Citizen Mobilization and the “Right to Decide” Movement in Catalonia (2010-2014)

Citizen Mobilization and the “Right to Decide” Movement in Catalonia (2010-2014)

Joan Nogué (University of Girona, Spain) and Jordi de San Eugenio Vela (University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia, Spain)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3677-3.ch007
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Abstract

For the purposes of this chapter, it is interesting to analyse the arguments that justify the secessionist cause in Catalonia and, in particular, whether this bottom-up social demand falls within the scope of the democratically admissible. Similarly, it is important to determine how the Catalan people's ‘taking to the streets' represents a concrete political response with which in some form the will of the Catalan people has conditioned and even precipitated the political agenda of the current government. What has happened in Catalonia highlights the new—and prevailing—role played by civil society in public affairs. Within this framework, new questions arise regarding the counterpower exercised by citizens through massive, peaceful, and recurrent social mobilizations, which can, as a whole, be considered a spontaneous manifestation of participatory democracy.
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Introduction

Since 2005, Catalonia has experienced an unprecedented atmosphere of political tension and peaceful social protest (Miley, 2013). The Spanish Constitutional Court’s rejection of the Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia, the Spanish government’s refusal to establish a fiscal pact between Catalonia and Spain, evidence of a fiscal imbalance, the lack of state investment in the region, a symbolic people’s referendum on independence which took place in the town of Arenys de Munt, a few kilometres from Barcelona, on 13 September 2009, and the central government’s economic management over the Catalan Autonomous government has led to a process with a broad social impact that has surprised both Catalonia and the rest of the world (Cardús, 2013b; Boix and Major, 2013, Miró, 2013; Muñoz and Guinjoan, 2013).

We are witnessing an exceptional situation in Catalonia (Bel, 2013; Cardús, 2013a; Guibernau, 2013), which cannot be understood if we consider the usual patterns of political and geopolitical analysis alone. The distinguishing feature of this uniqueness lies in a social mobilization occurring from the bottom up and not from the top down, as is usually the case, together with the fact that we are facing a new kind of social movement that transcends mere economic and identity-related claims to demand new forms of participatory democracy. In this respect, the conventional Catalan politicians themselves are surprised, if not shocked, at what is happening on the streets.

With social discontent simmering for some time, it finally openly manifested itself on the National Day of Catalonia in 2012. That mass demonstration on September 11 was the culmination of a series of disagreements with the government of Spain (Bel, 2013; Guibernau, 2013; Serrano, 2013b; Pujadas and Xifra, 2014; Ordeix and Ginesta, 2014). Following the extraordinary success of the demonstration, the Catalan government called elections to the Catalan Parliament in order to transfer the citizen demands expressed mainly on the streets of Barcelona to the political sphere (Trépier, 2013). Some authors interpret this election call as the starting point of the policy shift towards independence (Martí, 2013; Blas, 2013; Goikoetxea, 2013; Ordeix and Ginesta, 2014).

For the purposes of this chapter, it is interesting to analyse the arguments that justify the secessionist cause in Catalonia and, in particular, whether this bottom-up social demand falls within the scope of the democratically admissible.

Similarly, it is important to determine how the Catalan people’s ‘taking to the streets’ represents a concrete political response with which in some form the will of the Catalan people has conditioned and even precipitated the political agenda of the current government. What has happened in Catalonia highlights the new – and prevailing – role played by civil society in public affairs. Within this framework, new questions arise regarding the counterpower exercised by citizens through massive, peaceful and recurrent social mobilizations, which can, as a whole, be considered a spontaneous manifestation of participatory democracy (Polletta, 2013; Bherer, Dufour and Montambeault, 2016).

Therefore, our research question is the following: In what way do the actors driving the social movement for the ‘right to decide’ justify the democratic nature of the secessionist cause they defend? Additionally, we present a hypothesis which maintains that the ‘right to decide’ is more than a nationalist, identity and/or patriotic vindication. It is, in definitive, a demonstration of commitment for a real, participatory democracy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Citizen Movement: Social mobilizations led by citizens.

Right to Decide: Citizen movement for the right to vote whether or not Catalonia should become independent from Spain.

Catalan Identity: Social and cultural attributes, among others, that characterize and sigle out the identity of Catalonia.

Catalonia: A region of Spain with a very unique identity.

Nationalism: Political doctrine and movement that claim the right of a nationality to the reaffirmation of its own personality through political self-determination.

Social Movements: It is a non-formal group of individuals or organizations that aims at social change.

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