Saturday, 07/27/2019 – 10:42
In 1937, while Mussolini dropped bombs on Barcelona, Hitler reduced Gernika to rubble and Franco already declared his triumphant year, “the Catalans killed themselves in the streets”, as Andreu Claret (Ax-les-Thermes, 1946-), journalist and historical member of the PSUC, completes the catastrophic tableau. He refers to the 500 dead in clashes between the Generalitat forces – backed by the PSUC – and the CNT-FAI militiamen, with the help of the POUM.
In that incandescent landscape, Claret builds the novel ‘El cònsol de Barcelona’ (Columna), which focuses the spotlight on the steps of Vladímir Antónov-Ovséienko, a Bolshevik superhero who directed the assault on the Winter Palace and was sent to this side of the Pyrenees by a Stalin more obsessed in crushing Trotskyists than in stopping the course of the one from El Ferrol.
–Vertiginous and little exploited in fiction that year 1937.
– It is the year in which the miseries of the Republic – and those of Catalonia in particular – become very clear. At those dinners that my father called while in exile, I used to hear him saying: “Guys, the war has not been won by Franco; we lost it”.
– George Orwell, who was a POUM militiaman, blamed Moscow.
– I don’t think Stalin had so much influence. He wanted the weapons to go to communist hands and persecute the Trotskyists. But for me, the dramatic character is Companys, a man who, being of the more or less progressive petty bourgeoisie, has the streets in the hands of the anarchists. The Government of the Republic distrusted that of the Generalitat and, making a parallel between 1937 and 2017, the distrust had a basis.
– Let’s see that base.
-A part of the leaders of the Generalitat and ERC tried to negotiate behind the Republic’s back – with England, with France – the dream of Catalonia signing an honorable peace which, with a little luck, would end up becoming an independent republic.
“The Government of the Republic distrusted that of the Generalitat and, making a parallelism between 1937 and 2017, the distrust had a basis”
–I understand the parallelism.
– There were people who took it to a delusional extreme -the ‘Revertés plot’-: the Estat Català party, with the complicity of the president of the Parliament, considered eliminating Companys, whom they did see as not willing to explore that route.
–In the meantime, they killed Andreu Nin. How do you see it as a PSUC member?
– I feel unwell because the PSUC condemned the barbarities of the Russians in Czechoslovakia and not the murder of Nin. I am sure that the people of the PSUC were not directly involved, but their campaign against Nin was infamous and created the conditions to legitimize his murder. And once he died, the campaign was more unworthy: “Where is Nin? In Salamanca or in Berlin”. The Stalinist explanation was assumed: he was taken to Alcalá de Henares and released by a Gestapo command.
– Several Barcelonas looked at each other sideways. Was it a nest of spies?
– Like in the 70s, when you moved in hiding?
–The Barcelona of the ‘procés’ is a spy nest. Consulates have reinforced their intelligence units. They are worried about the same as in 1937, when they sent telegrams showing their concern for a Catalonia that could find life on its own.
–Any lessons to be learned for today?
– One is that the utopias – which are necessary – in wrong hands cause nonsense. The Russian revolution was a utopia that opened perspectives, but monopolized by Stalin ended badly. That of anarchism in Catalonia changed consciousness – its trace is still present in the great level of social adherence to all mobilizations – but was unable to transform it into a political ideal. That of independence could have been positive, but politically it is poorly managed.
– In this last utopia, do you point at someone with your finger?
– Puigdemont. His leadership is populist. In a meeting prior to September 6 and 7, 2017, in which I was a member of the Consell Consultiu del Diplocat, he explained what he wanted and I warned him: “If you talk to Europe about voting, well; but if you say ‘we’re leaving ‘, it won’t support it”. Brussels is the rule of law.
–Many people thought they touched that sky.
–The Catalans, being a nation without a State, have an inability to understand the State. They think everything in terms of civil society -and that’s where we are artists!-, but the State is a set of laws in a democratic regime that must be respected. Perhaps if Jordi Pujol had wanted to participate in the central government -he always refused- the estrangement of Spain would have ceased to exist. Now the situation is in danger of becoming chronic.
“When the difference between Catalan and Spanish people becomes part of a culture, it is difficult to go back”
–You have mediated in the Middle East, Africa, Central America. How to reopen the matter?
– I have lived in Alexandria for a large part of the ‘procés’ and what surprised me most when I returned was that people had changed to an issue of culture the difference between Catalans and Spaniards, as if the Spaniards were ontologically different. Arriving at this point, it is difficult to go back. In Azaña’s speech in Barcelona on July 18, 1938 he spoke of “peace, piety and forgiveness”. It would take someone with such an ambitious vision to do an exercise in reconciliation.
– The reconciliation of the Transition does not convince everyone.
—It irritates me when I hear about the 78 regime! We did what we could to create a framework of coexistence and respect.
– Good memory of Carrillo?
–Carrillo was a dictator in his way of managing the party. He didn’t have a gram of democracy in his political DNA. But he was a hustling man who realized that the USSR was beginning to wobble and, together with the Italians, invented the Eurocommunism. However, he did not stop being a Stalinist in the sense of eliminating all dissent.
– In 1986 you said “enough” of PCE.
– I wanted to go back to journalism. I liked to analyze more than to do politics. I also met my wife, the editor Patrizia Campana, Italian, younger than me, and changed my life.
–And now IC-V pulls down the shutters. The end?
–My will for substantial changes remains intact. Today the themes are: women, climate change and inequality. My history is all that, not an acronym.