CWA Commentary

Photo Source: AlJazeera
   NIAS Course on Global Politics
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
For any further information or to subscribe to GP alerts send an email to subachandran@nias.res.in
Click here for PDF Version Print Bookmark

CWA # 344, 17 September 2020

GLOBAL PROTEST MOVEMENTS
Rise of the middle class: Independence protest movements in Catalonia

  Unnikrishnan M J

A sense of injustice and ignorance from the Spanish Government were the motivators for the movement. Along with this, the after effects of the global economic crisis made the living conditions of people much worse. This pushed the middle class, who constitute the major portion of the Catalan population, into the streets demanding for an independent Catalonia.

Background

Catalonia possesses an inherent nationalism. The wave of a series of demonstrations and protest movements that started after 2008 was contributed by various reasons. It was not a spontaneous uprising. An already existing social base was shaped to evolve into a movement. Apart from the nationalist feelings, many other factors pushed the Catalans to enter into a movement for independence and to establish a sovereign Catalan State. The people of Catalonia were dissatisfied with the fiscal policies of Madrid. A sense of injustice and ignorance from the Spanish Government were the motivators for the movement. Along with this, the after effects of the global economic crisis made the living conditions of people much worse. This pushed the middle class, who constitute the major portion of the Catalan population, into the streets demanding for an independent Catalonia. Two hypotheses have been drawn from these which are: first, apart from nationalist feelings other socio- fiscal reasons have also contributed to the mobilization of a large number of Catalans. Second, the majority of pro-independence supporters and protestors involved in the movement are middle class Catalans.

Causes, Concerns and Fallouts

Firstly, Catalonia is a region with a distinct culture and language. They have their regional parliament, flag and other national symbols. The region has been demanding for more autonomous powers since very long. The indigenous Catalan population saw themselves different from rest of the Spanish population. Catalan nationalism fundamentally revolves around the defence and promotion of Catalan language and culture. Some of the social and fiscal disturbances added fuel to the Catalan nationalism which remained dormant in the minds of people till then.

Secondly, Catalonia being a wealthy region constitutes around 20 per cent of Spanish GDP. Catalonia complains that Madrid takes huge taxes-revenues from them but has not been returning and spending proportionate amounts for their welfare. A strong sense grew in the minds of Catalans that they are paying for what doesn’t correspond to them. People started to have the urge of resistance against fiscal transfer to poorer regions. Also, the global economic crisis of 2008 had huge impacts especially on the Catalan middle class. Some of the sections in the middle class experienced direct poverty maybe for the very first time. The comparative privileges they experienced became subject to severe constrictions. Middle class youths and children’s expectations of a stable and prosperous future became bleak and many turned to be a new poor. People of Catalonia found political expression of the dissatisfaction following the economic crisis.

Third reason which intensified the crisis is the mode in which both the blocs, i.e., Catalan nationalist and Spanish Government approached the situation. The demand for secession of Catalonia was rejected by Spain. Madrid tried to suppress the movements and protests with heavy forces and this elevated the intensity of the crisis and a solution through discussion became distant. Catalonia was also not moving back from their demand for independence and adopted violent means to put Madrid in pressure. These led to ruthless street clashes some of them even lasting for days. The Catalan popular movement is a series of incidents, protests and disturbances extending over years and still unpredictably ongoing.

Click the PDF file to read the full essay. It was first published in the NIAS Quarterly on Contemporary World Affairs, Vol 2, Issues 2&3. 

Click here for PDF Version Print Bookmark

Other CWA Publications

Science Diplomacy
October 2020 | CWA # 362

Srikumar Pullat

Space of Tomorrow: The Need for Space Security

read more
The World this Week
October 2020 | CWA # 361

GP Team

Anti-government movement in Pakistan, Emergency in Thailand, and new Israeli settlements in the West Bank

read more
Conflict Weekly 40
October 2020 | CWA # 360

IPRI Team

Protests against sexual violence in Bangladesh, One year after Xi-Modi summit, Assassination of a Deobandi scholar in Pakistan and continuing violence in Yemen

read more
The World This Week
October 2020 | CWA # 359

GP Team

The Quad summit in Japan, the World Bank report on South Asia and the European Parliament on Saudi Arabia

read more
Conflict Weekly 39
October 2020 | CWA # 358

IPRI Team

An Afghan woman nominated for the Nobel and a Dalit woman assaulted in India. External actors get involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

read more
EAST ASIA
October 2020 | CWA # 357

Harini Madhusudan

Japan- South Korea: Will there be a reset in bilateral relations under the new Japanese PM?

read more
The Middle East
October 2020 | CWA # 356

Lokendra Sharma

Bahrain and the UAE have normalized ties with Israel. Five reasons why

read more
The World this Week
October 2020 | CWA # 355

GP Team

An ugly Presidential debate in the US, a new bill to prevent Islamic separatism in France, and new EU sanctions against Turkey

read more
Conflict Weekly 37
October 2020 | CWA # 354

IPRI Team

Six million COVID cases in India, Abdullah Abdullah's visit to Pakistan, China's naval exercises in four seas, and the new tensions in Nagorno Karabakh

read more
Southeast Asia
September 2020 | CWA # 353

Nancy Pathak

Indonesia and the South China Sea: Between the Nine-Dash Line and an EEZ

read more
Europe
September 2020 | CWA # 352

Shreya Sinha

Despite Brexit, the UK is unlikely to disengage from the EU in their defence and security cooperation. Why?

read more
East Asia
September 2020 | CWA # 351

Kamna Tiwary

Abe's Indo-Pacific legacy: Will the new PM follow it up?

read more
East Asia
September 2020 | CWA # 350

Tamanna Khosla

Japan: New Prime Minister, Old Challenges

read more
The World this Week
September 2020 | CWA # 349

GP Team

The Second COVID Wave in Europe, Japan's rapprochement in East Asia and a SAARC summit in South Asia

read more
Conflict Weekly 36
September 2020 | CWA # 348

IPRI Team

Al Qaeda module in India, Naga Peace talks and the Polio problem in Pakistan

read more
The World this Week
September 2020 | CWA # 347

GP Team

The Abraham Accords in the Middle East, a new PM in Japan, and a TikTok deal in the US

read more