The Magazine

Mas Movement

Catalonia ponders secession.

Nov 26, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 11 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
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Since parliament has already approved a referendum, Mas’s CiU is set to benefit no matter what happens. In ordinary circumstances, a lukewarm plurality wants independence. But as in similar votes in Quebec, big referenda fire people up. Earlier this year, a poll in the Barcelona paper El Periódico had 53.6 percent saying they would vote “Yes,” versus 32 percent on the “No” side. Mas is now six seats short of an absolute majority. If he gets one, he will have a lot of freedom of action. If he doesn’t, his republican right will have to make a coalition with the party known as the Republican Left (ERC). That would be fine, too. It would isolate the non-nationalists on the left, further damaging an imploding Catalan socialist party that has been the CiU’s main rival, and which has benefited from a cozy relationship with the Socialists in Madrid.

Madrid is resisting. Under the Spanish constitution, Spain must approve any secession. Lest the message be seen as ambiguous, the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly (276 votes to 42) in October to disallow the Catalan referendum. The conservative Euro-parliament member Alejo Vidal Quadras opined that an independent Catalonia would have to undertake the long process of reapplying for EU membership. The move towards independence shows no sign of stopping. Catalans, despite their recent history, may underestimate the grim resolve of their fellow Iberians. Spaniards, meanwhile, think Mas is playing some kind of game, and hope he might be willing to negotiate the referendum away in exchange for a generously amended fiscal compact. Tragedies often result when two sides each wrongly think the other is bluffing.

Catalan independence is a wish that has been harbored for centuries. There are cultural, economic, and moral arguments for it. But one must ask why it is happening the way it is happening, and why now. The answer lies in the EU, which is a project for dissolving the continent’s nation-states. The EU’s leaders might not say it, they might not even think it, but the logic is inexorable. It is natural for minorities within the traditional nation-states to profit from this dissolution. But eventually majorities will see it as a trick that has been played on them. There is nothing more dangerous in politics than a majority convinced it has been tricked.

Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD. 

 

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