The Oxford International Brigade Memorial Committee keeps alive the memory and spirit of the men and women from Oxfordshire who volunteered to defend democracy and fight fascism in Spain from 1936 to 1939

Opinion

The views and opinions expressed on this page are not necessarily those of the Oxford International Brigade Memorial Committee or the IBMT.

In Catalonia, the nameless dead raise old animosities toward Franco
Families 'don't want revenge, they just want the truth' about the Spanish Civil War - A report by Margaret Evans · CBC News
Find out more ......

Gerdo Taro, the acclaimed photographer of the Spanish Civil War was killed at the Brunete offensive in July 1937.  Has a photograph of Gerdo as she lay wonded and cared for by a Spanish Republican medic now come to light more than 80 years on?  Or is it someone else?  Read more here .....

Catalonia's December 2017 Election Results
(with thanks to The Guardian for the Graphics)

Catalan pro-independence parties have held their absolute majority in the latest regional elections, dealing a severe blow to Manuel Rajoy and the right-wing government in Madrid.  Together the seperatist parties won 70 seats of the 135 seat assembly even though the centre right party, the “Citizens Party” was the biggest single winner.

Of the pro-independence parties Puigdemont’s “Together for Catalonia” took 34 against the Republican Left at 32 and the far-left Popular Unity party’s 4 seats.

The majority for independence is perhaps too slim for such a major constituional change as unilateral independence would entail, but it means that the independence issue cannot be ignored by Rajoy and the Madrid political class.  It also means that the left wing parties also cannot be ignored having together garnered 53 out of the 135 seats

Catalonia's bid for indpendence.

A personal view from Colin Carritt, Chair of OXIBMComm

Subsidiarity.  Devolution.  Independence.  Autonomy.  They are all variations on a theme.  In Scotland a new word was created at the time of the Scottish Independence referendum, “Devo-max”.  But which is it to be for Catalonia?  My own belief is that following the debacle of the October referendum; the ignominious sight of Puigdemont scurrying off to Belgium; the disgraceful display of Rajoy sending in the Civil Guard to beat up those with the temerity to vote; and the second election that merely confirmed the first, things cannot possibly stay the same as before.

Where do we, members and supporters of the International Brigade Memorial Trust stand on the issue?  It would be inappropriate for the Trust to have a formal policy on the matter, but I do think there should be discussion among members.  After all, we revere those who gave their lives in Spain 1936-1939 and as such we surely have a love and a care for the well being of the Spanish people.  And Catalonia, perhaps above all other regions was so closely identified with the International Brigade.  History is important.

Catalonia was always the region least in tune with monarchist Madrid.  During the civil war it was the last place to fall to Franco’s fascists and remained staunchly republican until the end in 1939.  Luis Companys, the leader of the Catalonia Generalitat, was arrested the executed by Franco in the Fossar de la Pedrera on Montjuic, Barcelona.  He went to his death barefoot - “so that he could better feel the earth of Catalonia beneath his feet”.  In the early stages of the civil war Catalonia was the most radical region within the Republic.  It spawned the POUM, the Marxist Workers Party, and its multiple militias that fought so courageously in the Aragon.  The CNT and the FAI were the anarchist wings and were also strongly represented in Catalonia.  They were fiercely republican and fiercely revolutionary.  After Franco’s death and the return of democracy, Catalonia campaigned vigorously for the autonomy that it had enjoyed during the early days of the Republic.  Significant autonomy was granted during the early years of democracy particularly under the PSOE administration of  Zapatero but much of this was clawed back during the subsequent pro-FRanco governments of Aznar and more recently Rajoy.  Rajoy’s PP party has consistently polled very few votes in Catalonia and the antipathy seems to have been mutual.  So it’s natural that many in Catalonia like the idea of independence from Madrid.  But there are many who do not follow that line.  Catalonia, like everywhere these days is cosmopolitan with incomers and outgoers.  People coming in from elsewhere in Spain and Europe and the world to work in the burgeoning businesses and industries in and around Barcelona, and others upping sticks and leaving to study in universities in other parts of Spain and the wider world or travelling to improve their careers or work opportunities.  Many of these people don’t feel the same historical allegiance to Catalania, its culture and traditions.  They feel insecure about a small region like Catalonia suddenly taking the irreversible decision to declare its independence. 

So just how did the Catalans vote?  Frankly, the elections don’t seem to have resolved very much, other than a seething sense of resentment to the status quo. A sense that seems common across much of the developed world and beyond.  The Catalan situation seems as confused now as it was before and there seems to be no clear direction indicated by the result.  Rajoy’s Partido Populaire are to blame for much of the problem.  Rajoy’s aggressive stance and his refusal to talk to the Generalitat has been crass and counter productive.  His heavy handed use of the Civil Guard was inflammatory.  But it isn’t just Rajoy and the Partido Popular.  It was also Puigdemont and the policies of austerity that his administration adopted that simply turned a great many people away from his “Together for Yes” coalition.

Here is a break down of how the Catalans voted 

Citizens Party - Cs - Social Liberal/centre right party and in many ways similar to JxSi excapt that the party are staunch Spanish Unionists - 37 seats won in Dec 2017 election

Together For Yes - JxSi is a loose affiliation of seperatists centred around the President of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont.  It superceded the previous coalition Convergencia i Unio but is essentially the same centre right, liberal democrat party nationalist and seperatist coalition - 34 seats won in Dec 2017 election

Republican Left of Castalonia - Catalonia Yes - ERC - is a coalition of left wing groups who support the principle of a referendum but are more cautious about declarations of independence - 32 seats won in Dec 2017 election

Socialist Party PSOE - PSC - Social Democratic Unionists.  Once further to the left, they have, of recent years, moved to the centre ground.  They support the union and are opposed to Catalan independence. - 17 seats won in Dec 2017 election

Catalonia in Common - is a left wing coalition formed mainly from Podermos.  They support self determination for the Catalan people but are equivocal over the precise terms of any declaration of independence.  - 8 seat won in Dec 2017 election

Popular Unity Candidacy - CUP - Left to Far Left Pro-Independence.  It is anti-capitalist and generally restricts itself to municipal politics. 4 seat won in Dec 2017 election

People’s Party of Catalonia - PPC - Conservative Spanish Unionists, the Catalan equivalent of Rajoy’s Partido Popular. - 3 seats won in Dec 2017 election

Party

Abbrev

Policies

Independence

Seats

Citizens Party

Cs

Right

Unionist

37

Together for Yes

JxC

Right

Separatist

34

Republican Left - Catalonia Yes

ERC

Left

Separatist

32

Socialist Party

PSC

Left

Unionist

17

Catalonia in Common

Comu

Left

Separatist

8

Popular Unity Candidacy

CUP

Left

Separatist

4

People's Party

PP

Right

Unionist

3

 

 

 

So what can we learn from the breakdown of the voting patterns.

1.  More people voted for right or centre right parties

2.  More people voted for separatist parties

3.  The biggest single party was right wing and unionist

4.  The right wing “Madrid” party got the fewest seats

l  The figures show a clear distaste for Madrid but a reluctance to accept left wing principles and policies

l  Of the two main separatist parties the balance between left and right is very close (34 seats and 32 seats). 

l  Unsurprisingly unionists are predominantly to the right of centre.

l  And the big winners were the Citizens party, a right of centre rabidly unionist group.

To proceed with a declaration of independence under these very mixed results would be madness.  Very soon, splits in the coalitions would arise between the parties of left and right over issues such as social care and welfare, the need, or not, for a balanced budget and so on.

It would be unwise to embark on a journey of independence only to find that there is no unanimity within the elected Generalitat.

And, in my view, Catalonia cannot/should not neglect the role it has as one of the wealthiest regions of Spain to support its more disadvataged neighbours in Extremadura or Andalucia

However, Madrid would be unwise to ignore the significant vote for independence and the vote of no confidence in Rajoy’s Madrid government. 

The way forward it seems to me is for the separatist parties in Catalonia to work with other regions of Spain and to develop a clear programme of federal autonomy that would provide the regions with a sense of identity whilst supporting each other across the Iberian peninsula.  When such a broad (but not necessarily detailed) consensus exists between all or most of the Spanish regions, they should then take on the Madrid government with a view to the clear devolution of powers from Madrid to the regions.

JH of Banbury says:-
Current national self determination wherever it is expressed, is driven by concepts of nation and/or ethnicity. The mixture of austerity, corruption and political sclerosis at the centre of political life in Spain has limited the reality of regional democracy but understanding or even being sympathetic to claims for secession and autonomy does not mean having to accede to them. Neither should the Rajoy government refuse Catalonia a legal referendum to test the claims made for independence.
Polls have shown that the population of Catalonia has been pretty well evenly split on the issue of independence but the population is overwhelmingly in favour of a referendum on the issue. The Spanish government's brutal reaction to the referendum and its continuing intransigence on the issue is to be deplored - and will doubtless encourage more support for independence.
At present the constitution requires a two thirds majority of those voting nationally to support a break away. This is unlikely to be changed by any central government. Until about a week ago the Catalans have enjoyed some regional autonomy and their own language since the death of Franco. Why should they want complete independence? But more to the point, why would the rest of Spain let them leave?!

MM of London says:- 
The situation in Catalonia and Spain is very upsetting and disturbing.  There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding inside and outside of Spain.  The independence movement and vote, whether illegal orlegal, is a Catalan nationalist bourgeoise construct, as is the People's Party government and opposition Socialist Workers' Party.
The former wants more of the spoils of its capital while founding its development and wealth on the labour of the rest of Spain.  It has engineered with politicians the idea that the Catalan people are better than others from Spain and used the people's anger against the austerity situation to batter the politicians of the government.
They have had years in which many people there have been suffering from cuts in jobs, education and public services by their own autonomous Generalitat of Catalunya as well as central governments.
On the back of this the Catalans have demanded more and will probably get more.  Sound familiar?  The call for Catalan independence is not a workers' and people's demand for a Socialist Republic.  In fact it's perhaps a few extra crumbs at the expense of other workers in Spain.
The right and fascists have raised their arm and the Guardia Civil attacked the Catalan people.  We must defend the people of Spain and Catalonia against them and the bourgeoisie.  Independence is no solution. ¡No Pasaran!

DA [location unknown] says:-
Catalonia seeking independence from a free and democratic Spain strikes me as frivolous. If the Spanish state in question was something like the Franco regime or any other oppressive state then I could understand this desire for independence - but since the current Spanish state can in no way be legitimately described as oppressive (at least not without doing serious violence to that word) this 'independence' is pointless and damaging to the rule of law and European unity. I also wonder about the malign influence of Putin in this separatist movement - he's certainly been busy undermining unity elsewhere in the West.

JPC of Oxford says:-
My initial sympathies were with the regional government but they have handled it all very badly. As I understand the Spainish Civil War the republican government was acting for the whole of Spain while the Catalonians now seem to have a much narrower and more self serving agenda. They've also got on the wrong side of the law/constitution which greatly weakens their case. And leaving for Belgium was bad tactics - staying in Spain would have been a more dignified and effective stance. At present we have enough crises in Europe - creating another one seems self indulgent. In summary lots of heat but poor politics!

Postscript:  Strange that in 1991 when Slovenia, the most prosperous part of the Yugoslavian Federal Republic, wanted to break away, the European Union welcomed the declaration of independence with open arms.  But when Catalonia, the most prosperous region of Spain, seeks to break away, the EU pretends to be appalled at the idea.  Double standards?  Or what?  CC (Wdstk)

Corruption Allegations in Madrid's Govt.

The following link is to an article in "La Nation" and was sent to me by a local IBM supporter JCGT in response to our request for opinion on the Catalonia crisis.  The article is not actually about the Catalonia independence move but about alledged corruption at the heart of the Madrid government.  It is suggested that the Catalonia crisis is a useful smokescreen for Rajoy to obscure the escalating corruption allegations.  I thought it worth publishing here (in the original Spanish) with (an admitedly poor) translation and summary in English.

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/2080240-puigdemont-el-enemigo-util-de-rajoy

Puigdemont, the useful enemy of Rajoy
Carles Puigdemont, líder del independentismo catalán, ahora en Bélgica foto: LA NACION There have been a number of news bombshells in recent weeks that have been overshadowed by the separatist crisis in Catalonia.
Just last week the latest scandal broke concerning evidence given by the Economic Crime and Prosecutor of the National Police, one Manuel Morocho, who told a commission of the Congress of Deputies that the Popular Party of president Mariano Rajoy had worked for years “with the profile of a criminal organization.”
The researcher who uncovered the so-called "Gurtel plot" said that Rajoy had “loosely” collected money for illegal party financing.  He said that the treasurers for the party created layers of “corruption in its purest form,” and claimed to have been under pressure not to proceed with these allegations.
The story of bribes, bonuses, and dark arts within the PP was first bought to light last summer and the opposition was hoping to reveal the full extent as part of the special committee report and thereby to deal Rajoy a devastating blow.  But the timing was all wrong.
The timing was wrong because all the news media were taken up with stories of Puigdemont’s escape to Brussels.
And the same thing is likely to happen with the first of the trials on Gurtel which are about to conclude.  These events in which ex-Treasurer Luis Barcenas awaits judgement will almost certainly also receive scant publicity due to the Catalonia crisis.
And again, the accusations against Ignacio Gonzales, former President of the Community of Madrid, and his predecessor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, concerning the multi-million euro use of public funds into private accounts has been brushed under the carpet in the fog of Catalan news coverage.
Little of nothing has been said about the $42 billion rescue of the Bank of Spain that Rajoy requested from Europe and which will never be recovered.
Corruption has been relegated by other press obsessions. 
Only 9% of Spaniards consider the corruption scandal to be the country's main problem, according to the barometer of the state-run Sociological Research Center (CIS) published this week. The Catalan crisis took second place (15%), behind the unyielding concern about unemployment.
So, it seems that there are enemies that can be very useful.  If Puigdemont did not exist, Rajoy would have done well to invent him!
Rajoys poll ratings continue to rise and voting trends suggest he is secure in his post at the moment.