31 d’agost 2007

Eric and the Army of the Phoenix

Before publishing the rest of the long article called The viability of an independent Catalan State I want you to know that the video about Eric and the Army of the Phoenix (see my old post titled Say you are Spanish or I lock you up. The modern Spanish Inquisition) is now available in YouTube. The video is divided into five. Here you can see all of them. Shame on Spain.

28 d’agost 2007

The viability of an independent Catalan State (I)

I publish an article appeard in 2003 in The Bologna Center Journal of International Affairs by Josep Desquens, a Catalan economist. It sweeps away all the fears some Catalans have when thinking about an independent Catalonia. Can it be viable? The answer is here. I did cut the article in four posts because it is too long to publish it in just one. The pics included are mine, they are not in the original article.

By Josep Desquens

"The life of the Catalan is an act of continuous affirmation [...] It is because of this that the defining element of the Catalan psychology is not reason, as for the French; metaphysics, as for the Germans; empiricism, as for the English; intelligence, as for the Italians; or mysticism, as for the Castilians. In Catalonia, the primary feature is the desire to be."-- Jaume Vicens Vives, Catalan historian

Many citizens of Flanders in Belgium, Scotland in the United Kingdom and Catalonia in Spain do not consider themselves merely part of a region but an independent nation that has no state of its own. Greater self-rule is the central objective of the so-called nationalist political parties characteristic of these European regions and the possibility of secession has been part of their politics for years. Yet while secession is mentioned as one option for the future, mainstream parties perceive it as a utopian formula rather than a viable alternative. This results partly from a genuine allegiance to the existing states by many of these regions' residents, but also from the fear of the unknown and a surprising lack of information about the economic costs of remaining part of these states and the potential economic benefits of independence.

Current conventional wisdom in the European Union and the United States sees the issue of secession as something outdated or even dangerous. Mainstream politicians, diplomats and academics tend to present it as a senseless option at a moment in history where the focus is building a united Europe and a free-trade world. The thought of the wars in the former Yugoslavia makes many fear such an option. However, the situation in Catalonia, Flanders or Scotland is not comparable - these stateless nations are well-established democratic societies that respect human rights and free-market economies within the European Union. Thus, Catalans, Flemish or Scots cannot ignore that full political independence remains a serious option for them. The desire for secession needs to be objectively analyzed and the costs and benefits properly weighed.

Many Catalans do not consider themselves Spanish but exclusively Catalan. Such feelings raise eyebrows in other parts of Spain, Europe and elsewhere, but are widely accepted as legitimate within Catalonia. The key goal of Catalonia's main political party, Convergència i Unió (CiU), which has governed the region for more than twenty years, is to gain higher levels of self-government. It defines itself as Catalan nationalist (or Catalanist) and frequently refers to the Catalans' right to political self-determination. With this party's support, the Catalan Parliament declared fourteen years ago that it would not renounce this right. Yet it does not seek full independence from Spain. Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), which does publicly support full independence and is Catalonia's fourth largest political force (it is the third in 2007), held about 9 percent (the 16 percent in 2007) of the vote in the last regional elections. Polls on the issue reflect that a much higher percentage of the population sympathize with the idea of secession.

In Spain, this is a hot topic. The Autonomous Government of the Basque Country unveiled a "Sovereignty Plan" last year which calls for a referendum on the issue of self-determination once there is an end to the violence of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), the region's separatist terrorist group. The central Spanish government in Madrid is strongly opposed, arguing that the Spain's Constitution does not foresee the right to self-determination for any part of the country. Recently, CiU made public a plan to reform Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy that reaffirms the right to self-determination, claims Catalan representation in various international organizations and demands sole control of areas such as immigration and tax collection, among many others, which are today responsibility of the Spanish central government.

There are broadly three main arguments for the independence of Catalonia. The first is that since the Catalan cultural and language is neither understood nor accepted in Spain (and so neither protected nor fostered), the best way forward is an independent state. This results from three centuries of linguistic and cultural discrimination, which reached its pinnacle under Gen. Francisco Franco's 36-year dictatorship. The second one says that a well-defined political entity such as Catalonia should be mature enough to govern itself with its own voice in the European Union or the United Nations in order to address the problems specific to it. Finally, there is the belief that Catalonia would be better off economically by seceding. In particular, proponents of the last argument refer to the fact that Catalonia pays much more into Spain's central treasury than it gets back (subsequently referred to here as the fiscal imbalance) and to the excessive bureaucracy resulting from the current administrative arrangements.

The economic arguments are contested. Some believe an independent Catalonia would not be economically viable; others argue that it does not make sense given that globalization and the European Union have brought about the blurring of borders. But only a few seem willing to undertake a serious economic assessment of an eventual secession, as this has become a "politically incorrect" issue in Spanish politics.

The purpose of this article is to show that there are sound economic and administrative arguments supporting the case for Catalan independence and that there are no objective reasons to believe that a Catalan state could not be viable from an economic perspective. Secession would mean getting rid of the current fiscal imbalance with Spain, which has seriously hampered Catalonia's growth and endangers its future economic performance. It would also mean simplifying the current oversized bureaucracy and having a direct voice in international forums. Moreover, I will argue that the processes of economic globalization and European integration are creating a new reality that reinforces, rather than weakens, the case for secession. Overall, evidence indicates that from an economic perspective, independence is the best solution for the people of Catalonia presently.

I will not touch upon the cultural arguments and I will not discuss whether an independent Catalonia would be morally legitimate or historically justified. Though there are strong historical and cultural arguments that justify going it alone, one could also argue that there are many others that support being part of Spain.

18 d’agost 2007

Good bye Patriot!

Dedicated to Lluís Maria Xirinacs. Catalonia needs patriots like you and your example will live with us forever. Good bye, Patriot. You are not a slave now in death. One day we will be free in life. Freedom for Catalonia!

One day you will be proud of your people.

14 d’agost 2007

The Catalonians by Bart Kennedy

Below you can read what Bart Kennedy published on Thursday, September 30, 1909 in The New Age, a weekly review of politics, literature and arts, under the title The Catalonians. This article appeared a month after the famous bloody confrontations called the Tragic Week of Barcelona.

The Tragic Week in Barcelona, 1909

His point of view about the way Andalusians or Catalans are is funny and simple at the same time, but although it is a trace made with a thick brush it is a part of the reality also. He came to the logic conclusion: Catalans are not Spaniards and the best solution to the troubles of Spain is that Catalans become a separate State. He was completely right: the tempestuous relationship between Spaniards and Catalans will last to the end of times if they go on living together. He somehow foresaw what really happened the next years. In 1923 Spain became a dictatorial system where Catalanism was forbidden and our language, culture and history repressed. But the worse was about to happen. In 1936 the fascists and the Spanish ultra-national-catholics joined to destroy the Republic proclaimed in 1931. One of the reasons was what they called separatism and the Catalan secessionists. From 1939 and during nearly 40 years, the Spanish democrats were repressed for their ideas. The Catalan democrats were repressed for their ideas and for their national reality: Catalans. So the first ones to know that Spaniards and Catalans are not the same are those who violently deny this difference. Those who say Catalans are just Spaniards and nothing else and the only true nation is Spain are the ones who know better that we are not the same and our nations are different. They go on denying it because they know that if one day they accept the truth Spain will change and even disappear. The higher they shout the word Spain, the bigger they write Spain in their flags the weaker their arguments for justifying a united Spain are. Even nowadays they say we are all Spanish people but they treat us as a colony: they take our resources and give us the leftovers mixed with the contempt and humilliating insults from the Spanish media. Like the jews in medieval times, Catalans are the origin of all evil and troubles in Spain. So they are the first ones to treat us as non-Spanish people but a colony with no identity. Shame on Spain.

The Catalonians
By Bart Kennedy

The trouble in Spain is racial. The Catalonians are utterly different from any other Spanish people. The Andalusian and the Catalan are at opposite poles. And the Castilians -the men of the centre of Spain- and the Basques are also very different from the turbulent, energetic Catalonians. The language of the Catalonian is also different from the true Spanish -the Castilian. As I tramped through the mountains to the north-east, on my way to Saragossa, this was borne in upon me. I had to revise my stock of Spanish words. Veinte (twenty) transformed itself into "bin" Cinco (five) was "sin" Ochenta (eighty) was "weetantey" And there were other differences of a radical and puzzling nature. And the accent of the people was distinctly Gaelic. Imagine Gaelic spoken in a rough and guttural way and you will have some idea of the way Catalan sounds. I found them to be a rough, sudden, hurry-up people. And while I was amongst them I often longed to be back South amongst the calm and easy, come-day goday Andalusians. There was an electric energy about the Catalonians that was calculated to upset a person of easy thought such as myself. They were workers of a swift, abrupt character. And that is another trouble springing out of the difference of race. The Catalonian works, and he knows he works. And he knows that the rest of the people of Spain won't work. And therefore is it that he would like to be separated from the toil-shy Spaniards. He wants all the fruits of his labour for himself. I may say that in Andalusia no one works. Or if they do, they do it in such a secret, unobtrusive manner that it escapes the observer. I was nine weeks in Granada, and during all that time I never saw anybody doing anything. When next I am born again I sincerely trust that it will be in dear old Granada, where people neither toil nor spin -but somehow manage to reap. The Andalusian is a lovable, easy character with a supreme gift for polite lying. And his spirit rules Spain. And there you are. The Catalonian doesn't like it -and he won't have it. The merry mine-owner, who dearly loves other people to go out and do a bit of fighting for his mines, is only the ostensible cause of the trouble. For once this sturdy and lofty patriot is not in the wrong. I mean the root of the trouble is not really in him. He is but the feather showing the way that the wind blows. And the wind is blowing in the direction of Catalonia for the Catalonians. This talk of the wish to form a republic because a republic is such an angelic form of government -and this talk of the evils of clericalism- and this talk of the double-dyed and double-barrelled ruffianism of the merry mine-owner is -well, it is merely talk. The real question is one of difference of race. And there is the beginning and the end of it. A race who dearly loves work is disagreeing with a race who dearly loves rest -and plenty of it. And in the opinion of a plain and humble thinker such as myself it would be well were they separated. Oil and water can't mix. History isn't quite clear as to the stock from which the Catalonians sprung. They are certainly not a Gothic race. They possess neither the fairness of look, nor the stature of the old barbarians. They are dark, middle-sized, alert, and tempestuous. A quick, hard race of fighters. They have neighbours, though, who are certainly Goths. I mean the people of Andorra -the Andorranos. The men of Andorra are the finest looking men in the world -tall and broad and powerful, with blue eyes and fair complexions. They don't care much for the Catalonians. They are distrustful of their energy. When I was in Andorra I heard a long argument between a Catalan and some Andorranos. The Catalan was trying to explain how advantageous it would be to Andorra if it were under the wing of Catalonia. But the Andorranos could not see it. And they expressed their blindness, so to speak, with much energy. To put the case simply, it is this: an ancient, easy, conservative race has the misfortune to be living in the same house with a restless, turbulent, rushful, pushful, hurry-up race. True, there are some advantages accruing to the ancient, easy racef rom this mismated marriage. For the restless, turbulents work. In fact, they positively adore toil. And the present way the world is run a little toil is necessary to make the wheels go round. The calm and easy people don't like the turbulents. But they put up with them, because they love what they don't love: toil. Speak to an Andalusian of a Catalonian, and you will see a gentle, pitying smile come into the Andalusian's face. He looks upon the Catalonian as one would look upon the dark and benighted. He feels as the tramp feels towards the honest worker who likes to work hard for thirty shillings or a pound a week. Speak to the Catalonian of the Andalusian and there will come into his hard, energetic face a look of fierce contempt. And he will tell you many rude things concerning the Andalusians with volcanic abruptness. He will go on about his lack of energy and push. As I meandered up through Catalonia I heard a good deal of this. By that time I had been long enough in Spain to acquire a stock of what you might call green, or living, Spanish, and by the aid of that and gestures I was able to converse with these rugged and seriousmen. Serious? Yes, they are serious. There is nothing of a gay and light and airy nature about them. They never seem to have time to make a joke. I remember trying to make a joke with a Catalonian in Saragossa, and for a moment I thought there was going to be war. I had made a joking remark about some soldiers who were passing, and he gave me a snap-your-head-off glare. It was with difficulty that I soothed him and made him understand that though I was a foreigner I was one of the best. The truth of the matter is that the Catalonians do not consider themselves Spaniards at all. And as amatter of fact they are not. Any observer who goes through the length of Spain would be forced to this conclusion.Through the centuries there has been friction -if not about one thing, about another- between them and the rest of the people of Spain. There is a story to the effect that when Columbus landed in Barcelona with presents for Spain the municipal authorities were so vexed that they would allow no record to be made of his landing. How the trouble is to be really composed it is difficult to see. For it springs inherently from a racial difference. The political differences and the war in Morocco--arising out of the dispute about the mines--only mean that any stick is good enough to beat a dog. If it was not this, it would be something else. In the end Catalonia must become a separate State.

01 d’agost 2007

Catalonia Calling is on holidays

This blog will be on holidays until September.

See you then.