Secession: Causes and consequences of political divorce
“The political secession is just one example of the more general phenomenon of union and separation, the creation and dissolution of relationships with others. “It is the most ancient, haunting, deep and, at the same time, more necessary human drama”. With this general reflection, Professor of philosophy of the University of Yale Allen Buchanan sealed his classical work “Secession” (1991), reissued recently in Spanish in the wake of the secessionist effervescence in Catalonia, with a foreword ad hoc. In it, Buchanan poses a “moral framework for the study of secession” from an exhaustive analysis of the arguments for and against the same.
One of the most common justifications for secession is the right of self-determination of peoples, interpreted from a nationalist point of view: each “people” have the right to their own State. Also, says Buchanan, he is one of the “less compelling” justifications. Leaving aside the instability it would cause a repeated political fragmentation, the biggest objection the philosopher Ernest Gellner made explaining that the number of potential Nations on our planet is “much, much greater than the possible viable States”.Therefore, concludes, “not all nationalisms can be satisfied, at least not at the same time. The satisfaction of some means the frustration of others.”
Other routes by which intends to justify secession is the people: any group constituting a majority in any part of a State has the right to the secession provided that it can perform the basic functions of legitimate Governments.Despite secessionist appeals to respect for democracy, “the correct notion of democracy – says Buchanan – is not that of the pure and simple Government of most (…), but more well the constitutional democracy, which includes (…)”constitutional provisions designed to guarantee that the will of the majority does not break democracy itself.”
Then Buchanan says three “democratic” fundamental objections to plebiscite the secession argument: first, admit it would be tantamount to giving a minority within the State a right of veto de facto democratic decisions that are not to your liking, before which could always threaten to secede.Second, the argument is inconsistent with the reasonable expectation of stability in terms of the limits of the State and belonging to the political community necessary to run any democracy. And third, the people theory ignores completely the key issue of territorial legitimacy. Without it, the secession would be a misappropriation of a territory that belongs to all the citizens of the State (and their descendants).
In what refers to specific arguments in favor of secession, probably the most commonly used in Catalonia is economic: the complaint by the fiscal deficit perceived by some sectors as excessive, expressed sometimes in a crude manner with the “Spain steals from US”. For Buchanan, would only be justified secession when there is what he calls “discriminatory redistribution”: fiscal plans or economic programs that “systematically act to the detriment of some groups and for the benefit of others of morally arbitrary”. It seems clear that the territorial solidarity – beyond what concrete contribution be translated – has a moral foundation and constitutional solid, so it not be described as “arbitrary”. Buchanan says: “unless we reject the idea of the welfare State, we must accept the redistribution, and expect that some regions contribute more than they receive.”
Buchanan acknowledges other arguments which would justify the secession and that do not occur in Catalonia, such as large scale human rights violations and the preservation of a culture on the brink of extinction, to conclude that there is a “moral right to secession”, although “highly qualified”, that is, only in very specific circumstances. For Buchanan, the most convincing argument in favor of Catalunya right to secession “can be claimed on the basis that Spain has not shown good faith in responding to demands for greater autonomy intrastate”. In my opinion, since 1978, it is not true that Spain has not shown good faith, but in any case there is no doubt that the ruling of the Constitutional Court on the Statute was a jug of cold water to the hopes of many Catalans find a satisfactory level of autonomy within Spain, increasing significantly the attractiveness of independence.
At this point, he says Buchanan that “if Spain is not prepared to actually commit to a renegotiation of the powers of self-government for Catalonia within the heart of the State, this will increase the arguments in favour of a right to non-consensual secession”. In short, says the author, “in the case of Catalonia a commitment right with democracy and the rule of law would entail the provision to renegotiate the autonomy”. To this end, an appropriate level of mutual trust is essential: Spain should provide assurances that the agreement reached will fit into the doctrine of Constitutional Court and Catalunya should engage with the territorial solidarity and the correct operation of the Spanish State. In any case, the conclusion is clear: we need to talk.