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Spain: Social keys in order to unveil separatism in Catalonia

Wednesday 3 October 2018, by siawi3

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Social keys in order to unveil separatism in Catalonia

by Martín Alonso, Armando Fernández Steinko et Antonio Santamaría*

October 1st, 2018

This is how a Spanish cartoonist depicts social cuts during the crisis : « they shut the windows and then they pretend that the night is falling ».
However, part of the people realized the manipulation and took to the Streets: here is how the 15M movement started, first in Madrid then expanding to the whole of Spain; it was at the inception of the Podemos party. In Barcelona, the ‘indignados’ were bashed by the autonomist police, just as they were by the national police on October 1st 2017. A leader of the center-Left party ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) said : ‘ let them go piss over Spain’.
Here we see the ideological changes of the independentist movement : its slogans mirror the shift from a social movement : ‘ being paid 600 Euros a month is violence’, to an ethnic movement : ‘Spain is robbing us ( i.e. :us Catalans)).

In order to operate such a move, leaders applied Eric Hoffer’s principle (The true believer) : ‘The problem of stopping a mass movement is often a matter of substituting one movement for other. A social revolution can be stopped by promoting a religious or a nationalist one’.
Catalonia is one of the richest communities in Spain, the one which applied social restrictions in the most aggressive way and whose dominant political party – which shaped autonomist institutions – is being held accountable in numerous corruption cases implicating the former President Pujol’s family, quite a number of the Generalitat’s and Nationalist party’s CiU (today PDeCat) leaders.
Santi Vila, a member of the government of Catalonia in 2014, acknowledged the instrumentalisation of identity : ‘ had this country not produced a nationalist story, how could it have ever coped with financial cuts exceding 6 billions Euros ?’ Similarly, the former president of ANC (Assemblea Nacional Catalana /Catalan National Assembly) founded in 2012 which is the locomotive the mobilization, spelt it out : ‘We must channel people’s frustration’.

The independentist movement provided the atomized and de-politicised Catalan-speaking middle class with a feeling of ethnic and social superiority vis a vis the other half of the population which was mostly made of Spanish-speaking workers coming from the whole of Spain, who lived in the outskirts of the Barcelona metropolis, whom Quim Torra, the current President of the Generalitat, labelled ‘colons’ - settlers ( SOS Racism commented on his views saying they were ‘dangerous, irresponsible and unacceptable’).. Moreover, this movement is an element of ideological homogeneisation for the middle classes - impoverished by the crisis – and that leads to a feeling of communal identity.

In order to channel and homogeneize it, they had to build a tailor-made pseudo-historical story that denies the progress made during the democratic period. Franco is being revived so as to establish an analogy between pro-independence supporters of today and the civil war Republicans. Unlike what democracy indicators such as Freedom House or The Economist Intelligence Unit point at, the independence movement describes Spain as a pro-Franco state.
Beyond such a banalization of Franco’s regime, this amounts to a lack of respect for its opponents : it is a fraud, for the majority of the Catalan bourgeoisie not only coped with Franco’s regime till its fall, but was protected by it.

More sociological references :
Only 32% of the Catalan people want independence among those whose income is below 900€; while they become a majority among those whose income is equal or superior to 1800€; and they reach 54% among those whose income exceeds 4000€ (El País, 28/09/2017).
Within Spain, Catalonia is lagging behind on health issues, and taking the lead when it comes to privatisation. In short, Catexit is a case study regarding nationalism of the rich.
Pro-independence supporters never managed to get the support of even one half of the Catalan population: the very idea of a ‘people’s mandate’ amounts to a cocktail of propaganda and public relations.

Here is an anecdote reported by journalist Sandrine Morel : when she shares with the PdeCat Communication Director her doubts regarding the legitimacy of October 1st referendum, ‘ one can see he is upset with my skepticism. [ . . . ] And i am outraged when he states: ‘ If we buy a two-page publicity in Le Monde, you will write just what your boss tells you to write’. Facing my reaction, he adds, embarrassed : ‘ Well, this is how it works here’.
The journalist goes on describing the manipulation of information following October 1st, including fake news regarding wounded people.

There are other realities that are hard to face. For instance, how a non-nationalist démonstration was prevented on September 16; attacks on non-nationalist political parties’ offices; or pressure on judges ( 67 of them moved out of autonomous Catalonia in the past two years time), as well as other institutions of the State. As Aldous Huxley said : ‘Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth’.

*Political scientist (Cantabria), sociologist (Madrid) and journalist (Barcelona)

Translated by marieme helie lucas