Sunday, November 10, 2013

Black, White, and Red (and Yellow) All Over: Commie Nun Vows Revolution for Independent Catalonia

Separatist movements in the new Europe often have left and right wings to them.  Nowhere is this truer than in Spain, whose unusual political landscape of ideologically and regionally diverse splinter groups can be seen as part of the continuing aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, including a Fascist dictatorship which, almost uniquely in western Europe, yielded to pluralism only a generation ago.

It is true especially of Catalonia, whose widely popular independence movement (which this blog called one of “10 Separatist Movements to Watch in 2013”) is hurtling toward a referendum next year on separation from Spain.  (See recent articles on the movement here and here.)  There is the region’s ruling Convergence and Union (Convergència i Unió, or CiU), which, to the discomfort of some, includes many political conservatives in its broad pro-independence coalition.  Then there is the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, or ERC), which takes a more radical-socialist approach.  ERC disdains any attachment to mainstream Spanish politics—promoting unification with the small North Catalonia region over the border in southeastern France in an independent “Greater Catalonia” and (as reported on not too long ago in this blog) bucking the Spanish jingoistic consensus by defending the United Kingdom’s sovereignty in Gibraltar.  (After all, Catalans sided with Britain against Madrid in the Wars of Spanish Succession—and for a while during the Spanish Civil War, as readers of George Orwell know, Catalonia was, of all things, an independent “Anarchist” statelet.)

A Procès Constituent rally in Barcelona.
Good lord, they must be radicals.  Not a Catalan flag in sight.
But now even ERC has been outflanked on the left, by a new group called Constituent Process in Catalonia (Procès Constituent a Catalunya), a non-party movement founded in April 2013 with an agenda far more radical than any other independentist group in the region, Greens included.  One of its co-founders is Sister Teresa Forcades, a Benedictine nun who has now vowed that before or after separation Catalonia needs to undergo a revolution.  “We don’t shy away from the word revolution,” she says, adding, “We have democracy in name, but not in reality because the broad current of opinion, which is that the system must change, is not represented.”  Her co-founder, Arcadi Oliveres, a university economist in Barcelona, agrees: “Thousands of people are being evicted from their homes while thousands of homes lie empty.  This absurdity is based on the sacrosanct idea of private property.  All the property the banks have acquired should be made available as social housing.”

Sister Forcades considers CiU the party of the rich and calls instead for nationalization of banks, withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (though it has yet to be agreed upon if an independent Catalonia could stay in NATO and the European Union if it wanted to), and even abolition of the military.

Sister Teresa says the CiU emperors have no clothes.
Procès Constituent has amassed over 45,000 members since it made its manifesto public earlier this year.  What remains to be seen is whether such expressions of discontent will help or hinder CiU’s larger push for independence.  Poll numbers are faltering, but is CiU’s accommodation to the Establishment and to political conservatives and nationalist xenophobes pushing those numbers down, or are they the only things keeping them up?  As in the rest of Spain, the solution on offer seems to be further fragmentation and factionalism (not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that).

But Catalan independence is less important for Sister Forcades and her allies than the social changes they wish to see.  “A majority of people in Catalonia already want radical change,” she says, “so we are only trying articulate what already exists.  I don’t think these changes can only happen in an independent Catalonia, but I think it would be better.  However, there is a hunger for change across all of Spain and I think if it only happens in Catalonia it’s doomed to fail.”

Looking ahead to 2014 ...
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon