Current Affairs History Military Politics

New Europe Defies Old Europe

An Chatalóin (Catalonia)
An Chatalóin (Catalonia)
An Chatalóin (Catalonia)

Last Thursday over 1.8 million men, women and children took to the streets of Barcelona demanding independence for Catalonia in a mass demonstration that is being heralded as the largest political rally in the history of modern Europe. Surpassing previous events huge crowds thronged the Catalan capital defying the opprobrium of the Spanish government and press. From a report by Al Jazeera:

“Hundreds of thousands of Catalans energised by Scotland’s upcoming independence referendum have protested  for a secession vote aimed at carving out a new Mediterranean nation in what is now northeastern Spain.

Thursday’s demonstration illustrated how the Scottish vote in just one week is captivating breakaway minded Europeans in several countries.

Sporting bright yellow and red shirts representing the colorus of the Catalonian flag emblazoned with the phrase “Now is the time,” protesters in Barcelona shouted “Independencia!”

They crowded into two avenues that look like a “V” from the air to signal their desire for a Catalonia independence referendum that the central government in Madrid insists would be illegal.

Catalonia regional leader Artur Mas said his government is not wavering from plans to hold a November 9 referendum in the region of 7.6 million people, even though experts say any attempt is sure to be blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court. Mas has repeatedly said he won’t call an illegal vote.

Polls indicate Catalans are roughly evenly split on independence – but that figure drops significantly when people are asked if they favour an independent Catalonia outside the European Union.

Catalonia’s attempt to hold a referendum and the vote in Scotland have strong support from the Basque pro-independence coalition Bildu, which won 25 percent of the Basque region’s vote in the 2012 regional election.”

Meanwhile on Saturday a very different and far more contentious demonstration took place in Scotland, one staged in opposition to independence by the pro-union Orange Order, a fundamentalist British and Protestant fraternity. Up to fifteen thousand Orangemen, nearly a third from the north-east of Ireland and England, paraded through the city of Edinburgh with uniformed military-style bands and supporters. Despite widespread predictions of violence there was relatively little trouble due to heavy policing and stewarding of the event. Notably the official anti-sovereignty “No” campaign absented itself from the rally fearful of guilt by association with one of the most controversial quasi-political organisations in western Europe. However in response to the thousands of Orange Order members being ferried in from “lodges” outside of Scotland several thousand pro-independence “Yes” supporters took to the streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and other cities and towns in a series of demonstrations primarily organised through online social media. While the rally by an openly sectarian and racist movement was given maximum (and almost positive) press coverage in Britain the far quieter and more spontaneous gatherings of festive “Yes” supporters was largely ignored. Which tells its own story.

Hundreds of pro-independence “Yes” supporters in festive mood on Saturday

One thing that cannot be ignored though is the increasingly bellicose messages being carried by the British media, many harking back to Britain’s ignoble imperial past. Today the Sunday Telegraph, the establishment newspaper, features an article by a former Chief of the General Staff referencing Britain’s bloody counter-insurgency war in Ireland from 1966 to 2005, a war that caused untold suffering for people in both nations. In it a so-called “tiny minority” are attacked for seeking a vote on Scotland’s right to national self-determination. Are we witnessing official Britain setting up the case to undermine or overturn a majority pro-independence vote just as they did in Ireland nearly one hundred years ago?

“…what about the Scottish people serving in the UK Armed Forces today? Those currently serving joined a fully professional set of UK Armed Forces committed to the defence of the entire United Kingdom and its wider interests. They swore a personal allegiance to the Queen, and not to any government of any political party or any particular part of the United Kingdom. They joined an army, navy or air force with worldwide responsibilities and opportunities.”

Is this really one of the most senior ex-military officers in Britain saying that the British Armed Forces owed no allegiance to the democratically elected government of the country or to the democratically expressed wishes of the people of the country? Shades of the Curragh Mutiny here I think and an indication of “upper class” Britain’s wafer-thin commitment to democracy (as we on this island nation know only too well). However the argument gets worse. Far worse.

“Between 1969 and 2007, Scottish soldiers fought and died to keep Northern Ireland within the overall United Kingdom – more than 100 of them. What was that all about? The IRA fought a bloody 38-year campaign to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and join the six northern counties of the island of Ireland to the republic in the south of Ireland as one sovereign state. As English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish peoples, we fought against this diminution of our country – the country of the Union flag embodying the Cross of St George, the Cross of St Patrick and the Cross of St Andrew. Those red, white and blue colours describe our flag and define our identity. And now, the five million Scots resident in Scotland – or about 50 per cent of them – seem to want to redefine the identity of more than 60 million of the rest of us, and that of another couple of million Scots living outside Scotland who, like the rest of us, have no vote in this history-changing decision. Do they really have the moral right to do so?”

A case of a dirty war being made to serve the cause of even dirtier politics.

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