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Home » Content » The national construction of Catalonia: the process that comes from afar.
To explain it, we will analyze in a synthetic way: (1) the basic lines of traditional political Catalanism and its evolution in the final years of Francoism; (2) the attempt at "national construction" carried out during the long term of Jordi Pujol's governments; (3) the work to discredit constitutional Spain during the tripartite governments of Maragall and Montilla which, fatally, (4) lead to the last period whose main novelty is the systematic disobedience to the Constitution and the laws by the highest authorities of the Generalitat with the aim of taking the step to independence. These four periods are the ones that we intend to analyze in their essential features because this explains, I believe, the serious and difficult situation in which we find ourselves today.

Francesc de Carreras. – May 2021

Francesc de Carreras is a full member of the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.

Notes on its genesis and development

This paper 1  aims to justify, in its general lines, the following thesis: the «procés» comes from afar and the current situation can only be understood if its genesis and development are analyzed, that is, the meaning of the political Catalanism that arises from at the end of the 19th century, it became increasingly important in the 20th century until the Civil War, it almost disappeared in the postwar period but it managed to maintain itself precariously and, from the beginning of the sixties, it was transformed until the Transition to become a transversal ideology and obligatory during the twenty-three years of the governments of Jordi Pujol whose main political task consisted of the so-called «national construction of Catalonia» (1980-2003).

After the Pujolismo at the end of 2003, the Catalan movement, with the decisive participation of the left parties (PSC and IC), went from autonomy to independence, first discrediting Spain (2004-2012) and later trying to constitute itself as a separate state. through the systematic violation of current law and the institutional rebellion of the Generalitat (2012 to today). Thus, what we understand today by “procés” in the strict sense (2012-2019) comes from afar and is only intelligible if we look at it from this perspective. 

To explain it, we will analyze in a synthetic way: (1) the basic lines of traditional political Catalanism and its evolution in the final years of Francoism; (2) the attempt at “national construction” carried out during the long term of Jordi Pujol’s governments; (3) the work to discredit constitutional Spain during the tripartite governments of Maragall and Montilla which, fatally, (4) lead to the last period whose main novelty is the systematic disobedience to the Constitution and the laws by the highest authorities of the Generalitat with the aim of taking the step to independence.

These four periods are the ones that we intend to analyze in their essential features because this explains, I believe, the serious and difficult situation in which we find ourselves today 2 . 

1. Origin and evolution of political Catalanism 3

Political Catalanism was born at the end of the 19th century when Valentí Almirall abandoned the federalist ideas of his teacher Pi Margall and proposed, in 1885, a regeneration of Spain based, not on the simple political decentralization of state power, typical of federalism, but on the fracture of the sovereignty itself, considering that Spain was composed of different peoples and regions due to cultural and historical reasons, which must participate as such in state sovereignty. Therefore, sovereignty was not in each of the Spanish citizens (as argued by Pi Margall) but in each of the peoples of Spain and, in any case, in Catalonia. From a Federation (that of the draft Constitution of 1873) it was passed to a Confederation, from a union of citizens to a union of peoples, of nations.

With this change of position by Almirall, who in 1886 published Lo catalanismo 4 , political Catalanism itself began, the acceptance of which became a cross-cutting and mandatory requirement to legitimize any Catalan political force. However, Almirall, an urbanite from Barcelona, ​​a liberal republican and a left-wing democrat, still speaks of “peoples and regions”, not of nations or nationalities, although the meaning is the same.Almirall

This step will be taken very clearly by Prat de la Riba in his work La nacionalitat catalana (1906) 5 . Contrary to Almirall, Prat comes from a Carlist family, born in Castellterçol, an agrarian town in central Catalonia, and is a moderate conservative, lukewarm liberal and hardly a democratic, although a sensible and pragmatic politician. Its starting point is not federalism, a territorial form of the State from which it radically disagrees , 6 but romantic and historicist nationalism, with cultural identity as the basic axis to delimit the territory of states in a world divided between nationalities or nations ( uses these terms interchangeably).

In the case of Catalonia, language is the main cultural trait that identifies it, in addition to others of lesser importance such as private law, history or national character. For example, Prat says: “Each nation thinks as it speaks and speaks as it thinks. (…) Whoever attempts against the language of a people, attacks their soul and wounds it at the very sources of life ». In addition, it also advocates the so-called principle of nationalities: “Each nationality must have a State,” says Prat, in line with certain nationalisms of the nineteenth century that will continue after the end of World War I and, on different bases, after 1945, they will be inspired by the principle of self-determination (or self-determination) regulated by the UN treaties.

Catalan nationalism, until today, will be sustained on the foundations established by Almirall and Prat de la Riba. Synthesizing, we could establish three fundamental characteristics:

1st. Catalonia is a nation whose unity is based on a common language and culture, but also on the historical past and on a certain specific collective character, in its national character.

2nd. As such a nation it has the right to an independent state. However, some Catalanists consider that a broad political autonomy within the Spanish State that allows ensuring the survival of its specific features, such as language and culture, may be acceptable and others propose that Catalonia be a State within a Spanish Confederation of state. In any case, although Catalonia is a nation with millenary origins – they say – it needs some of these formulas to remain a nation, otherwise it will disappear as such.

3rd. These ideas must be common to all Catalan political parties, regardless of their ideology, it is not possible to disagree with them since they are natural facts that cannot offer any doubt. Therefore, the basic nucleus of political Catalanism cannot be questioned and, in that sense, it is an ideology that must be transversal to all political forces and, even, to the institutions of civil society itself. Otherwise, both the parties and civil society lack legitimacy because they tend to “denationalize” Catalonia. 

In this conceptual framework, political Catalanism has developed, not without parentheses and various modulations, until today. However, from this beginning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some clarifications must be made. 

From the political point of view, the creation of some institutions that were in line with the postulates of political Catalanism should be highlighted.

In the first place, we must highlight the creation of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya in 1914, chaired first by Prat de la Riba and, on his death in 1917, by Puig i Cadafalch, both from the Lliga. The Mancomunitat was a local government institution that only assumed the powers of the four Catalan provincial councils. However, he carried out an important cultural work, both in terms of artistic heritage, as well as language (the unification of the rules of Catalan grammar, according to Pompeu Fabra’s criteria), culture and promotion of research through the creation of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans. With few skills and financial resources, he carried out a very remarkable work inspired by the ideas of noucentisme. After the coup d’état of Primo de Rivera, Alfonso Sala was appointed president, a monarchist and contrary to political Catalanism, with which the institution began to decline, which was finally dissolved in 1925.

On the other hand, the projects for the Statute of Autonomy of 1917 and 1919 failed, which sought political autonomy, beyond the powers of the local government of the Mancomunitat , and which were not approved by the Congress of Deputies.

First of all, we must highlight the creation of the  Mancomunitat de Catalunya  in 1914, chaired by Prat de la Riba

As is known, the Statute of 1932 was approved, not without many difficulties, already in the middle of the Second Republic, although its validity was very short, in reality only thirty months and its results were scarce, it was mythologized by Catalanism in the Franco era and the Transition as an example to imitate. Throughout this period, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), the party of Macià and Companys, governed the Generalitat, despite having been created a month before the Republic was proclaimed in 1931. Very diverse sectors coexisted within this party, all republicans, with a predominance of moderate nationalists. La Lliga, the great conservative Catalan party, hegemonic until 1923, was defeated after trying to save the monarchy until the last moment.Visca Macià, Mori Cambó! ». The defeat in the Civil War and the exile of the main political and intellectual leaders of this autonomous Catalonia, put an end to the dominance of republican Catalanism.

During the Franco era, despite the strong political repression of the early years, a certain type of Catalanism, between culture and manners, continued to survive, especially after 1945. Proof of this were the editions of Catalan literature, especially the collection of the Editorial Selecta; the scenic activity of the Romea Theater, located in the center of Barcelona, ​​which only programmed works in Catalan; sardanas and other samples of traditional popular culture, such as castellers . The weekly Destinoechoed these traditional customs, Josep Pla and other Catalan authors, also republicans, were regular collaborators, defended during World War II the positions of the allies and not Nazi Germany, and also welcomed in their pages Spanish writers such as Azorín , Ridruejo, Cela, Delibes or Cunqueiro 7 . Later, a fruitful dialogue began between Catalan intellectuals and the rest of Spain, led by Carles Riba and Vicente Aleixandre, respectively. In this regard, at least on a cultural level, the bridges were not completely broken.

For their part, some young people from the Lliga, commissioned by Cambó, began to collaborate in the official institutions of the Regime shortly after the war ended, especially to protect Catalan companies, especially textiles, in the tradition of this party, but also from official positions they tried to preserve the main features of conservative Catalanism. The Catalan language, despite never being official and its practice abandoned by the bourgeois elites, especially in the education of their children, never stopped being used in the daily life of middle-class citizens of Barcelona and in the cities and towns of the surroundings of Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia.

However, this traditional and cultural Catalanism, more or less tolerated, became more political at the end of the fifties – the historian Vicens Vives was called to be its natural leader, if he had not died prematurely in 1960 – and especially since early sixties. This shift from the cultural to the political has been fundamental for Catalanism to be transversal in all, or almost all, parties, during the last ten or fifteen years of Franco, therefore, still in hiding, in the Transition and since the entry into force of the Constitution until today. Almirall’s idea of ​​not legitimizing parties that did not declare themselves Catalan is still valid and explains many of the keys to Catalan politics in this period.  

Indeed, the fundamental cause of this shift is the demographic change that has occurred in Catalonia since the early 1950s. This change was of high proportions, suffice it to say that in 1975 48% of the population over twenty years of age had been born outside of Catalonia. This naturally had repercussions on the language spoken by these “new Catalans” from the rest of Spain, who also came to live concentrated in urban areas of the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona-city and worked as construction workers and in large companies. (SEAT, Maquinista, Pegaso, etc.) and, therefore, this work environment did not facilitate their relationship with “Catalan-speaking” Catalans, which is necessary for learning Catalan in society, since the language of use at school it was Castilian.

Cultural Catalanists were very concerned about this situation because of the risk that Catalan would be progressively replaced by Castilian, a language with much greater communicative power, thus accentuating the “denationalization” of Catalonia.

Prat de la Riba
Prat de la Riba

For its part, the cultural world of the left, especially its intellectuals, frequently affiliated with or traveling companions of the PSUC (equivalent in Catalonia to the PCE), saw these workers as their potential militants and voters. There was thus a convergence of interests: some wanted the integration of these “new Catalans” through the language so that it would not be lost, others saw them as future supporters of their political cause. The agreement between both sectors was inevitable because it was necessary and convenient for both in their common struggle to defeat the dictatorship.

To all this, we must add another important factor: the change in political orientation produced within the Church, at least in some of its sectors, starting with the papacy of John XXIII and his two encyclicals of a social and political nature ( Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris ), in addition to the reception by a young clergy of the new European theology (Rahner, de Lubac, von Balthasar, Daniélou, among others) that was screened at the Second Vatican Council. From the “national-catholic” dominance an important sector of the Church passed to “progressivism.” Montserrat, but not only Montserrat but also priests who exercised their ministry in parishes of working-class neighborhoods, prepared to collaborate in this nationalist and socialist agreement.

Thus, Catalanism went from being predominantly cultural, with the survival of the language as its main concern, to being social and political, while the anti-Franco movement on the left –with Marxist hegemony– became cultural Catalan. All this through a special ideological link with broad progressive Catholic sectors that were located in both one sector and the other and, in general, served as a bridge between the two. Political Catalanism, as a spearhead against Francoism and the lack of freedom, was welcomed by all sectors of the opposition.

In any case, in Catalonia the cultural hegemony of this alliance, with its political and social derivations, was unquestionable until the advent of democracy and laid the foundations for political autonomy, Catalan at school and cultural manifestations of all kinds. The Serra d’Or magazines , edited by the monks of Montserrat, Edicions 62 , the Enciclopèdia Catalana and the nova cançóAs a popular dimension, they established the canon of the politically correct in those years, and this mixture of Catalanism, Marxism and workerist Catholicism clearly held political, social and cultural hegemony. Banca Catalana, whose key leader was Jordi Pujol, used to always finance all these cultural instruments.

Thus, from the noucentist culture , based on anti-modernism and a return to the sources of ancient classicism, clearly elitist in nature, there had been a shift to “progressive” culture, with a markedly popular and socialist accent in its various versions.

As a result, in the 1960s and early 1970s, at the level of opposition to Francoism, a tacit alliance was forged between Catalanism and the left, which continued during the Transition and the period of constitutional democracy in which we are still today. The political climate had undergone a dramatic change. This is what has been called Catalan transversality, which we have seen in Almirall and which still continues: it is the factor that most distinguishes the Catalan right and left with respect to the system of political forces from the rest of Spain.

2. Pujolismo: the policy of national construction 8

However, out of all this ideological hubbub that united the political left – first the PSUC and later, from 1974, the PSC – with nationalism, which ultimately triumphed was nationalism, although in the general elections In 1977 and 1979, in addition to the first and very important municipal elections of this last year, the most voted parties were those cited from the left. And we say that nationalism triumphed because Jordi Pujol was at that time the Catalan politician with the greatest personality and, above all, with a political plan to develop in Catalonia, taking advantage of the breeding ground for cultural hegemony that the left gave him in the 1920s. previous years through that mixture of socialism and nationalism. 

I can’t stop talking about Pujol. He is well known by all: he was an active Catalanist already in his early youth, arrested, tried and imprisoned in the late 1950s. From Banca Catalana he helped finance numerous Catalan cultural companies in a task that he defined as a country , that is, from civil society to lay the social, ideological and cultural foundations of future democracy given the difficulties and limitations of doing so through political means. obligatorily clandestine. That is to say, it was paving the way with the aim of making the leap to politics by creating a party when the dictatorship was defeated.

Pujol was an active Catalanist already in his early youth, arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned in the late 1950s.

So it was. In October 1974, when Franco’s health was already very precarious and his death seemed near, Convergència Democrática de Catalunya was founded in Montserrat , chaired by Jordi Pujol. From fer country he passed to fer politics , and in this change he could not fool anyone: pure and simple nationalism. We will only mention one example.

In his first inauguration as President of the Generalitat, certain paragraphs of his speech are not misleading: «If you vote for us – he says addressing the deputies – you will vote for a nationalist program, a nationalist government and a nationalist president. They will vote on a determination: to build a country, ours. They will vote the will to defend a country, ours, which is a country that has been attacked in its identity ». And in the final part he affirmed: “We are a people in danger of denationalization and also of deep and radical internal rupture.” And he added that this purpose consisted of: «(…) the defense, strengthening and projection of what makes Catalonia, over the centuries, always Catalonia: its language, its culture, the evidence of its history, the feeling and conscience of collectivity, the defense of their political rights, the will to be ». And in reference to the Catalan language, it declares as a priority objective its «normalization “, meaning” to achieve, through a process that can be long, and that in any case must be assumed freely and without the slightest confrontation, that in Catalonia the language and culture of the country are Catalan ».

Although at the head of a minority parliamentary group, Jordi Pujol achieved the investiture with the vote in favor of Centristes de Catalunya -UCD and ERC. In the following elections of 1984 and until 1995, it reached an absolute majority by absorbing a good part of the original electorate of UCD and ERC. There began the long reign of Pujol, whose obsession was the “national construction” of Catalonia, that is, the curious paradox of essentialist nationalism when he affirms: although we have always been a nation, our primary task is to build a nation. According to the testimony of J. Mª Bricall, Tarradellas said: «To make a country, what nonsense. The country is already done: now what is needed is to govern it » 9. However, the Pujol government was above all the construction of the nation, of course not the nation as a group of citizens, the political-legal nation, but the identity nation, the nation in the romantic and essentialist sense of the term. 

This national construction policy had the following basic pillars:

1) Build Catalonia not as an autonomous community but as a State: with all its organs, symbols and paraphernalia. It is not opted for federalism – clearly incompatible with all nationalism – but for a vague confederalism – also vaguely called “asymmetric federalism” – based on a plurinational Spain, in which Catalonia was still subject to a mythical Castile, today Spain, calling it a State. Spanish or simply “Madrid.” Thus, when in the future the moment of independence arrived, the transit would be smoother and easier. The state would be almost built. 

2) Intervene from the power of the Generalitat in society, with barely liberal methods, from the following assumptions.

In the first place, divide the Catalans into Catalanists and Spanishists, that is, nationalists of both sides, with no option whatsoever for those who are not nationalists from anywhere. The parties must be defined where they are in this dilemma and, depending on the case, they will be considered as Catalan parties or, simply, branch parties, linked to state-level parties, which inevitably implies being Spanish and anti-Catalan, that is, Spanish nationalists.

Second, Catalan culture is reduced to Catalan “nationalist” culture, leaving aside a large part of the citizens of Catalonia. This is projected, mainly, in the school and in the protection of the cultural world through all kinds of aid and subsidies. The official communication media –TV3 and Catalunya Radio– have been and continue to be a decisive instrument in this cultural ideologization. In turn, the private media that continue in this line have been and are generously subsidized. Culture is considered as an instrument of political action and national construction. This is how Pujol put it: «There are quite a few people in Catalonia who work for our culture without taking into account that a culture does not justify itself but rather as an instrument of promotion (and, in our case, of construction) of a single people».

Thirdly, Catalan is Catalonia’s own language, with which Castilian, the usual language of more than half of Catalans, even though it is official, is relegated to being an improper language, imposed by Spain. This has clear consequences for public institutions, schools and the public and private media. Society, of course, goes the other way, although citizens who do not speak Catalan fluently are increasingly self-conscious.

Fourth, the 1979 Statute is clearly insufficient for Catalan political aspirations and society must demand new goals that exceed it. There the victimizing attitude plays a fundamental role: Madrid is to blame for all the evils – one of the synonyms used to name Spain – and the Catalans are its sacrificed martyrs. That reality shows that Catalonia is one of the richest and most advanced areas in Spain does not prevent this unusual discourse from penetrating society very effectively.

Fifth and last, the control of the so-called civil society by the Generalitat, and of the social networks at its service, has been very strict. Close power, such as that of the Generalitat, has advantages and risks. That well-known phrase from “whoever moves does not appear in the photo” could be changed to another saying “whoever moves does not have subsidies, permits, or administrative concessions, nor can they aspire to any political office and, in addition, will have many difficulties to also access a position in the institutions of civil society. Faced with this situation, society has been too docile in the face of the tentacles of autonomic power, it has meekly folded itself to its will. Maybe now some will regret

In fact, pujolismo created an authentic regime, that is, a political system in which, in addition to the laws that bind everyone, there are other types of non-legal rules that citizens must also comply with if they want to enjoy the same rights as others. These unwritten rules are intended to impose a mentality, a kind of social common sense, from which no one can disagree so that the vast majority have the feeling that everyone thinks the same and dissent makes them a rarity that socially leads them to loneliness. In Catalan society occurred during the pujolismo what the German sociologist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann called the “spiral of silence”, actually an old invention 10. As Tocqueville said in his book on the French Revolution: “fearing loneliness more than error, [the opponents of the Revolution] declared that they shared the opinions of the majority.” 

Catalan is Catalonia’s own language, with which Spanish is relegated to being an improper language, imposed by Spain

Indeed, as the French sociologist Tarde argued, people are afraid of being isolated because they want to be respected and loved by those around them. And for the spiral of silence to occur, it is necessary to instill fear in citizens so that they are aware that if they deviate from the dominant opinion they will be threatened and excluded in their social life. In Pujolista Catalonia, this fear arose due to the action of the Government of the Generalitat and its ramifications in civil society. Those who believed themselves to be the owners of Catalonia because they were nationalists created uneasiness and unease for those who were not nationalists and, for that reason, they should be treated as second-rate citizens. 

At the end of the century, in 1998, CiU signed, together with the PNV and the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), the so-called “Declaration of Barcelona”, clearly nationalist and sovereignist. The three parties affirmed, unequivocally, their character as a nation: “The national construction of our respective countries constitutes the basic political project that the nationalist parties share.” For that reason, they demanded to move from the current situation of self-government, understanding this term as autonomy, to a higher phase, that of sovereignty, that is, independence.

Thus said the Declaration: «The principle of sovereignty is qualitatively different from the principle of self-government that is consolidated through the development of statutes of autonomy that, even in a scenario of total development, only suppose a process of political and administrative decentralization, since the The constitutive element of power continues to be located in the State. We must overcome the autonomic formula because it is a letter granted by a State that, according to the constitutional definition, claims to be based on a single, unique and indivisible nation, the Spanish nation, denying the plurinational character of the State and the coexistence of other nations ” . Therefore, a new route was being undertaken, a route of rupture with the Constitution and with the unity of the State.

Thus, in these long years of Pujolism, many Catalans acquired the deep “belief” – different from the “ideas” based on reason, as Ortega distinguished – according to which Catalonia was a nation, older than Spain and very different from her, that Spanish was a foreign language and Catalan its own, that the Statute was insufficient for the needs of the Catalans and had to be renewed and updated by changing its starting budget: the 1978 Constitution. independence but sovereignty, which rested with the people of Catalonia, who would exercise it when they considered it convenient.

The ideological and institutional bases for what was to come had already been well established.

3. Towards secession: victimhood, discrediting democracy and the right to decide

The Ibarretxe Plan first emerged from the Barcelona Declaration, a reform of the Basque Statute of 1979, which declared the right to decide of the Basque Country regarding its political future and regulated its relations with Spain in terms very similar to the confederal ones, with which Congress rejected its processing. Some time later, the new Statute of Catalonia was presented, a more subtle text, deeply reformed during its legislative procedure in Congress and, finally, approved with many doubts regarding its constitutionality that were submitted to the legal criteria of the Constitutional Court by deputies of the PP and by the Ombudsman, then Enrique Múgica, in its most general aspects, as well as by other autonomous communities on more specific and minor issues.

The political problem was that the draft of this Statute, approved by the Parliament of Catalonia, had been approved with the votes of the PSC, which seriously compromised the position of the PSOE and forced it to vote favorably, leaving the TC with the thankless task of polishing it to conform to the Constitution. In short, the text of the Statute approved in Congress and the Senate, very different from that approved by the Catalan Parliament, was submitted to a referendum in Catalonia, as established by the current legal system, with a rather poor result: forty percent voted of the census and the percentage of affirmative votes was thirty-seven percent of the same, although the valid votes were overwhelmingly majority, that is, those of the nationalist side went to vote and were not the opposites, or indifferent, for a new Statute to be approved. However, this referential nature of the statute caused serious misunderstandings and problems, as we will see later.

The new Statute was the star political objective, almost the only one, that had allowed, after the regional elections of 2003, a pact for the PSC and ERC, plus IC, to form a government, the first not headed by CiU despite being the most voted party. This government, chaired by Maragall, lasted until the statutory referendum of 2006, when Parliament was dissolved and new elections were called with similar results and another tripartite government was formed which, composed of the same parties and, this time chaired by Montilla, lasted until the end of 2010. Seven years of tripartite governments did not change the nationalist character of the Pujol governments but, on the contrary, accentuated it, above with policies and a style of much lower quality.

It was in these years, in which, according to opinion polls, the independence option increased considerably, when it was decided to embark on the road to independence. Pujol’s identity nationalism had shown its limits: it convinced many, but not nearly a sufficient majority to argue that Catalonia wanted independence. Reasons had to be found, beyond identity nationalism, that managed to drag new segments of the population towards pro-independence positions.

This was the great ideological and strategic contribution of ERC, formulated from the following message: we are not identity nationalists, we are not continuators of the old Pujolista nationalism, we are simply independentists because it is the most convenient for the Catalans. There is no doubt that the message is contradictory and misleading: why are the Catalans, the population that lives in the autonomous community of Catalonia, chosen as a subject that should have an independent State? It is obvious that this people, this demos , are chosen for nationalistic reasons: they are “ours” and the rest of the Spanish are not. But, in any case, this new course of nationalism to justify the option to separate from Spain has important effects that increase the number of independentist Catalans.

In particular, two arguments were raised, certainly not well founded from a rational point of view, but which had undoubted influence on public opinion.

The first argument was of an economic nature. It was stated that the financing system of the Generalitat should be changed, something that seemed reasonable and, in addition, it was carried out through the 2009 reform, in which the Catalan government played a decisive role, especially the Minister of Finance Antoni Castells, prominent member of the PSC. But the campaign for this reform –which naturally affected not only Catalonia but also the other CCAA, with the exception of those governed by concert or agreement- had a purely political character whose purpose was to incite hatred towards Spain.

By means of financial estimates that were later deliberately miscalculated (as the studies of the economist Ángel de la Fuente, which later became popular in the book by Borrell and Llorach cited, immediately proved), a particularly hurtful conclusion was reached, but widely used. intensity by the nationalists, which was condensed into the well-known slogan according to which “Spain steals from us.” Catalonia, it was said, is in a situation of “fiscal pillage” because of the Spanish State.

With these false reasons, the “identity nation” that had the right to a state of its own according to nationalist theories, was now joined by the “nation discriminated against” by the Spanish state, which had nothing to do with identity but with reasons much more material and tangible that had an impact on everyone, also on those whose origins were not Catalan but who lived in Catalonia. Therefore, to the traditional nationalists were added the «new converts», those who were outraged to believe in this false calculation of fiscal balances that reflected an extremely unfair treatment 11 . All this surrounded by the general economic crisis that already in itself, not only in Catalonia but in all of Spain, created a climate of indignation.

The second argument was the ruling of the Constitutional Court on the Statute (STC 31/2010) that declared some of its articles invalid as unconstitutional and others valid, although only if they were interpreted in accordance with its doctrine. From the independence movement, even from the Montilla government itself, the sentence was immediately disqualified. President Montilla himself, as soon as the ruling of the sentence was made public and its legal grounds were not yet known, proposed that a street protest be called, which led to a large demonstration, the first important in history and which resulted Montilla himself was expelled for being a socialist and not a nationalist president, despite behaving as such.

In addition, from the independence movement and its surroundings, which were very extensive and reached socialist sectors, it was alleged without giving any reason that said sentence implied the breaking of an alleged constitutional pact between Catalonia and Spain embodied in the Constitution and that the resolution of the TC it openly violated by going beyond its powers for purely political reasons. Based on this assumption, the justification that many used to take a step towards independence was the following: if «they» break the pact «we» too and, therefore, as they prevent us from other exits, we have no choice but to demand independence. 

Apart from the rejection of the Constitutional ruling for considering it illegitimate, the so-called “right to decide” then arises.

Without having read the sentence or, even having read it without any possibility of understanding it, given that for this it was necessary to be especially well versed, not only in law, but also in the complex world of the state of autonomies, precisely built largely by means of the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, many were convinced by this political argument built without any legal basis: they assumed that a supposed constitutional “pact” had been broken.

On the other hand, it began to be argued that the sentence was contrary to the democratic principle, since having approved the text by referendum of the Catalan people, nothing and no one could modify it, the will of the people was supreme, and a body of magistrates, who did not even they had been directly elected by the people, they were not competent to declare null a norm derived from this supreme popular will. From there, the dangerous theory began to spread, with clear populist overtones, according to which the will of the citizens, detached from the legal rules that limited it, prevailed over the Constitution and the rest of the legal system. Thus, democracy as the direct will of the people went on the one hand, law as an order derived from the will of the representatives of the people, went on the other.

Apart from the rejection of the Constitutional Court ruling because it was considered democratically illegitimate, the famous “right to decide” of the Catalans emerged, different from the “right of self-determination”, of which it was evident that Catalonia was not the holder according to the regulation of this right in treaties and other United Nations agreements.

This right to decide, already invoked to justify the reform of the Basque statute commonly known as the Ibarretxe Plan, was recreated without any democratic basis by certain professors of political science who were quite ignorant in legal matters and with very little respect for the law. Massively disseminated a simplification of it by the media in newspaper articles and radio and television talk shows, it convinced many Catalans who switched to independence because their reasoning (sic) was very simple: there is no democracy if the people do not decide and the Catalans, for democratic reasons, have the right to decide whether Catalonia should remain in Spain or should separate. Today this weak idea is discredited, and since 2015, obviously, without legal basis, the right to self-determination has been claimed.12 .

In any case, during these years, in the context of a serious economic crisis that demanded many sacrifices from the middle and working classes, the independence movement grew disproportionately. The slogan “Spain robs us” was followed by “Spain does not serve us”, adding: “Look at how the Spanish State is in crisis, how the European Union imposes its economic policies, how Spain is a hindrance for Catalonia and we need a Own, independent and sovereign state ». For years the seeds of discord had been sown through unsubstantiated propaganda. There were its fruits.

As of September 2012, for an external and profane observer on Catalan issues, the situation seemed to take a spectacular turn towards independence. However, seen from the inside and with knowledge of the facts, this situation was not surprising but the natural consequence of a past that, although it began its last journey in 1980, had antecedents, at least, from the end of the 19th century.

In this presentation, it is intended to defend that, in addition to the recent national construction itself undertaken in 1980, these more distant antecedents are essential to understand what is happening in recent years, in reality something much deeper than it seems because it is not known. It is merely a question that can be reduced to the merely political, rational and normative plane, but also to others that are more complex and difficult to solve.

Of course, these other planes are situated in the social and cultural spheres, but also in the symbolic and sentimental spheres, on the level of emotions and beliefs, which usually result in an irrational penetration of spirits that remains there for a long time. .  

4. The process in the strict sense: institutional rebellion 13

On September 11, 2012, a large demonstration was officially called for the first time to celebrate the national day of Catalonia. In principle it was said that its purpose was to claim the economic agreement in the Basque way. However, the banner leading the demonstration proclaimed: “Catalonia, the new State of Europe.” In his television address the night before, President Artur Mas told those who were going to demonstrate the following day: “Your wishes are my wishes.”

The independence movement was led by ERC with the support of the CUP, a new parliamentary group, anti-capitalist and anti-democratic system

The demonstration was a great success, mainly due to the work carried out by two nationalist associations, Ómnium Cultural and the recently created, and more active, Catalan National Assembly, both closely linked to the pro-independence parties. With the complicity and instigation of the Generalitat, the force of separatism, from that moment on, would be demonstrated in the street. Thus, the independence movement had become a populist movement and would use all its instruments from then on.

However, believing that the protesters were predominantly his supporters, Mas made a serious mistake: dissolving the Catalan Parliament and calling elections. He wanted to obtain an absolute majority so as not to depend on ERC, to continue carrying out his risky spending containment policies to face the economic crisis and thus handle the political situation that was approaching dangerous abysses. He was seriously mistaken. When the elections were held in December, the CiU lost ten deputies, the same ones that Esquerra won.

A path of no return was then started towards a hypothetical independent Catalan State through the shameless disobedience of the Catalan institutions to the Constitution, the laws and the sentences. Both at a social and institutional level, Catalonia entered a phase of rebellion – understood in a generic sense, not a criminal one – that still lasts. It is the period popularly called «procés».

After these elections, the independence movement became led by ERC with the support of the CUP, a new parliamentary, anti-capitalist and anti-democratic group. In turn, CiU joined the independence movement, shortly after it fragmented and, after Jordi Pujol’s confession of certain economic crimes of the past, it changed its name to end the current name: Democratic Party of Catalonia (PDCat). This step towards the independence of the old Convergència de Pujol –which in turn, in 2015, led to the break with the Unió Democrática, which was dissolved as a party- was decisive in swelling the independence movement.

In January 2013, a month after the elections, the first act of institutional rebellion took place: a declaration was approved in Parliament according to which “the people of Catalonia have, for reasons of democratic legitimacy, the character of a political and legal subject sovereign”. It was appealed to the Constitutional Court, which declared it, obviously, null and void as unconstitutional in a very pedagogical ruling regarding the limits and the ways in which such a claim – if applicable – could be made effective.

However, in the following years, the provocations to legality and judicial decisions have been constant up to the present time 14 . To give an example from today, Tuesday, November 12, 2019, another Declaration of Parliament on the right to self-determination of Catalonia has been approved, which has been the subject of a sudden response from the Constitutional Court declaring its nullity in execution of the previous sentence.

What happened since 2012 is known and there is no time, or need, to relate it. Only to say, in the first place, that the independence movement has never had a majority in an election, a lack that reduces its authority for its claims. Also, secondly, that no foreign State has recognized, as expected, the right to self-determination of Catalonia. Third, that both the EU authorities and those of its member states have repeatedly declared that an independent Catalonia would cease to be part of the EU. Fourth, that after October 1, 2017, when a parody of a referendum was held to proclaim independence, with a totally illegal nature, also carried out without any legal guarantee, Several thousand companies immediately moved their headquarters outside the territory of Catalonia, generally to Madrid. Finally, in fifth place, the process and condemnation of high authorities of the Generalitat and other politicians, added a new offense that was duly exploited by the nationalist propaganda.

Arguments had been accumulating to support the need for the independence of Catalonia. First, the Pujolist idea of ​​an ancient identity nation that, despite having a thousand years of history, still had to be built and, in application of the principle of nationalities, had the right to a sovereign State. Second, the economic victimhood condensed in the slogan of “Spain steals from us” and followed by “Spain does not serve us” because it is incapable of solving the severe economic crisis it suffers due to its weakness, unlike most states of the Union European. Third, a Spanish State that is not democratic because it prevents holding a referendum on self-determination and the judgments of jurisdictional bodies are imposed on the will of the people. Bedroom,  

All this propaganda story full of inconsistencies, fallacies and falsehoods 15  -which has been in crescendo for forty years- has accelerated since the beginning of the century since the 2006 Statute and has resulted in the progressive increase in the number of adherents to the cause separatist.

Even the recent acts of violence by pro-independence organizations in protest of the Supreme Court ruling do not seem to have affected, according to the results of the elections on November 10, the pro-independence convictions of many Catalans, which indicates the The depth with which support for separatism has permeated a certain part of Catalan society. The years of Pujolismo, those of national construction, have been decisive in creating this anti-Spanish awareness and an image of Catalonia as an oppressed people. 

Acts of violence by pro-independence organizations do not seem to have affected the pro-independence convictions of many Catalans

On the other hand, there has not been, or has shown very little argumentative force, a contrary story that vindicates the progress of Spain, Catalonia included of course, in these forty years of the Constitution: its high degree of democratic quality, as evidenced the most prestigious international rankings, its economic prosperity and progress in social equality, the prestige and effectiveness of the Social State institutions in matters of health, education, pensions, unemployment and social assistance. All this is not put in value to face separatism, also addressing the Catalans to tell them that they will be the most harmed.

The passivity and lack of response to this intense and fallacious pro-independence propaganda is the part of the blame that can be attributed to non-pro-independence Catalans, to the rest of Spaniards who wish to see constitutional principles and values ​​respected, as well as, and very especially, to State authorities who have allowed, through carelessness, fear or partisan interests, to reach this difficult situation. The fracture of the unity of Spain is an evil that affects us all and there is no doubt that the governments of the State, for decades, have not risen to the occasion to prevent us from getting to where we are and, consequently, they must assume the historical responsibility that corresponds to them.

While some worked incessantly to separate themselves, the others contemplated apathetically and unconcernedly what was being plotted in full view of all. Intelligence is not the word that defines the attitude of the State authorities, nor is it the non-nationalist political forces in Catalonia – at least, apparently – linked to national parties, the PSOE and the PP. On the other hand, intelligence is the appropriate term to define the political activity of the Catalan nationalists to obtain their confessed ends, especially in the long period in which Jordi Pujol presided over the Generalitat and also, very especially, in the period of approval of a new statute until today. Nationalism has had few brakes in Catalonia and the rest of Spain.

5. Final considerations

The 1978 Constitution and the 1979 Statute have laid, in my view, solid foundations to fulfill the old aspirations of political Catalanism: first, Catalan as the official language together with Spanish, is a consequence of the values ​​of freedom and equity in the use of languages; second, the Generalitat as a political power endowed with broad powers guarantees an autonomy capable of meeting the needs of Catalonia; third, culture as the exclusive competence of the Generalitat ensures the survival of cultural habits that are expressed in Catalan. All this was achieved with the Constitution and the Statute at the time of the Transition and has been widely developed in the years of democracy.

Convincing the Catalans that what was achieved forty years ago is the best link between citizens within Catalan society, as well as the union of Catalans with the rest of Spaniards, is the task that not only the parties should undertake constitutionalists but also Spanish society including, naturally, Catalan.

The pact between nationalism and the left during the last years of the Franco regime and in the Transition itself, is one of the main responsible for the situation today. The current outbreaks of aggressive Spanish nationalism can add gasoline to already very hot and long-brewed embers. They will affect us all and can even infect other European countries.


This article is the transcription, with some stylistic adjustments, of the presentation presented at the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences on November 12, 1919. No elements of the Catalan reality have been added after this date, nor have any has used or mentioned the bibliography published after it. 2. Recent books on the general problem: VV. AA.,  The Catalan question , Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, Madrid, 2015; J. Canal,  Minimal History of Catalonia , Turner-Colegio de México, Madrid-Mexico City, 2015; G. Tortella and others,  Catalonia in Spain , Gadir, Madrid, 2016; Borrell-Carreras-López Burniol-Piqué,  Listen, Catalonia. Listen, Spain , Peninsula, Barcelona, ​​2017. 3. An overview of this period, with an important documentary base in: JA González Casanova,  Federalisme i autonomy a Catalunya (1868-1938) , Curial, Barcelona, ​​1974. More specific: F. de Carreras  «The autonomy of Catalonia (1977-2003): an interpretation ”  in E. Espín Templado (coord.) , The 1978 Constitution and the Autonomous Communities,  CEPC, Madrid, 2003; J. Amat,  Long process, bitter dream , Tusquets, Barcelona, ​​2018; J. Canal,  With permission from Kafka , Peninsula, Barcelona, ​​2018. 4. V. Almirall,  Lo Catalanisme , La Magrana, Barcelona, ​​2013. 5. E. Prat de la Riba,  La nacionalitat catalana , La Magrana, Barcelona, ​​2013. 6. See the book L. Duran i Ventosa,  Regionalisme i Federalisme , La Magrana, Barcelona, ​​1993. Its first edition was published in 1905, a year before  La nacionalitat catalana  de Prat de la Riba, author of the prologue, which was part from Prat’s book. Duran i Ventosa, son of the conservative civilista and politician Duran i Bas, the highest representative in Spain of the Historical School of the German jurist Savigny, was a close friend of Prat and Cambó, he was always part of the leadership of  La Lliga  and was director of  La Veu de Catalunya, the official newspaper of this party. With certainty it can be affirmed that he was the politician with the best theoretical training of conservative Catalanism of those years, very influential in the political direction of his party from the editorials of the newspaper he directed. However, Duran i Ventosa, whose true vocation was that of gray eminence, was always very discreet in his public political performance. Regionalisme i Federalisme  is an intellectually rigorous book that denotes the extensive knowledge of the author and its main objective was to distinguish Catalanism from federalism to demonstrate that Pi Margall’s federalist ideas were inadequate for the needs of Catalonia. 7. About the weekly  Destino , see  The Chronicle of Destiny , ed. by Alexandre Porcel, ed. Destination, Barcelona, ​​2003, two volumes. 8. F. de Carreras, «The dense spiral of silence», in J. Borrell and others,  Listen to Catalonia. Listen, Spain , op. cit. 9. An anecdote illustrates Pujol’s intentions already in those initial moments of his first term and was explained to us by Tarradellas. In his letter to Horacio Sáez Guerrero, then director of  La Vanguardia, Tarradellas tells him that before Pujol took possession of the Presidency of the Generalitat, he asked the still provisional president of the Generalitat not to end his speech, as he used to, with a “Long live Spain!”, But simply with a “Visca Catalunya! ». After many doubts, Tarradellas agreed not to create a problem that he considered unnecessary, but months later, after the course of events and the attitude of Pujol as president, and also of his Government and his party, he regretted his assignment because it happened Note that this request was not a mere formal question but a fundamental question: a president of the Generalitat could not pronounce a Viva España! because what they wanted to build was a Catalonia without Spain and, of course, after a process against Spain. In the letter, which has no waste, Tarradellas warns of the serious future evils that the unjustified victimhood of Catalonia can produce, the constant provocation to the Spaniards, the tendentious propaganda, the search for confrontation, all of which will lead, the old Republican believes, to the division between Catalans and the rupture with the rest of Spaniards. See said letter in the newspaper library of La Vanguardia  dated April 16, 1981, easily accessible through an internet search engine. 10. E. Noelle-Neumann,  The spiral of silence , Paidós, Barcelona, ​​1995. 11. See J. Borrell and J. Llorach,  The accounts and stories of independence , Catarata, Madrid, 2015. 12. On this problem, see X. Pons Rafols,  Catalonia: Right to decide and international law , Reus, Madrid, 2015. 13. Two brilliant descriptions of this period: Lola García,  El naufragio , Peninsula, Barcelona, ​​2018; Sandrine Morel,  In the Catalan hurricane , Planeta, Barcelona, ​​2018. With a higher level of reflection: D. Gascón,  The postmodern coup , Debate, Barcelona, ​​2018; J. Amat,  The conspiracy of the irresponsible , Anagrama, Barcelona, ​​2017; Coll-Molina-Arias Maldonado (ed.),  Anatomy of the process , Debate, Barcelona, ​​2018. 14. J. De Miguel Bárcena,  Constitutional Justice and Secession. The case of the Catalan sovereign process , Reus, Madrid, 2019; A. Bayona,  Not everything goes. The gaze of a jurist to the bowels of the process , Peninsula, 2019. 15. JC De Ramón,  Dictionary of Common Places about Catalonia, Deusto, Barcelona, 2018



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