Barcelona: Catalan Independence

Catalonia’s administrative position echoes that of Scotland.  Situated within the Spanish State, it has its own devolved administration.  While in the neighbouring Basque Country, the radical and autonomous left strongly support independence, within Catalonia, the position is more conflicted. Catelonia is one of the richer and more industrialised areas of the Spanish State, while the South of Spain is far poorer.  Under Franco the  autonomy of the people of Catalonia was suppressed, while in particular the Catalan language was targetted.  Despite this, the independence movement in Catalonia tends not to get the same level of support from the radical community as it does in the Basque Country or indeed in Scotland.

Within the Catalan independence movement there is a conservative element, politically represented by the CiU, which seeks independence, but from a purely nationalist perspective, a soft left Catalan nationalism represented by the ERC and a slight more radical, but still fairly mainstream left nationalism in the Republican Left of Catalonia.  The radical left independence movement, Terra Lliure was established in 1978 with the objective of establishing an independent Marxist state in the Països Catalans (comprised of Catalonia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands, Carche and the Valencian from the Spanish State, Andorra,  Pyrénées-Orientales in France and Alghero on Sardinia).  In the 80s, Terra Lliure carried out a spate of bombings against Spanish and French interests, similar to ETA in the Basque Country, but by the mid-90s with little support it disbanded with the majority of its members joining the Republican Left of Catalonia.

Yet the Independence movement has a radical past.  Francesc Masia, considered “The Grandfather of Catalonia” led Catalan Solidarity until 1923, whereupon he sought refuge in France from the dictatorship of De Riveria, shaping the Catalan national identity and backing the growing insurrectionary movement in Catalonia.  In 1925 he approached Moscow for backing for a military coup to establish independence – not receiving a concrete answer an attempted coup, a failed coup was instigated, and Maria briefly became the President of Catalonia within the Second Spanish Republic, dying before he saw his beloved Catalonia succumb to the dictatorship of Franco.

The workers of Barcelona were all convinced of the need for freedom; we must convince them that there is no possibility of individual freedom to achieve collective freedom, the day they are convinced of this, we will fight together to get both one and the other in Catalonia

Francesc Marcia

Franco recognised the Catalan independence movement as a source of power which challenged his authority, and sought to eradicate Catalonian identity.  Marcia’s replacement as President of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, who served during the civil war, returned from exile in France in 1940 only to be shot by the fascists, making him the only elected head of a European government to have been executed in office.

Under Franco the Catalan language was banned in public, under thread of imprisonment.  Today it flourishes.  In Catalonia, speaking the Catalan language – as opposed to Castillian (Spanish) confers power.  Speaking in Spanish implies being poorer or not as well educated, as the majority of Castillian speakers tend to be from less developed Southern Spain who have internally emigrated in search of work.  There is a pride in the Catalan identity, while at the same time people talk of Catalan privilage being hidden within behind narratives of oppression.

As we move towards Scottish independence with a land rich in natural resources, oil, water and an educated populace while demanding our own liberation we must be wary of a victim mentality which hides our advantages and our participation in the British Empire behind the suppression that we have faced and ensure that our rightful claim to self determination and an appreciation of historic abuses does not hide its privilages as a wealthy first world country in a cloak of victimhood.  National liberation and self-determination is a worthy ideal, but must be balanced with social justice.

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