Photo – Carles Puigdemont speaking in Brussels, by Aurore Belot, Agence France Presse
By Paul St-Pierre Plamondon – Special Adviser to Jean-François Lisée, Leader of the Parti Québécois
In his recent speech in Brussels, Carles Puigdemont asked Europe to intervene in the face of the repression of Catalonia, saying that “to tolerate the violence of the far right is to break with the idea of Europe, an error for which all Europeans will pay dearly”. His speech, based on pacifism and in service of democracy, raises the very serious assumption that Western democracies have weakened to such an extent that they are gradually approaching the extreme right.
Over the last twenty years, both Europe and America have witnessed a process of globalization in which the size and influence of large transnational corporations has grown exponentially. In particular, these multinationals have increased their influence by infiltrating a permeable political class, financing their activities while exploiting their vulnerability to threats of corporate relocation and economic retaliation. They have also ensured their influence by acquiring and consolidating the mass media, gradually replacing journalism with political commentary aligned with their own interests. Thus, slowly but surely, the power of business merges with the political and media powers and form one.
Fascism is a political regime that took place from 1936 to 1977 in Spain and is characterized by, among other things, the concentration of political, media, judicial and police powers in the hands of a handful of individuals. Based largely on propaganda, this type of political regime has historically been characterized by the repression of its own population and by very high levels of corruption.
Although Spain is unlikely to be a fascist regime at the moment, it presents with several symptoms of an undemocratic regime: multiple conflicts of interest within a corrupt political class, one of the worst rankings in the world in judicial independence, a media that are so partisan its laughable, a police service entirely controlled by politics, and acts of repression of its own population.
Spain has added an additional layer, by sacking the head of the Catalan police, taking control, replacing senior officials of Catalonia with its own delegates and by laying criminal charges on several elected Catalans on the basis of their political ideas. At the same time, the Spanish media are carrying out a propagandist operation of intimidation directed at Catalonia and a demonization of the pro-sovereignty movement, with the collaboration of several mass media outlets who pump out suggested information without questioning themselves and of certain big companies who participate willingly in staged moves of their businesses. The state is so close to these companies and mass media that it can coordinate this operation of fear with the support of neighboring states, whose reaction is strangely similar to that of a cartel.
Spanish democratic impasse
This shameful episode takes place in a not-so-distant historical context of a Franco regime that has caused unparalleled harm to Catalonia, both in terms of Catalan assimilation and imprisonment and murder. As such, it is important to note that, unlike the Catalan pro-sovereignty movement which wants to be democratic and pacifist, the Spanish Unionist movement displays, without any shame, symbols, songs and gestures from the Franco regime.
In addition to the Spanish democratic impasse, the European Union has imposed an austerity regime which has attacked the education of the population, which has never been democratically approved by the Catalan population [Catalonia has sovereign control over education]. These democratic dysfunctions led to a rise in the extreme left and populism, destabilizing Catalan democracy. Having no hope of convincing corrupt Spanish power or the European Union to respect democracy and serve the interests of the people, many Catalans turned to a country project that would give them a small democratic and pacifist state, which would be theirs, which seems a reflection of Jane Jacobs’ hypothesis in The Question of Separatism that smaller national units generate less corruption and are closer to the reality of their citizens.
The Catalan independence movement is therefore above all a democratic and pacifist answer to this weakening of Western democracies, and not a project based on intolerant nationalism, which is found more on the Spanish side.
The assumption that globalization as it has been conducted in recent years quietly leads us to undemocratic regimes must be taken seriously. Insofar as the usurpation of political, media and police powers by spheres of private interests has also been the headline in Quebec for several years, the Catalan approach should be closely followed and encouraged by Quebecers. Indeed, Catalonia is giving birth to a very democratic version of nationalism, based more on the right of citizens to decide for themselves, convincing many Europeans born outside Catalonia to support their movement. Catalonia deserves our support, not only because it is a question of putting an end to decades of injustice lived by the Catalans and of recognizing a people who act in an exemplary way to obtain their independence, but because their approach is intimately related to the safeguarding of democracy in the West.