1. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
It’s about democracy
Ferran Requejo. professor of Political Science at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF, Barcelona)
A few years ago, the United Nations clearly established that a politics
of recognition is an integral part of the struggle for human dignity
(Human Development Report, 2004). Moreover, it established that
national and cultural freedoms, which include both individual and
collective dimensions, are an essential part of the democratic quality
of a plurinational society. As a result, values such as dignity, freedom,
equality and pluralism become more complex in plurinational
contexts than in those of a uninational nature. The overall challenge of
plurinational democracies can be summed up in the phrase “one polity,
Secession is a potential institutional measure offered by democratic
theories and comparative politics in order to achieve the practical
accommodation of national pluralism. An established typology divides
theories of secession into two basic groups: Remedial Right Theories,
which link secession with a “just cause”, in other words, they regard secession as a remedy for specific
“injustices”; and Primary Right Theories, which regard secession as a right belonging to certain collectives that
fulfil a number of conditions. These latter theories are subdivided into those of an adscriptive or nationalist
nature and those of an associative or plebiscitary nature.
With regard to the Catalan-Spanish case, on the one hand, the central government and the main Spanish
political parties put forward reasons of a legal-constitutional nature to argue that it is not possible to enter into
a dynamic similar to that which occurred in the case of Quebec and Canada or the one that is currently taking
place in Scotland with regard to the United Kingdom. These are different situations, they say, which must be
approached in different ways. Moreover, a number of actors have employed arguments relating to the potential
economic decadence of an independent Catalonia or its automatic exclusion from the European Union. Thus
the two avenues chosen by those actors that reject the possibility of the independence of Catalonia and the
possibility of calling a referendum on the issue are that of the unconstitutionality of territorial separation, and
that of “fear” of the potential consequences that an independent Catalonia would have for the Catalan people.
On the other hand, the main Catalan actors put forward two kinds of legitimizing argument depending on
whether the aim is to justify the holding of a referendum on secession, or to justify the advisability of Catalonia
becoming an independent state. The fundamental reason used to justify the referendum is its democratic nature.
The prior assumption is that Catalonia is a specific demos that has the right to decide about its future according
to liberal-democratic rules. The differentiating roots of this demos are of a historical and national nature. Thus
the legitimizing arguments for the right to decide usually combine the perspective of adscriptive or national
theories of secession with the perspective of democratic and plebiscitary theories. The different advocates of
this position, both in the political sphere and in civil society, put different emphasis on these two avenues of
legitimation. In contrast, the legitimizing arguments in favour of independence –whether this is achieved by
means of a referendum or through alternative avenues such as a unilateral declaration of independence by the
Parliament of Catalonia– add to the two avenues mentioned earlier that associated with theories of just-cause
secession. In this case, “injustice” is present both in relation to the systematic mistreatment at the economic
and fiscal levels that Catalonia receives from the Spanish government (fiscal deficit of around 7%-10% of GDP),
lack of infrastructures, centralism with regard to Barcelona’s airport, harbour and other infrastructures, lack
of recognition of the distinct national reality of Catalan society, linguistic policies favouring Spanish to the
detriment of Catalan (absence of linguistic pluralism in state institutions and practices, etc), marginalization
of Catalonia from the European and international spheres, shortcomings in the use of political symbols (use of
flags, anthems, etc) in sporting competitions, etc. This avenue is reinforced by the traditional lack of inclination
displayed by Spanish institutions to reach agreements that permit recognition and political and constitutional
accommodation of the state’s national pluralism. The refusal to include an explicit recognition of the Catalan
nation in the new Statute by the Spanish parliamentary majority and subsequently by the Constitutional
Court represents a failure of recognition. Moreover, the economic mistreatment of the fiscal balances and
the unwillingness to resolve the ambiguity regarding powers which benefits the central government are clear
examples of a lack of respect with regard to self-government or internal self-determination and of unfair
redistribution. These responses prevents an approach to the question based on negotiation and multilateralism
such as that established, for example, by Canada’s laws or in the Scottish case.
The future prospects of Catalan and Spanish politics regarding the territorial question remain open. There are
a number of different possible scenarios: either through agreements –which currently seem unlikely– within
the context of the Spanish state, or through agreements with European or international mediation, or through
an institutional rupture and the mobilization of the citizenry. Moreover, it is an issue that is juxtaposed with
the management of the economic crisis in Europe (in which the Catalan government does not participate). In
practical terms, macroeconomic decisions (management of the public deficit and public debt) remain in the
hands of the central government. The economy is currently one of the central government’s key instruments
for putting pressure on the Catalan government.
The reform process of the Statute has marked the most recent political cycle of this empirical case, causing
the predominant Catalan demands to shift from being regionalist or pro-autonomy in favour of secessionism.
Throughout this process, the lack of recognition and accommodation shown by the Spanish state has played a
decisive role. The Catalan case is currently becoming a point of reference in the sphere of comparative analyses
of plurinational democracies.
2. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
Playing the victim is no longer an option
Catalonia’s national transition is advancing rapidly and decisively.
This, combined with the sheer magnitude of the endeavor, is
generating concern among those who don’t share the same feelings
about this process. It is easy to understand why. The abandonment
of the model of the autonomous communities that was based on
the Spanish constitution for an open push for pro-sovereignty, free
of ambiguities (which was not always the case with nationalism in
the past), is not easy to swallow for those who felt committed to
the former model, or even just directly attached to it. What’s more,
the firmness of the pro-sovereignty campaign has now caused the
other side to be the one plagued by ambiguities.
It is also not easy, mid- movement, to analyze and understand
how a situation that has been stalled for over thirty years in the
political model of the autonomies, has suddenly sparked to life
and been turned on its head. Everyone agrees that it was the
failure to reform the Catalan Statute in 2006 and the ruling of
the Constitutional Court in 2010 that were two triggers. But that
could have led to a greater disinterest in politics or could have
accentuated our tendency to play the victim role. And, since the
initiative for change wasn’t crafted or led by the usual political majorities, many wonder why, no matter what
happens, the general political logic always leans in favor of the independence option.
Our situation today is the result of the Catalan people’s reaction that since 2006 has evolved and is now
snowballing thanks to the tenacious and intelligent work of various civil society organizations. And their
impact can be seen in the magnitude of the demonstration of 2012 and the Catalan Way of 2013. Now, the
new hegemonic framework to interpret the Catalan political reality has made it so that, seen through this new
prism, any event only reaffirms this ambition. We are in a kind of virtuous circle – “virtuous” for those who
have something to gain, of course--, in which everything supports the pro-sovereignty movement and brings
more and more people on board in favor of an independent Catalonia. Neither the strength of the Spanish state
and its mechanisms of symbolic violence, nor the orientation of mainstream television audiences are capable
of stopping the tendency of a political opinion that resoundingly overrides the traditional – and weakenedinstitutional loyalties. Knowing what Catalans have voted in the past is no longer a useful way to determine
what they feel about the right to decide or about independence.
To explain this new situation, moving beyond the conspiratorial interpretations that would cause us to imagine
perverse manipulations by those in power –some would call it much worse--, it is necessary to turn to Lakoff or
even Goffman first and his theories about frameworks of reference. In the case of the pro-sovereignty aspiration,
the key lies in associating it with the democratic demand for a supposed “right to decide.” We need to realize
that this conceptual shift has made it so that, in addition, there is no longer a focus on demands of an ethnic
nature. It doesn’t matter that judges say that this right cannot be found written in any treaty. Politically, how can
one defend that a people does not have the right to democratically decide its future? And what happens to the
prestige of a Constitution that prohibits it? Said differently: in the irresolvable clash between (constitutional)
legality and (democratic) legitimacy, and thanks to the framework of reference in which the pro-sovereignty
movement has recourse to, the popular ruling will always and everywhere be in favor of legitimacy. For wellfounded existing legal arguments, the law has lost the battle before firing the first shot. And if a shot is fired –in
the form of arguments or coercion-, it will only further exasperate those in favor of pro-sovereignty legitimacy.
Thus, in this kind of clash, which can only be political and not legal, sovereignty has already won the war.
This sudden change of the policy framework could also be described in terms of relationship psychology. We
have observed, without stretching the facts, how the Catalans have abandoned their traditional role of “victims”
that they had been playing since 1980, protected by a “savior” nationalism before a Spanish “aggressor.”
Regional nationalism needed a victim in order to survive its ambiguities. But when the Catalans began to stop
feeling like victims, both the aggressor and the savoir have been put off-balance, and all their old strategies now
fail. Today, the “dependent” political parties are the ones debating whether or not to play the role of saviors or
victims. There is total uncertainty in these emotional roles, and there are days that they wake up as forgiving
saviors, at noon they are bullies unceremoniously launching verbal attacks, and already before bedtime they
feel like the victims of the new interpretive framework. By now, the psychology of political emotions would
explain more than most of the usual analyses. Whether it promotes a framework that is impossible to fight, or
whether it has rid itself of a perverse cycle of relations of psychological dependency, the fact is that if the Spanish
state makes a threat, the pro-sovereignty movement laughs at this threat, and if it wants to be condescending,
it is ignored. Similarly, if the Catalan government leads, its citizens will follow, but if it hesitates, the country
responds by pressuring it more. If we are ignored by the outside world, then we call for attention, and when
the outside world is observing us in silence, it is interpreted as a discreet and unequivocal support. We can’t
say that the pro-sovereignty movement has unanimous support, no, but it is clear that never have we been able
to feel victory quite so close.
First published in La Vanguardia
Image by AVALLONE
Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino
3. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
The only road: democracy
Mònica Sabata, FOCIR president
Why do Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida and Pere
Navarro meet to talk about a historic “third way”
solution if what really matters is how to convince
the Spanish government to allow the referendum
to take place?
I will start this article with a personal anecdote from
December 2nd, 2007. That Sunday morning –the morning
after the large demonstration organized by the Plataforma
pel Dret de Decidir (the Platform for the Right to Decide)—
we held a press conference. I can honestly say that I had
never seen so many microphones in one place. It was
obvious that the high turnout at the demonstration had
brought the media out in great numbers. It was at that
time that Gerard Fernández –who was co-spokesperson
together with me—was given one of those extemporaneous
questions that some journalists tend to ask: “What do you want from the Spanish state?”, and Gerard responded:
“To be democratic.” Sigh. That was the main issue six years ago and, unfortunately, today despite all the years
that have gone by, it still is. Today, however, the citizens’ clamor to exercise their right to decide is more widespread than ever, and the demand for democracy has become an important issue for more and more Catalans
on both sides of the political spectrum. What six years ago might have seemed like an extravagance, today is
the only road to achieving freedom.
What has happened since 2007? Why is the right to decide so important to Catalans today if, at the core, all
we are talking about is democracy? Why does 74% of Catalan society support self-determination, according to
the latest statistics? Why do 107 out of the 135 members of the Catalan Parliament support this same right to
decide and call for the holding of a referendum? I’ll go ever further: are the calls for democracy even louder than
six years ago? The answer is a resounding no. The causes of the social and political fatigue that has brought us
to this point are clear. Since the negotiation of the Statute of Catalonia in 2006, the political shift has become
unstoppable. The situation of confrontation that we find ourselves in today began with the Constitutional Court’s
ruling back in 2010, which was a monumental blow to Catalans’ rights. The contempt for self-government and
the Statute-derived powers made it clearer than ever that the model of Spain’s autonomous communities had
failed. What’s more: if on top of these precedents we add the economic crisis, the fiscal deficit, the lack of
investment by the central government, the attacks against the Catalan language and culture, the attempt to
make cuts to Catalonia’s international relations and an general “Catalanophobia,” it was only a matter of time
before this cocktail exploded. Throughout Catalonia, north to south and east to west, a growing demand to
exercise the right to self-determination by way of the ballot boxes is an undeniable fact.
Nonetheless, and despite the fact that a democratic majority is growing day by day, there are some who want to
water down the wine. Otherwise how would we explain that there are some people who declare themselves to
be in favor of democracy yet insist on seeking alternative roads instead of the only possible road? If being able
to hold the referendum is what is most important, why are they fishing for alternative solutions that end up
sabotaging the entire enterprise? Let’s state it clearly: Why do Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida and Pere Navarro
meet to talk about a hypothetical “third way” if what really matters is how to go about convincing the Spanish
government to authorize the referendum? I am sure you all have wondered about this. I would hazard a guess
that so many meetings –secret or not—between the PSC and UDC are, in fact, seek to undermine the National
Transition process and, more specifically, it is a disloyalty of Duran to President Artur Mas, who is leading the
pro-referendum process with the support of ERC.
Let’s stop overanalyzing all this and lower this debilitating noise level. Today, as in 2007, the priority is have
the Spanish government be democratic and negotiate with the Generalitat on how to hold a referendum so
that the citizens of Catalonia can make their decision about the only possible road: “Do you want Catalonia to
become an independent state?” The answer is very clear and there are only two possibilities: yes or no. That’s it.
First published in El Singular Digital
Photo: Mònica Sabata
4. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
Salmond dismantles Rajoy’s discourse of fear in the
He unveils a statement by Margallo in which it is stated that Spain would not object
to Scottish independence
Today in Parliament The Scottish First Minister,
Alex Salmond, debated with the Labour
opposition party, which questioned him about the
words of the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy,
who yesterday said that Scotland would remain
outside of the European Union if it separated
from Great Britain.
He did so in the midst of the laughs of numerous
members of parliament when he recalled that
Rajoy had begun his statement by admitting that
he had not yet read the white book on Scottish
independence. Responding to the direct question
about a possible Spanish veto, the Scottish First
Minister clarified that Rajoy had never used
that word and he further surprised the Scottish
members of parliament when he quoted a
statement by the Spanish Minister of Foreign
Affairs, García Margallo, in which Margallo
stated that Spain would not object to recognizing
Below you will find the official video of the debate, filmed by the Scottish Parliament, with subtitles in Catalan:
First published in Vilaweb
5. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
Running out of patience
Salvador Cardús- Diari ARA
“Independence is that one moment and the ultimate goal.
Independence is identity and the freedom to do what we
believe in. It’s also our own independent choices that let us
view the world just as we want to. So let’s make a statement
championing independence -- with breathtaking perspectives
and motifs full of passion.” Are these the words of Alex Salmond
in the Scottish Parliament? No. Are they part of a secret speech
that Artur Mas will use to incite the Catalans to rip apart the
seams of the Spanish Constitution and the Catalan Statute
that constrain their nation? No, not that either. It is the text
from a new TV commercial, recently launched on YouTube,
announcing the new models of Olympus PEN cameras.
But we could also cite Salmond’s words from last Wednesday’s
speech in Holyrood when he announced the Scottish
referendum on independence: “Independence, in essence,
is based on a simple idea: the people who care most about
Scotland, that is the people who live, work and bring up their
families in Scotland, should be the ones taking the decisions about our nation’s future. [...] It is the natural
state for people and nations around the world. Not being independent is the exception. [...] I want Scotland
to be independent not because I think we are better than any other country but because I know we are just as
good as any other country. Like these other nations, our future, our resources and our success should be in our
I have placed these two texts one after the other, irony aside, to illustrate just how positive the idea of
independence can sound if it is heard without prejudice. And it is no surprise: who would find a life forcibly
subjected to the will of another to be dignified? And isn’t it true that all nations tend to celebrate their
independence days with great pomp and circumstance, and no one reproaches them for that? This is why both
texts have an indisputable logic to them. Of course, a person is not the same as a country, and Scotland is not
Catalonia. But shouldn’t there be universal principles that apply to everyone? Where, then, do objections to
independence come from?
Objections are always made by the wardens of those who are seeking emancipation. And if it weren’t for the
historical, political and social contexts that add weight to these objections, they would all be laughable. Both
in Scotland and in Catalonia, those who resist the idea of a possible independence cite dangers as absurd as
isolation, a lack of solidarity, or an internal conflict of loyalties. So does that mean that independence for the
British and the Spanish has condemned them to isolation and a lack of solidarity, or has required an absolute
cohesion of internal loyalties? Why is it that what is good for them is not good for others?
Nonetheless, this is not a rhetorical discussion. We have entered a historic phase of dramatic Spanish pressure
on the Catalan nation. We are being tested to see if we will lose the game once and for all. The latest episode,
regarding the future of Barcelona’s Prat airport and the loss of Spanair, shows us that we are not just talking
about battles of symbolism or identity. We are in a war of political and economic interests of an enormous
magnitude. We must emancipate ourselves, or disappear. The majority of Catalans are well aware that these
are our options. And if something were to jeopardize the country’s social peace, it would not be the yearning
for independence itself, but a lack of courage on behalf of the Catalan Government to lead this movement. The
country is pushing. And if we are not careful, it could end up crashing into those who should be representing
Catalonia’s yearnings, best interests and common sense.
First published in Diari ARA
Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino
Photo from Salvador Cardús’s Twitter (@salvadorcardus)
6. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
Scotland and Catalonia
The opposite reaction of Madrid and London is an important distinction between the
two independence processes
Xavier Bru de Sala, writer - El Periódico - 29/11/2013
When the Romans tired of fighting without success
against the northern tribes, the emperor Hadrian
built the famous wall that isolated them. Sixteen
centuries later, with the figures of Adam Smith and
David Hume at the helm, the Scottish enlightenment
had a key role in shaping Western thinking. Scotland
is, without a doubt, one of the most important
nations of Europe and can be proud, among other
admirable attributes, of being the place with the
greatest amount of common sense.
Seven years before the fall of Barcelona at the hands of the troops of Philip V, Scotland abandoned its
independence for the United Kingdom. Unlike Madrid, which established the unifying Nueva Planta decree,
London respected the Scottish laws and institutions. Today, and despite the superiority of the Scottish
constitutional status, the two nations have a limited autonomy and are engaged in independence processes
that, despite coinciding in their timing, have little else in common. The most significant differences consist in
the –completely opposite— reactions of their respective capitals and that in Scotland there appears to be less
support for independence, where according to the polls a majority is opposed to it.
Neither London nor Madrid look kindly on the secession of the Scots and the Catalans. Some of the arguments
used to convince the citizens of these territories that it would be better not to separate are similar, and they refer
to the loss of a currency (the pound in one case and the euro in the other), as well as the countless uncertainties
and the loss of wealth and standard of living. These arguments, which are central to the debate, are rebutted by
Scottish and Catalan nationalists with varying degrees of success, but they raise doubts for a large part of the
population. Now, as is well known, while Madrid does not support the possibility of Catalan secession, London
and the Scottish government (with absolute majority for the Scottish nationalists), has agreed to the terms of
a referendum on independence. Alex Salmond, the indisputable leader of the Scottish independence process,
just recently presented the white book in which he describes in detail the future country he wants.
Salmond’s political resolve is the cornerstone of an option that is still far from being supported by a majority,
despite the fact that he is hoping, with his tireless optimism, to still convince many undecided voters and a
good number of those who oppose independence. He has time, up until seven days following our next Diada
in September, and it is quite possible that he will achieve it. In Catalonia, in exchange, the multi-party support
for independence is starting to show its first signs of internal divisions, a fact that, if it persists and becomes
more widespread, could cause society’s support for independence to contract, as President Mas has warned
when he refers to possible fatigue. Those who think tend to think in straight lines will have to learn to get used
to the curves in the road.
In the UK, despite the doubts and the uncertainties (a good number of them irresolvable) about the future
of a hypothetical new State, if the Yes vote were to win then the two sides would begin negotiations for the
separation. The mere fact that they have already agreed on a date and the wording of the question is the
principal differentiating trait. If the event were to arise, they would cooperate to bring about the birth of a new
State. And conversely, if the desire of a majority of the Catalan population to hold a referendum continues to
be met with a negative response from Madrid, then we will live through a turbulent period that doesn’t offer a
good prognosis. In a democracy, as all British citizens understand, a diversity of options is resolved at the polls.
This doesn’t happen in Spain, and the two sides are unwilling to give an inch of ground – in the Catalan case,
regarding the intention to decide their own future, and in Madrid’s case, their determination to not permit it.
While in Scotland there is a debate going on about the desirability of a State and the pros and cons, the Catalan
pro-independence movement and those against it in Madrid are going through a phase of strengthening and
entrenching their positions. While in Scotland there is dialogue, Spain prepares for confrontation.
The debate between Scotland and London about the debt is crucial. If the Scots are not allowed to keep the
pound sterling, argues Salmond, the new State will not assume its share of the British debt. The nationalists
are still calling for a share of the immense wealth that the oil of the North Sea, in Scottish waters, has brought
to Great Britain.
And Europe? How would the European Union react to Scottish secession? Given that the contagion effect is
practically irrelevant and would be limited to the Basque Country and Catalonia, one must assume that it would
respond with pragmatism. For the time being they choose to remain silent and observe, like the United States,
which declares itself to be neutral on the referendum. If there are changes, all will adhere to the principle of “do
no harm and do not be harmed.”
First published in El Periódico
Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino
Photo: Xavier Bru de Sala, by La Vanguardia
7. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
Spain, Britain and the forbidden fruits of independence
No marriage can survive by declaring divorce illegal
Gideon Rachman - Financial Times
“Arriving in Scotland a few years ago, I was greeted by a poster boasting that Glasgow
has the latitude of Smolensk and the attitude of Barcelona. It was a vivid example
of the mixture of comradeship and admiration with which Scots look towards
Catalonia. Barcelona, the Catalan capital, has many things that Glaswegians covet:
better weather, better food, better football. In a striking homage to Catalonia, the
Scots even chose an architect from its capital, Enric Miralles, to design their new
Now, however, Catalans have a reason to look enviously towards Scotland.
On Monday it was confirmed that in 2014 Scotland will hold a referendum on
independence. The Catalan government would dearly love to hold its own vote on
independence, but is being determinedly blocked by the Spanish government in Madrid.
Spain is attempting to thwart the movement for Catalan independence through the use of a legalistic Catch-22.
The central government says Catalan nationalists must respect Spain’s constitution. And that constitution
makes it illegal to hold a referendum on independence.
The British are taking an approach that is simultaneously more pragmatic and bolder. Prime Minister
David Cameron could easily have insisted that only the British government had the legal right to organise a
referendum. Instead he has agreed to allow Scots to organise a vote on their nation’s future – on condition that
independence should be the only question on the ballot.
On the grounds of both justice and prudence, the British government’s approach seems wiser. Mr Cameron,
like Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, is a conservative and a patriot. Both men would be appalled
to preside over the break-up of their nations. But the British government has recognised that, by winning
power in Edinburgh, the Scottish Nationalists have earned the democratic right to hold a referendum on their
longstanding goal of independence. There is no point in trying to find legalistic ways of thwarting them.
The British government’s approach, while risky, is also psychologically astute. Telling people that there is
something that they are absolutely forbidden from doing is a sure way of stoking their desire to do that very
thing. This principle – first established in the Garden of Eden – applies just as surely in modern Catalonia.
By contrast, it may be slightly deflating for Scottish Nationalists that a recent opinion poll showed stronger
support for Scottish independence in England than in Scotland itself.
The parallels between the Scottish and Catalan causes are intriguing. In both places, nationalists date the loss
of independence to the early 18th century. The Scots signed the Act of Union with England – which created
Britain in 1707 – after a misbegotten colonial venture, called the Darien scheme, had almost bankrupted
Scotland. Catalan nationalists date their loss of independence to the fall of Barcelona in 1714. In a recent match
between Barcelona and Real Madrid, Catalan nationalists marked the anniversary with an earsplitting roar –
17 minutes and 14 seconds into the football game”. [...]
You can read all the original article here:
First published in Financial Times
Photo from Gideon Rachman’s Twitter (@gideonrachman)
8. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
In search of the lost State
Vicent Sanchis - Catalan International View
For decades, historians and sociologists have
been trying to define a part of the collective aspect
of the Catalan people through their avoidance
or explicit rejection of public affairs: i.e., the
state. Catalonia emerged battered and defeated
from the War of the Spanish Succession (17051715) between Philip of Bourbon and Archduke
Charles of Austria. The new, absolutist Spanish
monarchy of French extraction abolished selfrule structures that had existed for centuries.
Obviously, these were not modern structures, in
the post-French Revolution sense, nevertheless,
Catalonia was able to count on its own structures
that specifically hindered
the arbitrariness of successive monarchs. Laws
and legal traditions existed which governed the
of the various civil groups in government decisions. There were also institutions that defined and regulated
said participation. These were all abolished following the publication of the Nueva Planta Decrees, which
subjugated all the territories of the former Crown of Aragon to the practices and customs of Castile.
Following this historical episode Catalonia progressed and modernised economically. It underwent
industrialisation during the nineteenth century when the rest of the Spanish state retained feudal structures.
From this position of economic strength, some Catalans tried, either individually or through organized political
participation, to modernise Spain on the one hand, and on the other, to make it less hostile to the uniqueness,
to the differences of the Catalan reality. They were unsuccessful. From General Prim (1814-1871) to Francesc
Cambó (1876-1947), with widely different intentions and degrees, this two-pronged approach was to characterise
a long history in which political Catalanism, which was dominant in the first decades of the twentieth century,
consistently acted with the aim of modernising and ‘Catalanising’ Spain. It was unsuccessful. The outcome
of another war, the Spanish Civil War of 1936, ending in victory for the pro-Franco side, once again reduced
Catalonia to a total of four provinces and the eradication of autonomous government institutions that had
taken shape under the Second Republic. The most blatant repression of Catalan language and culture lasted
for forty years.
With the restoration of democracy and the Generalitat, the new Catalanism, once more dominant for over two
decades, renewed its regenerational path. Once again, the most representative and powerful force of political
Catalanism, Convergència i Unió (CiU) tried to modernise the Spanish state and make it partly theirs. In other
words, it proposed that Catalan nationalists (and Catalans in general) should feel represented by Spanish
structures and institutions. This was the explicit intention of Jordi Pujol, CiU’s leader and president of the
Generalitat for twenty-three years. Perhaps the most significant moment was the formation of the Partido
Reformista (Reform Party), a political force operating on a national scale, led by Miquel Roca, a Convergència
leader who wanted to mobilise a Spanish centre-right which understood and accepted a Catalan nationalist
revival. Nevertheless, the attempt failed dramatically in the Spanish elections of 1986. The Reform Party failed
to obtain even 1 percent of the vote outside of Catalonia.
Nonetheless, the failure did not discourage Convergència i Unió’s leaders, who left their strategy in relation
to Spain unchanged. Meanwhile, the other mainstream political party, the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC),
which is federated to the PSOE (the Socialist Party of Spain) and represents a more ‘diluted’ form of Catalanism,
has throughout its history called for a federal state. Such a model goes beyond the autonomous regions
established by the Spanish Constitution of 1978, but falls for short of secessionist aspirations.
These two approaches, represented by CiU and PSC have between them had the majority support of Catalan
society for decades. For many years the independence alternative was in the minority or simply marginal,
in spite of the fact that independence maintained a strong presence in many areas of society. The situation
remained largely unchanged until 1987, when the historic Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left) party
under the stewardship of Àngel Colom and Josep- Lluís Carod-Rovira, declared itself pro-independence. The
new Esquerra Republicana started growing in terms of social involvement and improved their election results.
Moreover, its leaders also expressed views that went beyond language, culture and identity (the traditional
foundations of Catalan separatism), to call for sovereignty as a result of the fiscal abuse which Catalonia is
subjected to. Such abuse can be seen in an incontrovertible statistic: every year, Catalonia’s fiscal deficit with
respect to the Spanish state stands at between 8 and 9 percent of its GDP.
The change in the type of language used, the growing realisation by Catalan taxpayers that their coffers are
‘plundered’ by the Spanish state, only partially justifies the rise of this new independence movement. There are
other factors which play a role. One was to be of decisive importance. After 2003, the majority of Catalan
political parties began to call for a reform of the Statute of Autonomy in order to ‘shield’ their authority, increase
self-rule, try to find ways to reduce the fiscal deficit and ensure central state investment in Catalonia. The
road proved to be a long one. While internal and external agreements were made (with PSOE and José Luis
Rodríguez Zapatero’s government reluctantly agreeing to the reform), a part of public opinion, led politically
by the other major political force in Spain, the Partido Popular (People’s Party), reacted with great hostility.
9. Unbridled aggressiveness spread throughout Spain, as evidenced by actions such as the campaign calling for
a boycott of Catalan goods. The new Statute was finally passed by the Spanish parliament in June 2006, but it
was immediately challenged in the Constitutional Court by other autonomous governments, the Ombudsman
(a politician linked to the PSOE) and the PP itself.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling marks a before and an after, since it mutilated the text approved by the
Spanish parliament and a referendum backed by the majority of the Catalan population. On July 10th 2010,
more than one million people took to the streets of Barcelona to protest the decision. The majority of the
banners carried by the demonstrators made no reference to the Constitutional Court, however. Instead they
explicitly called for independence for Catalonia. The massive event became a wake-up call. From then on the
most active and civically and politically engaged sectors of Catalan society came out in favour of independence.
In one year almost a million Catalans voted in local referendums in favour of separation, backed by all manner
of organisations and associations. These votes not only had the grassroots support of Esquerra Republicana,
but also of Convergència i Unió. The traditional moderation of majority Catalanism began to crumble.
Simultaneously, the PSC’s federalist intentions were in crisis. The socialist president of the Spanish government,
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had publicly declared himself to be in favour of the Statute’s reforms. The
reforms had failed, however, and the end of the chapter also revealed the limits of PSOE’s federalism.
From that moment on Catalonia began to move towards a new political doctrine. One which states that the
Catalans, unlike any other group in the civilized world, lack a state; that the Spanish state neither represents
nor defends them; and that the only viable alternative is to form their own. These considerations, these
demands, coincided with the arrival of the dreadful effects of the economic crisis. The belief that Catalonia will
only be able to overcome the crisis if it is able to separate itself from Spain and equip itself with its own state
structures is increasingly gaining popularity. Opinion polls show that support for independence is becoming
more widespread. Moreover, many of Spain’s basic state institutions have seen their credibility challenged: the
administration of justice; the government, led by Mariano Rajoy, who looks on helplessly as the credibility of
Spanish public debt falls further and further; the King himself, Juan Carlos I; the two major political parties,
plagued by a string of corruption scandals that seems to never end and so on.
Late last year, Convergència i Unió employed a last-ditch attempt at regeneration, by attempting to find
solutions with central government and the state institutions. In September 2012, the President of the Catalan
government and leader of Convergència i Unió, Artur Mas, met with President Mariano Rajoy to agree to a new
fiscal relationship between Catalonia and Spain. The meeting was another failure. The ruling Partido Popular
refused to accept a proposal that distinguishes Catalonia from the other regional governments. Several days
after the meeting, Artur Mas called an early election, unequivocally taking a pro-independence stance. His
intention and commitment is to hold a referendum during his next term in office in order to decide whether
Catalonia should be separate from Spain.
The elections last 25th November did not give Artur Mas and CiU the majority they wanted. On the contrary,
they lost seats in the Catalan parliament. Nevertheless, those in favour of the Catalans being able to decide
their own future represent a huge majority in the chamber. Furthermore, supporters of outright independence
outnumber those who are in favour of autonomy, federalism or confederalism. The new government of the
Generalitat is committed to building state structures. Finally, three centuries after losing their laws, an apparent
majority of Catalans once again believe in having a state. But this lost and longed-for state is not Spanish. It is
(Valencia, 1961). Vicent Sanchis holds a degree in Information Sciences from the Universitat Autònoma de
Barcelona. In his career as a journalist it is worth highlighting that he has worked and collaborated on many
publications and with numerous publishers; he has been editor and director of El Temps magazine, director
of Setze magazine, the Catalan supplement of Cambio 16, and director of the newspapers El Observador and
Avui. He has also excelled as a scriptwriter and director on different TV programmes. At present he is president
of the editorial board of Avui, and vicepresident of Òmnium Cultural. Vicent is also a lecturer in the Faculty of
Communication Sciences at Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona.
First published in Catalan International View
Photo by Catalan International View
10. seven communities, one language
It’s about democracy issue #22 - december 2013
OUR CULTURE OUR HISTORY
The restored Generalitat
Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya
With the death of the dictator, the mobilizations
and political and social pressures increased. In
June 1977 the first general elections were held
and in March 1980 the elections to the Parliament
of Catalonia were convoked and, against all
prognosis, ‘Convergència i Unió’ [Convergence
and Union] won.
At the end of 1974, the regime, in spite of the
murder by vile garrotte of the anarchist Salvador
Puig Antich, started to weaken. The execution of
Puig Antich made the Catalan political formations
increase their presence, as can be witnessed by
the cycle organised in 1975 by the ‘Institut Catòlic
d’Estudis Socials de Barcelona’ [Catholic Institute
of Social Studies of Barcelona] which was known as ‘Les Terceres Vies a Europa’ [The Other Ways in Europe],
which were a set of conferences that served for the Catalan political leaders to expose their political approaches
in front of a future democracy.
Soon after the death of the dictator, the ‘Consell de Forces Polítiques de Catalunya’ [Board of Political Powers of
Catalonia] was created. It was headed by ‘Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya’ [Democratic Convergence
of Catalonia], which was directed by the banker and political activist Jordi Pujol, and was made up of eleven
Catalan political formations. The principal aim of the Board was to construct a provisional government of the
Generalitat de Catalunya.
During the government of Carlos Arias the political mobilizations multiplied against it, as for example the
days convoked by the ‘Assemblea de Catalunya’ [Assembly of Catalonia] in favour of amnesty and the Statute
from February 1st-8th 1976. The governmental weakness was becoming more evident, which was an event that
implied, in July 1976, that Adolfo Suárez was chosen as the president of the Spanish government. In spite of
the approval of general political amnesty at the end of July, the political and social pressure continued with the
manifestation of September 11th 1976 in Sant Boi de Llobregat.
On December 15th 1976 the referendum was held about the ‘Llei de Reforma Política’ [Law of Political Reform].
Although Catalonia and the Basque Country had higher indexes of abstention, Suárez’ government won the
consultation and forced the opposition to negotiate to realise the political transition.
The Board of Political Powers participated in the negotiations with the Spanish government, which did not
please the Assembly of Catalonia or the president of the Generalitat de Catalunya in exile, that is, Josep
Tarradellas because they did not want to be excluded from the future agreements. The Assembly was not in
favour of negotiating with central government; however, Suárez had initiated talks with the principal leaders
of the opposition.
On June 15th 1977 the first general elections were held and the ‘Unión de Centro Democrático’ [Union of
Democratic Centre] party of Adolfo Suárez imposed itself. In Catalonia, the winning strength was the
‘Partit Socialista de Catalunya-Partido Socialista Obrero Español’ [Socialist Party of Catalonia- Spanish
Socialist Working Class Party], which was followed by the ‘Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya’ [Unified
Socialist Party of Catalonia]. The results of these elections propelled what is known as ‘Operació Tarradellas’
[Operation Tarradellas]. The president of the Spanish government negotiated directly with Tarradellas for the
reestablishment of the Generalitat. During the first conversations, Adolfo Suárez only recognised the figure of
Tarradellas and offered the possibility that a type of Mancomunitat of deputations could be built instead of the
restoration of the Generalitat. This was an offering that the Catalan political formations and the president of
the Generalitat de Catalunya flatly rejected.
In the course of the summer of 1977, various negotiations were undertaken between Josep Tarradellas and
his collaborators with the representatives of the government. Between the negotiators of the government, we
must point out the old civil governor of Barcelona, Salvador Sánchez Terán. In spite of the good development of
these conversations, they remained stalled until the month of September. They were only taken up again after
‘a million people’ participated in the September 11th demonstration of 1977.
On September 28th 1977, Tarradellas and Sánchez Terán reached an agreement to re-establish the Generalitat
de Catalunya and the creation of a provisional government of unity. The nomination of John Charles I as the
monarch and Josep Tarradellas as the president of the Generalitat allowed Tarradellas to definitively return
to the Catalan capital on October 23rd, where he was received by some three-hundred thousand people.
Nevertheless, the reestablishment of the Generalitat only equalled the recognition of the Catalan government
of the Second Republic, because the Catalan institution had not any of its own competencies and was basically
sustained by the Diputació de Barcelona, which was also presided over by Tarradellas.
On December 5th 1977, the president of the Generalitat created a government of unity with the group of political
powers who had given their support to the creation of the Statute. In spite of the lack of powers and budget,
Tarradellas was able to issue some decrees, for example like that of obligatory teaching of the Catalan language
in the education system. On January 28th 1978 the ‘Comissió Mixta’ [Mixed Commission] of transferrals of
the government of the Generalitat was created to negotiate with the Spanish government, by which the only
11. accomplishments were certain powers in the ambits of agriculture and town planning. In spite of the political
unity shown until then, the political formation started to undertake the project of Statute without president
Tarradellas, who was looking to extend the provisional period as far as he could.
In the interim, on July 21st the Constitution was approved in the Spanish Congress, which was later ratified,
without obstacle, with the Constitutional Referendum of December 6th 1978. The whole of the Catalan
formation with parliamentary representation gave support and carried-out canvassing for the yes vote. The
said Constitution, with an appropriate direct participation from the Catalan politicians, was characterised by
the search for consensus, which was an event which obliged them to renounce the sovereignty or the federal
reform of the State, because they had to elaborate a text that endeavoured to satisfy all of the political powers.
The aforementioned text tried to please the Catalan and Basque posture and the emerging regionalist revindication which had begun to appear all over the State. This new general political panorama drove Suárez to
offer all the regions of the country the possibility of becoming an autonomous community, with government,
parliament and its own powers. This was a proposal which copied that which had been gained for Catalonia
and which had later been known as the ‘café para todos’ [coffee for everyone]. This was an act which evidently
did not please the Catalans or the Basques, because it gave rise to the attempt to dissolve their specificity.
While the debates of the Constitution went on, the process of redaction of the preliminary Statute of Autonomy
of Catalonia commenced. The Assembly of Parliamentarians designated, without telling president Tarradellas,
the elaboration of the text of the Statute to the group which is known as the ‘Comissió dels Vint’ [Commission
of the Twenty]. As had happened with the Magna-Carta, the consensus was also quite wide, with the exception
of the subject of electoral rules. The text was approved by the plenary of the Assembly, in the presence of Josep
Tarradellas, on December 29th 1978, but it was not ratified by the Spanish Courts until November 29th and by
the Senate on December 12th 1979. Finally, the Statute came into force on April 1st 1980. However, before the
voting of the referendum for the passing of the Statute took place on October 25th 1979. The yes vote obtained
an important 88,1%, all though we must say that the level of abstention was high at 40,6%.
The definitive text contained a lot of subjects which required further attention, so that, later on, the Parliament
could take the decisions which were necessary. The aim of the twenty speakers was to gain a greater number
of powers. The Statute defined Catalonia as a ‘nationality’ which is constituted as an autonomous community
and recognised the Generalitat as the institution of Catalan self-government. It also considered Catalan as the
language of Catalonia and co-official with Spanish. In spite of the numerous improvements, in comparison
with the Statute of 1932, such as in fields like teaching, linguistic and cultural politics, Ministry of Finance,
public works, healthcare, town planning, land planning, tourism and media, it also went backwards in such
fundamental fields as justice, public order and administrative structure and left those fields that needed the
cooperation between central administration and the Generalitat in a confused state.
To all of this, we must add that on March 1st 1979 general elections took place, which were won again by the UCD,
although with only a slight margin. In Catalonia, the left wing formations gained the electoral victory again.
Two months later, on April 3rd, the first democratic municipal elections took place with a clear predominance
of the left wing parties.
On March 20th 1980, elections were held for the Parliament of Catalonia, which were won, against all prognosis,
by the nationalist formation ‘Convergència i Unió’ [Convergence and Union]. The nomination of Jordi Pujol as
the new president of the Generalitat de Catalunya marked the end of the provisional nature of this institution
and of the government of unity presided over by Josep Tarradellas.
First published in Culturcat
Photo by Culturcat
ISSN: 2014-9093 | Legal deposit: B. 2198-2013