Monday, 28 September 2015

Carry on Catalonia

The Catalans have voted Yes. Just, but definitely Yes to independence.

The sums are straightforward, as is the direction of travel;

There were two groups with a clear manifesto pledge to go for independence; "Junts pel Si" (Together for Yes) and CUP ("La Candidatura d'Unitat Popular", or Popular Unity Candidature). Junts Pel Si won 1.6m votes and CUP won 335,520 votes. With the proportional system here that meant that Junts Pel Si won 62 seats and CUP 10 in the Generalitat, the Catalan parliament. Thus the parliament is now controlled by pro-independence parties.

Other parties were, to varying degrees, against independence. But there was one group formed from the Green party and various others that stood on a manifesto pledge to let Catalonia decide its own future. Called "Catalunya Si que es Pot" (Catalonia Yes you Can), this group won 364,823 votes. This group was neither clearly Yes nor No.

To decide which side won the argument I am going to deduct from the total 4m votes the 364,823 Catalonia Yes You Can votes. That leaves 3.7m people who voted clearly either "Yes" or "No." On that basis Yes won 52% of the vote and No won 48%.

A clear win, just, for independence. Now starts the negotiation and the gaming.

And back to Scotland; it's your turn next.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Funny fear

A brief note to say that the Catalan version of Project Fear is now playing precisely the same script as we saw in Scotland.

Vilaweb, the Catalan online news platform, has just reported that the banks, yes, the banks, have released a note saying that if Catalonia goes independent, they will withdraw their offices and their credit. Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. The note could have been photocopied from that released by Project Fear just before the Scottish Referendum a year ago.

Prior to that, and true to the Scottish script, Obama said that Spain would be better together. That followed David Cameron and Angela Merkel saying the same thing. Remember Obama/Hollande/Merkel saying that of Scotland, anyone?

And Brussels has said that Catalonia would have to leave the EU. Yes? Really? After all that hard work to keep Greece in they would chuck out the most popular city in continental Europe, and a European regional economic powerhouse? I could use a rude word, but I will not.

Watch out for the next step in the Scottish script; a Vow.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Freedom Road

A brief update on the situation here in Catalonia, on 11 September, Catalan National Day.

Today I will be with at least 500,000 other people on the Via Lliure - a mass civic protest that will occupy 5km of Barcelona's arterial Merdiana avenue. Everyone will be carrying a coloured card arrow and, at 17:14 we'll turn the Meridiana into a sea of colours.

Some quick explanatory notes:

Why fourteen minutes past five? 

Because 1714, or 17:14, was the year in which Barcelona was defeated after a long siege, the Spanish War of Succession ended, and represents the end of Catalunya as a state. 

What does Via Lliure mean? 

The official title of the event is "Via Lliure a la República Catalana" which is translated directly as "Free Route to a Catalan Republic." But the "via" and "lliure" have double meanings - "Via Lliure" can also be translated as "having the right to a way" or "right of way" or "open road", so it is a clever slogan, implying that Catalans have the right to an open road toward independence.

What are all the colours?

Each colour represents an element in the construction of an independent Catalun state.
Yellow: democracy
Blue: land and territory
Red: solidarity/cooperation
Light Blue: global cooperation
Green: diversity
Dark green: sustainability/environment
Purple: equality
Brown: justice
Pink: innovation
Orange: culture and education


Is there a vote?

Yes, there are elections in Catalunya on 27th September. The Catalans were refused the right to a referendum, so cleverly have used the regional parliamentary election as a plebiscite, grouping two pro-independence parties under one banner (Junts Pel Si / Together for Yes). One other party, the CUP, is also pro-independence.

Who will win?

The opinion polls, just as before the Scottish Referendum, are indicating a very, very close vote. The latest appears to show a slim majority for Yes.

And if Together for Yes win?

Junts Pel Si has a manifesto pledge to move through a clearly defined 18 month process to an eventual Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Catalonia.

Project Fear, Catalan version

The tactics used by Westminster to frighten the Scots have been copied and built upon by the government in Madrid. Probably for the same reasons; their private polling is showing a majority for Yes, or at least a close draw. Just as in Scotland, the government has had other leaders, including the unpleasantly cynical David Cameron, tell the Catalans that they will be forced out of the EU (this, from Mr Cameron, was dismissed here instantly as an untruth.) Pensioners, as in Scotland, have been told that they will lose their pension. Politicians - like poor tragic Magrit Curran - have told us that their relatives down the road in Tarragona will be "foreigners." To add the the sense of fear, the Minister of Defence has said that so long as "everyone does their duty" he will not bring in the army. This is in the context that the Madrid Government is trying to demonstrate that declaring independence would be breaking the law. In other words, 'declare independence and we will bring in the army.' Project Fear on steroids.


To follow the action, check #ViaLliure11S

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Death, by David Cameron

Reyaad Khan, aged 21 from Cardiff, was killed in Syria by a Royal Air Force drone on 21st August. With him were two others including Rakib Amin from Aberdeen, also a UK citizen.

At 15:30 on 7th September, Mr Cameron stood up in the House of Commons, starting his statement in the most cynical way possible: " let me update the House on what we are doing to help address the migration crisis in Europe and, in particular, to help the thousands of refugees who are fleeing Syria." His Britain, he went on to say,  "is a country of extraordinary compassion, always standing up for our values and helping those in need."

Then he dropped the bomb: 

"Today, I can inform the House that in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning, Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision airstrike carried out on 21 August by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqa in Syria. In addition to Reyaad Khan, who was the target of the strike, two ISIL associates were also killed, one of whom, Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national. They were ISIL fighters, and I can confirm that there were no civilian casualties.

We took this action because there was no alternative. In this area, there is no Government we can work with; we have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots; and there was nothing to suggest that Reyaad Khan would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home, so we had no way of preventing his planned attacks on our country without taking direct action."

He followed this news with a long statement about the legal justification for this particular death penalty.

What view can we take of this? Government secret services - whether or not they were agent 007 - have long murdered and kidnapped people who represented a threat to their country. Is a knife in the back, or poison in their tea, much different from a missile fired from a "remotely piloted aircraft"? Objectively, so long as other people are not killed in collateral damage, they are not. But Westminster is engaged in a "war on terror" - a deadly tautology - and war has rules designed precisely in order to limit the barbarity of our armed forces. 

These rules are built on historic wars - lines of armed men facing each other across no-man's land.

Today we have remote wars. David Cameron's pen starts the process and an RAF pilot in a bunker in North London ends it, pressing the button that fires the missile from the drone.

Our ethics,  our rules and our laws have not caught up with remote, automated, robot wars where Governments sign the death warrant by decree, in secret and in this case, against the specific will of a Parliament. 

Nor have our geopolitics. Because this new killing - Amnesty International called it a "remote-controlled summary killing from the sky" -  will mean more hatred, not less. More bombings, not less. More refugees to be turned away by Westminster, not less. And that in turn will mean more arms trade by Britain into the Middle East, not less. Meaning more deaths, and more hatred, and thus more arms for eternity.

It is time to break this cycle. To take an ethical stance on robot killing. Above all it is time to stop the arms trade that supplies both sides - the summary killers of Daesh and the summary killers of Westminster.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Mea culpa

I voted for the Tony Blair Labour party in 1997. 

Mr Blair took Britain into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. His government, under Blair's Defence Secretary George Robertson also signed up for extraordinary rendition, allowing the CIA to use UK airports to abduct people to torture - the subject of John le Carré's desperate and brilliant "A Most Wanted Man." 

These wars destabilised a region already on its knees after a succession of wars supported by Westminster; the bombing of Libya in 1986 with the collusion of Margaret Thatcher and the 1991 Gulf War under her successor John Major.

The warmongering continues. Westminster licensed for export £537m in arms to the Middle East and North Africa region in the past 12 months including the grenades that maim and the bombers that kill. These are the weapons that are driving people into the waters of the Mediterranean.

And now there are 13 million refugees from Syria, some of whom want to escape the horror by coming to Europe. Half of these people are children, as this week's news dramatically underlined.

This is me. This is us.

I am to blame for the refugee crisis. Me, and the 13.5 million other people who voted for Tony Blair in 1997. We supported a government, another government,  that created death, destruction and a space for anarchy in the Levant. We, all of us who voted for Westminster, created this situation. 

Now we must take action. 

We must provide a home for the people whose homes our bombs have destroyed. It may only be for a while - most refugees want to get back home - but we must open our borders, provide secure routes to safety and share our enormous wealth with these people.

And then we must turn against the Westminster that creates war. We must have a government that creates peace and dialogue, not war, destruction and death. And if Westminster cannot manage that, then Scotland must.