Lluís Bassets – 30 August 2020
Quim Torra and Carles Puigdemont in Colliure in front of Machado’s tomb. @QUIMTORRAIPLA
Ideas, already very scarce, usually count for little. When they do, they are usually poor and usually useless. They are displayed as delimited, defined, tangible objects, instead of evanescent shadows such as those seen at the bottom of the Platonic cave. What counts are the words, which are the ones that make nebulous ideas live as if they were very real bulwarks. And in terms of words, we have to admit that the era has given us real artists. Politics is done with words, stories, conceptual frameworks, that is, a lot of noise for nothing, pure chimeras.
One of the masters in this matter is the fugitive and exiled president, with memoirs under his arm, and his last sentence pronounced as an exorcism to dominate the exconvergent space and win Esquerra Republicana. According to Puigdemont, what is needed is a “smart confrontation” with the state, and that’s it. It will work as a slogan and has already worked as a newspaper headline, the main specialty of the former editor of El Punt Diari.
Assuming its functionality, the phrase demands a little more attention. Although everyone understands this, it is not clear what this “smart confrontation” means. Does that mean the confrontation of recent years has been stupid? Many think so, inside and outside of independence, and if that were the case, it would be the first step in a new self-critical attitude. Puigdemont’s immediate predecessor, Artur Mas, advocated a cunning confrontation with the state, although his cunning eventually had little recourse, and cannot properly be regarded as a great manifestation of intelligence. In any case, it would be good to know when the stupidity began and if Puigdemont considers that his decisions, especially the last one to make the unilateral declaration of independence and then flee hidden in the trunk of a car, is one of the stupidities that have characterized the process.
Some may conclude, probably hastily, that confrontations are welcome if in the end they are all intelligent. There are many others who dislike it. The smart confrontation sounds like a cheating trick, as was the referendum with guarantees, in which the guarantees were not compliance with international rules to hold a referendum but the willingness of pro-independence militancy to be stunned by the police. If it is a type of confrontation like the ones we have seen so far, it will certainly not be smart, on the contrary, maximum guarantee of stubbornness and rudeness.
The strongest suspicion is that we are facing self-criticism in the classical Stalinist sense: it is the critique of Puigdemont and Torra to Esquerra Republicana and his hitherto frustrated move to lead the dialogue “with the state.” You want to dialogue, we want to confront. To say “intelligently” serves to sweeten the confrontation and to turn the dialogue into deception: Artur Mas and his cunning emerge again from the forest every time the ex-convergents show their teeth to those on the Left. He also adds an implicit element: this is what we, the intelligent lineage, the fish in the cove, the state deception and the cunning of the three presidents, Pujol, Mas and Puigdemont, have to address; not the unwary, frantic and confident Esquerra.
The semantic potential of the slogan does not end here. Smart confrontation is not the only contradiction of the sentence. Whether it is precisely a confrontation with the state, not with the government, the constitution or the monarchy, requires a little more attention. At some point there will be a linguist who will have to study what “the State” means in the use of the Catalan language for the last 50 years. Let us remember that for the official media, “the State” is also the euphemism for designating an entity, an idea, which a certain type of Catalan nationalism considers non-existent: we have state selections and statistics, we observe the map of the State , and we see how the time of the State evolves, rarities which, it seems, do not occur in any other language.
The suspicion, that only the couch of Dr. Freud would help us escape, is that where we say State we mean directly Spain, an entity in which we include everything: the Government, the Monarchy, the Army and the police, their institutions, the Constitution, and we do not include the Government of Catalonia and its president, “ordinary representative of the State in Catalonia”, because with the words we have already proceeded to make the separation that has not been achieved in the facts. To deny that Spain is also a nation, as Catalonia is, is one of the simple and probably useless ideas that underlie the current state of affairs. The reverse also happens and is also part of the conflict in question, in the end between two nationalisms each of a nation that wants to be unique and exclusive about its territory.
In the end, the intelligent confrontation with the State tells us that the foundation of this independence is the hatred of the idea of Spain as a nation, in the same way that the detestation of the national idea of Catalonia motivates the Spanish nationalism. They admit even less of two nationalisms that Catalonia and Spain can be plural nations, instead of round, exclusive and excluding nations. Seen this way, Puigdemont and Torra are right: only persistence in detesting the idea of Spain will allow the process to be continued until the end of time. Hate is what keeps him alive.
Those who should have a hand in this game and make advance their ideas are not the rigid supporters of exclusion and uniformity, neither Catalan nor Spanish, but the very few and weak supporters of plurality, liberalism and understanding.