Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Fading nation

I have not posted about Catalan politics for a while. To be honest, it is disheartening.

To compound the misery, we had local and regional elections on Sunday 27 May.
There were local council elections for the whole of the Spanish state and regional parliament elections for a few “comunidades autonomas”, the official name of Spanish autonomous regions and their devolved parliaments.

There are hardly any positives to take from the elections. Some of the highlights are:

- Record low turnover in Catalonia, the lowest in Spain.
- Record blank votes in Catalonia, about 3%, compared to the Spanish average of about 1%.
- The status quo pretty much unchanged except that absolute majorities are becoming a scarce luxury for the mainstream political parties.

Then we have the really bad news from Valencia: the PP (Spanish nationalists – Conservatives) have increased their absolute majority in the Valencia region, País Valencià, or Comunitat Valenciana, the sterile official name for the country that comprises the provinces of Castelló, Valencia and Alacant. The Wikipedia has a decent article explaining the complexity of the naming of Valencia, here.

The results from Valencia have been a surprise and a big upset to many Valencian folk. Valencian people, whether by residency or by birth, have voted in massive numbers for the continuation of the PP government in the region. Many commentators have written this is akin to blacks voting for the KKK. But it is simpler than that.

After 40 years of Fascist dictatorship by Franco, the language and any sense of identity was already dying. To compound the problem, massive demographic changes and migration from other areas of Spain have diluted the native population to a level where the Valencian/Catalan language is all but an anecdote. Add to that a self-hating, staunchly pro-Spanish press and media and you get the picture: Valencia never stood a chance.

After about 30 years of Spanish democracy (and I use the term loosely), the native language of Valencia has all but disappeared. Spain has won the Battle of Valencia, and now the region is just like any other province of Spain, just like Toledo or Guadalajara, a Spanish-speaking territory and a population that has rejected the notion of being anything other than a Spanish province. Catalan language is deemed a folkloric annoyance, a distraction. Thus, in this historical and demographic context, the PP has increased its absolute majority in the regional Parliament. To keep the comparison going, there are few blacks left in Valencia.

One feels sorry for the handful of Valencians who still put up some kind of resistance to this cultural genocide. But their attempts are futile, like trying to stop a tsunami: no bloody chance mate. Hence why there are so many Valencians in high-profile positions in Barcelona: their language and culture is being obliterated in their native land so they emigrate north, where it is still alive.

Spain has a well thought out plan and will implement it. The objective is to eliminate Catalan language and culture in order to assimilate all Catalan speaking territories, the Catalan Countries, into a homogenised, unified, and, crucially, Spanish-speaking only Kingdom of Spain.

First it was the outlying counties of El Carxe (in the Region of Murcia) and the Franja, in Aragon. No legal recognition or even any kind of acknowledgment exists for Catalan language in these areas. Nothing whatsoever after 30 years of Spanish democracy.

The French have managed quite successfully in the Rosselló counties, Northern Catalonia. Spain hates Catalonia so much that even ceded Catalan territories to the French. Divide and Rule indeed.

Then it has been the Valencia region. Spreading from south to north, from Alicante to Castelló, Spanish has eroded Catalan usage over the last century to the point that Valencian has disappeared from Alicante and Elx, the main towns in the southern-most province. Then it has been the city of Valencia itself, where violent assaults against libraries who dare to sell books written in Valencia/Catalan continue to this day. Notice the Spanish press just ignores the issue completely. Next it will be in the Castelló province, south of Tarragona and the Ebro river.

In this fashion, slowly but surely, Catalan has been eliminated from the Valencia Country, and with it any sense of pride in the common bond that unites Valencians and Catalans. Valencian identity has been morphed into a folkloric pastiche, designed to fit into the Spanish nationhood without providing any challenge or any notion of self-confidence or self-belief, reneging of its own past and cultural roots. The process is almost complete and this latest electoral result will only accelerate its foregone conclusion. As the official Valencian anthem imposed after democracy, Valencians are meant to “ofrenar noves glories a Espanya” (“offer new glories to Spain”).

At a less advanced stage in this process of Spanish-ation, (and by implication de-Catalanisation) are the Balearic Islands. The language is still spoken in the towns and villages, although not much in Palma and the tourist hotspots. Being an island maybe has helped to prevent the cultural decline but where Valencia led, Mallorca and the other islands will surely follow. The PP may have lost their absolute majority in the regional government after the last elections but they are still the biggest party by far. They too will take a lead from their Valencian colleagues. Catalan will be made an irrelevant language and their local accents, beautiful and unique, will be lost, deemed another historical anecdote.

And then, the big prize: once the Spanish state has managed to completely assimilate Valencia and the Balearics, even more than they are now, it will be the turn of central Catalonia. The process is well underway. It is taking Spain about three centuries to finally kill off our culture and national identity but we just cannot cope anymore with the political, economical and cultural onslaught being inflicted upon us.
Three hundred years after this edict was issued by the victorious Spanish king after the Wars of Succession, the Catalan Countries are on their knees. Catalonia, understood as the present administrative region, may be still holding on, but it will not be for long.

The same social and cultural changes that have happened in Valencia and the Balearics will also lead to the end of Catalan nationhood in the old stronghold. To be honest, it is a miracle that we have survived for so long given the circumstances we have been in for the last three centuries.

ERC, the only mainstream party that wants to challenge and change the constitutional relationship between Spain and Catalonia has suffered losses at the last local elections, mainly in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, where the majority of the immigrant population from southern Spain reside. It is still the third biggest party across Catalonia and it has not been a total collapse but it has been a warning sign of the times ahead.

The only positives one can take from the election is the appearance of the CUP, a radical left, pro-independence party, even if they have arguably taken a share of the vote from the now mainstream ERC. While I have no time for pseudo-communists and their silly views on the economy and the world, at least this party has gained much more support than the pro-Spanish and anti-Catalan Ciudadanos, the darling of the pro-Spanish media. Or much better than the populist, quasi-xenophobic (muslims and blacks not, Spanish-speaking south Americans are ok though) Plataforma por Catalunya (PxC), a party led by a former member of Falange, the historical Spanish fascist party. Yet, the electoral success of the CUP is ignored and blanked out by the mainstream media while Ciudadanos, despite their electoral failure, are given plenty of airtime to air their lies, manipulations and anti-Catalan diatribes. This is the way the Spanish media fight their battle: permanent hostility or blank coverage towards pro-Catalan parties like ERC and CUP, but generous airtime to those who seek to undermine Catalan nationhood, like Ciudadanos and others. Concepts like fairness and proportional airtime to political parties are just unheard of.

They are winning, and stretching their lead. For the last few decades, if not centuries, Catalans have been too coward and too weak and it is only due to Spain’s incompetence that we have not been completely defeated long ago.

So here we are. Watching from afar how the homeland is fading out, how Catalonia follows the path of the Balearics, which follows the path of Valencia, which follows the path of La Franja. Catalonia was once a nation, and it still is for many of us, but I wonder for how long Catalonia will survive as a unique cultural identity until it becomes part of a Spain that is Una, Grande y Libre.

What the fascists wanted but failed to get, it is being achieved in this so-called democracy.

15 comments:

ian llorens said...

The problem is the lack of common sense politicians. The case of Valencia needs analysis. The Catalan countries have never existed, neither politically nor pragmatically. The term was bascally created by a Valencian Joan Fuster and later misrepresented by the pancatalanistic Catalan politicians. Let's be frank, no one in Valencia wants to be Catalan and no one in Catalonia wants to be Valencian.

The approach is wrong. We need to abandon the name of Catalan countries and bury it together with our current politicians and work for a cultural and economic cooperation of the territories where Catalan/Valencian is spoken to create a 12 million dollar powerful market that will lead to international recognition of our language and culture.

I have to admit that Valencians are also very unfair. The Catalan military has only been once to Valencia, under James I, to free them from the moors and restore their rights and laws .
The Spanish have been there twice in 1709 to assimilate them to Castilia and eliminate their signs of identity and in 1939 to do the same.

Now some debate whether Catalan and Valencian are the same language. Today, it is obvious that both are the same language. However had the Catalans not spilled their blood to free valencia in the XIII century, Valecian would be now the dialect of Arab spoken in that region.

ian llorens said...

I meant 12 million people, not dollar.

Anonymous said...

trenator, Catalonia is going the same way as Brittany, just an irrelevance of the past.

I'm not an expert on history but it appears that since the Industrial Revolution Catalan politicians (Lliga, ERC before the civil war, or CiU after Franco) have been trying to "change" Spain for a long time now, with no results whatsoever.

Either you get your own state or you disappear of the map of nations. It's that simple.

I must say the odds are against you guys, but you are not blameless either. The Basques seem to be more determined about all this. (Not talking about ETA supporters, more about the moderate nationalists).

Anonymous said...

Waaah Waaah Waaah

Help me, help me! The Spaniards are assimilating us! Get used to it, like it or not the "Catalan countries" are SPAIN.

Rab said...

Ian: I kind of agree with you with the “Arc del Mediterrani” idea. It was first mentioned about 15-20 years ago but the PP in Valencia has always been dead against it. They are even against linking Valencia and Barcelona via AVE. Their hatred and fear of Catalonia is pathological.

Anonymous 1: well I could not agree more with you, including your negative outlook for Catalonia. As you correctly point out, the Basques seem to manage their affairs better than we do. At least they have the “Concierto”, total fiscal autonomy charter which means they contribute zero to Spanish public finances and they manage 100% of their own resources. Part of the shortfall, as we all know, is bridged by underinvestment in Catalonia and thus we end up with the fiscal deficit running about 12-15% and becoming a serious handicap to our own economic wellbeing. Due to the fiscal deficit, Catalonia is receding in all economic indicators. Lack of investment by the Spanish state will make us poorer and poorer to the point where we will cease to be the “engine” of the Spanish economy. As the Spanish idiom goes, "matar la gallina de los huevos de oro".

Anonymous 2: your comment is symptomatic of the Spanish attitude when dealing with Catalonia. Just because something is happening, it does not mean it is right or fair. Yes we are being culturally, politically and economically assimilated into Spanish-speaking Spain and we are trying very clumsily to resist this cultural genocide. You find it funny since you are on the winning side. Good for you.

Ox said...

You're such a fake little sissy, Robert.

Catalonia has more autonomy than ever, there were never more catalan media available than now and school classes are all held in catalan.

Your victim-story doesn't work any more.

Rab said...

Ox, your comment betrays your ignorance about Catalonia and other self-governing stateless nation in Europe. Not to mention the self-satisfying abusive language. Anyhow, you deserve a reply to your message.

Point 1: “Catalonia has more autonomy than ever”.
Incorrect on absolute terms: we had more autonomy before the 1700-1715 War which resulted in the abolition of the Catalan institutions of self-government and the start of linguistic persecution of Catalan and the imposition of Spanish language by the Spanish state.
Also incorrect in relative terms: the Basque Country and Navarra has more devolved powers (and the contribute zero to the Spanish public finances), or Flanders, or the Swiss cantons, or any German Land, or Scotland…

Point 2: “there were never more Catalan media available than now”
I am sure that there is more media in Catalan now than last century but the truth is that there are 6 TV channels in Spanish and 2 in Catalan. Cinema in Catalan has a symbolic presence. In comparative terms, there has never been more presence of Spanish language in Catalonia than nowadays. It is all part of the language policy of the Spanish state: Spanish is the only language required and everything else is optional. It does not happen in Flanders or the Swiss cantons or Quebec for example.

Point 3: “School classes are all held in Catalan”.
Well, there is a policy that says that the “vehicular” language in Catalan schools should be Catalan, but this does not happen in the Barcelona area.

The truth of the matter Ox is that the Spanish state has a policy of making Spanish language compulsory for everyone, but the same logic does not apply to Catalan language in Catalonia. The question is: do we want Catalan to have the same legal status as Spanish, yes or no?
At the moment the Spanish state prevents the use of Catalan in the Spanish parliament, the EU and the Spanish police are known for their hostility towards Catalan language.
All we are asking for is for Catalan language to have the same legal protection as Spanish. At present, we are not there and we will continue to fight for justice until full legal equality and protection is made available to Catalan speakers.

Ox said...

1: Well, too bad they fought on the looser's side. Or did the catalans kill with cotton balls? In Switzerland, the richer cantons will soon have to pay more to the pot than the poorer cantons (= "Finanzausgleich"), just wait.

2: Spain: 44 millions, Catalan speakers: 4 millions (~10%); unfair channel distribution (should be 9:1 instead of 6:2). Btw, how about a Spanish TV channel based in Catalonia? Spanish is about 50% of Catalonia's inhabitans native language...

3: Wrong Robert, and you know it. Increasing numbers of inhabitants of Catalonia speak Catalan better than Spanish. In a globalized world not quite an advantage, I should note.

You can also write the last sentence that way:

"The truth ... is that the Generalitat has a policy of making Catalan language compulsory for everyone, but the same logic does not apply to Spanish language in Catalonia. The question is: do we want Spanish to have the same legal status as Catalan, yes or no?
At the moment the Generalitat prevents the use of Spanish in the Catalan parliament, the Catalan polititians are known for their hostility towards Spanish language...." etcetc...

Roger said...

Ox,
Point 2: Catalan speakers are 9-10 millions (Valencia, Balearics, Catalonia and counties in Aragon's Franja who by the way have no legal recognition of their language...).

Also, your last point No 3 is a lie.
Spanish is not banned in the Catalan parliament, Ciudadanos and PP representatives use it regularly.

However, Catalan is indeed banned in the Spanish parliament in Madrid.

Get your facts right mate.

Ox said...

Roger,

Valencians speak "valencià" and Mallorcans "mallorquí". They have a slightly distinct vocabulary/pronunciation (like Norwegian/Swedish) and you piss them off if you tell them they speak Catalan. Yeah, you're going to say their statute says "catalan". But doesn't the Spanish constitution say Catalonia is Spain as well and some people (like the blogger here) question it?

Catalan is not banned in the Spanish parliament in Madrid, dude. I saw it on TV myself.

Roger said...

Ox,

You are now lying so blatantly that it is going to be very easy to exposure your pro-Spanish agenda and manipulation.

Catalan language is banned from the Spanish parliament. Parliamentarians who try to use it are expelled, unlike what happens in the Belgian, Swiss or Canadian Parliaments.

Some links in Spanish for your reading pleasure:
http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2004/06/02/espana/1086194628.html

http://www.abc.es/hemeroteca/historico-25-05-2005/abc/Nacional/marin-expulsa-de-la-tribuna-a-otro-diputado-de-erc-por-hablar-en-catalan_202695533210.html

http://www.eldia.es/2006-08-03/nacional/nacional2.htm
http://www.lamalla.net/canal/espanya/noticies/article?id=97609

Ox: Catalan is banned from the Spanish parliament. Fact. Do not lie as you embarrass yourself.

Regarding your ludicrous statement that the different variants of Catalan (valencian and mallorquí) are not Catalan. Well, there is not a single university in Catalonia, Valencia or the Balearics or in the world!, that supports the secessionist argument so cherished by the Spanish nationalists. Even the Spanish Academy of Language (RAE) states that the language traditionally spoken in Valencia, Catalonia, Balearics, Andorra, the counties in La Franja (Aragon) and the counties on the French side of the Border (Catalunya Nord) is Catalan.

The scientific consensus amongst the linguists and sociolinguist academic community is that we all speak the same language and it is a historical fact that King Jaume I when conquering Valencia from the Moors, he repopulated the Valencia region with Catalans from the Lleida counties of Catalonia and that why they speak Català occidental. Someone from Alpicat has pretty much the same accent as someone from Alaquas.
What school did you go to? If you are not careful you will start questioning Newton’s Law next!


Another few links for your education:

http://www.vives.org/ - all universities in the Catalan Countries.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_language -the linguistic domain of Catalan language and an explanation of the different naming conventions and their use.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spain#Languages –even the Spain entry in the Wikipedia states the unity of Catalan language and its linguistic domain.

Next time you post nonsensical lies you will be exposed.

Fact 1) Catalan language is banned from the Spanish parliament.
Fact 2) The Spanish state for the last 300 years has been pursuing a policy of elimination of Catalan language and culture.

According to the Spanish-centric nationalistic viewpoint now mainstream, to be Spanish we have to give up our Catalan language and culture. That is imposition. Spain does not accept multilingualism in the same way as Belgium or Switzerland. In Spain, in Spanish you all say and the rest is sedition.
Is that fair or democratic? Why Spain has to be different to Belgium or even Switzerland, another state with four languages? Why Spain wants to impose Spanish to all, as it says in the Constitution?

Anyways, if you are so in favour of bilingualism in Catalonia, a policy which all linguists agree that leads to the supremacy of one language (the one with the State’s legal protection and massive media exposure, ie: Spanish) over another that is weaker(i.e Catalan) over time, then surely the same applies to other areas of Spain?
According to your logic, Catalan people living in Madrid should have a right to receive public services in Catalan? (In the same way that French-Canadians can receive public services in French language even if they live in English-speaking Canada).

If Spain were like Switzerland, we would not be discussing this issue, alas, Spain is more like Turkey: the Spanish Constitution’s Article 8 serves the same purpose as Turkey’s Law 301.

Ox said...

Roger,

in Valencia or Palma they smack you in the puss (at best) if you tell them they speak catalan. They hate like hell the annexing idea of a single "catalan country" with Barcelona its capital from catalanists like you. They prefer to keep Valencia and the Balears separated from Catalonia to have more autonomy.

And again: During the statute thing, the catalan delegation spoke catalan in the spanish parliament in Madrid - I saw it on TV.

You know that all too well, so stop pretending you don't know. Ever wondered why the vote turnover in Catalonia was so low? Because this whole nationalist idea simply sucks. Got it?

Roger said...

Ox, are you being deliberately thick? Parliamentariants started their interventions with a salutation in Catalan and had to switch to Spanish otherwise they would have been expelled from Parliament as it had happened in the past –feel free to click on the links above.

According to the Reglamento del Congreso de Diputados, only Spanish language is allowed. Any other languages are banned. FACT.

I have the privilege to travel throughout all the Catalan Countries and the extremists and fascists are a minority, known as ‘blaveros’ in Valencia and ‘gonelles’ in Palma. These people do not give a monkey about Valencia or Mallorquí as you put it… all they aspire to is for Spanish to replace Catalan in these areas. Divide and rule.

All I know is that Spanish is mandatory according to the Spanish Constutition, that the same Constitution grants the Spanish Army the power to use the force (just like in Yugoslavia) if Catalan or Basques decide, via their elected representatives, to secede from Spain. All I know is that my political representatives are banned from using our language in the Spanish and European Parliament because the Spanish State has a policy of preventing the full legal equality of Catalan and Spanish. All I know is that the Spanish police refuse to attend members of the public who express themselves in Catalan. All I know is that there has been a deliberately policy from the Spanish state to impose Spanish and reduce Catalan to a family, anecdotical language, as it has happened in Valencia. Sure that is precisely what you advocate but we refuse to lie down. It has been 300 years, and it still goes on and on.

Another link for you to read: Catalonophobia is rife in Spain.
http://www.vilaweb.cat/www/noticia?p_idcmp=2480154
http://www.vilaweb.cat/media/attach/vwedts/docs/comparativapp.rtf

As for your last statement “this whole nationalist idea sucks”. Well maybe you don’t like it, but the truth of the matter is that CiU and ERC have the majority of the seats in Parliament. The marginal parties in Catalonia are the Spanish nationalists of the PP and the anti-Catalan loonies of Ciudadanos, who by the way are falling apart.

And now there is the appearance of the CUP at local level: more political support for a party that wants to change the status quo with Spain. As for the turnover, you blame it on Catalan sentiment; I blame it on the fact that people do not feel their elected representatives, from whatever party, can do anything to resolve the chronic fiscal deficit and robbery our country is being subjected to. Catalan sentiment was not an impediment for the CUP to achieve more councillors than Ciudadanos at the last local elections...

You will need to try harder Ox!

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

I just wanted to say to Rab:
There are so many Catalans like you. So pessimistic.
Many people say I am pessimistic. I rather see myself as a realist.
And I do not think that we are lost.
I do not think we are winning much either, but Catalonia has today, no matter how Spaniards hate us, most radio channels in Catalan language. We never had so many papers written in Catalan.
In the Barcelona region around 40% of TV channels are in Catalan language.
Many foreigners who live in Catalonia do not speak Catalan, but their children speak to me in Catalan language. When they notice I am Catalan. All of this was unthinkable 10 years ago.
Most of stores in Catalonia today have street boards in Catalan language. 10 years ago it was a minority.
Foreigners who live in Catalonia more than ever before (in modern/contemporary history) take Catalan language into acount.
I see more positive changes than negative.
Obviously there is a lot of work to do. And there are many bastards there playing a psycologic war against us.
But we are not lost. We are doing progress.
Slowly but surely.
So, don't be so pessimistic.
Miquel

Rab said...

Wow! Nice to come back from a weekend break and find quite a healthy exchange of views in the blog….

In order of reply…

+ Ox: I am not going to add much more that Roger has not mentioned already. However, I cannot let you get away with some of your sentences…

You said: “1: Well, too bad they fought on the looser's side.”
So you seem quite happy to apply the logic of the conqueror’s to your argument, however you slate Catalans for applying the logic of the persecuted. Which one is it Ox? Is everything fair game because Catalonia has lost all its wars against Spain and therefore we just got to get on with it and shut up and die off as a nation once and for all? All we are trying to do is survive as a nation, don’t you have some Christian compassion towards us?
;-)

You said: “Because this whole nationalist idea simply sucks. Got it?”
Amazingly, we agree on this point. I also think that this Spanish nationalist idea of making Spanish compulsory for everyone, or else, and degrading other languages to “optional” or “regional” sucks big time. Will you denounce the violent nationalism (lets not forget the Army...) of the Spanish state?

+ Miquel: You are not the first one to accuse me of being a pessimist. I am afraid that I have very little evidence to support the argument that Catalonia is somehow resisting Spain’s onslaught.

Very briefly:
- Economics and finance: Catalonia is subject to a fiscal robbery without precedent in Western Europe. Fiscal deficit is running at 15%. In Germany, the Lands have a law whereby the fiscal deficit cannot exceed 4%. This under-investment in infrastructures (to subsidise Madrid’s growth) is now putting Catalonia’s economic survival in jeopardy.

- Culture & language: Catalan does not have the same legal rights as Spanish and it is impossible to get a Spanish policeman or judge to speak Catalan. The major utility & telecoms companies in Spain do not support Catalan in their call centres, apart from Gas Natural probably. Our language is still an “optional” thing, and the Spanish state is intend on ensuring it becomes a “family”language with no social, academical or cultural prestige. Otherwise, they would support Catalan language in the same way as the Canadian government supports French, or the Irish support Irish Gaelic (a language spoken by less than 100,000 people) to become a full EU language. The day the Spanish State accepts Catalan culture as equal to Spanish at all levels, then we will be able to say that the future of our culture and language is not under threat.
- TV and media: OK, there may be a few radio stations in Catalan, but I cannot accept the argument about TV channels. All these channels that broadcast in Catalan are all local channels and the quality of the output is a mixed bag to say the least. I will accept that there is some progress being made when TVE and the private Spanish-language only private broadcasters start producing output in Catalan for Catalonia, the Balearics and Valencia. For as long as the big 4 private broadcasters only use Spanish in their output, Catalan is in great danger. Of the major channels, there are 6 in Spanish and 2 in Catalan. The local TV networks are an irrelevance.

I accept that some progress has been made since the days of Franco’s dictatorship, big deal!, but we should compare ourselves to other Western stateless nations like Quebec, Flanders or Scotland . At present, as pointed out by Roger, Spain falls well short of the democratic standards achieved in multinational states like Canada, Belgium or the UK. And until this issue is resolved, Catalonia is losing this conflict.

Some recent links that make me a pessimist:
http://www.vilaweb.cat/www/noticia?p_idcmp=2479142
Catalan language has all but disappeared from Alicante (Alacant). As I forecast in my post, Valencia and Castelló will be next.
http://www.racocatala.cat/articles/14626
Catalan language is all but symbolic in the film industry. Unless the Generalitat is given more powers, little progress in going to be made.