The Catalans constitute a nation: a brief history of Catalonia (I)

With a language, jurisprudence, political institutions and sociocultural traditions of its own, a trading and industrial disposition, a space of hospitality for newcomers and a sense of nationhood shared by the majority of its citizens, Catalonia has a long and rich history.

Today, Catalan citizens are defending their rights against an on-going campaign of repression in an active non-violent, and above-all, democratic manner, emulating the efforts of their illustrious ancestors, a sense of nation by the majority of citizens defended through active nonviolent resistance and, above all, in a democratic manner.

Original article by Albert @HaedusCrabittu
Translation by AnnA @annuskaodena

In the southwestern part of Europe, we find the Iberian Peninsula: Portugal, Andorra, Spain, Catalonia and the enclave of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory. This is indeed a special situation, with the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Sea in the North, the Mediterranean in the East and the Atlantic Ocean in the West. This is a unique geographic space, which, since ancient times, has never been closed to the entrance and passage of people. However, the interior geography is very abrupt, while the exterior, on the other hand, is open to the sea, with safe passages through the Pyrenees, too.

Tramuntana Winds, Alt Empordà. Photograph by Albert @HaedusCrabittu

Catalonia is located in the north-eastern part of the peninsula. On the one hand, it occupies part of the northern slope of the Pyrenees and the adjacent valleys and plains, as well as the Mediterranean coast: this is the so-called Northern Catalonia that became part of the Kingdom of France with the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. On the other hand, from the Pyrenees down to the south, we find Catalonia, which is currently an Autonomous Region of Spain. Catalonia as a whole is therefore fragmented, as it belongs to two States. It should be added that in the principality of Andorra, Catalan is the official language and it is headed by two Co-Princes: the Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Spain and the President of the Republic of France.

If we look at the human geography, Catalonia has always been a place of passage and cultural exchange, dating back into prehistory.

Jaw found in Banyoles. Banyoles Regional Archaeological Museum.

Between one million and eight hundred thousand years ago, the Homo Antecessor was present. The man from Talteüll, in the current North Catalonia dates from 450,000 years ago. There is a fairly well-documented Neanderthal presence in the Middle Palaeolithic period, with evidence of a rich Palaeolithic human culture.

Pinta de boix, període neolític. La Draga, Museu de Banyoles

Hair comb, Neolithic period. La Draga, Banyoles Regional Archaeological Museum

Grave tombs have been found from the Neolithic period, the so-called cardial culture (wheat and barley crops and evidence of the first flocks) and, around 6000 BC, the construction of dolmens and remains reveal a megalithic culture. Dated between 3350 BC and 2950 BC, the variscite mines of Can Tintorer in Gavà are of great interest: the largest and most extensive collection of mines of their type in Europe and the only ones dating from the Neolithic.

Mines neolítiques de variscita, Can Tintorer, Gavà. Parc Arqueològic

Neolithic mines of variscite, Can Tintorer, Gavà. Archaeological Park.

This introduction intends to show the territorial location and geography of Catalonia, because it was a determining factor in the characterisation of the human cultures of those who have lived in these territories.

In the 9th century BC, the Phoenicians settled in the peninsula. In the 7th century BC, contacts began with Greek Phoceans colonists, also in the northeast, where they founded a commercial spot in the Gulf of Roses, which would later become Empúries. The relationships between these settlements were based on commercial and cultural exchanges. In 218 BC, the Romans arrived in the peninsula and occupied the city of Empúries; from where they went on to Romanise a large part of the Iberian Peninsula, except the North, until the 1st century BC. It should be added that the peninsular East experienced the Second Punic war, with the visit of Annibal Barca, and the battles between Carthaginians and Romans. The Mediterranean West was the main strategic goal for the Romans. Emperor Augustus resided in Tarraco, currently Tarragona, which became the capital of Hispania Citerior.

The Latin language was imposed and mixed with the Iberian substrate and some other Celtic elements. Over the centuries, Romance languages, also called Neo Latin, developed. One of them was the Catalan language, and even though there are testimonies as early as the 9th century AD, it is not until The Homilies d’Organyà, some sermons from the 12th century, when Catalan first appears in written form for the first time. The Catalan language is a key element to understand the development of Catalonia as a nation.

Returning to the history of Catalonia, the Western Roman Empire lost all authority over its territories in a long process that had already begun in the 4th century AD and ended in 476 AD with the dismissal of Romulus Augustus. The Visigoth Kingdom of Tolosa was created between the Pyrenees and extended south to the Iberian Peninsula. The Visigoth Court was established in Barcelona during the 5th century.

In 711 AD, the Arabs invaded the Peninsula. In Catalonia, they settled down for four centuries, not really surpassing the territory located to the north of the River Llobregat, in the province of Barcelona. At the same time, in the current area of France, the Germanic Kingdom of the Franks was established. Charlemagne (Charles the Great) became King, and later, Emperor. He established peripheral points of defence to ensure the borders, amongst them the so-called Hispanic Brand (“Marca Hispánica”), in the 8th century, which took up the northern half of the territory of today’s Catalonia, thereby forming a territory which had civil and military autonomy.

Pintura al fresc románica, San Juan de Boí,

Romanesque fresco painting, San Juan de Boí.

Gradually, in this area, the first feudal units were born and from there the Catalan counties originate: Barcelona, Girona, Empúries, Rosselló and Urgell-Cerdanya. Barcelona was the most powerful, being already a strongly walled city because of the close proximity to Muslims. The Count became the “marquis”, the administrator of the Spanish March. This process, with the arrival of a large human quota from the south that strengthened the counties, finished in 878 when the Count of Barcelona, Wilfred the Hairy, brought the five counties together and established a hereditary succession over them. He repopulated the counties of Osona, Vic and Berguedà. In 826, Aissó began an uprising against the imposition and domination of the Frankish nobles over the Catalan counties.

During the 10th and 11th centuries, the County was consolidated and with the reign of Ramon Berenguer I (1035-1076) we can say that a true feeling of a Catalan nation was born. To the west, there was the Kingdom of Aragon, while in the centre of the Peninsula there was the Kingdom of Castile, a belligerent with both Catalonia and Aragon. In order to avoid the disintegration of the kingdom, the marriage between Peronella de Aragón and Ramón Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, took place in 1137. Both territories would stay together for six centuries: Catalonia getting stronger against the French kings and Aragon avoiding the influence of Castile. It should be made clear that this was a dynastic union, not a territorial or a political one.

Liber maiolichinus de gestis Pisanorum illustribus

Against this background, one can pose the following question regarding the concept of Catalonia as a nation: “At which point in time can we start talking about Catalonia as such? When does the history of the Catalans begin? It is a demonstratable objective fact that the first time that a well-known historical source speaks about Catalonia and about the Catalans is in 1114 when a chronicler from Pisa narrated (in verse) the naval attack undertaken by Italian ships and the Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer III, against the Muslims of Mallorca. According to the historian, Enric de Pisa, Ramon Berenguer III and his army were Catalans and they came from Catalonia.” [Salrach i Marès, Josep M., et alii. Birth of the Catalan nation origins and expansion IX-XIV centuries. Catalan Encyclopaedia, 2017. Barcelona]. In addition, later in the 12th century, in 1173, the Barcelona Usatges (customs/set of laws) were compiled. These were a collection of normative texts based on the customary law of Barcelona which became the basis of Catalan Law.

The next milestone was the accession of James I the Conqueror (1213-76) to the throne. Born in Montpellier, educated in Aragon and Catalonia, he conquered the Balearic Islands and Valencia, extending the kingdom to the South and East. The conquest of Valencia would generate confrontations with the Aragonese nobles. Two cultures are already evident at this time: on the one hand, inland areas repopulated by the Aragonese and ruled by their charters and, on the other, the city of Valencia and the whole Mediterranean coast, characterised by a commercial, artisan and a non-landowning farming style. The continuity of the “Reconquista” (reconquering of territories from the Arabs) in the South and West would end up generating tensions with the Kingdom of Castile which later led into the War of the Two Peters, 1356-1375.

At this point, the Crown of Catalonia-Aragon became a political entity of great importance. The son of James I, Peter II (Peter III of Aragon), began a strong Catalan expansion throughout the Mediterranean. In the following years, Sardinia was conquered and the Almogaver troops (Catalan mercenaries), commanded by Roger de Flor, defeated the Turks in Anatolia and ended up conquering the duchies of Athens and Neopatria, in Greece, which would remain under the sovereignty of the Crown of Catalonia-Aragon.

It is also relevant to point out, apart from Catalonia’s own language mentioned before, how a powerful commercial profile was shaped, as well as a solid textile industry. They also had their own jurisprudence, a Catalan law, as we have seen with the “Usatges”. The Sea Consulates (1320-30) were also compiled as a corpus of maritime and mercantile law, which was of great importance in the Mediterranean.

In the second half of the 14th century there was a significant economic depression, co-incident with waves of plagues that decimated the population. Catalonia was hugely affected and the nobility of Aragon took advantage of this by increasing their own privileges. King Peter III was kidnapped, but once he was free again he confronted and defeated the Aragonese troops. It was in this context that the Catalan Courts were born, with representatives from the three main social groups: nobility, church and bourgeoisie. The purpose of these Courts, an organism considered to be the role model of the medieval parliament, was to discuss, vote and pass royal policies.

Les Corts catalanes/The Catalan Courts

In 1289, a new organism was established in Monzón, called the General Council or Generalidad. Its basic function was to raise the subsidies and taxes demanded by the King and, at the same time, ensure the compliance with agreements risen from the Courts. It also controlled the administration of the Principality and remained under the symbolic authority of the most senior ecclesiastical member. Berenguer de Cruïlles, bishop of Girona (1359) was considered to be the first President of the Generalidad. The institution was restored in the 20th century and the current head of Government is the Honourable President Joaquim Torra i Pla, the 131st President of Catalonia.

A decline began at the end of the 14th century. The duchies of Athens and Neopatria were lost. The heir of John the Hunter (1387-95), Martín I “the human”, died in 1410 without offspring, and the Crown of Catalonia-Aragon, with the celebration of the Compromise of Caspe, was handed over to Ferdinand I of Antequera, born in Castile, who started The House of Trastámara dynasty. Nonetheless, it was subject to the Catalan Courts decree, which granted the General Council the right to defend constitutions, laws and customs, court sections and other laws of The Principality of Catalonia.

Whereas the previous Mediterranean expansion had been commercial, Alfonso IV the Kind, ensured the Aragonese rule in Corsica and Sardinia, and Naples was conquered in 1443. This was a military and dynastic expansion, consolidated and held until the 18th century. However, these actions resulted in economic ruin for Catalonia.

With the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Monarchy of Spain did not favour initially the Catalan participation in their colonial businesses, but over the years the dynamics were reversed due to the private work undertaken by Catalan merchants and the indigenous population who, thanks to their entrepreneurial character ended up having access to these businesses.

The Catalans constitute a nation: a brief history of Catalonia (II)

With a language, jurisprudence, political institutions and sociocultural traditions of its own, a trading and industrial disposition, a space of hospitality for newcomers and a sense of nationhood shared by the majority of its citizens, Catalonia has a long and rich history.

Today, Catalan citizens are defending their rights against an on-going campaign of repression in an active non-violent, and above-all, democratic manner, emulating the efforts of their illustrious ancestors, a sense of nation by the majority of citizens defended through active nonviolent resistance and, above all, in a democratic manner.

Original article by Albert @HaedusCrabittu
Translation by AnnA @annuskaodena

In the 15th century, with the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabel I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon) stepping into power, Catalonia became part of the Monarchy of Spain until 1641. A year before, on June the 7th 1640, a large group of Catalan reapers and farmers revolted against the Hispanic authorities. The reason for this uprising was, amongst others, the unrest caused by the presence of Castilian troops, the economic costs the peasants had to assume and also the long-term tensions between the Monarchy of Spain and the Catalan institutions for the proposal, by the Count-Duke of Olivares, of the Union of Arms.

Having seen the insurrection that led to the intervention of the Spanish army, Pau Claris, the President of the Generalitat at the time, proclaimed the Catalan Republic and requested France to help

The conflict ended in 1652 and the Treaty of the Pyrenees between Felipe IV of Castile and Louis XIV of France was signed in 1659. The Treaty represented the end of hostilities between both countries in the context of the Thirty Years’ War, and it also resulted in the partition of Catalonia referred to in the geographic discussion above. The territories of the Roussillon, the Conflent, the Vallespir, the Capcir and part of the Cerdanya passed into French hands and the rest of the Principality returned to the control of the Spanish monarchy.

Until the extinction of the Habsburg dynasty, politics consisted of a gradual centralisation of institutions and power in Castile, with the rest of territories that were also part of the Spanish monarchy being neglected. Many Spanish monarchs never visited the rest of the territories within the Kingdom.

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700. The pretenders to the throne were the (Bourbon) Duke of Anjou, later Philip V of Spain, and Charles of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria. The war ended with the fall of Barcelona on September the 11th, 1714, after a siege that lasted almost a year. Despite of the huge resistance in the city and other towns, such as Cardona, the Bourbon troops won the succession battle.

In the days after the fall of Barcelona, the Bourbon authorities issued several decrees abolishing the Catalan government institutions and laws by suppressing the Catalan constitutional system and giving way to a period in which the Catalan territories were controlled and administered by the Captain General, the Duke of Berwick. In 1716, the Nueva Planta decrees were published imposing an absolutist political and judicial organisation and Castilian control. Not only this, Catalan language was also forbidden and the only official language in all areas, especially in the case of administration, was Spanish.

Nueva Planta decrees

With the Bourbons taking power, the monarchs that succeeded Philip V, focused on implementing a series of absolutist policies in the territory, a period called Enlightened Absolutism under Charles III. The imposition of the Spanish language continued, especially in the education system, and any language other than Spanish was banned.

With the outbreak of the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic Empire, the Spanish monarchy became involved in The Peninsular War, which started with the invasion of the Peninsula by the Napoleonic troops. In response to this attack, a resistance movement against the French army was spread throughout the Peninsula, including Catalonia. However, in 1812, Catalonia became a province of the Empire and was divided into four departments: Ter, Segre, Montserrat and Boques de l’Ebre. Many French officials moved to Catalonia to reorganise it politically and legally and at the same time to promote a series of reforms, taking the French model as reference, in order to replace the old structures of the Old Regime.

Napoleon lost the war and Ferdinand VII regained the Spanish crown, abolishing the Constitution of Cadiz of 1812 and implementing an absolutist model which resulted in the concentration of all the State powers in himself. Isabel II succeeded Ferdinand and her reign was characterised by a political crisis within the monarchy together with electoral frauds, corruption in the government and administrations.

Around 1860, Catalonia experienced an acceleration of its economy, especially in the industry sector, which was a contradiction considering the lack of political power it had. Even so, with the literary and cultural movement of the Catalan Renaissance there was a rise of Political Catalanism, which would be driven by the Catalan bourgeoisie from the second half of the 19th century and part of the 20th.

Meanwhile, the liberal Revolution of 1868, known as The Glorious Revolution, resulted in the deposition of Queen Isabel II. Leaders of the revolution eventually recruited an Italian prince, Amadeo of Savoy, as King. His reign lasted two years, and he was replaced by the First Spanish Republic (1873-1874).

The First Spanish Republic relied on the active participation of several Catalan republican and nationalist groups. The Republic was governed by four distinct presidents: Estanislao Figueras, Francesc Pi i Maragall, Nicolás Salmerón and Emilio Castelar. Meanwhile, Baldomer Lostau proclaimed the Catalan State within the Spanish Republic, although it didn’t last long due to political instability and the poor economic situation.

In the end, the Republican project failed and in the middle of all the uncertainty, the Bourbons ended up reigning in Spain again, through a military uprising. With Alfonso XII, the Restoration started and power was alternated between the conservative and liberal party (Bipartidism), through a political system called “peaceful turns” which was based on the forgery of electoral results through fraud and vote-rigging.

Meanwhile, in Catalonia, a political and nationalist revival headed, mainly, by the bourgeoisie took place through the Regionalist League of Catalonia. Furthermore, other Catalan nationalist movements such as the republican and the revolutionary emerged, rooted in the more popular sectors. However, since the late 19th and early 20th centuries until the 1930s, Catalonia experienced an exceptional period of economic prosperity which wasn’t affected, unlike Spain, by the loss of Cuba and the Philippines in 1898.

In 1905, a group of officers and soldiers, disregarding the most basic and essential democratic guarantees and civil rights, assaulted the offices of the satirical weekly magazine “Cu-Cut” for their publication of cartoons which they considered offensive. This triggered the formation of Solidaritat Catalana (Catalan Solidarity), a coalition of all the political parties in Catalonia for the first time.

The Commonwealth of Catalonia (Mancomunitat de Catalunya), an institution which grouped the four provincial administrations of Catalonia, was created in 1914 with the help of the Regionalist League of Catalonia. Headed by Prat de la Riba, it helped regain certain political control in Catalonia that resulted in remarkable successes and reforms throughout the country. The main infrastructures were improved and expanded, a modern educational program based on the postulates of various Catalan and foreign pedagogues was established, productivity was improved, modernisation of agriculture was promoted, and there was an emergence of Catalan literary and artistic culture.

Despite this amazing politic-economic situation, the tensions between workers and employers increased until this led to the “Pistolerismo” (from Spanish pistolero, gunman) phenomena. A practice used by Spanish employers during Alfonso XIII’s reconstruction crisis, of hiring thugs to face syndicalists and notable workers in order to avoid the outbreak of a popular revolution. The workers replied in turn by hiring their own gunmen.

In this climate of social instability, along with the Catalan Commonwealth project that worried Madrid, Miguel Primo de Rivera, Captain General of Catalonia, carried a coup d’état in 1923 which was accepted by Alfonso XIII and also by some sectors of the Catalan bourgeoisie. Inspired by certain elements of Italian fascism, such as corporatism, Primo de Rivera dissolved the Catalan Courts and political parties as well as declaring the state of emergency. The repression of this dictatorship was mainly directed towards the workers movement and any form of expression of Catalan identity. Catalan was banned in all public areas, the Commonwealth was abolished and the majority of laws and business reforms were quickly suspended.

Towards the beginning of the 1930s, the dictatorship deteriorated due to the economic consequences after the crash of the stock market in 1929 as well as the loss of internal support for the regime. The complicity of the monarch Alfonso XIII with the dictator meant the sentence of the Spanish crown a few years later. After a brief period of transition called the “Dictablanda” (soft dictatorship), local elections were held in April 1931 and the Republican forces from all over Spain won in the main capitals and cities. In view of this situation, Alfonso XIII abdicated and went into exile. The Spanish Second Republic was proclaimed on the 14th of April, 1931 (and lasted until 1939).

Francesc Macià i Llussà, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia

The regime change in Spain was then taken advantage of by Francesc Macià, leader of Esquerra Republicana (ERC), winner of the municipal elections in Catalonia, to proclaim the Catalan Republic within the Iberian Federation. The Spanish Republican government, however, convinced Macià to back down and, in view of the Pact of San Sebastián, recover the Generalitat and draft a Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia.

Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, 1932. Popularly known as the Statute of Núria

The new Statute, drafted in the Sanctuary of Núria, was passed by a large majority of the Catalan population in a referendum but when given to the Spanish Parliament for final approval, it was subjected to important cuts and changes.

The Government of the Generalitat, under President Macià, had to face the reluctance from the central government to give them more autonomy and, on the other hand, the strong opposition from the Catalan League and the anarchist sectors. Nonetheless, the government began great improvements in the field of education.

Still, the general election of 1933 favoured the rise of the Radical Party, a reactionary, populist, anti-catalan coalition with decentralising tendencies. The new government became belligerent with both Catalonia and the workers movements, while freezing all reforms that had been approved in the previous legislature to modernise the country. With three new ministers of CEDA, an ultra-conservative right-wing party, in the Spanish Government, 1934 was viewed from the majority of left-wing factions as the turning point towards fascism.

In view of the situation, a widespread uprising of workers took place throughout the Spanish State and, in Catalonia, President Companys proclaimed the Catalan State within the Federal Republic of Spain. The central government deployed the army to Barcelona by declaring a state of emergency and jailing the government of the Generalitat in full as well as suspending the Catalan Statute of 1932. In Asturias, the radical government sent the Spanish Legion, commanded by General Franco, to repress the mining sector uprising with extreme severity and violence.

This period of instability damaged the central government which, being involved in various corruption scandals, called for advanced elections. In February 1936, the Popular Front, which merged all the left-wing parties and also some of the nationalist movements of the State, won the elections against the right-wing parties. In the following months, a climate of confrontation and instability built up between the parties resulting in the coup d’état of July 18th which, having no success in certain areas of the State, led the country to the Spanish Civil War.

The so-called “national” side, headed by Francisco Franco, had military support from Hitler and Mussolini who took advantage of the civil conflict to try new weapons and war strategies. The Republican side, on the other hand, only received support from the Soviet Union, France, to a lesser extent, and from the International Brigades, paramilitary units of foreign fighters from many different countries around the world. The war lasted for three years, until 1939, when the Republican government surrendered, no longer able to cope with such war efforts.

With the Republican defeat, a nationalist, Catholic and fascist regime was established, led by Dictator Franco who launched a terrible and bloody repression against any dissenting elements. The executions of thousands of people were ordered from the highest echelons of the new dictatorial regime, including the one of President Companys at Montjuïc Castle in Barcelona in 1940. He became the only democratically elected president of government to be executed in twentieth-century Europe. The regime also opened cleansing and repression proceedings against public officials and against civilians, such as the Special Court for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism.

In 1939, Franco signed a decree voiding all the laws passed by the Catalan Parliament and he also dissolved Catalonia’s self-rule. Meanwhile, all Catalan symbols were banned and Catalan language was marginalised until it became a language used only privately[1], but still being persecuted as, for example, a civilian could be fined “for speaking in the Catalan dialect”.[2]

Salvador Puig Antich

During Franco’s regime, right from the post-war years, a political and police persecution was carried out against Catalanism, independence and, ultimately, any social, cultural or nationalist movement that would pose a threat to Franco’s nationalist regime. The execution of civilians and activists, such as Salvador Puig Antich, in 1974, turned into the cruel and ultimate expression of the late Francoist repression.

At the heart of this context of repression and political, social and ideological control, several associations and projects developed underground, to restore the censored Catalan culture. Some of these projects included: training of teaching staff in the Catalan language, founding of publishing companies, introduction of banned works of art, restoring the classics and public demands along with the symbols of Catalonia. Because of this, several cultural and political organisations, such as Òmnium Cultural or the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) were founded, which gathered very different trends and orientations together but still had several points in common, such as dealing with a dictatorship, defending Catalan nationalism and restoring self-government and Catalan culture.

[1] Chronology of the repression of Catalan:
[2] History Museum of Catalonia:

The Catalans constitute a nation: a brief history of Catalonia (III)

With a language, jurisprudence, political institutions and sociocultural traditions of its own, a trading and industrial disposition, a space of hospitality for newcomers and a sense of nationhood shared by the majority of its citizens, Catalonia has a long and rich history.

Today, Catalan citizens are defending their rights against an on-going campaign of repression in an active non-violent, and above-all, democratic manner, emulating the efforts of their illustrious ancestors, a sense of nation by the majority of citizens defended through active nonviolent resistance and, above all, in a democratic manner.

Original article by Albert @HaedusCrabittu
Translation by AnnA @annuskaodena

National flag of Catalonia

With the death of Franco the so-called Transition period began. The high spheres of power during the dictatorship, together with most of the political and cultural forces that had previously opposed Franco’s regime, put a plan together to turn Spain into a democracy. King Juan Carlos I became the new Head of State after the death of the dictator, directly appointed by Franco himself. However, no referendum was held to decide on the political form of the Spanish State, acknowledged years later by the former Spanish President, Adolfo Suárez[1], so the monarchy automatically became the political form of the State.

Despite the approval of the Constitution in 1977, the shadow of the dictatorship kept looming over during the so-called transition into a “democracy”. The attempted coup d’état on February 23rd in 1981 was headed by some sectors of the Army and the Civil Guard. The Public Order Tribunal was restructured into the current National High Court, with many political, military and police figures of the dictatorship staying in office. The Spanish 1977 Amnesty Law freed political prisoners and permitted those exiled to return to Spain, but guaranteed impunity for those who participated in crimes under the Civil War and Francoist Spain. The law is still in force, and has been used as a reason for not investigating and prosecuting Francoist human rights violations. The act institutionalised Spain’s “pact of forgetting”—a decision not to address atrocities committed by the Spanish State. The 1977 amnesty equated “victims and victimisers” and shielded human rights violators from prosecution and punishment. In February 2012 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights demanded the 1977 Amnesty Law to be repealed on the basis that it violates international human rights law. In 2013, a UN working group of experts called upon Spain to repeal the 1977 law:

Moving on in history, the President of the Generalitat in exile Josep Tarradellas and Spanish President Adolfo Suárez agreed to the restoration of Catalan government institutions and the drafting of a new Statute, which came into force in 1979 and recognised Catalonia as an autonomous region within the Spanish State. However, in 1982, the Organic Law of Armonization of the Autonomic Process (LOAPA) was approved in Congress. It provided for the devolution of competences to take place gradually, according to the ability of each region to assume them, so that in the end all of them possessed the same level of competences. The Law, however, was challenged as unconstitutional by the Catalan (CiU) and Basque (PNB) nationalists, with 14 out of its 38 articles being later invalidated by the Spanish Constitutional Court in August 1983.


After Felipe González’s several socialist administrations, during which State terrorism was carried out by G.A.L (Antiterrorist Liberation Groups) and secessionism was illegally persecuted through arbitrary arrests and tortures were ordered by Judge Baltasar Garzón, in the months prior to the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games; José María Aznar won the general elections in 1996. For much of the 1990s, and until 2003, the Catalan and Spanish governments, headed by Jordi Pujol and Aznar, reached agreements on a recurring basis and CiU (Convergence and Union) also backed the Popular Party’s budgets and various policies, which would be reflected in the so-called “1996 Hotel Majestic agreement”.

With PSOE’s victory in 2004 led by Zapatero, the Parliament of Catalonia approved the Proposal for a New Statute of Autonomy in 2005. The new draft, which differed from the one already passed by Parliament, was ratified by a referendum voted on by the Catalan population with 73.9% of votes in favour. Shortly after coming into effect, the New Statute of Catalonia was subjected to several constitutional challenges. The one that stands out is the challenge filed by the Popular Party with four million signatures for the approval of a draft law so the referendum regarding the New Statute of Catalonia would be held across the whole of Spain.

Four years later, in 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled on the appeal in which they considered 14 articles of the Statute to be unconstitutional, including the foreword which stipulated that Catalonia was a nation, although certain parts of these articles were almost identical to those of other Statutes of Autonomy, i.e. Andalusia. The reaction was immediate and on June the 10th one of the biggest demonstrations in the history of Catalonia was called in Barcelona, with a turnout of between 1.1 and 1.5 million people, under the slogan “We are a nation. We decide”. This rally marked the beginning of the latest round of Catalonia’s demands for the right to self-determination.

From this point onwards, after a fiscal agreement for Catalonia was denied, a political and social process began in order to demand Catalonia’s independence during which various demonstrations took place on September 11, the National Day of Catalonia, as “Catalonia, new state of Europe” (2012), the “Catalan Way to Independence” (2013), “Route” (2014), the “Clear the way to the Catalan Republic” (2015), “Ready” (2016), “Yes Day” (2017) or the rally for the “Freedom of the Political Prisoners” (2018). With the second government of the Generalitat, headed by Artur Mas, and after repeatedly claiming a referendum on self-determination agreed with the Spanish government, a consultation was held on November the 9th in which the Yes option to an independent State won with 1.9 million votes. As a result of organising this consultation, Artur Mas, Joana Ortega, Irene Rigau and Francesc Homs are the subject of a judicial process in which they have been charged with disobedience and prevarication.

In the 2015 elections, JxSí (Together for Yes, a coalition of pro-independence political parties) won the elections and with the backing of the CUP, they took actions on a series of measures, such as the Law of juridical transition, to proceed with the process towards independence within a period of 18 months. Faced with the Spanish government of Mariano Rajoy and their refusal to negotiate a referendum or the recognition of Catalonia as a sovereign political state and the subsequent threats from Rajoy along with those of other Spanish political and social sectors, the Catalan government of Carles Puigdemont enacted the Law on the Referendum on Self-determination of Catalonia on September the 6th 2017 to be held on the 1st of October 2017. One month before the enactment of the law, on the 17th of August, terrorist attacks took place in Barcelona and Cambrils. Until today, the relationship between the brain of the attacks (possible informer) and the Spanish official intelligence agency (National Intelligence Center, CNI) remains unclear.

In the weeks prior to October the 1st 2017, the Spanish government sent between 6,000 and 8,000 riot police officers, National Police and the Civil Guard, to Catalonia in the so-called “Operation Copérnico”. Arrived from several locations in Spain, they were seen off at their barracks by hundreds of citizens shouting “Go get them!”[2], and, on the day of the referendum, these officers intervened with extreme violence against civilians, making use of disproportionate force, using rubber bullets (banned in Catalonia since 2014) and tear gas[3] disobeying and, therefore, ignoring the order from the TSJC judge to not “affect the normal coexistence of the citizens”. Regardless of this order, the Civil Guards went ahead, and also carried out “Operation Anubis” in the weeks leading up to the referendum, by order of the court of instruction number 13 of Barcelona. “Several government headquarters were searched and 15 people were arrested, including senior officials, public workers and people in charge of partner companies helping with the arrangements of the referendum[4]. The security forces (Guardia Civil) searched the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Institutional Relations, and the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, as well as associated premises.” [].

On October the 1st, millions of Catalan citizens defended the polling stations throughout the territory from the early hours, to allow the voting to take place. The Spanish police force closed 92 polling stations with the use of violence and force, resulting in 1,066 civilians injured (one of them lost his eye as a result of a rubber bullet[5] and another one suffered a heart attack[6]), whereas the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalonia’s own police force), without disturbing the coexistence nor using violence, closed more than 500 voting centers[7]. The IT infrastructure was also attacked throughout the day, both by the Civil Guard and by other hacktivist groups, but thanks to the universal census 2,286,217 people were able to vote.

The outcome was 2,044,038 for the Yes and 177,547 for the No. The referendum counted on the help of an Electoral Commission, with the involvement of International Observers, who later on presented their conclusions with respect to what happened on that day[8]. Similarly, the referendum was enacted in a legal way, despite the denial of the Spanish government and the Constitutional Court, since the right to self-determination of peoples is recognized by the United Nations and also by Spain when they ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural. Spain should therefore allow and ensure the free exercise of this right by the Catalan people.[9]

We have to keep in mind the extreme violence and force exerted by the law enforcement against peaceful civilians, their failure to comply with the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC)’s indictment on the 27th of September, all the irregularities in the chain of command that gave orders to the National Police and the Civil Guard to take action, and the fact that the latter is a paramilitary force partly dependant on the Ministry of Defence are enough reasons for the European Union authorities to have applied Article 7 of the Treaty of Lisbon in view of the violation, by Spain, of the values mentioned in Article 2 of the same Treaty.

On October the 3rd and November the 8th, two general strikes took place with road and railway closures, up to 70% of public workers exercised their right to strike. On the evening of the 3rd of October, King Felipe VI made a contentious speech in which he gave support to the Spanish government repression and warned all independence supporters of the consequences of their decisions[10]. On the 10th of October, in view of the referendum results and the situation in Catalonia, President Puigdemont proclaimed, and immediately after, suspended the Declaration of Independence, calling for an international mediation to open a framework for negotiation and dialogue with the Spanish State. The Spanish administration refused (again) to start a negotiation so even though some media speculated with a possible call for elections, the Parliament of Catalonia adopted the resolution to proclaim the Catalan Republic on October the 27th 2017.

MHP Carles Puigdemont addresses the nation, Girona (28/10/2017)

The response from the Spanish government resulted in the application, from the Senate, of Article 155 allowing the Executive “to take the necessary measures to force [Autonomous Community] to the mandatory enforcement of such obligations”[12]. The Spanish government took control of the Catalan government, sacking the whole of the Catalan executive and dissolving the Parliament with consequences such as suspension of investments, the dismissal of the head of the Mossos d’Esquadra, Major Josep Lluís Trapero (currently awaiting trial for “belonging to a criminal organisation” and for sedition[13]), the control by the Spanish State of the civil servants workforce and the imposition of elections for the 21st of December[14]. In later statements, several politicians, such as Marta Rovira, went public to explain that Spain threatened the deployment of the Spanish army and the use of weapons to control the Catalan population and cope with possible demonstrations[15].

The judiciary, the National Court first and then the Supreme Court, following indications by the State General Attorney, started criminal proceedings against the Catalan government for crimes of rebellion, sedition, embezzlement and disobedience[16]. Judge Carmen Lamela and later, Judge Pablo Llarena sent civil activists Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez to jail charged with sedition for the protests that took place on the 20th of September (a fact that has been proved to be false, since both activists collaborated with the police to break up the demonstrations[17]) as well as Vice-president Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn, Minister of the Interior. A few weeks later, other members of the Catalan government such as Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Dolors Bassa and Josep Rull and the President of the Parliament of Catalonia, Carme Forcadell, were also charged and sent to prison and are still awaiting trial. President Puigdemont, together with other Catalan ministers such as Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret, Clara Ponsatí and Lluís Puig, were forced into exile in Belgium.[18]

On the 21st of December elections there were some incidents involving envelopes which already contained Ciudadanos ballot papers and problems with the postal votes from Catalans living abroad[19]. Despite everything, the pro-independence republican parties won the elections on the 21st of December with 2.08 million votes and 70 deputies[20]. On May 17th, after the Constitutional Court veto on the investiture of Carles Puigdemont and those of Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Turull, Quim Torra was invested as the 131st President of the Generalitat of Catalonia and a new Government was appointed. It is in this context and in the midst of the demands for the freedom of Catalan political prisoners that various organised far right groups, linked to extreme right parties and associations, are currently assaulting people and properties and removing any elements or symbols that ask for the Catalan prisoners’ freedom, often with the use of violence[22/23].*

*At @comuni_cats we have documented some of these violent actions in a map:

[1] Interview with Adolfo Suárez:
[2] Go get Them!
[3] Ten people attended due to tear gas:
[4] TSJC indictment [page 2]:
[5] Roger Español, the man who lost one eye:
[6] The police passivity while a man is suffering a heart attack:
[7] All data from the 1st of October can be checked out in the following link:
[8] International Observers opinions:
[9] Catalonia – Right to self-determination:
[10] Felipe VI Speech:
[11] Parliament approves the resolution to declare independence:
[12] Article 155 CE:
[13] Lamela prosecutes Trapero for sedition and belonging to a criminal organisation:
[14] The 155 article effects:
[15] Threat of the Spanish State:
[16] List of people charged after the 1st of October:
[17] 20S Documentary:
[18] Puigdemont does not ask for asylum:
[19] Envelopes with Ciudadanos ballot papers inside:
and report on the irregularities with the votes from abroad:
[20] Report of the 21D elections results:
[21] The Constitutional Court stops Puigdemont investiture:
[22] Annual by mè
[23] Tensions between CDRs and GDRs: