As a one-time resident and frequent visitor to the Spanish
region of Catalonia (its capital is Barcelona), and a frequent
visitor to the U.S. state of California, I observe that both
locations are enduring claims that they can secede from the
nation to which each belong. The “secession” movement is
not limited to these two areas, but also is taking place in
Scotland (United Kingdom), Venice (Italy), Belgium, The
Netherlands, the Basque region (also Spain), Quebec (Canada)
and other parts in the world.
Each case has to be judged on the merits of its own
circumstances of history, language, ethnicity and economics.
Several years ago, the nation of Czechoslovakia amicably
divided itself into two sovereign nations, the Czech Republic
and Slovakia. In the Balkans, various sovereign nations were
established within the boundaries of the former Yugoslavia,
and they exist today. And, of course, numerous former
colonial territories throughout the globe have achieved
independence and enjoy their sovereignty.
In the case of Catalonia and California, however, there appears
to be more complaint than justification for secession, and most
importantly, no legal basis for it.
As every American knows, a Civil War was fought 150 years
ago over the question of secession, and the matter was settled.
California urban voters recently chose Hillary Clinton over
Donald Trump by a wide margin (in fact, it exceeded the
national net popular vote margin for the Democratic nominee).
These urban voters also support the controversial issue of
sanctuary cities, and generally espouse very liberal views. It
must be noted, however, that outside the urban centers, and
especially in the northern part of the state, most voters are
conservative and Republican. Threats of secession in
California express a frustration of some voters, but the
formality of secession is legally baseless. In short, it’s just talk.
In the case of Catalonia, its residents speak two languages,
Catalan and Castilian (Spanish), and have done so for centuries.
Although Catalonia is a distinctive region, it has no history as
an independent nation. During the Spanish civil war (1936-39),
it sided with the existing government which was overthrown by
the fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and for the next four
decades its Catalan language and heritage were suppressed.
This legitimate grievance was put aside after Franco’s death,
and a Spanish democratic constitutional monarchy established.
Two of the seven authors of the new Spanish constitution were
Catalans. The Catalan region itself was given remarkable
autonomy by the central government in Madrid, and enjoys
that today with its own president and parliament. The new
Spanish constitution, like the U.S. constitution, does not allow
for secession. When the current democratic Spanish nation was
created in the 1970s, Catalan voters overwhelmingly approved it.
Since the time when I lived in both Madrid and Barcelona
(during the 1960s), Spain has become a vibrant and prosperous
democratic nation. It has rejected both its extreme left
populism of the 1930s and the far right of its Franco period.
While France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium,
Greece and other European nations are enduring a rise in
extremist politics today, the Spanish government is enjoying
relative stability. The constitutional monarchy recently went
through some controversy, but the new king, who has no
political power, seems to be restoring popularity.
Both California and Catalonia are remarkable places with
distinctive beauty, character and traditions. Each of them, as
do virtually every other region in the world, faces challenges,
grievances and problems.
Secession, however, is neither a legal nor a social economic
solution to their difficulties.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.