Spain is important to me. Laurie Lee’s ‘As I Walked out One Midsummer Morning’ was one of my first serious novels and I read it after ‘Cider With Rosie’ – our school text book in the English class ran by a Mr Richard Bennett, a Master important in my life.
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Lee’s sequel was not on the curriculum but it started me on the road to a lifetime love affair with Spain and its heroic struggle with fascism. I have just completed a documentary – Patriot Games – for RT which encompasses these themes.
When I was first involved in politics, Spain was still ruled by El Caudillo – General Franco the fascist dictator, indeed my first Labour Party conference involved Prime Minister Harold Wilson speaking from the platform pleading for the lives of Basque anti-fascists due to be garrotted that very day. The plea failed and garrotted they were.
So the words of Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy’s spokesman addressed to the prime minister of Catalonia that he should be careful he didn’t end up like a former Catalan leader Lluis Companys (handed over by the Gestapo and murdered by a Franco firing squad) turned my blood cold in exactly the way Mr Wilson’s words had more than forty years before.
That an EU country’s Prime Minister could exult in the blood of a murdered statesman as a threat to another elected official spoke volumes about the state of Spain today. And that the EU could back this brutal policy of Madrid towards Catalonia speaks volumes about them.
So many have been fooled (at least in Britain) into believing the EU is some kind of court of last resort in the human rights field, a guarantor of democracy when nothing could be further from the truth.
The EU is a brute enforcer of neo-liberal orthodoxy and of the existing power structures in Europe. People don’t count when there’s no democracy, only power and money count.
The EU can’t stand by and see Catalonia break-away because many, if not most, European countries themselves have potential breakaway tendencies within their own borders. In the same way the EU cannot countenance a British exit from the EU lest it encourage les autres.
The Northern Leagues in Italy want independence from the south arguing “Africa begins at Rome”. Bavaria would be a pretty prosperous independent state if it could get shot of Germany. Ditto Venice would love to be a city-state. The Flemish don’t much like being in bed with the Walloons. Fissipariousness has few bounds, really. Cornwall anyone?
Some on the left have a knee-jerk reflex in favour of separatism but only if they don’t think straight.
As I argued here last week, few would support the independence of Kensington and Chelsea (certainly not under present ownership) from England on the basis it would make the borough richer still.
But the more Spain acts like El Caudillo was still around, the greater the alienation will grow, in Catalonia, in the Basque country (the first and second richest parts of Spain) and throughout the world. As for the too thinly stretched fabric of Spain itself – this may tear even the Spanish heartland itself.
Spain has a left and it has a right. The monarchy is a rickety bridge, now substantially diminished by scandal and time. The country has much unfinished business from the civil war. If the wounds of 1936-39 are not to be torn apart again it seems to me imperative that Rajoy, the brute of Barcelona, will have to go and new elections be held in Spain – including for the devolved parliament in Catalonia and a new national settlement reached.
The alternative scarcely bears thinking about.
Another leader whose time is surely up is the hapless Theresa May. Last week on my TalkRadio show the respected Tory writer Peter Oborne bravely defended Mrs May against what he said was the Remainer plot against her. It’s true that the multiple-identities of the garagiste tendency spokesman Grant Shapps didn’t add up to much. But Oborne’s central stance – that only Theresa May could be counted on to see Brexit through – was scarcely out of his mouth when it turned to ashes.
May’s Florence flourish had indeed turned out to be merely a kite. The 2 year “transition” may now be 4, the European Courts will remain supreme throughout. And continued membership of the single market during that transition will continue to mean the free movement of cheap and exploited labour from east and central Europe into Britain. If Theresa May is Brexit’s only hope then Brexit has no hope at all.