22 October 2021 by Francesc Trillas
Image: Susana Alonso
The historian Timothy Snyder, in his book “The Road to Unfreedom” (translated by Galaxia Gutenberg as “El camino hacia la no libertad”) coins the concept of schizo-fascism to refer to the tendency of some illiberal nationalist sectors in Russia to call anyone who does not agree with their ideas (or who “attacks” the Russian homeland) a fascist, to the point, he explains, that in the Russian language it is practically considered a grammatical error to imagine that a Russian could be a fascist: “for the schizo-fascists, fascism was a substance of the dissolute outside world that threatened the virginal Russian organism”.
Moreover, the author of the intellectual biography of Albert O. Hirschman, Michele Alacevich, reminds us that in the 1930s, precisely when real fascism was lurking more menacingly than ever, some communists began to call the Social Democrats, the main party (to which Hirschman belonged) of opposition to Nazism, “social-fascists”.
We can conclude that the cheap recourse to the fascist insult has not been invented in Catalonia, but has a long tradition, combining high doses of intolerance, profound ignorance and an immoral trivialisation of real fascism.
But the last few days have seen examples in Catalonia of a trend that has been growing in recent years, coinciding with the ecstasy of identity politics in the last decade. The attack on a group of people from the “S’Ha Acabat” group at my university, the UAB, who were simply trying to express their opinions (I don’t care what they are) in the main square of the campus, is yet another episode of schizo-fascism, of using practices akin to fascism to the cry of “fascists! The reaction of my university’s governing team is a shameful example of how to perpetuate an environment where schizo-fascists are made to look easy, instead of fighting them with the law in the name of reason and democracy.
Another recent example is a poster by Arran, the youth group of the CUP, which reads in large letters “Independence is Anti-Fascism”. It is easy to interpret the message as “whoever is not like us is a fascist”. Ignoring the fact that there are fascist pro-independence supporters (with whom the CUP has no objection to investing governments in the Catalan Parliament, while signing a cordon sanitaire against social democracy), and that there have been in the past (in some cases honoured by a president of the Generalitat, also invested by the CUP). And forgetting that there is not only a large majority of people who are not pro-independence and who are not fascists, but who have a history behind them of risky struggle (so yes) against fascism. And, of course, ignoring the fact that many Catalan families who today embrace independence supported Spanish fascism. Their descendants are not to blame but remembering their families’ past should be an incentive for them to be very aware of what has happened in this country, and to be very respectful of those who did fight against fascism.
Added to this is a climate of growing linguistic intolerance (among other variants of intolerance) on the part of minorities who now believe themselves to be very powerful, but who ignore or do not want to see that the urban areas of Catalonia are multilingual, that Spanish is the most widely spoken language in Catalonia, and that this is not only not incompatible with the promotion of Catalan, but that linguistic coexistence has been a source of cultural and economic wealth for the last 40 years. Just as Trump’s “America First” has mutated into “Save America”, “Fem un país lliure” seems to have mutated for more than one into “Catalunya pels catalans”.
Low-intensity violence is entrenched in Catalonia and continues to include, if not on a daily basis, then on a weekly basis, threats and targeting of political party headquarters, social networks, and other platforms. It is worth not overlooking these episodes and denouncing them as acts of intimidation and intolerance, and not watering them down in a broader context (“we must not forget that the others…” and blah blah blah). There is no excuse for not condemning them. In a democracy there is no provocation, there is freedom of expression for everyone. Acts of totalitarianism must not be forgotten. Lest one day the violence ceases to be of low intensity, as has already happened several times in our history.