Lina Gálvez – The price of “freedom” in Catalonia

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In our continuing coverage of Catalan Independence Lina Galvez has a different perspective on the issue, especially who the winners and losers of  Catalan independence will be.

Lina Gálvez is Professor of Economic History and Gender Studies at Pablo de Olavide University, Seville

Cross-posted from

Treanslated and editied by BRAVE NEW EUROPE


We need to talk about the costs of “freedom” in Catalonia. Not of the deprivation of liberty suffered by some peoples, such as the two “Jordis” (Jordi Sánchez, President of the Asamblea Nacional Catalana and Jordi Cuixart, President of Omnium Cultural, the two major civil society independent movements), who are in prison already paying the price for their struggle for “freedom” and for their violation of Spanish laws and democratic rules. Nor do I wish to talk about the economic costs already incurred by the Process of Catalonian independence, or those that will come in the future. Nor even do I wish to talk about those that will arise from the intervention of the Spanish government in Catalonia, and the response of the former Catalan government: which was to accept the December 21st elections called by Mariano Rajoy’s central government and to establish a kind of Catalonian government in Belgium. The media has published a lot of articles including a detailed analyses of lost GDP, the consequences of the flight of companies from Catalonia to other parts of Spain, the increased risk premium on Catalonian debt, the redistribution of foreign debt following independence, or what would have been the fiscal costs of Catalan independence for Spain .

I’m interested in talking about the costs the pro-independence elite has hidden from the public during the independence process;   the question who would have had to pay the price for Catalan freedom. We also need to think of the price that not only Catalans but also the rest of Spain will pay for the Catalan independence process, trying to achieve “freedom” without sufficient social consensus in Catalonia, and violating Spain’s laws.

Since the separatist escalation in Catalonia began in 2012, much has been said about freedom. This movement has identified itself with a Catalan republic independent of the Spanish state, where everything, absolutely everything, would function better. Never before, until Catalonia had entered the starting blocks of the incorrectly named referendum of October 1st, did anyone speak openly about at the price of this freedom. The only exception were the Catalan businessmen, addressed first by Artur Mas (A former president of Catalonia – The Editors ) and later by other members of the Catalan government, in order to win them over to Catalonia’s sovereign cause: “Freedom has a price, but so does not being free”.  Faced with the uncertainty of the October 1st referendum, made without democratic guarantees by the Catalan government and the “Catalan national strike” of October 3rd, almost 2000 companies have moved their registered offices away from Catalonia.

The same politicians sold Catalan society as a perfect world.

This included a government consisting of honest and responsible politicians. It didn’t matter that the political party in power, PdeCat, former Convergencia I Unió, were corrupt in the past, receiving a 3% rake-off from all public contracts. In an independent Catalonia, they would become honest.

First-class public health care. It did not matter that during the Convergencia I Unió governments, the minister of health had been the former president of the Catalan Hospital Union, the Catalan private healthcare companies association. It was he, who introduced a neo-liberal model into law. In an independent Catalonia citizens would have enjoyed the best public healthcare in the world.

Public and social services that would achieve social peace and harmony by themselves. It doesn’t matter that the Catalan governments in the Moncloa have waved the banner of austerity with even more enthusiasm than the PP – Popular Party-government in Madrid. It doesn’t matter that the pockets of poverty in Catalonia keep expanding and that economic inequality has increased to a greater extent than in other parts of Spain. The new Catalan republic would have been the paradise of social services and social assistance, of tolerance and inclusiveness, as if control over the taxes by the Catalan government would pay for all that and more.

We could continue to extol the arcadia of independent Catalonia because everything in an independent Catalonia was portrayed as “happy”. Leading up to the “referendum” I spoke to a number of people in Catalonia. All those who were in favour of an independent Catalonia were euphoric. With great naivety they told me that things would get better from day one, not only for the Catalans, but also for the whole of Spain. The future they prophesied was like a rainbow in the sky without a storm having preceded it. But the storm has come with a vengeance, not only for Catalans, but for the rest of Spain as well.

There were those who knew a worse future was inevitable, but only admitted it in private.  A key element of the independence process, as some of my colleagues, university professors, and economists privately acknowledged, was that Catalans would  have to accept a generation or even two of having to exist below their current standard of living, because only in the long term would things improve.

That is no big deal if you are part of the elite, if you are embedded in the machinery of the new state, if you have international contacts and your children are studying at British or American universities, or if you expected to continue benefiting from the Catalan government’s public expenditures.

But it does matter, especially if you are a member of those classes that will have to suffer for one or possibly two generations to pay the price of “freedom”. These classes, most of which have not participated in this process because the day is just long enough for them to earn an income and manage at home. These are people, who on October 3rd did not participate in the Catalan general strike because their employers were not willing to give them a paid day off to participate, in contrast  to those working in the Catalan public sector and in many big companies. There were no citizens picketing to shut down the establishments where people had to continue working. Shops selling drinks and food, as well as bars close to where the massive demonstration in Barcelona took place, were full of demonstrators wearing the Catalan national flag as a cape. They did not demand the closure of those premises because someone had to serve them, their throats, their stomachs and their purposes. Nor did many self-employed workers or many women employed in informal care participate in the strike. To begin with, schools were closed because of the strike. Nor could many people whose existence is precarious, afford to take time off for the birth of their nation, just as they could not in many cases afford to take time off for the births of their children.

These people would have had to pay the price of freedom. They are the same people who will suffer not only in Catalonia but in Spain as a whole, thanks to another “gift” of Catalan independence: the perpetuation in power of the Popular Party. It seems as if two right-wing and corrupt parties –Popular Party and PdeCat, the former Convergencia I Unió-, have come together to ensure that the class they represent remains in power. Let us “thank” Catalan independence attempt for consolidating the Popular Party, for many years the most corrupt political party in Spanish democracy. There have always been Spanish nationalists in Spain, but this process has helped to empower them and to destroy the Spanish left who are trapped in squabbles about independence and identity rather than social justice.


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