Catalonia, from a Colony to a Decolonised Nation

Catalan MonitorArticles

The current Spanish Constitution does not define Catalonia. Rather, it refers to it indirectly in its preamble, where it states that it protects “all peoples of Spain, its cultures and traditions, tongues and institutions” and its second article it states that it “recognises and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions which compose it and its mutual solidarity”. It can be assumed that Catalonia is in the “nationality” category. So as not to leave any open doors to unwanted interpretations, before this point, the same second article makes it clear that “the Constitution is fundamented in the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, common and indivisible fatherland of all Spaniards”.

The Constitution does not define what is the Spanish nation. It takes it for granted. Surely, it follows the concept which appeared in the first Constitution to talk about it, written in 1812: taken to be the first liberal constitution in HIstory. Its third article states that “the Spanish nation is the union of all Spaniards of both hemispheres”, that is, those in the Iberian Peninsula and those living in other continents: America, Oceania and Africa.  Implicitly, it is believed that this nation will survive as long as the conquered dominions of the sovereigns that choose Castille as their metropolis survive. What would be of the Spanish nation, should they disappear?

Most of the dominions of the Spanish monarchy, after liberation fights, no longer exist. They have transformed into independent states. Only the former Aragon Crown, with Catalonia in its centre, territories are kept. A fact that still sustains the Spanish imperial nation, although together with another framing that strives to consolidate it. This is because, according to the Nueva Planta decrees, when the troops of King Philip V of Bourbon vanquished the Catalan resistance to forced annexation, the Spanish nation was born as a result of the “fair right of conquest”, from which sovereignty and juridical legality of nations stem. From henceforth, the logic of right of conquest formed the definition of what is the Spanish nation.

In any case, the assumed right of conquest continues to be the main justification, yet to be unchallenged, of the Spanish nation in the successive constitutions after that of 1812. Hence, in practice, Catalonia must be treated as one of the remainders of the Empire and as object of a sovereignty alien to it yet applied onto it to spoil it without consequences, following the logic of the mentioned right of conquest and the successive legislations. This logic forces that the Kingdom of Spain may continue making laws to its convenience, determine and collect the Catalans’ taxes and unilaterally decide the public investments and the payment of expenses… all within what, according to the criteria of the state government, must be extracted from the Colony known as the Catalan “nationality”, i.e. not using the today unacceptable name of colony, but as a constituent part of the “imperial” spanish nation.

To complain about the colonial treatment received by Catalans is, according to the colonisers, a punishable foolishness, being washed away by victimism, falling into the punishable mistake caused by those who do not accept the logic of history as it is…

The referendum for the exercise of the right to self-determination, to which Catalans are called come first of October has also got as an objective breaking of the colonial logic and denying what the Spanish Constitution holds to be the Spanish nation. Be it as it may, Catalonia is aspiring to go from being a colony to being a decolonised nation.

Aureli Argemí

Chairman Emeritus of CIEMEN