Interview with Luis Roca Jusmet by Peru Erroteta
THE WEEKLY TRIANGLE 01/25/2020 Image Angel Guerrero
Philosopher. He teaches philosophy classes at a High School Institute. He writes, and has published two books: “Networks and obstacles” and “Spiritual Exercises for materialists”. Collaborates in various publications, participates in ASEC-ASIC and militates in the PSC.
Nationalism and left Oil and water?
The best thing that the project of the left has (from its traditions: socialism, anarchism, communism), also ambiguous, heterodox …, is its sense of the collective, of what belongs to everyone, as the universality of rights, inheritance of the French revolution, which has not yet been overcome. The left also has to include the uniqueness of each one, but from the citizenship. Nationalism, on the contrary, goes to the group and to particularism. Nationalism denies the individual. It dilutes it in the idea of nation, which always entails some ethnicity. It’s us against them …
How do you explain that the left, as the story shows, drifts, overlaps or is sometimes contaminated with nationalism?
Spinoza says that we must start from the fact that people, both rulers and citizens, move by passions and not by reason, which is of great interest to political theory. The triumph, say, of nationalisms over internationalism, in World War I illustrates some of this, although there are those who relativize the issue by asserting that the positions were ambivalent. Initially, the socialists of France and Germany, and the unions, said they would vote against the war, that they mobilized against the war credits, but ended up doing the opposite. Perhaps there was some coordination problem between the delegations, which failed to agree. And, without a doubt, there was a lot of social pressure, due to mimicry and identity passions.
And the Catalan nationalism, travel companion of the left or vice versa?
Both the PSUC and the PSC come in some measure from Catalan groups. The extreme left in Franco was always trying to go a little beyond the PSUC, also in the national question. Maoists and Troskists, who fed on splits of ETA, broke up with her on the left, but some nationalism always remains. It must also be taken into account that the identification of Francoism with Spanishism has contributed to the very serious conceptual error that if there was a choice between Catalan or Basque nationalism (“oppressed”) and Spanish, there was no doubt in doing so For the first. The PSUC, which was clearly the majority party, especially through CC.OO. He did a good job among the workers to understand the claim of the Statute and the co-officiality of Catalan. But his direction, of small bourgeois extraction and more linked to a Catalan feeling, was not the same as his working base. He was progressively claudicating the pressure of pujolism. What is happening now, contrary to what the left says, is not a consequence of the immobility of the PP, but of the pujolism and the lack of alternatives to it.
In any case, it seems that, in general, the left of Catalonia and also of Spain has considered, at best, nationalism as something minor, subsidiary, pending democratic issue … And not the problem, in the singular.
What is behind this is phobia against the right and especially against the PP. That makes everything else good. That is why there are sectors of the left that continue to argue that the main responsible for what happens in Catalonia is the PP. They confuse what is the defense of the rule of law against nationalisms, which are identity, and only follow their own account. We are not faced with a peripheral nationalism oppressed against a Spanish nationalism, but with a rule of law before identity nationalisms, which claim a sovereignty based on this entity.
In any case, is it not striking that, at this point, there is a left that is not able to identify the nationalist problem as the main problem, which involves, overlaps and belittle all others?
In the last PSC congress, which I attended, I heard more than ever the word Spain, something that is not bad. The left must understand that its main adversary is nationalism. But we have, for example, Coscubiela, who on September 7, made a strong speech against nationalism in the Parliament and, the next day, goes on television making it clear that the main enemy is the PP. We are not able to sustain the discourse, partly for fear of getting rid of our own heritage.
How important are emotions, affections, beliefs … in all this? Perhaps the left, which is a bundle of rationalism, is vaccinated against them?
Emotions are linked to ideas. And what is missing from the left is precisely to raise ideas linked to feelings. It is difficult for it to enter that battle and they prefer to appeal to reason, often as a pretext, so as not to oppose the Catalan or Basque feeling of being Spanish. Without understanding that the thing goes by other paths. There is also the internationalist, humanitarian feeling of identity with nature … The feelings of belonging, in relative terms, have nothing negative. We are many things, not just one. The left has failed to link the idea of Spain to a progressive project. The term “State” itself, used by nationalists, is perverse. The State, in principle, does not create any feeling. In the imaginary, “Catalonia”, can be associated with a feeling of belonging, which is not possible with “State.”
The power, in short, of words … misrepresented?
When you are speaking in Catalan, if you do something shabby it is done in Spanish. This creates an imaginary … There are even things that touch the ridiculous as if, in the second year of high school there is a subject called History of Spain, which in most of the centers has been replaced by “History”. The students themselves have a certain rejection against this subject. And this, we know, has been created by Pujolism for decades.
And what about the withdrawal (the State, the homelands, the nations …?) that is being raised in some areas of the European left?
From the moment in which neoliberalism is linked to globalization, an ideological drift is being created that ends up converging with the right-wing populisms. The trench of Anguita could be understood as a defense of the Spanish State. But as that is difficult, the withdrawal is made, in the case of Spain, towards peripheral nationalisms. The question could be to use an idea of a nation linked to a rule of law to address the multinational powers of neoliberalism. Something that I do not see clearly, but that makes some sense, insofar as it offers the possibility of resorting, in its scale, to the policy to solve the problems.
In this context, where would it be good for you to walk to the left?
Enhancing what is common and universal and, learning something from the liberal idea of empowering individuality, the right of people to follow their own path. Just the opposite of the idea of the group, the nation outside and above the people. And in relation to federalism, which is proposed as an alternative to nationalisms, an affirmation effort should also be made. What does not end up saying, for example, that federalism is not only a way out of the lack of power of autonomy, but that its basic idea is loyalty. If you talk about federalism you have to talk about Spain.
In addition to all this, the left has not been giving up self-criticism, knowledge, curiosity …, even in some cases being reduced to a mere spectrum of itself?
Yes, this is something that comes from afar but that is much more accused in a world in permanent mutation. There is also a more offensive, less resilient attitude. Frequently, the struggle of ideas is subordinated to the political game, a reductionist mechanism, which ends up cutting the pitch. For example, the left lacks the courage to raise a federalism that is not asymmetrical. You have to get into the question of equality between federated territories … In short, I think that left and nationalism have to be considered incompatible. The project on the left, which has to arouse affections, goes through universality, through the ideals of the French revolution. That goes through the cultural and interculturalism in the sense of mixing. Today cultural group identities do not exist. Nationalisms invent cultural identity.