by Ramin Mazaheri
The ultimate problem with Catalonia is that they aren’t trying to secede from the European Union.
Now that would be something which the non-Spanish left could really rally around, during this ongoing age of Brussels-imposed poverty.
For so long this seemed like a fake crisis – a distraction – but the new reality is: a huge crisis could explode now, due to a massively authoritarian/capitalist response from Madrid which was also just as massively stupid.
Catalonian separatists still do not have the democratic support of Brexit or even Scottish independence (30% in a new poll from El País), so it’s still a hard sell, but perhaps not much longer, as 52% want snap elections and parliament to be dissolved….
In many ways we can blame France: It guides the European project philosophically and sets the cultural tone for Western Europe – any organization is at least somewhat influenced by its leader, no?
And France massively overreacted to a terrorist attack (Bataclan Theater) to install a massively authoritarian/capitalist state of emergency, which is on the cusp of being permanently legal.
And a state of emergency is how Madrid is apparently planning to rule not just the restive region of Catalonia, but all of Spain. Like I said – there’s a lot of massive stupidity going on in this part of the world right now….
So leftists (and I mean this, as I always do, in the historic 1920-1970s sense and not the pale, capitalist, actually-centrist version called “leftist” in the mainstream media) should ask themselves: what should our position be, given Madrid’s response? And also, how can we take advantage of this to promote democratic/socialist policies?
This involvement would change a Catalonian narrative which many leftists, in Spain and beyond, have thus far found contrary to leftism.
True leftists have always supported the democratic aspects of Catalonian separatism because socialism must be anti-racist/multicultural: Catalonia’s voice must be able to be expressed in a vote, their culture must be preserved, their language must be used, their TV stations cannot be shut down, etc. However, the left has not supported their economic aspects, because the separatist movement is not openly promoting socialism and is indeed largely led by politicians who promote right-wing economics.
Waiting for a bloodbath to give support?
Ask yourself this: can any leftist, and even the centrists, tolerate an extended state of emergency for Spain?
Like I wrote – people follow the leader: when the US started to use “terrorism” to justify everything, other nations opposed it at first, but then soon followed; that’s the psychology of human hierarchy, which is a pattern that takes intelligence to break.
But does Spain think that because it worked in France it’s going to work there?
The difference between France and Spain is that – I am embarrassed to report – the French have massively supported the state emergency: popular support has been 85-70% over the past two years, and while that’s down the past few months it has never been below a majority (they assume the only Muslims are losing their rights – they are mistaken).
This is not at all the situation in Spain, and Madrid’s popular support will decrease with every drastic overreaction…right?
Madrid is “following the leader”, or at least the stupid precedent of France; but one size does not fit all, in a fitting epitaph for the gravestone of this current pan-European project.
So Madrid is stupidly planning to impose a state of emergency; increased militarism increases the chances for violence. Anyway, a bloodbath can never really be prevented if an authoritarian state wants it. That’s a sad reality of life.
Will Madrid’s next massively stupid order be to kill some protesters? I doubt it will get that far, but I keep being proven wrong by Madrid….
But protester deaths would get the left (not fake left) on board, and that is a game-changer. It would certainly galvanize the left into the action, as well as the silent majority and the undecideds.
I am not hoping for deaths to achieve political goals! What I am saying is: we cannot wait to extend our support – not due to our support of Catalonian independence, but due to our opposition to authoritarianism (in whose wake capitalism always follows).
Again, your possible shift in support for Catalonian separatism is caused by Madrid and the European Union’s failure to pursue both democracy and diplomacy, and not by the ideological correctness of Catalonian separatism.
Is ‘Turkish despotism’ actually European?
As it did for about 500 or so years, Spain is resembling Turkey far more than France: mass firings of government workers has already been approved by the Spanish Senate, arrests of leaders, etc.
LOL, I have always maintained that Turkey is part of Europe, so my answer is “yes”.
(Europe’s failure to acknowledge Turkey and those whom history used to call the “Turks” of Europe (but who are now solely referred to by their religion – “Muslims” – instead of their ethnicity), is evidence of the non-socialist/racist structure of the European Union. There is a fitting second epitaph here somewhere….)
But despotism is caused by capitalism – “socialist despot” is a capitalist fabrication because socialism’s governance is based on democracy, feedback, discussion, the will & needs of the 99%, etc. So despotism is not “Turkish” or “oriental” or “Asian” or “a conspiracy by Whitey”.
But the real question here for EU citizens (which will be ignored by the mainstream media) is: Will the pan-European project care that despotic, authoritarian domination is taking place within its own defined borders?
Well, the European Union undeniably has a horrible track record for respecting democracy. Their response to the Great Recession has virtually ended this discussion among intelligent people, and certainly among socialists/democrats. (May I refer you to a previous article of mine: “The horribly corrupt structure of the Eurozone & the Eurogroup”)
The European Commission’s chief already tweeted: “Spain remains our only interlocutor.” That means they won’t even talk, or won’t even try to intervene diplomatically on behalf of European citizens. This is an abnegation of their democratic responsibility. The EC is the only non-banker part of the “Troika” – it is the unelected, 28 member “cabinet” which is the bureaucratic arm of the EU (23,000 bureaucratic civil servants, assuming you think the EC contains enough democracy to grant them the honorable title of “civil servants”.)
And why should we think that Brussels won’t also support the invocation of article 116, which would set up a state of emergency across all of Spain? They approved of the one in France, after all.
Brussels didn’t condemn that from a democratic standpoint. From an economic standpoint, the only time Brussels “allowed” France to breach the holy 3% fiscal deficit rule was to add military spending for the state of emergency.
It’s funny to hear EC president Jean-Claude Juncker speak, as he wants out of his job. He approves of zero-diplomacy/democracy in Spain, of course: “We already have enough fissures and fractures,” within the EU – a clear admission of a problem he perceives as possibly reaching a breaking point.
We have abundant proof of the already-militarist (capitalist) nature of Brussels which is totally at odds with the campaign promise of a” peace-inducing” pan-European project. Spain, like France, may be one step below martial law – not very peaceful.
So even if the Catalonian movement seemingly went into second gear thanks to middle- and upper-middle class interests (let’s not forget how quickly the leading, right-wing party of Puigdemont leadership backed away once it became clear that banks and corporations were going to leave an independent Catalonia)… that doesn’t mean the left can’t jump in and steal all their thunder.
The only question is: Should we?
Stop laughing at the West European Left’s “power” to steal anything
I get that – they have a bad reputation and they’ve earned it. There is a saying in France that “One does not earn their reputation” – I think that’s bull, mostly: If people say you are a no-good son of a gun, I’ll give you a chance, but you probably are.
Let’s keep in mind that in Spain there is no Iranian Basij or pro-Chavismo Socialism peoples’ militias – how can there be a group to defend the gains made by the government when we are talking about the EU?
There might be the emergence of something like the Collective of the 500 Brothers in French Guiana, which protects strikers and demonstrators from police brutality and thus encourages democratic expression the People.
(FYI – Macron is backtracking on the 2 billion euro promise to France’s South American colony (while maintaining the same racist discourse which Le Pen would have used). That promise ended the longest general strike in the European Union that I can recall, so keep your eye on that. Few people are in the Anglophone sphere, but I wrote this article on it, and leftists need to remember good things can come in small/ religious packages.)
But, beyond the “far-leftism, but with five beers first” of French-style Antifa , we all understand why it’s fair to doubt the West European left’s capability to “steal the thunder” of even a gassy baby. And to that I can say: You’re totally justified.”
But Catalonia is looking more and more as a place and point in time where history may say: “Things changed for the left in Europe”. Fidel Castro said: “Revolution is feeling historicity of the moment”. The moment in Spain, due to the drastic overreaction of Madrid, has changed most unexpectedly.
In a country where austerity-provoked deprivation has been far worse than in France, I doubt the Spanish are as politically apathetic.
I see why Catalonian separatists are in near-deliriums of happiness right now; “everyday, 1970s style” leftists may soon join them?
Even though Madrid has used and will use the fig leaf of “terrorism”, it simply will not suffice because the situation is clearly so different from France. Therefore, ruling by a state of emergency is going to be met with major resistance, I think.
Firstly, any leftist implicitly realizes their duty to openly oppose “ruling by state of emergency” in every non-socialist wartime situation. Secondly, from a political angle, every further crackdown by Madrid can be taken advantage of to promote leftism.
I assumed this was all going to blow over. You should start to consider that it shouldn’t. Both of these ideas are increasingly irrelevant, because it’s looking likely that it won’t.
Leftists must adapt to reality – otherwise, what are we, reactionaries LOL?!
Catalonian separatism is far from ideal, but at least it is succeeding
I return to my lede sentence: the problem is the regional nature of this movement. Catalonia lost its sovereignty long ago; it is situated in a multinational political project.
This makes Catalonian separatism appear like desertion, at least to many Europeans. How can leftists support desertion? But this appearance is wrong; the Catalonia movement can be co-opted – “joined” is another perfectly true and sincere word – to advance the needs of socialism/the 99%.
And it should be – otherwise, this remains petty nationalist capitalism. And that cannot provide any advance at all.
The debate then turns to: is allowing the rebirth of Spanish fascism better in the short run, in order for more people to see the light about true leftism? Because neo-fascism – the combination of militarism, control of the judiciary and zero-social safety net capitalism – is what currently rules in France and in the United States, and it will eventually provoke a sustained backlash. Mariano Rajoy is clearly bidding (or has been instructed) to join the other new “liberal strongman” peers in Trump and Macron, and Europe should try to remember that Turkey and Erdogan don’t live in a hermetically-sealed bubble.
Thankfully, Spain is not France: they have a genuinely “leftist” party with some power in Podemos. The France Insoumise party has cultural power but little real political power.
Neither of these groups are far-leftists, despite the media’s lies, and I’m okay with that, personally.
I’d like them further to the left, but I’m not going to alienate a genuinely leftist group of people. Contrarily, I have no problem alienating centrists/“fake leftists” who will only mobilize at the very end anyway, when the outcome is secure.
Podemos has thus far responded cautiously. The far-left can fairly criticize Podemos for thus far “tacitly backing” aspects of right-wing repression.
Nobody ever said the “every day, 1970s leftist” were at the crest of the wave…but I would be quite foolish to think Podemos cannot be part of a leftist revolution and, indeed, I would say a leftist revolution (within our pan-European project) cannot succeed without them. Therefore, my criticism of them is muted.
But global criticism of Madrid is going to explode if they continue in this line – it is truly staggering, their stupidity. If Podemos remains reticent then – they will be exposed as centrists and not leftists.
Madrid is only going to boost Podemos, and that’s good – they are not US Democrats, French Socialist or British Labor. They support the snap elections, as they should; but they are not selfishly “rubbing their hands’ at their chances to do well in the snap elections – the People are waking up and moving left.
We should also remember that Spain has not been subject to Western meddling, unlike Ukraine and 100+ other countries – this means Catalonian independence has a genuine pedigree thanks to genuine and historic support from the People of the area.
Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with using that as a base to finally have a European movement which either forces true democracy/socialism, or starts a new project, or ends the project altogether.
A lot hinges on the next few movements by Madrid. It is staggering how they have refused diplomacy, which would most likely have defused the situation.
After the initial surprise, leftism recognizes what’s going on as part of the same old capitalist pattern, even if “neoliberalism” is a new concept to many while many have not heard the new “liberal strongman”. Madrid’s stupidity means we should start preparing to co-opt/join/support the Catalonian Rights Movement in order to end European austerity and capitalism everywhere.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.