Juan-José López Burniol, 18 November 2023
Ballesteros / Efe
In an article entitled “And the State was still there” (5/II/2018), Santos Juliá wrote: “Ever since it burst onto the scene, back in the last decade of the 19th century, a constant feature of political Catalanism has been its propensity to take a step forward whenever it perceived a weakness, a crisis, in the Spanish State (…) Catalanism has never renounced its idea that any advance in Catalonia’s autonomy was a concession wrested from a weak State”. Today, political Catalanism has largely become separatist, as it has become aware of the growing weakness of the Spanish state, accentuated under the ignorant Zapatero, increased by the passive Rajoy and culminated with Sánchez, who has sold amnesty to the Catalan separatists in exchange for the lentils of his investiture.
Have we thus reached the end of the road that leads to the independence of Catalonia and the communities that dare to follow her? Some think so, but perhaps they are mistaken for confusing the nation with the State. Because it is true that the State appears to be in tatters, due to the mistreatment it has suffered at the hands of those who had the greatest obligation to defend it, and who have instrumentalised and betrayed it for their own benefit and that of their party.
But the nation – the Spanish nation – is not yet inert. The poet who called Spain “morta” (dead) was wrong, just as those who, seeing their state humiliated and in the hands of politicians who sell it out, consider the road to separation to be open.
Along these lines, it is clear to me that after the amnesty – a surrender of the state to those who carried out a coup against it – will come the exaltation of plurinationality (Otegi is clear about this). That is, when Catalonia, Euskadi, Navarre, Galicia and tutti quanti feel up to it, they will proclaim themselves – through the mouths of their respective nationalists – as political nations (not only historical and cultural), while denying Spain’s status as a nation, claiming that it is only a state.
And, therefore, they will say that the current autonomous state, rejected as an ill-fitting imitation of a federation, must be replaced by a confederal structure which, once established, will have to leave the door open to the self-determination of the “true” nations. All of this will take place in the form of a transition, that is to say, “from law to law”, with the technical assistance of the progressive majority of the Constitutional Court.
The King serves the continuity of the nation – with dignity, efficiency, and good style.
But perhaps this is not the case. Some historians raise the question of whether, in Spain, the state or the nation is weak. I am clear: the state is weak, and the nation is strong. Spain is a nation “de tomo y lomo” with an iron bad health. So much so that its strength has historically managed to compensate for the fragility of its state. A state “more or less liberal, characterised by its unpredictability, slowness, poverty and timidity”, as Manuel Azaña defined it in his first text on “the Catalan question”, published in 1918.
And how did the Spanish nation manage to survive despite the successive crises of its state? Because of the stubborn adherence of the majority of its citizens to an idea of Spain understood as a cultural and political community shaped by geography and a shared history, whose most radical manifestation is to constitute a sphere of immediate solidarity. And it is this firm and sustained underlying national reality that will perhaps enable the State to democratically overcome the serious risk it finds itself in today, if a part of its voter’s abandon, those who have abandoned the defence of Spain against those who want to destroy it out of weakness.
On the day of Princess Leonor’s swearing-in, this national support came to the fore in the endless applause that followed her oath. Hence the importance of the Spanish constitutional monarchy today as a factor of national cohesion: the King serves the continuity of the Spanish nation with dignity, efficiency, good style, and strict adherence to the Constitution. Therefore, let us look to the future with great courage: helping to forge it is everyone’s task.