Interview with Domènec Benet by Àngel Guerrero and Peru Erroteta
Retired bookseller from the La Llopa bookstore in Calella. He was a member of the PSUC until its political suicide in 1982. Concerned that people live as well as possible. He participated in the creation of Federalistes d’Esquerres, and collaborates with ASEC.
In the motley garden of revolts, present and past, doesn’t the procés constitute a rather exotic chapter?
It is not a rare thing in the history of Catalonia and of political Catalanism; what seems different to me is its end because we are in a different era. Ever since the “Dels Segadors” war, the siege of 1714, the “Catalan Solidaritat”, the “Fets d’October” of 1934, … in Catalonia there have been moments of procés, of “rauxa” (fury), of great euphoria, such as the one Chaves Nogales describes so well in his chronicles about Catalonia in March 36, including the explosion of popular fervor that accompanied the return of Companys from the Puerto de Santa María prison. In my opinion the difference is that all these explosions of “rauxa” (fury) were solved the hard way and suddenly, and fortunately this is not the case now. But, in the same way that today it is not admissible to cover by force any aspiration, neither is it acceptable to want to impose a single-color society. Catalonia is plural, very plural and, despite the impatience that only distinguishes black and white, we have to live together on the gray scale. For this reason, the “procesists” will be able to continue as much as they want and are able to, but also for this reason, those of us who are against it will not keep silent and demand respect for our rights. There will be procés as long as we do not learn to live together and endure each other.
In addition to the change in the ways of doing politics, does the non-violence, say armed, in the procés, perhaps also respond to the fact that the classes that dominate it have quite a lot to lose with the struggles, unlike that proletariat Marx spoke of which had nothing to lose but its chains?
Also, also. One of the reasons that the procés does not go further is because of this, because there is much to lose. Albert Soler portrays very well the “opulent oppressed” of the wealthy neighborhoods of Girona, or that lady who was willing to sacrifice starting from 2,000 euros a month, less no, because she has her needs. What has surprised me most has been the unconsciousness of people who are supposed to be rational in their decisions. An acquaintance of mine, businessman, with a career and several businesses, told me in the summer of 2017 that he already knew that what was going to be done could not end well but that it had to be done for dignity. I had no chance to speak to him after that infamous fall, but his colleagues complained bitterly about the decline in sales to the rest of Spain or the lack of demand for IMSERSO trips to Catalonia. Surely they had not learned that dignity had a price.
Isn’t it also somewhat strange that from the political power or by exploiting it, a fight for power is organized precisely? For more power?
Because the power that is available is always limited. The “Catalan Solidarity” of the early twentieth century disputes the power of the caciques. Companys, in 1934, disputed power to the right-wing government of the Republic. Politics is always a power dispute but here, from time to time, the “rauxa” is triggered. A way to contest power on the fast track. But here it tends to end in frustration and without power.
All this, in an increasingly global context …
Indeed, globalization makes a more open world, that we know each other more, that everything is more fluid. But of course, this causes reference points to blur and a part of society to cling to its particularism. Out of there Brexit, “trumpism” and much of the “procés” derive their strength.
Among the many reasons that are used as a trigger for the procés, which one are we left with?
Like any complex fact, there is no single cause that explains the procés. Jaume Reixach places great emphasis on the need to cover up the corruption of the Pujol family. From Catalanism the Constitutional ruling on the Statute is highlighted. And many of us are inclined to the great weight of the economic crisis, as the then company director Santi Vila recognized at the time. The one of the TC sentence as a trigger is what seems to me most fallacious. We must bear in mind that after this ruling, in 2010, the CiU government in Catalonia relies heavily on the PP and the PP government in Madrid on CiU votes. If we are to point out a trigger, it seems to me more relevant the day that Mas had to access the Parliament by helicopter due to the blockade of the outraged protesting the cost of the crisis. That’s where I think he decides to light the wick. But let us not forget that the wick had begun to be built with the Tripartite.
Something to which the left is no stranger …
And from the left we have to recognize it. It has always seemed basic to me to recognize what we, the “good ones”, do wrong. Because we already know that the “bad guys” are bad. We already know that they do things wrong, that’s why they are the “bad”, but the “good” many times, too many, also do things “wrong” and if we do not recognize it, we will continue to do them wrong.
The Tripartite made many mistakes, the main one being to open the melon of the Statute. A procés that few wanted, that nobody controlled and that served to unleash a battle for hegemony between the nationalist parties. Just to see who had the longest Catalanism. An open war for power that still continues today. We all know how the adventure of the Statute ended, but very few from the left have recognized the error. It is still customary for a certain left that to the inescapable criticism of the “processist” adventure, the critical equivalent of the PP, Ciutadans or Vox should be added. A left that has been a troupe on too many occasions serving as an alibi to justify an alleged transversality of the procés. The images of Herrera next to Mas when he called the 9N or of many Comuns voting the 1st October, recall the role played by Javier Madrazo and Ezker Batua, as Ibarretxe’s crutch, with the consequent disappearance of this left in the Basque Country.
this sense, it is necessary to highlight the positive role played by the
appearance of Federalistes d’Esquerres as a point of reference for the left, at
a time when there was a faltering PSC and an absent Initiative.
Among the many reasons for the breeding ground of the procés, is not greed, understood as a constant and sound derivative of power? Something like pocket nationalism, disputed by masters and subordinates?
It is a matter of numbers: 30, 300, 3,000, 30,000. There are some 30 top-level officials (directors, directors of public entities, trustees, …), with salaries exceeding 100,000 euros per year. About 300 (undersecretaries, CEOs, ambassadors, …), with salaries of between 50 and 80,000 euros. Then, about 3,000 (bosses, managers, section managers, …), with salaries between 30 and 50,000 euros, and, finally, about 30,000 civil servants faithful to the cause. What Esquerra and Convergence are fighting for now are the 30, 300, 3,000 and 30,000. And this is not a class conflict. The conflict is with who has the power to name whom.
Is Catalanism, which is once again ringing from many different bell towers, not an idealized space that serves the same for a rip than for a patch?
Political Catalanism has had its moment of hegemony, but it has already passed. Another thing is that it would disappear. Catalanism is still at bottom a feeling of identification that has had different intensities at different political moments. In the transition it was useful to seal the non-aggression pact between nationalism and the labor movement. The working class, mostly speaking Spanish, accepted some basic elements of Catalanism (language, culture, symbols, …) and nationalism renounced the break with Spain.
For 40 years, nationalism has taken advantage of the truce to lay the foundations for the national construction of Catalonia. But they miscalculated and amid the crisis, the haste, and the incompetence of many, they showed the cards ahead of time. Once the “bluff” has been seen, the game is over. There are sectors that want to rebuild that Catalanism. Surely they will get a certain audience, there is talk of about 250 or 300,000 votes, very far from what political Catalanism was. And very far from returning to attract those who think less and less of the homeland, even the football one, which is the most difficult to be ridden of.