Catalonia is a dark lesson for those seeking Welsh independence

Picture by Jordi Payà (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jason Morgan

I imagine most people reading this will have been trying to keep up with recent developments in Catalonia as best they can, mostly through the social media.

The main news channels not only have a virtual blackout on the story but seem even more biased in their reporting of it than they were during the Scottish Referendum in 2014.

Therefore I won’t dwell on the specifics of what is going on there – you probably have a good idea yourselves.

If you support peoples’ and nations’ rights to self-determination, however, these are very dark days.

I’m not sure whether I agree with those who say we’re seeing a wave of neofascism in the world today.

Rather, I think what we’re seeing is imperialism having a last swipe at its former globe before it dies, and in its death-throes causing as much havoc as possible.

Semantics aren’t really important, however. Simply put, what is happening in Catalonia is bad. However, the reaction to the Catalans’ desire for independence is arguably worse.

Maybe lack of reaction is a more apt description. Those few nation-states who have given a view on the situation have all described it as an “internal matter” and called for respect for the Spanish constitution, which of course affords no respect for any of its various peoples’ desire for independence.

Constitutions are like that – they take precedence over people.  No-one has called for restraint on the part of the Spanish government. No-one has condemned the seizing of ballot boxes and arresting of Catalan officials and the rolling in of military equipment.

No-one has called for this attack for democracy to stop. Even countries who have been through comparative situations, like Ireland, have remained stubbornly quiet.

And in spite of the praise given to the Scottish Government’s statement on the situation, it was pretty glib and was far short of the outright condemnation required.

Silence

Perhaps most gut-wrenchingly silent on the whole issue is the European Union, echoing the calls to work within the framework of the Spanish constitution without a word of condemnation.

It’s not only unacceptable, but verging on unforgivable, and sharply exposes the EU’s main fault; that is, when it comes to the crunch, the EU will always side with the governments of its member-states and market forces over anything else.

In fact, it seems at present those things trump democratic principles. If I were a Catalan who believed in independence, I’m not sure I’d feel any great desire to see an independent Catalonia within this EU.

I voted Remain last year – yet I feel sickened and embittered by the EU’s silence.

Anyway: how does this pertain to Wales? Put simply, one day, this could be Wales.

Lesson

Those of us who would see Wales freed of England’s death-grip might do well to look towards Catalonia not with hope, but with apprehension and a willingness to learn.

Yes, there are individuals and groups who have voiced support for the Catalans and vociferously condemned the government of Spain’s actions, but the harsh political reality is that they count for almost nothing, and Catalonia stands alone.

It stands alone as do many others from the Rohingya of Myanmar who have to settle for the actionless words of others to the Kurds, whose own independence referendum is forthcoming as the world quietly forgets their huge contribution to the fight against ISIS.

They will quickly forget about them again if the will of their people is crushed by any of the regions’ states, who are all opposed to Kurdish statehood.

The lesson Wales should learn from this is a pretty dark one, but a necessary one.

We like to think we have friends and allies in other parts of the world. We’re idealists. In truth, if we reach a point as a nation where our independence is actually on the agenda, we can look to no-one other than ourselves.

No European states will stand up for us, not even our supposed friends. The EU centrally won’t. We’re not important enough for anyone further away to care about.

Those who went to Scotland for the referendum to campaign and show support, or are going to Catalonia now, may hope for the favour to be returned someday. It won’t.

It’s a lonely world, and one that is biased against small nations like us not only achieving statehood but even surviving.

We can’t achieve independence through proxy, or through alliances. It’s completely, utterly down to us.

And if we don’t rely on ourselves and ourselves alone, we’re living for a pipe-dream.

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