Catalonia Independence Drive: a Case-Study in Applied Cultural Evolution

Peter Turchin

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Today Catalonians vote (or not) in an independence referendum. As a result of moves by the regional government in Barcelona and national government in Madrid, Catalonia became one of the potentially most dangerous flash points in Europe. The potential for violence has been greatly elevated as a result of a reckless decision by Madrid to send Guardia Civil to suppress the referendum by force. I have no idea whether there are enough Catalonians who feel strongly enough about independence to respond to force by force, but I also doubt Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy really knows what will be the consequences of his move. As I write this post on Sunday morning, most violence is not particularly serious, but violent confrontations have the potential of escalating far beyond what either side wishes.

Protests in Barcelona, 20 September 2017

The Madrid government has declared the referendum illegal according to the Spanish Constitution. But that constitution is not a divine law, or law of nature. Laws are made by men, and Spain had many constitutions prior to the current one, which was adopted in 1978. In any case, human societies evolve, and laws must evolve with them. And this leads me to why the Catalonian referendum is interesting from the point of view of Cultural Evolution.

The theoretically interesting question is what is the optimal size of a politically independent unit (“polity”) in today’s world. Clearly, optimal size changes with time and social environment. We know empirically that the optimal size of a European state took a step up following 1500. As a result, the number of independent polities in Europe decreased from many hundreds in 1500 to just over 30 in 1900. The reason was the introduction of gunpowder that greatly elevated war intensity. The new evolutionary regime eliminated almost all of the small states, apart from a few special cases (like the Papacy or Monaco).

Source

In today’s Europe, however, war has ceased to be an evolutionary force. It may change, but since 1945 the success or failure of European polities has been largely determined by their ability to deliver high levels of living standards to their citizens. Economics is not the only aspect of well-being, but let’s focus on it here because it is clearly the main driver behind Catalonian independence (since culturally and linguistically Catalonia has been given a free rein within Spain).

So the question becomes: will Catalonia be better off as an independent state, or an autonomous province with Spain (as it is now)? (Same question can be asked about Scotland, which recently also ran an independence referendum.)

About half of Catalonians think yes, because they know that the region pays much more in taxes to Madrid, then gets back from the central government. There are, of course, significant costs associated with independence. Some are transitory, and others (like the need to maintain a diplomatic service and embassies in many countries) are permanent. There are a lot of other unknowns, for example, whether Catalonia would be able to remain within the European Union, should the referendum succeed.

My conclusion: nobody really knows whether independence will make the life of most Catalonians better, or worse. Thus, I say: if the majority of Catalonians vote for secession, let them have it. If they are willing to run an experiment using themselves as subjects, they certainly have the right to do so, and their experience will be useful to other regions (e.g. Scotland) that currently contemplate independence.

This is applied cultural evolution. We can have lots of theories and models about the optimal polity size, but they are worthless without data.

And it’s much more than a scientific issue. The only way for our societies to become better in all kinds of ways (wealthier, more just, more efficient) is to allow cultural evolution a free rein. More specifically, we need cultural group selection at the level of polities. A major problem for the humanity is finding ways to have such cultural group selection to take place without violence. Which is why I find the current moves by Madrid to suppress the Catalonian independence vote by force criminally reckless. It seems that Madrid still wants to go back to the world as it was in the nineteenth century (or more accurately,  Europe between 1500 and 1900).


Notes on the margin: You can read more about cultural group selection and success or failure of societies in Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth.

 

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Sad to say, your post repeats much of the mininformation and inaccurate data which are part of nationalist Catalan propaganda, much more active in furthering its interests than the Madrid government has been in answering them. There are far too many points to address, but let us note just one. Madrid (which is an autonomous community in Spain just like Catalonia) also pays in taxes more than it receives. Indeed, in a state organized in autonomous communities, or Länder if you want, it is only to be expected that some regions will be above the mean income, and will therefore pay more taxes, than others. There can be no statistic in which all of the regions are above the mean. But the very idea of Madrid arguing that this would be a reason to make Madrid an independent state is ridiculous. Part of the problem is that there is no limit to taking ridiculous political positions in Catalonia just now, with a local administration élite which is promoting a collective delirium through misinformation and manipulation of the media. Catalonia is indeed an interesting case to study for a social psychologist and and anthropologist, not to mention political theorists, but many more dimensions need to be addressed than you seem to allow for. Take the notion of “laws have to change”: the same thing could have been argued by Southern States in the USA when their local interests clashed with the laws of the Union. Instead of a peaceful secession, there was a civil war, and one that America is (by and large) proud of. I could go into the assumptions about the meaning of “democracy”, “voting”, and “rule of law” promoted by the Catalan authorities, which are more than faintly reminiscent of Nazi populism. But really there is no way I can fight the propaganda machine of the New York Times (with absolutely shameful and ridiculously misinforming reports on the Spanish situation) in a commentary, or in a post. Suffice it to express my disagreement with your radical misinterpretation of the Catalan situation, which unfortunately is characteristic of many foreign media and, alas, of much Spanish popular and misinformed press.

johne

“Had they allowed southern states to secede, hundreds of thousands of people wouldn’t need to die.”
Although millions, the 3,050,343 slaves, a quarter of the South’s population (1860 census), would presumably have faced an even steeper mortality rate than was their lot after freedom was won.

Oopa, “misinformation”, sorry. Yes, there’s lots of fake news about Catalonia, and about Spain. Do not trust the New York Times. Get more information—much more information, and then, trust yourself.

Juan Alfonso

Hi, Peter

Sadly I am affected by these events. I understand your point of view, given the information at your disposal, but this issue is more complicated. Interestingly it has a lot to do with the castellian asabiya you described in war and peace and war.

First of all, I think Catalonia would be a very prosperous country, and they know it. That is the biggest problem. Catalonian nationalism is driven by… greed?… Many catalonians don´t want to share their wealth, but the problem is that their wealth is a consequence of their strategic location. for turism and commerce. And castellians know it.

besides you don´t take into account that Catalonia is an imperialist nationalism. They want to annexionate Valencia and the Balearic islands. Of course these are also extremely wealthy regions because of their location. And catalonians don´t tolerate nationalisms inside Catalonia, like the Aran valley nationalism. Interestingly, In Spain more than half of big corruption cases take place in these regions. It is not a coincidence.

Surprisingly catalonians don´t desire to annexionate Aragon, which is their original kingdom. That is because Aragon is an inner región with little business prospects or commerce potential.

The nature of the problem is double. First comes self-interest: Catalonians don´t want to share their wealth. They are succesful enterpreneurs with plenty of opportunities to thrive on their own. Second: it is a problem of leadership. Economicly Catalonia should be the leader region of the spanish nation. But they are not. It is the castellians who rule the country. Why is that? It is not just History. It´s Cliodynamics.

As you described in War and Peace ans War, castellians developed high levels of asabiya while plundering the taifa moorish kingdoms. When castellians discovered America they left their next prey, North Africa, and focused their energy towards the Atlantic. In the meawhile Catalonians where, as always, devoted to the mediterranean. Castellians and Catalonians have developed different ethos across the centuries. Castellians think in terms of the strength of unity, generosity and solidarity. Catalonias think in term of business, but asabiya has made better fighters of the castellians and more numerous, so catalonians have not been able to impose their leadership or rule their own country.

Spain has wealthier and poorer regions and many spanish people like me think that the wealthiest we should help the inner and agricultural regions. I have lived in Catalonia and I feel it is my home. I don´t feel comfortable if someone says I don´t have anything to do with Catalonia.

And there also is the geopolitical issue. Catalonia is not the kind of region that any country in the world leaves without fighting. Think of it as Crimea for Russians. It is the geographical line where the iberian penninsula joins the eurasian continent and the best exit to the mediterranean sea.

I have a question for SESHAT database: Is there any precedent of a region getting their Independence without an overwhelming majority (like Ghandi´s India) and/or the use of military force. Has any of the countries in the world achieved its nationality by the political actions of a numerous and organized minority?

Juan Alfonso

Peter, why do you say that Madrid does anything at all? It sounds like the independist rhethoric! It is not Madrid. It is Spain. All of it. Madrid is the wealthiest region of all. Why? Because it has all the big institutions there. It is not by merit that Madrid s wealthy. As a consequence Madrid has the obligation to be generous with the rest of regions… including Catalonia, and also because Madrid is a bit of every region… including Catalonia. Madrid doesn´t really exist at all!

Catalonia´s wealth is not by merit either. It is because of their privileged geoestrategic position. If they could secede without taking the land I would say “Go ahead”. But the problem is geostrategical. As I said, Catalonian inpependism is imperialist. Spain could lose all of the levant regions (Valencia, Balearic islands). And the basque country (another privileged region) could follow. Spain would be phisically separated from Europe.

You have to understand this. Spain is not broken: Catalonia is broken, and with a pre-civil catalonian war atmosphere. There is a political very Smart and corrupt elite that is manipulating fanatics. There are no spanish nationalist fanatics.

The spanish constitution have permitted catalonian nationalism to thrive along the decades, even minoritary as it is. But now the constitution it is also stopping them from sucede, We Spaniards are consistent: we abide the constitution for good and for bad.

The company I work for is located in Barcelona. I have received an email from them that says that they are not going to work tomorrow because there is a general strike and it would not be safe to go to work. That´s what we are facing.

Vicente Adrián

Mr. Turchin, my name is Adrián, I am Spaniard and I am twenty-five years old. I like your work, it’s very interesting for me and I urge you to continue your work with even more effort (Cliodynamics).

It is not so much accurate to pretend to give a scientific nuance to the Catalan affair. Catalonia is not a nation, despite the pretensions of the separatists, is a region that has been linked to Spain for five hundred years. The problem of Catalan separatism began in the nineteenth century, when some members of the Catalan upper bourgeoisie fell in love with everything that sounded like “nationalism” like many others in that era where nationality was a pseudo-religion. After the Spanish Transition, Catalan parties controlled by the upper bourgeoisie envisaged the possibility of blackmailing the state in exchange for concessions and tolerance towards corruption, they never had a relatively strong support until recently, when the propaganda of the separatist parties has reached the level of hate, literally. The main separatist leaders and their parties belong to the most radical left in Spain, hence some European media sensitive to leftism have been patronizing towards them. The unity of Spain is inviolable. Spain is one of the oldest nations in Europe if not the oldest. It is ontologically impossible, as we can not choose to be born nor the color of the sea or to turn the day into night; but even if Catalonia were a nation could not either. Catalonia has no right to self-determination or ‘right to decide’ (term used after discrediting the first), more or less four hundred academics and professors among some of the most outstanding thinkers in all Spain (fifty of Catalonia) have written a letter specifying that there is “nothing” in international law that supports the independence of Catalonia.

Joost Douma

I agree, let them vote. I don’t think they will gain much more from independence than they already enjoy now and a majority is probably against it, but to stop the voting by force is a major mistake.

nick weech

I agree with Joost. The Scots will have a role model, to copy or to ignore

Justin Lane

What does cultural evolution predict the outcome of the vote will be? Surely it makes a prediction here.

Ross Hartshorn

The cases of Scotland and Quebec predict that peacefully allowing the election would result in perpetually going up to the brink of independence, but never quite voting for it. Of course, up to the brink enough times might eventually go over it. Violence from the center does seem like it’s the sort of thing to provoke a response in the direction of independence.

The European Union does seem to be, at the current time, pushing things in the direction of disintegration into smaller polities, because there’s less need for being in a larger polity for economic reasons. In fact, the combination of NATO and the EU raises the question of what it even means to be in the same nation.

On the other hand, the first time a region breaks off from an EU nation and then doesn’t get accepted into the EU on its own, the EU could quickly become a major disincentive to national disintegration. If the UK thought that being in the EU was all that was keeping Scotland in the UK, they might have voted to stay in the EU.

Oops, “oops”.

EdwardT

//human societies evolve, and laws must evolve with them//

One way societies are eliminated in group selection – actually, this is probably the most common means, more so than external wars – is internal collapse, splitting into regions, the most coherent of which either takes over the original polity on new terms, creating a new ‘group, or the original polity in name is divided forever.

The fact of evolution is not, however, in itself any kind of argument in favour of changing any law. The mere fact a law has to be change demonstrates failure: instability and frequent or dramatic changes in laws can create unpredicted effects that cause their own changes and instability.

Even laws that appear irrelevant to government, like religious laws, can be dangerous to change. The Byzantine iconoclasm – edicts for the removal of religious icons – does not seem to have much to do with encouraging the economy or military or welfare of the people, or anything to do with it at all for that matter, but it caused huge instability that weakened the Byzantine empire for at least 100 years.

Perhaps the strongest societies are the ones that evolve the least. This is probably testable with the history of China. It is logical to expect the longer duration of the Chinese dynasties to have had fewer law changes per decade, and the most recent ones to have the fewest changes.

EdwardT

It no doubt also depends what laws are changed. Anything that reduces economic inequality could hardly be expected to cause widespread civil unrest – the opposite, in fact. The New Deal worked to some extent.

However, there may be a problem of elite instability with any recalcitrant elites who would lose some power and control, a fight which could be exacerbated if you need to act when there is an over-supply of under-employed ambitious people.

It may be that the worst laws to change are those that affect identity – like laws banning religious icons. That could be because identity can bridge the social divides and make people ignore the issue of inequality and focus only on identity. Paupers would be a willing army to fight for aristocrats to preserve religious icons in a way they would not for higher taxes on the majority or tax exemptions for the aristocrats.

Splitting people along lines of shared identity which place aristocrats in the same bracket as peasants is not going to reduce inequality or civil instability.

al loomis

“they certainly have the right”

no, they don’t. there are no rights without power. do they they have the will and power to secede? not yet clear. the rest of spain will be worse off, without catalonia, and so they try to hold it. do they have a ‘right’ to do so? to paraphrase stalin, “who has the more divisions?

MR

So they don’t even have the majority needed in their camera for chanching their own ‘Estatuto’ and they can break Spain into pieces.

New York City has an economic potential well above the average of the USA. How would the American authorities react should a half-crazed mayor of New York declare the city’s independence? Spanish politics are a conflicted business, and the opposition wants to use this against the government. That is the real source of the troubles. That, AND, an irresponsible politics on the part of the central government letting radical nationalists impose their agenda on Catalans and the rest of Spaniards alike, for years on end, rather than stopping them within the limits the rule of law.

Este

Peter, I suggest that you engage in mathematics. Talking is not your thing, even if you defend the simplest criterion.

Carles Puigdemont retwitteó
Govern. Generalitat‏Cuenta verificada @govern 13 hhace 13 horas
Más
#Portaveu @jorditurull: “A favor del Sí: 2.020.144 (90,09%), del No 176.565 (7,87%), en Blanc 45.586 (2,03%) i 20.129 Nuls (0,89%)” #1OCT
534 respuestas 8.120 retweets 7.903 Me gusta
Responder 534 Retwittear 8,1K Me gusta 7,9K Mensaje directo:

I help you to do accounts: 90,09+7,87+2,03+0,89= 100,88.

All the best.

Andres

I agree. I suspect it would have been sufficient for the Spanish Central Government to point out that although an independence referendum is illegal/unconstitutional, “hypothetically” an independent Catalonia would be outside the EU, and although welcome to re-apply, Spain retains a veto. At least this would have helped put things into context, and I’m quite sure would have undermined much of the momentum fuelling the pro-independence movement. However, it seems the Spanish Central Government regards even hypothetical argument as quasi- seditious.

Anyway, like you say, neither here nor there now.

Francisco

Peter, there are many Spaniards that read you. Being one of them, I am surprised that you do not address the issue from a ethical viewpoint. Whatever the result, about a third of the population is going to force the other the other two thirds to do something they do not want to do. What is your take on that?

From a purely academic viewpoint, I have another question. Using the referenda has no formal limits. If we let them have it we will have to let it have it to Hospitalet, Badalona and many other Catalan cities where the majority of the population does not want independence and want to stay in Spain.

Maybe the optimal state size is now a statelet within the Holy Roman Empire or something like that? Do you think there would be a reprise of the European Thirty Years War in the Northwest of the Spain among principalities, only this time using language instead of religion as the political weapon?

Francisco

Peter, “in a democracy the majority imposes its view on the minority” then there is not a problem. A democratic vote in the whole of Spain will keep all the regions together, including Catalonia.

But I guess I am missing something in your statement. I do not see what political unit you are talking about and why that unit (whichever it is) and not any of the others.

And also I would like to know your answer to the second question about the current optimal size for a state and the probability of a continuous state of petty wars among small policies. Maybe the optimal state size is now a statelet within the Holy Roman Empire or something like that? Do you think there would be a reprise of the European Thirty Years War in the Northeast of the Spain among principalities, only this time using language instead of religion as the political weapon?

Francisco

Sorry, Northeast.

Richard

Wow. Such a strong Spanish contingent.

Here’s the thing: Even if you oppose Catalonian independence, you should see calling in the Guardia Civil as an idiotic move. If the vote was allowed to happen peacefully, Catalonia would be very likely to be like Quebec and Scotland: Close vote but more than 50% odds that they stay rather than go. Call in the Guardia Civil, and you actually increase the odds of Catalonian independence and definitely the odds of bloodshed in Spain.

Francisco

The reason there is such a strong Spanish contingent is because we are well aware of the limitations of our country and trying to find out how it got there and how to change it to better. I agree the Spanish goverment, like the local Catalan government and many others in the world, is mostly thinking about keeping money and their posts rather than the best for the country, even if it is not good for local politicians. That is way they did not think about the implications of their movements. There was not a plan to do anything because they do not think of the long term.

Of course, that media mistake has been compounded by the usual media manipulations. Now every political party, including nationalistic fascist movements like the Catalan one is well aware of the need to do media manipulation as needed, and Spanish politicians well comfy in their seats did not bother to think of that.

But what is bothering many Spaniards right now is that a fascist movement that is oppressing have of the local population (Catalan that also want to stay Spanish) is being presented as victims, when they are tormenters when they believe nobody is looking and they can therefore get away with it. I have been living several years in Catalonia and have seen how three years old children were punished by their teacher for speaking Spanish in the break time at the school. I have been in the park with my children and being ostracised for speaking to them in Spanish. Ironically, when I switched to English they then would speak to me in Spanish, because then I belonged into a superior group.
I have to sign away my legal rights under pressure of the Catalan government or one of my children could die because they would deny me certain medical services in Spanish and I did not speak Catalan yet. If that is not fascist behaviour I do not know what it is like.

I have many more examples of fascist behaviour from half the population of Catalonia and most of the local politicians, but I will stop here in this post. Of course, I understand that everyone sees what it want to see, whether it is true or not, including academics. I just want to give you show you the whole truth, not only part of it. Oppressors are still what they are, although they claim to be victims, they are also tormenters.

Vladimir Dinets

Richard: I was just about to say the same thing. The Spanish government made an incredibly stupid move, and likely made Catalonia’s independence inevitable. Their only chance to avoid a total disaster is to replace the PM immediately and try to make the separation minimally painful for both sides. But it is probably too late even for that.

Francisco

“a Catalan institute this Monday separated the children between those who were in favor or against the police action that took place during the day of the referendum of 1-O. He revealed that the teachers forced the first to stay in class while the second played in the courtyard.

In statements to Cope collected by Europa Press, has compared this situation with “a concentration camp” where some students are “marked with the star of David” and therefore receive a different treatment.”

http://www.larazon.es/espana/un-instituto-catalan-separa-a-los-alumnos-segun-su-posicion-sobre-la-actuacion-policial-KD16408406

“Almost all the neighbors of Balaguer were against Ana Moreno two years ago to claim for their children a course in Castilian in the school. For an additional three hours a week, they boycotted their business. They stopped inviting children to birthdays. They pretended they did not see her when they passed her on the street.

Like the Bittori of Patria, like Dr. Stockmann of An enemy of the people, this Granada of 37 years was left alone in front of an irrational majority that lived like an attack that the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia dictates that in the classrooms of the children of Ana, who are now six and eight years old, had to give 25% of the teaching hours in Castilian. “I am the stinker, if you talk to me they look at you badly. The parents of the school told their children not to play with mine

Nobody feels bad about what happened in September 2015. To sum up, someone leaked details that allowed to identify to that family that had requested Castilian like the owners of the unique playground of the locality, the Petit Món. And they made life impossible for them.

By WhatsApp parent groups and social networks, a message was flagged and called to mobilize. There was a concentration at the gates of the school to which he went to the mayor. They ordered protest jerseys. A mother said she was not going to take her. “If you do not put it on, we’ll treat you like them,” they replied.

A mother warns: “This will not stay that way. On the 14th we will see how the family is received ». A neighbor suggests: “I fixed this fast” with “a little card to social services” to “take custody of the children””

http://www.elmundo.es/cataluna/2017/09/27/59caadf9468aeb27098b4665.html

The only difference is the media focus. Is this not criminally stupid? Is this not fascist behaviour? What is your opinion about this, Peter?

Juan Alfonso

I agree. It was counterproductive because of the international opinion. But you must understand that the decision to send the police has been made reluctantly. In the previous semi-referendum, the 9th of november, the government did nothing. A lot of right wing voters angrily attacked the government for not sending the police and the army to enforce the law. Now the pressue was enormous. A lot of spaniards are sick of watching a corrupt numerous minory play with the laws and rights of a whole country. We are deeply hurt by the international reaction, specially since there are only 2 hospitalized people: an old person because of a heart attack and another one whose eye was tragically wounded by a gum ball. A lot of policemen were hurt too. Can you really think that the response was disproportionate? And CRIMINAL?…

During the last 40 years the spanish constitution allowed the separatists to bully the non-separatists 24-seven. This last months have been unbearable for law abiding citizens in Catalonia. It is a real and literal apartheid. The spanish government has tried to defend the rule of law, the separation of powers and the national sovereignty. And all with the explicit support of western powers. And what they did was CRIMINAL?…

Well, in one day the picture of anti-disturb policemen has sent the message that the bully is the spanish government. That’s seems so misled.

By the way, Russia is happy watching all this because Russia wants a weak Europe. Russia Today, Putin’s propaganda tool, has supported the separatists all along. That is all you need to know.

Peter van den Engel

This is the result of the general current economic evolution, resulting in a cultural drive to seperate strength from weakness, to mimimalize the risk/ in stead of profiting in an asocial equation, but this can alo be read in the inverted connection at the same time.

In general I would not call material economic performance; especially when it is conneced to geographic coincidence; within its limited cultural meaning, a decisive factor/ but it can be interpreted that way.

Democratic majorities are supposing a mathematical certainty, which is not real, I agree, because it depends on the whole they should represent. A majority in Spain is not the same as in Catelonia.
Probably the language and parallel believes in values create a similar culture, which can view itself as one.

As for police brutality; which I do not favor; you should take into account Spain has always been a police state, before it became democratic – and oher separist groups like ETA, fighting for independance of the north east, where anarchist and violent themselves in democracy, so to some degree I can understand the instinctive reaction and should not just been judged from totally diferent cultures, athough I agree it is unjust.

[…] un día aciago en nuestra historia presente y me voy a referir a él simplemente para hablar de su ultimo post, donde precisamente aborda el tema de la independencia de […]

Vladimir Dinets

All this would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. True, Putin supports the separatists. But it’s the Spanish’s rhetoric that sounds lie a carbon copy of Russian propaganda in the run-up to invading Ukraine. There were also fake stories of children and families harassed or even executed for speaking Russian or asking to be taught it in school. There were also claims (based on “historic evidence”) that Ukrainians are not a valid nation. The more I see this, the more I understand why so many people in Catalonia want independence.

In reality, there is only one valid criteria for deciding who is a nation and who isn’t. If people think they are a separate nation, they are. Nothing else really matters either way.

Also, if the Spanish always made decisions on the matters of regional independence based entirely on the existing laws, the battle of Covadonga would never happen and Spain would still be an emirate, right?

Juan Alfonso

Ok, but, who is to decide?… the Aran Valley wants to secede from Catalonia. Should they vote? And the provinces of Barcelona an Tarragona are non-separatist. Should they stay in Spain?

There is a central concept in every democratic constitution. It is sovereignty. Namely, who is to decide whatever needs to be decided. The answer is: the spanish people. All of them.

But Peter is right, a constitution is not divine law. So the question now is, where does the spanish constitution come from? From God? Was it imposed over the catalonians? The answer is NO. In 1978 a constitution was redacted and agreed on by all the parties and all the regions. It developed the system of autonomies of self-government inside the bigger frame of the spansih state. Catalonians majoritarily agreed on this without any threat or pressure. They had what they wanted: self-government.

The constitution has ways to be amended and changed, but the corrupt elites of Catalonia are facing dire dangers: Financial collapse and the end of bankary secret in fiscal paradises for the corrupts like Andorra. They cannot wait for the right ways for trying to change the constitution THEY PREVIOUSLY AGREED ON only years ago. Many of the ones who signed for it are still in politics.

The spanish government is defending the pillars of democracy whether you like it or not. I also think that sending the MP was a dumb move but the social pressure was huge.

I don’t see any resemblance with Ukraine, divided as it is in two halves with different ethnias, languages and religions. I only know that Putin will be happy if Catalonia succeeds because he prefers a divided and weak Europe. Don’t misunderstand me, I LIKE Putin, but he thinks in terms of his own interests which are contrary to ours. So if I have doubts on something I just have to watch RT.

Vicente Adrián

Mr Vladimir Dinets,

According to the news I have read Putin does not support the separatists, he has declared that the Catalan issue is an internal matter of Spain.

You are comparing apples with frogs, the Catalan case has nothing to do with the Ukrainian case, Ukraine is a completely valid historical nation, I reiterate that you have not made a valid comparison.

I do not agree at all with your claim that the nation is something subjective, the nation is a group of people of the same ethnic origin who share historical, cultural, religious, etc., therefore the nation is something objective, subject to the will, yes, but to some extent relative to the definition of nation.

Vladimir Dinets

Juan Alfonso: separation is always painful, and I seriously doubt it’s worth the pain in this particular case. But citing the Spanish constitution is a very weak argument: 1978 was a long time ago, and most Catlonians living today weren’t old enough to vote on it. They have the right to demand changing the status quo if they are unhappy with it.

Ukraine is not divided in two halves: Russians are a majority only in a few areas, and even those areas are not all pro-Putin. As for Putin, I’m trying to think of any reason to like him, but can’t.

Juan Alfonso

Vladimir, you are absolutely right. Things change. So the separatists should try to change the constitution by influencing and negotiating. It doesn’t make sense to violate the constitution only because they don’t like it. There are legal ways to try to secede from Spain. But they want the way hat suits their interests: they game they cannot lose.

Separatists speak of Catalonia as if it beloged only to the people that lives in Catalonia (only halfe of them are “real” catalonians). It does not. Catalonia is MY homeland, in the same way that Andalusia is muy homeland. That is the meaning of the concept of sovereignty. Who are “We, the people”. In 1978 our parents decided who “We, the people” were. If they want to change it they have two ways. 1) change through changes in the constotution via parlamentary debate. 2) By force. They are trying 3) convincing uninformed foreigners sensitive to sensationalism that they are an oppresed people, when the reality is that there is a virtual apartheid in Catalonia.

So, I don,t know all the subleties of the situation of Ukraine?… Ok. Then may be it happens the same to you regarding Spain and Catalonia. What you are defending is nonsense. The rule of law is central to western democracy. You are defending populism: voting is more important than the democratic institutions, the separation of powers and the rule of law. That is a path none of us want to take.

Beware of populist thinking.

Juan Alfonso

Vladimir, I had missed this point! “Also, if the Spanish always made decisions on the matters of regional independence based entirely on the existing laws, the battle of Covadonga would never happen and Spain would still be an emirate, right?”.

It’s a good point. However king Pelayo didn’t summon a referendum. He went to war.

In Spain we have had our good share of fighting armed separatists. Not only basques but also catalonians (Terra lliure). So, what has changed? Why didn’t basques 40 years ago summon an illegal referendum and declare independence. Why they decided to fight?

Because they could not win that way at that time. But now everything has changed. Now It’s the age of populism. All that matters is what people decide or vote? Really?…

By the way, all the enemies of Europe are supporting catalonian separatists. Like Nigel Farage. Even declared fascists like the austrian Strache. It’s good to know what side take the enemies of Europe. That clears the picture, don’t you think?

Vladimir Dinets

Juan: if I was living in Catalonia, I would probably vote against independence: I’ve seen corrupt elites achieve full power that way before, and I generally think the world has too many borders already. But I really don’t see how the pro-independence majority could do anything under existing laws. They would never get the majority required for changing the constitution unless a few other provinces decided to split as well.

We don’t know if king Pelayo summoned a referendum. The Christian account is sketchy and Muslims chose to omit the whole story from their records. I think we can be sure that he had some idea of the level of support for his rebellion proposal among his subjects 🙂

The enemies of Europe assume that splitting of its member states will weaken the union. I am not sure this is the case. Smaller members will be forced to delegate more powers to Brussels and will be more dependent on it.

Of course, I might be completely wrong about everything. I’ve been in Catalonia for three days in my life, I have very superficial knowledge of EU politics and no knowledge at all of contemporary Spanish politics. But the whole point of being on the internet is to engage in emotional discussions of subjects you know next to nothing about, isn’t it?

Juan Alfonso

Of course, Vladimir. This exchange is being very helpful for me to understand what people outside Spain think about this issue. For example, you are assuming that there is a majority of separatists in Catalonia. And there is not. It is not an opinion. There is data. Data on participation in the two referendum votation which is below 40% even when the separatists are the ones who count the votes.

In the last legal autonomic elections the separatists said it was rslly a plebiscite about independence. The paricipation was well above 70% but sadly less than 48% of the voters chose a separatis party. So they lost the only legal votation that can be interpreted as the willingness to secede.

They are a numerous minority, but the electoral law gives them power over their autonomic self-government parlament and they rule as tirants and have invented laws to subvert the constitution, which have been declared illegal and useless.

Anyway. If they were a majority they could work for convincing all the spanish citizens that they have a right to decide only them. They could try tompersuade us that it would bue mutually beneficial or something like that. They could negotiate. But they are fostering hate inside Catalonia. It would be contradictory so they choose confrontation. I am not responsible for their decisions. They have chosen the wrong path and only them are to blame.

Vladimir, I am sick of fanatics. I am sick of amrican trumpists. I am sick of fanatic anti-franquists here in Spain. I am sick of righ wing fanatics here in Spain. Sick of salafist fanatics. I consider myself a moderate person and I can tell you that what is going on in Catalonia is the work of fanatics and populists. Rajoy is far from being the perfect leader, yes, but he is moderate. That is very important when populism fueled by the internet is threatening to impose over democracy.

Francisco

You are right, Juan Alfonso. I have lived there several years and had to leave. Now we are realizing it is even worse.

Vladimir Dinets

Juan Alfonso: so, 40% participated in the referendum and 90% of them voted yes. Why are you assuming that all the remaining 60% are against independence? Why didn’t they just vote no?
Also, it can be argued that 40% participation is a result of vote suppression by the Spanish government. Isn’t it possible that a lot of people just didn’t want to get beaten by the police?

Vladimir, you just don’t understand Catalonia and the situation there. I must say that I largely agree with Juan Alfonso. Anti-Nationalist Catalans ignored the illegal referendum, and very rightly so—why should they vote in a charade cut to size tu fulfill the overtly illegal plan of the Catalan government? But the Catalan situation is really quite complex, due to the fact that these same non-nationalist Catalans largely ignore the lawful regional elections and do not bother to attend them. There has been much political irresponsibility in Catalonia, not just on the part of the Nationalists, but on the part of those who have let them eat up all the public space, and have not bothered or dared to oppose them. Now they have to rely on the force of the law imposed by Spain, the official enemy according to Catalan media (who ignore this silent majority) in order to save them from the most stupid Ribbentrop-Molotov unholy alliance between the local antifas and the local Nazis, who control the media and the local institutions. They don’t even know which flag they are fighting for —the flaw with the red star or the flag with the white star on it. Both are illegal, and they are not the flag of Catalonia. Catalans, all catalans, have lived in a bubble of unreality created by their own irresponsibility, and now they must come to terms with the hard facts of reality. Which is, to begin with, that they are NOT going to war with Spain, not in the least, despite all the implications of their secessionist plan. We’ll have some riots, some policing of radical anthropoids we’d better get used to see, and be grateful for, and that’s all: back to mumbling and complaining within the terms of the law.

Vladimir, you just don’t understand Catalonia and the situation there. I must say that I largely agree with Juan Alfonso. Anti-Nationalist Catalans ignored the illegal referendum, and very rightly so—why should they vote in a charade cut to size tu fulfill the overtly illegal plan of the Catalan government? But the Catalan situation is really quite complex, due to the fact that these same non-nationalist Catalans largely ignore the lawful regional elections and do not bother to attend them. There has been much political irresponsibility in Catalonia, not just on the part of the Nationalists, but on the part of those who have let them eat up all the public space, and have not bothered or dared to oppose them. Now they have to rely on the force of the law imposed by Spain, the official enemy according to Catalan media (who ignore this silent majority) in order to save them from the most stupid Ribbentrop-Molotov unholy alliance between the local antifas and the local Nazis, who control the media and the local institutions. They don’t even know which flag they are fighting for —the flaw with the red star or the flag with the white star on it. Both are illegal, and they are not the flag of Catalonia. Catalans, all catalans, have lived in a bubble of unreality created by their own irresponsibility, and now they must come to terms with the hard facts of reality. Which is, to begin with, that they are NOT going to war with Spain, not in the least, despite all the implications of their secessionist plan. We’ll have some riots, some policing of radical anthropoids we’d better get used to see, and be grateful for, and that’s all: back to grumbling and mumbling and complaining, a Catalan local speciality, but within the terms of the law which should protect all Spaniards, including Catalans, from Nazis, opportunists, subsidized yuppies gone crazy, and terminal populists alike.

Juan Alfonso

Vladimir, the data you need is already displayed in my previous comment. The only legal and warranted votations are the autonomic elections. There the separatists LOST what they claimed was really a plebiscite. Less than 48% voted for separatists parties, with high rates of participation (more than 70%). This madness should have stopped right there. But this is not about democracy or voting. It is about getting the independence no matter what. So, even with a lost plebiscite, they argumented that they enjoyed parlamentary majority… and that majority was granted by… yes, the spanish constitution. And most of what they have done since then with that majority has been declared illegal and useless.

There was al illegal votation regarding independence on the 9th of November 2015. There was no repression whatsoever. The law abiding citizens simply ignored it because the spanish government asked them not to vote. The separatists were the only ones that summoned the votation. They also “warranted” the votation and only they counted the votes. No one else. They claimed that 40% of the census voted. I repit. No repression at all. Their numbers which, of course, are not verifiable nor fiable.

Please, pay attention to these data so I don’t have to repit. The cuantitative evidence suggest that there is NOT a majority of separatists in Catalonia. Not for the moment. Nonetheless they have managed to govern Catalonia for almost 40 years. That is the real problem.

Again, what we are living now is the fight between democracy and populism. Democracy is about respecting the institutions and setting self-crrecting mechanisms and warrants. Populism is just about signalling, demosntrating and voting. Populism is extremely unstable whereas democracy is stable. That is the reason of its success.

In my opinion you should reflect not about Spain but about democracy and populism. Populism is rising. There is a populist president in the US!! Democracy is the most succesful set of institutions for a reason.

Vladimir Dinets

Jose, I’ll ask you the same question I asked Juan. Why are you so sure that those 60%, or the “silent majority” as you call them, are 100% anti-independence? Are there polls or some other data to support this?

Web

Thank you for ur point of view..very much appreciated
(I bought ur book only a week ago..)

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