As Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy threatens take over the autonomous region of Catalonia, it is becoming clearer even to casual observers who the bad guys are in this conflict. Generally, when one side is peaceful and seeks dialogue, and the other is committed to resolving the disagreement through force, repression, and violence – well, you get the picture. The Spanish government’s argument that the October 1 referendum on independence was unconstitutional is not so determinative as they would like us to believe. As Vicente Navarro, who has written for many years on Spain’s incomplete transition to democracy, notes: the 1978 constitution was much more a product of the 36-year dictatorship than it was of the democracy that was struggling to be born. And Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) in particular has deep roots in political forces and people who were part of the Franco dictatorship. The antidemocratic character and fascist heritage of the PP government became glaringly evident when Rajoy sent thousands of troops into Catalonia in a failed attempt to stop people from voting. This was not, as he claimed, to enforce the law: the Spanish government could simply have allowed the vote and refused to recognize the result. Rather it was to crush the independence movement, and the expression of their ideas by force, and hundreds of people were injured by the Civil Guard. The repression also included unprecedented censorship of the Internet, as well as of newspapers and radio. If Rajoy follows through with his threatened takeover of Catalonia, we will see more of this Francoist repression of basic civil rights and liberties. As many have noted, the independence movement in Catalonia has deep roots – it goes back at least 300 years, and Catalans were denied even to the right to their language during the dictatorship. But there is another reason, besides the repression and infringements on Catalonia’s limited autonomy under the constitution, that it has flared up in recent years. That is Spain’s profound economic failure since the world financial crisis and recession of 2008-2009, and especially its impact on young people and the long-term unemployed, so many of whom have been left without a future in Spain. This is worth looking at in some detail, as the Spanish economy has lately been described in positive terms since it returned to economic growth four years ago. First, the current state of the damage. Over the past year (from August), unemployment has averaged 18 percent, more than four times the level of the United States. And it would be a lot higher if not for about 1.7 million foreign nationals having left the country. For 2016, about 43 percent of the unemployed were out of work for more than a year. In terms of finding employment, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently concluded “prospects for this group are particularly grim.” The number of people deemed to be at risk for poverty and social exclusion is at 27.9 percent. Inequality has risen dramatically since 2008; the income of the top 20 percent is now 7.5 times that of the bottom 20 percent, the third worst in the European Union. As the IMF has noted, this is mainly because employment fell by 20 percent from 2008 to 2013, and lower-income groups were disproportionately among the victims of this collapse. Furthermore, the majority of new jobs are temporary labor contracts, heightening insecurity even for those who are lucky enough to find a new job. This is not a pretty picture. But the IMF – which is here representing the views of the European authorities and the Rajoy government – nonetheless appears to accept mass unemployment as the new normal. The Fund projects that the economy will reach its full potential output sometime in the next year. But unemployment will still be at about 16 percent. In other words, 16 percent unemployment is as good as it gets, it’s now being redefined as “full employment.” And youth unemployment is about double the overall unemployment rate. This is an abomination; no one who cares about the majority of people in Spain and especially the future of a generation of young people, should accept the policies that have wrecked the Spanish economy and continue to constrain the recovery of the labor market. Published in Daily Times, November 6th 2017.