State of Independence XVII

An update on the Catalan Nationalist process, as the political leaders responsible for the 1st October referendum and failed unilateral declaration of independence go on trial.

There is still no clear resolution to the problem, and the region remains as polarised and divided as before while the separatists are gearing up to use the publicity afforded by the trials drive their cause – trials which they regard as purely political and which many do not regard as legitimate. It is important to observe that the people on trial are not “political prisoners” as the separatists claim, but politicians accused of a number of fairly significant offences ranging from abuse of public funds through to violations of the constitution. The political pressures surrounding the trials are immense from all sides, and it will be important that the Spanish justice system not only maintains absolute impartiality but is also be seen to do so.

The last week has seen a number of events in Barcelona. The first was a night time gathering in Plaça Catalunya that was relatively sparsely attended. It felt closer to an evangelical religious meeting than a political event, as people chanted slogans and sang nationalist hymns. Standing in the middle of the crowd to take pictures is deeply unsettling, as I am the only one there not repeating the slogans. It is also deeply saddening.

As always, these events are also used to raise funds for the movement, with stalls selling everything from badges to t-shirts.

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The following Saturday a mass protest was organised to occupy the Gran Via from Plaça España to Plaça Universitat. This was far better attended, with the organisers estimating that 200,000 people were present – in part driven by the use of subsidised busses to bring people in from all over the region.

Again, this feels more like a religion than anything else. The saddest part are the children, who are being indoctrinated with this very specific blend of national-populism. At one point I passed a lady with a push chair with a child barely able to speak trying to shout “Llibertat!” (freedom). Elsewhere children repeat the chants to drive out the occupying forces and sing Els Segadors (the adopted Catalan anthem).

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This makes an interesting contrast with Britain, where last week thousands of school children went on “strike” to protest the failure of leaders to deal with a key issue them, namely climate change. Fortunately, the British have yet to learn how to use the school system for political indoctrination.

Where this is going is currently anyones’ guess, but Catalunya remains as wrecked by national-populism as is the US under Trump and the UK under Brexit.

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