Catalonia: democracy and secession

Nicolas Collignon Society 0 Comments

The Catalan question is not a national question, nor a question of a nation state, but a question of democracy.

lead Catalonia on strike over the violence of the Guardia Civil preventing the referendum vote on October 3, 2017. NurPhoto/Press Association. All rights reserved.For DiEM25 as a pan-European and transnational movement, the
emancipatory critique of all nationalisms is a given. It is simply a matter of
principle, and therefore beyond discussion.

But that does not mean that we belong to the broad chorus of those who
ascribe “mistakes” to all parties in the dramatic crisis of the Spanish state.
The central government in Madrid, because it “overreacts”, its armed forces
because they act “disproportionately”, and the Catalan government, because it
is/was “nationalist” and therefore the main actor responsible for this crisis.

Things are not that simple.

At the heart of the matter, first of all, it is important to note once
again the complete and, in this case, infamous failure of the European
Commission and the governments of the EU member states. The rejection of the
Catalan Government’s request that they play a mediatory role in their conflict
with the Spanish State and its police force is only the final confirmation of
this failure and infamy. In fact, the Europeanization of the Catalan question
could have been the beginning of a progressive response.

The Commission, however, declares the conflict to be an “internal
affair” of Spain and thus definitively takes sides with the regime in Madrid.
It thereby reaffirms the commitment of the governments of the EU member states,
which had previously already supported the Spanish State.

The attitude of the Commission and its governments follows the
calculation that politics must be reduced to the unconditional securing of
one’s own power. Madrid, Brussels, Paris and Berlin also agree among themselves
that they will base this calculation primarily on the use of a paramilitarily
reinforced police force. With the violent attack on the mass protests against
the Hamburg G20 summit, Berlin has once again set the line of march, a violence
seconded by Paris when it made the French state of emergency permanent.

From the perspective of over 900 people who have been brutally injured
by Rajoy’s uniformed squad groups, the only legitimate judgement on the Spanish
situation is summed up in the sentence “Spain is dead“, deployed by the author Albert
Sanchéz Piñol in his commentary on these events.

In view of this complicity of the EU and its governments with the police
riots and the millionfold robbery of the right to the freedom of political
choice and the right to free political expression, we add: “This EU is dead.”

The violence of majoritarian servitude

It is not only the Spanish State, which once again has impressively
confirmed its Francoist origins, that calls for our condemnation. And not only
the complicity of the EU and its governments with the post-Francoist regime.
What also deserves our condemnation in no small part is the subjective loyalty
of the Spanish majority to its regime. In this lies the essentially political
problem of this crisis, as well as many another crisis, which therefore are the
most difficult to solve: the problem of the voluntary servitude of the
majority, and the problem of the violence used by these servants against those
who no longer want to be servants.

This includes those parts of the Spanish (and not only the Spanish)
left, who wanted to criticize the regime in Madrid only to the point where they
requested the movement for a referendum to recognize the unity of the Spanish
state, and thus to subjugate itself to it. The hypocritical arguments of these
left must also be taken to task: the references to the “petty bourgeois”
foundation of the movement, the alleged “concealment” of the allegedly only
relevant “social question” and, last but not least, their reduction of the
Catalan movement to a nationalist movement.

All these arguments are only repeating with regard to the Catalan
question, what the Spanish left has already said to the Basque question. They
are repeating what the Turkish left said to the Kurdish question, what the
French left said to the Corsican question, what the British left said to the
Irish and Scottish question, what the Israeli said to the Palestinian question,
what the Sinhala left said to the Tamil question. They repeat what the Nobel
Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as a defender of the unity of the state
of Myanmar said to the slaughter of the Rohingya minority.

In their criticisms of “nationalism”, or, more precisely, of
“separatism” and “secessionism” – they all suddenly become advocates for the
party of their respective majority society, and thus the party of their state.
They become a party par excellence of the state, the party of the unity of the
state to be secured at (almost) any price, and consequently a party to the
violence used by the state. It doesn’t matter at all if this criticism is based
not in national, but in social categories: in both cases, majoritarian
decisions are taken. This is what we fundamentally oppose.

For the same reason, the Catalan question for us is not a national
question, nor a question of a nation state, but a question of democracy. It
poses itself not only in every actually existing, but also in every possible
democracy. It is the inevitable self-questioning of every democracy. It stands
as long as democracy is constituted by the state, and it is set up as long as
democracy is in a majority ratio. It articulates the right of the self-defence
of minorities, and it defines this right as a right to separation and

The last step is essential, because the right to self-defence of the
minority becomes practical only as a right to separation or secession. The
right to separation or secession therefore becomes the essential right also of
the minorities in a Catalan, Kurdish, Corsican, Irish, Scottish, Palestinian,
Tamil, or Rohingya state, and thus the ultimate proof of democracy.

However, the right to self-defence of the minorities proves itself not
only as the right to separation and secession from the majority, nation and
state, but also as a right to the transgression of nation and state in favour
of a global, practically-speaking a continental, for us a European perspective.

The overcoming of the unity of majority, nation and state, always
invariably and without exception, has to be tackled at the same time both in
the great and in the small: going the widest distance and to the proximate
nearness at one and the same time. This is the cause of the city as cosmopolis,
and it is the cause of a federation of cities as a cosmopolitan federation: a
federation of individuals. The good part of this is that in the cosmopolitan
trajectory path and goal always coincide. Spain is dead, this EU is dead.

Country or region:




Civil society


Democracy and government

International politics


CC by NC 4.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *