José Antonio Zarzalejos
10/17/2019 05:00 – Updated: 10/17/2019 11:56 – EFE
The newspapers of the City of Barcelona, in their printed edition, were very expressive on Wednesday. ‘El Periódico’ titled full page “The CDRs bring chaos to the center of Barcelona” and “La Vanguardia”, in five columns, “Pitched battle in Barcelona”. The alarm in the face of the clear vandalism in the events occurred on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, was not a deceptive artifice of the Madrid press – especially the one aligned with the right – but of the most important media in Catalonia.
Those headlines about “chaos” and the “pitched battle” in the streets of the Catalan capital not only respond to the reality of what happened but also to a historical reverberation very present in the illustrated classes of the country, those who know, through studies or by oral transmission of fears of family devils, the Catalan past.
Separatism in Catalonia since the beginning of the last century has been a movement colonized by anarchism, which at the same time represent the ‘anti-system’ groups, those that, like opportunistic infections in organisms with low defenses, cause authentic social and political sepsis of an opportunistic nature.
The pro-sovereignty ‘procés’ has long since escaped from the hands of those who promoted it and has led to another erratic and schizophrenic process (it is about destroying the system from the institutions themselves) that causes a deep damage to all the interests of Catalonia (social, economic, cultural, emotional) and threatens the coexistence between the Catalans themselves and between them and the rest of the Spaniards. In addition, it has already been swallowed by interests conniving with the pro-independence side.
In that disorderly magma in which the political idiocy of a lesser but nefarious man such as Quim Torra – ventriloquist of the escaped to Waterloo – prevails, the vein of crashing the system has been infiltrated; it has already knocked down the Barcelona bourgeoisie, which was the genuine power in Catalonia, always far from another power, the one held by the State; the Catalan idiosyncrasy understands it badly and manages it worse. That’s how it has gone for them.
The sovereignty ‘procés’ has denigrated the reputation of the historical institutions of Catalan self-government; and now it aspires to install the street protest through that unacceptable oxymoron of ‘peaceful violence’, which some radicalized minorities in finalist symbiosis with the separatism are already in charge of applying it in real practice; in the first decades of the last century it led Catalonia to that same ‘chaos’ lived 24 hours ago in the center of Barcelona. And it presents all the revolutionary features that the remains of the country’s high middle class in power have identified with a paralyzing fear.
We must use history to understand, at least in part, what is happening in Catalonia. Nothing better than to use ‘News of Catalonia’ (*), by Jaume Vicens Vives, who – like other illustrious Catalan thinkers and humanists – offers here and now a special validity. Vicens Vives wrote in that cult work: “The fact that Catalonia has lived in the last five centuries — exactly, since 1462— 11 revolutions of general importance (…) is a record of a certain entity. Castilla has only known nine; France, seven; the Netherlands, four, and England, three”. The author documented in his work, dating them, those revolutionary milestones, chronologically placing three in the Catalonia of the last century: 1909, 1934 and 1936-39. It is very possible that we are these days – perhaps for a longer time – in the twelfth Catalan revolution.
Why this drive of an important sector of the citizens of Catalonia towards social and political upheaval, on the other hand repeatedly failed? Vicens Vives makes it clear to us: “When we have refused to budge, it has not been possible to move forward or backward. We have become obsessed and prepared to give the kicks of the ‘rauxa [fury]’. This has been an evil throughout our collective life, because it has been an attitude contrary to our tradition in favor of deals and has prepared the advent of the ‘all or nothing”.
The famous historian does not end there: “Much more serious still, because from a political point of view, generally, we have said enough! at the worst moment, when the situation was unfavorable to us, when the sweet spot of our strength or our reason had passed. The weakening of the seny [common sense] in the ruling classes is to be blamed for this lack of success, without a doubt. However, it is a characteristic fact without which the explanation of the main facets of the Catalan mentality would be incomplete”.
In Catalonia, and I say it with the respect that societies housing a complex of insurmountable irredentism deserve, they have been unable to know for centuries how to translate into a solid and permanent socio-political formula the ‘will to be’ which, also according to Vicens Vives, is their “primary motivation”. Although it could be assumed that the most fertile historical era has been that of its self-government under the 1978 Constitution that Catalan society itself propelled. Again, as if Sisyphus were Catalan, this achievement wastes away by bringing about this new postmodern revolution, a seismic replica of a good people with the bad luck of having inadequate leaders in the crucial moments of its history.
(*) ‘Noticia de Cataluña’ (Editorial Destino. 2012. Prólogo de José Enrique Ruiz-Domènech).