As the world’s press salivates over the reduction of the Catalans and their Mickey Mouse home-rule, various factors suggest that application of article 155 may not be that easy. OK, the Spanish Constitution says the army has the sacred mission of guarding the “nation’s unity” and all that stuff, and almost no-one in Madrid seems to see any awkardness in being seen as heirs of Franco’s deathbed will: that the unity of Spain be “bound and well bound”.
But let’s look at things from another perspective. Madrid may well be dreaming of a push-over victory or a “military parade”, as such victories are termed in Spanish. But the squashing of the will of the Catalan Parliament and people (as expressed in the 90.1% YES vote registed in the 1-O Referendum) may not be that easy. Would this explain Rajoy’s doubts about steam-rollering the rebels too soon?
The first factor to bear in mind is that, though Spanish public opinion has in the last few months/years been conveniently worked up to a fever-pitch of anti-Catalan feeling (the once progressive El Pais newspaper goes so far as to suggesting photos of Referendum day police agro are fakes!), we are not in 1714, nor in 1939. Fully overpowering the Catalans today cannot imaginably echo the mass destruction of a nation that occurred in 1714, when all national institutions and the language were banned, with Barcelona’s main commercial centre razed to the ground, thousands of exiles forced out of the country and all the universities closed down. Not can it be 1939, with thousands shot and hundreds of thousands exiled and emprisoned. We are in democratic Europe, not totalitarian or absolutist times.
The Spanish Constitution may pave the way to the substitution of the heads of the Catalan government. It may annul all effective home-rule (what remains of it). It may exercise a degree of repression and introduce new policies with which to suffocate the Catalan “beast”. Certainly Europe will obligingly turn a blind eye, if not openly applaud, as we are confirming once again this week. But can the complete trappings of a dictatorship be successful implemented for the complete annulment of the Catalan people?
One first consideration concerns the double legality that as from now –somewhat one-sidedly- will prevail in Catalonia. albeit for a time no-one as yet knows. Madrid may have the muscle-power and the Constitutional mantras. But Catalonia still has its President, its Parliament and its people. When the Catalan government, in response to 155, declares the Catalan Republic, as promised, will this not cause a ripple on the surface of the pool of realpolitik? Will that not make it apparent that we are in for a two-sided contest, hopefully 100% pacific.
The media tend to paint Catalonia as the underdog. But is that dog a poodle or a Pyrenean mastiff? Let’s see. Madrid may seem all powerful. But to win, it must break the back of an unflinching and unified educational profession. A very active Medical profession with a bone to pick with Spain’s government. A well-knit and efficient police force of 17.000 members. A 50-thousand strong very disciplined Catalan National Assembly. 40-thousand members of cultural association Òmnium Cultural. (the heads of these two organizations are now in a Spanish prison). A vast Student movement that has emerged in all Catalan universities in support of the Process. Large contingents of firemen and forest workers. Dock workers who have hedged in the Spanish police and informed of all their suspicious moviments. Parents’ associations fully backing the 3rd October strike. All in all, a hugely motivated society that it will take more than a three-figured article of the moth-eaten Spanish Constitution to defuse and uproot.
Underestimating the power of Catalans is a favourite Spanish passtime. But rather comparable to a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Remember, the Spanish government, in all its pride, were certainly unable to stop the 1-O Referendum in which well over two million people participated. They were unable to find over 6000 ballot boxes hidden away from a State unwilling to permit a Referendum. If ten thousand Spanish bullying military and national police were only able to batter into and close down 300 of the 6000 ballot stations functioning that day throughout the country, why should the Catalans doubt they have a chance of winning? Even with all EU representatives against them and Spain robbing her of her leading companies?
The battle may seem uphill, even unsurmountable. But isn’t that just the impression George Washington had at Valley Forge. And look what happened there!