Monday, 3 March 2008

ICV-EUiA are Like Watermelons – Green Surface but Red Inside

I must admit that it took a long time before I took notice of him. It was only last autumn, when people commuting from Vilanova to Barcelona by train had their travel time doubled during several weeks. Most Catalan politicians showed their discontent, but one of them stood out as more committed and more articulate; Joan Herrera. Last Saturday he visited Vilanova.

Herrera’s party, ICV-EUiA, does not demand independence for Catalonia but rather wants for Spain to be a federal, plurinational state. I like that, especially since they combine it with a positive attitude to the European Union but also a desire for political decision making to be as decentralised as possible.

Moving over to social policy, this party was a driving force when Spain gave homosexuals the right to not only get married, but also to adopt children. Now when they fight for cost-free abortions with minimal restrictions and also for a ‘death with dignity’ – the right to euthanasia - I feel a bit challenged, but would agree in the end.

Spain’s two big parties, PP and PSOE, rarely agree on anything, but when it comes to environmental issues, Herrera reveals that they can be sadly similar. When they last were in power, both parties spent 97% of the money aimed for railway infrastructure on the high-speed train AVE, and 3% on the rest of the network. At the same time 3% of the people in Spain will take the AVE regularly, while 97% use the other train lines. Here, ICV-EUiA obviously has a role to play.

Then we reach economic policy and Herrera claims that Spain’s strong growth indicates that wealth has already been created and that it is now time to re-distribute. He wants to raise minimum salaries and pensions as well as build more protected housing and finance it through increased taxes for companies and rich people. In his society, companies simply have to accept new responsibilities. Now I start to feel uncomfortable, and realise that words like competitiveness and entrepreneurism are being left out of his discussion.

I plan to keep an eye on Herrera during the coming legislature and I am confident that he will prove faithful to his ideals. However, he finished his speech in Vilanova by stressing that to "rebel is to exist" (“rebel·lar-se és existir”) and that is where I feel too boringly realistic to follow him. I hope that he will attract many people to his progressive program, but I am not one of them. I am sorry.


David J said...


What an astute and informative piece. It's often hard to get my head around exactly who stands for what in Catalonia - I'm not used to right-wing nationals, coming from a country (UK) where the Welsh and Scottish nationalists are left-leaning in flavour.

And I completely agree with the AVE; the more so because Renfe seems not to want to make much use of its new infrastructure. I was astonished to see how infrequent is the new Madrid-Barcelona service. Competing with a flight roughly every ten minutes, surely Renfe should have gone for a direct train every thirty minutes - and no two-hour gaps in the middle...

I look forward to reading more of your pieces in the future.

Best wishes

David (West London and Vilanova..)

Anonymous said...
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Erik Wirdheim said...


Thanks for your comment and for the link from your own blog.

You will see me coming back to the right-wing nationalists within the coming few days.

The AVE is great and I assume that an ecologist like Herrera would agree to that. But he has a point in that the project was finalized in a forced way and to the detriment of other pririties.

You, on the other hand, are right in asking for the tracks to be used as much as possible, now when they are there.

Hope to see you in the streets here.


Monica said...

Well, Erik, there is still a fact that Herreras party also includes ESQUERRA UNIDA I ALTERNATIVA, that is -some old communist parties and stuff like that. So, at least some of the left-left ideas should be present, otherwise it would just be a little odd, I think!

But, the appealing 3% versus 97% are indeed intersting. I still consider that the AVE is about 10 or even 15 years TOO LATE. And if it had been done properly, the commutertrains would probably by now have been in another state. But, that's hypothesis...

Erik Wirdheim said...


I don't think that we need to go further than to Herrera himself to explain many of the communist ideas. His blog lists many opinions where I do not agree.

And, you are of course right about the AVE - the target to finish it before Christmas last year certainly was not good for the reputation of an otherwise totally sound project.