Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The legacy of Fascism in Spain (II)

It is official: the current Spanish political framework is a half-baked democracy hardly worthy of the name. I have written about it many times before, but today four unrelated events point to the same conclusion.

A few days ago, I wrote how a number of community-based associations in a small town near Barcelona had organised a popular vote so that people could express their view on whether Catalonia should be an independent state in Europe or not. The referendum does not aim to be a binding vote or claim any legal status or anything. It is just a local initiative, something they have done before for other issues with great success. It is just an opportunity to give people a voice and a chance to engage in politics.

However, a Spanish Fascist party, Falange, a party that is still operating legally, (unlike the radical Basque parties who are routinely banned) called for a demonstration to prevent the vote from taking place.

There are two issues with this:

1) That Falange is still a legal party in Spain is evidence of the asymmetric application of the infamous Ley de Partidos. If you are a radical Basque nationalist party, you get banned. But if you are a radical Spanish nationalist party, a self-declared Fascist party, you are within the law.

2) That the Fascist rally was allowed in the first place to coincide on the same date as a means to intimidate the local population into not voting.

But today, the nature of Spanish democracy was made clear when the Procurator Fiscal started proceedings so that the popular vote does not take place. This, let’s not forget, is a private initiative set up by a local community-based association.

Why does the Spanish judiciary have to get involved? Are there not more important matters for the Spanish state to worry about like the financial crisis and the rocketing unemployment?

So here we have it. Falange doing the dirty work for the Spanish state in intimidating the local community into not having a popular vote, and the Spanish state coinciding with Falange in not wanting the vote to take place. Two different ways, same objective: to prevent people from expressing their view.

Links: Avui (cat), Público (cas), VilaWeb (cat).

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In a completely unrelated event, today it was made public another example of how Catalan-speakers are routinely treated as second-class citizens. It happened in Mallorca. A transcript of the events can be found here. (cat)

This is the situation. Passport control, the couple hand in their passports, but the Guardia Civil took exemption to the couple’s use of Catalan language. The guy is taken to the room and given a black eye and fined for breach of the peace.

This is a regular event in the Balearic Islands, where the Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional refuse to allow the public to use their own language (Catalan). Not for the first time, they react with violence. Will something happen to the Guardia Civil? No, he will be protected by his superiors and by the State. Spain in 2009: beaten up by the Guardia Civil for daring to speak in Catalan. Apparently, one of the Guardia Civils said to another: "the guy spoke in Catalan and he (the Guardia Civil) lost the plot". Disciplinary action? Investigation? Enquiry? Dream on.

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In another separate event that occurred earlier in the week, once again Catalan parliamentarians were prohibited from using their language in the Spanish parliament. In the Canadian, Belgian or Swiss parliaments, representatives can use their own native language. In the Basque or Catalan parliament, some parliamentarians use Spanish and there is not issue. But in the Spanish parliament only one language is allowed to be used by our political representatives: Spanish.

How can Spain claim to be an advanced democracy when Parliament, where our elected representatives meet, imposes the use of one language and discriminates against the others?

Where are now those supporters of bilingualism?

Link: Avui (cat), Público (cas)

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And finally, an old topic.

I have written before how the Partido Popular is the ideological legacy party of the Movimiento.

The party is the continuation of Alianza Popular, which was founded by Manuel Fraga, a Minister during the Franco era, and other former Franco ministers. Partido Popular are a nationalist Spanish party and they do not hesitate to advocate the intervention by the Spanish Army to prevent the Basque Country or Catalonia from seceeding from Spain by legal means.

Not very democratic, is it?

Well, Manuel Fraga gave a speech in his local village in which he praised dictator Francisco Franco.

In Germany, this would be punished with a prison sentence. In Germany Fraga would have faced justice for his crimes during the dictatorship, for he signed off various death penalty sentences. But this is Spain: nobody has faced any justice for the crimes of the Fascist dictatorship.

Today, the PP can still laud the figure of Franco and nothing, absolutely nothing is done by the Spanish Prosecution Service (Fiscalía).

But, some political parties, only Basque radical nationalist parties mind, are banned under the pretence of a Ley de Partidos, which is only applied to one particular group of people.

Link: Público (cas)

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Once again, the Spanish state, by its inaction or complicit action, provides evidence that it is an asymmetric democracy, where the rights of some minorities are continuously derided. Spanish democracy, far from being a model transition, is the legacy of a generation of politicians coerced by the military into a false new start. A generation too coward and too frightened to push for real democracy and a change of the status quo. In practice, Franco's dogma of a united Spain regardless of the will of its constituent parts still remains the central tenet of the legal and political system in Spain.

In effect, the means have changed, and there is certainly more freedom than during Franco’s era. Of course. It could not be any other way. But nobody should be grateful for having a second-rate democracy for there is something that has not changed. There is something that still today drives the Spanish state, something that is embedded into the Spanish legal and political framework as if it was its DNA: the mission to suppress the political and cultural identity of some of the nations and regions in order to achieve the complete unification and homogenization of Spain into a monolingual, single nation state based on the enforced use of Spanish language and the adherence to the dogmatic principle of the territorial integrity and unity of Spain under the terms set out by its dominant group, which include the use of the Army to enforce such terms (Article 8 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution).

This is not a 21st century democracy: it is just a cosmetic improvement on a rotten system which distills the same substance under a different flavour.

Update 07/09/2009: Well, you could not make it up. The solicitor representing the Spanish state (in effect acting for the procurator fiscal) is a former militant of Fascist party Falange. Público (cas) and Avui (cat). I told you so!