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As Imperialism Reigns in Spain, Democracy gets Catalonelier

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The decades-running cold war in the Spanish state may be reaching its zenith, as the autonomous region of Catalonia executes an unsanctioned referendum on independence. Europe has not seen anything like the extreme measures of repression currently strangling all segments of the region’s technological infrastructure, but momentum and milieu look to be in Catalonia’s corner as the long-game plays out.

In the words of Julian Assange, the West’s most significant conflict between people and state since the fall of the Berlin wall is unfolding before our eyes, only the tactics are very 2017: VPNs, proxies, mirrors, and encrypted chat are part of the necessary logistics as Spanish military police besiege telecoms, hundreds of websites are censored, protocols and apps are disabled along with Catalan government software needed for officiating. Though no major violence is expected, the physical presence of 6,000 extra federal police is heightening the intimidation, having seized up to twelve million paper ballots and arresting hundreds of mayors. In response, Catalans are sleeping at 2,000 polling places in order to ensure their continued custody.

The case for independence is certainly a solid one that goes far beyond the issue of taxation deficit. The Spanish constitution already confers nationality status onto Catalonia in respect of its own language, culture, and erstwhile independence as part of the Kingdom of Aragon before its conquest by Spain in 1714. It is thought that the ethnonym for the Catalan nation could be a portmanteau of Gothia and Alania (an Aryan nation), both active in the region along with Gauls and Moors. As a result of political union in the 18th century, Castilian (Spanish) naturally became the lingua franca among the Catalan, but by the 20th it became the lingua Franco — a jealous tongue made hegemonic by the fascist dictator who proscribed all rival languages.

Interestingly, the vestige of this political dynamic means that Left-Right politics is aligned in a somewhat counter-intuitive way with respect to competing nationalisms. Catalan independence has been consistently spear-headed by Left-leaning parties and activist groups, including the now dissolved terrorist group Terra Llieura. It may just be political opportunism, but the Left somehow never resonated with ‘Better Together’ style reconciliation — or a sense of enriching the tapestry of Spain through diversity. Instead, it is framing independence in terms of minority victimhood and the pursuit of anti-imperialist closure. One interesting feature of Catalan politics is that anti-Semitism is more likely to come from the Left — and it is not the meager BDS variety in question but accusations of things like inherent disloyalty.

Naturally, the ruling conservative party in Spain has been the rigidly opposed, and, in all objectivity, responsible for much of the escalation and uncooperative demeanor with Catalonia. Far-right supporters are the most visible defenders of Franco’s legacy of a monolithic Spain and are in fact able to rally without the same stigma that the Roman salute attracts elsewhere. Though there may not have been a way to reverse Catalonia’s trajectory towards independence, the conduct of Spain’s authoritarian government in the lead up to October 1 has assured an irreconcilable loss of trust. In such a polarizing climate, it is likely safer to partake in the running of the bulls in Pamplona than to walk the streets of Madrid draped in an Estalada.

Over the last week the systematic crackdown of the government would have made Franco proud, but two groups that have markedly swayed are Catalan moderates and the international community. In 2011, Sudan was civil enough to allow its (admittedly poor, sub-Saharan) region to vote on secession, while Iraq recently demonstrated it is one step more tolerant than Spain by allowing a peaceful referendum among Kurds — albeit cleverly being able to pay it no attention. Spain is looking so bad that increasingly commentators are calling it Europe’s ‘banana monarchy.’

The international reaction thus far has been rather incoherent. The perceptible absence of leaders pledging cliched support for the ‘territorial integrity’ of Spain has been somewhat of a surprise, while the European Union has been largely silent on what is an obvious harbinger of things to come. On the one hand, it is loath to be on the ‘wrong side of history’ by failing to back the progressive Left, but on the other it is embarrassingly aware of the optics of fraternal nationalities being unable to coexist in the same state. This raises the question of how on earth the ‘new Europeans’ will harmonize when their populations reach critical mass.

From North America, a group of seventy intellectuals headlined by Noam Chomsky have signed an open letter condemning Spain and siding with Catalan self-determination, though one wonders why the case of Crimea was approached so differently by the herd of independent thinkers. But the unrivaled champion of the Catalan cause and most effective activist has been Julian Assange, who appears to be doing a lot more than providing moral support from Ecuador’s embassy on the Greenwich Meridian. Assange self-identifies as a libertarian although in recent times has been dovetailing into non-mainstream material, including American Renaissance and The Unz Review (with the appropriate caveats). One particularly incisive swipe was aimed at the US Alt Right for a piece written disparaging Catalan independence.

The gist of the article is the utterly inane assertion that Western independence movements are analogous to cowardly white flight. Does Catalonia propose moving to the suburbs for better schools? The substance of the objection is that because the Catalan independence movement is not sufficiently race conscious (and Spain is?), and without the fashy pedigree of Spanish nationalism, the bridges should be burned. Keep in mind that the forced marriage keeping Spain together is one in which the state flag is disputed, and the anthem has no words in order to appease all parties. The economic and demographic terrain of the country is akin to a quagmire, and unemployment is the Eurozone’s second worst (behind Greece).

Also pouring cold water over Catalan independence aspirations has been Richard Spencer — consistent with his anti-Brexit position and essentially in league with the worst enemies of British nationalism who resorted to every smear and sob story to sustain the EU’s fanatical pivot to yet more centralization. If the president of the National Policy Institute has an Achilles heel, it is in the area of national policy. Far too often Mr. Spencer appears to be concerned less with pragmatic politics and more with the aesthetics of pan-Europeanism, to the point of desiring the preservation of such structures, presumably for the time when he will seize the reins of power and crown himself emperor.

Unfortunately for Europe, geopolitical disadvantages mean the time for drastic change is rapidly expiring, and though Catalonia cannot be that change, it can be a watershed. Postcard patriotism and number-plate nationalism may be a pitiable vehicle to carpool in for now, but any change is good change. What the European map resembles after the ‘slippery slope’ of possible balkanization is of little concern at this point. History and the present readily demonstrate that small states are some of the most stable, independent, and resilient. It is Switzerland that is among the toughest on immigration, Iceland that arrests its bankers and provides refuge for journalists like Assange. The UK, France and Germany are at the opposite end of the pozometry scale.

Perhaps the greatest advantage to splitting up countries (and power) is that the governments of resulting statelets are disproportionately smaller as well and have ruling classes less remote and more representative of their constituency. As far as democracy is concerned, the sum of the parts is actually worth more than a unified whole of a larger country. An independent Catalonia, unlike Spain, does not have the baggage of an exotic colonial and imperial past, and in the current political climate this is a significant guilt burden of Spain’s to jettison in favor of an unapologetic national pride. Besides, the opportunity to compose a declaration of independence and new constitution with nativist safeguards is a pipe dream worth hoping for.

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  1. James O'Meara
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    “Far-right supporters are the most visible defenders of Franco’s legacy of a monolithic Spain and are in fact able to rally without the same stigma that the Roman salute attracts elsewhere. ”

    No wonder Spencer supports them.

  2. Captain John Charity Spring MA
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    My memory of the Barcelona region in the 1930s was Anarchy and Communism. What can have changed?

  3. Chinese N Maiden
    Posted October 1, 2017 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    “History and the present readily demonstrate that small states are some of the most stable, independent, and resilient. It is Switzerland that is among the toughest on immigration, Iceland that arrests its bankers and provides refuge for journalists like Assange. The UK, France and Germany are at the opposite end of the pozometry scale.”

    I believe this argument holds true based on my experience with China.
    China had an extremely repressive regime that is actually not ruling over a nation proper but a vast empire with a diversity of peoples.
    Breaking China up would be the best solution.
    I guess if that argument is true, the big states like China, the USA, Russia, etc. are a bad idea and inevitably result in repression, which inevitably leads to decline and break-up.

  4. John McKenna
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    This is the best article I’ve seen written on the subject by the new right. Neither side in this is ethnic nationalist so taking sides is pointless but we should be watching and learning from it.

  5. El Cid Campeador
    Posted October 3, 2017 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    It’s sad to see how much the moronic and lavishly funded propaganda campaign of Catalonia’s separatist movement has captivated an apparently great number of alt-right supporters. The “erstwhile independence” and “conquest by Spain in 1714” memes are nothing else than outright lies, and, though the Catalan language was certainly not subsidized and not admitted in official usage for administrative or judicial matters during the Franco’s regime, it was never forbidden to speak or to write in Catalan, and Catalonia prospered enormously in those years.

    If anybody wishes to get some facts about this subject, I would suggest some real history books such as Gabriel Tortella’s “Catalonia and Spain: History and Myth” or, if you can read in Spanish, “España y Cataluña: Historia de una Pasión” by Henry Kamen. Both authors are respected scholars and very far from anything resembling those far-right supporters of Franco’s legacy that Mr. Zaja so openly despises.

    Nonsense apart (and there is much more in this article), what I find very difficult to understand is why some people in the alt-right seems fascinated by every attempt to smash up the great historical European nations into tiny and weak states, as if it were the most direct and easiest way to some sort of ethno-racial European apotheosis.

    Spain is not an artificial state as Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia were. It’s not a globalist artifact nor a racial melting pot (at least not yet). The Spanish nation is an organic reality, product of unique historical and demographic circumstances. Of course, you can find some ethnic diversity among the different Spanish regions, and even inside the same regions. But why do you believe that these differences are so large and so important that we are condemned to be “unable to coexist in the same state”?

    A nation like Spain, forged in a 700 years long war of Reconquista against the Islam and unified under a common state for more than 500 years, will not be broken up without resistance, unrest, strife, and probably civil war between peoples racially identical and ethnically very similar. I can’t see how this would help to fight against the European population decline and to guarantee a bright prospect for the white race.

    Today, Catalonia is very far from being stable, with an immigration problem far worse than the rest of the country, with the lowest fertility rate among the native population in Spain, with an unemployment rate close to 15%, with the worst level of public debt among the Spanish autonomous regions, with the most corrupt of the corrupt Spanish ruling class… Add to this the enormous and sudden economic recession that a new frontier with its main markets and an automatic exit of the EU and the Euro would bring along.

    True, the current social and political situation in Spain doesn’t allow much hope. But the balkanization that Mr. Zaja happily promotes could be far worse. Do you really think that a weak and impoverished Catalan state, controlled by far left and antifa-style parties, and with a pro-immigration, pro-feminist, pro-LGTBI, pro-diversity (except Spanish diversity, to be sure), pro-refugees and pro-globalist constitution, would become the first racially conscious state in Western Europe?

    Please don’t fantasize. If anything, an independent Catalonia could become the first Western European state to promulgate and enforce the sharia law.

    • Otger
      Posted October 5, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

      “True, the current social and political situation in Spain doesn’t allow much hope. But the balkanization that Mr. Zaja happily promotes could be far worse. Do you really think that a weak and impoverished Catalan state, controlled by far left and antifa-style parties, and with a pro-immigration, pro-feminist, pro-LGTBI, pro-diversity (except Spanish diversity, to be sure), pro-refugees and pro-globalist constitution, would become the first racially conscious state in Western Europe?”

      The Spanish Gov. has been promoting unlimited non-European immigration for decades, above all under the rule of Mr. Aznar, a self-proclaimed ‘Spanish patriot’, but a true liberal/phony capitalist and puppet of the worst oligarchs.
      Catalonia is certainly not more under ‘Communists and proLGBT’ thant the Spain or the rest of the West is.

      I just do not want quarrels and in-fights among European peoples. I think the case has been made that Catalans are a different People (ethnic group) than Spaniards, and what’s most, that the present Spanish State is beyond salvation (it is a oligarchic possession hell bent on exploiting the people and resources under their control for their own benefit). They are corrupt beyond salvation.
      Also Catalan mindset is very different from the Castillian/Spanish mindset. We Catalans have a Carolingian origin and this can be felt in our behaviour, language and traditions (food tastes, literature, etc).

      There is no need for any Civil war, but we should all understand that we need to aim to a Europe of the Peoples. Instead of promoting grand-nationalism of the French and Spanish types, we should start instilling pan-Europeanism to younger generations. Generation Identitaire is going in the right direction in many aspects.
      In 1659 the French and Spanish monarchies split Catalonia in two. Catalonia must be re-unified and break free in that Europe of the Peoples.

      Nowadays, when it comes to power, the smaller, the better. Quite recently, after the EU’s hypocritical position of the violence on the 1st Oct. Referendum in Catalonia, more and more Catalans are turning to EFTA rather than the EU. Nothing more, nothing less, but something is something.


  6. Triptolemus
    Posted October 3, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Spencer is wrong to support the European Union on principle in the naive hope that it can be reformed into a true European federation. Johnson is wrong to support secession on principle, when the seceding territory wants to increase non-European settlement (in the case of Catalonia) or to be more closely tied to the EU (in the case of Scotland). Both are wrong to let personal rivalry cloud their political judgment, and both are wrong to confuse ends with means. We should support federalism or nationalist secession only when these are authentic. Also, it is possible to oppose heavy handed oppression by the Spanish government as well as oppose secession that furthers globalism and endangers the European people.

    Zaja is wrong to deny context by comparing poor Catalonia to wealthy Switzerland and Iceland, and to presume that smaller is always better. Nation-states themselves are federations of tribes (Italy of Italic tribes, Germany of Germanic tribes, etc.) banded together in mutual defense and shared culture, in spite of differences in language and religion. Nation-states exist because of the will of tribes to live together in spite of these differences. External forces (i.e., globalists) exploit these differences in order to weaken nation-states and Europe, ultimately imperiling the tribes themselves.

    Federalism, nationalism, and regionalism are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary, if the principle of subsidiarity is upheld. This is why monarchy and feudalism remained stable for so many centuries, in spite of flaws.

  7. Patrick Le Brun
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Excellent article by Tom Zaja!

    I had no idea that anyone in the Alt-Right had a different point of view until Greg mentioned it in our podcast.

    For those who describe Catalonia as poor…Catalonia’s GDP per Capita is about 5% below that of France and over 20% higher than the rest of Spain. It is well above that of all formerly Communist countries in the EU as well as Italy, Greece, and Portugal.
    Their debt is higher in real terms, but when looked at in the light of their much higher productivity, they will not be on the verge of bankruptcy.
    When compared with the extent to which London, Paris, and Bavaria are net payers to the benefit of their countrymen, Catalonia’s burden is 4 times that of these other regional economic engines.

    Spainiards can only have a Spain the is “Una, Grande, et Libre” if all constituent peoples agree. If the Catalans or Basque disagree, then it will either be “Una et Grande” or “Libre.”

    Ultimately, no one who matters will pay attention to the LARPers of the Alt-Right who say differently. The shortcoming of these aesthetics-first grandiose nationalists is that it is very easy to say (as Greg once did) “I veto your dream.” This is a real world example of that.

    • Cid Campeador
      Posted October 6, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      “it is very easy to say (as Greg once did) “I veto your dream.” This is a real world example of that.”

      Oh, yes, to veto someone’s dreams is a very bad thing. But what dreams are we speaking of? Who is dreaming? The Catalan separatist “dreamers” are a circumstancial and troubled coalition of center-right liberals, left nationalists and extreme left antifa thugs. Their capacity to movilize the people has reached its ceiling: between 2-2,5 million people, as the recent pseudo-referendum and its precedent of 2014 have clearly shown. A lot of people, certainly, but quite far from a majority of the region’s 7,5 million inhabitants. So we are not talking about a people’s or a nation’s “dream”.

      There are many, many Catalans completely stranged from the current separatist coup, who feel themselves equally Catalans and Spaniards, and whose dreams have been vetoed too. They’ve been the silent majority for decades, while the utterly corrupt local elites consolidated their own cleptocratic regime based on propaganda and indoctrination, helped and encouraged by the central state’s governing parties, who found it convenient to give them carte-blanche in their bussiness in exchange for their support when needed in the Spanish Parliament.

      An interesting collateral damage of this race to nowhere in which the Catalan government has foolishly embarked so many people, is that they have forced the silent majority to confront an existential threat, and forgotten feelings of identity and patriotism have been deeply stirred, inside and outside of Catalonia. For now, it’s no more than a confuse and uncertain desire to affirm the long suppressed Spanish identity (by no means incompatible with Catalan, Basque or or any other regional identity), but it might be the beginning of a badly needed movement of national renewal. And it well may be a worhtwhile dream.

  8. Otger
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Just to mention that it might be interesting to note that there is a recent phenomenon of pro-EFTA sentiment rising among Catalans after the weak EU response to police brutality during the 1st Oct. Referendum.

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