Saturday, October 31, 2015

Impressions from the spiraling crisis of the state of Spain

Yesterday it was news that the glued-to-the-chair Spanish President Mariano Rajoy has been meeting with all-Spain political parties in order to rally them around his brittle figure against the Catalan process of independence and in defense of the Franco-blessed "sacred unity of Spain". 

Of course not a single relevant Catalonia-only party or coalition (nor even Catalan regional leader of an all-Spain party) was called to La Moncloa Palace. It is being dealt as a Castilian problem, totally ignoring the will of 7.5 million Catalans. There will be a token Catalan politician meeting today but his party (Unió) has been eliminated from the political competition in the last elections, so they are totally irrelevant. 

Shamelessly President Rajoy declared to the press that "we are all together in this", meaning that the all-Spain unionist parties PSOE and Ciudadanos back him: a very narrow meaning of "all". He declined to even mention the dissident Podemos party, addressing it as "that party that you mention", which is clearly off line. The other major state-wide left-wing coalition, United Left, will attend today but again they are clearly not in line with the hardcore unionist dogma of the Weimar Coalition, which is the same as the Commission Majority at European Union level (minus Convergencia, which is affiliated to the liberal ALDE bloc, along with the unionist Ciudadanos). 

The idea that transpired is that the threatened state of Spain (Greater Castile) will act in force against the secessionist threat, even suspending the autonomy status. The relative weakness of the Weimar Coalition was also apparent even if Rajoy insisted in using the word "all", meaning actually some, mostly Castile-only, forces. 

Police raids against Catalan anarchists and Galician nationalists

I think that it is very symptomatic that the Spanish political tribunal Audiencia Nacional (alias The Inquisition, created by dictator Franco under another name) has been rounding political dissidents in both Catalonia and Galicia these days. Dozens of people have been arrested in both countries accused of being loosely related to anarchist direct action groups (in Catalonia, in spite of the alleged attacks taking place in Madrid and Zaragoza) or to Galician leftist independentist guerrilla. 

The raids can be taken as an instance of saber rattling, not the first one. However in Catalonia it has become a political issue because the autonomous police force Mossos d'Esquadra has taken part in the operation, raising the anger of a key independence process actor: the Popular Unity Lists (CUP). These quickly criticized the autonomous government for obeying dictates from Madrid, precisely when they have proposed a roadmap for independence, which implies actively denying Spain any further authority in Catalonia by means of political and social disobedience.

The Catalan process conundrum

The radical independentist bloc CUP is crucial to form an independence government in Catalonia, as Junts pel Sí (Together for the Yes) coalition does not have a majority. They are making sure that their program is incorporated to the process and that it won't be a any feint for mere continuity with previous Convergencia-led governments, under strong judiciary pressure for corruption but also under political criticism for being way too bourgeois and not prioritizing the popular classes and human rights. 

The CUP, as I say, has proposed a roadmap for independence via serious political disobedience. The proposal is at the moment blocked by means of a technicality: the new Parliament has not yet convened because the PP is delaying its constitution all it can. But it's clear that it will be put to vote as soon as the Parliament is formed. It is plausible that it will be approved, although maybe slightly amended, because it is a pre-condition by the CUP in order to continue negotiations to enable the formation of a government. 

The CUP is also demanding that the new President is not considered to be the President of an autonomous region of Spain but of the Catalan Republic. 

Yesterday it was also leaked that some councilors of the current government considered these demands to be unacceptable. However President Mas seems to have shrugged and stated the obvious: without the CUP there is no government and there is no independence process. As the Junts pel Sí list is mostly made up of independents, rather than members of the backing parties Convergencia and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, it is likely that the opinion of possible dissidents within Convergencia will have only limited weight in practical terms.

So the most likely outcome is that the CUP will succeed in the essence of their demands, which are set to make sure that the process of independence can't be reversed, that the bad practices of previous governments are not repeated and that the general program of the new government is more left-leaning. Although still not discussed, almost certainly the new President won't be Artur Mas but someone with a more leftist profile. 

As a marginal note, the support of half of the Catalonia Sí que es Pot list (Catalonia Can Indeed, participated by Podemos and United Left, as well as independents) to the election of the new President of the Parliament has been taken by some as a sign pro-independence leaning among many of its members, reinforcing the pro-independence majority in the Catalan Parliament. 

Another note is that the Catalan Government announced yesterday that it cannot pay the cost of medicines to pharmacies, what is in practical terms a signal of bankruptcy. This is in turn may be affected by the fact that Catalonia does not manage its own finances in full within the current status.


My expectation is that a provisional government of the Catalan Republic will be invested in short term, surely even before the all-Spain elections of December. This assuming that Madrid takes so long to suppress the autonomy and that the civil disobedience plan does not work well enough to allow for the constitution of such government. 

Madrid will, almost without doubt try to suppress the Catalan democratic institutions for the first time in many decades, creating an unprecedented situation that is in almost everything identical to what happened with Kosova (Kosovo) in 1990. However Catalonia is much more important economically than Kosova, not just in GDP but also because of its strategical position as nexus between the Iberian peninsula and continental Europe, and also has several times the population of the Balcanic country. 

Not at all accidentally, Spain is one of the few states of the European Union that does not recognize Kosova as an independent state (the others are Romania, Greece and Slovakia). The obvious reason for this anomalous stand is that Spain fears similar processes of unilateral independence taking place within its own territory and does not want to deal with such problems in a constructive and democratic manner but rather by means of imperialism and militarism, Milosevic-style.

While the lack of popular militias or any form of widespread gun ownership precludes a war, at least in the short term, it is also clear that the military means of Spain are relatively modest. Half of its land forces are the military police corps Guardia Civil (80,000 troops, mostly already busy in regular law enforcement), the rest of the Army having only 75,000 effectives, way too many of them officers. Other land troops that can be used are 5000 marines.

It is unclear to me how a military occupation can solve anything. In fact, we can only expect the situation to deteriorate, as a repression-disobedience stalemate consolidates between the majority's independence will and the relatively powerless occupation forces, while the conflicts spread unavoidably to other parts of the state. 

Even within the wider European Union, such a situation will be hard to manage and, in any case, it is part of the growing spiral of conflicts that it faces as it degenerates into anti-democratic ultra-capitalism at the service of an ailing Empire.

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