STRIKE DAY IN CATALUÑA, by Matthew Jacobson PhD


There is a general strike here in Barcelona today. This means the public transportation is almost totally closed and government offices are all closed, as are many of the businesses. There will be a large demonstrations during the day and at 6:00pm in the city center in which hundreds of thousands will take to the streets to protest the brutality of the Spanish police during the Independence referendum vote on Sunday, October 1st in which over 800 residents were injured.

There is a growing tension now surrounding what will occur given that the vote has taken place and the results were over 90% in favor of creating an independent Republic of Cataluña. Although the results were overwhelmingly supporting independence all Catalans are not united, as the numbers that voted were around half.

90% of the 2.26 million Catalans who voted on Sunday voted in favour of independence, according to preliminary results released by the region’s government. The region has 5.3 million voters. Officials said 770,000 votes were lost due to disruption which resulted in polling stations being raided by Spanish police.’

Numbers would have been much higher if the Spanish government had not sent in the Guardia Civil aggressively into polling stations, who at times beat and threw residents to the pavement drawing a national and international outcry.

The Catalan government has said it would declare independence in the next day or so. There is the possibility that the Spanish government would then attempt to enter shut down the Catalan government that is allowed under a constitutional norm called Article 155[1]. If this were to take place the conflict would rapidly escalate into a potentially unstable situation that could provoke violent reactions on the streets of Barcelona and other communities in Cataluña.

An important factor now in the Catalan’s efforts for independence from the Spanish state is the reaction of the international community, the European Union and its member states. Pressure from the EU states would put the Spanish state on alert and potentially modify their actions in attempting to crush the Independence movement. The Catalan’s who were supportive of their Republic’s efforts in the civil war in the late thirties remember the lack of support from the international community, resulting in the ability of Franco to take over the country and remain as the fascist dictator of Spain and Cataluña for thirty years from 1939 to 1975. Many Catalan leaders were arrested, some shot by firing squads in the Montjuic castell and the Catalans suffered a period that has left many still with feelings of resentment and hatred for the Spanish State. During Franco’s dictatorship the Catalan language was illegal to teach in the schools or spoken in any public form as was their cultural practices.

Today the streets will be filled with demonstrations and conversations, debates and the sharing of feelings left over from the tensions of Sunday in which violent clashes with Spanish police increased the resentment and determination of many Catalans to separate further from the Spanish State. Although no one knows what will happen, there is a clear sense that what is happening is unprecedented and the actions of the Spanish State has only increased the desires and efforts for Catalan’s to become a new Republic.