We wonder if Spain is a nation, when the crucial thing is this: that we Spaniards cannot, if we want to remain united, allow ourselves not to be.
In previous articles I wanted to explain why Catalanism and federalism ultimately represent incompatible ideals: in essence, because federalism wants a balanced distribution of powers with the central or federal level of government; Catalanism, on the other hand, will eternally increase Catalan self-government, leaving the existence of the federal without margin or meaning (Federalism or Catalanism, April 9). Also, that plurinationality is the opposite of pluralism: if it invites mixing, that makes us an archipelago of uniform and juxtaposed identities (Pluralism or plurinationality, June 11). Let us now triangle and address one last misunderstanding: that federalism must embrace multinationality. The opposite is correct.
Let’s start with something in which there seems to be agreement: for federalism, there has to be loyalty. But what is loyalty, it may be asked, but the nation? The political nation that invents modernity serves to know to which institutions, as citizens, we owe loyalty, and who are the others that deserve our affection and solidarity as a citizen. That is, to know to which political community we belong (and there was a time when the left believed that progress was to expand, not reduce, the radius of that community). To declare plurinationality is to sow doubt about which political community loyalty is due, where wealth should be redistributed, to whom we will give voice and vote in the debate. A recipe for discord and disintegration.
But, in addition, multinationality works against the federal idea of distributing powers. Because power can only be distributed thoroughly where the community is not in doubt. That is why the most advanced federal states rely on an idea of a unitary nation (United States, Germany) and those who declare themselves rhetorically plurinational (Bolivia, Russia) do not know a real distribution of power. If in Spain one wanted to deepen federalism and give, for example, full educational powers to autonomy, it could only be done if there is certainty that the new power conferred will not be used to educate in a consciousness of separate belonging, a difficult thing if we have given as valid that we live in different national communities.
This is because modernly, nation, is not a human geography data, but a normative concept that equates all citizens with all nationals, constituting them into a community of law (equality), decision (sovereignty) and distribution (redistribution). Nation-State is not the “State that contains a nation”, but the one that has woven its own political nation and that – democracy requirements – has made it inclusive of its ideological and cultural differences. Without that integrative ideal there is no community and the State can only hold together what the inertia provides. And if we Spaniards have stopped being a nation, the task, if we want to remain united, is to work to be one again: that is the true federal ideal.