What Does The Issue Of Catalan Independence Mean For World Peace?


The Catalan Independence movement, independentisme catalá, began in 1922 with the idea to separate Catalonia from the Spanish Kingdom. This was achieved through founding the Catalan state. In 1931, negotiations were held which agreed that Catalonia would have autonomy with the Spanish state. However, during the Spanish Civil War in 1938 General Franco abolished their autonomy. After Franco’s death in 1975, Catalan politics focused on achieving autonomy rather than independence.

More recently, the independence movement resurfaced as an issue in 2006 when the Statute of Autonomy was challenged by the Spanish High Court, ruling that many of its propositions went against the constitution. Protests against this particular decision quickly morphed into protests for independence.

2014 saw the first of a series of referendums based on the questions of statehood, 1. “Do you want Catalonia to become a state?” And 2. “Do you want this state to be independent?” However, this referendum was ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish Court, and thus banned.

In November 2015 the Catalan Parliament declared the start of the independence protest, and this year, president Charles Puigdemont announced a binding referendum on independence. Held on 1st October 2017, despite its branding as illegal by the Spanish government and Constitutional Court, results showed a 90% vote in favor of independence, with a turnout of 43%.

With this outcome from the start of the month, what does this mean for World Peace?

On one hand, it is a striking symbol of discord representing deep tensions between Spain and Catalonia, separating due to a lack of ability to agree. On another, it marks a step forward in the ability to self-govern, to effectively apply democracy, and to successfully step away from larger controlling bodies.

Whilst unionist ideas hold on to a principle of bigger equals better, together equals stronger, the reality of an authoritarian government which doesn’t entertain discussion of political issues does not exemplify a communicative democracy.

It seems that both sides are firmly rooted to their spots, in terms of the Spanish government versus Catalan Independence supports, as there are no records of discussion between the two beyond the theme of “We want independence” and response “No.”

Perhaps the important question to discuss here is “Why?”

Why does Catalonia want independence? For cultural reasons of separate traditions, linguistic difference, economic benefits, and residual pain of the oppressive Franco era. But also, now it has become a democratic issue, one of the right to an opinion, the right to vote for autonomy, the right to vote for freedom.

Why doesn’t the Spanish government want it? Publicly, the sole reason is its illegality in going against the Spanish constitution. But it is realistic to hypothesize that its anti position has a lot to do with Barcelona. As the 2nd biggest city in Spain, its exit from the country is strongly against economic interests.

Sadly for peace, this reaction has resulted in the use of force to prevent the movement for Independence, in the forms of political, financial and brute. Riot police violence at protests and undemocratic behavior through the silencing of voices presents a strong case for the reasons behind the Catalan Independence movement. The forbidding of the referendum has in turn compromised the human right of freedom of expression, whose importance usurps that of the Spanish constitution.

Perhaps a consideration of discussion–altering the constitution, opening a conversation, and aiming towards co-operation–would aid a better a solution to the fierce opposition of the Spanish government and Catalan Independence supporters, bringing a healthy compromise rather than rivalry and enemy in a world already full enough of conflict.

‘Better together’ works when co-operation is a key principle, but if together’s meaning signifies docile obedience, the need for self-governance can be a positive alternative.