Catalonia and the United States: Two Lockean Revolutions 240 Years Apart

16

21 Abril 2015 per Oriol Vidal-Aparicio

Slide1_TitleThe following is a slightly modified version of the presentation I gave at Georgetown University (Washington, DC) on April 16, 2015, as part of a conference entitled “The Case of the Catalans, 300 Years On”, which sought to explain the ongoing independence process in Catalonia to an American audience. / Aquesta és una versió lleugerament modificada de la presentació que vaig fer a Georgetown University (Washington, DC) el 16 d’abril del 2015, part d’una jornada acadèmica que, sota el títol “The Case of the Catalans, 300 Years On”, es proposava explicar al públic nord-americà l’actual procés d’independència a Catalunya.



The United States declared independence by primarily invoking the political philosophy of John Locke, especially the idea that governments are legitimate only insofar as they fulfill the purpose for which they were established by the governed. Almost 240 years later, the process that is underway in Catalonia announces a new era where independence movements will go back to using Lockean political principles, after a 20th century when the general trend was instead to justify independence processes putting an emphasis on the classical principles of nationalism, primarily based on identity and cultural homogeneity.

To simplify, historically independence movements have availed themselves of two types of arguments:

  1. What we could call Lockean arguments: the notion that every political community is entitled to good government, and if a government fails to perform the functions for which it was set up in a specific territory, it ceases to be legitimate and the people there have a right to secede and set up a separate government. This was precisely the American approach in 1776. The big question to answer in this type of justification for independence is, “From a governance point of view, does independence make sense?” It’s no surprise that the most influential pro-independence pamphlet published during the American Revolution was entitled precisely Common Sense. It made sense to declare independence; it made sense for the 13 colonies to govern themselves.
  2. Another way to argue in favor of independence is the classic nationalist idea that all peoples, all nations, have a right to their own sovereign state, even regardless of governmental efficiency, regardless of whether independence would arguably bring better governance to the people pursuing it. The big question to answer in this type of justification for independence is, “Are we a separate people? Are we a nation?” This was the prevalent approach of many of the national revival movements that pervaded Europe in the 20th century, or the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and this was also the rationale behind many cases in the big wave of decolonization that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s after the creation of the United Nations.

Let me discuss in more detail the principles that inspired the United States Declaration of Independence, and this will also allow me to clarify what I mean by “Lockean revolution”.

The Lockean argument for independence

The independence of the United States represents the most influential case of an independence process argued almost purely on the question of good government and governmental efficiency. At the same time, the independence of the United States did not include ethnic components: the Founding Fathers were not claiming to be ethnically different than the British. It would have been different if it had been the native Americans who were declaring independence from Great Britain, but the American colonists were for the most part claiming that their rights as Englishmen were being violated. In fact, Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense, which I have mentioned before, even had the phrase “Written by an Englishman” added to its second edition.

In sum, the American Founding Fathers were not arguing “We should govern ourselves because we are a different nation”, but “We should govern ourselves because we are poorly governed.”

And this is where the ideas of English philosopher John Locke, considered by many the father of classical liberalism, were central. In his Second Treatise of Government (chapter XIX: “Of the Dissolution of Government”) Locke made an argument in favor of government by consent. This is how Locke’s four-part argument goes:

  1. Individuals are born with inalienable rights: Locke identifies three main rights; the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to private property (or “estate”).
  2. To protect these rights, people set up governments, and they consent to obey these governments because they understand that having a limited government is better than having no government at all.
  3. Governments are only legitimate insofar as they fulfill their function to protect people’s rights.
  4. When governments fail to protect people’s rights, or even worse, when governments misuse their authority to trample people’s rights, then the people have a right, even a duty, to abolish their government and set up a new one.

If you are familiar with the U.S. Declaration of Independence, you will recognize that it follows almost exactly this same reasoning. It’s in this sense that the American Revolution was a Lockean revolution: because it was seeking to rectify a situation in which the government was not doing what it was supposed to do; in other words, the government was violating the political contract with the people, and the people had a right to restore the original contract, even if it meant overthrowing the existing government and setting up a new one.

But let me clarify what Locke meant by revolution, and why I call what’s going on in Catalonia also a revolution in the Lockean sense. Locke took the meaning of the word revolution from its original meaning in Latin, “to go full circle”. For Locke a revolution was a legitimate attempt by the people to restore the social contract: when the government breaches the contract it signed with the people, then the people are entitled to revolution, that is, to do what’s necessary to go full circle and restore the original contract.

Many of the arguments used to justify Catalan independence are indeed of this type: “The Spanish government does not adequately protect our rights, the Spanish government is not fulfilling its proper function in Catalonia, and therefore we would be better off if we were to govern ourselves—because we would make sure that the new government we set up protects our rights adequately.” That’s the argument that is primarily being made today in Catalonia.

The nationalist argument for independence

I have explained the classical liberal arguments of John Locke as one of the bases commonly used to argue in favor of independence. Let me now explain the arguments of the second type, the arguments inspired in ethnic or cultural nationalism, where greater emphasis is placed on identity elements of the political community. This is what we could call the “One nation, one state” approach.

The creation of the United Nations in 1945 led to the establishment of the right of self-determination of peoples as an internationally accepted norm.  Self-determination is in fact one of the foundational principles of the United Nations. Its charter states that the purpose of the organization is “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” The way the right of self-determination has been largely understood is that each people—each nation—has a right to establish its own sovereign state.

Slide2_GellnerThe classical definition of nationalism by Ernest Gellner reinforces this connection between nation and sovereign state. In 1983 Gellner published his very influential book Nations and Nationalism, where he defined nationalism as a principle that holds that the political unit and the national unit should be congruent. In other words, each nation should govern itself by having its own sovereign state. In this second approach to making a case for independence, elements of common identity and cultural homogeneity become much more salient.

The main problem in the practical application of this right is how we define a people or a nation—who is recognized as one. While the government of the United Kingdom recognizes Scotland, Ireland and Wales as nations, the government of Spain has never officially recognized the Catalans, the Basques or any other of its peoples as a nation, namely as a political strategy to deny that the right to self-determination applies, for instance, to the Catalans or to the Basques.

Slide3_GuerraIn fact, denying that the Catalans constitute a nation has been a favorite line of defense of Spanish unionism against Catalan separatism. A relatively recent example: when Catalonia’s new autonomy charter was being drafted in 2005, and its first article was going to be simply “Catalonia is a nation”, former Spanish vice president Alfonso Guerra declared that “If now the Catalans want to call themselves a nation, there is no doubt that very soon they will argue that—since they are a nation—they need to have a separate state” (July of 2005).

The Lockean secession hypothesis

However, the argument that I am making here is that now that Catalonia has become serious about pursuing independence, mainstream pro-independence leaders are de-emphasizing arguments having to do with identity—having to do with who belongs to the Catalan nation.

To formulate this as a general hypothesis, or as a prediction if you will:

In an increasingly globalized world, where societies are more multicultural, where immigration fluxes are the norm, where traveling is arguably easier than ever before, where identities are constantly being negotiated and in fact individuals can have multiple or superseding identities, arguments for secession are going to be made increasingly on a purely Lockean basis, as opposed to ethnicity, identity, or nationalism. In other words, as the world becomes more globalized, it will be more and more difficult to claim independence based solely on ethnicity or nationalism. As the nationalistic idea of the nation-state—which pursues the coincidence of nation and state in one unit—becomes more and more difficult to be actually realized, secession processes will necessarily be returning to the classical liberal arguments of John Locke.

Of course, this is a general hypothesis that will need to be tested, but I will try to offer anecdotal evidence for it, using Catalonia as some sort of hypothesis-generating case.

Regarding arguments for independence, Catalonia is what I would call a hybrid case: Catalans have used the language of nationalism for most of its modern history to argue in favor of greater autonomy or independence (the phrase “Som una nació”—we are a nation—has been used and continues to be used to invoke the right to self-determination in Catalonia); at the same time, just like the American colonists, Catalans have sent petitions to the king to ask for redress of grievances, like they did in 1760 and in 1885, and they have often complained of not being properly represented—that is, they have also used Lockean arguments. Therefore, overall it is fair to classify Catalonia as a hybrid case, where arguments to ask for more self-government have been of the two types outlined above.

But if we analyze closely the political discourse the leaders of the independence movement are putting forth today—and here I’m referring to mainstream political discourse in the pro-independence camp—we can observe what would strike anyone as a conscious effort to de-emphasize identity components and emphasize what I have called Lockean arguments (arguments having to do with legitimacy and good, commonsensical governance).

Let me provide the anecdotal evidence I promised in order to illustrate this effort Catalan pro-independence leaders are making to stay away from more nationalistic arguments or from issues of identity.
Slide4_CarodIt was a few years ago when one of the leaders of the independence movement, Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira, at that time president of ERC (the Republican Left of Catalonia), famously declared that while he was for independence, he was not a nationalist.

This is how Carod-Rovira rephrased this thought in a recent interview:

The debate in Catalonia is not about identity. We are not discussing identity, we are discussing sovereignty. We are not arguing about who each person is, but about who should rule, and those who work and live in Catalonia are the ones who should rule in Catalonia.

Being Catalan cannot be an inheritance nor an imposition. It’s a decision, but one that does not force you to renounce other identities you may have brought with you, if you happen to have come from somewhere else.

Let me now provide you with some quotes from the political programs CiU and ERC defended during the 2012 election. CiU and ERC are the governing party and the main opposition party in Catalonia, and both presented pro-independence proposals in the last Catalan election in 2012 (I argued here at length why Unió Democràtica, the smallest party in the federation of parties that CiU is, should be counted in the pro-independence camp for parliamentary purposes).

From the political program published by Convergència i Unió in the 2012 election:

In Catalonia, you are Catalan regardless of the language you speak.

Spanish is the language of a part of the population in Catalonia, and will continue to be so. Spanish will be an official language [in an independent Catalonia]. Spanish is an international, economic and cultural asset which we are not going to renounce.

He have built, and will continue to build, a Catalonia without discrimination on the basis of language, origin, culture, or belief.

Notice how being Catalan is never linked to one’s language or geographic origins.

And now from the political program published by ERC (the Republican Left of Catalonia) in the same 2012 election:

Today Catalan society is multilingual.

We will guarantee that no citizen loses rights in an independent Catalonia. The Catalan State will not take away the linguistic rights of anyone.

Slide5_JunquerasIndeed, Oriol Junqueras, president of ERC since 2011, has often declared that “We want independence in order to give more rights to the people, not to take them away from anyone.”

Finally, here is probably the perfect example of what I want to illustrate: Súmate, a very active pro-independence group, is an association of Spanish-speaking Catalans who defend independence not on the basis of their cultural identity, but on the basis of its utility. This is how they define themselves on their website:

Súmate is formed by Catalans of Castilian/Spanish language and culture, who, because of their family background and origins, have kept their cultural heritage, without abandoning their place in the Catalan national community.

In sum, I think it is fair to say that we are seeing an evolution in the way Catalans argue in favor of independence. Today, if you listen to pro-independence political leaders in Catalonia, you will hear much more about infrastructure, taxes, and defending people’s rights, than about identity issues, or who exactly is part of the Catalan nation. In other words, I think that today the Catalan independence process is relying much more on Lockean arguments and much less on classic nationalist principles. This probably has to do with broadening the base of pro-independence supporters, but I think it also has to do with the fact that defining political communities in terms of their national ascription is becoming muddier and riskier, as the process of globalization advances and political constituencies tend to become more culturally diverse. We can observe this phenomenon in Catalonia, and we will observe it in other pro-independence movements to come.

16 thoughts on “Catalonia and the United States: Two Lockean Revolutions 240 Years Apart

  1. dsimic escrigué:

    Very interesting and informative. There is, however, the issue of the membership of the European Union, and nobody, on either side of the argument, has unequivocally answered what would happen to Catalonia if there was a ‘yes’ vote in a potential independence referendum. As things stand, it would be outside, which would be a disaster.
    http://ipolad.net/2015/02/01/what-next-for-catalonia/

    • Thanks for the comment. It’s true that no-one has unequivocally answered whether Catalonia would continue to be part of the EU if it were to establish itself as an independent state, not so much that “As things stand, it would be outside”. In your blog post (http://ipolad.net/2015/02/01/what-next-for-catalonia/), which I found balanced and generally objective, after asking yourself “In a hypothetical situation of Catalonia becoming independent, would it remain part of the European Union?”, you answer: “All the evidence so far suggests a negative answer and nobody should be in any doubt that such an outcome would have grave consequences for Catalonia.” This is a very important issue indeed, and politically and juridically it’s almost thrilling… Which way will the EU go if Catalans declare independence? A legal page-turner, if you ask me!

      I would argue that only the first part of your statement is true (“Nobody, on either side of the argument, has unequivocally answered what would happen to Catalonia if there was a ‘yes’ vote in a potential independence referendum”). Members of the European Commission have repeatedly contradicted each other and themselves on the question. Here is European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding contradicting herself on the issue, after having declared that “nowhere was it written that an independent Catalonia would be excluded from the Union”: http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20121030/54353650784/bruselas-catalunya-ue.html And here is a news piece on her previous statement: http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20121001/54351426228/reding-independencia-no-exclusion-union-europea.html President Barroso himself has made contradictory statements on the issue (http://www.europapress.es/nacional/noticia-barroso-dice-flecos-secesion-cataluna-debe-resolverse-acuerdo-legislacion-internacional-20120830103604.html), and another European Commission vice-president, Joaquín Almunia (a Spanish socialist), said that “it’s not honest to state categorically that Catalonia would be out of the EU if it achieved independence”: http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20121023/54353829727/almunia-honesto-decir-forma-tajante-catalunya-quedaria-fuera-ue-si-fuera-independiente.html And then he backtracked a few days later, understandably under the pressure of his Spanish socialist colleagues. So I would say that it’s not the case that “All the evidence so far suggests a negative answer”… The issue is far from settled. The European Commission’s position as of today is that they will not speak publicly about this again until there is an actual case of secession on the table, or until the Spanish government officially asks the Commission for its opinion on the matter.

      I wrote some of my thoughts on this matter at the end of this article I published after Catalonia’s 2012 election (see the last section “The European Union’s role”). I admit I may be a little too optimistic, but I think that some sort of automatic or at least conditional EU membership is what would make the most sense for an independent Catalonia (that is, unless Catalans decided otherwise). I can’t see how it would make sense to “expel” Catalonia from the EU if we take into account the EU’s own self-interest: Catalonia would be a net contributor to the EU* and leaving Catalonia out would blatantly contradict the principles of the European Union. In other words, what would be the arguments used by the EU to justify “expulsion”? Also, what about the many multinational corporations from other member states established in Barcelona? What about all the EU citizens living in Catalonia? The issue is thorny to say the least.

      [* I wholeheartedly recommend the articles published by the Wilson Initiative, a group of Catalan academics on this and other issues. (Here is their mission statement: http://wilson.cat/en/missio.html).]

      Furthermore, there is an important issue no-one is talking about (I’m currently writing a “serious” article on this): the Spanish Constitution has a provision (Article 11, section 2) that states that “No person of Spanish origin may be deprived of his or her nationality.” Unless Spain decided to amend its constitution on that point, which would be no easy matter (and would be tremendously controversial), that means effectively that if Catalonia were to become independent, Catalans would continue to be Spaniards and would continue to hold Spanish passports unless they expressly renounced their Spanish citizenship (that would be different for Catalans born AFTER independence, although they could also easily apply for Spanish citizenship under the current legal framework). Therefore, Catalans in an independent Catalonia would continue to be, for all intents and purposes, European Union citizens, regardless of whether Catalonia remained or not a part of the EU. So, worst case scenario, Catalans would be like current French citizens living in Switzerland as EU citizens, even if Switzerland is not a EU member state.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment and for reblogging my article!

      • dsimic escrigué:

        I have visited the Wilson Initiative. While it is undoubtedly a valuable source, I was surprised by a couple of omissions, particularly in the article dealing with Catalonia in Europe (http://wilson.cat/en/comunicats-conjunts/item/197-europa-europa.html). Namely, they conceded that “if Catalonia were forced to exit the European Union, it is true that it would need Spain’s vote in order to be readmitted”. However, they haven’t even considered for example France and Britain; France because of Basque and Catalan populations there, and Britain because surely any hypothetical successful readmission of Catalonia into the EU would be a massive boost to Scottish independence movement, which is obviously not what Britain wants. Both these countries may therefore veto Catalonia. Furthermore, Spain could lobby a number of other countries (Romania, Slovakia etc.) to veto too.
        There are other important topics to consider.
        • We should see more input from the Catalan business community and their views on the independence and potential economic effects.
        • Another hugely important issue is what would happen if Catalonia were to approve or reject an independence referendum by a slim margin; how would that impact in terms of social cohesion in Catalonia?
        • If Catalonia became independent, would there not be a popular clamour in the rest of Spain to change the constitution and remove Spanish citizenship from the Catalans?
        These are things worthy of an honest, rational debate, and this is the key point. Debates on issues of such magnitude and long-term impact simply must be ‘soaked’ in facts, and as far as I can tell this has not been the case.

  2. Thanks for your new comment, dsimic. Very interesting considerations. Let me try to address them.

    It’s a reality that “if Catalonia were forced to exit the European Union, … it would need Spain’s vote in order to be readmitted”. This is indeed what the Treaty of the European Union says. And yes, that gives not only Spain, but also France and other states the possibility to veto. (Given the British government’s position on Scotland, and on Northern Ireland before, I don’t see how the UK could rationally justify a veto — at least if it were to base that veto on what you suggest.) That said, I think that the main point of contention here is how would the EU justify forcing Catalonia out of the Union in the first place. And while this is a possibility, the EU would have to think very hard about the unnecessary economic disruption this could mean for
    all of the Union, especially given that Catalonia complies with all the requirements to be a EU member state, and given all the “thorny” issues I mentioned in my previous comment (multinational corporations from other member states established in Barcelona, EU citizens who are Catalan residents…). And let’s not forget that David Cameron, who just won the election in Britain, has promised that the UK will vote on whether they want to remain part of the EU or not. So maybe the Brits will not be there to veto anything after all, who knows. On the other hand, a referendum in the UK about EU membership will surely relativize for most Catalans the possible “trauma” of being forced out of the Union.

    About “more input from the Catalan business community and their views on independence and potential economic effects”, I agree that it would be good, but I doubt that we will see much more of that. I would say that the business community is naturally conservative when it comes to making political statements — mainly for the potential damage that voicing political opinions could cause among their customers — and Catalan business leaders who have made their views on independence public (we have seen examples both for and against) have done so at their own peril. In any case, there are a few things that don’t match: often the same ones who warn us of the economic dangers of independence are the same ones who threaten Catalonia with EU expulsion: when both positions coincide, they sound less like true concern for Catalan society and more like a threat.

    You ask, “What would happen if Catalonia were to approve or reject an independence referendum by a slim margin; how would that impact in terms of social cohesion in Catalonia?” I was asked precisely this question at the Georgetown conference and my answer was that it would not be an ideal situation. If Catalonia were to make such a decisive move, the greater the majority the better. However, which number? The 55% threshold set by the EU in Montenegro would make sense to me — it set a precedent that could serve as a guide. But, of course, the greater the number, the greater the democratic legitimacy of such an important political move.

    That said, I think that the “social cohesion” aspect is overblown: the potential for problems on that front is the same that we saw in Scotland or Quebec. Catalonia has seen at least five enormous demonstrations either for greater autonomy or for independence (2006, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014) without a single broken glass, not a single arrest, not a single person wounded, not a singe incident. Considering these were demonstrations with around 1 million people or more each, that says a lot about Catalan society. If the result of a referendum (or of the September 2015 election for that matter) is “no”, independence supporters will accept the results and carry on. If the result is “yes”, unionists will accept the results and carry on, will they not? People are divided on the question already (there are different points of view within my extended family) and that’s not necessarily a social problem. People with radically different political views coexist in many Western societies without that necessarily threatening social cohesion.

    Finally, you ask, “If Catalonia became independent, would there not be a popular clamour in the rest of Spain to change the constitution and remove Spanish citizenship from the Catalans?” I think not, but that’s just my opinion (on the “clamour”). Here are a few considerations on this: It would be possible for Spain to amend its constitution and take away Spanish citizenship from the Catalans, although you need super-majorities in both chambers to amend that part of the Constitution (Article 11), and then one tenth of the members in either chamber can force the amendment to be voted on by the citizens (see Article 167). Such an amendment would have to be directed solely at the Catalans, otherwise it could affect thousands of Spanish citizens abroad. Also, I think that people in Spain would understand that taking away Spanish citizenship from the Catalans would mean taking it away from both those who voted for independence and those who voted against it. Can you imagine Alicia Sánchez-Camacho and Albert Rivera being stripped from their Spanish citizenship? That alone would be a first-rate ethical conundrum, and a juridical nightmare if you tried to make any distinctions based on vote. I think that that’s a very unlikely scenario.

    I completely agree with your view that debates should be “soaked” in facts, and that’s what the Wilson Initiative has been trying to do. But one of the problems with independence processes is that there is a lot of uncertainty: often juridical solutions must be “concocted” on the fly (the Montenegro and Kosovo processes are good examples of how institutions create ad hoc solutions, which would have to be the case of Catalonia since Scotland did not ultimately become the first candidate for so-called EU “internal enlargement”), new juridical frameworks have to be built and depend on complex processes of negotiation (this would be the case of the whole juridical framework of the new state)… so this is an uncertainty that Catalans will have to weight against common sense, and against the many certainties of how Spain has served them as a state so far.

  3. پشتونخوا escrigué:

    Hello. I read your article and I must say it was very well argued. I understand that many nations/peoples now follow the civic nationalism/Lockean secessionism(as you frame it). Scotland and Catalunya are two examples. Last year, the Scottish National Party campained for Indepndence on a clearly and explicitly Lockean/Civic nationalist basis. They spoke of inequality and Scotland being ruled by Westminister elite and that Scotland should be ruled by those ‘living and working’ in Scotland. The same thing that we see in Catalonya. I agree with you that civic nationalism/lockean discourse is more acceptable to a wider variety of people and people generally have positive views on this rather that on ethno-linguistic nationalism, which people generally consider to be negative. I agree with you presenting the Catalan national case in a civic nation/Lockean way which would be more palatable in the US. However I have a purely theoretical issue which I want to discuss.
    My critique of this article (and your Lockean discourse) is that it is clearly ethno-linguistic or historical and not purely civic/Lockean as you claim. You claim that the Catalan argument is

    “the Spanish government does not adequately protect our rights, the Spanish government is not fulfilling its proper function in Catalonia, and therefore we would be better off if we were to govern ourselves—because we would make sure that the new government we set up protects our rights adequately.” But here you do a theoretical trick. You assume ‘Catalonia’ to be a defined territory/unit. The question is on what basis? On ethno-linguistic, territorial, historical or cultural basis. So you come to the ‘nationalist’ argument before you present you Lockean argument, but you do not acknowledge this. As an example, there are many people in, lets say, Spain or Navare or Andalucia whose rights are also not protected by the Spanish State. They cannot claim the Lockean discourse of secession that you present for Catalonia because they do not have an ethnic/linguistic/cultural/historical associaiton with Cataloniya. Take Scotland’ example. They wanted rights, freedoms and liberties according to the Lockean thesis as well. But for which unit? For Scotland. And what is Scotland? Scotland is a historical, territorial, ethno-linguisitic entity. They did not want indpendence for northern cities of England, they stopped at Scotland. Similar is the case with you. You first define Catalonya in ethno-linguistic, historical, territorial or cultural terms as a single unit (using the nationalist argument) and then advocate rights and liberties for the people INSIDE that unit using Lockean discourse. So, I think that the Lockean discourse cannot me implemented without first defining the boundaries inside which it is to be applied. These boundaries can only be defined by the nationalist argument.

    • Hi, پشتونخوا .

      Thank you for your comment.

      You are absolutely right that before we can apply a Lockean argument, we need to define the community (or let that community define itself) that is making claims of the type “We are not being governed properly”.

      I have considered and discussed this problem before (including in my book 500 Preguntas al Nacionalismo Español, 2006) and my approach to it is that in the Catalan case it makes sense to accept the boundaries of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, and that’s probably a matter of practicality. I will try to explain.

      Many people would want the “Catalan Countries” (Països Catalans) to be the community, the nation, the people to which the right of self-determination applies. Indeed, if only nationalistic arguments were being made, the Catalan claim for independence (and for being able to vote on the matter) would extend to all Catalan-speaking inhabitants of the Spanish north-east (including Catalan speakers of País Valencià, the Balearic Islands, and the so-called Franja d’Aragó [the Aragonese Strip]) and probably also to those in southern France. But that’s not what is happening.

      What’s happening is that a majority of the deputies in the Catalan Parliament (i.e. the Parliament of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia) are for independence, and an even greater majority of them are in favor of the Catalans being allowed to vote on the question of independence. Given the situation, and given who those deputies represent (Spanish citizens who are “administratively” Catalans), they are trying to find the best solution for these people they represent and who are consistently claiming that their governance within Spain is subpar. (From a procedural point of view, the idea is allowing the Catalans to clearly express their opinion on the type of relationship they want with Spain, and then do whatever you can to negotiate with the Spanish government on the basis of that result.)

      I agree with the approach: the only sensible approach to self-determination in Spain is to take each one of the Autonomous Communities in Spain and see what the claims are of those who are part of that Autonomous Community “administratively”. However, and that’s very important, in Catalonia no-one is saying “Only those who are part of the “Catalan nation” should be able to decide the matter of Catalan independence.” Those who want the question to be settled are saying “Let’s all vote, all of us who are administratively Catalan, regardless of whether we feel we are part of the Catalan nation or not, and see what the result is.” In that sense, the problem is not so much defined “nationally” (and the constituency not defined “nationally” either, as you seem to claim) but as a problem of “less than desirable governance”.

      To be more specific, then when you ask: “The question is on what basis? On ethno-linguistic, territorial, historical or cultural basis. So you come to the ‘nationalist’ argument before you present you Lockean argument, but you do not acknowledge this.”

      My answer: The question is based on a people who live in a territory that Spain accepts as constituting an autonomous region within Spain. So yes, “territorial” (independence/
      secession is always a territorial issue; there is no way to define it otherwise), but not “ethno-linguistic” (no-one is saying that only those who speak Catalan, or who feel they are part of the Catalan nation, will be able to vote), not “historical” (history is indeed an important component of Catalan nationalism, but the Catalan movement for independence is based on those who live here and now, regardless of their history — for instance, many 1st generation or 2nd generation immigrant families support independence, and their families have different “national histories”), and not cultural (you are not required to identify with any specific culture to be able to vote in Catalonia, or to support or oppose the independence movement).

      So, as I have explained above, when you say, “I think that the Lockean discourse cannot be implemented without first defining the boundaries inside which it is to be applied. These boundaries can only be defined by the nationalist argument”, I agree with the first part of your statement, but disagree with the second part. Independence movements can perfectly be defended on the basis of “proper governance,” rights, regardless of feelings of nationality of those who are making the claim. As you can see, however, my article does not claim that Catalonia is a pure Lockean case either (not all the arguments made within the independence movement are Lockean).

      Regarding the Scottish movement for independence, you can also make the case that they are bound by the current border separating Scotland and England, and that in their referendum (Sept 18, 2014), any British national who was registered to vote in any of the Scottish municipalities was allowed to vote. How could they claim to allow the people of northern England to vote as well? Would’t they be accused of “expansionism”, of wanting to grab territory that is not part of Scotland?

      You also add: “As an example, there are many people in, lets say, Spain or Navare or Andalucia whose rights are also not protected by the Spanish State. They cannot claim the Lockean discourse of secession that you present for Catalonia because they do not have an ethnic/linguistic/cultural/historical associaiton with Cataloniya.”

      But I have never implied that other peoples, defined in the terms that suit them, cannot make Lockean claims. Au contraire! Andalucia, Navarre or even Val d’Aran within Catalonia can perfectly claim whatever they want, based on their history or not, based on their language(s) or not. But the thing is, so far they are not doing it; in these regions there aren’t independence movements strong enough to mobilize the people that the Catalan movement for independence has mobilized. My approach to the possibility of independence is: Wherever a case for political independence is being made, we need to listen and see what the specific grievances are, etc. If those grievances can be addressed without redrawing any borders, I guess it’s better for everyone involved. But if repeatedly the grievances of certain populations are not being addressed, and some of their rights are not being respected, and their claims continuously fall on deaf ears, for years and years, to the point that too much political and intellectual energy is being devoted to the proper relationship between Catalonia and Spain, rather than solving the specific problems of the citizens, then something needs to be done to settle the “relationship” problem. In the case of Catalonia, my view is that we have tried many different approaches, and nothing has left anyone (Spaniards or Catalans) satisfied. Maybe it’s time Catalonia were granted a political divorce, now that the costs of such a divorce would not be too high. First, of course, there needs to be a clear vote in Catalonia in favor of independence. Let’s see what the results are in the September 27, 2015 election.

      • Marga escrigué:

        “the Catalan movement for independence is based on those who live here and now, regardless of their history “.

        There’s one flaw in the current plebiscite/Catalan elections, of course, and that is the census: foreigners resident in Catalonia can’t vote in Autonomous elections, only in European and municipal elections. The Autonomous census is being used in September 2015.

        If the municipal census had been used, foreign residents of Catalonia, like all native residents, would be allowed to vote. Given the shape of Catalan society, that excludes an awful lot of its residents. The Scottish solution was inclusive, though excluding Scots resident abroad (conversely, Catalans living abroad have the vote).

    • Marga escrigué:

      I think this writer may wish to revisit Catalan history. Without being in any way an expert, when he says “The territorry maximally inhabited by the Catalan nation became Catalonya and it took administrative/state form some centuries later” I think the opposite may be the case.

      Catalonia was part of a larger kingdom which was effectively conquered by another kingdom of Spain, and new boundaries of administrative regions imposed from outside. The present Catalonia would seen certainly not to be the territory maximally inhabited by the Catalan nation.

      Maybe someone with more knowledge of history could confirm/refute this idea.

      • Anna M. escrigué:

        @Marga (1). I apologize for my English level. What your comment is an effect (or default) current Spanish legislation. On November 9, 2014 consultation that they could vote residents.

        @Marga (2). Catalonia was not conquered by Aragon but that both sovereign territories joined together on equal condition. Catalonia was not part of one “more United” but that, along with the Kingdom of Aragon founded the so-called “Crown of Aragon”. The distinction is important: the union between both territories amounted to what today we would call a “Confederation” (union in the figure of the monarch but separation on everything else). The monarch’s Crown was recognized as sovereign in Catalonia under the Catalan titles (count of Barcelona) not as “King of Aragon”.

        In fact the Crown never had a name official (the monarch added his name after all titles). Over time the official documents were simplifying the formula up to the synthesis of “Corona de Aragón” from s. 14th. The titles were by order of pre-eminence. In heraldry, the title of “King” is above the title of “count”. For this reason, to simplify is the name of the Crown tended to use the main title.

        “Kingdom of Aragon” is the historical name which includes strictly the territory of the present autonomous community of Aragon. When Aragonese and Catalans conquered Valencia King incorporates the territory to the Crown on an equal condition and with an own jurisdiction.

  4. پشتونخوا escrigué:

    Hi Oriol.
    Let me put my cards on the table from the beginning. I am an unapologetic nationalist. My nation is suffering from military occupation, denial of basic human/civic rights and naked exploitation of resources. I also define my nationalism in a broader sense including of economic/social/cultural grievances against the State. But my starting point is the definition of my nation. People who have lived since time immemorial in our region, who have collective memories, a sense of collective cultural identity and collective legacy of resistance against occupations and invasion.
    Perhaps this will give you a context into my line of argumentation.
    You write :
    ‘From a procedural point of view, the idea is allowing the Catalans to clearly express their opinion on the type of relationship they want with Spain, and then do whatever you can to negotiate with the Spanish government on the basis of that result.’
    Exactly. ‘allowing the Catalans to ….’. There you assume a discursive definition of ‘Catalans’ to be self-evident. That is not the case in my opinion. You will answer, probably, that those living in the Autonomous Region Of Catalonya (regardless of ethnic heritage, language etc) are Catalans. I will admit that, but then I will point out that the Autonmous Region of Catanlonya was drawn territorially, specifically out of national/cultural/ethno-historical realities. My point is that, however Lockean/civic one’s autonomist/independencalist/nationalist movement gets, at a certain point, the national/culutral/ethno-historical definition must be applied and this fact we cannot escape.
    You write :
    ‘However, and that’s very important, in Catalonia no-one is saying “Only those who are part of the “Catalan nation” should be able to decide the matter of Catalan independence.” Those who want the question to be settled are saying “Let’s all vote, all of us who are administratively Catalan, regardless of whether we feel we are part of the Catalan nation or not, and see what the result is.”’
    This exhibits the same problem. ‘administratively Catalan’ is not a signifier that is empty of ethnic/historical/cultural meaning. I explained this above.
    You write:
    ‘My answer: The question is based on a people who live in a territory that Spain accepts as constituting an autonomous region within Spain. So yes, “territorial” (independence/
    secession is always a territorial issue; there is no way to define it otherwise), but not “ethno-linguistic” (no-one is saying that only those who speak Catalan, or who feel they are part of the Catalan nation, will be able to vote), not “historical” (history is indeed an important component of Catalan nationalism, but the Catalan movement for independence is based on those who live here and now, regardless of their history — for instance, many 1st generation or 2nd generation immigrant families support independence, and their families have different “national histories”), and not cultural (you are not required to identify with any specific culture to be able to vote in Catalonia, or to support or oppose the independence movement).’
    I don’t agree with your formulation here. Lets take a general historical example. I don’t know much Catalan history, but generally speaking, at some point in the past a Catalan identity developed and so did a sense of Catalan nationhood and culture. The territorry maximally inhabited by the Catalan nation became Catalonya and it took administrative/state form some centuries later. Then, those of non-Catalan heritage or non-Catalan cultural milieu who settled in the territory of Catalonya are now thought of as ‘civic’ Catalans. But don’t you see that the administrative entity of Catalonya did not exist premordially, but was created at some time in history according to national/ethno-historical/cultural realities?
    The rest of you argument (including the one about Scotland) have the same problem in my opinion. Those who registered in SCOTTISH nationalisties were allowed to vote. Those in occupied Northern Ireland or Wales were not.
    About the last paragraph of your reply. You misunderstood my point. My point was that there are other communities who can claim to be badly governed or who persue Lockean arguments for their autonomy. The point is that they do not come under the umbrella of Catalan self-determination. Catalan independence vote is limited to Catalonya as an entity. My point was to point out that the right of self-determination and Lockean corrective revolution are territorially bound and must take place in a defined territory which I then combine with my earlier arguments to posit that both Lockean and national/historical/ethnic claims are necessary for a successful independence/liberation movement.

    • I don’t think we actually disagree, پشتونخوا. I am acknowledging that in Catalonia both nationalistic and Lockean arguments have been and are being made, but that lately Lockean arguments have been emphasized—perhaps, among other things, to make the movement more inclusive:

      “Regarding arguments for independence, Catalonia is what I would call a hybrid case: Catalans have used the language of nationalism for most of its modern history to argue in favor of greater autonomy or independence (the phrase “Som una nació”—we are a nation—has been used and continues to be used to invoke the right to self-determination in Catalonia); at the same time, just like the American colonists, Catalans have sent petitions to the king to ask for redress of grievances, like they did in 1760 and in 1885, and they have often complained of not being properly represented—that is, they have also used Lockean arguments. Therefore, overall it is fair to classify Catalonia as a hybrid case, where arguments to ask for more self-government have been of the two types outlined above.”

      “But if we analyze closely the political discourse the leaders of the independence movement are putting forth today—and here I’m referring to mainstream political discourse in the pro-independence camp—we can observe what would strike anyone as a conscious effort to de-emphasize identity components and emphasize what I have called Lockean arguments (arguments having to do with legitimacy and good, common-sense governance).”

      Regarding the concept of the nation, here is what I think: https://catalunyapqespanya.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/som-una-nacio/

      You may not be able to read in Catalan (tell me if you aren’t), but in that previous article (entitled “Are we a nation?”) I discussed my philosophical problems with the term “nation” and why I think that the debate about whether the Catalans constitute a nation is secondary.

  5. پشتونخوا escrigué:

    Hey.
    Yes, I agree on that point. Civic nationalism can be more inclusive.
    No, I can’t read Catalan.
    I wish well for the Catalan Independence movement. Our goal is a peaceful world, a community of free, sovereign, democratic nations.

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