Friday, February 2, 2018

The Situation In Catalonia

Coat of arms of Catalonia

- Since you're there, tell me, what's happening in Catalonia?
- The state, or "autonomous community", of Catalonia sought to hold a referendum on the question of independence from Spain. Spain forbid the referendum, declaring it illegal, as the constitution (like most) does not allow succession. Spain sent the national police to try to stop the voting, injuring many people in the process. The vote was in favor of independence. The Catalonia legislature declared independence. Spain cried: Sedition! arrested many members of the Catalonia government, and utilizing a provision of the constitution took over direct control of the Catalan government. The president, with a Spanish arrest warrant in his name, remains safe from arrest in Belgium. Spain ordered new elections in Catalonia. A separatist majority was the result as in the previous election, and the same president the choice. Spain says Catalonia can't have a "fugitive" as president, and says it will arrest him if he tries to return to Catalonia.*
- And what is it all about?
- Ferran Requejo,** a professor of politics in Barcelona, says there are three good reasons for succession when the constitution doesn't freely allow it: there is good cause, a sort of breech of the contract the constitution establishes; a nationality or minority is oppressed culturally or economically; or the will of the people is expressed by vote to leave. Spain's neoliberal policies have blocked Catalan attempts to take care of the poor;*** Spain has limited the use of the Catalan language in schools; Catalonia transfers consistently more taxes to the national government than it gets back; and the national government has used violence attempting to stop voting in Catalonia, and now arrested members of the Catalan government.
- And what does the national government say?
- That they are enforcing the law. Requejo argues that by Spain's violence, economic and cultural oppression, the contract made by the constitution has been broken so a declaration of independence cannot be "sedition". It's a way of Catalonia saying to Spain, 'If you are independent of your obligations to us, we are independent of you.'
- So it's not about nationalism?
- The president says no. Anyone, he says, can be a Catalan.
- The Catalans are oppressed but there is no Catalan nation.
- In fact, that is right. Do you want to talk about this?
- I do.
- The subject is "class". A class is a group, a collection of individuals.
- With something in common.
- Yes, and no. The something in common may be only that each in the class is treated the same way by each in another class. In the theory of moral decline from the practice of agriculture, the repetitive acts of farming, producing grain after grain, leads to a sense of power, security in the ability to perform the same actions. As the grain is seen as the instrument of safety and power, other human beings come to be seen in the same way. They get put into the class, "people who can be repetitively acted upon in a certain way," by other people who alike act upon them in that way. Do you follow?
- Yes.
- Capitalism can be seen as an instance of this, with the repetitive act of seeking profit become an end in itself, and classes of people being made the tool of the profit making class.
- Profits are counted. Vanity, security, sense of power results. Classes of people made into the instrument of that repetitive action.
- Yes. Now the actions of class on class tend to overwhelm all other human relations. The profit making classes compete with each other to achieve monopoly status: the greatest possible number of repetitions, of actions class on class, with the greatest safety; capitalists can't stop seeking more profit without losing position to other capitalists in the race to monopoly. Should they try to stop they find they no longer have capacity or opportunity to do anything else: the relation master to servant of the profit making class to the class of their tools is destructive of other human relations which are not repetitive and do not seek power and security.
- The argument of Aristotle that profit making could only not be harmful if it was done for the advantage of the household, and not for its own sake.
- Exactly. So what we find is that capitalism, that is, the class of profit makers, is constantly seeking new classes of people to make into tools. They tend to fall into the category of race, when they are located in the periphery, tend to be described by ethnicity or nationality, when it is a question of one state seeking to take advantage of another, and by class, when within the same state.**** Because in each case the relation is defined by the fact of use by the dominating class, the actual character of the class is not involved. A North African migrant worker can be described racially as black, while having light skin color. A woman is paid less in the United States not because of any weakness, or having any less need for money, but because she is assigned to a class that is to be made use of by another class of people. In the same way, as monopoly progresses, prices are set not by competition but by class relation, producer class to consuming class, with each producer in the class setting price in the same way, leaving consumers no choice but to pay.
- As an English peasant, after public lands had been enclosed, or a worker in the periphery after local agriculture had been destroyed, has no choice but to accept to work in a factory.
- To return now to Catalonia. It can be a reality that class is imposed, without any supposed nature of the class (justifying inferior status as tool) having reality. But sometimes there is reality to the class. Catalonia does have its own language.
- Then the fight in Catalonia is a fight about nationalism?
- That doesn't follow. Aristotle's statement about profit making being allowable when in the service of the household applies to class relations generally: you can defend against an imposition of class relations, without practicing class relations yourself outside your defense.
- Speaking Catalan in your own household is not a class relation.
- Yes.

Further Reading:
Why We Can't Let You Go
Class & Equality
Leaders Who Betray
Zombies, Vampires, Sleepwalkers, Psychopaths, Monopolists
There Is No Conspiracy Because There Are No People
* In an annual report on democracies worldwide by British think tank 'Economist Intelligence Unit', in the ranking of 'full democracies' Spain is now last, in 19th place. "The national government’s attempt to stop Catalonia’s illegal referendum on independence on October 1st by force and its repressive treatment of pro-independence politicians have put it at risk of becoming a 'flawed democracy,''' the report states.
** See: Ferran Requejo, Secession theories & processes in plurinational democracies. The Catalan case. In a personal communication, Ferran Requejo expresses himself generally in favor of federation of democracies, -- so long as the federal government acts democratically.
*** "For example, the Spanish constitutional court annulled Catalan Parliament policies including a guaranteed basic income, poverty reduction measures, a tax on nuclear waste and sugarised beverages. More recently, Madrid imposed punitive restrictions on the right of the City of Barcelona to use its budget surplus carry out social projects, and prohibited the housing of refugees in facilities that the City had built for that purpose." (Yanis Varoufakis, DiEM25)
**** Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, Balibar and Wallerstein.