Spanish state to Catalonia: 'Surrender or we'll take you over'
A meeting of one of the many local Committees to Defend the Referendum t
hat have sprouted up across Catalonia.By Dick NicholsOctober 16, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Catalonia’s Premier Carles Puigdemont officially declared an independent Catalan republic on October 10, only to announce the immediate suspension of independence to allow for negotiations with the conservative Spanish People’s Party (PP) government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The declaration of independence formalised the result of the October 1 referendum held under extreme police repression: in it 90% of those voting (43% of the electorate) said ‘Yes’ to independence. The harsh reply from Madrid came two days later: Catalonia had to abandon all thought of secession or see its self-rule erased under article 155 of the Spanish constitution. The Catalan government was formally notified by fax that it had until 10am Monday, October 16 to make clear whether it had declared independence or not and, if it had, until 10 am Thursday, October 19 to abandon independence and "return within the framework of the constitution". Moreover, only a clear written Yes or No would be accepted--"any statement different from a simple negative or affirmative reply will be considered as affirmative." Article 155 states that if an autonomous community (state, in Australian terms) does not carry out its constitutional and legal obligations or "acts in a way that seriously damages Spain’s general interest" the central government can implement any measures needed to force it back into line. To apply it, the Spanish government must give notice of warning to the premier of the offending autonomous community and, if rebuffed, win the support of a majority of the Spanish Senate for its proposal of intervention under the article. Since under Spain’s rigged electoral system the minority PP government has a majority in the Senate, getting article 155 implemented will be a formality. However, PP leader Rajoy has always been aware that he needs the broadest possible parliamentary majority before adopting—for the first time ever—this "nuclear option" against the Catalan government and the powerful mass independence movement that stands behind it. That movement has been emboldened by its extraordinary successes, both in carrying out the October 1 independence referendum in the teeth of massive police repression and in driving an October 3 general strike accompanied by the biggest demonstrations since the end of the Franco dictatorship. It has also grown beyond a strict movement for independence to one defending Catalan sovereignty and institutions—a reflection of the 80% of the population who support Catalonia’s right to decide its relation to the Spanish state.