The great fiction: the end of it
Antonio Hernández Rodicio, 16 October, 2022
Oriol Junqueras, Pep Guardiola, Carles Puigdemont, Carme Forcadell and Jordi Sánchez in 2017, at an event in favour of the independence referendum / Toni Albir / Efe
Catalonia is living these days the end of the great fiction. And all fiction is a lie. The fable has come to an end. With the secessionist government liquidated by JxCat, the decomposed remnants of the old and defunct CiU, Catalonia is entering a new stage of increasingly unpredictable instability, arithmetically condemned to add up to zero.
For years, the pro-independence parties have maintained a remarkable electoral social support just by repeating a thousand times the lie they wanted, so that, with commendable perseverance, it became the revealed truth. They convinced a good part of the Catalans that independence belonged to them as a divine right. And that it was just around the corner. Seen with the short perspective that the facts allow us, it was all a lie.
The dream of independence creates monsters
Catalonia was not going to be independent, nor was Europe going to welcome it like the prodigal son imprisoned in darkness by an anti-democratic state insensitive to identities, nor was the business community going to participate in the uproar as if it were an open-air festival with a brass band. Independence has not arrived and is not expected, the EU has been conclusive against the interests and discourses of the pro-independence, and the big Catalan companies took very little time to move their headquarters to other latitudes. Perhaps the only thing that is still floating in Paseo de Gracia, where the participants in those mass demonstrations presaged the advent of a new nation by counting down the minutes, is the conviction that despite everything they are a nation, and a nation that is born out of the old dark and cruel empire exists because it is morally superior, culturally more advanced, ethnically distinct and economically sustainable. The supremacism inherent in nationalism and its higher form of political articulation – independence – always breeds monsters.
That 27 October 2017
The right to decide. Of course. The modern and effective pro-independence propaganda coined ideas before which any monster capable of denying rights would pale in comparison. And especially a right as basic as the right to decide. That is how the pantomime was set up. The Spanish state, heir to the Inquisition, denied a peaceful, well-intentioned and advanced people something as simple as the right to decide. There were a few foolish and unwary people around the world who swallowed the bait. In a few days it will be five years since the Parliament approved the unilateral declaration of independence, that Puigdemont’s metisaca. [in-out] That was a great afternoon in the Parque de la Ciudadela. The human flood of people wearing the Estelada streamed through all the streets.
Entire families, buses, international observers, pens from the most circumspect headlines in Europe taking notes, photographers ready to immortalise the historic moment. The radio thundered from early on; the TV was on. The Mossos in full dress uniform, the neighbourhood shopkeepers hanging big flags. Chanting and celebration. The encouragement of the people for the hero of Waterloo. Today’s fugitive president, whose independence lasted exactly 56 seconds.
The pro-independence supporters have not achieved a single one of their objectives, and on top of that they are orphaned of leaders and support. Only 11% of Catalans now support the pro-Catalan epiphany, according to the CEO survey, and institutionally they are heading towards another advance of the electoral cycle, which will be resolved with worse numbers than ever both at the polls and in Parliament, given the poisoned dynamic between ERC and JxC. It has been demonstrated that it is impossible for a territory to be governed with independence as the only political agenda, let alone to be run from Waterloo. More lost years lie ahead. Opportunities that will continue to move from one territory to another. It would be normal for those who promoted that false dream to be ashamed of themselves today. Who will now pay for these broken dishes?
It is relatively easy to blame the parties and their leaders for so much wreckage. But that would be to ignore the symmetrical responsibility of the citizens themselves who happily and trustingly bought so much spoiled merchandise. The Catalans who went along with the pro-independence naughtiness have been necessary co-operators in such a disaster. More standards must be demanded of those who identify themselves as sons of a superior people. The desire for independence, legitimate as long as it is channelled through a political proposal without breaking the law and without using all the public means at its disposal for collective manipulation, grew and grew spurred on by emotional arguments. They knew that emotions and not reasons move the world. The desire to feel part of something new, clean, modern, with its own accent and, on top of that, very profitable once decoupled from the beggar regions, was very strong. And attractive: not to be a pro-independence was a bad thing, a bad thing. And persecuted.
A tailor-made story
The economic crisis led part of the middle class to lose privileges and estates. Those merchants and the bourgeoisie that was the massif of the Pujolist race did not hesitate when they were promised paradise and la “pela” [money], as it is well known that money calls money “la pela is la pela”. Catalan independence has been the first populist experiment in today’s Spain. It only differs from the textbook populists in its display of its own language and a history that, according to most scientists, was coined for the occasion. It is impossible not to find loopholes in the history of every people to fly their own flag and open embassies. The Canton of Cadiz, the conquest of the Castle of Albacete by Ferdinand III of Castile or the mythological foundation of Pontevedra by Teucro, nephew of Priam and one of the heroes of the Trojan War, are all useful for this purpose. It’s just a matter of getting down to business, finding the right situation, identifying an enemy and turning up the volume on the Catalan public broadcasting TV3 on duty.
Let the repentant come out
Independence, the idea of the referendum as a conquered right despite the fact that it had no legal place either in the Constitution or in international law, prospered because it had notable accomplices in all levels of Catalan society. Countless people were ready to take part in the festivities. They are the ones who lived comfortably ensconced in the fiction for years, without being singled out by anyone, contributing to the singling out of others who simply thought differently and were ready to receive their reward and their gifts once the new state was born. Meanwhile, others left Catalonia under unbearable pressure, many professors saw their careers cut short under the iron arm of the universities’ pro-independence intelligence, non-aligned businessmen lost concessions and business, and the Committees for the Defence of the Republic ensured that the streets were theirs. The machine was in motion. The control apparatus of independentism was merciless with dissenters. Karmele, Guardiola and the Abbot of Montserrat, dedicated journalists, paid media, businessmen who, like two-faced Janus with one hand, loosened the fly in the service of the cause, while in the Madrid cenacles they threw their hands up in the air at the madness those guys were organising; teachers, organic intellectuals, artists and clowns, sports clubs, Karmele Marchante with the señera turned into a crochet suit, the philosopher Guardiola sparing the lives of the rest of Spaniards, condescending and unfriendly as himself, Juanjo Puigcorbé waiting for his Ministry of Culture or Mainat from La trinca who picks up and the abbot of Montserrat, who was shepherding the candid souls with the Estelada as his priestly stole.
Meanwhile, people like Isabel Coixet, Serrat, Estopa, Sardá or Boadella suffered attacks, insults, scorn and emptiness. Or Judge Llarena’s home was sabotaged and he was denied the greeting in his social club. And Albert Rivera’s parents were attacked for their modest convenience food business. What a great job Cs did in Catalonia, more alone than one with a PSC in profile and divided and a non-existent PP. The dignity of Joan Coscubiella, spokesman for the left-wing Catalunya sí que es pot, former secretary general of CCOO in Catalonia, author of a highly recommendable book: “Empantanados: una alternativa federal al soviet carlista” (Península), shines out from that time.
Those were the days when Catalan friends told how only half the family attended Christmas dinner. Catalan society should look inwards and examine its conscience. We know who paid the price, but who takes responsibility for the nuclear damage that has permeated and still persists in Catalonia?
Across the border
From the Ebro downwards there was a Spain also hit by the crisis, with its self-esteem at rock bottom and always engaged in self-destructive processes – such as the questioning of the transition, state institutions or the country’s strengths, species agitated by new actors such as Podemos – that weakened the state’s position. Through this crack, taking advantage of the economic crisis, the weakness of the national parties in Catalonia and leveraged on the Statute ruling, they put independence on the national agenda until it drained everything. Independence was a fiction, but the crisis was real. That is what Rajoy’s government never understood, as it failed to put a single productive proposal on the table for five years, sticking to the only strategy of letting things go and greasing the 155. It is true that it was difficult to make progress with those who would meet the Prime Minister with threats: the Basque-style fiscal pact or independence. The responsibility for the mess lies with the pro-independence supporters, with the illustrious Artur Mas at the head, who, frightened and stalked by the growth of ERC, thought it best to take the lead in the demonstration until he ended up dishonourably liquidating CiU and part of his personal wealth in bail bonds. It was not the Spanish government’s fault, but the way Moncloa dealt with the crisis allowed the whole thing to fester. Politics was simply not done. A truncheon in hand and at the head of the truncheon, the worst interior minister of democracy: Jorge Fernández Díaz.
And now what?
What has happened in Catalonia has been very serious and continues to be so because the problem of fitting into Spain remains unresolved. But let the failure of a crazy project and illegal methods not rob us of our memory. Nor them: the joke has widened the economic gap with Madrid, the GDP and the reception of foreign investment. And it is good to remember this now that we only see the ashes and a morally, socially and institutionally damaged Catalonia. Spain needs a prosperous Catalonia, where coexistence is possible and which, if it has not definitively lost that capacity, will once again be the beacon of the avant-garde that it always was. It is up to the Catalans to move away from myths and infantile illnesses. If not, let the last one to leave turn off the light.