Contributed by Jim Hayes
Hundreds of thousands had been expected to turn up on the streets of Barcelona for a new push for Catalan independence from Spain, during 11 September Diada. The date marks the military occupation and annexation by Madrid in the 1714 War of Succession.
It is also close to the first anniversary, of the declaration of independence was made on 1 October last year.
According to the police, one than a million turned up, Many were dressed in the Catalan red and yellow, and the crowd stretched for some 6 kilometres. Farmers came with their flag draped tractors.
Video from El National
Protesters chanted “the streets will always be ours,” and “independence.” A symbolic wall representing direct rule from Madrid was toppled.
Video from The Guardian
In a televised address before the rally, Catalonia’s new president Quim Torra, stated “our government is committed to making the republic a reality.” Torra has succeeded exiled former president Carles Puigement, who faces arrest over last year’s declaration of independence, if he returns to Spain.
Torra added that “this is not just about Catalan independence. It’s a struggle for basic rights and freedom of expression in Spain.” with this, he called for the unity of all the peoples of Spain in a common cause.
Video by euronews (in English)
The push is now to convince the new Pedro Sanchez led socialist government, to agree to a new referendum. Although he has been more willing than his predecessor to engage in dialogue, there has still been no shift on the traditional position of opposing Catalan independence.
So far, the only offer on the table has been a greater degree of self-government. This is not going to meet the aspirations of those seeking independence.
The Catalans are demanding the release of jailed political leaders.
Campaigners have promised a “hot autumn,” as they build mass mobilisations.
Many observers are suggesting that unless there is some movement towards releasing the prisoners, the political the conditions for compromise will evaporate.
Opponents and much of the media suggest that half of Catalonia wants to remain with Spain. It’s the old silent majority argument. The truth is that it is not so clear. There are those who remain loyal to traditional parties and ideologies for a variety of reasons. It is expected that a section of the population would sit on the fence.
Nevertheless, there are those who fear independence. Many of them are Spaniards who came to Catalonia looking for work, and the traditional parties have pushed over the years that independence would mean the loss of their jobs and homes. This fear, plus the near collapse of the Popular Party has seen the rise of the staunchly anti-independence political party known as Cuidadans (Citizens).
The independence movement has a challenge, to convince those who are afraid that independence will not turn them into victims. To a considerable extent, its progress depends on succeeding in this.
Even as it is, Catalan identity and wish for self determination is strong enough to be an unstopable force. When near a third of the population is out on the streets, disregarding what they want is a dangerous call.
Independence will come. It is just a matter of when. For the Spanish state, it is a question of how. If its through agreement, it would set the best conditions to building a harmonious and working relationship. The alternative is, that the longer the denial, the more acrimonious the separation will be.
The Spanish state’s current position is that granting independence would encourage other regions to break away. This is true. But is this such a bad thing? It could allow Spain to re-invent itself as a federation of independent states, working together as equals and becoming a zone of economic and political prosperity. This must be better than the way it is now.