Friday, July 15, 2011

The Spanification of Eduard Punset

«In the case of Catalonia and Spain only one side is democratic, the Catalan one. The other side is totalitarian, arrogant and despotic, and that complicates things.»
Víctor Alexandre

Godwin's Law should forbid any political debate in Spain. They're so fond of throwing around the N-word that you cannot take it seriously. Except for the Catalans. Everybody knows that Catalonia is different. Or is it?

Our above phrase of the day seems to indicate it is. Catalonia is better, fairer, more European and, above all, a totally lovely place to be. Catalonia is not Spain.

Spain, as seen by another Catalan nationalist activist called Antoni Strubell, is a dark place. "Spain, Europe's last Fascist Refuge?", he asks in a letter to the foreign media. And he answers with a clear yes. Well, that's not a direct yes, it's more a Fox News yes at first, a statement cloaked in questions such as the title or "What in heaven's name is happening in Spain?". Strubell diagnoses a "huge democratic deficit that exists today in Spain" to then finally aswer all the questions with the resounding statement: "The one place [fascism] lives on is in Spain".

There we go: Spain, fascist. Catalonia, democratic. Never mind that the latter is part of the former, this is the widely spread view of Catalan democrats nationalists. It is, as Strubell puts it, "the truth about Spain".

Let's have a look at the true face of Spanish fascism. Is it this? The gentleman who goes ballistic at (02:45), translated below[i] , is Santiago Espot, president of Catalunya Acció, and at the last municipal elections he headed the list of candidates of Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència (SI) in Barcelona. The same coalition Toni Strubell is president of and represents in the Catalan parliament. So Strubell cannot have meant his colleague Mr Espot when he talked of fascism. The fascist must be the other gentleman, who Espot accuses of being a Nazi. That other gentleman is the lawyer and Partido Popular affiliate Juan Carlos Segura, who criticises former Catalan president Lluís Companys for his open rebellion against the state (for instance in 1934, only two years before Franco's uprising), and reminds the viewer that Companys handed out weapons to anarchist groups, who then went on killing sprees.[ii]

Companys is today much venerated, Espot defends the memory of the former president, his face and his voice get a little distorted in the process. Nothing major. The ugly face of Spanish fascism must be found somewhere else. As a matter of fact, the face of Spanish fascism can be found everywhere. Catalans are the new Jews. There's one "documentary" called Spain's Secret Conflict in which this claim is being made. Here are the passages:

(17:12) In the views of Spaniards in general Matthew Tree detects "similarities to a certain kind of anti-semitism". "A lot of the stereotypes, or stereotypical traits, that are put on the Catalans are not too different from the ones that were put on Jews before the Second World War."

(28:00) Josep Maria Solé i Sabaté: "Some of us are very worried in this situation, which sometimes reminds us, in spite of all differences, let's say, of the atmosphere in Vienna in the years 1934 and 1935, right? If you weren't a bit anti-Jewish you weren't altogether Austrian. Today in Spain we are living in a dangerous situation, in which if you aren't a bit anti-Catalan, you're not altogether Spanish, let's say."[iii]

At (26:55) Matthew Tree puts a great deal of blame on the Spanish press, in particular on Federico Jiménez Losantos: "It's very similar, and I don't want to make comparisons, but from what I've read it's very similar to the kind of broadcasting that was going on in Yugoslavia ten years... for ten years leading up to the civil war. And the Bosnian war, I mean. And for me it's quite frightening, you know. I hear that man on the radio, and more than upset me he frightens me."[iv]

An Englishman cannot be wrong! Spain is intrinsically fascist. Catalans are the victims. The Spanish press is full of hatemongers.

Now that we've seen what Catalan nationalists say, let's get back to reality. Let's start again with Strubell and his criticism of Germany, pardon, Spain, where democracy arrived about 30 years later than in Germany. So like in the Germany of the 50s, 60s and 70s, today in thirty years later Spain many things still need to be improved. Or let's consider the US. How long did it take until "all men are created equal" was finally implemented? Spain is not ideal, but it's not different either.

Strubell is hugely over the top, but he is an honourable man, one of Catalonia's most respected political activists. Let's see what more he has to say.

When science journalist Eduard Punset was awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi earlier this year he made an acceptance speech that voiced criticism of Catalan society, which he found to be showing signs of "closing itself off from the world" with the risk of "asphyxiating itself" culturally. Strubell's take on this is the following: "I believe that if someone who has just received such high honours commits such a verbal misstep, he should see his prize withdrawn ipso facto because of his bad education and lack of respect towards his nation."

Some lines further on Strubell shouts out: "This gentleman doesn't even know how to say one phrase in Catalan without messing with the language!"

To deny someone a public prize on the grounds of his political opinion not being in line with the established national cause is nationalism gone into extreme. To vilify this person for individual traits that have nothing to do with his political views goes a step further. This now is more than just calling for political conformity. It is the demand for uniformity in all aspects of life so as to make the other acceptable as a fellow citizen countryman and a human being. In the Catalan context, bashing someone for his bad Catalan is akin to attacking people for physical features such as the shape of their nose or the colour of their skin in other societies. Such an attitude should have no place in political discourse, and when nevertheless it is used, it must be called racism, even though the references here are cultural and not genetic.[v] (What makes Strubell's accusations so outworldish is the fact that Punset speaks Spanish with a noticeable Catalan accent.)

To top it all off, Strubell calls Punset by the Spanish equivalent of his name. Eduard becomes Eduardo. What little of Punset as a person could have remained in the eyes of Strubell is done away with already at the very start by identifying him as part of the enemy nation. By spanifying Punset. The attack could not be more personal, more personally degrading in its intentions.

Strubell's whole approach, the demand for political as well as for racial uniformity, reveals nothing less than a proto-fascist stance. And I do not call it outright fascism because the punishment demanded for Punset has not been made extensive to all spheres of social interaction. However, Strubell has entered a logic in which the next steps have historically proven to be relatively minor.

A university teacher, journalist, long-time political activist turned member of the parliament of Catalonia and self-styled writer should be aware of such slippery terrain. But neither has he since amended his words nor has anybody in Catalan nationalist circles critised him for them. Strubell, who himself was awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi in 2002, remains a well-respected member of Catalan society, and that is what makes the matter grave.

In dubio pro reo -and here goes another mitigating factor that forbids me to speak of more than a proto-fascist attitude- is the whole Spanish debate culture. There hardly is any. We have to see Strubell's words in this context. Another consequence of the absence of a valid debate culture is, as I said at the beginning, that the N-word is used so easily by many on all sides that it loses much of its seriousness. However, let's not forget that by the same lack of seriousness Spaniards have shown to be able to get into civil war. The matter is, therefore, an important one.

Strubell's recent verbal radicalisation has come as no surprise to those who have been following his writings. He speaks systematically from the nation first angle. There also seems to be some admiration for former terrorists that goes back on a more generalised feeling among Catalan pro-independence advocates. Terrorism might be seen as bad, but some cannot avoid a certain sympathy with the devil.

Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira, for a long time one of the figureheads of the secessionst movement in Catalonia, made that very clear already years ago: "(...) if you want to attack Spain, first of all have a look at the map." This was Carod's reaction to a deadly ETA bombing in Vic, Catalonia, which he saw mainly as "a torpedo against the waterline of Catalan independentism".[vi] Such extremism gets rewarded in Catalonia: Carod went on to become the leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, the party of Companys), which later joined the Catalan government. Then, in early 2004, Carod had another meeting with ETA, this time in Perpignan. His aim was to convince ETA, not to lay down the arms, but to stop attacking in Catalonia.[vii] He was widely criticised for it, had to apologise, lost his post in the Catalan government for some time, but came back afterwards to make it to vice-president of the regional government. Political life in Catalonia went on as if nothing had happened. Just a hickup. But in the rest of Spain they haven't forgotten this.

Just a few days ago, Carod rehashed his "not in Catalonia" argument. "The Spaniards have every right in the world to be outraged. But if they want to do so, as Spaniards, it would be best if they didn't get the map wrong [emphasis added] and demonstrated, showed their outrage, pissed, painted, shouted and insulted where it is due: in their country."

The movement of the outraged or Indignados has Catalan secessionists quite a bit against the wall. It could compete with their recipe of creating a new and propsperous state for the hearts and minds of all those many down by economic crisis. Ideological competition is getting fierce, hence the recurrent complaint that the Indignados are not Catalan enough. Alfons López Tena, Strubell's fellow partyman, even refused to respond in Spanish in a press conference after the siege of the Catalan parliament on June 15 by parts of the Indignados. They were all insulting the MPs in Spanish, Tena said, so he could not use the same language, which is legally co-offical in Catalonia and the mother tongue of more than half of all Catalans. As a regional MP, López Tena is one of the highest representatives of the law and of Catalan society.

So what have we come to, after starting with the claims that Spain is undemocratic, totalitarian and fascist while Catalonia is an oasis of democracy? We can conclude that the same people who make such claims adopt proto-fascist discourse and, as in the case of Santiago Espot, manners, that their proclaimed peacefulness is doubtful to say the least and that their law-abiding and democratic attitude is a farce.

Now let's have another look at Spain's Secret Conflict, which in a short time has gone viral among Catalan pro-independence activists. This is no journalistic work in any possible way. Its presenter, Gary Gibson, is no media person.[viii] Gibson is an English teacher who lives in Mataró. The film's aim is not to inform but to disinform abroad, to "internationalise the Catalan conflict".

Spain's Secret Conflict was not made by the BBC, or any other news organisation for that matter. It was commissioned by a pro-independence platform called Sobirania i Progrés (Sovereignty and Progress). This is quite a crucial piece of information that has been left out of the film's credit roll. Additionally, prominent members of this platform also have prominent roles in the film, without being identified as such. One would think that the public has a right to this information.

Among the founding members of Sobirania i Progrés is the first interviewee, MEP Oriol Junqueras, who at (02:11) boldly claims: "We Catalans want our own state". Junquera's party (ERC) on a sunny day represents some 15% of the Catalans. Junqueras has recently been tipped to become president of ERC, after its 2010 election debacle (7%). Another founding member of Sobirania i Progrés is Miquel Strubell, brother of our friend Toni Strubell.

First-day signers of the manifesto of Sobirania i Progrés include Toni Strubell himself, Matthew Tree, who appears as a kind of foreign star witness in Spain's Secret Conflict, and Víctor Alexandre, the gentleman who made our phrase of the day above. As would have been expected, Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira and his brother Apel.les are also members of Sobirania i Progrés.

Alfons López Tena, presented plainly as "a leading legal expert" (36:09), isn't on the list of Sobirania i Progrés. Neither was he yet a regional MP at the time of the interview, but he had already created the Cercle d'Estudis Sobiranistes (in 2007) together with Héctor López Bofill, another founding member of Sobirania i Progrés (in 2006). If Mr Tree were right about Catalans being treated like the Jews,[ix] López Tena would never have been member of the CGPJ. Nor would Joan Rosell (17:34) have been elected to head the CEOE ("the bosses' union", as Gibson puts it) in 2010.[x]

Spain's Secret Conflict is the opposite of journalism. It is a well-filmed, well-edited and very well scripted piece of political propaganda. There would have been little difference if Matthew Tree and others had interviewed themselves. Tree also doubles as the film's translator, a position that allows him not only to charge money, but also to raise the tone another notch, like when he translates "reactiva" with "reactionary" at (33:44).[xi]

And that's not even all. Sobirania i Progrés's Elisenda Paluzie, whose tweet we linked to above, does not appear herself in the film she had commissioned and that gravitates around the referendum on independence. However, right when her film was shot Paluzie was one of the organisers of that referendum,[xii] while López Tena was driving it in the town of Osona, likely at the very time Mr Gibson interviewed him as "a leading legal expert". Josep Maria Solé i Sabaté, introduced in the film (05:13) as "one of Catalonia's best known historians", was also a prominent supporter of Paluzie's referendum, and so were the other interviewees Matthew Tree and Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira. As to the last Catalan interviewee to be named (with the exception of Joan Rosell), the former long-time president Jordi Pujol has voted for the independence of Catalonia. Most of these facts were know at the time the film was made, but they go unmentioned by Mr Gibson.

Elisenda Paluzie, a prominent member of ERC and professor of Economics, is on record to have recently said about the net fiscal transfer (also called "fiscal deficit", or more bluntly "plundering") from Catalonia to the central government: "We have to use the unfair treatment that Catalonia receives to make the sovereignist [pro-independence] awareness grow".[xiii] The amount of the fiscal deficit is one of the most important political issues today in Catalonia, and one of the strong points in Paluzie's film. Paluzie, however, does not want the problem solved. She takes it as a welcomed argument for independence, especially in times of economic crisis. Economic crises have that unholy tendency to boost extremist positions.

The president of Catalonia, Artur Mas (CiU), says he wants to get the fiscal deficit solved not by limiting it, but by demanding the same exceptional treatment the Basque Country and Navarre get. This aim is not only highly unlikely to materialise, the demand itself is in stark contrast to another, more fundamental one: that the historical differences within Spain be respected. Catalan politicians and opinion makers have repeatedly been up in arms whenever other, "non-historical" Autonomous Communities tried to copy the Catalan model in order to attain similar rights and privileges. A perceived lack of respect is at the very core of all the grievances, real or imagined, Catalans have with "the Spanish", and from here a straight line leads up to the accusations of fascism that were the starting point of this text.

Mas now wants to copy Euskadi. Moreover, Mas's proposal includes a political threat. Or rather it's blackmail: should his demands not be met by Madrid he is willing to lead Catalonia into independence. Having created these false alternatives, it looks like a win-win situation for Mr Mas, who has voted for independence in Paluzie's referendum (and so have several of his ministers) and has officially declared that his ultimate aim is to "complete nation-building" ("completar la construcció nacional", in Catalan).

It is within the logic of such double discourse that false pretenses abound. Paluzie's film is a classic example of both. It pretends to be about the "right to decide" of "the nation of Catalonia". It is, in fact, about something much more sinister.

Sobirania i Progrés's manifesto, co-written by Paluzie, doesn't mention the name of Catalonia even once, instead it consistently speaks of the Catalan Lands. From this angle, both Paluzie's referendum and her film are two parts of the same dialectical Trojan Horse.

It is, both politically and legally, much easier to argue for the self-determination of a well defined territory, in this case of Catalonia proper, than for the secession of all the territories where Catalan is spoken. The former can (and often is explicitly taken to) relate to acceptable precedents such as Slovenia, the latter is all too reminiscient of "Gde je srpski grob, tu je i Srbija"-"Where there is a Serb grave, there is also Serbia". Hence it cannot be sold to an international audience and has no place in Paluzie's propaganda film. The Balkan analogy ends here. Nobody threatens to achieve the unification of the Catalan Lands by violent means. On the other hand, nobody wanted to build the Berlin Wall, either.

A clearer distinction between the different, yet much related, concepts of nationalism, Pan-Catalanism, secessionism etc. in all their different shades shall be made in a following text, that will also try to evaluate what real political influence each current has. One thing should be clear already, if things were to go according to the will of most political activists mentioned here, an independent Catalonia would claim huge territories from the then neighbouring states of Spain, France, Italy and maybe the whole of Andorra. This is their declared will. They all come together in and around Sobirania i Progrés's manifesto, its referendum and its film, and while they claim the wildest things about that devilish Spain, they reveal their own attitudes, methods and intentions all too readily. It just takes a bit of piecing-together.

Even extremists do have to reveal their true intentions in order to achieve the highest degree of domestic political cohesion. Without such cohesion and an absolute commitment to the goal no major change is possible. And only by revealing even the dark sides of their intentions their political leaders can ultimately turn a community of victims into a community of perpetrators.

There is no good Catalan today who would say that he or she is Spanish. The false dichotomy that opposes Catalonia to Spain is the leitmotif of local secessionist discourse, it is present in many of the quotes we have seen here, and it is to be understood as a conflict that demands a very personal choice of everybody, especially of each single one of those many in Catalonia who still define themselves as both Catalan and Spanish.[xiv]

The risk of being perceived as dangerous abroad seems to be mitigated by a general good-will attitude of the foreign audience, an optimism that grows the further away or less known the troublespot is.

It is more worrying for those who have the gun right to their head. When the leader of a new party that has set out to work for "the regeneration of political life" says "we'll bump off anybody who gets in our way, we'll kick their asses" he might be perceived as a bit threatening, even though the bumping-off part was not meant literally. Neither was the gun analogy, yet.[xv]

"(...) totalitarian, arrogant and despotic (...)". As well as undemocratic, misleading, manipulating, lying, insulting, deceiving, distorting, disinforming, vilifying, slandering, vile and perfidious. And if that general climate hasn't been enough to discourage any dissent, there are quite some hotheads ready to disrupt meetings of opponents in a way nobody wanted to see again. Which brings us back to the beginning and Toni Strubell's letter to the foreign media. What in heaven's name is happening in Catalonia...

Let me leave you with another quote: "10.000 organised people are more powerful than one million, we are ready to create this power (...). Hèctor López Bofill, Sobirania i Progrés.

Coda: Sobirania i Progrés, so eager to "internationalise the process towards sovereignty", hasn't cared to publish their website in any language other than Catalan. Toni Strubell, who is half English-half Catalan, only writes in Catalan on his site.

Maybe they know that they mustn't put
all their thoughts directly to an international audience. That certainly denotes a lack of understanding how the Web works.


[i] "Shut up! Shut up! When I speak of the memory of Companys, you shut up! Shut uuup! You have to shut up, do you understand? Shut up! Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are, to accuse President Companys of war crimes? Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are? You would be locked up in prison if the Spanish state were a democratic state. In Germany, in Germany you'd be locked up in prison. This is unworthy, that today when we commemorate that 70 years ago President Companys was assassinated, you appear on a TV show to insult the memory of this people. You should be locked up in prison! Do you understand? Nobody has died by fault of Companys. You're a disgrace. You are a Nazi. And you are a member of the political family that assassinated Companys. You do not deserve, you do not deserve to be neither in Catalonia nor in any other place. Do you understand? It's a shame. Your presence here is a shame. Do you understand? A shame! It's a shame!"

At this point the TV show's goosebump-resistant presenter interrupts to criticise not Espot but Segura, demanding him to be respectful, and calls on the viewers to call in if they are in disagreement with Segura. Democracy in the making: let the angry mob take over. At this point Segura actually looks a bit worried. Mission accomplished.

[ii] The main "acció" of Mr Espot's Catalunya Acció association has for years been to (anonymously) denounce all those shopkeepers who were using mainly Spanish in their written communications, instead of Catalan. This, too, is remindful of the core fascist tactics of using the law to abolish the law, i.e. the whole legal framework set by the constitution. Espot is using a Catalan law in order to abolish the Spanish Constitution.

See also a later post.

[iii] To liken today's Spain to the authoritarian rule of Austrofascism is a bold statement and a weird historical analogy. It cannot be saved by "in spite of all differences". The difference is the official promotion of anti-semitic attitudes in Austria from May 1934 onwards, which marked a clear before and after. Is Solé i Sabaté insinuating that Spaniards are (genetically? culturally?) so much worse than Austrians because they behave to the same effect, yet without the need of being whipped up by any authorities? There either must be something intrinsically evil about Spaniards, or Solé i Sabaté sees much less evil in the persecution of the Jews in mid-1930s Austria than there actually was.

Quite unscientific is what this "historian" says about the War of the Spanish Succession. First of all, the date he gives, 1714, is imprecise, and the relation of forces he gives (Castile on the one side, the rest of the peninsula on the other) is plainly wrong. His account in no way honours his scientific credentials, instead it dwells on the level of popular legend, something very contrary to scientific historiography, and easily disproven by anybody with access to Wikipedia.

One can only hope that Solé i Sabaté's colleagues are aware of his words and react accordingly.

[iv] Here we are with an even weirder analogy: Spain is compared to Yugoslavia, Catalonia to Bosnia, and dictatorship equals democracy. This analogy has been drawn on so many times by Catalan secessionists that it has become almost a figure of speech. Those who in the former Yugoslavia were actually fighting for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and who were tortured and imprisoned, are being insulted by such a comparison.

[v] References to the existence of a "Catalan Race" were made in the late 1800s, but phrenological arguments to detect differences with other peoples of Spain, who were said to have been exposed to Moorish rule and influence for a longer time than Catalans, were soon dropped and have since been replaced by philological ones. The linguistical differences between Catalan and Spanish are objective, these are two different languages, but sadly, as we see with Strubell, the use that is being made of this fact sometimes is reminiscent of attitudes that we hoped were long forgotten.

[vi] Carod was not the only one to be more interested in his own political agenda than in the victims of the Vic bombing. A few months ago, 20 years after the bombing, the mayor of that town, Josep Maria Vila d'Abadal, refused to participate in an hommage to the victims because his predecessor at the time of the bombing, Pere Girbau, had been criticised by the victims' association called AVCOT for showing the same surprise as Carod at ETA tactics. Interviewd by Catalan TV3 Girbau had said: "Since the moment we were feeling that we are Catalans as much as they felt they are Basques, why did they have to attack here?" Both Girbau and Vila d'Abadal are members of CiU. The radical Reagrupament party couldn't miss the chance to condemn AVCOT and show its support for Girbau.

Carod sure knew that a true Basque patriot makes no difference between Catalans and other Spaniards, all of whom he calls Maketos. His discussions in Perpignan must have been interesting.

[vii] Carod always denied that a partial truce had been his aim, yet shortly after the meeting in Perpignan ETA indeed announced a truce for Catalonia. In 2006 ETA showed pride in the truce and signed up to Carod's line of argumentation: "solidarity, respect, non-interference". Certainly, the truce was only valid for Catalonia proper, not for the whole of the Catalan Lands: coming from Tarragona (Catalonia), ETA bombed the Hotel Port in Denia, in the Community of Valencia, in January 2005.

[viii] Sobirania i Progrés couldn't possibly use a Catalan journalist, for fear of missing the air of objectivity only a foreigner could lend them to present this film as a real documentary, a valid piece of journalistic work. Yet they were unable to find a foreign journalist, which comes as no surprise. Matthew Tree couldn't literally interview himself, so he brought his good acquaintance Gary on board. Some in the Catalan blogosphere think that it's actually the Fantasy writer of the same name, others see him as a BBC journalist. Mission accomplished, again.

[ix] At this point we have to mention Catalonia's most prominent fighter against anti-semitism and a vociferous defender of the state of Israel, Pilar Rahola. Mrs Rahola, former leader of ERC and a die-hard secessionist, was quick in criticising Losantos's "we are the Jews", but has yet to say anything to her fellow pro-independence fighters of Spain's Secret Conflict.

[x] The moderately nationalist politician (no oxymoron) Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida has in successive opinion polls last year been named as Spain's most popular politician. The film Pa Negre (2010), proudly made entirely in Catalan and shot in Catalonia, has won the Spanish Goya (actually nine of them, out of 14 nominations) and is being distributed across Spain subtitled, not dubbed. Many other examples can be given of utter normality in the relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. (Update July 22: Pa Negre has been awarded the Premio Nacional de Cinematografía 2011. It's the Spanish National Prize for Cinema.)

[xi] A few months prior, another video, this time made by Catalonia's "national television" TV3, was all the rage. Adéu, Espanya? (Goodbye Spain?) also used two prominent interviewees as advisers to the production. There is a clear tendency for inbreeding even in the journalistic sector.

[xii] This referendum was a scam. Its declared basic principle was that only participation mattered, regardless of the outcome. That was the only way its promoters could (and indeed did) seek justification in a "right to decide" with clear references to the "right of self-determination of peoples" as mentioned in the UN Charter, the ICCPR and the ICESCR. However, it's true aim was not participation but the outcome, to get a majority for independence. Anna Arqué, who together with Paluzie was in charge of foreign relations for the National Coordinating Platform of the Poll on Independence lifted the veil briefly in an interview with La Vanguardia. Asked what would happen if the people said "no" to independence, Arqué's answer was concise and clear: "Then we will work to get a "yes" some other day". Whatever she meant with the phrase that made the interview's headline is anybody's guess: "The [result of the] referendum on independence will be binding, even if not legally so". Just not for Arqué, most apparently. Be that how it may, literally everybody in Catalonia understood what the referendum was really about, hence the low turnout of about 20%.

More details in this later entry.

[xiii] To be fair we have to point out that "sovereignty" and "independence" are not synonymous, nor are they being used as synonyms. However, the difference has no real effect. The highest degree of (national) sovereignty means independence, and independence is the declared goal of Paluzie et al. Moreover, Paluzie et al. are playing a dirty game with the sovereign will of the people, as we have shown for the case of the (unofficial) referendum on independence, or as it is the case with the (official) referendum on the new Catalan Statute of Autonomy (Estatut) in 2006. The referendum on the Estatut was used as argument that the Constitutional Court of Spain (CC) had "no mandate to overrule the expressed will of the people". An obvious fallacy, since the CC has to respond to the will of all the people of Spain, of which Catalans are only a part, and even that only within the rules set by the constitution that was approved in 1978 by a majority of all Spaniards, as well as by a majority of Catalans.

[xiv] As a matter of fact, there is a third discourse whose target audience are all those not yet converted to Catalan nationalism, who are especially to be found among the sons and daughters of in-country immigrants (from Andalusia, Extremadura etc.) whose maternal language continues to be Spanish. Here a carrot-and-stick approach is applied, a combination of coercive means and convincing argumentation: proudly presenting Catalonia as a society that has always integrated newcomers is one side, the other is that those who do not conform to the ever narrower standards of true Catalanhood can find themselves quickly accused of conspiring with the "oppressor". They get spanified.

As the party that has traditionally represented the Spanish-speaking working class, especially in the red belt around Barcelona, the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) is increasingly accused of having "two souls", of not defending the interests of Catalonia and, ultimately, of treason.

A fourth discourse, that of Catalan secessionists with the rest of Spain, is becoming more and more scarce. In many ways the rest of Spain is already being treated like a foreign country.

[xv] These words were uttered by the president of Reagrupament when Toni Strubell (ex-ERC) was still a member of that party, which he left six months later to join former Barça president Joan Laporta's SI.

Laporta himself left SI after the regional elections (while keeping his seat in the regional parliament) to join ERC in a coalition running in the Barcelona municipal elections. Strubell became president of SI.


  1. Wow that's a comprehensive update on the state of 'Catalanism'. Must have taken you some effort to put together. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for liking! Makes it worth the effort.

  3. Náiguel Puig i ClotJul 16, 2011, 12:07:00 PM

    The purely Kipling-esque Anglo tendency is to believe that the fundamental issue facing Spain is the 'resolution' of the civil war and the country's 'relationship' to 1920's fascism. More interesting would be some examination as to how the ideological currents of the 20th century have permitted the wholesale transfer of the unquestionable right to be totalitarian from large states to any group with the ability to claim to have been victimized between 1880 and 1945, to pick a period.

    Bad way to confront a future in which the real power has also become stateless - or is domiciled in Grand Cayman.

    Truly excellent piece.

  4. Wow, Náiguel, that was some way to put it! I guess the powers that be found out some time ago that you can democratise everything, even totalitarian attitudes, except the access to money; which they then can use to apply very sophisticated means of social control. Actually, I'm just waiting for them to take advantage of progress in genetics to exert biological control. One day money can buy you truly everything. Darwin's Nightmare, squared.

    But back to the issue: "More interesting would be some examination..." is now stuck in the back of my head. Thank you.

    And thanks for the praise, it's worth much to me especially coming from you.

  5. A very interesting and highly thought-provoking piece, Mr C. As one of Ms Paulizie's collaborators I feel I have to reply in defence of her and the other 10-A people. No time now, I'll study the piece again and get back to you soon.

    @Náiguel - The best examination of the issues of ideology in the 20th century and the struggles between them, including the question you raise, is The Shield of Achilles by Philip Bobbit.,_Peace,_and_the_Course_of_History

    Fascinating look at how politics and strategy evolved over the last 500 years, but particularly "The Long War" 1914-1989.

  6. Well, give Ms P. my best, Murph, and do come again.

  7. Congratulations on a splendid analysis.

  8. @Lavengro Honours me that you like it! Thanks.

  9. Hello Candide, I finally found some time to go over the extended version of your thoughts about the Catalan situation. I have to say that I have really enjoyed reading your dissertation.

    As I mentioned in the discussion on my parcel of the web, I surprisingly observe that you give a lot of coverage to people who, in my opinion, are not that relevant. Matthew Tree, Tony Strubell, Elisenda Paluzie; sure, they are all well-known Catalan activists but not the people who will eventually lead Catalonia to sovereignty.

    You do mention Artur Mas, current Catalan President and his win-win political strategy, what you do not say is that, whether we like it or not, he currently leads the Catalan pro-sovereign movement. His party, Convergència i Unió, more than doubles the number of MPs of the following party. He might not mention the word "independence" very often, still considered a taboo word among Catalan society (see my grandparents), yet he truly and openly advocates for the right of the Catalan nation to decide its future.

    The “indignados” movement might seem to have deteriorated the image and prestige the newly composed Catalan government and its President had gained after taking command amid of a gigantic crisis in late 2010, but Mas has carried on with his strategy understanding that having the highest fiscal deficit of any region in Europe, representing 10% of Catalonia’s GDP, does not provide any leeway to deviate from the initial plan.

    You build up your argument with lots of evidence and links, all of them being personal declarations, subjective articles, or individual opinions of politicians and activists. Of course all patriotisms are backed up with some sort of intangible assets that bond a community together, but I remain astounded at how you forget to mention all the empirical date (hence, objective) that corroborates the unfairness of the current situation.

    It has come to a point that we are just looking for a way out. Some might find it appealing to plead for passions, feelings, or motivations; others might find it more realistic to analyze and understand the numbers to support their claims. I believe that most of us fall somewhere in between, pushed by a strong, differentiated cultural background but driven by an unsustainable economic situation. Before anyone can anticipate secession there is a lot of work left by implementing in Spain’s young democracy the true concept of freedom and liberty, which lies intrinsically and unequivocally with the right of a nation to self-determination.

  10. Thank you for your kind and critical words, Miquel.

    I agree that Mas and his coalition are more relevant numerically, it has yet to be analysed who has the upper hand ideologically. I am aware that I have referred to a loud and busy few, I still want to know if their arguments are on the fringe or at the centre of Catalanism. That is why this text cannot be the last one.

    One of the questions is, for instance, what is the Catalan nation? Who is part of it? If you want to share, Miquel, who is a Catalan for you?

    As to "the unfairness of the current situation", this is yet another matter. And this one, too, will have to be treated separately. I cannot throw everything into one text. There are many parts of the story that deserve attention.

    One fundamental thought guided me to post this text first: I wanted to debunk the legend that Catalan nationalism is special, that it's all rosy and oh-so democratic. This is important because, as I indicated in the text above, there is a great lack of self-criticism, and that is unacceptable for everybody. The foul eggs which there are continue to rot the whole nest. I am not speaking of people, but of arguments and attitudes.

    Unfortunately, some of those arguments and attitudes are shared at unison by the whole Catalanist community, and, to re-quote Alexandre, that complicates things.

    So please let me go step by step. I hope you return, keep reading and keep criticising and demanding.

  11. The Catalans and Spanish don't deserve what is happening: mediocre and sectarian politicians who want to impose their ideas on others (in Madrid and Barcelona).

    The problem has no solution because the people coming to power only understand their point of view and they moved to the people. There is a mutual hatred.

    In Catalonia is the repressive Spain myth. In Spain the myth of the separatists lying and weeping.

    Me, I've lived in Barcelona, Seville and Navarra, I assure you that the people do not think like the extremist politicians, and there was a divergence between politicians and the people. Paradoxically the politicians are choiced by the people. Where are the mistake?

    Los catalanes y españoles no nos merecemos lo que está pasando: políticos mediocres y sectarios que quieren imponer sus ideas sobre los demás (en Madrid y en Barcelona).

    El problema no tiene solución porque la gente que llega al poder sólo entiende su punto de vista y traslada al pueblo. Hay un odio mutuo.

    El cataluña está mito de la España represora. En España el mito de los separatistas mentirosos y llorones.

    Yo, que he vivido en Barcelona, Sevilla y Navarra, puedo admitir que las personas del pueblo no piensan cómo los políticos extremistas, y existe una divergencia entre políticos y el pueblo. Paradójicamente los políticos los designa el pueblo. ¿Dónde está el fallo?

  12. La solución es clara, una buena educación. Y para llegar a una buena educación (no sectaria) hay que conseguir un consenso democrático más amplio y más hondo que el acuerdo de mínimos que hoy en este país pasa como tal.

    Y para llegar a un mejor consenso democrático hace falta más educación.

    No quiero decir que existe un círculo vicioso, sino quiero indicar que se necesita más tiempo. Esta democracia es joven aún. No desesperar. ¡Manos a la obra!

    ¿Es que no emociona crear algo tan bello?

  13. Estoy totalmente de acuerdo contigo, lo que hay que fomentar es la unión y no las diferencias, como suele ocurrir.

    Este tema me tiene desanimado, mi mujer es catalana y voy muy a menudo a esa tierra. La gente es genial, no puedo decir otra cosa. Pero las relaciones políticas entre Cataluña y España distorsionan lo que verdaderamente son cada región, país o lo que se quiera llamar.

    Yo actualmente, aunque estoy hastiado y aburrido sobre este tema, he llegado a dos conclusiones:

    a) Las naciones han sido inventadas por el hombre para poder administrar mejor la sociedad. Es cierto que la cultura afecta nuestras vidas, pero no hay una relación unívoca entre cultura y nación, esto es un engaño. Lo que somos no depende de dónde nazcamos, aunque hay una cierta influencia, lo que somos sólo depende de nosotros mismos.

    b) Los prejuicios se combaten con la educación, cómo tu bien dices (estudiando, viajando y viviendo). Dejar los prejuicios de lado es un acto de superación que nos ayuda a mejorar.

    Cualquier persona que viva anclado a una nación y que está llena de prejuicios es un canalla del que hay que huir. Parte de los personajes que has mencionado en tu artículo pertenecen a esa clase.

  14. Hay canallas en los dos bandos.

    Eso sí, tú pareces pertenecer a ninguno de ellos sino a la Tercera España, injustamente olvidada. Lo celebro.

  15. Te felicito por este blog. Agradezco tu amable comentario en el mío, y que lo hayas enlazado. A menudo, los de aquí de España estamos demasiado imbuidos en esta situación de confrontación constante por el tema catalán, y resulta de gran valor la visión objetiva e imparcial de alguien de fuera. Por eso —entre otras razones—, Cataloniawatch es necesario.

    Gracias y adelante.

  16. After the much interesting discussion we've had so far, I will definitely be back for more as you post new entries.

    In short, answering your questions above, I think the Catalan nation, just as any other nation out there, comprises a territory in which its inhabitants share a series of cultural traits, common beliefs, and a (somewhat) unified view of socio-political self-organization.

    Nations are in constant mutation and overtime they no longer represent the established political borders. It has happened throughout history and it will continue to occur. Thus, it is normal that national frontiers remain in constant revision.

    For me a Catalan is nothing more than someone who believes he or she is so. Being "a Catalan", "an Englishman" or "a Greek", for instants, has a strong historical background to relate to, if you believe you fit within those parameters and that is what you are, so be it. Something different is whether or not you are eligible to "officially" claim you are Catalan, English, or Greek,

  17. Your words seem to allow two conclusions, Miquel. First, that everyone chooses where to fit in and usually based on this choice makes an effort to adapt.

    Second, there are other, "official", or legal criteria. In the case of Catalonia that would mean that everybody who lives in Catalonia is Catalan, because all citizens here share the same rights and obligations. This is different to any cultural definition like the first one.

    In both cases the freedom of the individual is held in high esteem. If we look at democracies, that is.

    A third observation imposes itself on me. Nobody can determine the belonging or not of anybody else but himself to any national group. Not in the cultural sense, and in the legal sense only to a limited extend.

  18. Mr. (d)Espot(ic) "calli calli" it's not a pearl.
    It's a string of pearls...