Catalonia’s Dark Days Ahead

It isn’t just about what happens on Sunday; it’s about the ensuing days and weeks.

By Don Quijones, Spain, UK, & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.

The next 72 hours could be crucial not only for Catalonia, but also for the rest of Spain and Europe. For now, the cards are overwhelmingly stacked in Madrid’s favor. The central government enjoys the outward support of all European institutions, key Western partners and has the full power of the law on its side as well as the full arsenal of state repression at its disposal.

After confiscating millions of ballot slips and thousands of ballot boxes, and launching what Wikileaks’ Julian Assange has termed the “world’s first Internet War” against Catalonia, freezing telecommunications links, occupying telecoms buildings and censoring hundreds of websites, the Rajoy administration has made it logistically difficult, if not impossible, for the region to hold a credible referendum.

Spain’s constitutional court even went so far as to ask Google to shut down the app that allows Catalans to see where they have to vote on Sunday. Even the two main civil associations behind Catalonia’s push for independence have begun to tamp down expectations, conceding that the police operations have made it “very difficult” to hold a meaningful vote.

Now, all the government in Madrid has to do is sit back, watch and enjoy as the referendum’s organizers struggle to achieve a turnout even close to that of the purely symbolic consultation it held on November 9, 2014. Then, on Monday or Tuesday, Rajoy, with a small dose of humility, can launch political negotiations with Catalonia’s representatives from a position of strength.

But he probably won’t.

The Spanish government’s strategy so far has been to use the full extent of Spanish law to crush each and every attempt by Catalonia’s independence movement and regional government to organize this vote. It’s unlikely to stop now, when it’s winning. After all, the more it flexes its muscles, the more support it wins among its bedrock of voters in other parts of Spain, and the more they forget about all the myriad corruption scandals that the Rajoy government is tangled up in.

But the government’s repression is also creating a huge army of Catalan separatists. According to a new poll conducted by the Spanish firm GAPS, 63% of Catalans plan to vote in tomorrow’s referendum — over 600,000 people more than just two weeks ago. Eighty-three percent of respondents said they intend to vote for independence.

Spanish authorities are going to do everything they can to stop them. Police have already sealed off more than half of the 2,315 schools in Catalonia designated as polling stations. The chief of Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, has pledged that it will do everything it can to prevent public buildings from being used as voting colleges, but it will not use violence. The Spanish national police force and Civil Guard, which have thousands of reinforcements stationed on cruise ships in Barcelona’s port, have made no such assurance.

In recent days extremists on both sides of the political divide and from all over Spain and other parts of Europe have been converging on Barcelona, a city that has a long history of being an anarchist stronghold. Many of the people that have been occupying schools and colleges to facilitate voting tomorrow voting are affiliated with the pro-independence and anti-capitalist CUP party, which in many ways is the vanguard of Catalonia’s independence movement. Its members are unlikely to be evicted without at least putting up a fight.

So far, Catalonia’s push for independence has been almost completely non-violent, but with so many different groups with diametrically opposed agendas hitting the same streets tomorrow, it won’t take much to spark a major confrontation. Once the spiral of violence begins, it will be difficult to end, especially with Madrid running a de facto occupation of Barcelona.

But this isn’t just about what happens tomorrow’s; it’s about what happens in the ensuing days and weeks. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Don’t Count on Negotiations — According to the former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, of Catalan descent, the independence of Catalonia would signify “the end of what Europe is, which is a federation of nation states.” But ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. After Sunday, the likelihood of genuine negotiations between Madrid and Barcelona even beginning, let alone bearing fruit, is small. The main party in government, the People’s Party (PP), which did everything in its powers to get the last Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia (2006-10) annulled, has already hinted that it will not negotiate with Catalonia’s current President, Carles Puigdemont, or Vice-President, Oriol Junqueras. Its closest partner in government, Cuitadans, is even more stridently unionist than the PP.

2. Raising the Stakes — If tomorrow’s referendum is a flop, Catalonia’s separatists have two main choices: either they call new elections, which will probably wipe out the scandal-tarnished European Catalan Democratic Party (PDeCAT), which has headed the regional government since 2012; or they call a general strike. The Catalan government has already announced plans to hold a strike on Oct.3 that could last up to a week. This is not a new plan. In 2013 Catalonia’s Vice President (and likely future President) Oriol Junqueras warned Brussels that in the absence of any EU intervention, the only way to get Europe’s attention would be to bring Spain’s biggest regional economy and gateway to Europe to a grinding halt. This time he might actually mean business. But without high participation levels, it too could be a flop. And even if it works, it will hurt Catalonia’s economic prospects as much as it does the rest of Spain’s.

3. My Biggest Fear Of All — As the political divisions between Spain and Catalonia, and within Catalonia itself, continue to worsen, so too do the social and psychological divisions. Relations between families, friends and colleagues are already showing signs of strain as political views become dangerously polarized. This is my biggest fear: Without any way out of the current impasse, social cohesion and harmony could end up paying the price of political failure. By Don Quijones.

And this is how the Spanish government was preparing for the big day. Read…  It Gets Ugly in Catalonia

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  47 comments for “Catalonia’s Dark Days Ahead

  1. David Calder says:

    Strike.. What else do they have left? Refuse all work and refuse all commerce.. if Madrid turns violent then let the world see it but don’t take Madrid’s bait and act in kind.. Mass peaceful marches for the world to see..

  2. michael Engel says:

    1) Suppose Catalunia declare independent, what next ?
    – Who will recognize them as an independent state.
    – Who will trade with them.
    – Who will defend them, militarily.
    – Who will invest in Catalunia.
    – Or visit Catalunia and nou camp.
    2) Some politicians will like the results, because it will open the door, for a new northern Europe allegiance ex Spain, Catalunia, Greece and few more.

    • milking institute says:

      I have not formed an opinion on this subject,perhaps it’s just a sign of the times as people worldwide are increasingly fragmented and polarized. however,if this becomes a trend when are we going to see separatist movements for SOCAL,NORCAL(oh,forgot,they already exist) And why should NYC’s economic power be shared with poor Flyover country? Catalonia is the economic engine of Spain and perhaps feels better of as a “gated community” and screw the rest? one thing is for sure: this does not bode well for the “one size fits all” new world Dreamers in Brussels. i am going long riot police gear suppliers tomorrow,easy money…

  3. Raymond C Rogers says:

    As an anticapitalist force, does this movement seek to replace one form of totalitarianism with another? It’s one thing to want to rip the cronyism out of a system. It is quite another to enact hard socialism or communism that makes people mules for others.

    Some successful independence movements have given the citizens more rights and freedom than others. I’ll have to look into these groups more to have a better informed decision.

    At this point, mark me down as wary of both sides.

    • Gershon says:

      At this point, mark me down as wary of both sides.

      Same here. Rajoy, the “former” Goldman Sachs official, is as corrupt as they come, unsurprisingly, and like most Establishment politicians has served as a water carrier for the globalists and banksters at the expense of the vast majority of the population. But the prime movers behind the Catalonian independence movement seem at least equally unsavory. My fervent hope is that the people on both sides refuse to be manipulated by “leaders” who do not have their best interests at heart, only their own agendas or those of their malign string-pullers.

      • tony says:

        Whenever the name goldman sachs comes up someone will get screwed.

      • Don Quijones says:


        With all due respect, I have to correct you here: Mariano Rajoy is not and never has been in the employ of Goldman Sachs. He began his career as a civil servant and from there moved seamlessly into politics. As far as I’m aware, he’s not done a single day of work in the private sector.

        That’s not to say he doesn’t bat on Goldman’s side. Who doesn’t these days?


        • Gershon says:

          I stand corrected. I was under the impression he had worked for GS. He certainly serves their interests, as do virtually all Establishment politicians.

  4. Gershon says:

    Relations between families, friends and colleagues are already showing signs of strain as political views become dangerously polarized. This is my biggest fear: Without any way out of the current impasse, social cohesion and harmony could end up paying the price of political failure.

    Sounds familiar. Half the people in America no longer want to live with the other half. The Republicrat duopoly represents only its oligarch donors, while Trump has revealed himself to be a faux populist and nationalist who is deeply flawed as a leader and human being. Social cohesion and harmony are fraying here, too, as the real economy – as opposed to Wall Street’s speculative casino – continues its decline.

    I hope in both countries, sanity prevails and people see right through the political hucksters and demagogues who would lead them to ruin to advance their own agendas and interests. I also hope that regardless of the outcome tomorrow in Catalonia, both sides show restraint.

  5. Gershon says:

    Note the claims that Russia is staging an influence campaign to support Catalonia separatists as a means of destabilizing the EU. Any thoughts on this, DQ?

    I feel sorry for the ordinary people on both sides, who have no one to champion their legitimate aspirations and concerns.

    • Tony of Ca says:

      The article you are referencing is ridiculous. Russia would never encourage separatist movements. They are dealing with several themselves. These Russian stores are fed by our Military/Industrial Complex.

      • d says:

        “These Russian stores are fed by our Military/Industrial Complex.”

        If you believe that you are part of the problem and should NOT be here.

        Putins Mafia State interferes any where it can, in the west, simply to sow instability and dissent.

        It has been the objective of the russian troll factories since they were established. BY “Patriotic russian’s” Of course in Mafia state russia only Pro Putin “Patriots” are alloed to do anything and the funding sources of these “Patriots” are very very murky.

        Its called plausible denial. It isnt very plausible

        In short.

        Abuse the freedom’s of the west, to undermine it.

        • milking institute says:

          “If you believe that you are part of the problem and should NOT be here” really? wow,perhaps a short trip to the re-education camps will set him straight! Ahh,the tolerant enlightened Left….

        • d says:

          ” Ahh,the tolerant enlightened Left….”

          I dont find the Left to be that,

          Personally I Am center, or center right. and never have.

          This place dosent need his leftist anti everything false propaganda.

          The russians have been stirring the pot in Catalonia, and anywhere else in the west they can, as they can currently get away with it easily, in the newer unregulated medium’s.

          People like him, blaming the MIC for the russian activities, is Pathetic.

          Catalonia is Topical here, as it will effect the Spanish economy.

          The fact that the ECB, The EC, and Spain, are all preaching “this will not effect the Spanish Economy, the Euro, or the Euro zone”.

          Means it will effect all of them, very seriously.

          Heavy handed Madrid has blown this situation, seriously.

          You now have Spaniards shooting at Catalonian’s with Rubber bullets.

          How long before idiots (or russian paid agitators) start shooting back with lead bullet’s??????????

          All in the purpose of deflecting attention from Madrid’s own corruption and economic failures.

          The facts are simple., Madrid gave Catalonia more financial and other independence in an agreement then watered it down, and took it all back.

          Madrid is milking Catalonia, Heavily, at the wrong time.

          You have the ongoing greek problems, political problems in Germany, these problems in spain, and a frog who does not have the power to govern or the support of the population. Trying to reform the EU to frances advantage again, as he is incapable of reforming france.

          Stability in the Euro Zone, says the ECB.

          Yeah wright.

          Catalonia is part of that instability.

          And it is getting worse.

          And the russians are, as always, stirring the pot. As any instability in the west, aids them.

          Yet some idiot, has the audacity to blame America, and in particular, the MIC. As MIC sounds safer, Than CIA. For agitating in Catalonia.

        • Tony of Ca says:

          You, actually believe what you are writing? Are you on Bill Kristol’s payroll?

        • Frederick says:

          “d” you are a perfect example of a koolaide drinking fool Russia and Putin have nothing to do with what’s going on in Catalonia/ Spain

    • MC says:

      When the Spanish Armada was hard hit by storms in 1588, the propagandists in Madrid blamed heathen sorcerers from Lapland the Protestant kings of Sweden and Denmark had sent to help the embattled Queen Elizabeth.

      Of course Spanish authorities did not believe in this for one second: their highly educated clerics and noblemen believed sorcery to be a sad popular superstition, but it was useful to blind the masses to the hopeless nature of the expedition, starting from the disastrously poor choice of the commander-in-chief.

      The Russian government is becoming the modern day equivalent of those Lapland sorcerers, a ready made excuse for extraordinarily poor choices. Like those long-dead heathen sorcerers worked their magic in ways impossible to understand for Christians, so does the Russian government… how do they “influence” elections and public opinion? perhaps they hired the descendants of those Lapland sorcerers…

    • Tinky says:

      I am not DQ, but here are my unsolicited thoughts.

      The site that you link to, “Hamilton 68”, is described thusly:

      “The website, supported by the German Marshall Fund, displays a “near real-time” analysis of English-language tweets from a pool of 600 Twitter accounts that analysts identified as users that spread Russian propaganda.”

      And you blithely believe that these unidentified “analysts” have no agenda themselves?

      As to the article to which you linked, it quoted, among other dubious sources, Mark Kramer, who says this:

      “Julian Assange founded Wikileaks because of his virulent hostility toward the United States and other Western democracies, and he has increasingly converted himself into a Kremlin stooge to help undermine NATO and the EU,” Kramer said. “He and the Russian authorities share a deep animosity toward the democratic capitalist West, and Assange has become a reliable mouthpiece for Kremlin propaganda and disinformation.”

      And you take an article based on that hyperbolic nonsense seriously?

      • Gershon says:

        “Business Insider” was founded and is run by Henry Blodgett, one of the most infamous touts and shills of Tech Bubble 2.0. So while occasionally it runs some useful articles – including Wolf’s – it hews pretty closely to the globalist-crafted Narrative common to all MSM outlets. Meaning a healthy dose of globalist propaganda is implied.

        I don’t trust BI as a source, in general, but still wonder if Russia, which has a vested interest in destabilizing the EU, could be helping to stir things up. I wouldn’t put it past them, although the main catalyst for disaffection would seem to be the heavy-handed Spanish response and its failure to address legitimate Catalonian grievances.

        • Frederick says:

          Gershon I normally agree with you but this blaming Russia meme has really gotten out of control Who was it again that stirred up all the trouble in Ukraine, Syria and Libya? Hint It wasn’t the Russkis

  6. Yancey Ward says:

    I think Rajoy’s government will win the battle by losing the war.

  7. d says:

    A lot of ugly Photographs of very angry people in Catalonia on Sunday, coming to the surface.

    Madrid has suppressed the meaningful vote, and succeeded in making Franco and the NASDP look good in the process.

    If they are not careful they will be putting a halo around Stalin soon.

    Where to from here, unknown.

    Where not to from here, a, stable, peaceful, united, Spain.

    The people of Catalonia will hit back, and keep on hitting back, that has been assured by the heavy handed and inept approach to this problem, by Madrid.

  8. Cynic says:

    Another fair and accurate article from Don Q.

    I would say,however, that there is already no real social cohesion across party lines in Spain: everyone knows what side of the political divide they are on, and intermixing is not permitted – this governs work prospects, marriage, etc.

    Utter loyalty to the politics of one’s family is expected and enforced. The actions, crimes and suffering of grandparents in the 1930’s and during the Dictatorship cast long shadow. It is a very politicized society.

    Madrid’s actions are certainly counter-productive as we would understand it – increasing tension and polarisation, with a total lack of dialogue.

    My cousin’s daughter was not going to vote, given the illegality of the referendum, but after the shipping-in of the armed riot police, her attitude is that she’ll be damned if she doesn’t vote in protest.

    This attitude is gaining ground – Madrid’s heavy-handed repressive actions are insulting.

    However, this increased tension is just what Rajoy and the PP want: more secure votes, more distraction from economic reality and their inveterate corruption. ‘Brown envelopes? What are you talking about?! Wages you can starve on?! The country is in danger, the flag, the sacred flag of Spain!!!’

    They can now enjoy calling themselves ‘the party of the Constitution and Democracy’ – what a joke for the old Francoists.

    And the King skulks in his Palace, awaiting reports on the repression of his subjects……

    • MC says:

      I was in Vielha just a few days ago and despite the locals being largely disinterested in the referendum (for those not in the know, the Val d’Aran is administered from Barcelona but is effectively an Occitan enclave in Spain) I noticed an unusually large CNP presence and especially a lot of soldiers, far more than those usually stationed in the area for mountain warfare training and the like.

      Honestly I don’t know what authorities in Madrid hope to accomplish by this. As you said people in Spain have very long political memories, especially the descendants of those who were on the losing side in 1939, and I am sure the name of Francisco Franco is being used a lot in conversations these days.

      • alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

        1939 is not all that long ago, after all. My parents had been born. People I knew when I was already in my 30s and even 40s were adults then. My paternal grandfather was already a chemical engineer (who went on to do his bit to make the atom bomb). My maternal grandfather was selling men’s wear in Pasadena. In Spain families tend to be closer than in English-speaking cultures, and so even to a 20 or 30-something, 1939 would not feel all that distant.

        • MC says:

          I really don’t know. In 1939 neither of my parents were born yet and among my grandparents only my surviving grandmother has ever talked at any length about the war years, and then mostly about humorous episodes. Not everybody likes talking about lost wars nor develops some sort of desire to “get even” by adopting an antagonizing attitude towards “the others”, regardless of their political ideas.

          When I went to Uni I met a lot of people my age whose parents had been born after the war yet who behaved like they had just stepped out of a trench, still covered in their comrades’ blood. I did not like their attitude back then and I like it even less today as they start occupying positions of power and bringing with them that very dangerous attitude “if you are not one of us, you are against us” which leads them to label as an extremist everybody not sharing their belief system, even those those like me who are not interested in politics and just want to be left alone.

          These people, most of whom are silver spoons, are still struggling to understand why AfD became the third party in Germany and why M5S is the first party in Italy: when you treat everybody else like an enemy, when you try cram your values down harmless people’s throat, when you carry a colossal chip from seventy or eighty years ago on your shoulder, that ordinary people start signaling their disgust by voting for those political parties which send the self-appointed elites into fits of rage.
          My mother started voting for M5S not because she cares about what they promise, say or do but merely because “they make the government and the media froth at the mouth”.

          That Newton was really a genius, regardless of what Leibniz said.

        • Cynic says:

          Moreover, in Spain the skeletons of those murdered in the Civil War – mostly civilians – are being dug up all the time: hard to ignore.

  9. Stevedcfc72 says:

    Sad to see fellow countryman injuring its own people, rubber bullets etc etc.

    No way back after these scenes today.

    Good luck to Catalonia.

    • Gershon says:

      The Spanish government may prevent the referendum from being held today, achieving their short-term objective. However, by inflaming the Catalonian population and underscoring its sense of “us vs. them,” Spain has likely sown the seeds for a more broad-based, hardline Catalonian separatist movement that is going to be giving them a lot more trouble – and fomenting a lot more internal instability – going forward.

  10. james wordsworth says:

    The brutish tactics of the spanish government will only strengthen the independence movement. In today’s globally connected, youtube’d streaming world, right or wrong, Rajoy looks like a thug. This is so typical of the hard right – it’s all black/white, no room for compromise. Rajoy has today likely sealed the future eventual success of Catelonian independence.

    • MC says:

      The problem is not that Rajoy and his government look like a gang of thugs.
      The problem is they look like a bunch of schoolyard bullies: strong with the weak and weak with the strong.

      Where was all their determination, muscle flexing and saber rattling when dealing with obscenely corrupt politicians and bank executives? Why weren’t the same law enforcement resources allocated to investigate the myriad of scandals involving Spain’s taxpayer-backed industries, which range from renewable energies to high speed railways? Why no investigations into Spain’s heavily manipulated housing market?
      I am sure that if at least a few high-profile cases had ended with people truly jailed or hit with ruinous fines there would have been no referendum in Catalonia today.

      I am strongly convinced the Catalonian government, which kicked off this referendum as a way to take some well deserved heat off itself, made an excellent call. Rajoy now looks like a schoolyard bully threatening the small, sickly child with leg braces, and nobody likes that. Event teachers usually turning a blind eye (the EU, the silent royal family etc) will be forced to do something, and they cannot back up the bully too much without looking like the callous fools that they are.
      I am pretty sure some (actually make that a lot of) extra cash going into Catalonian coffers will go a long way towards making everybody forget this episode.

    • Gershon says:

      This is so typical of the hard right – it’s all black/white, no room for compromise.

      Who in this scenario is “hard right”? The so-called “hard right” are ardent nationalists: Rajoy is a water carrier and debt collector for the globalists and banksters, and the leaders of Catalonia’s independence movement are anything but “hard right” – they have explicitly said they want to remain in the EU, have a strong leftist streak, and are pro-open borders. All the antithesis of “hard right.”

  11. Gershon says:

    With images of Catalonian civilians being bloodied and beaten by Spanish riot police in every European newspaper and web site, it will be telling what the EU says, or doesn’t say, about the violent suppression of the referendum effort. From what I understand both sides are pro-EU – but that is subject to change if the EU offers its tacit approval to Spain’s crackdown on the independence movement.

  12. walter map says:

    Thank goodness Spain is a democracy. Otherwise they’d really have problems.

    • Gershon says:

      Supposedly 89% of Catalonians who voted supported independence, albeit in an illegal and disrupted referendum. Supposedly this means Catalonia will declare independence within 48 hours.

      Which probably means the all-important “markets” will hit bubbleiyious new highs as $200 billion a month in central bank financial crack cocaine continues to be mainlined to the banksters so they can gamble with wild abandon in the rigged casino.

    • Cynic says:

      Apparently the people in Madrid had more treats planned for the Catalans, but called things off when they saw just how badly this was going down with public opinion.

      They have been putting out lots of propaganda, with Right-wing Spaniards posing as ‘expats giving an objective view’ in the comments under news articles.

      Oh, and saying that any critics must be Russian and trying to destabilise the EU….. :)

  13. Stevedcfc72 says:

    The saddest thing which has come out of yesterdays events is that the ECB have not said anything yet about condemning the violence.

    Whether its an illegal vote or not, when you have pictures of bloodied pensioners-women and its not condemned immediately, it tells you there is something badly wrong.

    The Spanish Government have come out of this badly and so by the looks of things has the ECB.

    • d says:

      Not just the ECB the whole EU.

      The purpose of the EU was to prevent this sort of thing which can lead to wars in Europe, occurring in the first place.

      The Mighty Brussels, great at lineing Eurotrash Politicians Pockets useless at helping the people of the EU when they need it.

      The EU courts are great a telling England what it can and cant do. But useless at arresting Spains backsliding on an agreed constitutional amendment.

      The EU is disintegrating in front of us.

      • Cynic says:

        The way in which the EU has over-looked the Spanish conservatives’ legislation reducing civil liberties and increasing the powers of the police -already considerable in Spain – is very telling.

        Many naively view it as some kind of over-arching ‘protector’, without any real evidence.

        How wrong they are.

        • d says:


          It protects a completely different set of interest, to what was intended.

          Hence for the People there is no point to having it.

          Rajoy and Cortez came out of teh same mold.

  14. Cynic says:

    When I was a fresh graduate, I had some contacts in Brussels and thought about working for the Commission.

    But so strong was the impression of corruption and the obvious abuse of such contacts, that I dropped the idea. Really for temperamental reasons – I prefer to do a job well than be seen well by others, so the greasy political pole was not for me.

    One only has to consider what kind of people would be attracted to such a set-up to understand what the Commission is, and what its ethics are likely to be in such as situation as is occurring in Catalonia.

    I have to say, the popular handling of the Catalan situation is magnificent and moving: now, they are locking the state police out of the hotels where they have been lodged – bravo! The videos tell one much more than the articles, although I am getting direct reports from my Catalan cousins. Gestures, tones of voice, etc.

    The Catalan police are being applauded. The state police are disgraceful, and very, very angry – chanting like football hooligans ‘Let us act!’

    This is actually a great moment -probably futile – of peaceful assertion of human dignity, and this Cynic – long innoculated to the lunacies of Spanish politics and separatist politics – has, to his surprise, tears in his eyes.

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