Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Tag: The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War, revisited


by Pepe Escobar, The Asia Times:

Puigdemont’s political twist could invoke a lethal response from Madrid: suspension of Catalonia’s government

Call it theatre of the absurd – with a lethal subtext. Under pressure from all corners – even Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council – in his fateful date with destiny Carles Puigdemont, President of Catalonia, came up with some last-minute judo dialectics. He issued a non-denial denial Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Spain. What was declared was immediately suspended; the Republic of Catalonia lasted for six seconds.

 Catalan President Carles Puigdemont signs a declaration of independence at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, on October 10, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Albert Gea
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont signs a declaration of independence at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, on October 10, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Albert Gea

The deft political gambit left Madrid predictably bewildered. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a.k.a. nano-Franco, issued an ultimatum; you have five days to say if you declared independence or not.

Independent of the answer, Madrid’s nuclear option remains on the cards; infamous article 155 of the Constitution, which calls for the suspension of Catalonia’s government and parliament from six to 12 months.

Yet that may come with a twist; a 155 in slow motion, parallel to the hazy offer of starting a process, in six months maximum, leading to Spanish constitutional reform. Madrid needs Catalonia for this reform to succeed. So, essentially, Puigdemont just needs to say “no” for the train to start rolling.

It’s way more complex than it seems. The Catalan extreme left, up to the last minute, was trying to convince Puigdemont to proclaim unconditional independence. At the same time, those six seconds left Catalan unionists predictably furious. Moderates for their part prefer to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel.

The problem is that even with discreet back channels in place, Madrid’s strategy is to ultimately force a fissure in the independentist coalition; secession inside Catalonia to prevent secession from Spain. So far, the fissure has been prevented by some members of the Catalonian Parliament signing a declaration of support for the – still non-existent – republic.

Scrap that constitution

The President of the Cantabria region, Miguel Ángel Revilla, sums it all up: Rajoy is to blame. Revilla worries that “50{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of Catalans want to leave Spain. Four years ago, that was not the case.” He stresses how a “Catalan statute – approved by the Catalans and the Spanish Parliament – was impugned by the Constitutional court, so they had to be mad, right? It did not deal with independence, it was a pact, delineating a series of obligations.”

So the unwillingness of the Spanish government to talk, according to Revilla, is what led to the current impasse. No wonder; Rajoy is closely advised by former Prime Minister José María Aznar.

The extremely reactionary administration in place in Madrid could have defused the bomb even before the referendum, by mobilizing sectors of the working class in Catalonia whose first language is Spanish, not Catalan; many of these view the independence dossier as a “war of the elites”.

Madrid though opted for Franco-ist repression tactics. King Felipe VI had one chance to appeal for calm and reunite the nation; he chose to play Scaremonger-in-Chief. EU “leaders” stuck to platitudes, like Rothschild favorite Emmanuel Macron extolling his “profound” vision of an integrated Europe and Chancellor Angela Merkel abdicating from her role of Dispenser of Wisdom; after all, this is not Crimea.

The European Commission (EC), losing the scarce credibility it still possessed, sharply ignored its own “core values”; the rights of national minorities enshrined in Article 2 of the EU founding treaty, as well as Article 21 of its charter of fundamental rights.

Podemos has some decent ideas to “save Spanish democracy”.

Yet there seems to be only one sensible road map ahead.

  1. Kick out the incompetent, nano-Franco administration, which does not want any dialogue; a tough call in a nation so viscerally conservative as Spain.
  2. Explain to everyone in Catalonia, especially the different strands of the working class, what independence would mean in practice – something the current “leaders” are incapable of. Catalonia – one of the EU’s wealthiest regions – in or out of the EU? Trading in which currency? Without an army? Able to manage a neighboring hostile power (Spain) and not recognized by France?
  3. Launch a comprehensive national dialogue process to reform the outdated 1978 constitution – privileging a modern, federal charter, emphasizing more consensus among regions, and considering the concerns of at least 25{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of hardcore independentists in Catalonia.

None of this seems to be on the cards – and that’s why the real tragedy is only beginning. Spain is already broken – and there will be no turning back.

Calling Rosa Luxemburg

The temptation to strike parallels with Europe a century ago are strong. What about adapting Rosa Luxemburg’s latest, searing essay before she was assassinated in January 1919; “You stupid henchmen! Your ‘order’ is built on sand.” At the same time Rosa Luxemburg warned the Left about the petty-bourgeois nationalisms emerging after the collapse of the Habsburgs (the exception was Czechoslovakia.)

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