21.04.2019 00:00 h.
Ricardo García Cárcel (Requena, Valencia, 1948) does not abandon his didactic tone, which has led him to become a teacher of History in the UAB classrooms. Professor of Modern History, he has been National History Prize for his book The inheritance of the past. The historical memories of Spain (2011). He is the author of the enormous Felipe V and the Spaniards. A peripheral history of Spain (Plaza & Janés), where he traces the image of the monarch in the so-called “problem of Spain”, by proposing a “third Spain” constitutional. Now, with everything that has happened in recent years in Catalonia, García Cárcel, a reference for all historians in Spain, has a bittersweet flavor. He highlighted a Catalan “modernity” that he no longer defends, as he explains in this interview with Crónica Global. The specialist in the War of Succession, in Catalonia and Valencia, points out that in Catalonia things are still muddied in the political playing field that marked Jordi Pujol: “We have not yet left the nationalist programming of pujolismo”, and considers that the myth of the bourgeoisie “has fallen on the ground”. On the 25th of April, García Cárcel will participate in a dialogue with the historian Manuel Peña, based on his book Historia no oficial de Cataluña, published by Crónica Global, in the Old Factory of Damm.
–Question: Catalan nationalism sees itself as a determining element for the modernization of Spain, with a historical process aimed at that goal, as Vicente Cacho Viu explained. But can it be interpreted the other way around, as an element that has damaged, at certain moments, that modernization of the State, if we think about the eighteenth century or with the independence procés?–Response: I am Valencian. I was educated at the University of Valencia, with professors such as Joan Reglà, disciple of Vicens Vives. There was a fascination for the Catalan world, for the modernity it represented, in a country like Spain. We had the figure of Francesc Cambó, who had intervened in Spain as an agent of modernization in a backward country like Spain. I arrived in Barcelona in 1972 and I have been a professor there ever since. And what I have registered, and it is something quite shared, is a certain disappointment with that alleged modernization that Catalonia has been able to represent. The experience of the independence procés has been to confirm that the myth of the Catalan bourgeoisie has fallen on the ground. The bourgeoisie that sublimated Antoni de Capmany Antoni or Vicens Vives, with the book Industrials i polítics, compared with the current one, leads me to disappointment, because now it means a return to Carlism, a nationalism adhering to ecclesiastical, xenophobic paradigms, which has nothing to do with the modern Catalonia we had dreamed of.
– Because Catalonia was not modernized in the eighteenth century, after the events of 1714?
– The Bourbon experience, of Felipe V and Carlos III, in the second half of the XVIII, is the scenario of an economic growth which Catalonia never had come to enjoy. It leaves behind banditry, that damage disappears, and Catalonia opens to the American market, with the free trade agreement of 1778. There is a flourishing bourgeoisie, beneficiary of the enlightened impulse, which Capmany had highlighted. Against this unquestionable reality of economic growth throughout the XVIII century, the myth of 1714, of an insurrectional nature, which seeks to recover a crushed Catalonia, has been imposed. It has been imposed the sentimentalist, whiner discourse of a Catalonia oppressed by a tyrannical Spain. Now it is applied to the same extent as it was in the Civil War, with a supposed ideologically pure, homogeneous Catalonia, with a radical discourse against a despicable, despotic Spain, which Franco would embody. It is a false model, because there was a Catalonia which collaborated with the Franco regime, with illustrious surnames that were collaborators. It’s a huge list, which is nothing to do with the idea that there was a minority of botiflers
, almost residual. It is one of the most obvious distortions that have been made.
– In that Catalonia of 1714 there were signs of fanaticism, with Barcelona besieged. Is there now a repetition of that faith, of that certain fanaticism for independence?
– The Catalonia from 1711 to 1714 reminds me a lot of the present one. A reality took place in 1711, when the Austrian candidate, for whom a large part of Catalan society had fought, decided to become emperor to go to Vienna, and left that society snubbed. And faced with the proposals made by England to that Austrian society, in the line of granting economic rights over the American world that would have stimulated the nascent Catalan bourgeoisie, the Austrians opted instead for a religious, psychedelic fanaticism, which made any path of concord impossible, which led to the tragic situation of the siege of Barcelona. The question that the pro-independence part does not ask is if that outcome was avoidable. It seems to me that it was, yes, avoidable, and not only must we attributed that outcome to Felipe V, but also to the irresponsibility of the pro-Austrian cohorts.
–Then, is there a historical constant of irresponsibility, a kind of nerve that leads to this bloody-mindedness?
– That is the feeling, if we compare what happened in 1714 with the Spanish Civil War. It seems that the rauxa [passion] is winning over the seny [common sense]. One observes, faced with those two archetypes of which Vicens Vives spoke, that the rauxa is more proper, and that the seny becomes the forced outlet, the forced reasoning, after mad experiences. After madness, seny is always imposed, which is linked to the inevitable cost of blunders and strategic errors. The conclusion, and the independence movement reflects it, is that a variant of the Catalan character is imposed, which is the surrealist variant: to be outside of reality. This can be seen in President Quim Torra or in former President Carles Puigdemont.. It is not an ideological criterion, it is that it does not resist the minimally objective analysis of what we are living through. We discover the surrealist vocation of Catalan society.
– It would not be the first time, then.
– There’s something structural. Dalí is not the result of a circumstance. There is a remarkable Dalinian vocation.
– What has been lived through these years in Catalonia responds to a plan already outlined in 1980 with Jordi Pujol?
– In the eighties, what I remember is an experience of several historians of Catalonia, who lived in Catalonia, like Martínez Shaw or myself, who wanted to start a certain revisionism, against the vision of Ferran Soldevila. We had as reference Pierre Vilar, and we formed the Center of Modern History Pierre Vilar. It was a willful task to rethink the sentimental constants of that romantic historiography. As a result, the book History of Catalonia, from the 16th to the 17th century was born. And what we can say is that we failed in the attempt.
–How was that?
–It is significant that we could count on the support of journals such as L’Avenç, which by that time was run by Ferran Mascarell. He gave us support, with dossiers that were critical of the myths of the history of Catalonia. Evidence of that failure, ours, is Mascarell’s own trajectory.
– Why was this a failure?
–The main cause of our failure was that we thought we had socialist support, but then the PSC evolved in other directions. It was swallowed up by pujolismo. But we also missed as well real support from state parties. We were not there as defenders of the State; what we wanted was to project a revisionism on the myths of nationalism, but we found that we could not count, at any time, with the official coverage of the so-called Madrid. We found ourselves alone and stranded in a marginal position in that revisionist effort.
– And the Catalan left?
– We did not have the support neither of the Catalan left nor of the right in Madrid, if it can be said like that. Mascarell supported us at the beginning, and we have seen his recent political career, which has slid down paths that were completely foreign to us. We did not think, at any time, that everything could evolve as it has in recent years.
–The playground was marked by Jordi Pujol and we continue in it?
– We are completely in that field of play. We have not yet left the nationalist program of pujolismo, which was absorbing everything that had in front of itself.
– The independence procés, however, has been able to generate an incentive to think and plan something different from what Pujol had planned? Can it be said that the procés has had some positive elements?
– The positive part, for me, is what I call the law of diminishing returns, which is an imperative principle of agrarian history. It can occur in situations with a preaching as obsessive and neurotic as that received by Catalan society lately. In a world of fanatical believers, with such enormous preaching, at some point the profitability of this territory may not allow for more. What makes me think so is an education like mine, marked by the stale Spanishness of the Franco regime. We considered that we were exhausted by that discourse and we could make a revisionism of the old mythification of Spanish romanticism. We were progressive young people of the 60s, who depopulated the altars of Spanish nationalist discourse. We did it, and, nevertheless, the altars of the peripheral nationalism have grown, with tributes and figures of the myths of the Catalan nationalism that remain erect. Manuel Peña’s book, precisely, contributes to questioning them.
– In the prologue of Manuel Peña’s book, following that idea, you say that privileges became rights.
– Yes, it is one of the great distortions. There has been a narcissistic vision of Catalan constitutionalism, as opposed to Spanish absolutism, which would start with the Courts of 1238, and that would consecrate a series of rights that would remain intact throughout the centuries. However, these Courts, with the three characteristic arms of the time, were not in any case the Catalan people. The Catalan people is an absolute and total invention of the twentieth century, which is projected back over time.
–Does it not exist?
– What exists is a very fragmented Catalan society, in the same way as we cannot speak of Spain, but of the Spaniards. Among the Catalans there are many identities, everything is far from the idea of the Catalan people. There are two Catalonias, but there are more Catalonias, with the immigrants, the grandchildren of the immigration of the 60s, but also those affiliated with ethnic groups or religions like the Muslim one. Only from the fantastic could it be talked about the unity of the Catalan people.
– There is not a Catalan demos?
– It is a demos that is consulted at different levels. There is no immobile demos.
–There is, therefore, a Spanish demos?
– There is a demos of the State, which is plural. It is not a concept of Spain solidified in the Franco regime. What we are carrying is that equation, which must be buried, between Francoism and Spanish nationalism. If we do not separate a plural Spanish identity, far from the one, large and free, or the hymns, we cannot move forward. To the extent that we are not able to break that, Spanish nationalism will be mortgaged. And if we do not produce things different from the Viva España of Manolo Escobar, as for example the España camisa blanca, -which represents something else-, Spain or those of us who feel Spanish citizens will continue to receive the accusatory mantra of a despotic Spain or the shabby Spain of Alfredo Landa, which are the two stigmas highlighted by Catalan nationalism. This is what nourishes Catalan nationalism: the fanatical inquisitorial Spain and the seedy and rancid Spain of Landa or López Vázquez, when there is a liberal, open, progressive, dialoguing Spain throughout its history. It is a claim that we historians have to make.
– But the independence movement indicates that Spain, if there is no reform at all, can get into serious problems, and remembers that there was no will to touch the Constitution of 1876, and everything went to worse, with the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, the Second Republic, the Civil War and the dictatorship. Is it a defect, this impossibility of reform, which Spain should overcome?
– Of course we should intone the harsh criticism towards politicians who have not left the centralism of the Castilian meseta, but we cannot look back, because along the same line there is a memorial of grievances that are used by the State regarding unsupportive Catalan attitudes, with which they have tried to boycott the interests of the State. The story is useful, but the readings that can be done on both sides do not help. No one should favor the speech of whoever was to be held accountable. We must overcome the idea of the shared distribution of blame and the permanent memorial of grievances. I have the feeling, however, that, as a historian, history is used less than a few years ago. The orgiastic moment came with the tercentenary of 1714. Afterwards there has been a certain saturation of permanent appeal to history or to the essentialist appeal, and they have focused more on the fiscal grievance, with more belligerence from the old accusations of the perfidious Spain.
–Can it be justified, from the moral point of view, that independence be requested, after receiving so much cheap labor from the rest of Spain during the 50s and 60s, bearing in mind that there was a pact between the Francoist elites, both Spanish and Catalan?
– What is outrageous is to ignore the obvious signs of absolute complicity of the Catalan elites with the Franco regime. I think about a Martin de Riquer, and am amazed with his offspring, who does not assume that collaboration of the old Riquer. A mantle of discreet silence has been spread over this complicity, and let us not forget that the bourgeoisie of Convergència, the pujolista, was burdened with infinity of signs towards the Franco regime.
García Cárcel, in the editorial office of ‘Crónica Global’
–Cataluña was economically benefited by the Franco regime?
–I think so, with an idea that denotes a certain complex, which should be analyzed, of the State. The capacities of the Catalans have been historically recognized, and it has been related to an idea of inferiority, of insecurity and complex. For this reason, resources were provided for the bourgeoisie, which took advantage of them and increased the distance of these elites, thanks to the protectionism that the Francoist state maintained. A man like Cambó was important for the July 18 uprising. That said, it is evident that there is more empathy towards the losers than for the winners, beyond the objective reasons behind their victory or defeat.
– Was there an initial design from the Generalitat to project a certain story by means of university professorships and departments?
– I did my civil service career in the State, with public examinations in Madrid in 1981. It has been an archetypal career. But then it changed. The university teaching staff is hired by the Generalitat. And there has been a progressive university slide towards power, because nothing is innocent. The university professor is not innocent, and there are scholarships, teaching positions … formulas so that the closest political power could make allied teachers slide in the right direction. The figure of organic intellectuals in direct service and I suppose paid by the political powers of the Generalitat might be a few, but most of us are also carried away by an environmental climate that greatly conditions our own political projection.
– What role should TV3 have?
– These days, with a constant indoctrination, I am touched by some politicians of the constitutionalist environment. I think they are the heroes of our time, when you think that in front of them they can have professionals from the talk-show environment like Pilar Rahola. The problem is to think about how this indoctrination, linked to pujolismo, can be finished. It is very difficult, with so many years… We should think about other generations. Nor can one think of drastic measures, which would lead to the suppression of television. I am afraid the wave of the victimhood discourse would be even more insufferable. I am pragmatic and I look forward to the exhaustion of the subjects who receive this indoctrination.
– Is it possible to think that there can be a reflux, a stage of going back to the pact?
– We have said above that a revisionism was tried and failed. Now you could think of a new attempt. There are groups such as Historiadors de Catalunya who advocate for this revision again. We now have the book by Manuel Peña, and the initiatives of the Societat Civil Catalana. But I do not know, what we do have is the anguish of uncertainty. When I talk to Francesc de Carreras the figure of the traitor comes out, which would need to emerge, as Antoni Puigverd also says. The only hope is that eventually some sectors rebel about the meaning of Puigdemont as leader and director of Catalan politics. But we still have too much to suffer.