Middle class drives Catalan separatist movement
Sense of grievance will persist amid widespread feeling that “the rest of Spain drains—and wastes” the region's wealth
As the Wall Street Journal writes on Wednesday, the push for independence in Catalonia is driven by the middle class. And while yet to explode in similar dramatic fashion, similar grievances can be found in Northern Italy and the prosperous German state of Bavaria:
Catalonia’s middle class has emerged as the bedrock for separatist sentiment, fueled by accusations that the rest of Spain drains—and wastes—tax revenues from a region proud of its banks and industrial prowess.
The widespread belief among Catalans that Madrid saps money from the wealthy northeastern region is one of the main propellants of an independence movement that has brought Spain to the brink of a constitutional crisis. That sense of grievance among the region’s middle class means the pressure for secession will remain high even as Carles Puigdemont, leader of the separatists, opened the door Tuesday to talks with Madrid.
“Catalan independence is a middle-class revolt,” said Andrew Dowling, a historian at Cardiff University in the U.K. “Middle-class Catalans think independence will bring them a better life, while working-class people tend to think their life won’t get any better with independence.”
While the revolt of the middle class has exploded to dramatic effect in Catalonia, that cohort has also voiced its dissatisfaction elsewhere in Europe, including Northern Italy and the prosperous German state of Bavaria.
Indeed, as Spengler wrote for Asia Times last week, Catalan’s independence movement is the genuine article, involving the whole of civil society. It is hard to imagine that Puigdemont’s move to suspend independence will be the last chapter in this drama:
The conduct of the Catalan independence referendum was a thoroughly organized insurgency involving the whole of civil society, from the region’s Catholic Church to the organs of public safety. Unlike the failed independence movements of Quebec or Scotland, it was not a top-down affair promoted by a small political elite with the sentimental support of a popular minority. Unlike Italy’s Lega Lombarda, it was not a regional lobby fighting for more control of tax revenues. Catalan’s independence movement is the genuine article.