Tomorrow, Catalans will head to the polls in a referendum which is being held in defiance of the Spanish regime in Madrid. The referendum has exposed s clear deficiency in European democracy, although it is rarely discussed in those terms due to the ethnocentrism of the western mainstream media.
Before discussing the nature and implications of tomorrow’s vote, it is important to understand that not all independence/secession movements are the same and therefore they cannot be uniformly analysed, supported or opposed based on a universal standard.
In contemporary geo-politics, there are several varieties of such movements, each with unique characteristics.
1. The Reunification of Peoples
In many ways, this ought to be the most clear-cut and least violent form of ‘independence’ movement, but history has proved that this is not always the case.
While the German people began a process of peacefully reuniting after November 1989, the single Korean people remain divided due to similar political considerations which once split Germany.
While the Korean War is effectively a frozen conflict, the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir face separation from their brethren in Pakistan due to the militant policies of successive Indian governments. In Jammu and Kashmir, violence and war is a daily fact due to India’s insistence that the Kashmiri people do not unite with their brethren in Pakistan.
In Crimea, Russians peacefully voted to reunite with the Russian Federation in 2014, but in other parts of the former Russian Empire and former Soviet Union, Russian refugees remain either ransom to foreign governments or in the case of many Russians in the Baltic states, they live as stateless people.
The votes in Donetsk and Lugansk for independence from the fascist Kiev regime are examples of an attempt to begin a peaceful reconciliation and re-unification process with other Russians, although the Donbass referenda also correlate to another kind of independence movement.
2. Independence for survival
Prior to 2014, the Russian populations of Ukraine, were more or less comfortable with the uneasy balance of Ukrainian internal politics which was achieved by the Party of Regions which consistently won votes in Russian areas.
While The Party of Regions was committed to the unity of a Ukrainian state which artificially slammed together regions of historically rival nations, the Party of Regions worked within international institutions. in order to maintain an economic and free movement union with the fraternal Russian Federation.
This all changed drastically when the Kiev coup of 2014 put a regime in power which was and remains actively hostile to the Russians of Ukraine and to Moscow itself. Hence, the Donabss Republics were proclaimed after a democratic vote to separate from the Kiev regime.
3. Independence through terrorism
The late 20th and 21st century has seen a number of independence movements which do not represent a significant majority of people in a given region, nor are they achieved peacefully or with any form of consent.
The classic example of this was the breakup of Yugoslavia where ultra-nationalists in Croatia, Bosnia and later the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija used violence, warfare and terrorism to break-up the unity of Yugoslavia a state whose federal model of third way socialism, was once a model for peaceful coexistence through a unifying state ideology and mutually shared prosperity.
However, foreign actors, particularly Germany, France, Britain and later the United States, aided militants and terrorists in their break-up of Yugoslavia.
Far from being an independence movement, the break-up of Yugoslavia evolved into an encircling attack on the Serbian populations of Yugoslavia. Serbs continue to be ethnically cleansed and disenfranchised in the occupied province of Kosovo and Metohija as well as in Republika Srpska which continents to shelter Serbs from the Bosnia regime in Sarajevo.
The former parts of Yugoslavia are without few if any exceptions, worse off today than they were prior to the wars and terror campaigns of the 1990s.
Likewise, in Pakistan, Baluchistan has been a hotbed of terrorism aimed at Pakistan, much of which is funded and aided by India. Pakistan has continually warned India not to fund terrorist separatism in Baluchistan, but these warnings have been to little avail.
4. Geo-strategic/puppet independence movements
The recent vote among Iraqi Kurds to separate from the rest of Iraq is a very clear example of a group of people using ethno-nationalism to weaken the geo-strategic positions and security of multiple nations, all while serving the imperialist agenda of a third power: Israel.
Israel is keen on carving out Kurdish statelets from Iraq and Syria in particular, in order to better realise the Yinon Plan to create a so-called Greater Israel at the expense of other states.
Something similar is happening in the west Balkans where Albanian terrorists are fomenting a campaign of ethno-nationalism. In using minority populations in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece, in order to make moves towards a so-called Greater Albania, the Albanian NATO state is exploiting minority populations in the service and for the benefit of the United States, just as sure as Israel is exploiting the Kurds in order to destroy Arab unity and weaken the position of Iran and Turkey in the Middle East.
Implicit if this form of separatism is also an ethno-nationalist component wherein the seperatist groups disenfranchises or even ethnically cleanse minorities in their historic homes. This is increasingly the case in respect of Kurds via-a-vis Arabs, Assyrians and Turkomen, just as it was and remains the case in respect of Albanians vis-a-vis Slavs, most prominently, against Serbs.
5. Historic regional/sub-state national identities
When a state is comprised former states who entered into a voluntary union or regions which did something similar, sometimes one side or both agrees to dissolve the union.
A peaceful example of this was the so-called Velvet Divorce between the Czechs and Slovaks in the former Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Other unsuccessful attempts to do something similar were made, including during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
The former Kingdom of Aragon, which included the region of Catalonia, was one of the constituent kingdoms which formed Spain during the 1492 Reconquista, an event remembered by the Muslim world as an ethnic cleansing, but one remembered by Spanish nationalists as a renaissance period.
In spite of this, a part of Spain (as currently comprised), Catalonia retained a distinct culture, language and geo-political attitude. More recently, in the 20th century Catalans formed an important part of the opposition to the fascist regime of Francisco Franco.
In the late 20th and early 20th century, the Catalan people of a democratic Spain which emerged after the death of Fanrco, being increasingly lobbying for independence.
This became ever more pronounced during the rule of right-wing Prime Minister José María Aznar (1996-2004).
In 2006, the left wing government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, granted Catalonia substantial amounts of autonomy. However, subsequent rulings by the High Court in Madrid which was packed by right-wing judges, removed much of this autonomy.
This helped spur the Catalans into a rejuvenated independence movement. They tried for autonomy, won it and then had it taken away by a court decision which many Catalans viewed as corrupt and biased.
Tomorrow, Catalans will vote in an independence referendum that is not recognised by Spain, but one which the independence supporters will almost certainly win.
The vote is different from Yugoslavia and today’s Albanian regional imperialist campaign, in that it is not a matter of violence or an attempt to spread Catalan nationalism to non-Catalan lands. It is also different from the current Krudish secessionist movement in Iraq in so far as Catalan independence does not threaten the security of any state, nor is the movement being used by a foreign power for their own neo-imperial gain. It is also different from Baluchistan, as the Catalan independence movement has nothing to do with using foreign sponsored terrorism as a means to an end, nor like Donbass is it a matter of life and death.
Spain could have easily managed to create an atmosphere of dialogue and reconciliation, but Madrid under the closet Francoist government of Mariano Rajoy, has treated Catalonia like a colony, rather than a region.
Because of this, Catalans have responded by acting as an oppressed nation and it is not difficult to understand why.
Madrid has used cyber-warfare against Catalan websites, including those of the official regional government. Spain has vowed to use police from outside of Catalonia to physically dispute the peaceful vote. Spain has threatened effective martial law on Catalonia before the vote has even taken place and Spain has arrested prominent Catalan political leaders in the style of a banana republic.
For a country that is in the EU, whose principles of freedom of trade and people ought to make regional independence movements less rather than more confrontational, Spain has taken a position which has debased and degraded Catalan people and it is therefore no wonder that they have responded as they have.
The EU which could have made assurances to both sides, that Brussels would maintain a position wherein EU mechanisms for peace, dialogue, freedom of movement and economic exchange would be open to helping foster an atmosphere of trust and democratic engagement. Instead, the EU turned a blind eye for all intents and purposes. For an organisation that has prided itself on peace and unity, the EU has failed to maintain either for Catalonia’s nationalists and for Spain.
Furthermore, the internal and pan European debates about fascism, communism, liberalism, Christianity, monarchy and liberalism were supposed to be moderated, made less caustic and less violent through the EU’s presence in modern pan-Europe politics. The EU has failed in this respect also, as old ideological wounds came to the surface in both Barcelona and in Madrid.
At the same time, Spain a longtime EU member, has spat on democracy, on civil rights and on any sense of civil order, yet the mainstream media remains stunningly silent about this gross violation of modern political norms.
The failure of the EU is only matched by Spain’s failure to live up to so-called European values, values which as many suspect uphold double-standards rather than fair standards.
There is a danger of feeling that one ought to analyse, support or oppose all global independence movements in the same manner. In reality however, each country has its unique character and its own problems and likewise, each independence movement has its own vices and its own virtues.
For Catalonia, it is less about hating Spain, than it is about Catalans feeling crushed by Spain. Spain has treated Catalonia like a colony, something Yugoslavia never did to its federal constituents and something Iraq is not doing with the Kurds.
Every battle has its own victims and its own oppressors. Thanks to the latent far-right tendencies of the current Spanish leadership, Catalonia has been victimised, this is why it has risen in defiance.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.