Margaret Thatcher was right when she said that being democratic was not enough for a country to be free, since countries must also have an abiding respect for the rule of law. Events taking place in Catalonia have nothing to do with democratic rights and everything to do with the rule of law. What we are witnessing is a coup d’état, a frontal attack against liberty and an existential threat to Spanish democracy.
Serious democracies understand that liberty is built upon the maintenance of public order based on the rule of law. In his famous 1861 presidential order, Abraham Lincoln stated that “the laws of the United States” had been “opposed and obstructed” by the South, and that the militia was to be called “to cause the law to be executed and to maintain the integrity and the existence of the National Union”. He went to war. A century later, President Kennedy called up the National Guard because a southern state did not comply with newly enacted legislation about minorities’ rights. JFK stated: “Americans are free to disagree with the law but not to disobey it, for in a government of laws and not of men, no man, however prominent or powerful, and no mob, however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law”.
Precisely. Spanish law has been opposed and obstructed by Catalonia’s regional government, and in Spain we also believe that no man and no mob is entitled to defy the court of law. Spain has the right and the duty to cause the law to be executed and to maintain its integrity, and is using standard lawful procedures, such as the courts of justice and the national police, to achieve it. Also, it must protect the rights of that half of Catalonia’s population who refuses to be obliged to choose between their love for Catalonia and their love for Spain and who is being intimidated and held hostage by the current separatist government. People are being insulted in the street for not being pro-independence and street fights have erupted, some are moving out of Catalonia unable to stand the pressure or have broken family and social relationships due to the extreme tension among Catalonians themselves. These are the consequences of the hatred fueled by a group of fanatics: a society split in two.
In 1978 the current democratic Spanish Constitution was voted by all Spaniards and 91% of Catalonians (read that percentage again, please) approved the text, which explicitly forbids Sunday’s referendum and sates “the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”. Catalonia has enjoyed an extremely high level of self-rule. It has had its own Parliament and regional police and has managed its own healthcare and education public systems and most public infrastructures. This is remarkable because, although Catalonia kept some important local institutions and jurisdictions until the 18th century (as did many other Spanish regions), it has not been independent since the Count of Barcelona made a good marriage and joined the much larger Kingdom of Aragon in the 12th century.
In the last two decades, regional governments in Catalonia have force-fed an aggressive nationalist agenda on their people with immense disloyalty towards the principles carved in the Constitution. As with most nationalisms (including Hitler’s), the role of propaganda is to instill a sense of victimhood that turns into hatred and then a sense of superiority full of pride and arrogance. That is what Catalonia’s nationalism is about.The law recognizes both Spanish and Catalan as official languages in Catalonia, but the Spanish language has been persecuted and public schools and universities have indoctrinated youngsters in hatred towards Spain based on historical fallacies that without exception make Catalonia a helpless victim. Indeed, victimhood based on rewriting history is key to Catalonian nationalism, which, significantly, celebrates defeats instead of victories as national holidays.
Due to mismanagement, Catalonia’s regional finances are in dire straits, taxes are among the highest in the country and regional debt has surged (mostly financed by Spain). Also, a myriad of corruption cases have surfaced in the last decade. Within this framework, the current regional government, composed by pro-independence and extreme-left parties, has taken advantage of the parliamentary weakness of Spain’s central government in order to push for a unilateral referendum for independence which our Constitution clearly prohibits in article 1, 2 and 92. It is not an “interpretation”, as most foreign media state, but a literal straightforward sentence. Have any of these journalists read those few lines, available in English? Of course not. Following standard legal procedures, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled the referendum obviously unconstitutional and ordered it to be stopped, but the regional government refused to do so and therefore defied the law and the courts of justice.
The lack of conviction and procrastination of Spain’s central government, like those of its predecessors who in past decades turned a blind eye to the gathering storm, prevented the neutralization of the threat long before last Sunday’s events, in which the Catalonia’s nationalists’ propaganda were accepted as facts, unfiltered and unchecked, by international media, which reliability is now in jeopardy. For example, separatists stated that 893 people had been injured, but strangely enough only 4 people remained in hospital 24 hours later, including a 70 year old man suffering a heart attack. More than 400 policemen were hurt, and 33 required medical attention. When police charge against unruly mobs in other democracies, such as in the recent G-20 events in Hamburg, for instance, the media accept that as an application of the rule of law. Why judge Spain differently?
Political correctness, of course, now calls for immediate dialogue with the offenders, but that would be a huge mistake. If there is rule of law, breaking the law must have consequences. Further concessions would reward blackmail and anarchy and would also incentivize a future conflict of unforeseeable consequences. Thatcher also affirmed that that the undermining of the law was the first step towards tyranny. What is increasingly taking place in Catalonia is a revolutionary anarchy. This is not nationalism, but nazionalism, and has nothing to do whatsoever with the struggle for liberty of an oppressed people. This portrait is absolutely false.
The Spanish government must remain firm. We cannot accept the policy of fait accompli, nor the breaking of the law by a few fanatics, nor fascist tactics that intend to engulf Catalonia in a revolutionary anarchy. For the sake of peace and liberty, sometimes you need to draw the line. Let’s hope the Spanish government understands this, because a half-hearted response to this challenge would be extremely dangerous.