Juan Antonio Cordero
November 05, 2019 at 12:45
© Sipa Press
Juan-Antonio Cordero is a Catalan mathematician
“Nationalism is war”. These words are those of François Mitterrand pronounced in the European Parliament, and very opportunely taken again twenty years later by François Hollande under the furious glance of Marine Le Pen, which came to my mind while watching the images of separatist violence, the vandalism, the blockages and the intimidations triggered in recent weeks in my city, Barcelona.
Nationalism is war. A war, as always, chosen by some, acclaimed madly by some others, but suffered by all the rest.
The Catalan crisis is sometimes presented as a conflict between Catalonia and the rest of Spain. This is how it is often perceived by the international press and that is how the separatists delight in describing it. This crisis is, first and foremost, an internal conflict in Catalan society, where an identity and nationalist movement tries to purify the region ideologically, to erase the links that connect it to the whole country, and to impose itself to a very diverse population with disparate origins, multiple identities and diverse feelings of belonging. Admittedly, a large proportion of Catalans vote regularly for separatist parties – between 20% and 38% of voters, depending on the election. They believed in an unfulfilled promise of independence tinged with identity populism and demagoguery, half-truths and lies, like Brexit in a way.
But next, there is still a majority of Catalans who are not separatists, who do not require anyone to be what they are not, and who do not intend to submit to a program of breaking, uniform and reactionary, totally out of sync with what Catalonia has always been: a land of mixing and mingling, one of the regions that make up the plurality and richness of an ever-diverse Spain. The violence and hatred of recent days, the escalation of “white” intimidation that has been on the rise for years, are increasingly directed against this non-nationalist population, the one who says no, after Camus. No to separation, no to contempt for the laws for which we all voted, no to violence, no to submission. A majority who refuses, thankfully, to respond to violence with violence, but who does not renounce their rights or their country.
It is therefore a conflict of identity within Catalan society. Not in the sense of a clash of one identity against another, but in the sense of an attempt to impose an identity and nationalist ideology, with a totalitary vocation, on a society that wants to preserve the whole of life under the democratic law, that wants to continue to be plural, in languages as in identities, feelings and ways of life.
Threat against liberties. The phenomena of identity and xenophobia, populist demagogy, and the rise of nationalism are well known in Europe, and unfortunately they are raging again in several countries. What makes the Catalan case particularly dangerous is that this national-populist strategy, which is meant to mount people against each other, is led by the regional government and supported by all its ideological apparatuses and intermediary bodies (media, educational, academic), extremely powerful in Catalonia. The regional government has long been acting as an enemy of more than half of the Catalans, whom it does not even consider as such because they are not separatists, and more or less openly justify nationalist violence to their own. Although it is “only” a regional government, but in a federal and very decentralized country like Spain, the regional level has quasi-state powers, even in the sovereign domain (such as public security ): its identity drift is therefore a major threat to pluralism and living together in Catalonia, and to the rights and freedoms of all, especially the non-nationalist majority.
We have to look at the images of the rioters in Barcelona, who block roads and highways taking advantage of the passivity of the regional police, who call for murder, who beat people who try to extinguish fires. We must face the encouragements to the violence of the separatist president (“go harder!”), The climate of nationalist victimization that deliberately created the conditions under which such an outcome was inevitable. We must read the statement of the ANC association, which called for “weakening the pillars of the state” to give visibility to the separatist movement and would like to see in the violence a utilitarian and necessary in the promotion conflict. These excesses are not the fruit of a historical fatality.
Nationalism reveals its face forever, with all its charge of hatred towards the other. In the face of the ravages of deadly nationalism, once the madness has passed, one invariably wonders how it was born in peaceful, plural communities where it was good to live – and destroy them. Catalonia shows us the answer: that’s how everything starts. The duty of all Democrats is clearly to prevent this fatal process from continuing.
Juan Antonio Cordero, a Catalan mathematician, published Spanish Social Democracy and Towards a Civic Formulation of Socialism in Spanish.