Friday, 25 July 2008

What has the Labour Party ever done for Glasgow East?

Excellent news today in Scotland: the Labour party, after decades of neglect, have been voted out. Glasgow East, one of the most deprived areas in the UK, has returned a SNP MP for the first time ever.

Congratulations to the SNP and to the people of Glasgow East.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

When Spain begins to look like Serbia

Once again, I am going to borrow an article from somebody else. In this case, it is from the editor and chief of the web portal VilaWeb. VilaWeb is one of the most visited websites in Catalonia and an influential media outlet. It is actually number one news portal in Catalan language, averaging over 300,000 unique visitors per month, and one of the key pioneers (ENG) in the use of Catalan in the internet and of the development of internet in Catalonia. Vilaweb is one of the few truly independent media outlets in Catalonia: a private enterprise not subject to the dictum of party or government politics.

The chief of Vilaweb is Vicent Partal [blog in Catalan]. He is a respected journalist and gets invited to TV and radio programs, etc as a pundit. I have taken the liberty to translate his editorial piece from Thursday 10 July 2008. In this article, Mr Partal highlights the increasing similarities between the pan-Serbian nationalism of the late 80s and the Spanish nationalism of nowadays. It makes some interesting reading but it is unlikely that the bunch of lazy foreign correspondents that work for the English-speaking media in Spain will report on it. They copy and paste from El País and El Mundo, the newspapers of the Spanish left and right respectively.

I have sketched a quick translation. I am keen to get feedback, as I am sure there is room for improvement, so I will keep updating the wording as I receive your comments.

Source: VilaWeb editorial Thursday 10 July 2008 [link]

When Spain begins to look like Serbia 

If for years Spanish nationalism expressed itself in a moderate way, accepting a certain bilingualism and feigning a certain 'kind' image, the mask has fallen in 2008 so spectacularly that we will have to mark it in the history books, The manifesto against the bilingualism or yesterday’s reactions to the document of the (Catalan Government) Finance Secretary Mr Castells about the fiscal plundering mark a new path that brings closer Spanish nationalism to the recent history of Serbian nationalism. With some concrete parallelisms that are terrifying.

This manifesto that claims the superiority of the Spanish language signals a change of social notions. They do not proclaim the convenience of bilingualism any more in the areas with their own native language within the State; what they argue is the backward movement of the native languages. There stops being the formal worry that there was until now for social cohesion, which they in no way appeal to any more. Now the call goes towards the demographic superiority of the speakers of the Spanish language, claiming a pure and simple imposition: demographics. 

And in this sense, the manifesto reminds us of the famous Memorandum published in the year 1986 by the Serbian Academy of the Arts and the Sciences; said memorandum served as an ideological basis for Milosevic and this ended up bringing war, and independence of all, all of them, not purely Serbian areas of ex-Yugoslavia and to the international isolation of Serbia. 

That [Serb] Manifesto, for example, affirmed, against reality, that the only people that did not have right to use their own language were the Serbs that were living in bilingual areas, and it claimed the imposed primacy of the serbo-croat over all other languages; and that whatever or whoever did not subscribe to this idea was 'a particularism' and 'antidemocratic'.

The message that inspired that Manifesto and the one that inspires the pro-Spanish manifesto is the same: a belief that there are cultures or languages that are superior to others, without any regard to speakers of the [other] language, and to request the imposition of their language via discriminatory laws and, if necessary, with recourse to the forces of the law. The [Serb] Memorandum of 1986 also outlined what their authors (intellectuals like in the case of the Spanish manifesto) considered was an economic oppression of Sèrbia by the other republics. And this exact message was also made visible yesterday by most of the Spanish media as an answer to the presentation of the data about the fiscal plunder. It is the same perversion: reality does not matter.

And thus yesterday we could see and hear people who denied it openly, who turned the data upside down or, simply, who reconverted the Spanish nationalistm discourse affirming that that the problem is not that Catalonia, and the rest of the Catalan Countries, suffer fiscal plundering by Spain, but that Spain is being suffocated by the power of Catalan companies, which have colonised Spain. Again, a change of discourse that implies a remarkable change of social notions. Until now nobody, except for isolated groups, had dared saying something like this. Yesterday we heard it in the mass media and from the lips of very violent commentators and very loudly.

I confess that this drift is worrying me. It worries me, especially, because it goes accompanied of a remarkable and visible increase of violence. The attitude of the pro-Spanish is every time more violent and aggressive, and from insults they have already move into threats or disturbances, as we have seen during the celebrations of the Euro 2008 football tournament, despite the silence of the majority of the media.

But it is also necessary to say that the Serbian drift of Spanish nationalism is a threat especially for them. Unlike what happened in the former Yugoslavia, we live in the European Union and here it will not be tolerated or allowed any type of war, or coups, either military or legislative. And this should make somebody think, in Spain. Because Sèrbia has ended up alone, impoverished and isolated. And to explain today this is to make a pure and simple description of how this could end for the Spaniards, if they continue with the supremacist madness that has taken hold of them.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Fallacy No 3: Ciudadanos

If you follow Catalan/Spanish politics, you will remember the set up of a political party named Ciudadanos/Ciutadans. On the 2006 elections, the party won 3 seats in the Catalan parliament in the province of Barcelona, getting just about 3.5% of the vote.

This party, and its supporters in the media, claimed at the time that this party was not bothered by matters of national identity and culture, but by things that matter to people: unemployment, energy prices, inflation, access to property, etc. In theory, a good proposition, isn’t it?

Well, if only. Those of us without blinkers in our eyes knew full well that this was a very good PR exercise encouraged by the most rabid nationalist outlets within the Spanish media, El Mundo and COPE, who took over from where El País, the original inventor of this farcical party, started.

The truth is that Ciudadanos is a party exclusively defined by its stance on national identity issues and by its policy of undermining the already precarious status of Catalan-language, and to threaten social cohesion in our cities and towns.

Ciudadanos has always been about being a Spanish nationalist, in the open, and confronting anyone or anybody who dared to pursue a policy of emancipation outwith a Spanish framework, at any level, for Catalonia.

The latest example of the Ciudadanos non-identitarian fallacy is their farcical intervention a few days ago. Instead of challenging the government on the issues that matter, as they told everyone they would, they brought to the attention of the Catalan parliament a football tournament:

And that is the problem with Ciudadanos. Every one of their interventions are designed to undermine and attack a Catalan initiative in any given area, and at the same time use another Spanish-wide initiative as an example to follow.

Their politics of identity is accurately reflected in their website, which uses Catalan for headings and links, but all significant contents, including their key policy documents, are only available in Spanish. For Ciudadanos, Catalan, the language of Catalonia, is just a nuisance and something to put up with rather than protect and cherish.

If Ciudadanos were a party without an identity agenda, surely all their policy documents and party website would be available in both languages? Well, think again.

So these are the people who were elected on the basis of the new politics of non-nationalism: a bunch of resentful Spanish nationalists making a point about a football tournament.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Fallacy No 2: Partido Popular is a democratic party

In the last few days, we have had another example, as if we needed more evidence, that the Spanish Partido Popular is not your run of the mill, right-wing, democratic party. In fact, the PP is a neo-Francoist, Spanish nationalist party.

Get this. After the Spanish Civil War and the overthrow of the democratically-elected Republican government, the Fascists took power. In many council halls, the new fascists administration awarded General Francisco Franco, Hitler’s ally, a medal known as “hijo adoptivo predilecto”. In the UK, a similar award would be the freedom of a city for example.

Since the end of Franco’s rule, in most Spanish councils, particularly in the Basque Country and Catalonia, but also in Andalucia and other areas where the PP is not in power, councils have been passing motions withdrawing such awards to the hero of Spanish Fascism.

Bizarrely, this medal-award is still in place in many cities and towns across Spain. One of these councils is the city of Alacant (Alicante in Spanish). A few days ago, the PSOE (Spanish Labour party) submitted a motion in a council meeting asking for this medal-award to the Fascist leader to be withdrawn. But the Partido Popular opposes the bill, and thus General Franco, Hitler’s ally, lest not forget, is still the “favourite adoptive son” of the city of Alicante.

So there you have it. The Spanish Partido Popular opposes withdrawing a city award to the man that led a coup d’etat against a democratically elected government, and imposed a fascist one-party state rule for 40 years, enforcing the use of Spanish and banning Catalan language from schools, universities, media, administration, etc. The PP refuses to condemn a regime that sent thousands of volunteer troops (División Azul) to help Hitler’s Nazi army.

Can you imagine something similar in Germany?

With this latest gesture, the Partido Popular has shown that it lacks the democratic credentials it so loudly claims to defend. If I was a MEP from a normal, democratic centre-right party, I would be ashamed and very concerned that these apologists of Fascism are in the same parliamentary grouping.

As I have written before, the PP is a threat to democracy and to social cohesion and cultural diversity within Spain.

If pro-independence Basque parties can be barred from the electoral process because of their refusal to condemn ETA’s violence, why is the PP allowed to participate in the electoral process when they refuse to condemn the fascist violence and repression of the Franco regime?

What the Financial Times thinks of the Partido Popular [here]
Articles in Público and Avui (use this translator is you can’t read Spanish or Catalan)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Fallacy No 1: Leave politics out of sport

The latest fallacy that has been exposed has been the explosion of Spanish nationalism following Spain’s victory in the Euro Championships. We have witnessed an orgy of flag-waving, appeals to national unity and demonstrations of emotional attachment to the (Spanish) homeland.

But, er wait a minute. I thought that politics should be left out of sport, as the Spanish media always reminds us whenever Catalan people demand their national teams be allowed to play in international competitions.

Alas, not so when the Spanish team wins a tournament. Then, mixing politics and sport, for the greater cause of Spanish unity and to undermine the movement for Catalan independence is encouraged. This latest show of Spanish nationalism has been driven and executed by the same Spanish media that ticks off Catalan people for allegedly mixing politics and sport.

What we have witnessed these days is the comeback of a more confident display of Spanish nationalism. Under perceived threat by the “peripheral” nationalisms of Catalonia and the Basque Country, Spanish people have come out and showed their national allegiance in a show of patriotic fervour not since the Franco days.

And the usual suspects, the apologetics for Spanish Nationalism, the neo-Francoist converted to “democracy” (democracy in their own terms only) have come out praising this show of Spanish fervour. One of them even managed to get an opinion article published in The Guardian.

Victor de la Serna, editor of the paper that has done the most to attach social cohesion in Catalonia, the paper that spearheaded a lunatic and poisonous conspiracy theory about the train bombs in Madrid, in an article riddled with outright lies and blatant manipulation, manages to get his hate-message to an international audience. Fortunately, Guardian readers know better and the comments left in the page show that an educated international audience does not swallow the lies of the Spanish media.

Rab is back

Well, Rab is back.

I have been out of blog-service due to a variety of reasons: long hours at work, not least because of the ongoing credit crunch, buying a new house, trying to rent out my old flat, and last, but not least, getting engaged to my gorgeous girlfriend. This last event involved a couple of trips to Dublin to buy The Ring, and London for D-Day.

Piece of advice: if you are going to travel a long distance to buy an engagement ring, it is advisable to check in advance that the place is not going to be closed due to a local bank holiday.

Anyway, we and the cats are settled in our new home, we have decorated the spare rooms, painted the decking in the garden, the garden fence and gate, plant the grass, cut the grass, clean, etc.

Too much happening not to write about it. I am going to post a few short articles about the fallacies and myths surrounding the debate of Spanish/Catalan politics.