This Is Not A
Homage To Catalunya
(Yes, I know. But even I have to lapse into the obvious sometimes. Finding titles for pieces is often far harder than writing the blasted things in the first place, and I'd rather this emerge with a cheesy title than not to emerge at all).
On the whole it could have been worse, of course. But even having said that, the events in Catalunya on Sunday turned out to be far more troubling than even some of the most hardened cynics amongst us had anticipated.
The evidence is out there, although you'll have to pick your sources a bit. The Twitter timelines of Catalans For Yes and Indy Barcelona will give you enough still and video images to last you a lifetime of nightmares.
For what the world (or, at least, that diminishing proportion of it which bothers to pay attention anymore) witnessed in Catalunya on Sunday was the sight of a State turned rogue against itself. A state which claimed that all those people were its citizens turned the full force of its civilian and quasi-military power upon them when they were seeking merely to exercise the most basic right of a democracy.
The wise, the canny course of action would have been for Madrid to ignore the referendum completely; to let it go ahead, but state in advance that it was of no account and that it wouldn't change anything. But, like the political leadership of all multi-national states with one dominant member - France, Greater England, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia - the challenge to the virility of that member was too much to ignore (remember that machismo is a Spanish word), and so the perceived threat of imposed detumescence had to be met, and met with a force which was as cloddish as it was violent. The sight of men and women (young and old) being punched, beaten, kicked, stamped upon, fired at with what the BBC euphemistically termed rubber 'projectiles' (which suggested that the Guardia Incivil had had about their victims with inflated condoms), and having their ballot boxes and voting papers snatched away from them; all these illustrated in the eyes of the watching world that, whatever Rajoy may claim for his State as being "an example to the world" (yes, the delusional twerp actually said that in public), that state was most emphatically not remotely democratic when its dominance was deemed to be under threat, and revealed how thin the veneer of democracy actually is over the hard, calcified wood of Francoism.
(It should be pointed out to Rajoy - and the pointier the impliment used to do so, the better - that there are good examples and there are bad examples. In this wise, the hijo de puta was right; but not in the way he meant it.)
What this posturing nincompoop, his tame judges, his willingly-obedient media and his goon squads have done is to sign the death warrant of his own beloved State. The people of Catalunya - and, by remote, the peoples of Euskadi, Galicia and those parts of Spain more remote from the centre - have now seen far too much 'up close and personal' for the current relationships between Madrid and its internal colonies to be sustainable. Except by force, of course. And the sight of people in Madrid signing Franco's theme tune and giving Falangist salutes, cheering on those tooled-up thugs as they made their way by road, sea and air to 'their' rebel province isn't going to fade from the memory either. This genie is not going back into its bottle of Cava.
That the people of Catalunya - in the face of enormous provocation - insisted on at least trying to vote is, I would aver, the most inspiring public manifestation seen in Europe since the Fall Of The Wall and the de-Sovietising of the Baltic nations. That they did it with the absolute minimum of forceful reaction (if there had been any violence from them, you could bet your last stuffed donkey from Torremolinos that it would have been shown in extenso on the official Spanish media and eagerly replayed on television stations elsewhere in Europe of a sympathetic demeanour) is a remarkable tribute to the immense moral strength which can be given to an entire society by something which is worth struggling for. That the vote qua vote could be deemed a success given the oppressive nature of the circumstances in which it was held is a triumph of the popular will.
And yet...and yet...
The actual result is, in many ways, the least satisfying and most problematic of all the possible outcomes. Set against the massive majority for independence (91 per cent, as vouched for by scores of international observers at both the polling stations and the count intself) is - as I indicated on Saturday - the level of the turnout. Anything below 60 per cent was going to be difficult to assume as giving a mandate. Below 50 per cent is the same with knobs on. The Catalan government may make the claim - one which has to be viewed with at least a modicum of caution - that over 700 000 votes were stolen away by the Guardia Civil, but even including those would put the turnout at no more than 55 per cent. Whilst it may be the case that a lot of people were deterred from voting by the well-founded fear of getting their heads kicked in by Madrid's finest, it must also be the case - especially given the margin of victory - that an awful lot of people had no intention of voting at all, and that the vast majority of them would have voted 'No' had they been forced to do so; for most of these would be the hard-line unionists who would have seen even participating in the referendum to be an act of sedition and betrayal to their own loyalties. The rest would have been that breed of Leftists who regard all nationalisms as being at least bourgeois if not outright fascist (a group of such were given a piece to themselves in the Granadiu the other day).
That the actual win/loss position would not in itself have changed had they voted is not particularly important. What it does signify is that a substantial minority of the population of Catalunya has been left without an effective democratic voice; a thing which should cause concern to any genuine democrat.
What the low turnout has also done, of course, is to render it far easier for the Rajoy régime and its friends and relations in the rest of Europe to declare the result invalid in moral terms as well as legal ones.
In doing so, they will have all the resources of the international corporate and state media at their disposal. That this should be in no doubt can be assessed by the way that supposedly responsible newspaper and television news outlets reported on the events of Sunday. Scarcely a report went by without the recurring use of the words and phrases they had used before yesterday: the referendum was invariably described as 'illegal' (because Madrid had said it was, no corporate hack ever challenged them on the assertion, and no-one seemed to want to point out that 'legal' and 'legitimate' are not synonyms); the confrontations between the Guardia Civil and not only the voters but the Catalan police and fire services were always depicted as 'clashes' (I don't think that word means what they seem to think it means; but it implies that the violence was coming from both sides more or less equally - very convenient for the desired narrative); and the voters were suddenly not voters but 'protestors' (which, in the current prevailing attitude, is tantamount to suggesting that they deserved all the fractured skulls and broken fingers that they got). There were further dishonesties, as the redoutable Craig Murray has pointed out, paying particular attention to the little words actually used and the deliberate intent behind them.
To be scrupulously fair, Sky News did a nice little number on Madrid's foreign minister Dastis by playing footage of his goons laying into unarmed voters whilst he was trying to tell the world that reports of such violence were 'fake news'. But this only went part of the way to countering the channel's Tweet of a few hours before which showed the Brave Knights of Castile in action under the text, "The people of Catalonia are finding out what happens when an illegal referendum is held." (emphasis mine).
The rest of the Greater England media was, as expected, lamentable. The Dung Aria and the Saudidependent tried to give the semblance of balance (although the frequent use of loaded terms such as 'secessionist' and 'nationalist' - always a dirty word to the English fake liberal - soured the desired impression somewhat), but the BBC - supposedly the biggest broadcast news outfit on the planet - seemed unable to actually send a staffer to cover the story, and was reduced not only to interviewing freelances and observers, but to claiming that they had suffered a 'technical problem' which caused the link to fail just when the interviewee might be about to make an inconvenient point. As with prior to the vote, the Scottish sub-branch appeared unable to grasp the relevance of what was going on and, indeed, its flagship radio news programme on Monday morning made no reference to Catalunya at all.
It has been left - as it so often seems to be nowadays - to social and 'unofficial' media both to cover the events and to poke the corporates into covering the story at all. Twitter users (as opposed to the platform itself, which seems to be run by a bunch of prissy sociopaths) have enabled people all around this planet to follow what is happening in Catalunya - and elsewhere in Iberia - in as near as dammit to real time, and with still and video images which couldn't possibly be faked. When you next see, hear or read a politician or a salaried corporate hack yammer on about how Twitter must be brought to heel, ponder for a moment what their real motives may be.
The political reaction to the goings on was just as predictable. EU governments, the EU Commission and the European Council all washed their hands of the matter, insisting that it was an 'internal' 'Spanish' matter, and that they could not intervene. Despite Commission President Juncker saying a few days before that the EU would have to respect the result of the referendum, there was to be no condemnation from that quarter of the actions of the Rajoy régime. Similarly, European Council President Tusk did a passable impression of Pontius Pilate, seemingly oblivious to the obvious parallels between Rajoy and another head of government well within living memory who sent the militia in to crack heads in the name of 'defending national unity'; one Wojciech Jaruzelski.
(By the way, the claims by some that Spain has fallen foul of Article 7 of the Treaty of Lisbon, and should thereby be suspended from the EU, is just so much marsh gas, as Tim Fenton explains).
Similarly, Guy Verhofstadt - supposedly one of the great liberal saints of our time - made an attempted intervention which was too weak and too late. If these three men constitute the leadership of our continent, then perhaps that nice Mr. Farrago was on to something after all.
Not a single government in Europe has publicly castigated Madrid for its clear breaches of fundamental rights. Au contraire, no less a seasoned diplomat than Boris The Glider himself expressed international solidarity with his soul-mates in the Partido Popular. Instead, it has been left to opposition party leaders, leaders of devolved governments and individual parliamentarians and political groupings within parliaments to seek to call Rajoy to account. In Greater England, however, even that was too little, too late, with Corbyn more intent on crossing Tweets with Violet Elizabeth Maybot, and Vince The Cable Guy turning up after the worst of the fighting was over to shout that Something Must Be Done.
Beyond a lot of (justified) shouting, nothing of any consequence will be done to bring the Spanish government to judgement. Madrid - apart from ruling over the fourth or fifth largest economy of the EU - is too close to the heart of the European Project™ to face sanction, and is too close ideologically to the governments of the most powerful EU states to ever have to contemplate standing in the dock. Only history, perhaps, will be allowed to judge. That that adjudication is likely to be critical to the point of damning is small consolation for the events of the past few weeks.
So, what of the future? President Puigdemont and his government must be aware that they are playing with a weaker hand than they had hoped, and what cards they do have are all in the 'ethical' suit rather than the 'practical'; and moral considerations play no part in political processes nowadays. There has been a call from him today for dialogue with Madrid but, given the deep-seated prejudices holding sway in both the Spanish government and the official opposition, such a development is unlikely in the extreme. Spain now knows that it can in effect act with impunity, at least as far as international ramifications are concerned. Catalunya's position is weak, and it has no powerful friends in Europe.
However, the future is also likely to be pretty bleak for the Spanish state in its current configuration. Both the Partido Popular and the 'socialists' of PSOE who have lined up behind Rajoy (think Blairism in its combination of footling, boodling and ingratiating with the forces of Reaction) are not going to come out of this well. The PP's arrogant mis-steps have undermined - possibly terminally - the consititutional settlements of 1978 and later, and may lead to some sort of re-alignment behind calls for a less centralist, less pseudo-colonial model. But ancien régimes have a nasty habit of hanging on for far longer than is good for anyone, even themselves, and will resort to repressive measures, appeals to 'patriotism' and even downright criminality in order to maintain their privileged position.
It's a time of deep uncertainty, and the most uncertain thing of all right now seems to be the likelihood of democratic values being cherished and defended by those who have the greatest powers to do so. Expediency will rule, as it so often has done, but it may be the most certain thing we can expect is that - barring an improbable commitment on the part of Madrid to being open and accomodating to a people who have (turnout notwithstanding) shown at the very least a marked reluctance to continue under its rule - Catalunya's independence may merely have been forestalled, not permanently prevented.