As I travelled home from UKIP Conference yesterday I was watching the news come out from Catalonia and couldn’t help but think that there was no better illustration of the intrinsic link between patriotism and the struggle for national freedom than what was happening in Spain. Not just that but there is no better illustration of the European Union’s craven contempt for democracy.
This is not the first time that the Catalan people have voted for their freedom only to be ignored and suppressed. In 2012, numerous Catalan towns declared themselves free of Spanish rule, in 2014, a similar referendum to the one held yesterday showed 80% in favour of independence. Spain’s government has consistently acted to frustrate the desire of the Catalans for freedom. Most often they do so through the mechanism of the Constitutional Court of Spain as the Spanish Constitution does not allow for a vote on the independence of any Spanish region while also deeming it illegal without its consent. However, Catalan national identity is far from a modern phenomenon with the term “Catalan” and “Catalonia” emerging near the end of the 11th century.
Traditionally, nationalism in Catalonia, certainly since the time of the Spanish Civil War, has been identified with left-wing politics and indeed, it is not hard to spot the conspicuous sympathy of both the BBC and The Guardian for the current insurrection against the Spanish state. However, this should not be allowed to blind us to the brutal authoritarianism of the Spanish government in suppressing a general movement for national liberation. Even before today, during Operation Annubis, different headquarters of the Generalitat de Catalunya were searched and 14 people were arrested, including high-ranking administrative staff, and company CEO’s involved in the preparation of the referendum. Simultaneously, several printing companies were searched looking for ballot papers and ballot boxes.
It is hard to imagine a clearer democratic mandate than the 90% victory for independence in the latest referendum. However, true to form, the European Union has nothing to say and our government, in the shape of Boris Johnson, has said the issue of the legality of the referendum presents “difficulties”. So, the struggling Catalan people are quickly finding out that people they thought were their friends have in fact been flying a false flag. In the longer term therefore what is quickly becoming pretty much a national revolutionary movement, pro-independence activists have called for a General Strike on October 3rd, could have massive implications for the future of the EU as much as Spain. No doubt this is why Eurocrats are maintaining a stunned silence.
Catalonia’s people are faced with the same authoritarian repression which is implied in the suppression of our move towards Brexit. Luckily, we have been spared police raids and tear-gas but imagine a scenario in which Brexit is finally reversed, arguably the most likely outcome, and it leads to protests and unrest and it is not hard to see that we may end up rowing in a very similar boat. We should wish Catalonia’s people well as we continue to fight for our freedom and face a belligerent state totally unwilling to bow to the democratic wishes of the people.