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Spain

3 recent events in Catalonia and Spain and what they mean

Vicenç Navarro analyzes the situation in Catalonia and Spain, looking at three recent events of great significance

Earlier this month there were three events that symbolize the situation in Spain.

1. The Death of Emilio Botín

One event was the death of Señor Emilio Botín, and the huge media exposure in the wake of this event, with the largest media outlets in the country showering great praise and admiration on the country’s most powerful banker.

In fact, the number of extremely laudatory articles in five major newspapers of the country is similar to that which is dedicated to great figures of the state on the occasion of their death. This demonstration of respect for one of the most powerful people in the country, a man who was clearly representative of the financial sector, are predictable as these
media outlets are deeply indebted and depend, to a large extent on the approval of the largest financial institutions, and most particularly banks. The interrelationship between the financial sector and the media and political parties in Spain, is a well known and documented in this country.

Sr. Botín was a central figure in what the Anglo-Saxon terminology calls the establishment, ie, the structure of financial, economic, media and political power in the country, which rules and has a great influence on the Spain state, both at its centre and at regional level. Reflecting this is the abusive influence and enormous immunity of banking and
bankers in Spain with respect to their criminal behavior.

It is remarkable that there has been such praise for Banco Santander, the cornerstone of the Spanish and European banking systems, which have been so responsible, with their speculative behavior, for the current economic and financial crisis. This establishment is congratulating them, ignoring the enormous human suffering that determine their behaviour.

Now today this establishment is becoming aware that their existence and reproduction are in danger. Its legitimacy, the basis of its existence, is being widely questioned. And Sr. Botín was fully aware of this. Days before he died, he said he was very concerned about what is happening in Catalonia and the emergence of Podemos, a phenomenon which in less than half a year of existence polls show has become the third most popular party in the country. Sr. Botín considered this enormously disturbing, reflecting the widespread concern within the establishment (including large media companies) that the “Catalan problem” is overflowing and the movement Podemos could turnout to be more than a transitory political bubble.

In fact, for many years the establishment believed that the movement for the right to decide in Catalunya was also a bubble that would burst. The stubborn reality has shown, however, that this this bubble, this soufflé, was solidifying and consolidating, growing day by day. Now, the other big fear (actually, panic) is that the Podemos soufflé solidifies and grows further. Today, the establishment is starting to be seriously concerned that that image so well synthesized by the 15-M [indignados] movement – that the representative institutions, in fact, “do not represent us,” – is shared, according to all the polls, by most of the population in Spain. And the establishment is beginning to realize this.

2. The “V” of Barcelona on September 11

The second fact that Sr. Botín had considered very worrying was the rally for the right to decide in Catalunya, which reached clearly threatening dimensions for this establishment and its state, a state that has never accepted the multinationality of Spain. Approximately 1,800,000 people, according to the Guardia Urbana of Barcelona, ​​took to the streets demanding the right to decide on its future relationship with the Spanish State. All the people who were in that march will never forget it, showing the enormous power that people have when joined in defense of a cause they consider just. A high percentage of the potential electorate participated, demanding the democratic right to decide through a form of direct democratic participation (and not only indirectly, through the representatives).

This form of democratic participation through referenda is poorly developed and tightly controlled in the Spanish democratic system as a result of overwhelming fear that conservative forces who controlled the apparatus of the Franco regime and also dominated the process of transition from dictatorship democracy had to this method of expressing the peope’s will and popular mandate. Instead, they promoted indirect democracy – through political representives- as the only means of democratic participation. In the Spanish case this has been limited to a political game between the ruling elites of the parties, creating a power structure politically controlled by a very marked bipartisanism that, in practice, controls all branches of government (not just the legislative branches), establishing what has been called a caste – that people perceive “does not represent” them. The demand for direct democracy meets huge resistance from that caste, as it is (correctly) perceived that this demand would greatly limit their privileges, leading to their disappearance.

This demand is doubly menacing when it impacts on a key issue for the establishment’s own existence: the structure of the state, and therefore the relationship of the various peoples and nations of Spain with that State. The vast dominion of rights in Spain’s Imperfect Transition created not only an unrepresentative state with very limited democracy, but a poor state, with little social responsiveness (Spain, 36 years after the onset of democracy remains at the back of the queue of the EU of 15 core states on public social expenditures per capita), very little redistribution, deeply corrupt (which is well reflected by the famous slogan of the 15-M “no hay pan para tanto chorizo [literally “no bread for so much sausage” it is play on words, chorizo also meaning thief]) and it has has never allowed the development of the real Spain, ie the plurinational Spain. It is this impossibility of this recognition that characterizes the Spanish state today that is creating the huge growth of the independence movement in Catalonia. The fact that this uni-national state is the same state responsible for enormous the social backwardness of Spain explains that today there are millions of Catalans who feel they would vote for independence, considering the Spanish State unchangeable. The Spanish see it as an unsolvable problem in the current situation.

3. Catalonia on 11 September

The third event of earlier this month was the demonstration itself, and I witnessed it. The Constituent Process, a political movement which I support, is determined to bring profound change of Catalonia, demanding that it is the masses – most of the Catalan people – who decide not only on the relationship of Catalonia with Spain, but above all the things that affect the daily life of the people, called for action that formed a huge “V” [for vote, or will]. And to show solidarity with other peoples and nations of Spain it welcomed the Dignity Marches [against cuts and privatisation and for equality], with delegates from Andalusia, Galicia and Madrid. The event was held in the square where still today there stands a monument that is a legacy of fascism, and where the headquarters of Deutsche Bank is located. The reason for choosing this place was to relate the enormous power of a bank whose roots were in the Nazi regime, with Nazism and fascism that had existed in Germany and Spain, a link that is easy to establish knowing the Nazi origin of this bank. The square was packed. It has never been so full. And though there were many members of the Constituent Procés, most were not.

And there came a moment that, without hyperbole, can be defined as historic. In a festive atmosphere, full of joy and songs (there is nothing more empowering than being part of a large group that shares a just cause to celebrate and sing), Andalusian comrade Diego Cañamero (Andalusian Workers Union), a member Andalusian movement as well as the delegate of the Galician movement, Manolo Camano, and the representative of the Madrid delegation, Ernesto Sarabia, took to the podium. Suddenly there was a great silence, in a square filled to overflowing with independence flags. Then Canamero Diego began his speech, saying that the cause of the movement in defense of the right to decide of the Catalan people was also the cause of all workers of different peoples and nations of Spain, that the Spanish State was not his State either, and that our victory was the victory of the other Spain, a plurinational Spain. In a speech of extraordinary eloquence, he confirmed the common cause between fighting for the right to decide with the struggle for social and labour rights.

The silence was broken in the square with a huge ovation that lasted a long time, one of the strongest applauses of the evening. And when the delegate of Madrid was presented as representative of the working classes of Madrid, exploited by the establishment based in Madrid itself, as the representative the successors of those who fought in defence of the Republic against fascism until the last during the Civil War, the square erupted in one of the biggest applauses and cheers that were heard in a demonstration in Barcelona. The moment was hugely emotional. And it was impossible not to think that there other seeds emerging in Spain of a different country, those of a republican Spain, pluralistic, just and democratic, in which peoples and nations can decide on everything, including how they relate to each other.

What was happening there, in that place, was a struggle that exists even within the movement for the right to decide, within the sovereigntist movement in Catalonia, which has barely appeared in the media, which is clearly controlled by the right of the Catalan sovereignty movement, which wish to base their position on a conflict between Catalonia and Spain, which emphasizes that Spain exploits us (the Catalans).

Against this view, dominant in some sectors of the leadership of the Catalan National Assembly movement, which has the soundboard offered by the conservative-liberal Catalan regional government in the media, there is another view, increasingly widespread and clearly present in the streets, which strongly backs the message that distinguishes between Spain and the Spanish State, the latter controlled by the establishment that exploits and oppresses all peoples and nations of Spain, imposing neoliberal policies that lack a popular mandate and, therefore, democratic legitimacy. This other view sees not Spain but the Spanish State, as the adversary. This facilitates alliances in order change the state, both in Catalonia and in Spain, recognizing the sovereignty of these peoples to achieve unity, if so desired, or separation, in coexistence, if preferred. And this is what Sr. Botín, his establishment and his state were opposed to and will continue to oppose by all means at their disposal. Spain’s history is full of examples.

Translated/edited by Revolting Europe

Vicenç Navarro’s blog  and originally published in El Publico newspaper

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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