A romantic framing of foreign crises where self-determination is involved is a common trap. The imagery of “oppressors” vs “freedom fighters” is appealing and, to their credit, the leaders of Catalonia have been successful in promoting their agenda abroad in just such terms – sometimes going as far as referencing Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid.
Combined with the soft power appeal of cosmopolitan Barcelona, there is much confusion abroad on the nature of the current crisis in Catalonia, and myths and stereotypes abound – helped by the likes of Assange and similar figures.
This article seeks to test some of these myths, in order to shed light not only on the Catalonian referendum debate but on the wider issues for pluralistic democracies and the rule of law. The dynamics in the Catalan debate are similar to those at play in other European countries in the age of populism and are therefore of fundamental importance for the future of Europe as a whole.
Myth One: A legitimate and democratic referendum process unjustly constrained by the Spanish state