Labour must speak out on Catalonia

Picture by Teresa Grau Ros (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Matthew Hexter

As Catalonia prepares to have a referendum on its independence, Spain has tightened its grip on the democratic process, arresting members of the Catalonian Government and seizing ballot papers and boxes related to the Independence vote.

Although Labour is a ‘Unionist’ Party who believes in strength by virtue of common endeavour, we are also a party of democrats, internationalist and fighters for fundamental freedoms.

The ability for the Catalonian people to have a democratic vote on their constitutional future must be protected and we must speak out against the Spanish Government and their Guerrilla tactics of democratic repression.

Whether or not you think that the vote is right or how you would vote yourself if you were there, the people of Catalonia deserve the right to choose their own future, protection under the law and access to democracy.

Even if the party machinery doesn’t agree with the choice, we must speak out for their right to make that decision.

With each day that passes, more stories are revealed of the Guardia Civil arresting Catalonian Ministers, Mayors or Citizens, merely because they support independence.

Regardless of what you think of Alex Salmond or David Cameron, they would not have arrested people for expressing the desire for constitutional change.

This blatant abuse of civil liberties must be condemned and it must be condemned by a Labour Party who due to a fear of emboldening Plaid Cymru or SNP voices or being called ‘Pro-Independence’ by Conservatives, is not speaking out.

March

If you believe in Unionism, socialism or common endeavour you make the positive case for it, you do not silence opposition and close the ballot box.

Not only are documents being seized and officials arrested, but the Spanish judges have placed secrecy orders on all Police operations, limiting the ability to hold the Government to account in their operation to shut down democracy in Catalonia.

Whilst individual Labour MPs have spoken out against the actions of the Spanish Government, the Party has failed to respond with a unified voice.

Now, while it can be expected that there may not be a unified voice on the outcome of any Catalonian referendum, there should be no objection to the right to make that choice and to be free to express a desire to change the status quo.

If a Million Welsh or Scottish Citizens had marched for devolved Parliaments and they were arrested, would we not defend their rights to free speech and to demand change?

If the UK Government attempted to reverse devolution without a referendum would we not deem this unacceptable?

The Spanish government has also moved to take control of Catalonia’s finances, in an attempt to stop public money being spent on the vote. Spain is preparing to take over funding of most public services, including the payment of workers’ salaries.

We would not stand for this in Wales or Scotland so why will we stand for it now?

The lack of an official response from the Party is deafening and we must speak now.


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Ioan Gealy
Guest
Ioan Gealy

I agree with your sentiments! Unfortunately however, Spain’s consitution would have to be changed in order to allow this vote and for the result to be lawful! Unlike the UK which is a union of nations (although NI is not a nation) Spain is a union of historical regions! Under the Spanish constitution, the regions have a huge amount of autonomy! Indeed Catalonia’s parliament has vastly more powers than the Welsh Assembly and that’s despite the fact that Wales is a proper nation! However, Spain itself is an indivisible Kingdom! My advice to the Catalans therefore is to first make… Read more »

Jason Morgan
Guest
Jason Morgan

The monarchy v. republicanism issue is completely irrelevant. Turning Spain into a republic isn’t going to solve anything. Look at France.

Ioan Gealy
Guest
Ioan Gealy

Ok thanks you must know the Spanish constitution better than me!

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

It’s not “completely irrelevant” because when Spain was a republic, Catalonia (led by one of the parties in government today) became a republic which chose to be inside Spain. So Spain’s constitutional history is relevant.

However Jason is right that turning Spain into a republic NOW, won’t solve anything, and in fact seems even less possible than a Catalan referendum. By what agency do the Catalans transform the Spanish state? Podemos is the only statewide republican party and is still far from office.

Jason Morgan
Guest
Jason Morgan

No, I don’t. What I’m saying is I doubt very much that a republican constitution formed by the Spanish government is going to be any more friendly to the “Spanish regions” than one under a monarchy; and republics aren’t any more friendly towards their “regions” than constitutional monarchies – France, of course, being the prime example.

Ioan Gealy
Guest
Ioan Gealy

Moot point! I was in Brittany last year! Doesn’t seem to be much of a movement for independence there? You may know better than me!

Jason Morgan
Guest
Jason Morgan

It’s not a moot point. The worst thing that ever happened to Breton nationhood was the French Republic – republicanism in France has been more hostile towards “regional” identities than the monarchial system ever was, and you could argue that the weakening of Breton nationhood through the devices of the Republic is why there isn’t a strong push for independence there now.

Please tell me if I’m misunderstanding, but what you seem to be saying is that a Spanish republic would be more conducive to Catalan independence. I’m saying that that isn’t necessarily the case.

Ioan Gealy
Guest
Ioan Gealy

Thanks for your most erudite response! And yes, that is my belief!

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

But of course a Spanish republic DID exist, and was clearly friendly to Spain’s “regions”. And Catalan and Basque nationalists shed their blood to preserve that Spanish republic. The “no difference between monarchy and republic” line simply does not work in a Spanish context. Spanish republicanism was a completely different beast to France. It was openly multi-national and allowed self-determination.

Ioan is still wrong though. There is no method to create a Spanish republic which enables Catalan independence.

kim erswell
Guest
kim erswell

“If 50% plus one vote ‘yes’, we will declare independence without hesitation,” said Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont 2017.
Seeing as 52% of people voted for Brexit (slightly higher in Cymru)…going on track record, I can’t see Labour supporting the voice of the Catalan people.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

So you support allowing the Catalans to hold a referendum, like we had on Brexit?

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

The more pressure the Spanish government tries to exert, the more the support for independence will grow. There is no divine right for Spain to be the state in the shape that it currently is and ultimately it will become ungovernable democratic ally if the strength of feeling for independence rises sufficiently.

The support for Irish indepence was relatively weak initially and the hard handed response of the British government increased support for independence to the extent that it became inevitable.

I hope this remains peaceful and I suspect that it probably will.

Dafis
Guest
Dafis

“…We would not stand for this in Wales or Scotland so why will we stand for it now? ” I’m not sure you have that right. The Scots might kick up a fuss and Mad Maggie May might decline to do anything so rash, but in the case of dear old Wales I suspect that Carwyn and his greasy mob would tolerate a proverbial shafting as long as they held on to power of some sort. Check out the scheming going on right now to bind big chunks of Wales to major English conurbations – the City Regions , Severnside… Read more »

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

They promise an economic miracle and will succeed in winning people over. We need a better one. This one coming up is extreme and inplausible, but we do need to push out some ideas of our own that grab the immagination and make the others seem pathetic and small minded. What about -, time for an Atlantico super-region from New York to Greenland and Iceland to the orkneys and down through the Irish Sea and North West France to Northern Spain, Sierra-Leone, Nigeria and the Cape. If you want a true economic powerhouse and effectively control world trade then no… Read more »

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

All they offer are lies and a return to that cosyness the English elite had before the two world wars.

There is nothing new as for another ‘super’ economic region, that is just the same as what has gone and failed before. And whoever ends up grabbing Greenalnd will, due too global warming, be able to reach all the remaining resources within its internationally recognised area!

Totalitarian Capitalism is here and will be sustained by neo-fascism if we do not stand up for our rights as well as other peoples.

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Agree, but can I add ‘slimey’ to ‘greasy’ please!

Edeyrn
Guest
Edeyrn

“Although Labour is a ‘Unionist’ Party who believes in strength by virtue of common endeavour,”

I see no common endeavour between Wales and the wealthy of London…..what alternate dimension do you live in?

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

Agree!

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

As a life long supporter and member of the Labour Party, up to my last birthday, at the age of 60, I hear your cries, I feel your pain and I know how desperate you must feel that reality is finally hitting home. It doesn’t matter how old or young anyone is, true enlightenment and the awareness that you have been fed to believe in a party that is so far moved away from it’s original founding principals of the founding fathers that not even Kier Hardy could tell Labout and the Tories apart these days! Now, stick with me… Read more »

Ioan Gealy
Guest
Ioan Gealy

Brilliant !!

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

One more thing folks!

The Spanish like the British governments have ‘adapted’ the laws to suit themselves and therefore make anyone who disagrees with them out side of the law (as they have formed and manipulated it).

sianiflewog
Guest
sianiflewog

It wasn’t obvious that Cataluña would get independence following a referendum. Now with the heavy handed intervention of the Spanish state, I’d say that it is looking much more likely: Pob Hwyl – Cataluña!!!

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

Thank God Catalans have conservatives and liberals and their nation is not defined by a singular economic identity in the way Wales so often reduces itself to one economic ideology against another economic ideology. Their diversity of political opinion is what Labour fears, the idea that the struggle for freedom is not confined to the Left, that the centre-right can also join the struggle for a nation’s freedom proving socialism and ‘economic equality’ (or conformity as it so oft becomes) to be a cult separate from the national cause and struggle for independence.

Red Dragon Jim
Guest
Red Dragon Jim

That is not the case. Catalan socialism is integral to the independence movement, not separate to it. Not a cult. It’s a mistake to project views about Wales onto their situation.

The Catalan centre-right (who would be located as liberals or Christian Democrats on our political spectrum, not as Conservatives) and left are in a close alliance based on respect and unity, and significant policy closeness. They wouldn’t criticise socialism or call it a cult.

Tame Frontiersman
Guest
Tame Frontiersman

While, I understand the arguments of those who say that the independence referendum is illegal under the Spanish constitution and amounts, according to some, to a coup d’etat attempt, this position is fraught with dangers. The EU would have been the obvious mediator. 20-30 years ago there was much talk about a “Europe of the Regions“, now the direction of travel seems to be towards a federation of accession states whose internal relations are a matter for them. The history of Britain and Ireland is arguably an object lesson on how not to address the desires of a people for… Read more »