Spain's Secret Conflict

Thanks to Catalonia Direct, I've just seen a documentary on Spain's relationship with Catalunya. It's well worth watching, including interviews with some big hitters.

Although it's only just been put online, it appears to have been made early in 2010, for the referendum in Arenys de Munt was in September 2009. Since then there have been several more rounds of these unofficial referendums the length and breadth of Catalunya, with the biggest in Barcelona in April this year. I wrote about it here.

Some people will also recognize Matthew Tree, an Englishman who has lived in Catalunya for over twenty five years. I've already featured an essay and a talk he's given about his impressions of the strained relationship between Catalunya and Spain, particularly in terms of differing attitudes and identities:

     Life on the Receiving End
     Catalunya: The Future is Another Country

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Anonymous said...

I found the former Prime Minister, Aznar's comments that there was no Spanish nationalism quite incredible. This is the common assertion of nation-state banal nationalism. That is, Spanish is the norm, for other nations within the state to strive for the same normalicy is called 'nationalism'.

He just doesn't get it, does he. Nor does his party. The scary thing is that it looks almost certain that his party, the PP, will be in power ion 2012.

Things will be very interesting then especially as the elections for the Basque Autonomous Community will be in 2013 if I'm correct. Wonder if the PP (and Labour,PSOE) will try and ban parties again to gerrymander a win Euskadi?

Unknown said...

"I found the former Prime Minister, Aznar's comments that there was no Spanish nationalism quite incredible. This is the common assertion of nation-state banal nationalism. That is, Spanish is the norm, for other nations within the state to strive for the same normalicy is called 'nationalism'."

Exactly. And British nationalism- which has a death count of hundreds of thousands if not millions in its conquests around the globe- is not seen as nationalism at all, but we are instead the fanatics for wanting recognition and self-determination.

MH said...

I don't want to defend Aznar's obvious double standards, but I wonder how much it is a blind spot. I think attitudes are so ingrained in the establishments of both Spain and Britain that the only way "nationalism" makes sense to them is in an exclusive, xenophobic way ... as we see exemplified by the BNP. So they choose to use other words like national unity and "Britishness" instead.

What I find much more disturbing is his idea that Spain has been "weakened unnecessarily in recent years", and the talk about winding things back to create a re-centralized Spain. After all, that's exactly what happened when Spain declared sections of Catalunya's new Statute of Autonomy to be unconstitutional, even though they had been approved by the Spanish government and in a referendum.

I can't say whether the "man in the street" reactions are typical, but it seems that there is plenty of sentiment that sees Spain's strength and unity as being more important than democracy. Things in Spain are tough now, but the next year or so is going to be even tougher, and I really wonder if citizens there would tolerate the same sort of austerity cuts as have been enforced on Greece if Spain is the next country to be baled out. There is a chance that a very right-wing, anti Europe party might be elected. The PP are bad enough, but they're pussy cats compared with some of the alternatives.


As for the election to the Basque Parliament in 2013, it's worth remembering that Bildu would have remained banned if the PSOE hadn't needed the votes of the EAJ-PNV to avoid an early election being called. The Constitutional Tribunal is more political than judicial. But the situation will be different after 2012, and if their votes aren't needed, the Spanish might well find a pretext for another ban. The situation is precarious. One terrorist attack by a rogue section of ETA could put everything back.

If I had any influence, I'd get ETA to unilaterally disarm, so as to remove any grounds for more bans. I'd then go into the 2013 election with the aim of declaring independence. There'd be a huge row, but the Basques are in the fortunate position of collecting their own taxes, therefore they can keep society running (paying the police, teachers, hospital staff, etc.) for as long as the stand off lasts, and long enough for a confirmatory referendum to be held under the auspices of the EU. As Spain will be heavily in debt and dependent on the EU for affordable borrowing, they won't be in a position to argue.


Going back to Catalunya, one of the "grievances" of the Spanish mentioned quite a few times in the film is that all state funded education in Catalunya is in Catalan. Only a couple of days ago the Spanish Supreme Court reconfirmed an earlier judgement that this is unconstitutional. Education is completely devolved to Catalunya, so this will be seen by the Catalans as one more attempt to redefine the constitution.

Anonymous said...

MH - you're being too kind to Anznar! Yes, it is a blind spot and it's a sentiment which is totally natural to him. So was casual racism in the USA in the 1950s among some.

Aznar, and others in the UK, France etc have a table of nations:

'Pproper' nations - France, Spain, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and possibly Poland (a bit problematic as it 'didn't exist' for a century or so).

Second league then, 'Proper but Small' - Sweden, Greece, Denmark etc. There's OK, but should know their place i.e. not vote 'no' in EU referenda, be content to be another 'proper states' near abroad.

Third division - 'Funny States'. Mostly 'newly' independent (which Spain tried to avoid recognising) - Estonia, Slovakia (never the Czech Republic, though for some reason), Slovenia etc. The 'Proper States' would prefere they weren't independent as it makes the map to complicated and it's a hassle and gives the lower countries the wrong idea and ideas above their station. They're tolerated and patronised but shouldn't push their luck.

Fourth Division - And then there are the confusing nations within nation states. These are 'Regions' or 'So called...' These fourth division are only just tolerated and must confirm to the proper state and preferably be in the image of the proper state - accept their language, vote for the same parties, profess allegance to the state (despite at which was done in the name of the state against them).

One of the best quotes I've seen on this 'blind spot' is by the radical and controversial Jewish thinker, poet, agitator Jabotinski when he specifically singled out the Baltic States in the Hebrew newspaper Doar HaYom in 1930:

"The world does not love small states. From time to time, when one of the great European newspapers mentions one of the small states, and especially those created after the war,... the writer's face gets all wrinkled and he curses why the world has become "Balkanized". Or else he puts on a serious scientific face and proves that the small states "are not able to exist", because previously when they were districts in one of the large states, they enjoyed a "hinterland" which they now lack."

As for education in Catalonia. It's the same blind spot. Never mind that kids leave school in Catalonia fluent in Catalan and Spanish the real offence is the Spanishness claims sovereignty over Catalonia and so Catalonia should be Spain, or, in the image of Spain.


Anonymous said...

Macsen has a point on the status of nations. Look close to home. When Nick Bourne (supposedly moderately pro-devolution or pro-Welsh) led the Tories he frequently used derogatory remarks about Eastern European nations (even calling them the 'Eastern Bloc') to negatively compare Wales' fortunes to them. Obviously Wales' fortunes aren't great, but the inference was that "we're doing EVEN worse than those crappy, impoverished, backward Eastern Europeans". The Welsh Tories may have nice logos and the occasional David Melding but they are an imperialistic party. The only way to oppose these attitudes is to be sure of where we stand as Welsh nationalists. I won't be able to suffer another Welsh nationalist using in print or in media the word "we" to describe Britain or things that are British. Before we free Wales we'll have to free our minds.

Unknown said...

For Unionists everywhere, it s a fundamental, core belief that the unitary state is inviolable. Like fundamentalist religionists their core belief is beyond question, and they become quite aggressive and incoherent when it is questioned. They don't even recognise them as beliefs - for them they are FACTS.

What we have to do is to find a way to make THEM recognise those as what they are - beliefs.

Once they they have done that it is far easier to influence them and get them to challenge those beliefs, and perhaps even change them.

It appears that this is as true in Spain as it is in Wales.

Anonymous said...

My criteria for the 'legitimacy' of a nation seeking independence and secceeding from a state is this.

1. Was that nation/national community occupying that piece of territory before the creation of the (nation)state?

In the case of the Basques for instance, well, as a pre-Indo European national community, then, it's obvious they predated the Spanish state (unified in 1492 or 1714 depending how you view it) by thousands of years. So, yes, they have a moral right to secceed.

2. I would put a caveat. If that national community has been in the territory of the (nation)state after that state was created and/or if that national community is there because as a remnant of the former colonial power, then that national community doesn't have the right to secceed from the (nation)state.

I would include in this category the Russian minorities in the Baltic for instance or even, were it to come to that, the Spanish minority in Catalonia (were they to create an enclave).


MH said...

Interesting Macsen. The rule of thumb I've developed doesn't depend on history. I would say that any defined territory has the right to become independent if the majority of people who live there want it (the obvious exception would be if the population had been displaced by force, and a new population settled in its place).

However that territory must do it as a whole, not in part; and it applies only to independence, not to becoming part of another country. For a territory to become part of another country it would need the consent of both countries involved, as well as the people in the territory concerned.

I think that this answers the same questions that you have addressed. The trouble with history is that it is sometimes going to more subjective than objective.

Candide said...

When you say documentary, you might imply that this is a journalistic piece.

Far from it! It's simple political propaganda. I think I made that very clear on my blog.

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