On the Catalonia Referendum

Catalonia is in the middle of a referendum to declare independence from the rest of Spain. The people of Catalonia, it seems, feel that they are unique to the rest of Spain and that they should be their own state. Why exactly they want such a thing to happen is a little vague without much clear concrete reasons for separation. Lip service has been made towards some supposed identity that makes them different from the rest of Spain, but nothing terribly material. It becomes an important question as to why this happening.

As per usual, first worldists have taken this independent vote without an ounce of analysis. First worldists have been all too happy to cheer on the separation efforts without really giving strong reasons why. Scanning the Facebook groups and the rest of social media we see constant references to the Spanish Civil war which took place nearly a century ago. I’ve seen first worldists outright claim that this is the beginning of another civil war. Such thinking is unscientific and wholly without merit. Such nostalgia for a bygone era speaks only to the lack of critical analysis being carried out, and the desire to have a revolutionary situation when one does not exist. First worldists want something to cheer for, even if it is being done without principal.

There will be no civil war, the people of Catalonia are not willing to risk their lives. This is not 1930s Spain.

The vote has been marred by violence and shady voting. Spain’s highest court has banned the referendum, calling it unconstitutional. But the separatist regional government still pushed ahead with the vote. Video has emerged of people voting multiple times. Police have carried out acts of violence upon protesters that have demanded the separation despite its illegal status.

The reason for the referendum is much more economic than it is cultural. This whole talk of culture seems to be a front for something much more material. The economic reality of the situation is that Catalonia is a major economic player. By current estimates, Catalonia makes up 20% of the economy of Spain. The real reason Catalonia wants to separate is that it’s one of the riches areas of the country. Catalonia has the highest GDP out of all the regions in Spain, and at 266 billion euros, almost one-fifth of the country’s economic output. It should also be noted that while they are 20% of the country’s economy, they are only 16% of the population. That’s a great deal of wealth concentrated into few hands. They account for 20% of the country’s tax revenue, but they only receive 14 percent back for public expenses. Catalonia is economically viable without Spain: its GDP is around that of Denmark’s, and its GDP per capita is higher than Spain’s. Going on data from 2014, Catalonia has the fourth highest median income at €1,715.

It seems pretty clear that the main drive for independence is economic. The people of the wealthier section of the economy don’t want to pay into the tax pool. What they really want is their own tax collection system, like other autonomous areas of the country have, like the Basque Country. It should be remembered that Catalonia tried to bring about such a statute in 2010. This is about a privileged section of the economy wanting to separate from the rest of the country because they don’t want to contribute. A reformed tax system would provide a great deal of cuts to the wealthy in Catalonia who have wholly endorsed this referendum.

A similar situation arose in Canada during the oil industry boom in Alberta. Once a significant amount of tax dollars were being collected, the province talked of separation because they felt like they were “carrying” the rest of the country. It should be noted that this carrying was primarily done by the province of Ontario. Alberta, it seems, didn’t have a problem with such an arrangement so long as they were the beneficiary of taxes collected from others.

There can be little doubt that this referendum is a wholly bourgeois movement. A wealthier section of the economy is seeking a better tax situation for itself so that they can keep more of its money. This is the bourgeoise avoiding taxes pure and simple. This is also beneficial to the working people as well, they to will gain lower taxes.

In the Spanish government, there is a tremendous effort to oppose the separation of Catalonia. Without the tax revenue and business contained in Catalonia, Spain will be seriously harmed economically. A third of all foreign companies in the country are in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. Volkswagen and Nissan, for example, both have their plants near Barcelona. The biggest issue of all is the national debt. If Catalonia ever leaves Spain they will most certainly not take their share of the national debt with them This is significant because, Spain, like many European Union countries, holds a great deal of debt coming out of the Great Recession of 2008. This would saddle the rest of the country with the debt that Catalonia definitely has a share of. That debt is currently at 99.4% of the country’s GDP as of 2016.

This whole referendum is an attempt by a privileged section of the country trying to avoid paying taxes and paying down their share of the debt. Is it any wonder that the local bourgeoisie is in such support for the referendum?

In the third worldist view, the separation of Catalonia would help weaken the European powers who live off the suffering of third world people. The fracturing of the imperialist continents and countries can only weaken their ability to oppress the global proletariat. We care very little for the bourgeois struggle of the Catalonian people and corporations, we support the struggle to separate on anti-imperialist grounds.