The Catalan Case – as it is commonly known nowadays, has challenged many of the pre-assumed notions of activism worldwide. While most activist movements lack formal organization, hierarchy and leadership, the Catalan pro-independence movement possesses all three, which could be one of the main explanations for its success every 11th of September.
The title “The Case of the Catalans Consider’d” was the name used by European chancellors early in the 18th century to refer to the debates and arrangements regarding the political destiny of the Principality of Catalonia in the context of the Peace of Utrecht (1712-1714), the agreement that ended the War of the Spanish Succession.
In this war, Catalonia had supported Archduke Charles of Austria and the Great Alliance overall (led by the Holy Roman Empire and Great Britain) against the Bourbon Alliance (composed of France and the Bourbons in Spain). When Charles’ elder brother Joseph died in 1711, he succeeded him as the Holy Roman Emperor. This eventually led to his withdrawal from the war, effectively leaving Philip V as the victorious monarch of Spain. Philip then invoked the right of conquest over the Crown of Aragon and Catalonia, suppressing its institutions and privileges.
Over three centuries have passed since then. The National Day of Catalonia, celebrated every 11th September, commemorates the defeat of Barcelona that occurred in 1714, marking the end of the Spanish War of Succession in Catalan territories. The holiday was first celebrated on this day in 1886. It was suppressed by Franco in 1939 but was officially reinstated in 1980 by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the governmental body of Catalonia, following the end of the Franco regime.
The 11th of September commemoration has gained a pro-independence connotation ever since 2010, when the Constitutional Court of Spain watered down the political aspirations included in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, 2006. Since then, millions of Catalans have marched every year on this day. When reporting, detractors of the pro-independence movement reduce the number of attendees to half a million per year, while Catalan pro-independence activists raise this figure to two million. Regardless of the actual number, these demonstrations are considered to be the largest rallies in the whole of modern Europe.
The Catalan Case – as it is commonly known nowadays, has challenged many of the pre-assumed notions of activism worldwide. While most activist movements lack formal organization, hierarchy and leadership, the Catalan pro-independence movement possesses all three, which could be one of the main explanations for its success every 11th of September. Contrary to other movements, Catalan pro-independence activism also avoids direct confrontation with armed forces and instead of going against the government itself, persuades the major Catalan political forces to move from a soft nationalism to a militant pro-independence scenario, the approach which Catalonia currently takes.
The 2019 Spanish General Election, occurring only a couple of weeks ago, reinforced the left (led by PSOE), who, while supporting open dialogue with Catalonia, stop short of supporting a referendum like the Scottish one of 2014. The elections also made the pro-independence party (the ERC) the most voted for party in Catalonia for the first time in the Spanish elections. This party is led by Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president of Catalonia, now on trial and in jail for the 2017 Catalan declaration of independence. Alongside the seats won by the ERC, there was also JxC, led by the former president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, currently exiled. The pro-independence parties now have more seats than ever in Spanish congress (as well as those they have held in the Catalan government since 2015). In this picture, it seems that only a sincere dialogue between both sides will be able to satisfactorily end the situation, possibly with some resignations. Only time will tell what the results will be.
Publicat a Cambridge Core blog, 29 maig 2019
Marc Perelló-Sobrepere és doctor en Comunicació per la Universitat Ramon Llull (URL) i professor a la Universitat International de Catalunya (UIC) i a la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Ha estat investigador visitant a la City University London i la Universitat de Copenhagen. La seva recerca se centra en comunicació digital i activisme polític, especialment en xarxes socials massives i el seu ús polític i social.