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Identity has always been a refuge. Catalan nationalism is anachronistic as an escape backwards of a part of society that refuses to recognize the reality, well-being and freedom in which it lives.

by Crónica Pupular • April 30, 2019 • 0 Comments

Jaime- Axel Ruiz Baudrihaye II. Lawyer and writer

La Raison se cachait dans un puits avec la Verité sa fille. Voltaire

Identity has always been a refuge. Catalan nationalism is anachronistic as an escape backwards of a part of society that refuses to recognize the reality, well-being and freedom in which it lives.

Within the peninsular balance, historically always something unstable, with the confrontations during the Middle Ages, the historical rivalry of Castile and Aragon or the independence of the Portucalense County, then Portugal, Catalonia always lacked hegemony as such. Castile had it.

After the New Plant Decree which opened trade in America to Catalonia and, later, with industrialization, it acquired an important specific weight within the Spanish economy which it did not take advantage of to impose itself because it focused on protectionism, on its small frontiers of Renaixença and a narrow-minded regionalist nationalism.

The Republic could have been a real change but neither Maciá nor Companys nor most of the Catalan politicians were very interested in supporting it, on the contrary, they destabilized it. During the civil war against fascism, by historical inertia and by purely capitalist interests, the Catalan and Basque nationalists remained more determined to save their belongings than to save the Republic. Rodrigo Vázquez de Prada has exposed it very clearly in this same media last week: https://www.cronicapopular.es/2019/04/la-deslealtad-de-los-secesionistas-catalanes-a-la-ii-republica/

The nationalist movements responded in large part to the rejection of the most industrialized and evolved areas against that Spain of priests, soldiers and rural landowners. But Spain is no longer that Spain, nor is Catalonia its only economic engine. The development of other areas of the country has relativized much its peninsular weight, the preponderance which it had. It has become a service and tourist economy. The proletariat has been decreasing and with it the strength of Marxist or similar parties, such as the PSUC or the PSC. With the reduction of the working class, which was largely of non-Catalan origin, the void caused by the retreating left has been filled with a kind of verbal substitutes such as the CUP or ERC, authentic heirs of the rude anarchism and the Carlists.

The Spanish left also has its historical responsibility in this loss of influence in Catalonia and the Basque Country. The doubts and ambiguities regarding nationalism, which are still expressed (Podemos, for example), have existed since the Franco regime, even in a certain initial passivity in the face of ETA terrorism, as denounced by Ernst Lluch. The fact that the Basque and Catalan nationalists were anti-Franco did not automatically convert them into democrats or good fellow travelers. Attention, then, to the possible Faustian pacts of Sánchez.

The most cosmopolitan Catalan bourgeoisie, that of the “industrial names”, as Carlos Barral said, has not become independent but is, as always, on the lookout, to see who is the winner. The Catalan elites, who have had in their hands the greatest freedom and autonomy of any region in Europe and the world, have not been able to organize and direct their society in an open, modern, cosmopolitan way. When losing all opportunity to be hegemonic they have allowed themselves to be stolen of the prominence by ecclesiastical and provincial characters, as has happened as well in Euskadi. Once again, they have not lived up to the circumstances.

The pro-independence cohorts are disconnected from the productive sector although they represent an important small bourgeois and rural sector. It is no accident that the map of the independence movement coincides practically with the map of Carlism, of that secular opposition between city and countryside.

An international context that intimidates them contributes to this return to the refuge, to this throwing oneself into the forest, since the weaker European Union inspires nationalisms. The solution seems to be to hide in the shell, as does the crayfish. The snail’s strategy. Barcelona, without much fear, is not a majority pro-secession.

But these pro-secession élites move at their ease in European and American universities and in communication forums. In Portugal, where I live, the favorable echo to the independence movement has several causes, as I understand:

1) Some Portuguese left and right alike have always seen their nemesis in Castile and then in Spain, a kind of threat that they have always felt about their independence. Today, even Spanish investment, the proliferation of Spanish brands, banks that have bought Portuguese banks, are viewed with suspicion by many, which contrasts with the rewards and joys with which the French, Chinese, Angolan or Brazilian investment is received. There is a kind of historical resentment, it is undeniable.

2) In the world of a certain Portuguese left, to that primary, secular anti-Spain feeling, it is to be added a leftism favorable to everything considered “disruptive” and anti-establishment. That fire of artifice is very typical of leftism. The absolutism of the politically correct, of the unique thought, predominates in many universities. They have never invited, of course, constitutionalists or, as one of the champions of the defense of “our oppressed Catalan brothers” would say, to “Castelhanistas” or “Francoists”. They pretend, and almost succeed, to monopolize the intellectual function in society, to be the only voice. Their esprit de corps prevails.

3) In part of the academic world there has always been a background stream supporting sophists, grammarians, structuralists and other language artisans without solid knowledge of history, economics and philosophy. Even with such a little basis – or precisely for that reason – its simplicity of slogans and mottos occupies the ideological and media space. It is quite meaningful how poorly drafted is the manifesto of some sixty professors and politicians, including several socialists and centrists, which appeared in the newspaper Público, on Tuesday, April 23.

4) However, there are other Portuguese, perhaps the majority, for whom, as Miguel Torga said, “their civic homeland ends in Barca de Alva but the earthly one reaches to the Pyrenees”. They are those Portuguese people who feel themselves as peninsular, if not Iberian (Iberianism has often been reviled as imperialism or Spanish enslavement), and, like Torga, “filho ocidental da Ibéria”.

Fortunately, when writing these lines, the well-known writer and journalist Miguel Sousa Tavares – son of Sophia de Mello Breyner, the great poet, and the liberal and anti-Salazar Francisco Sousa Tavares – sticks up for the unity of Spain and against the secessionism in the weekly Expresso. “What would we say if Azores, Madeira or the Algarve wanted to separate?”, he begins, just to go ahead with his detailed analysis of the Catalan crisis.

Maybe Reason and Truth, its daughter, have not completely hidden, as Voltaire said. There are lucid minds thinking that they really cannot swallow as much.


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