• October 1, 2017

News from the Celtic League:

A Catalan Member of Parliament (MEP) I used to know posted on Twitter this morning:

“Spanish police using violence against Catalan voters. Don’t ever call it a democracy again #CatalanReferendum”

Accompanying his post, Jordi Solé Ferrando, showed a picture of an older woman with blood running down her face. Apparently she had been attacked by a Spanish policeman who was trying to stop her voting in the referendum on independence that is being held across Catalunya today. As part of the Spanish government’s attempt to ‘uphold democracy’ over the last month it has sent in the police to seize ballot papers and boxes and in the last few days to block and/or seize public buildings in an attempt to stop or dissuade the electorate from voting. The Spanish government’s reason behind pursuing such draconian actions against its own citizens is that the Catalan parliament acted illegally in following internationally recognised democratic processes by officially sanctioning, and attempting to hold, a referendum. The Spanish court have ruled that a referendum on independence is ‘unconstitutional’ according to Spanish law and therefore illegal. 

This is a clear battle of wills. On the one side there is a democratically elected parliament in Catalunya who are pursuing what they believe is the inalienable right of its people to vote for self-determination. On the other side is a Spanish legal system that has been designed to prevent the different peoples – Catalans, Basque, Galicians etc. that currently make up the Spanish State – from deciding to pursue their own separate political nationhood.

Polls suggested in the run up to the referendum in Catalunya that if the government had allowed the referendum vote to take place freely, then the electorate would probably have voted to remain in Spain. By preventing and hampering the electorate from voting through police violence, arrests and intimidation, the Spanish State is setting itself up to alienate a swarth of the Catalan population. Spanish police action could mean that the Catalan people, if they get a chance to vote today or again in the future, choose independence even if they were previously not in favour of it or undecided.

Jordi Solé Ferrando MEP is too young to remember the Spanish fascist dictator Franco, but no doubt many of his friends and family will have direct experience of the brutality and reign of terror that accompanied his rule over many decades. Even this month a mass grave was discovered in Catalunya of people who had had been murdered for daring to oppose his authority by pursuing democracy and the Catalan way of life. There are many thousands of people alive in Catalunya today who will have experienced at first hand what Spanish authoritarian rule, under Franco, and an abject disregard for democratic principles can lead to. Post World War 2, the international community did little to stop Franco from continuing his fascist ideology in the way that he governed Spain. In fact, even after his death in 1975 and Spain’s ideological shift towards democracy, many of Franco’s supporters continued to exercise power and authority, including in the construction of the Spanish Constitution. 

Today Spain is a full member of the European Union (EU), but the voice of the EU has largely been absent, choosing instead to see the matter as an internal one to Spain. As plastic bullets are fired by the police this afternoon, at an electorate who simply want to express their democratic right to vote in a peaceful way, Europe’s political leaders should be ashamed for not condemning the actions of the Spanish authorities. The truth is they are probably worried that if enough people turn out to vote in the Catalan referendum to give it legitimacy and independence is won, what impact this will have on their own citizens, who are Scottish, Welsh, Breton, Corsican, South Tyrollean, Friesian, Bavarian, Silesian, Sardinian and so on.

Jordi is right. Attempts are being made today – and indeed in the lead up to the referendum vote – to thwart democracy through the actions of the Spanish police and the legal system. The Spanish parliament and government should have overruled the Spanish court decision, or better still, should not have allowed the case to get to court in the first place. The court decision is based on a Constitution that prevents people from pursuing their democratic right to self-determination and this is not democratic, as recognised under international law. Why amendments to the Spanish Constitution were not made previously, shows that Franco’s legacy remains alive to this day. 

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot

General Secretary the Celtic League



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