Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Tuesday, 22 may 2018 | LA VANGUARDIA


A Matter of Time


Published in "LA VANGUARDIA" on 20th April 2018.

When judges meddle in politics, they distort semantics, forget “the spirit of the laws” and display their ignorance. When judges meddle in politics they become bad judges and even worse politicians.

It is said that there is “a lack of politics” in Spain, but there is also an excess of judges practising it. While the Llarena affair is by no means unique, it does exemplify the myriad structural problems that characterize the Spanish political system. Among these problems three stand out and I will describe them in increasing difficulty of solution.
A decadent democracy
The events of recent months have revealed a state that undermines fundamental freedoms and rights (freedom of expression, ideological freedom, presumption of innocence); a state that intervenes in an autonomous parliament and violates the rights of deputies and representatives provoking judicial insecurity; a state without a real separation of powers; a state with a judicial system inherited from the time of Franco which makes a fool of itself in Europe, distorts the meaning of words (“terrorism”, “rebellion”, “violence”), invents crimes, argues at a notoriously poor intellectual level and violates its own supposed impartiality; a state that conducts a dirty war with actions characteristic of mafia-like organizations in a context of self-created legal impunity; a state with scandalous levels of corruption; a state in which fiscal fraud is more than twice the EU average; a state with a very poorly advised monarch who has become a puppet of the most reactionary groups (“A por ellos!”, “Go get ‘em!”); a state characterized by a growing degree of political repression. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but I believe it is sufficient in order to show the decadent nature of this particular democracy. It is embarrassing to describe the Spanish state in international forums.
A democracy that denies the national pluralism of Spanish society
Spain has never accepted, not even in the 1978 Constitution, the national pluralism of Spanish society; a society which, like those of Britain, Belgium or Canada, displays a “profound diversity” in the national characteristics of its citizens. Nevertheless, no attempt has ever been made to accommodate this diversity within a liberal democracy of a plural nature. This is an issue with deep historical and ethical roots. If the national pluralism of the state is not recognized and if it is not accommodated in the laws, the symbols, the institutions, in quality autonomous governments and with regard to foreign policy, there can be no hope of addressing, let alone solving, in a civilized way, the state’s national-territorial issues. For this to occur, profound changes are needed; changes that, I believe, can only take place if they are endorsed by European and international actors. The main reason for this is closely related to the third problem.
A political culture based on pre-liberal state nationalism (a nationalism of imperialists without an empire)

This is a matter of mindsets. All states are nationalist (and with them, their parties and their institutions). There are no exceptions anywhere in the world. But there are different ways of being nationalist. In recent times, the Spanish state has had a weak liberal culture, an extremely precarious federal culture and a non-existent plurinational culture. Spanish nationalism has authoritarian roots of a pre-liberal nature which are still linked to concepts, forms of discourse, values and historical reconstructions that date back to “Imperial Spain”. In fact, all the territories that the Spanish state lost, from Mexico and Argentina to Cuba and the Philippines, had to achieve their independence through wars. Spanish political culture reflects a deep-rooted refusal to accept differences and agreements as well as an authoritarianism which in right-wing parties is imbued with reactionary values and in left-wing ones is characterized by a Jacobin spirit that is completely at odds with democracy in a plural society in the 21st century. The mindsets of the majority of the citizens of Catalonia are very different. It is another country.

There are other problems, of course, above all in the economic sphere: an accumulated fiscal deficit of over 200,000 million euros (central government figures), a chronic lack of investment and infrastructures, etc. But the three problems described above are more profound and have more perverse consequences for Spanish democracy.

The third problem mentioned, which is impossible to solve in the short term, makes it difficult to solve the second, which the hyper-nationalist Spanish parties (PP, PSOE and Cs) do not even recognize, and both problems lead to the first.

The Spanish political system displays severe structural flaws. The charges for the demolition of the building have been placed. The current “state of the autonomies” is a childish construction. Unless profound reforms to the spheres of recognition and the politico-constitutional accommodation of the state’s national pluralism are carried out – possibilities: a confederal model or a form of asymmetrical federalism – the independence of Catalonia will be inevitable. There is no more room for trickery. It is just a matter of time.


Ferran Requejo is professor of political science at the UPF

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia