Bloody Barcelona

I checked the news over the weekend and saw Spanish police beating the shit out of people in the streets of Barcelona. Apparently the Catalans decided to hold a referendum on independence, and the central government in Madrid didn’t like it and deemed it illegal (which it probably was, but Crimea showed us that doesn’t matter). They then sent in the police to seize ballot boxes, close down polling stations, and crack some skulls.

From what my friends with knowledge of Catalonia tell me, there has never been majority support for independence. instead, there is a sizeable, well-organised and vocal minority in favour of Catalonian independence, ably supported by a diaspora who seemingly talk about nothing else despite having left the place 55 years ago, and a lot of pressure is put on waverers to participate in noisy, pro-independence activities through schools, etc. Thus far, it doesn’t sound a whole lot different from Scotland. I suspect the best thing the Spanish government could have done was to state unequivocally that the referendum is illegal and that it won’t recognise the result, and then just let it go ahead. Chances are the Catalans wouldn’t have voted to secede, and even if they did the central government could have just ignored the results.

But the people who make up governments are petty, incompetent bullies at the best of times, and they’ve panicked and gone in mob-handed. Perhaps they thought they wouldn’t be able to ignore the referendum result, even if it was carried out illegally, or maybe they were worried the Basques might hold a vote of their own (one which might not be so easy to dismiss). Either way, it’s hard to see how they could have handled this worse than they have. The scenes of people having the shit kicked out of them by police dressed as Robocop will send waverers to the polling stations in droves and bring thousands more into the pro-independence tent.

Although these events came as a surprise, but perhaps they shouldn’t have. Possibly the most unusual thing about police with Spanish words on their body armour beating the shit out of helpless civilians is that in this case they speak with a mainland dialect. Latin governments have form in this area, particularly in South America. Such comparisons are easy, but contrasts are also interesting.

Many people have wondered why the US police haven’t deployed similar tactics against the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter when they engage in violence, intimidation, and rioting on the streets of America. Well, the US is not Spain and they have different governments, but in certain fundamental ways ruling classes don’t differ much from country to country. The reason why American police are not beating the shit out of Antifa is because their paymasters don’t feel threatened by events unfolding on the streets, whereas the government in Madrid clearly felt threatened by the poll in Catalonia. Make no mistake, should American politicians feel similarly threatened you’d see riot police beating the hell out of civilians as well as firing rubber bullets into crowds and, if necessary, live rounds. The same is undoubtedly true for the UK and any other country you care to mention. The scenes we are seeing on the streets of Barcelona is the result of the ruling classes feeling threatened, nothing more.

Brexiteers are condemning what they see as double-standards from the EU: happy to interfere in the internal affairs of the UK, e.g. Northern Ireland and Scotland but silent on what is happening in Spain. But the poll took place on a Sunday and you’re not going to get high-ranking EU employees doing anything resembling work between Friday and Monday lunchtimes, especially Jean-Claude Juncker who was probably sleeping off a hangover and learned about the situation only when the Panadol kicked in. Remainers are firing back at the Brexiteers along the lines of “So you dooooooo want the EU to interfere in the internal matters of member states!” None of this is helpful.

Of course, the EU backs the Spanish government and will do little to condemn their heavy-handed response to the vote. The political integrity of Spain is vitally important to the EU, seeing how Spain is a staunchly pro-EU member and generally willing to go along with whatever the Eurocrats decide. This is wholly different from Britain, which the EU would rather see broken up or watered down and thus unable to object to their grand plans. In other words, the EU is similarly threatened by the prospect of an independent Catalonia and the Spanish police beating up voters is wholly in their interests. Contrary to what some people are saying, the EU is not displaying double-standards it is being characteristically consistent: it will support absolutely anything that is in the interests of the EU project and the cushy positions of its officers, and condemn anything that goes against them. Underneath what is obviously a complex and emotional subject it is all rather simple, really.

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46 thoughts on “Bloody Barcelona

  1. I cannot comment on the events in Catalonia (last time I was there was 40 years ago) but the one thing life today teaches us is that we never change.

    You can look at numerous historical events like Peterloo and the Odessa Steps and Tianenmen Square and realise that all authority throughout history has had just one response to the people: beat the living shit out of them if they so much as stir.

    The Spanish have merely followed the trend of history and clubbed unarmed people to ensure they stay in power and are untroubled in their cosy nests. I am as far from a revolutionary as you can get but frankly, I detest the casual violence imposed by the elite.

  2. The Spanish government could have held a properly monitored election with a proper campaign and likely won.
    It could have sent enough force to close down all polling stations and counts.
    It actually sent enough force to outrage the populace but insufficient to close down the election.

  3. This is an interesting turn of events as it looked like Europe had finally conquered the threat of nationalism for now. Following the Brexit shock nationalism was thoroughly rejected by the Austrians, the Dutch, the French and I guess you could say by the Germans as well as I wouldn’t say that those androgynous looking German nationalist ladies will amount to much.

  4. One of my best friends is Spanish, and his take on the news this morning is that the Catalan separatists have completed the march through the institutions (which was allowed by successive government reliant on either them or the Basques) and they should have sent the tanks in, rather than the coppers.

    A kind of Mediterranean go big or go home strategy.

    He’s like an olive skinned Mr Ecks.

    I suspect he’s right.

  5. The net result is that 38% of the eligible Catalonian voters chose independence. For comparison, 37% of the eligible UK voters chose Brexit last year.

    Of course these numbers have to be weighed against the other side: in 2014, 38% of the Scots voters backed independence but 46% didn’t. The turnout was a whopping 85%. It looks like Madrid had done everything it could to keep Catalonian unionists at home: it made the referendum less representative but the 89% “yes” vote conveyed the message that most unionists don’t care much for their cause.

    @Watcher: unlike Peterloo and Tiananmen, the Odessa steps massacre never happened. Eisenstein invented the whole episode. A brilliant mind.

  6. Watching the agents of the nationstate attack freedom of assembly and freedom of speech must have convinced a lot more Catalans that the state is not their friend. If Spain were so confident of secession being unconstitutional, Rajoy should have left it to the law courts.

  7. This is a long story and much, much more complex than the reporting shows. I can now see no solution. Slightly less than half the population wants independence and the other half don’t (although many are proud Catalans).

    In the Catalan Regional parliament, the independence parties (from exterme anti-capitalist left to absolutely corrupt Catalan right – 3% of all public works and other contracts to the Pujol family or others) has a slight majority of seats and a slight minority of votes. They will never be able to form a stable government as they hate each other. The only thing which brings them together is Independence.

    Years back, Zapatero promised the nationalists that he would approve any new Estatuto (the rules that manage the level of self-government) that came out of the Catalan Parliament. That provoked an ‘ambitious’ new Estatuto that was finally rejected by the Spanish parliament (with PP votes against) from where the Catalan parliment gets its legitimacy.

    A new ‘we can do what we want attitude’ has prevailed and the radical side of nationalism has played the victim card very well and broken the law every step of the way with no clear reaction from the central government which has, as we say, dropped it’s trousers every time, to the point of hearing the independentistas saying Spain robs us and at the same time providing vast sums of additional money to prop up the regime.

    The level of intimidation is harsh against non-nationalists and almost nobody speaks out against the manoeuvers in education, finance, linguistic policy etc.

    Under Spanish law there is no room for unilateral referendums in only a part of the territory. But the Catalan government has played its hand well through doing what they shouldn’t legally and putting Rajoy to the wall. Rajoy had the option of suspending the Catalan Autonomy (in part or wholly) under article 155 of the constitution. He didn’t do it. We all knew the Catalan government wouldn’t back down and now we have this. The police put into an impossible position with the regional police refusing to obey orders (that many don’t agree with and others are afraid to challenge).

    Legally, the Catalan government should be arrested and tried for sedition, the Catalan police force for disobeying orders, and down through society, etc. Hmm. Difficult call, eh?

    The problem is that just over 50% of the poulation are NOT independentistas, but they have been cowed for years, marginalised, afraid of speaking out and let down by central government.

    Dialogue is now useless. Any concessions are merely the stepping point to independence which will probably be declared unilaterally later this week with a large minority of ciitznes in favour when things will genuinely go pear-shaped.

    This is a true popcorn time.

  8. Pingback: Leavers: 38% in Catalonia, 37% in UK | The Dilettante's Winterings Leavers: 38% in Catalonia, 37% in UK | At 55°45' N.L.

  9. @bilbaoboy,

    Is Barcelona likely to be a mess under martial law (of one side or another) that no one will dare visit next spring?

  10. @Alex – “the Odessa steps massacre never happened”

    Thanks comrade, it takes someone with balls of steel to crush European nationalism.

    “At about this time I met Ana Pauker. A big, stout woman, with short, untidy, gray hair, fierce blue eyes under lowering eyebrows, and a fascinating smile which was not spoiled by the fact that her upper lip hung over her lower one, she was like a boa constrictor which has just been fed, and therefore is not going to eat you—at the moment! 1 could well imagine that she had denounced her own husband, who in consequence was shot; further acquaintance showed me the cold and dehumanized brilliance by which she had reached the powerful position she occupied.”

    http://www.tkinter.smig.net/PrincessIleana/LHJ-Mar1952/

  11. BIG

    Ask me again at the end of the week. What happens over the next few days will define the future and your projected holiday.

    I suspect that your scenario will not happen. The true revolutionaries are few and are punching way above their weight at the moment.

    How the rest of Catalan society weighs in is going to be important.

    Most local and multinational big businesses have a contingency plan to shift HQ to Madrid overnight and for the Catalans, money is very important.

    The write Javier Marias says the referendum was a trap like the question:
    You don’t hit your wife any more, do you?
    Yes or no, both are bad answers….

  12. @bilbaoboy

    Can you shed some light on where the Catalans sit in terms of education and income levels, on Europe and the Euro and lastly on multiculturalism?

  13. “You can look at numerous historical events like Peterloo and the Odessa Steps and Tianenmen Square …”

    What an odd comparison. Peterloo happened because the chairman of the local magistrates lost his head and ignored the Home Secretary’s wishes. To add to his folly he used amateur soldiers (Yeomanry).

    Odessa Steps was a fiction, a mere film scene.

  14. Bardon

    In Spain, Catalonia represents around 19% GDP with 16% of the population. It is a traditionally rich industrial area (for the last 140 years) with a liberal bourgousie. Within Europe and taken apart they are probably at the EU average or higher (like the Basque Country) in some aspects.

    These are the figures for Cataluña compared with the EU. Warning: prepared by the Catalan Statistics Agency. I presume they are accurate.
    https://www.idescat.cat/economia/inec?st=2&lang=es

    The language is widely spoken and easy for a Spaniard, italian or French speaker to learn. Education has been a key target for nationalists and it is nigh on impossible to study in Spanish in Cataluña within the public system despite guarantees to the contrary particularly as their wealth was built on internal immigration above all from Andalucia.

    Catalans are among the richest in Spain, along with Madrid and the Basque Country. They are more open to immigration (north of Africa, east of Europe) they have more problems from this than most other areas. However, the current government maintained by small groups of anti-capitalists is of course right on when it comes to multiculturalism, mass immigration and all other progressive causes etc.etc.

    Previous nationalist governments have turned out to be absolutely riddled with corruption and yet many are still there hanging on/around/within the current government.

    The economy is heavily dependent on Spain (the main ‘export’ market) and every time something happens, some Catalan product gets boycotted (usually Cava, their sparkling wine), but they have a lot of multinational HQs and are strong in manufacturing, finance, universities and medicine.

    The current govervn claims Spain takes out more than it puts back (whatever happened to solidarity between regions), but their numbers are dodgy (Scotland?) and open to discussion.

    There was a famous debate between the current vice-president Junqueras and Josep Borrel a catalan who was minister for the socialists in Madrid where he trounced Junqueras on every level, but it is no longer about logic or truth. It is raw emotion and as such the economic reality of an independent Cataluña is ignored:
    Out of the EU
    Out of the Euro (although they can continue to use it)
    Barca, Espanyol and Girona out of La Liga (this is for many the big one)?
    Spanish refusing to buy their products
    Most major companies transferring HQs (and tax base) to Madrid (got to be in the EU)
    Squabbling between the parties that make up the current government
    Civil servants in an impossible position (who to obey)
    Citizens in an impossible position (where do we pay our taxes)

    If (or more probably when) the unilateral declaration of independence comes, the cat will be among the pigeons and your scenario could play out. In a battle of force Spain will win, but as has been seen this weekend the ‘underdog’ wins the publicity battle.

    If my Catalan mates will forgive me, the Catalans en masse see themselves as as an enlightened elite in a backward country.

  15. Incidentally, the +800 injured is an unverified Catalan government claim. I suspect it will prove to be extremely false.

  16. Spain has always had 2 Achilles heels, Basque and Catalonia. They didn’t reconcile these in 1978 and, ultimately, one of the two will be Spain’s Democratic downfall.

    Think clearly about what the (out of town) police were instructed to stop with extreme force this week; people putting a piece of paper into a box.

    Paper. Box.

    Now imagine if that happened in Glasgow and Edinburgh next week because May and Sturgeon hadn’t agreed.

    As BilbaoBoy says, go long popcorn.

  17. Cheers for the info bilbaoboy very much appreciated. So they have clout but is it enough to take on the might of the European program and its state apparatus.

    All I can think of is yet another Clash song from my era, and it was only recently I was reminiscing ala Grenfell on White Man in Hammersmith Palais and White Riot (still don’t have a cause) and now its:

    Spanish bombs, yo te quierro y finito
    Yo te querda, oh mi corazón
    Spanish bombs, yo te quierro y finito
    Yo te querda, oh mi corazón

    Hope things work out okay for you and your Catalan mates.

  18. @Alex – “the Odessa steps massacre never happened”

    I had no idea, obviously, so insert another Russian massacre instead. Thanks

  19. @Bill – “Now imagine if that happened in Glasgow and Edinburgh next week because May and Sturgeon hadn’t agreed.”

    It wouldn’t happen, the English have well and truly crushed all rebellious Scots a very long time ago and May simply would not permit them to rebel. If it were in Belfast or Derry then the Armalite would be the only alternative to the ballot box.

  20. Thanks Bardon

    As I let it all sink in I have the feeling that the Govern will declare independence and force the Spanish state to suspend the Statute of Autonomy and take control of the region. This is just as good as becoming independent as it will push some no nationalists towards demanding independence. Never let a crisis go to waste!

    Again if that happens, the legal situation of the Govern becomes critical and I presume they would be arrested and charged with sedition. A new round of legal martyrs.

    Truly we are living in interesting times.

  21. Well at least we can get the update from the front line as things go down. No doubt the George Orwells and the Ernest Hemingways of our time are heading there now.

    This crisis has to be bad for NATO which is good for Putin. Bloody reds again.

  22. No doubt the George Orwells and the Ernest Hemingways of our time are heading there now.

    I’m already sketching an outline of “For Whom the iPhone Beeps”.

  23. “should American politicians feel similarly threatened you’d see riot police beating the hell out of civilians as well as firing rubber bullets into crowds and, if necessary, live rounds”

    Given the number and variety of guns the civilians rightfully posess, perhaps not. One of the fundamental ways in which those “different governments” are different. I hear the threatened Brits have even tried it in those places, and it did not quite pan out.

  24. Pat

    The Spanish government could have held a properly monitored election with a proper campaign and likely won.
    It could have sent enough force to close down all polling stations and counts.
    It actually sent enough force to outrage the populace but insufficient to close down the election.

    It’s almost as though they’ve never read Machiavelli’s “The Prince”:
    From Chapter 3:
    “Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”

  25. Bilbaoboy, thanks for an excellent summary.

    I was watching the news and the Internet most of yesterday and could see that in many cases the police and Guardia Civil were severely provoked before the edited shots of them laying into the protesters took place. You probably wouldn’t have to dig too deep to see the hairy hand of the homegrown version of Antifa, the CUP, behind the provocations. With ballot box stuffing, children and multiple voting occurring, the whole exercise would have made a Maduro blush. There were even some Paliwood moments of the ¿victims? of the police violence having their wounds touched up for the cameras as they do in Gaza.
    At the end of the day, none of that is pertinent as it is now all about “feelings”.

  26. As an OT aside, and referring to Las Vegas-

    Is this the event that sinks liberal gun laws in the states?* I can’t think of a spree shooting carried out from a distance (offhand).

    Concealed carry hand guns aren’t much use against a bloke hanging out a window 100 feet up, 300 yards away with a full-auto machine gun**

    *Its a genuine question- I don’t have an opinion as to whether their laws are any good or not
    **note- I know fuck all about guns, forgive misused terms

  27. “Is this the event that sinks liberal gun laws in the states?* I can’t think of a spree shooting carried out from a distance (offhand).”

    An early mass shooting (60’s) was from a bell tower on a university campus. A number of civilian shooters pinned him down while police when up the tower.

    From the little I have read, this guy clearly had some very serious hardware to do this, stuff that is not available over the counter even in the US. At a guess, several belt feed machine guns that are almost certainly illegally obtained. It’s going to be very hard to get to the real truth on this one, it’s going to be a political landmine in every direction.

  28. Some of the madness has already started…

    Quote from Gaby Giffords ;

    ““Imagine how much worse last night’s shooting could have been if the gunman had a silencer,”

    A comment that can only be made by someone who has absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

  29. David, wirhojd defending the correspondents ignorance, surely the noise almost certainly enabled people within the hotel to locate the room the shooter was in fairly instantaneously. That would have taken rather longer from outside in the dark, trying to count 32 windows from ground level, under fire, giving the shooter at least a little longer to mow people down.

    It’s interesting that hotel security (who I assume are armed in a place like that) waited for the cops. Though I’d not have had the guts to storm the room either.

  30. “David, wirhojd defending the correspondents ignorance, surely the noise almost certainly enabled people within the hotel to locate the room the shooter was in fairly instantaneously.”

    Import to understand that a ‘silencer’ would in no way silence the weapon, all they do is reduce the volume around 10-20 dba, An AR-15 or similar would still be about 140dba with a silencer, this is about the same level as a 747 on takeoff.

    The gunshots would still be very loud, and very clearly heard from a long distance. Hollywood has presented a very distorted view of what a silencer can actually do.

    If the weapon was actually quiet, it would not have been able to do anywhere the damage it actually did.

  31. A better response from the Central Government would be to say separation will cost an estimated X Euros and your share will be Y Euros. Put up a deposit of 30%Y and we can start the process.
    X will in fact be a huge number.

  32. @David

    “An early mass shooting (60’s) was from a bell tower on a university campus. A number of civilian shooters pinned him down while police when up the tower”

    Yeah- I thought about Whitman (?) and the Washington state snipers, but there’s a difference in scale (assault rifle/automatic weapon) vs rifle.

    And as a political landmine- I absolutely agree. It’ll be interesting to see what action Trump takes over it.

  33. Timbotoo

    Correct. The police have counted all their ‘injured’ and there are nearly 400 of them. Up from 40. I imagine applying the same criteria as the others. Yes, pictures of injured have been circulated and one appears to be from 2014 from a manifa ‘repressed’ by the Mossos and others equally dodgy. Usual progressive fake news. Yes they got stuck in, but less than anyone thinks. And the provocation was enormous. Violence was necessary for the independentistas.

    Aussie
    They’ve done that. The fact it would be an economic disaster is ignored and/or hidden. And, in any case, feelings/sentiment.

    We should remember:
    The Catalan Gov. has, through inclusion of radical left anti-system parties managed a majority in seats. BUT. in votes no.

    A partial referendum is illegal in Spain. Therefore their regional government passed a law and stated it was superior to the state law. (Try that in Yankee land or elsewhere). This is their ‘legal’ cover. Technically, they are guilty of sedition.

    Over half the population of Catalonia wants no part of this. The rural areas (where pressure can be brought to bear) are the most radical. ie in today’s general strike all small shops close. Only takes one visit from your friendly neighbourhood bully.

    The independentistas have totally fractured Catalan society. A friend’s son was bullied at school yesterday because his father, a Catalan, is not independentista.

    There was no room for a negotiated referendum. And that was never the intention because they could have lost. This suits their purpose much better.

    Rajoy was always going to lose but he could have done things more decisively and earlier.

    A real pig’s ear and yet fascinating.

  34. John Square,

    Yes, a very different scale. Not sure what he actually had as yet, but he would have got off a thousand rounds plus. Not only that, but his setup and target seems almost perfection for maximum carnage.

    Given the number of injured, I think US police tactics need a re-think.

  35. Interesting post Tim and thanks all for the good follow-ups.

    Many people have wondered why the US police haven’t deployed similar tactics against the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter when they engage in violence, intimidation, and rioting on the streets of America.

    To go back to this, I wonder if the reason for the lack of policing of BLM etc is that they actually represent the establishment. They are the street gang for the ‘liberal’ establishment. Trump and his supporters are their enemies, but Trump and his supporters are not the ruling classes.

    The intersectional nonsense they spout is supported by the Democrats, by big business and by much of the Republican establishment. The upper echelons of the civil service all subscribe to most of the bullshit about race, gender etc.

    In the UK, when people say ‘establishment’; they think of Lords, fat Tories and blokes in pinstripes, when in fact the establishment is the BBC, quangocrats and lefty lawyers.

    Perhaps it’s the same across the pond.

  36. To go back to this, I wonder if the reason for the lack of policing of BLM etc is that they actually represent the establishment.

    I’m certain of it. The moment their interests divide, expect the tear gas and water cannons to come out.

  37. I am under no duty to adopt any view whatsoever about Catalonia.

    I remind myself that the camera ever lies and shall otherwise ignore the issue.

    (Oh, but would this be a good time to point to Spanish hypocrisy about Gib, and to Spain’s illegal occupation of a little pocket of Portuguese territory? Why not?)

  38. @ MC

    Yes I think it is the same, although they want us to think that it is Trump and May that are in control at the moment.

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