Catalonia’s Fight for Independence – A Warning to the World

Friday 3rd November 2017 | Deana

On October the 1st the Catalan government held a referendum giving Catalan’s the chance to declare independence from Spain and become a sovereign state.

Of the 43% of Catalan’s who voted, 90% voted for independence and on the 2nd of October, the Catalan government declared Catalonia a separate state. However, the Spanish national government has disregarded the result and branded the referendum 'illegal'.

Since the controversial vote, there has been protests, police violence and imprisonments. Eight government members have been remanded in custody by the Spanish high court (accused of rebellion and misuse of public funds) and if found guilty are facing 30 years imprisonment.

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Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the Catalan government, has fled to Brussels to avoid arrest forcing the Spanish government to file for a European arrest warrant. Despite these events, the Catalan’s and Spanish civilians in favour of the vote have protested in their numbers with no clear outcome in sight.

This situation shouldn’t be viewed as solely Spain’s problem, as it could be a sign identity politics is becoming more prevalent throughout the world. Identity politics is a political movement aimed to satisfy the values of a specific group, for example, gender, ethnicity, cultural, social background or race – in the case of Catalonia it is many of these.

Catalonia was previously an independent state and many leaders through history have threatened this, however, General Francisco Franco was determined to abolish Catalan separatism and conquered Catalonia in 1938. Catalonia never fully submitted and in 1997 were granted a regional government but calls for independence never disappeared.

For some Catalan’s independence is ‘sentimental’ and about preserving the language and culture ‘because it is completely different to Spain’. For others the motivation is economic. It is no secret that Catalonia is ‘the industrial heartland of Spain’ and contributes 19% of Spain’s GDP but the distribution of wealth does not reflect this sizeable contribution. Some Catalan’s believe that aside from their language and culture, their strength is in their economy and would thrive as a region without the burdens of high taxes to the Spanish government.

We have seen numerous examples of identity politics throughout history triggering political protests and movements. More recently the Charlottesville march against White Supremacy, which resulted in 1 death and 19 injuries, is another consequence of identity politics and leader’s inability to appeal to countries rather than groups. Similarly, the Kurd's recent declaration of independence from Iraq comes years after war and tension stemming from the government’s refusal to recognise identity.

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It is no wonder that Catalan and Spanish citizens fear the Spanish government’s refusal to find a solution with Catalonia’s government, the longer the issue is present the more likely unnecessary tension between the people will be caused.

Catalan’s show no signs of political rest and political leaders around the world should not take the power of the people for granted.