Places of Memory (In Transit #28)


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Places of Memory (In Transit #28)

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Date: June 2014.

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Places of Memory (In Transit #28)

  1. 1. Catalan memory looks to the future Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 17/06/2014 In the 19th century Catalan society recovered its identity by looking to the past and to the future at the same time, in a strange balance that led it to admire the Hungarians, the Czechs and the Irish, but also to admire the audacity of the new free nations (such as Cuba) that had said goodbye to a decadent Spain, or the Americans, who had built a democracy without precedent. The men of the Catalan Renaixença had enjoyed their medieval fantasies, but several decades later, Enric Prat de la Riba, in the pages of La nacionalitat catalana (The Catalan Nationality), a book published in 1906, wrote the following: “Let us be Americans. Let us educate ourselves in America and in the American way. No more Europeanizing ourselves. No more retaining a certain spirit of colonial dependency on Europe, as some do. We work independently. We take advantage of the experience of all periods and all people, yet we think, feel and act, live and die, only as Americans.” The past and the future. The new and the old. Everything adds up. As president of the Mancomunitat, Prat de la Riba would go on to promote the recovery and the study of the historical, artistic and archeological heritage of Catalonia. That administration, small yet ambitious, saved the Romanesque art that had been lost in the valleys of the Pyrenees, and encouraged the rediscovery of the classical Greek legacy of our lands. It also created archives, offered grants to researchers and built libraries. Catalanism is a movement that must have a popular memory to narrate itself but is not resigned to being a mere ideology of nostalgia. This is why it does not limit itself to Historicist discourse but instead, from quite early on, it has incorporated a civic discourse of the present. Catalanism –which is an open and all-encompassing movement shared by industrial workers, peasants and poets— does not only speak of stones and ancient deeds, but seeks to be connect to a modern spirit. Opening up to Europe, being Catalan and European at the same time, identity and cosmopolitanism… Barcelona must be a new Paris. The noucentista Eugeni d’Ors called for people to take note of “the palpitations of the times.” The loss of the furs, or Catalan privileges, in the hands of the Bourbon troops in 1714, supplied more arguments to political Catalanism, but a determining factor was the confirmation that the Restoration regime was a decayed structure that prevented a healthy and natural development of society. The September 11th milestone serves to create an epic narrative to go against the stereotypes from Spain, but the men of early political Catalanism also accompanied this narrative with everything they could learn from Germany, England, Switzerland and the United States: a new concept of public policies and the government, and the realization that only democracy – free from trickery and caciques—can offer a peaceful way of managing new tensions in an increasingly complex society. After the Second Republic, after the Civil War, after Franco’s dictatorship, when the system in place during the Second Restoration begins to break down and the sweetened tale of the Transition conflicts with the reality of the present, the new Catalanism, one that favors sovereignty, is faithful to this double perspective: an eye on the past and an eye on the future. Without mystification or resignation. The stones of the Born testify to the War of Succession and also to the investment in research and innovation to make Barcelona a global knowledge capital. We need to give the necessary dignity to those places that signify important moments in our collective history, to understand where we come from, and this must be rigorously based on fact. And we must explain, in the schools, what are the key moments that have brought us to where we are today. A nation like the Catalan one, based on the will to exist and not on blood, uses public memory to project itself forward, integrating elements from many different sources. Our memory is, therefore, a plural one with a number of accents. Our collective memory includes Verdaguer and the songs of the Paral·lel, it is Prim i el Noi del Sucre, it’s Macià and Cambó, it is the battle of the Ebro and the persecution of the priests, it is Seat and the textile manufacturers, it is the Assemblea de Catalunya and those who got rich during Franco’s time, it is Òmnium Cultural and the Catalans in exile, it is the apartments of Bellvitge and the wealthy towers of Camprodon… Our memory is made up of memories and our country must live with all of them. We will commemorate everything we should, and we always do so with respect for the dead and with a desire for a better tomorrow. The Frenchman Renan wrote that a nation is a daily referendum. We are Catalans because we want to continue to be Catalans, in the same natural way that others get to be Danish or Portuguese. If we aspire to a freer and more just future, it is not only because we wish to pay homage to our grandparents and great-grandparents, but above all because of a sense of duty to our children. Memory constructs our identity, but the present also does the same, as it transforms us and forces us to keep an open mind. We are the result of the dialogue between what we have been, what we want to be, and what we are doing every minute. Photo: Francesc-Marc Álvaro Francesc-Marc Álvaro. Journalist and writer seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter EDITORIAL
  2. 2. Commemorating one thing and another Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 The year 2014 will be the year of two Catalan official commemorations of great significance: the tercentenary of the end of the War of Succession and the siege of Barcelona by the troops of Philip V and the centenary of the esta- blishment of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya by the politician Enric Prat de la Riba. The public institutions of Catalonia seem to be completely focused on remembering these two historical moments, especially the first, which is closely linked to our national holiday on September 11th. In fact, for many months now we have been holding celebrations that are related to the epi- sode in which Catalonia lost its privileges and liberties by force. I think that now is the time to reflect on the value of looking to our past. I have argued, for some time now, that in general politicians confuse history and memory with damaging consequences, as this does not help the public obtain any serious knowledge of the past, but quite the contrary. The so-called memory policies are too often propaganda operations (whether they are well-intentioned or not) that end up hiding the meaning of past events. I do not mean that democratic powers do not have the duty to commemorate certain dates, but I am just pointing out that these exercises are not always carried out with the care, diligence and tone appropriate to the complexity of processes that must be understood and disseminated without stereotypes. I am aware that commemorations go hand in hand with spectacle and celebration, but this should never involve a simplification or trivialization of the period that is being remembered or the causes and consequences that go along with the proper “density” of historical knowledge. I hope our politicians and commissioners who are responsible for commemorating what happened three hun- dred years ago and one hundred years ago take these concepts and principles into account, otherwise the dis- figurement of history ends up misinforming people and has counterproductive effects on building a collective awareness. Precisely because the Catalan society is going through an extraordinary and unprecedented politi- cal moment, there is a need to handle the story in an intelligent and sensitive way, without making avoidable mistakes. Sometimes good intentions are the worst way to serve a democratic cause. We must be self-critical and extremely adept when we try to talk about past events in a way that is understandable to the general public. Although the cultural theme park contaminates all our activities and affects many projects almost without us realizing it, those who hold government posts should consider the risks of certain approaches that confuse the epic with period costumes. Catalan nationalism has too often been accused of a conceptual weakness and now is not the time to make it easy for people to criticize us for excessively romantic or nostalgic historicism. If I tell you the truth, I would prefer to celebrate the centenary of the Mancomunitat of Catalonia than the three centuries since the fall of Barcelona and loss of our laws and privileges. Why? Because the Mancomunitat re- presented the first major institutional tool that served a powerful idea: self-government and the reconstruction and modernization of the Catalan nation. It is true that September 11th is the tragic moment of a defeat that barred the way to a peaceful and organized Hispanic coexistence based on respect, but that would be a mere frustration without what came after. If Catalonia is a miracle in the European context, as Professor Josep Ter- mes liked to say, it is because, despite the collapse in 1714, we were able to overcome the literary and folkloric phase of love for a lost past, and we provided ourselves with a mature politics. We had the determination and the will to think about reality and transform it strategically. When I think of Prat de la Riba and the Mancomunitat that brought together the four diputacions, I admire the ambition and strategic sense of efficacy as well as the act of searching for examples in more advanced societies at that time, such as Germany or the United Kingdom. Despite significant legal and financial constraints, the Mancomunitat launched innovative policies in education, health, culture and public works. There is a phrase from Prat de la Riba that sums up his program: “a school, a public library and a road are three elements that should not be missing in any town, no matter how humble and remote it may be.” In addition to three points, he also added the telephone, a commitment that was unusual in the whole of Spain. The Mancomunitat turned Catalan idealism into a governmental pragmatism that was based on general interest. It was pure regeneration and a sense of state, despite Catalonia not having one of its own at that time. Enric Prat de la Riba knew to surround himself with financially sound figures-smart people who, regardless of their legitimate ideologies, were able to work together as a team. Far-removed from sectarianism, the first president of the Mancomunitat had the vision and generosity of the great leaders when he did things. Further- more, and going against the stereotype of Prat de la Riba as a classic conservative, it should be pointed out that the Mancomunitat had a strong social emphasis. It expanded and renovated hospitals, hospices for children, asylums, nursing homes for the elderly and maternity homes, while at the same time it encouraged the intro- duction of new specialties and medical techniques, and intensified the fight against diseases that caused high mortality. Reform and social progress inspired those policies. If we are going to commemorate something and do so thinking of a future Catalonia with greater freedom, I am of the opinion that the 1914 milestone is more interesting and more useful to us than others. Villarroel was an admirable hero of the defense of Barcelona against French and Castilian troops, but Prat de la Riba is the great hero of a Catalanism that became a project for everyone, including those who never voted for the Regionalist League. Indeed, many do not know that the person Xènius called the “organized seny (wisdom) of Catalonia” was also jailed in 1902 for having published in La Veu de Catalunya, which he directed at that time, an article from a French newspaper on the situation of wine growers from the neighboring country; that imprisonment Francesc-Marc Álvaro. Journalist and writer seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  3. 3. greatly affected Prat de la Riba, both physically and psychologically. There is no need to choose, of course, between 1714 and 1914, but I think the message from a century ago is more powerful and profitable than the fiery appeals to a war we lost. September 11th marked the submission to an absolute power that did not respect the laws, the customs or the language of our country while the Man- comunitat was the first time since we were defeated that we got back on our feet, we started to build the future and have faith in ourselves. Let’s remember this. First published in Francesc-Marc Álvaro’s blog. Photo: Enric Prat de la Riba
  4. 4. The Modernists of 1914 Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 Happy New Year, dear readers. We enter 2014 with the desire that things will be better than last year and the creative vertigo that comes from knowing that the future is never written and it’s up to us, the men and women of today, to win or lose the opportunities that come our way to live better: with more freedom, more justice, more dignity and, above all, without having to ask permission or forgiveness for being who we are. So, we will pay scant attention to those who use words like “never” or “impossible.” Nor will we pay much attention to threats or advice that cannot be trusted. The history of the last decades favors those who are not afraid to be accountable for their own lives. So this year, I’m interested in talking more about certain events of 1914 than the well-publicized tercentenary of the tragic fall of Barcelona in 1714 in the hands of the Bourbon troops. A hundred years ago, Catalanism showed for the first time that it could govern. It did so through the creation of the Mancomunitat of Catalonia, which brought together all four provincial councils (diputacions) under a coordinating body that was purely administrative in principle. A decree of the conservative government of Dato permitted the creation of mancomunitats in all regions of Spain, but the initiative only materialized in Catalonia. The first president of the Mancomunitat, Enric Prat de la Riba, overcame the (powers and financial) limitations of that structure, and with unusual boldness, he served as the leader of the first modern, innovative and European government in the whole of the Spanish state. It is well known that what the Mancomunitat accomplished in Catalan territory is something that has never achieved by any Spanish government: to create the embryo of a modern state based on efficiency, rationality, openness to the world, education and social justice. Prat de la Riba, who before governing had been an ideologist, activist and journalist, showed that the modernists in Spain in 1914 were the Catalan nationalists. The only modernists with any significant impact. This is an important milestone that should be commemorated properly. TheMancomunitatwasasuccessamidadesertofdespotismandcaciquism,whichturnedtheCatalannationalist movement into a transformative force beyond the poetry, protests, chants and banners. Prat de la Riba -who had been jailed in 1902 by the Spanish powers for an opinion crime- was a conservative in Europe, who used the tools of the administration to bring about a quiet revolution and –steering clear of partisanship- he knew to put together a team of Catalanists with a range of ideological profiles, as long as they were people with the prestige and necessary ability; one of these people was Pompeu Fabra, the great grammarian responsible for bringing order to the Catalan language. Prat, who died in 1917, acted with the tenacious pragmatism of idealists: to create a Catalan self-government that would serve the welfare of the people and that, in turn, would represent the possibility of another Spain, far removed from the Spain of mere reaction, obscurantism and privileges. Then, under the presidency of Puig i Cadafalch, the Mancomunitat continued to do good work, creating more roads, schools, hospitals and libraries until the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera proved that the elites in Madrid wanted Spain to be run like a military barracks. For the modernists of 1914 it was time to go back to resistance and to waiting for better times, which did not arrive until 1931. At that time, the hegemony of the Liga was replaced by the hegemony of ERC, and Catalanism changed its instrument but still believed -Macià even had to renounce the idea of separatism- that a different Spain could be created, one in which Catalonia was recognized, and where all Spaniards enjoyed a new pact based on freedom. According to Professor Cacho Viu “Catalanism, far from disappearing, changed hands; a sign, although a brief one, that it was not a fictitious dispute nor a cause that only, or primarily, concerned the upper echelons of the bourgeoisie.” The nervous and childish propagandists of unionism, those who repeat automatically, like parrots, that everything that is happening today in Catalonia is pure fiction with no basis in fact, should take note of this excerpt. The experience of the Mancomunitat taught Catalan nationalists, on the right and the left, an important lesson: without access to power, exercising freedom is impossible. The Republican Catalan Government, for dramatic reasons that are well known, does not serve to illustrate this principle convincingly. It would be Jordi Pujol, beginning in 1980 in a very different context, who would understand the deeper meaning of what Prat de la Riba accomplished and, therefore, who called for Catalonia to have control over its own police and prisons, and when necessary, pushed the limits of the law to allow Catalonia’s TV3 station to begin broadcasting or to develop a Catalan foreign policy. But neither President Prat de la Riba or President Pujol suggested an independent Catalonia; everything they did for the Catalans they did to achieve a better Spain, which is something that was not understood in Madrid. The Catalan modernists of 2014, however, have reached a different conclusion: it’s a waste of time to try to change what does not want to be changed. This is today’s new pragmatism, that of the political heirs of the wise Prat de la Riba. First published in Francesc-Marc Álvaro’s blog Photo: Enric Prat de la Riba Francesc-Marc Álvaro. Journalist and writer seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  5. 5. Knowing our history Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 Knowing one’s own past is not a luxury but a right. A right that concerns all citizens, no matter how they think. In our case, the Born archeological site is a heritage of all the citizens of Barcelona, no matter their identity; no matter how long they have lived among us: for anyone who lives in Barcelona, it is impossible to not get excited to see the ruins of the Born, even if only to empathize with the fellow citizens who sacrificed themselves to defend ideals which, 300 years later, may seem right or wrong to us, but it would never shrink the dimensions of how much of a calamity 1714 was. The tercentenary has, among other objectives, that of spreading knowledge about the history of the city of Barcelona and of Catalonia. It does so with a very comprehensive academic program, exhibitions of great interest (I highly recommend “The World in 1714”, in the Tinell) and an educational program free of charge for schools. Objectivity is very difficult to achieve, but everything has been done with the intention of giving people the tools to reflect on our past, in consultation with leading specialists. It is very shocking that some speak of indoctrination, after a century (at least) of the manipulation of history and the denial of our past by successive Spanish governments. People over 40 have had little opportunity to learn about their history in school; future generations will find the same problem if the Wert law is applied, which homogenizes the history content so that the vision of the Peninsula’s past is unambiguous. Historians are indignant about such a crude maneuver. If you look at the newspapers you will see the consternation of the academic community. In these circumstances, accusing the tercentenary of indoctrination does nothing more than try to divert attention from the threat of the true indoctrinators; they are the same people who wished the city of Barcelona had tiptoed through the tercentenary, fearing an all too present past and a legacy that is too difficult for some to digest. First published in: Tricentenari BCN’s website Toni Soler. Curator of the Tricentenari BCN seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  6. 6. From the demolition of the Ciutadella to September 11th. The recovery and the dignification of the symbols of 1714 Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 To mark the Tercentenary celebration of the events of 1714, the Contemporary Municipal Archive offers a historical tour through some of the plans, documents and photographs that preserve and testify to the actions carried out by the city’s government since 1868 to recover and establish spaces and symbols lost at different times in history, such as the Ciutadella Park, the Fossar de les Moreres or the monument to Rafael Casanova and the celebration of the Diada, Catalonia’s National Day. The Contemporary Municipal Archive (AMCB) is responsible for safeguarding the documents produced by the city’s government from the early nineteenth century to the present. One of these documents now on display is the exhibition “From the demolition of the Ciutadella to September 11th,” which presents the history of the municipal, urban or protocol initiatives taken to give the citizens back the public spaces and the symbols of 1714 and the steps taken to institute the celebration of the Diada. The exhibition, which can be seen in the lobby of the Archive, begins with a map from 1715 signed by the military engineer Joris Pròsper van Verboom of the Ciutadella, the fortress built to suppress and keep Barcelona under Bourbon control. Then, there is a 1781 manuscript document that presents a list of the streets of the old neighborhood of La Ribera and the residents living there, who were forced to demolish their own homes to build the fort. The first request made by the Barcelona City Council —that the Ciutadella be demolished— was made in 1794, a request that was not answered until the Spanish revolution of September 1868, when General Prim finally agreed under the condition, among others, that Barcelona’s Town Hall would pay the costs of demolition and the building of a public garden. Thus, the Ciutadella Committee was established, made up of councilors, who held a competition for projects to manage the space, and which the builder Joseph Fontserè would end up winning. “Demolish not to destroy, but to beautify,” is written in capital letters on the top of the draft signed by Fontserè in 1868 that is on display at the exhibit. Before the occurrence of these events and at the heart of the Catalan Renaixença, the City Council commissioned the naming of the new streets of the Eixample to Víctor Balaguer, who proposed to dedicate them to names of the territories of the Crown of Aragon and the institutions and key figures from the history of Catalonia, as can be seen in the handwritten list that this politician and writer gave the council. Among these names were those of General Villarroel and councilor in chief Rafael Casanova, who in this way received the first tribute from the city of Barcelona in 1863. The consolidation of Rafael Casanova as symbol of Catalanism, however, only appeared starting in 1886, when, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1888, the City Council commissioned sculptor Rossend Nobas to create the famous statue for an amount of 3,500 pesetas. The monument was placed in the present Passeig Lluís Companys, on the left side of the Arc de Triomf. In 1914, coinciding with the second anniversary of the events of 1714, the statue was moved to its present location at the confluence of the Ronda Sant Pere with c/Alí Bei, where it was placed on a new pedestal. At the same time, through several documents and photographs, the Contemporary Archive exhibition also describes other initiatives, such as the long process of dignifying the Fossar de les Moreres, or the participation of the Council in the celebration of Catalonia’s National Day and the wreath offering to Rafael Casanova, which officially took place for the first time in 1913. The exhibition, curated by the director of the archive, Montserrat Beltran, and documented by Eugènia Lalanza and Montse Esteve, will remain in the lobby of the headquarters of the Archive until this coming December 31st. First published in: Tricentenari BCN’s website Photo: Tricentenari BCN’s website Manel Gil. Tricentenari BCN’s website seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  7. 7. The battle of the Ebre Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 The Battle of the Ebro began at midnight on 25 July 1938, when the troops of the Army of the Ebro crossed the river, breaking through the defensive lines of the Moroccan Army. This operation responded to the Republican government’s need to reduce the pressures of Franco’s nationalist army on the Valencian front, which represented a threat to the security of the industrial area of Sagunto and the city of Valencia as a whole. Moreover, international circumstances stemming from the tensions generated in Europe by the Nazi regime’s ambitions to expand its territory made it necessary to set into motion an operation that would reinstate the Republic’s favourable position abroad. Designed by Republican General Rojo’s General Staff, the campaign set out to surprise the nationalist army by crossing the river at several different points, entailing a particularly risky enterprise. Once the first phase was accomplished, the Republican troops would have to take advantage of their initial achievement in order to make their way inland from different points. The initial surprise of the attack was a success, and several units of the Ebro Army crossed the river at different points between Mequinenza and Amposta, centring their attack on the area between Ribaroja de Ebro and Benifallet. The units of the 50th Division of the Moroccan Army defended the central territory, yet with little resistance and were forced to retreat to a line of defence along the Faió – Pobla de Massaluca – Vilalba dels Arcs – Gandesa –Canaletes River Valley axis. This line was established on 26 July and was continually attacked by the Republican army until 3 August. Franco’s nationalist forces were very quick to react, and within a few hours, units from all around the country would arrive at the battle area to support the new line of defence. Moreover, the use of aircrafts and the control of the river’s upstream wetlands made it more difficult for the Army of the Ebro to bring supplies to the front. When it became clear that it would be impossible to advance any further, on 3 August the order was given to take defensive measures. By that time, the Republican army had achieved its original goals: to mitigate the pressures on the Valencian front and to bring the military initiative back to the Republic and attract the attention of the main European powers. The Battle of the Ebro could have come to an end here. However, much despite the opinion of some of the nationalist generals, who felt it necessary to maintain a stationary front and launch an attack against Catalonia via Lleida, General Franco was determined to recover the lost ground at all costs. It was that decision that made the Ebro campaign the bloodiest and most gruelling battle of the Spanish Civil War and of Spain’s history at large. As of that moment and until 16 November, the nationalist army launched seven attacks against the Republican lines, fighting for more than one hundred days to recover the territory that had been gained by the Army of the Ebro in a single day. The result was a war of attrition that led to the defeat of the Army of the Ebro, which had fewer material and human resources, hence becoming a decisive factor in the fight for Catalonia, which began in December 1938. In addition to the military and historical connotations, the Battle of the Ebro was the trump card of Negrín’s government at the Munich Conference on 29 and 30 September 1938, where the European powers would condemn the Spanish Republic to defeat, succumbing to the ambitions of Hitler’s Germany in the Czech Sudeten crisis. The Ebro was also the site of the withdrawal of the International brigades from the Republican ground, as announced by President Negrín on 21 September 1938. All of these events make the Battle of the Ebro essential to an understanding of the contemporary history of Catalonia and Spain, with powerful connections with that of the rest of the world. First published in: Espais de la Batalla de l’Ebre’s website Photo: Espais de la Batalla de l’Ebre’s website Espais de la Batalla de l’Ebre seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  8. 8. La Ruta 1714 Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 As part of the commemoration of the tercentenary of the outcome of the War of the Spanish Succession (1714-2014), the Generalitat of Catalonia has decided to highlight more than fifty monuments of the war, ten of which are key to our history and labeled as Ruta 1714 (the Route of 1714), about twenty under the title Viles cremades 1714 (Burnt Villas 1714), and some twenty more with the title Espais 1714 (Spaces of 1714). The Ruta 1714 is a tour through the ten locations where the most significant historical events of the War of Succession in Catalonia (1702-1714) took place. These places are landmarks full of symbolism, of a unique heritage and/or landscape interest, and provide a varied cultural and entertainment offering to their surroundings. This route consists of the following monuments: the Seu Vella of Lleida; the University of Cervera; the castles of Cardona and Talamanca; defense towers such as the ones of Manresa, in Els Prats de Rei, or Solsona, and the Castellciutat fortification of La Seu d’Urgell; the ruins of El Born in Barcelona or the houses where Rafael Casanova lived in Moià and Sant Boi de Llobregat. As part of the commemoration of the tercentenary of the end of the War of Succession (1714-2004), the Ruta 1714 invites you to discover the cultural and artistic heritage of these places and enjoy activities that are connected to them. The English translation of the website of the Ruta 1714 is underway, but in the meantime you can see the general map of the route by clicking on this link: First published in: Generalitat of Catalonia’s web Photo: Castel of Cardona Generalitat of Catalonia seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  9. 9. Keys to the present and the future Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 27/05/2014 Having analyzed the results of the European elections, we should note several positive aspects that emerge from them. The first to point out is the significant increase in participation in our country. Thus, compared with 2009, Catalonia has increased its participation by 10%, showing a clear determination of the Catalan people to go to the polls to express their desire to participate and vote. It is also clear that this increase is directly related to Catalonia’s current political process. In fact, data from the participation in the whole of the EU has been troubling and has revealed- yet again- the gap between EU citizens and the European institutions that keep failing to improve their current image of being useless, without any real impact, and too bureaucratic. The second important aspect is the result achieved by the political groups that favor the right to decide: the combination of CiU, ERC and ICV was 56.3%. What’s more, all of these political parties have increased their number of votes. Thus, CiU has gone up by more than 100,000 votes; ERC by more than 400,000; and ICV, by nearly 140,000. At the opposite end, Ciutadans is the only unionist party that increased its result. Nonetheless, the block of parties that are against the referendum suffered a significant loss of support: the PP lost nearly 110,000 votes, and the PSC, more than 350,000! What’s more, both parties have been unable to explain their poor results: on one hand, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho lives in a parallel reality and tries to deny the that any connection may exist between the results of the voting and Catalonia’s current process in order to hide that her party has gotten the worst results since 1989. Moreover, the PSC has been defeated in the European elections: after winning in 2009, it has become the third political force in these elections with a loss of twenty-one percentage points. One thing is quite clear: for some time now the PSC has been unable to find a discourse to stop the continuous bleeding of votes. Thus, we don’t need a thorough analysis to verify that the electorate has shifted, at least in part, to parties that defend the referendum. The evidence is clear, therefore, that now is the time to make the necessary decisions, even if they are radical and daring. If we analyze the results in terms of sovereignty, and using a football analogy, CiU has been the team that has been playing very well but has ended up losing the game because the other side has played extremely well. However, it is undeniable that CiU has been able to resist this force and has increased its support. It has known how to capture a part of this rise in voter turnout, although now it has all the responsibility of a government that is managing things as well as it can - and often, not as it would like - and is part of a federation where, at times, the clarity of its discourse becomes distorted. In this context, President Mas’ involvement in the campaign was something that played much in favor of CiU’s outcome. Not surprisingly, he is the indisputable leader of the Catalan process. Moreover, ERC, the big winner of these elections, has taken advantage of not having any government responsibilities and has benefited from the undeniable influence the Catalan process has had in these elections. Based on this analysis, it is clear that CiU has not yet been able to collect the prize for leading the institutional process for consultation. In conclusion, the electoral map has shown us that we need to work together, and with one clear objective: our country. And that means more listening to the people and less political maneuvering and near-sighted visions. The process is well on its way and we must ensure that our citizens can be consulted. First published in CatDem Foundation. CatDem Foundation seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter OPINION
  10. 10. The old, the new, and the authentic Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 Don’t settle for the easiest conclusion. There are many ways to read the results of the recent European elections. You can do so by talking about the left and the right, by distinguishing large parties and small parties, by separating national and regional forces, you can (in Catalonia) compare unionists and those in favor of sovereignty, you can draw a line between parties within the system and those that have arisen (apparently) outside of the system ... I suggest taking this a step further, with your permission. Before, however, let’s recall the current situation: if you look at the data from the Spanish polls, we can conclude —and this is something everyone can certify— that bipartisanship has declined and there has been an increase in options that challenge the map of parties forged during the transition, sustained by the control/distribution of the Spanish state by the PSOE and the PP. If we tighten our focus even further and analyze the votes cast by the Catalans, we can confirm a phenomenon that we have been observing for a long time now: the profound transformation of the map of Catalan parties, which has always been different (since 1977) from the Spanish map, as logically befits —recognized or not— the political (and not just cultural) nation that is Catalonia. My proposal is that, taking all of this into account, we should analyze the votes in a different way, by distinguishing between old and new politics. Salvador Cardús wrote in these pages yesterday that the results “should force us to rethink the categories of political classification that we too automatically transpose from the state level to the European level.” He’s right. At the same time, however, I would argue that the antagonism between the old and new can explain many of the things happening today across the EU. The fact that Catalonia is now a kind of laboratory of democracy, where there is a peaceful struggle between old and new politics (which overlaps, as I have sometimes written about in the past, with a postmodern struggle for power between traditional elites and a new impoverished middle class) helps to better understand certain movements that are occurring in Spain and other European countries. The surveys have been saying it and these recent elections have confirmed it: people do not trust “politics as usual.” The old politics is also an aging politics and it is under suspicion. A few months ago those of us who spoke of the crisis of the Spanish democratic system were told we were exaggerating, although the amount of profound failures merely adds more weight to our thesis. The crisis of the system that was written in the 1978 Constitution is primarily a crisis of mediation between the central layers of the public and their professional representatives (politicians, officials and the media). If we put it plainly, this means an acute and growing credibility crisis for those who need to defend general interests. And, therefore, an extension of distrust. Albert Saez has rightly said that the losers of these European elections in Spain were the Ibex 35 and their propagandists, which is an effective way of telling the public that our democratic representatives have long been working with a focus on the interests of those “higher up” in the law than the interests of those “below” in justice. When I write “higher up” I mean the privileged segment of economic elites, in connection with regulated industries and in tune with the dominant parties, who get great benefits and a lot of influence with low risk and has very little willingness to accept changes. For the employee, the small business and the professional, the combination of the economic crisis, corruption, breach of promises and contempt of the installed has become increasingly unbearable. But the new politics is not a homogeneous whole. Within this new politics there is a little bit of everything, in Europe, in Spain and in Catalonia. Sometimes, some allegedly “new” political groupings are actually old projects (some even moth-eaten or with leaders who have been making a living from politics for decades) that are based on an attractive façade and opportunism. Within this new politics there is also populism, naturally. Just as there is populism -and not often at palatable amounts—in old politics. It is something that virtually no electoral group is completely free of. But not all of politics revolves around populism, nor are all populisms the same, although they share some basic features, such as simplifying the complexity of problems, promising immediate solutions and, above all, selling authenticity through a change of language that is based on political incorrectness-mistakes-gaffes. This last point is very important and explains the attraction for two groups that are currently rising in popularity: Podem (“We Can”) and UPyD, very different from each other, but they coincide when they present themselves as a tool to shake things up. Where do we draw the line between populism, regenerationism and radical reformism? What is the difference between the creation of a network of new parties and simply an upgraded copy of traditional parties? To what extent can the new groups reverse or influence important policies? What are communicating vessels between old and new politics? What is the price of this new politics that will allow it to survive? We will have to carefully observe every move-gesture. First published in Francesc-Marc Álvaro’s blog Francesc-Marc Álvaro. Journalist and writer seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter OPINION
  11. 11. Post-election questions Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 The European elections leave us with more questions on the table than we were able to answer with the number of votes cast. We can spend time analyzing the results, the new composition of the European Parliament or the predictable alliances that will be formed. But all of this is just like looking at the finger that is pointing at a moon that is beyond time and space. There are so many questions on the table that I would like to start by pointing to several of them. Firstly it seems obvious that the entire electoral mechanics is obsolete and that, in addition to its inefficiencies, it implicitly favors a public image of a stagnant Europe, far removed from the speeches that are often dedicated to innovation, the knowledge society or the challenges of the future. This is partly because each country follows its own electoral model. So then no one should complain if the campaigns have a local instead of a truly European vision. The absurd “day of reflection,” a ban on publishing data that the network distributes in a timely manner or the absence of electronic voting systems that allow people to vote from abroad are all very clear indications of this disaster. What reform will Europe put in place to turn the elections into a cover letter for a convincing political project? The second question has to do with a fact of great significance: we have voted for a Parliament that we know will not decide who governs us or how we are governed from Europe. The democratic deficit is not going to be solved with the current mock election of the president of the European Commission. By now, much of the legislation passed by parliaments of the states is decided in Europe, but it is in the hands of a bureaucracy that is attributed a large capacity for intervention without the endorsement of the polls. Only then can we understand how they have applied such damaging policies for getting out of the crisis, which is why at the time of voting, we did not know precisely who to vote against when depositing our ballot. Does anyone think you could ask the citizens, without a huge dose of hypocrisy, to have a greater democratic consciousness than what the EU itself is able to assume? This political weakness, thirdly, explains the inability of campaigns to speak about Europe by pointing to a common interest, and not to present it as a space of negotiation of individual interests. Many election campaigns have ended up being strongly anti-European. And not just the campaigns of the Eurosceptics. The PSC, for instance, is illustrative of this. Europe was made the only guilty party for the imposing of cuts and unemployment, and the score was to be settled by singling out Rajoy. In conclusion, it was as if the PSOE had not had its own commissioner and its own responsibility in European politics, instead the campaign was trying to settle this local matter at the prospect of the upcoming Spanish elections. Is anyone surprised that, with this very clumsy campaign, Rubalcaba has had to throw in the towel at last? As long as voting is connected to the idea that Europe is used to solve local problems instead of it being connected to a project for the future with a more general [European] transnational interest, the results end up fragmenting the political space. A fragmentation that may have some meaning on a local level, but on a European level, this meaning is lost. You can imagine the poor role UPyD or C’s will have in Europe. On a local level, exactly why these parties exist and their success are well understood. From a European perspective, it will be difficult to find a place for them that does not dissolve them among the dozens of other “micro” offerings. And what I say about UPyD and C’s, wouldn’t that also be said of CiU and ERC if we did not have the vision to become a new state in Europe and to move not only our interests but also our projects in that direction? The results of these elections should also force us to rethink the categories of political classification that we apply to Europe far too automatically from the state level. We are too quick to label certain parties that have experienced enormous growth as being xenophobic or extreme right. And the same happens when we label the “extreme left” political parties as “anti-system” and revolutionaries. I do like that we are more lenient with the left, but it could very well be that the foundations of the malaise on both sides are quite similar, and that what was different were the answers that were in alignment with the particular political cultures. Can the case of Marine Le Pen in France or the UKIP in the UK can be settled by appealing to the old ghosts of fascism or Nazism? Finally, I regret that no one took advantage of the campaign to better explain the European project, something thatwascriticallyneeded,butthistimetoexplainitwithhope.Andaboveall,Ithinkthattheylosttheopportunity to tell us why it would be better to “Europeanize” such fundamental matters as the administration of justice, facilitating the creation of start-ups, the quality of education, levels of cultural practice, unemployment rates or tax fraud control. In Catalonia we have achieved almost 11 percentage points higher participation than in 2009, and we have even surpassed the European average and matched that of Germany. That’s excellent. However, starting today, shouldn’t we work to ensure Europeanism in the 2019 elections? First published in Caffe Reggio and La Vanguardia. Salvador Cardús i Ros. La Vanguardia seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter OPINION
  12. 12. The Towpath (1988) Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 Honorat from the Café anxiously surveys the surface of the water with a splendid telescope and waits in vain for the arrival of the Carlota. The boat, steered by the old riverman Arquímedes Quintana, comes into the telescope’s field of vision just seven days later. The anonymous narrator – through whose eyes we follow everything that happens in the novel – notes how intently the chemist watches the boat as it comes up through the turbid waters. Jesús Moncada’s novel is built up of scenes like this that relive the memories of over two hundred characters. The story is not the sort of one that has a single narrative thread. The author provides us with a text that we can describe simply by saying that it is the chronicle of a town. In it we find descriptions of historical events in the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1970s. But the presence of the historical past is no more than the distant reverberation of guns. What, therefore, is concealed behind the joyful spurts of the boat cutting through the current as it travels upstream? With scenes such as the description of the boat returning home, the author creates a kind of secret dialogue with the reader. These sharp images, as precise as if they had been captured on camera, mean that the text not merely a faithful description of the beating heart of a town lying beneath the water. The faces will change, but the world that spins around its own axis will always be the same: the thread is always the same thread; it is simply at times tangled and then untangled. How different this image is from the mythological Fates spinning the silken thread, the golden thread, the thread of life until it breaks. In ancient tales there is the idea that from the ball of carded wool comes the thread of a unique life that goes in a single direction. Moncada, on the other hand, sets his characters in a different world, enclosed within itself, predestined. Mequinenza is confronted with a crucial fact that it will never be able to change. Its destiny has been decided, for it will literally disappear from the face of the earth. The boats carry everything that is part of the life of this community. The houses also conceal objects that are part of a common history. The novel reconstructs the life of the town from innumerable pieces of a broken mirror. Where can we find all the events of the past? What predominates is the awareness that there are too many pieces to be able to fit them together into a complete, coherent image. At first it seems that the lost Mequinenza represents a self-sufficient world, a mythical universe in which cyclical time reigns, the world of an epic narrative. Moncada’s novel does not imitate anything; it is not the imperfect copy of a celestial ideal. His pen does not copy but simply puts together the pieces of the mosaic. And it is impossible to arrange the pieces so that they form a living organism. This novel is a tale of suffering brought about by the loss of a loved world. And if there is some way of making this pain evident it is by showing that nowhere in the whole world is there a master skilful enough to be able to piece together the bits of the mirror that lie scattered on the ground. A story of the past is as delicate as a fresco painting and it too is subject to the laws of physical decay. In the final instance, books are no more than objects and the paper will also one day turn to dust, just like the boats rotting on the quays of Mequinenza. The story is a mask, behind which is a horrifying void. This is a novel about memories. About the fact that life slips away through the fingers like fine sand on the beach, and that nothing can hold it back. Man is a being woven from time. But the past is inaccessible: there is nothing we can do to bring back to life the happiness that maybe we only felt for an instant. Nothing can return to us the trusting look of a child who sees the world as a safe, pleasant place. No, it is not necessary to build a dam beside the town where we grew up so that the river inundates the places that taught us to live. The river of time will carry them away in any case. A merciless flood carries off everything that had previously belonged to us. This happens every day at every moment to everyone. Jesús Moncada is the boatman who has gone down to the bank and, with the aid of a thick rope tied to the top of a tree, pulls behind him the boat that has been his life. His boat carries a heavy load, and the burden of the memory that he hauls behind him is by no means light. But the writer continues stubbornly along the towpath, and at the end, like Trèvol, he reaches the town that is perhaps no longer on any map but still exists in his memory. This is what is conjured up by the title of the book and it sums up its contents in a very special way. But at the same time we find in it the explanation for so many loyal readers around the world. Everyone, from Catalonia to Japan, from Sweden to Romania, both today and in 1988 when the book was first published, understands that time is a surging river that knows only one direction and that life flows towards death. First published in Visat Photo: Jesús Moncada Translated by Joanna Martínez Simona Škrabec - Visat seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter IN DEPTH
  13. 13. Voices from the Pamano Places of memory issue #28 - June 2014 When is a crime time-barred from a moral point of view? Does a person ever cease to be liable for their own acts? Les veus del Pamano (2004) is the story of the investigation of events that occurred some sixty years earlier, in order to uncover the truth that has been manipulated and distorted over time. It is a plea against forgetting, a passionate defence of the need to keep memories alive, a fight to ensure that history is not written only by the winners. “Father, do not forgive them for they know what they do.” is the quotation from Vladimir Jankélévitch that introduces this reflection on forgiving, remembering and forgetting. Les veus del Pamano is set in Torena, an imaginary village in the Vall d’Àssua in the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees. Tina Bros, originally from Barcelona, is a school teacher in Sort, the nearest town, and an amateur photographer. In the deserted village school in Torena she finds a notebook containing a kind of journal written by Oriol Fontelles, also originally from Barcelona, the former village schoolmaster and an amateur artist, who was known at the time as a hero of the Franco regime. The journal reveals the true story of Oriol Fontelles, which Tina tries to make public so that his memory is preserved intact for posterity. The novel develops basically over two periods: the early post-war years (Oriol) and the beginning of the twenty-first century (Tina). The link between these two periods and the two teachers with their many parallels is the ever-present, powerful, immortal figure of Elisenda Vilabrú. She is the central character in the book, the incarnation of absolute everlasting power. But in addition there are a great many other people from very different eras, places and classes. In fact the whole spectrum of the social fabric is present, from a cat with a forename, surname and pseudonym, to the Pope himself. There are characters from Oriol’s life, in the hard years following the Civil War, and from Tina’s life in the present day. And there are also the characters from Elisenda’s long life: uncle, chauffer, maid, husband, son, son’s friends, daughter-in-law, grandson and many more. Making an appearance too are the inhabitants of Torena, where the effects of the Civil War were particularly harsh: victors and vanquished, petty tyrants and dissenters, as well as the splendid Serrallac family, father and son, creators of the beautiful gravestones that enrich the novel both verbally and visually. The book is structured in seven parts, each headed by a quotation; this is followed by a unnumbered chapter describing part of a ceremony only begins to make sense as the action unfolds; and after that the numbered chapters, the last of which ends with a gravestone and a comment by one of the Serrallacs or a dialogue between them. The plot is certainly action-packed, with adultery, betrayals and murders, all set against a well documented historical background. But once again, the great discovery in Les veus del Pamano is its meticulously crafted style: the use of the regional dialect and the way it evolves over the years, for the young Serrallac speaks very differently from his father; the way the language fits each character like a glove; the variety of registers, some of them highly comic, particularly when poking fun at current fashions; the changes in viewpoints, sometimes in the same paragraph, or even in the same sentence; the fusion of narrative planes; the flashbacks and the fast-forwards. In each chapter there are chronological leaps that although they take the reader by surprise do not hinder the understanding of a superb text. The precise, very specific toponyms place this novel in a land of hate and revenge marked by the aftermath of the Civil War. Through it flows the river with a thousand names – the Pamano – from the waters of which emanate the voices of those who have drowned and who will drown in it. If the river can be heard from Torena, it is certainly a sign of death. First published in Visat Photo: Jaume Cabré, 2004, ILC. By Tanit Plana Translated by Joanna Martinez ISSN: 2014-9093 | Legal deposit: B. 2198-2013 Maria Roser Trilla - Visat seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter OUR CULTURE OUR HISTORY