Interview with Anna Grau
Journalist, writer, member of the Catalan Parliament for Ciudadanos, pre-candidate for Barcelona City Council. She has just published “Carta a mi padre independentista” (Letter to my pro-independence father) (Editorial Almuzara). She has also participated in “Los catalanes si tenemos Rey”.
What would you recommend, at this point, Nicolas Machiavelli to confront, deactivate or dodge the Catalan nationalist artifact?
I regret to say that there is no longer an easy solution. For a long time, it was ignored that there was a serious problem in Catalonia. When it was no longer ignored, it was pretended that it was only a Catalan problem. Now, it has become clear that it is a problem that threatens democratic stability. This polarisation we are experiencing has been our daily bread for at least fifteen years in Catalonia. At this point, there are no easy solutions. Just like, for example, the victory of Ciudadanos, on 27 December 1997. It was a step, and we have to continue working, building… It is a mistake to take this lightly, to change political cards with it, not to realise where we could end up. Because mistakes are paid for, not only at a legal or political level, but also in terms of human coexistence.
What makes it so difficult to take the Catalan independence bull by the horns?
Technically, we are in a democracy, but I believe that Catalan and Spanish democracy has suffered a lot in recent years. It’s time for an MOT. The enemies of the ’78 regime speak with great effrontery, saying things like “I didn’t vote for the Constitution”, “I didn’t vote for the King”. I didn’t vote for Pablo Iglesias either and I have to eat it. Democracy must be strengthened, democracy must be rebuilt, starting by changing the electoral law. We have a perverse electoral law that favours a lame, eternally dependent two-party system. I do not want a PSOE in the hands of Bildu or Esquerra, nor a PP in the hands of Vox. And it is not because I want to disqualify either party. I was saddened when PP and PSOE agreed to legalise Bildu. Once it is legal, it is in the institutions and must be accepted. But the electoral law favours unfair parliamentary representations, detrimental to the majority of citizens who want to live in peace and democracy. Every day in Catalonia I see the Procés supporters claiming for democracy, which they do not apply to their fellow citizens. Because if you are Catalan and not “pro-process”, your hair falls out. I would also ask citizens to penalise certain things. I am surprised at the impunity with which electoral commitments are breached.
In any case, the sun of democracy does not seem to be shining particularly brightly in the wide world.
Liberal democracies are a minority in the world. Anti-democratic regimes overwhelm us numerically. I have been signing a petition calling for the Iranian footballer, who has stood up for the women of his country, not to be executed. These things are our daily bread. It means that democracy is shrinking in the world and where it still reigns, technically, it is getting weaker by the day. This must be of concern to people interested in politics and also in its survival. For the welfare state that we still enjoy, though far from perfect and deteriorating, without democracy is going down the drain. If the last bastion of democracy falls, we will return to the Middle Ages in social terms: very rich and very poor.
Isn’t the Monarchy-Republic dichotomy of Catalan nationalism another incantation, especially harmful?
It is a false debate, because it is not up to the people whether they prefer one form of state or the other. Of the Republicans I know, 2%, let’s say, are sincere; they would really prefer the Republic in Spain. The rest, since they are against the state and it happens to be a parliamentary monarchy, are republicans. If it were a Republic, they would probably be monarchists. When I was young, without taking it too much to heart, I was more of a republican. That view has changed radically, at least in Spain. Political formulas are not bad or good, but in the environment in which they are produced. For example, open lists. They may be a very good idea, perhaps in Finland, but in Spain they could generate Cainite confrontations within the parties themselves. The King of Spain, Felipe VI, is a figure that gives constitutional stability to a system that tends towards instability, disintegration, and the crushing of minorities by majorities. Many of those in Catalonia who claim to be republicans are pursuing the destruction of Spain.
The “Procés” has not fallen like dew in spring. It has a precedent, paved with opportunism, interests, blurring of focus…, which is very difficult to accept…
Catalonia emerged from Francoism in an anomalous situation. At a time when everyone was voting for the left, which dominated the universities, the media, Barcelona City Council…, the anomaly of Pujolism arose. Something that was not in the script, and which meant that for many years we lived in a kind of dual Catalonia, in which half was socialist (in the general elections, the great victories of Felipe González), and the other half nationalist, Catalanist (Autonomous Regions) and the PP simply did not exist. For years, that was bearable. He could be liked more or less, but the biggest problem with Pujol was that he was a carca, stale, boring and with a Carlist streak. Over time, this degenerates. On the one hand, nationalism without Pujol realised that to maintain its hegemony it had to radicalise and, tragically, the PSOE and the PP, each in their own way, decided that it was easier to make a pact with it than to confront it. This gave rise to the “Procés”, which is something already separate from the original ideology. The “Procés” is a machine for mincing political flesh, for hegemonies, a work of social engineering, designed to destroy anything that is put in front of them, and that is where we are.
And what can we say about the chrematistic side of the “Procés”? Is it a determining factor in trying to understand it?
The canonical idea we have of the Catalan bourgeoisie, as it appears in the novels of Agustí or Marsé, does not exist today. Nationalism has been a movement of the middle classes, middle-classes, and consumers, who are trying to enrich themselves with the “Procés”. Although it is also true that there are some big Catalan families that prospered under Franco and have joined the bandwagon. Social inequality is neither created nor destroyed, it is transformed. But the “Procés” has created an army of profiteers, money-grabbers, and climbers, who have made their fortune from it. Pujol himself was not rich, he was not part of the Catalan “crosteta”. These people are the scariest because they never have enough. Now, there are businesses and professions in Catalonia in which, if you are not with the “Procés”, it is better not to signify yourself, because they will sink you. Hence the seriousness of the change in the crime of embezzlement, which is more serious than sedition. Distinguishing embezzlement without a profit motive from the other is not easy to grasp. Stealing to set up a corrupt clientelist network that guarantees the maintenance of power, regardless of winning or losing elections, is an attack on democracy.
Does the old “Spain robs us” seem to be “agiornando” with “Madrid robs us”?
I have lived in Madrid for 14 years, and I have to admit that the Madrid economy works better than the Catalan one. The comparative grievance comes from a raging inferiority complex. If Catalonia was once the economic locomotive of Spain, it is no longer so. It lags behind other territories, not just Madrid. To look at Madrid and say that it is a doped-up economy seems stupid to me. Madrid is governed by a woman who is forgotten by the national government, and who I don’t think is in favour of giving her perks. Madrid gives tax rebates that Catalonia could also do. Of course, Diaz Ayuso’s policies have lights and shadows. There is still a lot of corruption, unexplained privatisations… Only in Catalonia is it comparable what is spent on advertising and buying wills in the media, for example.
Isn’t the, shall we say, deficit of political representation in Catalonia striking?
Yes, and tackling it involves reforming the electoral system, as I said. And I think we can get out of this. In the last regional elections, there was a large abstention rate in Catalonia. We have to recover it, do things right, apologise for our mistakes and speak out.