Lluís Foix, 17 August 2021
Image: Xavier Cervera
No one with a minimal sense of history can hope that the Catalan conflict will be resolved through defeat or the annihilation of Catalanism. Nor is it likely to cut the knot that ties Catalonia with Spain with a unilateral and complete separation. Therefore, there is no other way out than a negotiated agreement and this is what is psychologically most difficult.
It is one of the conclusions reached by Anton Sieberer, an Austrian philologist who in 1936 wrote an interesting book, Catalunya contra Castella (Proa), which Jaume Vicens Vives described as the best interpretation of the Catalan movement until the Civil War.
It will be necessary to redirect the energies of the country while politics seeks formulas for coexistence and respect
The British Hispanist John Elliott places it in the time of Felipe II when Castile remains with the dominion of the conquest of America leaving the Mediterranean space to what was then the crown of Aragon. The problems that the Habsburgs had with the Catalans worsened after the war of succession with the military victory of Felipe V, who with the Nueva Planta decree abolished the fueros and the proper law of Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The British allies left Catalonia and Archduke Charles fled to Vienna to be proclaimed King of the House of Austria. The Bourbon era began with the centralizing ideas imported from Louis XIV’s Versailles. Generations passed until Catalanism became a powerful economic, cultural and political engine in the 19th century.
What causes Spanish nationalism to have political Catalanism as its main adversary is because Barcelona defends an alternative idea of Spain, in the form of federalism, autonomy and cultural, economic and political independence. The centuries-old history of the knot with Spain shows that Catalonia has not achieved, as of 2017, independence either, but it has sufficient capacity to destabilize the State, as has been shown in the confrontation that the independence movement has practiced without success or in the response judicial that the government of Rajoy executed uselessly.
The virulent rhetoric about the two visions of Spain is not new. In the ephemeral Cortes of 1851, the deputy and military officer Joan Prim Prats, a hero from Castillejos and born in Reus, spoke with very thick words: “If you want to continue the policy of Felipe V, of ominous memory, be in good time and be completely … and if this is not enough, let Catalonia be cut down and destroyed and sown with salt like the cursed city; because in this way and only in this way will you bend our neck … ”.
Cambó expressed himself in a softer tone in December 1935 when the autonomy statute was suspended as a result of Companys’ coup against the Republic, on October 6, 1934: “Because you have no illusions. This Parliament will pass, all the parties represented here will disappear, regimes will fall and the fact of Catalonia will subsist ”.
Macià, Prat de la Riba and Cambó expressed it from a Catalan attitude and culture conservative while Companys, Nicolau d’Olwer and Mayor Pi Su-nyer formulated it from Catalan center-left positions. The Austrian Sieberer also points out that “the real causes of failure were internal dissensions and an unusual lack of organization.” Not much progress has been made on this.
I am left with the words of Pasqual Maragall shortly after Barcelona obtained the Olympic Games in 1986: “I want to make one thing very clear: the Games are not a threat to the Catalan nature of our country, but an opportunity for us to put to the test the creative capacity we have ”.
It is time, I think, to redirect the energies that the country has while politicians from here and there, willingly or not, seek formulas of coexistence and respect that could be summarized in the Ortega involvement. I don’t aspire to much more.
That Barcelona regain a place on the podium of the leadership of a pioneering city in Europe, that research be encouraged, that the university is not run by exclusive circles, that society recover the vital breath that has always characterized it, including good taste, that we stop seeing enemies in whom they think differently, that a fairer country be built to counteract the rampant inequalities that surround us. That Spain does not kidnap Catalonia, but also that half of the Catalans are kidnapped by the other half. It is difficult, not impossible.