2013 is Catalonia’s 1775
Catalonia is regaining independence from Spain. But why break away now, after 299 years? Let’s compare the current Catalan situation to the American colonies just before independence.
According to the BBC, “In 1763, Americans joyously celebrated the British victory in the Seven Years’ War, reveling in their identity as Britons and jealously guarding their muchcelebrated rights which they believed they possessed by virtue of membership in what they saw as the world’s greatest empire.” Yet just 13 years later, the colonies declared independence.
Why? Because Britain attempted to abolish their most-cherished rights. In 1765 Parliament enacted the Stamp Act, in order to pay for defending the colonies. This astonished the colonists, who had democratically taxed and governed themselves for over 100 years. Suddenly they felt the empire had turned on them, robbing them of one of the
freedoms they loved most: self-governance. The colonists reacted with hostility, which Parliament countered with the Intolerable Acts, 10 years of increasingly onerous laws designed to teach the colonists exactly who was in charge. And with each new law, the colonists’ outrage grew. In 1775, the king declared the colonies to be “in rebellion,” and the next year the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence.
The current situation is similar in Catalonia. Since the 1975 death of dictator Francisco Franco, Catalans have helped create a democratic system of government in Spain allowing selfgovernment to each national territory (such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Andalucia). Under this system, Catalonia gained ever-increasing powers of self-governance, culminating in the 2006 adoption, by the government of Spain, of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy – something similar to the constitution of an American state. But the constitutionality of the Statute of Autonomy was soon challenged by several groups, most importantly the right-wing Popular Party, a group obtaining minimal support in Catalonia, but a majority in the rest of Spain.
In Spain’s 2008 general elections, the Popular Party actively campaigned hard against Catalan and Basque self-governance, while adopting strong patriotic nationalist symbols and rhetoric reminiscent of the Franco era. Discrimination against Catalans, their language, their culture, and their government began to rise quickly, and became institutionalized with the Popular Party’s general election victory in 2011. In the meantime, Spain’s Constitutional Court in 2010 struck down many of the most important self-governance clauses of the Statute of Autonomy. With the economic crisis hitting Spain hard since 2009, the anti-Catalan government in Madrid, now controlled by the Popular Party, has enacted taxes as unfair as the Stamp Act, disproportionately taxing Catalans while greatly decreasing public expenditures to Catalonia. The Spanish Government has also passed a series of onerous laws designed to teach Catalans exactly who is in charge. And like the American colonists of old, Catalans have reacted with vehement hostility. As a result, it appears to many in Spain that Catalonia is already “in rebellion,” and by the end of 2014, Catalans intend to follow in the footsteps of Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams by declaring independence.
Edward W. Goodson
San Ramon, California
January 18, 2013