As El Mundo and Bloomberg reported the current options Madrid has been considering for dealing with the Secessionist Movement in Catalonia, political commentators elsewhere in Europe were attempting to claim that the entire drive towards a break with Madrid had been ‘incubated in a media cocoon‘. In reality, however, as pointed out by the former British Diplomat Craig Murray, much of what the mainstream media has thus far led us to believe, in relation to what is and has been happening on the ground, has been misrepresentative to say the least. Worse still, attempts by the Alt Media, many of whom have expressed sympathy with participants in the protests, to provide an accurate assessment of the complex political and social undercurrents behind what is presently going on, have been hampered by a lack of knowledge, both historical and societal, which has left them with little understanding of how this crisis arose in the first place.
In the immediate aftermath of the abortive referendum newspapers across Europe reported that preliminary results from polling stations across Catalonia had revealed as much as ninety per cent support for independence among those who had taken part in the ballot. A stark contrast to figures being projected by the BBC and other mainstream media news agencies in the run up to voting on the previous Friday and Saturday. The fact that as late as Sunday October 1st, the actual day of the vote, organizations such as the BBC were publishing what appear to have been wildly inaccurate statistics, with regard to the exact numbers of those likely to cast their ballots in favour of a break with the rest of Spain, based on figures that haven’t been updated since July, may have been a factor in the way that the Spanish government decided to deal with the referendum in the first place. A fact reflected in the shock and surprise of some of those interviewed by television crews in the wake of the violent tactics employed by Police and Spanish Civil Guard.
The complexities of Spanish Cultural and National identities in the present political and economic climate were picked up by Raphael Minder, writing in the ‘New York Times’ on Saturday, less than twenty four hours before the violence broke out. But Minder’s assessment of what he referred to as the ‘secessionist movement’, a phenomenon that he would have his readers believe has only really begun to manifest itself since his arrival in Spain some seven years ago, but which can actually be traced back to 1706 and the War of Spanish Succession, in its present form at least, was, once again, woefully out of touch. Indeed, the struggle for self ownership, if not self rule in Catalonia, during the first half of the last century was to give rise to such semi-mythological characters as Antonio Martín Escudero, an Anarchist smuggler immortalized in the writings of George Orwell, who operated in the area known to locals a ‘La Cerdanya’; along the Pyrenean Frontier between Catalonia and France. A locality which, in Carolingian Times, was the Frankish controlled ‘Spanish March‘. A kind of buffer state between what was at that time Charlemagne’s Empire and Moorish Spain. Indeed, the first Counts of Barcelona were in fact of Merovingian Frankish, as opposed to Asturian Gothic, descent. A fact that has made yet another largely forgotten contribution to Catalonia’s unique cultural identity. Something which has little or no relevance whatsoever to the mainstream media’s corporate sponsors, who are the ones who have been attempting to control both the political and economic agendas in Catalonia. Both before, and after, the events of October 1st.
In 1701 the death of the last Hapsburg ruler of Spain without legitimate heirs sparked off the War of Spanish Succession between France, whose candidate for the throne, Philip of Anjou, would eventually prevail, and Britain, Austria and Holland; who were in favour of an Austrian candidate. Then, as now, battle lines were drawn between the people of Catalonia, along with their Valencian and Aragonese confederates, who had allied themselves to the Austrians, and the people of Castille, who supported France. Before long blood would flow on the streets of Barcelona. First in 1706, and then in 1714, when the city was besieiged by and eventually fell to the combined forces of France and Castillian Spain. But Catalonia’s refusal to allow itself to be subjected to Bourbon rule without a fight has its roots not in eighteenth century geopolitics, but in its cultural origins in the old Roman province of Hispania: something that has bequeathed to its people their own unique contemporary language. Cultural and Sociological facts that have escaped the mainstream media altogether. Indeed, it is facts such as these that make the ill informed assertions of mainstream media pundits, such as John Moody of Fox News, altogether irrelevant in contemporary Spain.
As the Catalans declared their intention to hold a referendum, many Flemish speakers in Flanders, a former province of what was once the Spanish Netherlands until the end of the War of Spanish Succession and now part of Belgium, expressed solidarity with Catalonia. Four days before the tragic events of October 1st the Speaker of the Flemish Parliament, Jan Peumans, declared ‘Today we are all Catalans’ as part of a formal address to his Catalan counterpart Carme Forcadell. Both Flanders and Catalonia were once to be numbered among the extensive possessions of the old Imperial House of Hapsburg, and were likewise both part of the earlier Carolingian Empire created by Charlemagne during the eighth century. The fact that both of these regions have retained their own unique cultural identities, as the fortunes of various empires that have dominated most of Western Europe since the collapse of the Roman Empire have waxed and waned, says something about the tenacity of the respective populations of both of these European regions; and perhaps indicates that the eventual demise of the European Union may well see the emergence of a number of distinct micronations similar to the ancient tribal kingdoms that predated the ascendancy of Ancient Imperial Rome.
Then, as the events of Ocotober 1st began to unravel in the streets, the people of Brittany, another former Carolingian possession on the Western Seaboard of France with its own unique cultural and historical identity, took to the streets in solidarity with their Catalan counterparts. Like the Catalans, the Bretons, who have their own language which is related to those of Wales and Cornwall, inhabit what was once part of a province of the old Roman Empire, referred to in late imperial documents as ‘The Armorican Tract’. Intererestingly enough, the old Celtic Principality of Armorica, which was eventually to become known as Brittany, had cultural connections with Britonia or Bretona in Northern Spain; now part of the province of Galicia: itself the former Roman province of Gallaecia.
Thus, contrary to what the corporate controlled Mainstream Media would have us believe, what we are seeing is not the emergence of a single run away province which does and should owe its loyalty and allegiance to Spain, but the gradual re-emergence of a whole series of micronations who are seeking to re-establish the political and cultural autonomy they all previously enjoyed. Galicia, like Brittany, and like Catalonia, has its own Independence Movement, which, during the nineteen seventies, spawned its own rebel movement loosely modeled on the Basque terrorist group ETA. In view of this then it is perhaps significant that Spain’s present Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is himself the Grandson of Enrique Rajoy, himself among those directly involved in Galicia’s abortive attempts to obtain its own regional autonomy in the run up to the Spanish Civil War.
Now, with Catalonia’s Independence response deemed invalid, the irony of these last facts has escaped all but a handful of commentators. As Madrid waits to announce its decision to either create a caretaker administration in Catalonia, or else a unity government for the region comprised of elements drawn from all of the competing factions, in the run up to a series of new regional elections intended to oust the rebel government in the months ahead, the only option is the invocation of the special powers granted to it under Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. Whatever Central Government decides to do however, the possibility of more confrontation on the streets of Barcelona, and the possible arrest of the Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, in a manner reminiscent of his predecessor Lluis Companys, who was executed under General Franco, should never be underestimated.
Following Monday’s arrest and imprisonment of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, following a judicial ruling from Spain’s High Court in Madrid, the imposition of direct rule on Catalonia looks increasingly likely. The pair are currently being detained without bail as part of an investigation into what the authorities claim amounts to sedition. Add to this the fact that the Spanish Constitutional Court has also annulled Barcelona’s newly approved Catalan Referendum legislation and Tuesday night’s street protests in Barcelona, in solidarity with the regional administration’s decision to continue to pursue a course in line with what it refers to as its ‘referendum mandate’, seem to be putting the Catalan people on a collision course with the government.
Meanwhile, as Catalans withdraw their money from Spanish banks in protest at Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy heavy handed approach, President Carles Puigdemont’s continued suspension of Catalonia’s declaration of independence has at last received an official response from Madrid. The fact that the deadline for withdrawing the declaration had already expired by several days by the time Madrid announced that it would not be revoking Catalonia’s autonomy, but opting instead for the removal of those local leaders who had acted in ways that the Constitutional Court had ruled were unlawful, would perhaps be indicative that Central Government is proceeding with caution. With Spain’s Senate yet to vote on today’s decision, however, Madrid’s present proposals for a political solution are still some way off from full implementation.
Having begun his career as a junior researcher at Thames Television in London, he has written for a wide range of publications including 'The Brighton Reporter', 'Durham Town and Country', 'The Brighton and Hove People' and 'The New Celtic Review'. As an exhibited film maker he has been a regular contributor and award nominee at the Portobello Film Festival in London; and has seen his work shown at the annual London Film Makers' Convention at the prestigious Round House Theatre.
As well as receiving enthusiastic reviews from BBC Radio 4 and others for his book on Sir Walter Scott, his pioneering work as an Underground Film Maker on the fledgeling Goa Trance Scene has set him in a field of his own amongst many of his contemporaries; both in the UK, where he presently resides, and elsewhere. Current projects presently in hand include a book centred on his 'Legendary London' series of documentary films, which have stimulated an enthusiastic response from the likes of Glenda Jackson and others; and a novel set in France and Edinburgh during the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment.
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