by Matthew Jacobson PhD.

What is at stake: the fight for Independence in Catalunya

When Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister of the Spanish State says that the declaration of Independence in Catalunya is not only illegal but is a criminal act (delito), what is at stake is the question of the legitimacy of modern power and in this case the Spanish State. The power and importance of the independence movement in Catalunya is that is forces into public debate the question of the legality and legitimacy of the modern State, what is democratic, and what is for the Common Good. These are the questions which modern power refuses to debate because its power depends on keeping these questions out of public debate. If the modern State was to have to justify itself, it would not stand a chance and the lies and façade would crumble. The modern State is neither justifiable nor legitimate as a representative or democratic form of government. The Catalan movement for independence threatens to expose this reality and has the chance to pose a better alternative.

Yesterday the Parliament of Catalunya voted to declare itself independent, a Republic with an autonomous government that is separate from the Spanish state. After three parties walked out and refused to vote, the 135 seat Parliament voted 70 in favor and 10 against independence. Celebrations erupted all over Catalunya and thousands filled the areas around the parliament and later the Catalan government plaza chanting that the ‘streets are theirs’ and the Spanish flag should come down off the government building. At the same time as the Catalan parliament was voting in favor of independence the Spanish Parliament was approving the implementation of Article 155 which gives it the constitutional right to take over the Catalan government, control the Catalan police and shut down the main Catalan TV and Radio Station (TV3) among other options. This enforced ‘unity’ of Spain is driven by the same force that unite the European Union; a centralized financial system that works to control and exploit the economy of the regions it controls through market, police, and media manipulation and regulation.

The question we have the chance to ask with the Catalan case is, ‘What power is legitimate and for what purpose?’ Noam Chomsky was clear: the fundamental problem we face today is that the modern State does not need to justify itself to the Common Good. What Catalan independence challenges is the legitimacy of the State as the governing body in terms of the economy and its politics. The words ‘legal, legitimate and democratic’ are being used by the State of Spain and of course many others, so it provides the opportunity to have a real debate about what those words mean. Put the State of Spain on the witness stand and let us see it answer the question of what makes it legal, legitimate and democratic. For that matter put almost any modern government on trial, if it can stand the cross examination and convinces The People that it serves their needs, great, keep it. If not; then dissolve it and start all over. The Catalans have fought for the right to decide, for whatever reasons. Their government should also have to answer to The People. As a region they can do that, but the first critical and courageous step they have taken is to challenge and refuse the States legitimacy as their representative body. The State of Spain does not represent the Catalan peoples interests. Yet obviously, the independence movement will have the same fight on their hands between Catalan corporate interests who want the right to dominate and exploit their own citizens and The Peoples interests for equality, health care, jobs, housing and justice. Yet the important difference between a regional fight for the Common Good is that as a region there is a better chance of winning. When power is more local it is more accessible and more personal, that is a revolution worth fighting for.

The Good Fight

Now the State of Spain will try to stop the Catalans from governing themselves, they will arrest, threaten and perhaps send in the National and Civil Police on to the streets as they did during the recent referendum. The first step here was to vote, then last night to decide to declare independence, now it will be to face the violence of the State takeover and occupation. International support is needed and a strong will and effort from the Catalans will be needed to refuse to be taken over. This struggle and fight it critical because in contrast to the usual day-to-day struggle to survive in Neoliberalism, there is the chance to change Catalan society for the better. This will not be easy but it is the Good Fight. If you have a Good Fight on your hands you are lucky.