. They think it’s unfair, which is pretty rich coming from diehard socialists, and most Catalans are exactly that (I even quite regularly meet and chat with strident communists). This money dispute came to a head when the central government passed a law?, rule?, regulation? some time ago that regional government budget deficits must be held to below a certain percentage, which chafed the regional government enormously. They wanted no restraints on adding to an already humungous debt. So the regional government decided to stoke the flames of independence to distract people from its own economic mismanagement, and it worked. And here we are now waiting to see what happens next.

  • Onkayaks

    Mr Ed wrote:

    “Thanks to Onkayaks for his input, although I would differ that Catalans are to Castillians what Geordies are to other English.”

    Yes, you are right. Catalans have their own language, and many characteristic cultural traits that are not provincial peculiarities. Yet, as my view is that they are not a different people, I replied with an hyperbole. For a proper comparison, it would be more accurate to say that Catalans are as different as Bretons are to French people.

  • Mr Ed hit one nail well on the head in his October 3, 2017 at 7:00 am) comment. (With some rephrasing – click link for original):

    It infuriates the natz in Scotland that their petty tyranny (paradise to them) can be undone in an afternoon in Westminster. Their hatred of England is an implicit recognition of a vestigial association of England with freedom.

    (To be fair, in much of the world such petty tyrannies as the “Named Person’ policy would seem small, though in the UK they seem even grosser than hate speech laws – which sadly reminds me why the word ‘vestigial’ was in Mr Ed’s sentence.)

    I agree with Mr Ed that the Catalan nationalists seem worse: I do not recall the natz forcing something through in a dead-of-night session in Scotland, and feel sure they can never have done that for something this big.

  • Onkayaks (October 3, 2017 at 12:03 am): ” the police action on the polling stations was hoped for, and scrupulously provoked by the Nationalists”

    I am inclined to assume this point has some content because it is a general rule with me (based on my historical reading) to assume that those who precipitate a confrontation are usually those who best prepare and synchronise their media manipulation plan. A point on the other side is that my British prejudices caused me to assume casually that both Spanish and Catalan police standards were below UK ones before Onkayaks conceded that the former might well be and the latter to his knowledge did dodgy stuff. However I certainly think it wise to assess the Spanish police behaviour after a few days, and with figures for hospitalised, impacted, etc., rather than from media reports put out on the day that were possibly written in draft before the day.

  • Rob Fisher

    “What gives you the right to deny a group of humans calling themselves a people to self-determination?”

    In the general sense, it’s not *self*-determination if it’s a group of people. So I might have the right to intervene if I suspect some in the group are being aggressive towards others in the group.

  • Catalan Nationalist are inflamed when inhabitants from enclaves in the Vall D’Aran (Pyrenees) who speak an Occitan language, and not Catalan, and are far more peculiar than Catalonians, aspire to not be part of an independent Catalonia. (Onkayaks, October 3, 2017 at 7:50 am)

    Try telling the natz that any future vote should be in each of Scotland’s 32 regions, with all NO regions remaining in the UK regardless of the overall outcome. Scotland’s unbalanced political geography means that a ‘50% + 1 vote’ IndyScotia could find itself ruling the People’s Republic of Greater Glasgow and the tiny uncontiguous city-state of Dundee – neither of which are closest to any oil fields, for what little that’s still worth. 🙂

    This contradiction bedevils almost all secessionists. The Confederacy no more allowed secession than the Union, either in theory or in practice, nor could it have dared to do so, despite its political geography making more sense than Scotland’s.

    (FWIW, I suspect Shlomo, with whom Onkayaks was debating, was playing devil’s advocate. Shlomo likely knows Edmund Burke’s similar reductio-ad-absurdum argument against the French revolution, though he – unwisely in my opinion – tends to lean more on de Maistre for that period.)

  • Mr Ed

    the People’s Republic of Greater Glasgow and the tiny uncontiguous city-state of Dundee – neither of which are closest to any oil deposits

    They’ll just mine the fatbergs. 🙂

  • Onkayaks: I think your comment needs to get promoted to a guest post article

  • […] note: this was posted by commenter ‘Onkayaks’ under the article: “Only in Spain is a man’s mistress uglier than his wife”. As this has the virtue of being written by someone who has local knowledge, it seemed worth […]

  • Jacob

    Seems that about 50% of Catalans oppose independence, according to opinion polls. I don’t know how many Spaniards and other minorities live in Catalonia. That’s always a problem with secession (also in Iraq or Ukraine ) – the minorities that remain in the splintered state.
    These Catalans and minorities deserve the protection of the Spanish state.

    Shlomo:
    “Constitutional law from decades ago that a majority of living Catalans never agreed to is your excuse?”
    And the US Constitution? Nobody alive NOW ever agreed to it…
    Seems the Catalans approved the Spanish Constitution by a big majority in the referendum of 1978.

  • Jacob

    By the way – the nation that suppresses and oppresses Catalans most harshly is France. The French province of Roussillon , north of the Catalan border, belonged always to the Duchy of Barcelona, and it’s people are Catalan. Catalan language and culture are prohibited there.

  • Laird

    “freedoms and civil rights belong to the individual; collective rights are constructs that beget monsters.”

    An excellent point.

    Channeling Samuel Johnson’s refutation of Bishop Berkeley, Onkayaks dismisses Shlolmo’s remark about the questionable binding effect of a constitution to which a majority of living Catalans never agreed as “a stubborn fact.” And that is true, at least to most constitutional lawyers. However, it is not quite as simple as that. Prof. Randy Barnett discusses the matter quite thoughtfully in his book Restoring the Lost Constitution, as does Michael Huemer in The Problem of Political Authority. The former comes (grudgingly) to the conclusion that it can, at least under certain circumstances; the latter reaches the opposite result.

    As a practical matter no secession is ever “legal” according to the larger political entity; it only becomes so after the fact if it succeeds. Thus, those fighting for independence in the American Revolution (technically a secession, not a revolution) became heroes and the “Founding Fathers” after they won, but would have been hanged as traitors had they lost. The opposite resulted from the unsuccessful attempt at secession by the Confederate states. “Law” is determined by the winners.

  • Henry Cybulski

    Laird, re “no secession is ever legal according to the larger political entity,” you are totally correct. If secession weren’t already prohibited by the Spanish constitution the central government would just pass a law making it so. And Rajoy would go on TV saying the law is the law, as he has been for months, and that separation from the Spanish entity is illegal. In other words, the law is whatever the government wants it to be.

  • A point on the other side is that my British prejudices caused me to assume casually that both Spanish and Catalan police standards were below UK ones

    Oh don’t worry, we’re closing the gap fast. I bet the Spaniards don’t have anyone as clueless as Cressida Dick in charge of anything.

  • Onkayaks

    Hi Laird,

    You certainly have a point. Both books —Restoring the Lost Constitution and The Problem of Political Authority— try to distill a libertarian constitutional theory, but that it is not an isolated reasoning in the field of Philosophy of Law, where a strong position defined by Max Weber is to understand political power as the ability to impose one’s will ‘even in the face of opposition from others’, defining the state as an organization grounded in violence, in ‘a relation of men dominating men’. That states rest in power, and that power rests in the monopoly of a violence that is regarded by the nature of Law as legitimate, is to me a self-evident truth.

    As a token, I am sure that the maxim ultima ratio regis (the king’s final argument) which is of course, force, is still taught in many Law schools.

    However, my point was that there is not any point in Law, neither domestic national Law in Spain nor International Law that allows for a right of seccesion. Naked power strikes at the heart of the matter, and Nationalists for whom stirring the emotions while playing victim for the international audience is second-nature, understand this point very well. For this reason, I regard the illegal referendum and the general strike auspiced by the Regional Government that started today with roadblocks in the every major road, and picketers threatening shops and offices, as nothing but a naked attempt at a coup d’état.

    I for myself, would aspire for something better for my place in the Sun: fair play, a small and not too efficient government, and the protection of personal freedoms from voluble majorities.

  • Onkayaks

    And yes, it is not seldom that the mistress is uglier that the wife; the former just needs to be more complaisant.

  • Laird

    Onkayaks, the only word in your comment of 1:46 PM (in your last two comments, for that matter!) with which I disagree is “legitimate”. Your argument, essentially, is that might makes right, and as a practical matter there is no arguing with that. But the purpose of philosophy (legal and otherwise) is to explore the “ought”, not the “is”. And this matters, because occasionally we succeed in moving the needle a little bit in the direction of “ought”. People like Prof. Newman raise important questions which most people would prefer to ignore, or simply dismiss out of hand.

    Speaking strictly about the US Constitution (I live in the US), I subscribe to the “compact” theory of the constitution. This holds, essentially, that the constitution is an agreement among the several states, which retain the inherent right to overrule the federal government (their creation). It is basically a “principal/agent” theory of government. It is a distinctly minority opinion, rejected by most constitutional scholars, and that has been the case for a long time. But it was not always thus. The compact theory was a respectable position in the nation’s early years, shared by such as Jefferson and Monroe, and reflected in such documents as the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and finding expression in such events as the Hartford Convention of 1814 and the Nullification Crisis of 1832(+/-). Some of us continue to push it because, while clearly not an “is” position today, in our opinion it remains an “ought” to which we aspire. This is the only way in which political change occurs, and this is why I reject the idea that the Spanish constitution is “a stubborn fact” is ultimately dispositive of the issue. Sometimes, facts change, even stubborn ones.

  • Clearly it is not only in Spain, given that Charles Buggerlugs was almost certainly dallying with that back-end-of-a-bus Camilla Parker Bowles whilst married to the not-unattractive Diana.

  • As a practical matter no secession is ever “legal” according to the larger political entity; it only becomes so after the fact if it succeeds. (Laird, October 3, 2017 at 12:08 pm)

    Laird, you may be doing your founding fathers an injustice – or you may not (I note you qualify “no secession is ever legal” with “according to the larger political entity”, and certainly the British state did not concede its legality until it had had successes).

    In “An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs”, Edmund Burke presents the Americans as defending rights they already had under the existing British constitution – and had enjoyed untroubled for a century or more – and he quotes Franklin and other founders to effect, confirming his point. He quotes earlier British constitutional lawyers (the ‘Old Whigs’) as asserting not any general right of secession but a specific right of British citizens to defend a specific long-existing constitution in which they, as subjects, had a (legal) interest. He justifies his support of the american revolution (IIRC, he was the very first MP in parliament to advise recognising US independence – certainly by quote some margin he was the very first of any consequence to do so) by this theory. In doing so, Burke explicitly rejects and condemns any theory of a general right of sub-polities to secede at pleasure.

    Under Burke’s view, if the Spanish government had engaged in a lengthy and significant violation of an existing constitution, then the Catalans would have the right to secede, absent other remedy, but a mere majority, in a vote undertaken at the pleasure of the regional government because the policies of the centre, though constitutional, were not to the liking of the region, confers no such legitimacy.

    Obviously there is a practical sense in which what is gotten away with often stands, and vice versa, but a theoretical distinction between what happened in the US in the late 18th century and whatever happens in Catalonia in the early 21st century is perfectly possible.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Shalom, Onkayaks.

    If one believes in democracy and self-determination of peoples who is he to judge that the people of Catalonia should not be permitted to secede by popular referendum?

    I am going to wear my lawyer’s hat: I do not believe in self-determination as it is limited to decolonisation process, not to sub-units of nation states.

    As a liberal I would be inclined to support self-determination, but wait, freedoms and civil rights belong to the individual; collective rights are constructs that beget monsters.

    You didn’t really answer my question. It’s unclear to me on what moral basis one can deny Catalonia the right to secede from Spain assuming one believes in the right of self-determination and democracy in general.

    Who are you to judge? What gives you the right to deny a group of humans calling themselves a people to self-determination?

    Well, I am a lawyer, and Constitutional Law is my area of expertise. Then, I do not judge nor I would seek such a position; I was just putting down my ideas on the subject on writing. Secondly, I do not deny anyone the right to secede; I just point out that such right does not exist in current laws anywhere in Europe or in any Western country, but now that you speak about denying the right to secession, I am glad to point out that Catalan Nationalist are inflamed when inhabitants from enclaves in the Vall D’Aran (Pyrenees) who speak an Occitan language, and not Catalan, and are far more peculiar than Catalonians, aspire to not be part of an independent Catalonia.

    Well, yeah those folks in Vall D’Aran should have the right to secede from Catalonia/Spain too!

    Since you believe that government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed and you do not deny anyone the right to secede then even though you may not personally favor Catalonia seceding from Spain, you must favor enforcement of the result of a free and fair referendum on the matter to be intellectually consistent. Otherwise, your alleged belief in the right to self-determination is revealed to be only a pretense through which to argue for extrajudicial (read: illegal) referenda favoring secession/independence movements when such referenda suit your fancy.

    Constitutional law from decades ago that a majority of living Catalans never agreed to is your excuse? Legally arguable…

    No, it is not arguable. It is quite a stubborn fact.

    Let us assume you are correct. Is morality derived from law? Most living Catalans never consented to that Constitutional law. Government’s moral authority derives from the consent of the governed, does it not? The people alive today have not consented to the current constitutional arrangement; what’s more, they have even voted in a referendum to secede. What is your moral argument against enforcement of the results of the referendum?

    Anyone who in general supports democracy and self-determination of peoples must concede that morally speaking he supports the right of Catalonia or any people/region to secede. Moral consistency demands it.

    I do not think much of democracy without a vigorous system of checks and balances that protects individuals. What I believe in is in men, their families, and their personal freedoms. My moral consistency is in shambles, I must admit. In my sorry state, I put my trust in good manners.

    Your best response thus far, except that nonsense about checks and balances.

    Believing in self-determination and democracy while not accepting this referendum as legitimate is much like supporting freedom of speech in general while wanting mean comments about [insert religious/ethnic group here] to be made illegal.

    That is not a proper simile. You are comparing collective rights which are politically charged constructs that applied to political concepts such as nations without State, or society —an ideal entity that does not exist but in the world of ideas—, with true freedoms which as I said belong to true, real-life individuals. As for free speech, I concur. Hate speech is free speech.

    It’s an analogy. And the point is that if you believe in something in general you ought to favor particular instances of that general thing. If you do not personally support Catalan independence, that’s fine. But to not support the enforcement of the result of a free and fair referendum on the matter is morally inconsistent, assuming you believe in the right to self-determination.

    _____

    You will kindly note that in my original comment I prefaced my series of rhetorical questions with “If one believes in democracy and self-determination of peoples…”

    I must confess that I am opposed to democracy in general and in particular, for moral reasons and practical reasons. I believe in the inherent goodness of hereditary monarchy and I despise the so-called Enlightenment. I view democracy is a charade that inevitably leads to the moral and financial bankruptcy of societies by the gradual disintegration of communal trust, hierarchy, and social harmony. I realize that de facto liberty enjoyed by individuals does not come from writing the right words on paper but is instead a consequence of stable, unified, and secure government.

    King Solomon said that a wise man’s heart inclines to the Right. The Right is associated with order, unity, beauty and truth. The Left is disorder, disintegration, ugliness, and lies. Democracy is gradual demolition of social order, erosion of social fabric, and gradual erasure of often wise tradition. Referenda, independence movements, voting – these are themselves causes, symptoms, and effects of disorder all at once. Hereditary monarchy is of the Right. It is wise and true and good for the long term welfare of nations. In general.

    I made the argument above because I wanted to show that it’s inconsistent to support democracy and self-determination in general but then find excuses to not support the results of referenda that honor those two principles just because said referendum is extrajudicial. If moral belief does not trump what is legal then either it is not a real moral belief or someone is being a hypocrite.

    As for self-determination, I’m all for it. We Jews achieved self-determination not by democratic means but by force of arms. May it always be so.

    Shalom.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Shlomo:
    “Constitutional law from decades ago that a majority of living Catalans never agreed to is your excuse?”
    And the US Constitution? Nobody alive NOW ever agreed to it…
    Seems the Catalans approved the Spanish Constitution by a big majority in the referendum of 1978.

    1. The US Constitution means whatever SCOTUS says it means.
    2. If you believe that government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed and the people did not consent then….

  • Shlomo Maistre

    As a practical matter no secession is ever “legal” according to the larger political entity; it only becomes so after the fact if it succeeds. Thus, those fighting for independence in the American Revolution (technically a secession, not a revolution) became heroes and the “Founding Fathers” after they won, but would have been hanged as traitors had they lost. The opposite resulted from the unsuccessful attempt at secession by the Confederate states. “Law” is determined by the winners.

    Bingo.

    Morality is higher than legality.

    If you believe that democracy and self-determination are morally good things then when a peaceful exercise in democracy to further a people’s self-determination takes place and you oppose enforcement of the result of said referendum then you are not intellectually consistent. You are putting personal interest ahead of intellectual consistency.

    I don’t have that problem because I hate democracy.

  • Jacob

    ” the result of a free and fair referendum on the matter “…

    It remains to be proven that the referendum was free and fair… I don’t think it was. I don’t believe in the published results… It was done by hothead Nationalist with and agenda and I don’t believe them. I don’t believe the claim about the number of votes cast. Nobody supervised or checked the results. And, anyway, among the mayhem, seems only the hotheads went to the polls.

    No, rebellion and referendum are mutually exclusive – you can’t have both a legal and credible referendum and a violent illegal rebellion. Referendum is usually used by the people in power to justify a situation after an accomplished fact, established by force.

    The problem with any secession is the protection of the rights of minorities… I read in the NY Times (don’t know if it’s true) that opinion polls showed no more than 50% of Catalans supporting secession.

    Being a conservative, I don’t believe in rebellions or revolutions unless there is a very compelling and strong reason for it (such as blatant oppression and injustice). There was no such justification here. And I also don’t believe in self-determination – this enshrines Nationalism and tribalism. I don’t think the right to be oppressed by your own clan is sacrosanct.

  • Cristina

    And the point is that if you believe in something in general you ought to favor particular instances of that general thing

    If you believe that democracy and self-determination are morally good things then when a peaceful exercise in democracy to further a people’s self-determination takes place and you oppose enforcement of the result of said referendum then you are not intellectually consistent. You are putting personal interest ahead of intellectual consistency.

    🙂

  • Onkayaks

    Shlomo Maistre wrote:

    Morality is higher than legality.

    Good night, Shlomo,

    I agree, yet morality is such a big word. Instead of morals, let me use this quote:

    “How does what’s right differ from what justice demands? Let Right Be Done was the expression used by medieval kings when assenting to bills passed by Parliament. It was famously employed by Charles I when assenting to the Petition of Right. It was an expression of sovereign will, a statement of the power of the law and its creative potential; but it was also an expression of transcendent value, “let right be done,” was a commitment to notions of decency and justice implicit but tenuous in the ideal of legality.”

  • Laird

    “Moral”, “right”, “just” and “legal” are all very different concepts, and often conflicting ones. Only the last of them can (sometimes) be clearly defined. I’m not sure that invoking any of the others adds much to any debate.

  • Onkayaks

    Laird wrote:

    “Moral”, “right”, “just” and “legal” are all very different concepts, and often conflicting ones. Only the last of them can (sometimes) be clearly defined. I’m not sure that invoking any of the others adds much to any debate.

    Yes and no. Morality is an abstraction, but it is always easy to tell the right thing to do: it is the hardest.

    “I always knew what the right path was.
    Without exception, I knew, but I never took it. You know why?
    It was too damn hard.”

    Lt Colonel Frank Slade
    “Scent of A Woman”, 1992

  • Shlomo Maistre

    ” the result of a free and fair referendum on the matter “…

    It remains to be proven that the referendum was free and fair… I don’t think it was.

    You’re right. The Spanish central government forcefully shut down polling stations, confiscated ballots, and violently disrupted the peace. Catalonia is lucky I’m not in power in Madrid; I’d have been much harsher.

    The point, of course, is that even if it WERE free and fair there are those in this very thread who, though they support the ideals of democracy and self-determination, would not support the enforcement of a free and fair democratic referendum furthering the self-determination of the people of Catalonia, which is intellectually inconsistent.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Onkayaks,

    It’s an interesting quote.

    You appear to support democracy and self-determination in general.

    And yet, in this case of Catalonia, you do not support enforcement of a democratic referendum furthering a people’s self-determination on grounds that it is not legal.

    But nations have historically almost always been formed by illegal means not legal means. So you either do not think that nations ought to be formed legally or you do not think that nations can be formed legally. You would be correct in holding either opinion, which reveals how besides the point it is to believe in self-determination through democracy.

    But none are so blind as those who will not see.

  • Cristina

    Democracy is a mirage.

  • Alisa

    Democracy is a mirage

    Oh come on already. I mean, I’m the first to admit that democracy is imperfect (quite an understatement, that – although good luck finding perfection in this world), but can you really not see the screaming difference between N. Korea or the Soviet Union and the worst-governed Western democracy, whichever one you might pick? Just because it does not work always, immediately and on-demand, getting every-single-person precisely what they want at that particular moment, does not make it a ‘mirage’.

  • Onkayaks

    Shlomo Maistre wrote:

    Onkayaks,

    It’s an interesting quote.

    You appear to support democracy and self-determination in general.

    Boker tov, Shlomo,

    No, I support the protection of individual freedoms, and the rule of Law. I do not think much of self-determination outside blatant cases of despotic rule, nor I trust the will of the majority. There are limits to the legislative power, and personal liberties is my favourite.

    On Catalonia’s referendum, it was certainly against of Constitutional Law, and ordinary laws which is bad enough, but also in breach of fundamental personal freedoms for the oppponents of independence: just the sights of mobs in the polling stations should suffice.

    I realize that the creation of states —nations are an altogether different concept—, have little to do with domestic or International Law. Incidentally, that is not the case of Israel, however maligned it is in the statements of the UN General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council.

    Shalom

  • I find the context of various references above about whether the referendum was “free and fair” a bit strange.

    IIUC, some 42% of the Catalan electorate voted. Some 90% of voters (~ 38% of the electorate) voted for secession. Some 10% of voters (~4% of the electorate) voted against secession but, by voting, implicitly asserted the autonomy of the regional authority to hold such a referendum. The remaining 58% of the electorate expressed their agreement with the Spanish government that the referendum was illegal. (That’s an advantage of a central authority withholding consent to such referenda: every non-voter can be counted as a NO voter, thus raising the bar.)

    Only by claiming that the central Spanish government’s intervention had a huge impact on the result can the Catalan separatists spin this as anything other than a total defeat at the hands of the voters. Equally, it is strongly in the interests of the central Spanish government to argue that their interference was essentially symbolic, done to assure loyal Catalans of their will to defend the law, and did not statistically impact the result.

    Were it truly not that much more than a third of Catalans who want independence, and only four in ten who even think they have the right to ask, then belief in democracy and belief in Spanish unity could coexist happily for a while yet.

  • Laird

    Niall, I think you’re reading far more into this than it can support. “The remaining 58% of the electorate expressed their agreement with the Spanish government that the referendum was illegal.” Not necessarily; all that one can reasonably infer is that 58% of the electorate chose not to defy the police and the government’s stern edicts. And one certainly cannot infer from that anything about the opinion of that 58% with regard to the question of independence. By no stretch can those be considered “no” votes on anything more than the legality of the referendum (if even that).

    Of course, it is equally impossible to glean much from the 90% support among those who did vote. That’s a self-selected and clearly engaged group; the only real surprise is that the percentage wasn’t higher. If this were put to an honest vote, without governmental interference, it would not surprise me at all if at least 22% of the portion of the electorate which did not vote this time around were to support independence. That would put the total at more than 50% in favor. (I can torture statistics as well as you!)

  • Jacob

    “That would put the total at more than 50% in favor.”

    I, personally, think that for making such a huge change – as breaking up the Spanish state for the first time is 500 years, a majority greater than 50.1% would be required.

  • Mr Ed

    breaking up the Spanish state for the first time is 500 years

    Ah, my inner pedant rages.

    1. Gibraltar, not mentioned in the 1978 Constitution, yet still the scoundrels in Madrid go on about it, was ceded in perpetuity to Great Britain, after England seized it in the 1700s. And let any who stand between Gibraltar and Britain enjoy a French kiss with a Rock Ape.

    2. Spain stole Olivença from Portugal in the 1800s, and so extended itself. Spain broke itself up by enlarging, like a snake gaining a new skin. Mr Jennings of this parish, immortalised at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, has documented it.

    3. Spain ceded bits of North Africa to Morocco in the 1950s, the Ifni war.

    4. Llivia, a town north of the Pyrenees, was not ceded to France when Spain broke off a bit in 1659, as the treaty of the Pyrenees only ceded villages north of the Pyrenees, not towns.

    So Spain is, on its own terms, not immutable.

    But Jacob, yes, I agree, that the referendum was a farce and would have been even without Madrid’s ham-fisted and brutal intervention, and is no basis for claiming a mandate for independence.

  • Laird

    Jacob, that may be so, but it is irrelevant to the point I was making about Niall’s (mis)use of statistics.

  • Laird, we’re actually in agreement on fact, if maybe not wholly in emphasis. The subjunctive tense of my last sentence was indicating my awareness that your ‘tortured’ 🙂 statistics might of course prove accurate in a wholly unpressured vote, and that the nominal meaning of my statistics of the actual vote can of course be challenged by claiming it was distorted by the police actions.

    My point was about the oddity of the use of ‘free and fair’ in comments above mine – seemingly being asserted by those who were trounced if it were in fact a free and fair vote, and denied by those who could in that case declare themselves the victors on the nominal results. Your possible scenario depends on the actual vote being anything but free and fair.

    all that one can reasonably infer is that 58% of the electorate chose not to defy the police and the government’s stern edicts.

    Well, yeah! That was the point of my saying that to describe the vote as not a defeat of the Catalan nationalists’ position, one must assume that the police intervention had a big impact on who voted. The Catalan nationalists must assert that – and therefore must grant that the actual result was invalid (spinning it no doubt as “amazing so many voted even so”), whereas the Spanish government’s natural position would be to claim that the police presence merely gave loyal Spaniards in Catalonia confidence to defy the unjust pressures of the regional authority, denying it had statistically significant other effects. (Some comments earlier in the thread seemed to me to be missing that aspect – but if I just misunderstood them as my own comment would appear to me to have been misunderstood, my apologies.)

  • Laird

    Niall, I don’t disagree with any of that. It’s stated somewhat differently than your previous post, so perhaps I misinterpreted what you were saying then. Sorry. I think we’re in agreement that there’s actually very little we can know with certainty from the referendum, but there is much which can be interpreted positively (“spun”) by both sides.

    Actually, there is one important fact to be gleaned from it: 38% of the Catalonian electorate favors independence. We don’t know anything about the preferences of the non-voting sector; anything said about that is mere supposition. But 38% is a significant percentage. The Spanish government should be worried.