From independence, freedom and truth


The naked truth of Catalonian nationalism

Fernando del Pino Calvo Sotelo

October 20, 2017

Catalan nationalism was not born in the mists of times as its mythology pretends, but in the late 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, under the influence of German romantic nationalism and the depressive collective trauma caused by the loss of the Spanish Empire in 1898. The celebration of the Diada (Catalonia’s “national” day), along with the lyrics and the music of its anthem (which, piquantly enough, was not declared official until 1993!), date from that period of time. It is, however, from 1980 that nationalism received its final push with a well-defined plan that unbelievably encountered no opposition whatsoever in successive central governments in Madrid, which, blinded by their ideology, their passivity or their thirst for power (so ephemeral!) devoted themselves to yawning with their heads in the clouds. Such plan, effective securer of the nationalist political hegemony, consisted on a long term nation-building strategy that would be executed along two parallel paths: the institutional one, ensuring that Catalonia obtained all the powers, responsibilities and competencies of an independent country, and the emotional one, gradually transforming the Catalonian society, which in 1978 (when the current democratic Constitution was approved) felt overwhelmingly Spanish, into a Spain-phobic society. The time when Catalonia achieved such level of institutional power and competencies as to have a de facto independence, and enough hatred towards Spain had emotionally seeped into an important part of the population, then the de jure independence would only mean a small leap that could easily be made. Thus, the huge decentralization by which Spain’s central government progressively relinquished all sort of competencies to the Catalonian regional government, intended to ease nationalism, achieved the opposite result, only rousing it.

A necessary and primary condition of this strategy from the very beginning was the dominance and ‘Catalanization’ of both the Catalonian education system and the regional government-owned media as an effective weapon of indoctrination. The plan was consistently executed and included denying the very existence of Spain itself, even in the use of language. For instance, Catalonian nationalists were prohibited from using the word Spain (they always talk about ‘the State’), while Catalonia was always addressed as a ‘country’. Likewise, nationalism constructed a story riddled with fabricated injustices suffered by Catalonia for which Spain should feel guilty and redeem itself by ‘returning’ what was imaginarily taken, the ‘catalogue of grievances’, as was referred to in internal documents dated in the late eighties. Astonishingly, successive Spanish central governments sheepishly appeared to nod at such inventions without opposing any resistance, showing not only a gross ignorance of History but also an enormous inferiority complex by which defending reality with the same tenacity and firmness that nationalists used to defend their fantasies entailed a ‘Franco’s regime’ stigma.

Even the unsuspicious and widely respected Josep Tarradellas, President of Catalonia’s regional government in the exile (during Franco’s regime) and who considered himself a Spaniard, denounced upon his return to Spain after Franco’s death (as early as 1981!) the Catalonian nationalist government’s ‘demagoguery and the exaltation of an extreme nationalism’, and its policies ‘of provocation, sectarianism and discrimination’, which imposed an ‘extremely dangerous soft dictatorship’ based on the slogan ‘we are wonderful and Madrid is always wrong’ and, particularly, on ‘the very well-known and very discredited trick of pretending to always be the victim’. Indeed, experts in social psychology know that collective victimhood is key to understand the genesis of nationalism. A couple of years ago, a group of professors and doctoral candidates of the University of Tel-Aviv wrote an interesting essay (A Sense of Self-Perceived Collective Victimhood, Bar-Tal et al, 2012) that showed how collective victimhood was transmitted through ‘communication channels and social institutions in which the education system plays a key role’ and how it has been kept alive with constant ephemerides in the shape of ‘national holidays that remind members of society of their status of victim’. The person who plays the victim disqualifies his opponent by emphasising ‘the wickedness of the adversary’, while bucolically considering himself pure and innocent, stressing ‘the justice of his own objectives’ and creating a sense ‘of differentiation and superiority’. The essay clarifies that collective victimhood is a source of ‘psychological, social and political benefits’, which encourages the perpetuation of the conflict, and has such a powerful force that ‘could come to redefine the collective identity’. Of course ‘politicians frequently rely on collective victimhood as a source of political power’. Lastly, ‘the acquisition of the status of victim’ seeks ‘the support of the international community’.

It is stunning the extent to which Catalan nationalism perfectly fits into the patterns of collective victimhood that we have just literally quoted from the essay. The mourning catalogue of grievances suffered by an innocent and paradisiacal Catalonia from an oppressive, perverse and opportunistic Spain has been repeated ad nauseam by the education system propaganda and kindred media. In fact, strangely enough, Catalan nationalism does not celebrate victories as normal countries do, but defeats such as the Diada, ‘national’ day of Catalonia that celebrates the surrender of Barcelona in 1714 during the Spanish Succession War (in which half of Spain including the Catalans fought to place one of the candidates to the Spanish throne), but fallaciously paints it as a pitiful and unsuccessful independence attempt. If nationalist victimhood emphasises ‘the wickedness of the opponent’, hatred toward the aggressor comes naturally, and the constant reminder of the alleged violations leads to obsession. When you combine such obsessive hatred with the attempted ‘acquisition of status of victim before the international community’, the result is the disgusting propaganda campaign, shockingly full of falsehoods, performed by Catalan nationalism in international media (once again, in the absence of any reaction by the central government), which has tainted Spain’s image with the aid of journalists’ run-of-the-mill ignorance. Lastly, collective victimhood leads to provincial narcissism that focuses on the self and highlights the small differences, the well-known ‘differential fact’ which disguises a feeling of superiority packed with arrogance and disdain for everything Spanish.

Catalan nationalist victimhood is insatiable: the ‘catalogue of grievances’ never disappears and if some are eliminated then others are pulled out of a hat in order to perpetuate the role of victim around which its identity has been reconstructed. No concession will placate it, not even independence, to which efforts to annex other Spanish regions, such as Aragon, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, would follow (the former medieval Crown of Aragon whose deceitful mythology has ridiculously renamed “Catalan Countries” and which they claim as their own). And if they were to complete the territorial annexation then they would complain about the alleged impediments to their European Union membership, or about their rights over territorial waters, or about anything else you could imagine.

Einstein said that it is stupid to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. In the light of the coup-d’état that pretends to establish a far-left nationalist totalitarian regime in Catalonia (the would-be Popular Socialist Republic of Catalonia) we cannot bury our heads in the sand, nor continue to take their victimised delusions seriously, nor offer unspecified constitutional botches behind a pantomime of firmness, as it is now pretended. The evidence of the last four decades is undisputed: such policies would only feed the beast and intensify the conflict. What shall, therefore, be done? Reagan defeated Communism by stripping its impostures and we have to do likewise. On the one hand, the law and the Constitution (approved by 91% of Catalans in 1978!) should be enforced, and on the other we should firmly and constantly defend a truthful version of the History of Spain, which would strip and discredit the delirious fantasies of nationalism. In order to do so we only need a government (back by the opposition) that enforces the law, respects the truth and believes in Spain. I hope that’s not asking too much.


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