Catalonia: What’s Next?

As the Spanish government reveals the true nature of its “democratic” pretensions, injuring hundreds in an effort to stop Catalans from voting, one thing is clear: Catalonia is no longer Spanish. In the very effort to prevent the referendum Madrid has handed the victory to the separatists: this is what the sight of Spanish police clubbing people at the polls means. While previous polls showed that the advocates of Catalan independence were neck-and-neck with those opposed, there is every reason to believe that now the overwhelming majority are for secession. The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has lost whatever legitimacy it once had.

Indeed, if I was looking for a way to ensure that the independence movement would triumph, then this kind of crackdown fits the bill. The world has come a long way since 1933 – and that’s why calling in the Guardia Civil is having the exact opposite of its intended result.

As I write the number of injured is rising by the minute: it’s almost to 800 now, and will doubtless climb. Using rubber bullets, the Guardia Civil, Spain’s police force, has fired on its own people, injuring scores: yet more injuries were inflicted by beatings, with police using truncheons indiscriminately on young and old alike, attacking firefighters, old ladies, journalists, and anyone who got in their way.

And yet the ostensible goal of their actions – stopping the referendum – was not achieved. Seventy-three percent of the polling stations remained open and functioning, despite the efforts of the Guardia Civil – underscoring the blind arrogance of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he stupidly claims that “no referendum was held in Catalonia.” Spain’s actions, he said, are “an example to the world.”

What is that guy smoking?

Outside of the fantasy world of Señor Rajoy, the Catalan referendum has indeed been held, and the results are not in doubt: the question is, what will the Catalan government do now? And what will be Madrid’s response?

The spectacle of violent repression unleashed against peaceful protesters has provoked widespread outrage throughout Europe. Despite the coolness with which the EU bureaucracy views the Catalan government, it is doubtful that the European Parliament will stand idly by while this goes on, and there is probably considerable pressure being brought to bear on the Spanish authorities by the EU bloc to hold back. Yet it looks to me like Madrid, after going this far, is going to double down and go much further – with catastrophic results.

While the United States and Britain can be counted on to back Madrid unconditionally, the rest of the civilized world is not such an easy mark. If and when the Catalans declare their independence, it will only take one or two countries in Europe recognizing them to embarrass Madrid and imperil Rajoy’s minority government.

In the Catalonian events there is a lesson to be learned and it is this: government is brute force. It isn’t “the rule of law,” it isn’t the People’s Will, it isn’t “democracy” or some such floating abstraction: government is coercion, pure and simple. And when the will of a government is defied, what happens is what we saw today [Sunday] in Catalonia. The only question now is: will the Spanish state use enough force to keep the Catalans under their thumb? Madrid could unleash the army: Rajoy could send tanks into the streets of Barcelonia. The Guardia Civil could use real bullets instead of rubber bullets.

If not, then they will discover that there are no halfway measures in the struggle for power. If not, then they will ultimately lose – and this is what the Catalans are counting on, the unwillingness of the Spanish central authorities to isolate themselves from the rest of the civilized world. It is, in my view, a fairly safe assumption – although, you never know.

At a time when supra-national bureaucracies and globalist initiatives are being foisted on ordinary people, the Catalan people are rising up and taking their destiny into their own hands. While the elites are pushing an agenda of centralization, and concentrated power, the worldwide trend is actually going in the opposite direction, toward decentralization and self-determination. Repression won’t stop it: bullets won’t end it. Indeed, as the Spanish authorities are discovering to their dismay, sending in the troops is far more likely to backfire than to quell the rebellion.

Yet Madrid is locked in to its untenable strategy. Since neither side can afford to back down, from here on out the Catalan crisis can only escalate. I fully expect the Catalans to declare their independence, in which case Madrid will respond just as it responded to the referendum: with force. There are thousands of Spanish police on ships in Barcelona’s harbor who have yet to be deployed: they’re being held back for some reason. What this means is that an attempt will be made to arrest Catalan government officials, including President Carles Puigdemont. The violence we saw on the streets of Catalonia on Sunday may be only the beginning.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].