Why Catalonia's Independence is coming

There are several objective reasons why the people of Catalonia are increasingly in favor of an independent Catalan state. These reasons fall under three categories: economic, social, and cultural.

Economic reasons: Catalonia's economy is being unacceptably damaged because of our inclusion into the Spanish state. The fiscal plunder that the Spanish government imposes on Catalonia has risen to 10% of our Gross Domestic Product, amounting to 20 billion Euros that are extracted in various taxes every year and never return as investments or social services. This is unheard of in any other democracy of the world: within Germany, the maximum amount of any "levelling tax" among territories is 4%, and in the US it is about 2.5%. Moreover, in the case of Catalonia this is not done to level the standard of living among various regions, but it is really fiscal plunder: there are several autonomous communities in Spain that become wealthier than Catalonia in terms of real per capita income only after the fiscal plunder is applied.
The damage to the Catalan economy is not limited to the annual plunder of 20 billion euros. Investment in our infrastructure is deficient because the Spanish government does not want the Catalan economy to surpass the size and power of its capital, Madrid. Thus, the high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid has had to wait for 15 years after the train from Madrid to Sevilla was build, when Sevilla is a much smaller city with much less economic output than Barcelona, and Barcelona is the gate towards Europe. The high-speed train from Barcelona to València and from Barcelona to France has not been built. The Spanish government makes plans for a tunnel through the Pyrenees to prevent Catalonia from benefiting from a Mediterranean axis for European trading. The airport in Barcelona cannot establish an international hub and make deals with airlines through independent decisions by the autonomous government, but is still subject to the dictates of the central government in Madrid.

The Catalan people have attempted to solve this intolerable situation through a new Statute of Autonomy, which was approved by 89% of the elected representatives in our Parliament in September 2005, and by 73% of the voters in a referendum in 2006. However, the Spanish state has eliminated key provisions of the statute by co-opting various Catalan politicians to change the statute in 2006, and finally by means of a judicial sentence by the Spanish Constitutional Court, which has changed a law that was already voted and approved by the citizens (a remnant of the treaties made with the post-Franco politicians during the transition in the late 70's). The final result is that the new Statute of Autonomy does not solve any of the problems that attempted to solve, and that numerous anti-Catalan campaigns have been unacceptably launched to misinform Spanish people about the problems.

As the economic crisis unfolds, Catalan people are bound to realise the enormous burden that belonging to Spain implies for us. A process of decapitalization through the fiscal plunder and exclusion from the large companies controlled by an oligarchic Spanish system that traces its roots to the Franco regime is substantially eroding the productive base of the Catalan economy. Tourism and the real estate sector have kept our economy working for some time, but this is now collapsing, with the result of extremely high unemployment. Spain has become a high-cost and low-productivity country through this decapitalization of Catalonia and the maintenance of a poorly productive economy elsewhere in Spain with people used to a free bounty coming from the Catalan fiscal plunder, undermining good working habits of a whole generation. The consequence is that Spain will not be able to recover from the crisis as other European nations will do.

Social reasons: Increasing antagonism between Catalonia and Spain has been brought about by several anti-Catalan campaigns in Spain. The newspaper "El Mundo" proposed a poll among its readers in 2009 asking them if they felt hatred against the Catalans: the result was that 56% said yes. In a normal country, this poll would have been forbidden and this newspaper would have been closed down for inciting citizens towards hate attitudes. In Spain, there was not even a warning by the Spanish state or any court of justice against the newspaper El Mundo. The fact that 56% of the readers expressed hatred against Catalonia is obviously a result of false campaigns that are instigated from several Spanish institutions and news media.

The Spanish state has long attempted to foster a division in the Catalan society among those who have Catalan as their mother tongue and those who have Spanish. This division is unwanted in Catalonia and it would never have taken place had it not been for the Franco dictatorship which forbade the use of Catalan in all public institutions and in schools. The Spanish state knows of course that maintaining this division is their way to prevent Catalonia from becoming independent. One of the fundamental successes of the Catalan autonomous government is the creation of a united public school system that uses Catalan as the main language but also incorporates Spanish as a language that is learned with full proficiency. There have been repeated false attacks against this system launched in Spain, attempting to push for a segregated system where separate schools would be established, with schools for non-Catalan speakers in which Catalan is taught like a foreign language and is not learned proficiently. The consequence of this system is not hypothetical, as it has been applied in València and the results are obvious: students attending the non-Valencian schools do not learn Catalan well, while students attending the Valencian schools learn both Catalan and Spanish.

Cultural reasons: After 35 years of the democratic reform since Franco's death, it has become perfectly clear that Spain is not interested in defending the normal use of Catalan, Basque and Galician languages. If Spain were interested in promoting a multilingual state, it would dedicate 25% of its cultural budget to each one of the languages. If Spanish is more widely used than the other three languages, the natural response should be to more strongly promote the three languages that are less used to compensate for their unequal extension. Instead, the Spanish state promotes the Spanish language only: for example, the Instituto Cervantes, paid by taxes of all citizens of Spain, is dedicated to create propaganda about the wide extension of the Spanish language throughout the world, and attempts to challenge the role of English as international language arguing that Spanish should be in a similar position, while ignoring Catalan, Basque and Galician. This is a totally ridiculous pretension, as it makes no sense to have more than one language for general international communication, and one should instead try to protect linguistic diversity by prioritizing each language over its natural territory.

Catalan, Basque and Galician are treated as peripheral and anecdotal, spoken only by "some people" in some autonomous communities, while Spanish is given the role of the "language of everyone" throughout all the Spanish territory. That is to say, the Spanish state imposes the view that Catalan, Basque and Galician have no territory where they are the first and most important language, a view that obviously condemns these three languages to disappear over the next few decades as obsolete and useless in the present era of globalization. The process of substitution by Spanish occurs in a known way that has been observed already in cities like Alacant, where Catalan was spoken by nearly everyone 100 years ago and today most people are no longer able to speak it. One recently arrived immigrant in Catalonia described the situation with the comment that Catalan is "as beautiful as it is useless": only the immigrants who are particularly interested in our local culture learn to speak Catalan. The school system in Catalonia is the only institution that prioritizes the use of Catalan, and it is of course precisely the target of repeated attacks from the government-controlled Spanish media. The Spanish state has no interest in protecting or promoting languages other than Spanish and creates a media environment that is almost exclusively in Spanish, thereby neglecting its responsibility to preserve its linguistic diversity: here, it is the facts that count, and not any words they may say.

The independence movement in Catalonia has gone through a profound change over the last 30 years. In 1980, the principal movement in Catalonia was conceived as "Catalan nationalism". The word nationalism has negative connotations in the English language, but in Catalan it has no implication of a feeling of superiority over other nations, instead it is rooted in the resistance movement of the Catalan people against the continuous attempts by the Spanish state to let our nation, our language and our culture languish. Catalan nationalism affirms the value of preserving our language and culture as factors that distinguish us from Spain. However, it is not necessarily separatist or in favor of independence. In 1980 there was a reasonable hope that a new democratic Spanish state would gradually acknowledge Catalonia as a nation and accept its responsibility to equally protect all the languages and cultures in Spain, and most of the people were hoping for a new way to fit Catalonia in this reformed Spain. In 2010, all these hopes have been dashed, and it has become clear that the nation of Catalonia must decide between independence or suicide inside Spain. The Spanish people have clearly said that they are not interested in a multinational or multilingual state, and they have the right to have the state they want, but the Catalan people do so too.

However, the changes go much further than this: in 1980, the Catalan independence movement was a subset of the Catalan nationalism movement, and was regarded as more radical. In 2010, one does not need to be a "Catalan nationalist" any more to be in favor of independence: one simply needs to understand the objective reasons why Catalonia and Spain will manage their own affairs and relate to each other much better if they have separate states, instead of obsessively insisting on fitting into the same one. The new independence movement is not really against Spain, and it appeals to people who may speak Spanish preferably and who may also feel a Spanish identity in addition to a Catalan one. It is no longer based on the concept of resistance against Spanish oppression, but rather on a positive and exciting prospect for building our model for a Catalan state that will tremendously improve our society, our economy and our cultural potential. We realise that once Catalonia becomes an independent state, the relationship between Catalonia and Spain can finally be a friendly one and we can collaborate within the European Union in whichever way we decide from our mutual sovereignty and independence. Naturally, people who identify both with a Spanish and Catalan culture will be able to have double citizenship of Spain and Catalonia, and participate as citizens of both countries whenever they are interested.

Another important change is that there is no longer any reasonable basis for the "Catalan nationalism" movement to shy away from the option of independence. In 2010, people in the "Catalan nationalism" movement who are not in favor of independence have been left with no rational arguments: after the failure of the Statute reform and the clear Spanish message that they are not willing to move beyond that, we have to decide between being fully Spanish and accepting the slow death that is reserved for Catalan culture in Spain, or declaring an independent state. It is only a matter of time before everyone will be forced to clearly say what they favor between these two choices. For many politicians, this decision is being delayed because they are co-opted in some way, because they are afraid (something understandable after centuries of Spanish persecution and oppression), or because they are unsure of what a Catalan state will be like and what comes after the declaration of independence. But the conversion process of these people in favor of independence will gradually crystalize over the next few years, as the road to independence becomes clearer.

Thus, the situation has gone through a complete reversal from 1980 to 2010: now, it is the ideology of Spanish union which can only be defended from a perspective of "Spanish nationalism", a feeling of belonging to the Spanish nation, and maintaining the dogmatism of the sanctity of a united, glorious Spain. Most people are gradually abandoning this dogma that was exalted in Franco's dictatorship, and they look for objective reasons for the optimal way to build our future in the context of the European Union, with a project that can inspire and nurture the enthusiasm of all the Catalan people.

As Catalonia reaches this crossroad in its history, a new movement has been organizing the celebration of a popular referendum in many towns and cities in Catalonia for people to vote Yes or No on the question "Do you want Catalonia to become a new legal, social and democratic state, integrated in the European Union?". The referendum was first held in Arenys de Munt on September 13th 2009, and in several other municipalities on December 13th 2009 and February 28th, April 30th, May 30th and June 20th of 2010. In 2011 this democratic exercise comes to a closure with the holding of the referendum in Barcelona on April 10th. These referenda are not recognized as legal by any government institution and they are organized purely by independent citizens and civic associations. This seems to be the first case in all of human history where the citizens of a country organize themselves to carry out a democratic referendum or election without any institutional support from any government.

There are also new political movements and organizations appearing, which provide a new voice for the need and the way to reach independence from Spain. The proclamation of the new Catalan State must be done unilaterally from our democratically elected Parliament, as long as Spanish law (which never broke with the fascist regime of Franco to start a new legitimacy, but instead made a gradual adaptation for democratic reform to be ready to enter the European Union) persists in not allowing Catalonia to democratically reach independence in any way. It is still too early to say if some of these movements may succeed, but there is a clear longing for strong leaders in the movement for Catalan independence who are yet to emerge. At the same time, changes are taking place within the traditional political parties that have long been represented in the Catalan parliament, where many politicians are calling for a more open approach and discussion of the ideas in favor of Catalan independence. Many politicians are starting to discuss the idea that the desire for federalism and shared sovereignty in Spain should not be placed in opposition to independence, but perhaps alongside with it: an independent Catalonia would democratically decide on special relations of federation or of other types it may want to establish with its neighbor states in the European Union.

The Catalan people are becoming ready to say to the world, clear and loud: "We want a Catalan state". We would like to ask all the democratic nations of the world, particularly those that have contributed the most to the current era of democratic resurgence and social progress of humanity (the United States of America, the Republic of Germany, the United Kingdom,...), to please recognize the Catalan state on the day when we proclaim our independence from the Catalan Parliament. Please let us know if there is anything that we can do for you. At the same time, we would also like to ask the Spanish people to support our democratic decisions and to convince their government not to delay the recognition of the independence of Catalonia: we look forward to a new era of friendship inside the European Union once each of our nations is endowed with a state.

A history of repression against the Catalan language