By Antonio Roig – November 19, 2019
It is convenient from time to time to stop on this hectic road we are forced to travel through, and look back to see where we come from and what brought us here. No, I am not talking about the ubiquitous procés, but about one of its arteries (or its DNA, as you prefer): linguistic immersion.
With the arrival of democracy and the restoration of Catalan institutions and the Statute, work began jointly for the recovery of the Catalan language. The first step of this process, apart from advertising campaigns of doubtful success and sure bad taste, was the Linguistic Normalization Act of 1983, the result of an effort by all political groups to find ways to agree on an issue that was already thorny (it is enough to remember the extreme virulence with which the Manifesto of the 2300, for the equality of linguistic rights, of 1981 was received by Catalanism).
For that Law and perhaps trying to follow the model of the 2nd Republic, CiU planned a double route: school in Catalan and school in Spanish. On the contrary, the leftist parties PSC and PSUC condemned what they called school “segregation” and sought a unitary public school with a balanced treatment of the two languages. Consensus was reached and the Law was passed with 133/135 votes in favor (of CiU, PSC, PSUC, UCD) and only 2 against (of the Andalusian Socialist Party, disappeared in the next legislature).
This legislative piece condemned the “segregation”, established (without quotas) the coexistence of Catalan and Spanish, languages whose mastering was considered the objective of primary and secondary education, and the right to first education in the mother tongue of each. However, it established from the outset that the Catalan language was the fundamental element of the education of Catalonia. And, of course, all the guarantees for teaching Spanish disappeared in practice (and very quickly).
Immersion was still absent from the legislative landscape. It was limited to different experiments in some schools that had been initiated prior to the approval of this Law. The prominent role of the PSUC in the adoption of the immersion system in a few schools in Santa Coloma de Gramanet, a city with abundant working class population arrived from the rest of Spain. Families were encouraged to request this type of school because it was considered to be the best system for the integration of Spanish-speaking population segments and to avoid the appearance of ghettos. An alleged tool to facilitate the “social lift” and cohesion.
The PSUC achieved a good number of applicants, thanks to the presence of that party in the most politically restless social fabric of Catalan society since the last years of the Dictatorship. The Communist Party had been the most active party against Franco’s regime (if not the only one), especially its Catalan branch, the PSUC.
Its strategy in the 60s and 70s was to seek an alliance with all opposition forces (although they belonged to the bourgeoisie, as prescribed by Berlinguer, Carrillo and Marchais as a model) and to penetrate and assume positions of responsibility in all social structures: unions, neighborhood movements, and associations of all kinds. Proof of the intimacy and effectiveness of this penetration are the names of some of its members (and their current drift): Raül Romeva, Muriel Casals, Oriol Bohigas, Borja de Riquer, Xavier Folch …
The PSC, on the other hand, was the result of the merger of two Catalan socialist conglomerates with the Catalan Federation of the PSOE, a merger that occurred in a congress in 1978. Due to its conglomerate nature, progressive forces of bourgeois character, catalanist forces and the workers. It is noteworthy how, for many years, the same as detected in the Catalan Parliament and other institutions was reproduced in the party structure. The most representative positions were covered by Catalan surnames from the bourgeoisie (the Maragall, Moles, Castells, Obiols, …), while the surnames of Spanish origin (the Corbacho, Zaragoza, Montilla, …) abounded in middle management and in the basic militancy.
As of the approval of the Law on Standardization, immersion tests are extended. CiU leaves the linguistic policy in the hands of Joaquim Arenas, a fundamentalist of the language, former director of Òmnium, whom it places in the direction of the SEDEC (Servei d’Educació de Catalunya). Under his baton the monolingualism of Catalan and the marginalization of Spanish will progressively grow. Various decrees deepened in that direction and extended the immersion to de facto cover the entire educational system. To overcome legal difficulties, they used the strategy of always going with the decrees one step ahead of the laws. All this in the face of passivity or ignorance of central governments (of all colors).
In 1990 the Organic Law of General Planning of the Educational System (LOGSE) was approved. CiU, together with the PSC, ERC and IC (the PSUC had dissolved) developped and approved in 1995 a modification of the first Standardization Law with the excuse of adapting it to the LOGSE, but which was actually aimed at strengthening and expanding the coercive measures in favor of Catalan. In this so-called General Plan for Linguistic Normalization it was established that Catalan, as Catalonia’s own language, is also the language of education, and it was passed that “it will normally be used as a teaching and learning language in compulsory pre-school, primary and secondary education”.
As if that were not enough, the method of individualized attention was introduced as the procedure to teach literacy to those who requested the first teaching in Spanish, (separating them in a corner of the class). Even the possibility of sanctioning those who could commit linguistic offenses was advanced, because the Plan covered all sectors of life, overflowing the strict scope of education.
In 1998, the Language Policy Law was passed, in which the fundamental elements of the mentioned Plan acquired the range of legal requirements. The “linguistic fines” are also released, a device aimed at universalizing the labeling in Catalan in the private sphere.
The cycle, in relation to the language, closes in 2009 with the Law of Education of Catalonia (LEC), at the initiative of Ernest Maragall. In the words of Antonio Robles, in his well-known parliamentary discourse of criticism of the Law, “the articles of this Law are directly political, not educational”. Ten years after its approval, the Assembly for a Bilingual School (AEB) held that it was “the cornerstone on which a school exploitation and indoctrination regime has been built”. It was the components of the tripartite, supposedly from the left, PSC, with ERC and IC, who promoted this project.
Not content with this, the PSC forced the PSOE in 2017 to vote for an ERC motion in the Congress to defend “the Catalan school model” and express support for linguistic immersion.
And, in each of these historical landmarks have been the PSC and the various formations on its left unconditionally betting on a model that was not theirs. It does not serve to favor the social lift (because it does not even work as such in the structure of those same parties, nor in that of the autonomous Parliament); it violates the rights of Spanish speakers in Catalonia and contradicts the recommendations of experts in education and those of UNESCO. In short, a system that harms the working classes they claim to defend (although, of course, our domestic socialists never boasted of the ‘O’ in Obrero).
In February 2018, Joaquim Coll said in an article in El País that “monolingualism was not the model of left-wing Catalanism, but the result of nationalist hegemony”. This seems to be what it was, but it cannot be denied that, afterwards, the left embraced the Catalan monolingualism with fervor and has applauded each and every one of the links in this chain that leads to the unique language (including fines to merchants who do not label in the language of the empire). Perhaps because in their ranks the nationalist factor weighs more than the left. Joaquim Nadal, former mayor of Gerona and leader of the PSC for a few years, said it bluntly, “I am, first, Catalan [in the sense of Catalanist, of course], and then, socialist”. The concerns for cohesion and the social lift were sincere? Were they not unfocused by a biased perspective of society and the problem? Were they not a sign of paternalism? Why, instead of seeking the adaptation of those workers’ segments to Catalan society, they did not focus on correcting disruptive factors that prevented or hindered (read also here, prevent or hinder) their full integration?
That is why, sheep friends, forget about the wolf, an occasional and sporadic danger, and be safe from the shepherds, who seem to take care of you and be concerned about you, but who, in reality, are preparing a tragic destiny for you.
Antonio Roig, of the Association for Tolerance
Marta Mata, from her memories of a Republican girl (quote from José García Domínguez) «My experience is that of learning in both languages without any conflict. The teacher addressed the child in the student’s family language, and in terms of reading and writing there were schools that did one week in Catalan and one in Spanish, there were also other schools that did it every other day, in some cases they taught in the morning in one language and in the afternoon in the other”.
Pau Rodríguez on Eldiario.es (2018)
“The parties then agreed on two of the pillars of the Catalan school system until today: no segregation of students and mastery of both languages”.
The myth of the PSUC, Realitat magazine (September 2015)
“The struggle for language, culture and Catalan institutions, pursued by dictatorship, was integrated into the party’s discourse, although, as a Communist Party, the base of the PSUC was the working class of Barcelona and the industrial belt, a mostly immigrant population for whom Catalan was not the mother tongue. During the last stage of the PSUC in the hiding, intellectual figures of the Catalan well-off bourgeoisie entered the party, which they perceived as the main democratic organization against the dictatorship. The coincidence of the PSUC with the pacifist movements against the Vietnam War or the May 68 revolts in France made it possible that, in spite of the hiding, the party would become a true mass party”.
“Those who claim the PSUC for its integrating role of the immigrant population should remember that the linguistic immersion defended and invented by the PSUC was always accompanied by a fierce defense of the public school and an attack on the system of concerted schools promoted by CiU”.