Anti-independence Catalans have been 'abandoned' by Spain's central government

Francisco Caja, the president of a Catalan civic group opposing a breakaway from Madrid, feels Catalonia's leaders created a "pre-democratic situation." He told DW why he blames both Barcelona and Madrid.

DW: How do you view the current situation in Catalonia?

Politics | 04.10.2017

Francisco Caja: Frankly, the situation is quite grave, an emergency situation that calls for extraordinary measures: the provisions in the constitution to redirect what can be considered a coup d'etat and restore the rule of law in Catalonia that has been violated by the autonomous government of Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont.

The Catalan government carried out the destruction of democracy by perversely using institutional instruments, beginning with schools, continuing with mediums of mass communication and ending with the regional police, which is a politicized police. The non-nationalists are truly suffering from the suppression of basic rights. The separation of powers, a democratic norm, has been destroyed here. This is the problem. Political powers in Catalonia do not adhere to the law. It is a pre-democratic situation.

Caja is a professor of Aesthetics at the University of Barcelona

Read more: Catalan independence - what you need to know

You mentioned the need for extraordinary measures. What would these be?

Firstly, in light of serious crimes based on the Spanish penal code, this would be the application of Article 155, which was actually inspired by the German Basic Law. If Spain's autonomous communities do not comply with national law, the article authorizes the central government to intervene over the regional public authorities. Article 155 does not lay out concrete measures. This requires an execution plan that is very precise, very calculated and very detailed in order to return to constitutional foundations and restore democracy in Catalonia.

Read more: Catalan mayor feels Spain coming 'closer and closer' to dictatorship

If Article 155 is applied, it will be the first time ever. How did things arrive at this critical point?

That is the basic question needed to understand what is going on. In this political age, we know what nationalism is. I have analyzed the ideology of Catalan nationalism and its racial basis. It is a form of racism. The writings that outline Catalan nationalism, including those by Jordi Pujol, Catalonia's president from 1980 to 2003, show that he had a plan to take power over Catalan society by controlling schools, universities, and press. A clientele system has been created, and it has replaced the free market in order to control the consciousness of Catalan citizens.

Read more: Catalan separatist movement driven by more than just economics

Related Subjects

Infografik Timeline Die Geschichte Kataloniens ENG

But the secessionists would argue that the central government has its own clientele system with the press, with the judicial courts. How do you respond to their opinion?

The problem, in any case, is that even if the Popular Party of current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is corrupt, this doesn't authorize corruption on the part of Catalan authorities. But the newspapers in the rest of Spain are not subsidized by the government — or at least not subsidized like they are in Catalonia. For example, in 2010 after the Constitutional Court struck down measures in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, all the Catalan newspapers jointly published a nearly identical editorial. This is unthinkable unless there is direct political control.

With respect to the media, it doesn't seem like your organization, Convivencia, or other groups opposing independence have as strong a public presence as the pro-separatists.

Protests in Madrid on October 7 against Catalan independence. A Barcelona rally is set for October 8

Yes, because control of public mediums is in the hands of political authorities. There are blacklists. I can tell you my personal experience: I have been banned from public mediums. The only time I have been able to appear is because they have wanted to get certain information out of me, such as when we published a study disproving the argument that in Germany there is a 4-percent limit on transfers to the central government. This is one of the irrational arguments that Catalan separatists use when they argue that "Spain robs us."

Convivencia is involved in the anti-independence demonstration that is set to take place in Barcelona this Sunday, October 8. What do you hope to show and achieve?

First, we want to publically show that a majority of Catalans do not support secession. The secessionist movement is heavily financed by the Catalan regional government. We have no more resources than those that come from our members. And second, we want to demand that our government, the government of Spain, act and apply the law. Government officials are responsible for enforcing the law, and the laws are not being fulfilled in Catalonia. We are seeing the secessionist leaders making a joke of the constitution and getting off the hook, as if they had not committed any crime.

Read more: Catalan police head appears in Madrid court for sedition allegations

Caja feels that the government of Rajoy has abandoned Catalans who oppose independence

So do you feel a little abandoned by the central government?

Not a little abandoned! Absolutely abandoned! When Madrid does not apply the law and the penal code to conduct that, which it classifies as crimes, well, just imagine — and I am using a dangerous and a politically incorrect example — but just imagine that the law was not applied to rapists. A rapist could confess, knowing that he wouldn't be punished. The court and the government could say whatever they wanted, but if the law wasn't applied, if he wasn't detained, tried and condemned, what security would there be for women? None. It is the same for the citizens of Catalonia. We do not have any form of security. We are not really citizens. Secession was decreed a long time ago for us, and we do not have our basic rights that are guaranteed by the application of law and the penalization of those who violate it.

Read more: Opinion: Spain and Catalonia — 'Out with them all!'

If a unilateral declaration of independence for Catalonia is issued, what could Convivencia do?

In principle, we don't have any political power. We are an exclusively civil organization. But what we can do is defend our rights and civil liberties. We citizens, individually and collectively, can use legal means to demand that the government apply the law. But the actual application of law rests with the political authorities. It is the government's task. And we can't do it for them. They have to act rapidly, intelligently and efficiently with a plan to reconstruct the state of law in Catalonia. And not by sending in the police to beat down crowds. But without the intervention of the government, we can do very little. I am not going to take to the streets in armed protest. And citizens should not become cannon fodder just to cover the ineptitude of the central government.

Francisco Caja is a professor of Aesthetics at the University of Barcelona, as well as the president of "Convivencia Civica Catalana" (Civil Coexistence Catalan), a nongovernmental organization founded in 1998 that coordinates other civil organizations and publishes studies on the political and economic situation in Catalonia. It also supports the "free linguistic choice" between Spanish and Catalan in education and is against a breakaway from Spain.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Rich ancient heritage

Catalonia has been settled by the Phoenicians, the Etruscans and the Greeks, who were mainly in the coastal areas of Rosas and Empuries (above). Then came the Romans, who built more settlements and infrastructure. Catalonia remained a part of the Roman Empire until it was conquered by the Visigoths in the fifth century.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Counties and independence

Catalonia was conquered by Arabs in 711 AD. The Frankish king Charlemagne stopped their advance at Tours on the Loire River and, by 759, the north of Catalonia was once again Christian. In 1137, the counties that made up Catalonia entered an alliance with the Crown of Aragon.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Autonomy and the war of succession

In the 13th century, the institutions of Catalan self-administration were created under the banner of the Generalitat de Catalunya. After the unification of the Crown of Aragon with that of Castile in 1476, Aragon was largely able to keep its autonomic institutions. However, the Catalan revolt — from 1640 to 1659 — saw parts of Catalonia ceded to present-day France.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Remembrance of defeat

After the conquest of Barcelona on September 11, 1714, by the Bourbon King Phillip V, Catalan instuitutions were dissolved and self-administration came to an end. Every year, on September 11, Catalans commemorate the end of their right to autonomy.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Federal ideas in wider republic

After the abdication of King Amadeo I of Spain, the first Spanish Republic was declared in February 1873. It lasted barely a year. The supporters of the Republic were split – one group supporting the idea of a centralized republic, the others wanting a federal system. Pictured here is Francisco Pi i Maragall, a supporter of federalism and one of five presidents of the short-lived republic.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Failed attempt

Catalonia sought to establish a new state within the Spanish republic, but this only served to exacerbate the differences between republicans, ultimately dividing and weakening them. In 1874, the monarchy and the House of Bourbon (led by King Alfonso XII, pictured here) took the helm.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Catalan Republic

Between 1923 — with the support of the monarchy, the army and the church — General Primo de Rivera declared a dictatorship. Catalonia became a center of opposition and resistance. After the end of the dictatorship, the politician Francesc Macia (pictured here) successfully pressed for important rights of autonomy for Catalonia.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

The end of freedom

In the Second Spanish Republic, Catalan lawmakers worked on the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. This was approved by the Spanish parliament in 1932. Francesc Macia was elected president of the Generalitat of Catalonia by the Catalan parliament. However, the victory of Franco at the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) put an end to all that.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Loss of liberties

The Franco regime ruled with an iron rod. Political parties were banned and the Catalan language and culture were surpressed.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

New autonomy by statute

After the first parliamentary elections that followed the end of the Franco dictatorship, the Generalitat of Catalonia was provisionally restored. Under the democratic Spanish constitution of 1978, Catalonia was given a new Statute of Autonomy just a year later.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

New and different statute

The new Statute of Autonomy recognized the autonomy of Catalonia and the importance of the Catalan language. In comparison to the 1932 statute, it was enhanced in the fields of culture and education but curtailed when it came to the realm of justice. Pictured here is Jordi Pujol, the long-time head of the government of Catalonia after the dictatorship.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Stronger self-awareness

A desire for independence has grown stronger in recent years. In 2006, Catalonia was given a new statute that broadened the Catalan government's powers. However, it lost these after a complaint by the conservative Popular Party to the Constitutional Court of Spain.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

First referendum

A referendum on independence was already envisaged for November 9, 2014. The first question was "Do you want Catalonia to become a state?" In the case of an affirmative answer, the second question was posed: "Do you want this state to be independent?" However, the Constitutional Court suspended the vote.

Catalonia's independence movement — a brief history

Clash of the titans

Since January 2016, Carles Puigdemont has been president of the Catalan government. He proceeded with the separatist course of his predecessor Artur Mas and called the new referendum for October 1, 2017. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dismissed this as unconstitutional.