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.