Monday, 2 October 2017

What now for Spain?

On Sunday October 1st the ugly face of brutal right-wing Spanish nationalism was revealed to the world as police shipped in from all over the rest of Spain attempted to violently repress the Catalan referendum.

Meanwhile supporters of the right-wing Spanish nationalist government gathered in Madrid to support the state violence, sing Falangist songs from the Franco dictatorship era and strut around making Nazi salutes.

Spanish nationalism

By using the Guardia Civil and the Federal Police as the violent militia of Spanish nationalism, the right-wing Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy has created a huge rift between Catalonia and Castillian Spain, and also revealed the ugly face of right-wing Spanish nationalism to the world.

Of course people in former Spanish colonies across the world (south and central America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, Mexico) are perfectly well aware of the evils of Spanish nationalism, but the shocking levels of brutality, the blatantly anti-democratic motivations, and the resurgence of sickening extreme-right Falangism are profoundly shocking to the people of liberal democracies who imagined Spain as one of us rather than a country that never really made a clean break with the Franco dictatorship of 1939-1975.

Any Catalan over the age of 50 will remember the deliberate state repression of Catalan language, culture and identity under the Franco regime. In fact many of them will still have Castillian names on their birth certificates because under the Franco dictatorship it was even illegal to give Catalan children Catalan names. The brutality of the Spanish police and the flag-waving Falangists in Madrid are a powerful reminder of how brutal and repressive extreme-right Spanish nationalism has been within living memory.

After the events of October 1st 2017 it's not just people old enough to remember the Franco era who recognise extreme-right Spanish nationalism for what it is, the whole world has seen the democracy-hating brutality of Spanish nationalism through countless social media clips and images.

Spain is not a liberal democracy

One of the major problems for the corporate mainstream media is that their instinct to defend the right-wing estabishment status quo in Spain is terribly at odds with the principles of liberal democracy that they have actively promoted for decades. 

We all know what kind of "look at the evils of socialism" narratives the UK mainstream media would have spun if the brutal democracy-loathing attacks on peaceful civilians had been carried out by a left-wing government like Venezuela or Cuba, but because the force of repression is driven by the same hard-right neoliberal ideology as the UK establishment, the British media have ended up downplaying, obfuscating or even outright supporting the state violence.

Having conditioned the public to believe that the fundamental point of participatory democracy is the ballot box, and having held up non-violent resistors like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Desmond Tutu as our political role models, the countless images of Spanish police brutally attacking non-violent citizens and violently confiscating ballot boxes are  profoundly shocking to most people, and clearly totally incompatible with the mainstream media determination to spin events in favour the right-wing Spanish establishment order who carried out these acts of repression.

Conflicting forms of nationalism

The majority of the media in the UK couldn't paint a realistic picture of events in Catalonia because not only do the UK press overwhelmingly support the Tories who are the ideological blood brothers of the repressive hard-right 
neoliberal Spanish establishment party (PP), they're also proven themselves to be savagely biased against the Scottish independence movement, and they're all too aware of the parallels between the Scottish and Catalan independence movements.

So mainstream media organisations (especially those in the UK) have attempted to frame the violent repression of the peaceful democratic referendum as if the only nationalists in the equation are the Catalan independence movement, while the repressive Spanish regime are somehow just the status quo, rather than the representatives of Spanish nationalism that they are.

It's obvious why the UK media couldn't portray the situation as violent and repressive right-wing Spanish nationalism vs overwhelmingly peaceful and democratic Catalan civic nationalism.

They can't condemn the actions of the Spanish government and help us to examine the evils of Spanish nationalism, because that's uncomfortably close to them telling us to examine the dark side of British nationalism.

One of the many parallels between Catalonia and Scotland is that the nationalism of the dominant nation is routinely accepted by the media as the unquestionable status quo, even though the ancient nations of Catalonia and Scotland long predate the constructed states of unified Spain and the United Kingdom that they were incorporated into. 

Catalonia was fully absorbed into Spain by the Nueva Planta Decrees in 1716 that abolished all separate Catalan laws, institutions and rights, and Scotland was absorbed into the United Kingdom by the Act of Union in 1707.

Painting a picture of a brutal anti-democratic right-wing Spanish nationalism out of Madrid repressing the peaceful and democratic civic nationalism of the Catalans is the kind of explanation mainstream media hacks are terrified of giving out of fear that it could be so easily transposed onto the British nationalist elite in Westminster and the peaceful civic nationalism of the Scottish independence campaigners.

The desperation to defend the establishment status quo is the reason that the secessionists are always painted as the only nationalists in the equation, when all independence movements are actually conflicts between two rival forms of nationalism (the dominant nationalism of the occupying state and the repressed nationalism of the secessionists).

What next for Spain?

Although the parallels between the Scottish and Catalan independence movements are obvious, there is one major difference. While the UK establishment class have managed to rule for three uninterrupted centuries, Spain has chaotically lurched from crisis to another every few decades.

The various periods of Spanish instability and repressive rule include the rule of Napoleon's brother Joseph (1808-14) the three Carlist civil wars (1833-39, 1846-49. 1872-76), the First Spanish Republic (1873-74), the restoration of the absolutist monarchy, the Primo de Rivera dictatorship (1923-30), the Second Spanish Republic (1931-36), the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975) and the economic collapse of 2008

In fact since 1808 no political system in Spain has lasted a full 50 years. 

The Catalan government are already calling victory in the referendum and talking about a unilateral declaration of Catalan independence and Rajoy's violent repression tactics have only made the situation worse.

Short of sending in the tanks to stop the Catalans there doesn't seem to be much the hard-right Spanish nationalist government in Madrid could actually do to stop Catalonia leaving, and the Basque Country following them quickly out of the door.

Either the constructed state of Spain breaks up into its component nations, or the Spanish nationalists will be forced to return to the kind of violence and repression of the Franco era to stop it.

It looks like history is repeating again and that Spain simply can't manage a half century without extreme political instability, civil war, or yet another return to the brutal autocratic rule of dictatorship.

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