18 Days Remaining

Wednesday 11th
posted by Morning Star in Features

The Catalan nationalists and ruling oligarchy want their cake and they want to eat it too, writes PHIL HALL

WHILE Catalonia has the right to secede and no-one has the right to stop it, Catalan nationalism in its present form has elements that are deeply unattractive. 

There is a ruling oligarchy in power in Catalonia that circulates most of the wealth and the jobs among itself. Prejudice and cronyism are rife.

A large percentage of Catalans are actually from other parts of Spain. Miguel Cardenas, for example, was born in Andalucia. 
At the age of 14 in the sixties he was on the streets demonstrating against Franco and against Franco’s treatment of Catalonia and getting beaten up and jailed for doing so.

But he gets very angry when the Catalans talk about fiscal independence. People from the poorer regions of Spain have been the workhorses of the Catalan economy for many years. They too have helped create much of Catalonia’s wealth. They will be the victims of independence. They will be disadvantaged by an entrenched prejudice, by Catalonia turning itself into a wealthy little capitalist enclave.

If Catalonia moved from autonomy to independence, why then would Spain be obliged to continue to give Catalonia the economic privileges of a region of Spain? Spain would not be obliged to do any such thing. The poorer regions of Spain also need the support of the richer regions.

The Catalan nationalists and ruling oligarchy want their cake and they want to eat it too. 

Seen in one light, for rich little bits of countries to declare themselves independent is selfish and unacceptable. 

For example, South Africans did not agree to the proposed post-apartheid Balkanisation of their “rainbow nation” — thanks in great part to the influence of Jacob Zuma — because it would have been deeply unfair and unjust for the apartheid whites to hive off all the bits they liked the most: the game parks, vineyards, the mineral wealth, the factories and conurbations. Black South Africans created that wealth.

Having said all that, just like Scotland, Catalonia has the right to secede. Just like Scotland, more so than Yorkshire or Aragon, Catalonia has its own language, literature, traditions and strong identity. Like Scotland, Catalonia already enjoys a far-reaching autonomy.

In contrast to the response of the Spanish government, the response of the British Tory government to the call for a Scottish referendum by the Scottish Parliament was not to ban it as unconstitutional, but to allow it to go ahead. 

For a similar referendum to be classed as unconstitutional in Spain, and for the Spanish government not to allow it to go ahead and adding injury to insult by sending in the Guardia Civil to try and stop it, smacks of Francoism. 

Even Marxists agree that nations — alongside society — are real. Lenin wrote a book on the topic of the right of nations to self-determination. 

One of the aims of 1917 was to give nations the right to self-determination.

The anti-colonial movements in Africa and elsewhere were also about the right of nations to free themselves from the imperial yoke. 

The national bourgeoisie, in contrast to the comprador class, tries to stand up to imperialism in the interests of its citizens and in its own class interest. 

Fidel was a member of the national bourgeoisie, so was Nasser, so was Nyerere, so was Ho Chi Minh. These people weren’t communists or socialists to begin with, they began as nationalists.

The key point is, Catalonia has the right to secede and no-one has the right to stop it.

But, just like Brexit for the UK, the smaller nation will not have the power. The boot will be on Spain’s foot; and good luck to the Catalans with their request for entry into the European Union after such a move. 

The result of a successful declaration of independence might actually impoverish the Catalans. These moves by Catalonia’s oligarchs might end up with the oligarchs themselves losing their monopoly on power and a completely different kind of socialist government arising out the resulting upheaval.

When I see the cameras focus on young Catalans revelling in their nationhood, I wonder about the those people in Catalonia who are not revelling in it quite so much, because an independent Catalonia would entrench their disadvantage.