Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Catalanism is Not Independentism

With reference, firstly, to the referenda on December 13, secondly, the coming ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court on the latest autonomy charter of Catalonia (estatut) and, thirdly, a recent article in the Financial Times, I find it necessary to stress that catalanism not independentism.

Last week we saw a fine example of catalanism when twelve Catalan newspapers (then followed by a series of other media) wrote a joint editorial with the title "the Dignity of Catalonia". The message, in short, was that the Spanish Constitutional Court ought to let the autonomy charter (estatut) pass without major reservations. The reasoning was, on the one hand, that the wording of the charter has been voted through by both the Catalan and the Spanish Parliament and in addition approved by the Catalans in a referendum, and, on the other hand, that the Constitutional Court is not functioning as intended. On this matter we have waited for its verdict for nearly three years, not because it is so complex but , above all, because Spain's two big parties – the socialists (PSOE) who govern and the conservative opposition (PP) - can not agree on how to nominate the four new court members who are now needed.

On a daily basis we can see Catalan media reporting on the conflicts between the local parties; the big Catalan nationalist party CiU, in opposition, and PSC (PSOE's Catalan sister party) as the dominating force of a coalition government (tripartit), together with ICV-EUiA and Esquerra. An outsider might therefore be surprised to hear on how much they actually agree. The estatut, which many Spanish politicians criticize as too far-reaching, has been signed by all of them except for Esquerra, which demands even greater autonomy. The linguistic policies to actively strengthen the position of the Catalan language - and something many Barcelona expats fret about - is another area where they converge. Taken together, these four more or less catalanist groups represent 81.9% of those who vote in elections to the Catalan parliament.

There are of course alternative interpretations of the aspirations of the Catalan people. This week we saw the Catalan branch of the Spanish nationalist party (PP) announce that "We Catalans are constitutionalists”, implicitly claiming that the all the media and the other parties are mistaken in their criticism of the Constitutional Court. The PP in itself only musters the support of 10,7% of the population, but would, if challenged, explain themselves by referring to another favourite in Catalan politics - the silent majority.

This alleged majority of Catalans feels very comfortable in Spain and resists all forms of catalanism. Curiously enough, however, it tends to maintain an absolute silence. In the latest elections to the Catalan parliament (2006) the new party Ciutadans/Ciutadanos turned up with a message targeting this group of, as they said, until then unrepresented people. In spite of immense media attention, they received only 3.0% of the votes and have not grown stronger since.

If we return to the more concrete majority of the four first mentioned parties, they are, with the exception of Esquerra, catalanistes without being independentistes. In debates they usually talk about Catalonia as their country (país) and defend that Catalans are a nation (nació), but historically they have always focused on making Catalonia feel more comfortable within Spain, not on leaving it.

Those who want a united Spain had better stop setting their hope to the silent Catalan majority and, instead, start building bridges to the parties which advocate catalanism but not independentism. Changes in vital passages of the estatut would be steps in the opposite direction and can have unforeseen consequences. Better the devil you know.

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Up-date: Today, December 9, the parties CiU, PSC, ICV-EUiA and Esquerra together expressed their "gratefulness and support" for the joint editorial published in Catalan media.(LaVanguardia)

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Relaterad posts on this blog:

- The Voting Procedure for the Catalan Referendum on Independence
- Catalan Independence and Yet Another Neutral Swede
- Catalan Independence? Coming Sunday Brings Us the Answer
- The Referendum in Vilanova – Highly Interesting or Utterly Boring?
- December 13, Catalonia Holds a Referendum on Independence
- Arenys de Munt – the First of Many Catalan Referenda
- Can Catalonia Hold a Referendum om Independence?

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, CiU, Estatut, Expat, Independence, PSC, PSOE, Referendum, Spain, Vilanova,

1 comment:

RobLo said...

Dear Erik,

Many thanks for this excellent analysis. I think it perfectly explains the feelings of most of us least of what I think. I don't see a contradiction with being Catalan AND Spanish, but Spanish political developments in the last few years (e.g. boycott of catalan products, criticism of the estatut, etc.) tend to enforce the feeling of Catalans that we are not welcome in the plurinational Spanish state. It It contributes to the "conversion" of catalanists to independentists. I have always been one of the former and not of the latter, but if things go on like that, I'll tend more and more towards the latter.

Best regards,