José Ramón Martínez, 26 January 2023
Catalonia will belong to everyone, made by everyone, or it won’t be (Pere Bosch Gimpera)
Allow me to preamble before I begin. When politics is so heated and pessimism spreads, the emotional impulse to pacify arises, almost like a pathological need. And this often happens to me with the Catalan issue and with politics in general. I was engaged in a new article on the PSC and, almost without thinking about it, I naturally came up with this one: Catalunya, la mirada conciliadora (Catalonia, the conciliatory look). Here goes my reflection!
The honourable Josep Tarradellas wrote a letter to the editor of La Vanguardia on 16 April 1981, in which he warned the Catalan people of the wrongness of the path that Jordi Pujol had embarked on. The President said that “a stage was beginning that would lead to the rupture of the bonds of understanding and good understanding and that would end with the rupture of the unity of our people”. Tarradellas ended his letter with the now historic words that “Catalonia is too small for it to despise any of its children and big enough for us all to fit in”.
Only a political animal like Tarradellas, who had lived through the worst years of the civil war and exile, was capable of having the foresight to see where democratic Catalonia should be heading. The fact is that the first Catalan governments have been building what some call the storytelling of nationalism, their account of what the country should be like. It is a model of society that responds more to a nationalist vision than to a national vision, capable of reflecting its linguistic and cultural plurality. The result, in a nutshell, was that Jordi Pujol’s ‘fer país‘ (building country) was a far cry from Josep Tarradellas’ ‘citizens’, which so many of us were so moved by.
From this point onwards, it can be said that one idea was to overhang the whole ideology that Pujolism was to set in motion. An idea, as historians such as Josep Maria Fradera have pointed out, that cannot and should not be underestimated, much less concealed, and that is that, from the outset, with greater or lesser ambiguity, a discourse has been cemented that seeks to do away with the cultural, linguistic and belonging duality that exists in Catalan society. Deactivating this shared Catalan and Spanish sentiment has been and remains at the heart of their political project.
Situated in this ideological universe, the question is whether we will be able to build a Catalonia of all, made by all, as Pere Bosch Gimpera wondered. A Catalonia that is capable of recovering the intrinsic values of Catalan nationalism and enlightened Spain. That is, to be able to reconcile the idea of the Catalan nation with the idea of Spain. Jacint Verdaguer puts it very well in his collection of poems: "Dels catalans sempre sereu princesa/ dels espanyols estrella d'Orient". (Of the Catalans you will always be a princess/ of the Spaniards the star of the East)
Catalonia has fully entered the 21st century with a new political era, an era that challenges us all, through reason and words. A time to heal wounds, to put an end to political bellicosity and permanent litigation, to put an end to the friend/enemy dialectic, to bring Catalan and Hispanic culture together, to civilise differences, not to look for scapegoats, be they Catalan or Spanish nationalism, not to idolise anyone or anything, be it the nation or the language. We must leave behind that closed and self-absorbed country that impoverishes everyone.
In this context, it would not be wrong to reclaim that spirit of acceptance of the other for the new stage of change. The drama of this society also lies in the refusal of many to accept each other in their plurality. The inability of one part of Catalonia to talk to the other is an example of what is happening. Sooner or later, we will have to start building a common space that truly reflects the pluralism of society, in which all voices, all feelings and all ways of being and feeling Catalan can be seen and heard.
Finally, it seems appropriate to recall the words of a historic socialist like Rafael Campalans, who died in 1933, and which are prescient about the paths to concord: “Catalonia is no longer past glories, the sacred memory of our dead, Catalonia is a regenerative zeal that is contagious to all the men and women who live there. And this, given the origins of so many, is not something that can be done against Spain”.