The Spain of today is in a deep financial crisis. Rather than the country pulling together it is pulling apart. The core of Spain, still less than a year since it returned a Partido Popular government, is in revolt against Rajoy and his policies.
In the autonomous regions that revolt has gone a stage further with a stronger desire than ever to see a break with Madrid. Recently the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, met Rajoy in the Spanish capital determined to get a new deal for Cataluña. Not only did he leave empty handed he went straight back to Cataluña and announced a regional general election for November 25. This in essence will be a referendum on Cataluña’s links with Spain: but Mas has stated he will call an actual referendum in the next legislature on self-determination even though the State Government will not allow it.
At the weekend Mas spoke about a future independent Cataluña in the New York Times. He said his goal was for the Cataluña to take its place in a United States of Europe. He wants an independent Cataluña to be in the EU and Euro and points out the region will be 12 th out of the 27 countries in the EC on the basis of wealth.
Cataluña has an economy of 260,000 million euros which puts it on par with Portugal. An independent region would have a population of 7.5 million, meaning that Spain would loose 16 per cent of its residents in the process. Mas insists that Spain would not be insolvent without Cataluña but it would be more limited.
Under the Spanish Constitution Cataluña cannot hold a referendum to leave Spain. Neither can the Basque or any other region. However a constitution only holds good whilst it is accepted by the people. We have seen with the Arab Spring how by taking to the streets people have overturned governments and dictators. Make no mistake if the population of Cataluña, the Basque region, Galicia and other areas of Spain with their own distinct identity marched against the constitution and for independence Madrid would descend in to chaos: the Spanish State as we know it would cease to exist.
All of this is a very real possibility. The nation is already on the march against Rajoy and the Partido Popular because of his government’s handling of the economic crisis. They are angry at the high jobless levels especially amongst the young where it stands at over 52 per cent. On average 517 people lose their homes each day, 46,559 in the past three months. Since the economic crisis started over 185,140 have lost the roofs over their heads. During the same period the finance companies have issued 374,230 court proceedings over unpaid mortgages. There are savage cuts to education, hospitals and to the public services. The only people getting billions of euros in bail outs are the corrupt and abusive banks who are responsible for the chaos in the first place. Add to that the widely held belief in Cataluña that the region is being unfairly discriminated against which fuels further the demand for its independence. Stir in the Basques, Galicians and other regions and you have an explosive mix.
To this has to be added the recent call by the socialist president of Andalucía, José Antonio Griñán, for a federal Spain. Speaking on Europa Press Televisión, Griñán called for the development of a federal Spain, co-operative, where all are equal before the law and at the same time full respect is shown for the nation’s diversity.
The Andalucía leader stated “I think that the Constitution, that is the fruit of consensus, is the road and the solution to our problems as well.” He wants to see the country’s Magna Cart changed so it now meets the realities of present day Spain as it did when it was first drawn up.
Griñán said Spain had the opportunity to construct a nation of autonomous regions, for a phase of co-operation that will lead directly to a federal model based on the objective of a place for all, where employment is the priority and which gives hope to all. Griñán’s party leader, the secretary general of PSOE, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who was the former Minister of the Interior, has also spoken since in favour of a federal model for Spain in line with that found in Germany. He pointed out he leads a federated party, why can’t there be a federated nation?
Whilst the radical Catalans and Basques want full on independence Griñán’s call is for a Spanish federation of independent regions. Needless to say both of these visions have the Partido Popular in panic because it is a centralist party and rather than cede power it would rather disband the regions with control returning to Madrid as in the days of Franco.
Recently the president of the Basque party, the PNV, and its candidate for Lehendakari (leader of the Basque Parliament), Iñigo Urkullu, made some startling comments. He believes that after the Rajoy Government has taken action over adjusting the nation’s budgets it will move to re-centralise Spain. If indeed he is correct and Rajoy takes back powers from the autonomous regions, from the Basques, the Catalans, the Galicians and indeed the people of Andalucía he will be returning Spain to a nation on the Franco model. Such actions would cause violent protests in Spain and would almost certainly see ETA take up its arms again - without wanting to be alarmist we could be on the verge of a major revolt against Madrid: certainly civil disobedience but one hopes and prays not civil war.
(The above article was published in the London Progressive Journal on October 11 2012).