Catalonia: Spanish Centralism or Self-Defeating Hubris of the Authoritarian Mind? by Thomas Harrington

Here’s the history behind the current stand-off between Spain and Catalonia. From Thomas Harrington at

On Wednesday, the Spanish government conducted a number of armed raids upon government ministries in Barcelona, and effectively suspended the charter of the autonomous government to which they belong in order to interdict the circulation of that most dangerous of social threats: ballot boxes and the little paper slips that citizens place in them on polling day.

Catalonia is, like all societies I know of, a diverse and ideologically divided one. There are many people there that identify overwhelmingly with a Catalan past, the Catalan language and, perhaps most importantly, uniquely Catalan patterns of social organization and civic comportment, ones that place an inordinate – at least in relation to traditional Spanish ones – emphasis on negotiation (as opposed to fiats), commerce as (opposed to strategic intimidation and war-making) rational inquiry and the primacy of personal conscience (opposed to obedience to broadly propagated social and religious orthodoxies).

There are other members of Catalan society, and this fact should not be hidden, who identify primarily as Spaniards, and see in the Spanish past the irreplaceable basis of their own personal and social identity, and who often invoke Spain’s (which is to say Spain’ Catholic and imperialist Castilian heartland) as the root of all that has made Spain great and a player on the world stage for more than 500 years.

Between them are a number of people who feel both deeply Catalan and deeply Spanish and see no reason why they should have to choose between the two.

There is, of course, a well-known mechanism for resolving divided opinions about the future direction of a societies, and for that matter, the future directions of boards of directors and neighborhood associations, just to mention a few.

It’s called taking a vote. And it is this simple democratic mechanism – nothing more and nothing less – that a clear majority of Catalans want to avail themselves of on Sunday October 1st.

There is only one problem. The Spanish central government, led by Mariano Rajoy and his cabinet of ministers drawn largely from what is often called the “sociology of Francoism” is dead set against their doing so.

To continue reading: Catalonia: Spanish Centralism or Self-Defeating Hubris of the Authoritarian Mind?




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