Catalunya’s Struggle for Independence: Catalunya – a wealthy province compared to Madrid?




Another argument of the pseudo-Marxist opponents of Catalunya’s independence is that the region is wealthy with a higher income per capita than the average for Spain. It is certainly true that Catalunya belongs to the economically most developed parts of Spain. Without going into details, we note that this is part of the historic peculiarities of the Spanish state. Both most oppressed parts – Catalunya and Euskadi (Basque Country) – are those areas where capitalism and the creation of a proletariat took place much earlier than in other parts of the country. The Castillian ruling class in Madrid, with its backward and enlarged absolutist state apparatus, had to impose a bureaucratic centralist control on the country resulting in national oppression of these nationalities in order to profit from their advanced economic development. [1]


With 7.45 million people, the province of Catalunya accounts for 16% of Spain’s population and generates more than one-fifth of the Spanish GDP. It has a GDP per person of €26,996 while the country’s average is €22,780. Its exports of €65.2bn represent more than one-quarter of Spain’s total. Likewise it attracts more than one-quarter of inward investment to Spain. Furthermore, Catalunya has lower unemployment and generally less income inequality than the rest of Spain. We add, as a side note, that the Basque territories Euskadi (Basque Country, in Spanish: País Vasco) and Navarra, have an even higher per capita incomes (€29,683 and €28,124 respectively).


However, while Catalunya has a per capita GDP greater than the Spanish average, it is worth noting that it is significantly lower than that of Madrid – the dominant region of the country – which is indisputably the wealthiest of all. (See Table 1)




Table 1. Spain: GDP per person in selected regions of Spain, in Euros, year 2014 [2]


Madrid                                                                                                 31,004


País Vasco (Basque Country)                                                        29,683


Navarra                                                                                                28,124


Catalonia                                                                                             26,996


Andalusia                                                                                           16,884


Spain average                                                                                       22,780




In other words, even if Catalunya is relatively a wealthy region, the Castillian oppressor in Madrid is even wealthier.


Irrespective of this, it is nonsensical for Marxists to judge the legitimacy of a people’s desire for independence according to the level of economic development. As every historian knows, Poland and Finland were economically much more developed than the Russian Empire before 1917, since capitalist development started in these two former countries earlier. This however, did not prevent the Russian Bolsheviks from fighting for Poland’s and Finland’s rights to separate from Russia and to create their own state. Lenin emphasized this internationalist and anti-chauvinist position numerous times:


Russian socialists who do not demand freedom to separate for Finland, Poland, the Ukraine, etc., etc.—that such socialists act as chauvinists and lackeys of bloodstained and filthy imperialist monarchies and the imperialist bourgeoisie.[3]


[1] On this see, e.g., Angel Smith: The Origins of Catalan Nationalism, 1770–1898; Julie Marfany: Land, Proto-Industry and Population in Catalonia, c. 1680–1829 An Alternative Transition to Capitalism? Ashgate Publishing Limited, Farnham 2012; Albert Balcells: Catalan Nationalism – Past and Present, Palgrave, New York 1996; Walther L. Bernecker, Horst Pietschmann: Geschichte Spaniens – von der frühen Neuzeit bis zur Gegenwart, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1993

[2] Instituto Nacional de Estadística: Spanish Regional Accounts. Base 2010. Regional Gross Domestic Product. Year 2014, 27 March 2015, p. 3

[3] V.I.Lenin: The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (1916), in: LCW Vol. 22, p. 154.