Catalonia: Fight over right to decide political future intensifies

February 12th, 2013

Published on LINKS, by Dick Nichols, Feb 6, 2013.

Political tensions within the Spanish state have reached a new pitch following the January 23, 2013, declaration by the Catalan parliament of Catalonia’s sovereign right to decide its own political future. Antagonism is intensifying between the Catalan and national Spanish governments and polarisation continues to increase among and within all main political forces.  

The 135-seat Catalan parliament adopted the “Catalan People’s Declaration of Sovereignty and Right to Decide” by 85 votes to 41 with two abstentions. It was supported by the governing conservative nationalist federation, Convergence and Union (CiU), the independentist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), the left coalition Initiative for Catalonia-Greens and United and Alternative Left (ICV-EUiA), and by one of the three representatives of the left-nationalist Popular Unity Candidacies (CUP).

The opposition came from the Catalan branch of the conservative People’s Party (PPC), the Spanish-centralist party Citizens and from 15 of the 20 MPs of the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC). Five PSC MPs from the party’s “Catalanist” wing did not vote, while two of the three CUP MPs abstained.

After voting the PP MPs made a point of walking out of the “illegal” parliament, while the PSC MPs who hadn’t voted, including a former health minister and the mayor of regional capital Lleida, were later fined €400 each for breaking party discipline.

The declaration became inevitable after forces supporting the right to self-determination won a clear majority at the November 25, 2012, Catalan election. This had been called early by premier Arthur Mas in the hope that CiU might win an unprecedented absolute majority, allowing it to deal on its own terms with the national PP administration of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The rocket fuel for CiU’s attempt at a parliamentary record was to be the vastly expanded independence sentiment in Catalonia, as dramatically expressed at the two-million strong September 11 national day demonstration in Barcelona. However, the governing federation lost 12 of its 62 seats while much of the new independence sentiment flowed to the unambiguously independentist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC). The ERC also overtook the Party of Socialists of Catalonia as the second force in the Catalan parliament.

The ERC then made a deal to support the weakened CiU as a minority government, but in exchange for a CiU commitment to implement a road map for achieving Catalan sovereignty, with a referendum or consultation to be held by 2014 (300th anniversary of the fall of Barcelona in the War of the Spanish Succession).

The ERC also extracted a €1 billion euro increase in taxes on the wealthy and business bank deposits. This was aimed at partially reducing the €4 billion program of cuts planned for the 2013 Catalan budget by the CiU government which, like all regional administrations, is under orders from Madrid to meet the steep deficit-reduction targets dictated by the European Union.

The €1 billion tax hike, part of which has already been ruled “illegal” by Spain’s Constitutional Court, will not save Catalonia’s public services and public-sector workers from savage cuts, but has been more than enough to upset Catalan big business.

PSC capitulation: … //

… Tensions in CiU: //

… United Left response: … //

… Conclusion:

The national PP government’s response to January 23 has been to pretend that it is “irrelevant”, even while intensifying its institutional and economic warfare against the Catalan government. In recent months it has declared that all regional governments will have to report their overseas activities to Madrid, thrown into doubt whether Catalonia will be able to access the €9 billion it is claiming from the central Spanish support fund, passed legislation that will undermine Catalan as the main language of instruction in Catalonia, and left open the possibility that it will appeal the Catalan parliament declaration to the Constitutional Court.

The aim is to force the Catalan government to implement even nastier cutbacks.

At the same time one of the few “goodies” Catalonia has experienced in years — the completion of the high-speed train link between Barcelona and Madrid — was trumpeted as a gift from Madrid.

In the growing war for hearts and minds the main weapon of the enemies of Catalan self-determination is the repeated claim — made from both left and right — that it is a “distraction from the real struggle” for economic recovery.

If that argument sinks in among working people in Catalonia, Spanish centralism will win. In this context, the responsibility on the shoulders of those forces fighting the double war against austerity and for Catalonia’s national rights is great indeed.
(full text).

Links:

Links.org, International Journal of Socialist Renewal;

Waging NONviolence.org.

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