I was trying to post a few thoughts about Catalonian nationalism on another site, but it bounced, and then I wrote it again but the power flipped so, third time lucky, and re-written, I’ll put it here instead.
Over the past hundred years or so (and perhaps before), the Andalucians have thought of Catalonia as a place to go to get a better paying job. Not surprising, really. Catalonia is the wealthiest part of Spain. I don’t think that the Andaluces – or any other immigrants to that area – are particularly concerned about the politics as long as it doesn’t affect them much. Catalonia’s plan to become its own nation, however, supposes a couple of things that fly in the face of the rest of the country.
Firstly, the insistence of the Catalonians on speaking (and forcing everyone else to speak) their own patois, a language which may have some cultural consolation for the Catalonians, may be natural to speak at home or amongst one’s own, but is in international or commercial terms, a dead duck. There are no institutes elsewhere in Spain that offer catalán as a course, and, there’s no one who would want to learn it anyway.
By insisting on the use of this language, it divides Spaniards living in Catalonia into first and second-class citizens. By using it in public pronouncements (when everyone knows that the speaker can just as easily say it in Spanish), the rest of the country feels provoked.
Spanish, or rather ‘Castillian’, is the third (or second) most used language in the world. Celebrated in 2005 as the language of Cervantes… and yet, there’s a part of Spain which wants to use another… patently useless language.
I think that this is the issue that most bothers the Spanish.
The Catalonian claim on retaining half their taxes, if spread to the rest of Spain, make an imbalance more acute. Other parts of Spain receive less as things go, and with the national government releasing funds to the richest part of the country, and promising further and extra investment in Catalonia – for purely political reasons (the PSOE government is in Madrid with the support of sundry minority nationalist parties) – the rest of Spain is becoming indignant. Even ‘barons’ of the PSOE, like Ibarra and Bono – and even to a degree Chaves, together with Felipe Gonzalez and others – are in disagreement.
Spain is in danger, so it appears, of being broken up. Spain, the country of Una, Grande y Libre, may soon become a country of cantons and mini-nations. If Catalonia is allowed to declare itself ‘a nation’ (supposing immediately that any control from Madrid becomes ‘foreign intervention’ or ‘occupation’), then the Basque Country and Galicia are ready to follow. Even in Andalucia, the junior partner on the left, the Partido Andalucista, is talking of ‘Andalucian nationhood’.
Arrayed against this is the slightly unwilling COPE radio broadcaster. Owned by the Church (loosely speaking), the COPE is under threat from a singular Catalonian institution that exists nowhere else in Europe. This is the CAC, a government controlled body that can fine or close-down any broadcaster that ‘strays from the truth’!. Since no Spanish journalist can call a spade a spade, but must wander past a subject and then rush up from behind and bite it on the ass, this is quite a threat. Since the CAC shares the politics of the Generalitat, it is in an excellent position to close down all the COPE radio stations in Catalonian territory. Some fifty different ‘freedom of speech’ groups from around Europe have so far petitioned the Generalitat to drop the CAC. Impressed, Zapatero is considering introducing a similar body to the rest of the country.
The COPE is Spain’s second largest radio broadcaster (after the SER, owned by a group of socialist millionaires) and, not only uneasy about being taken as the champion of the Right, is now under pressure from Madrid as well (twice in the past few months, a government minister has gone to see the Pope in an effort to persuade the Church to close down the COPE). It has no other products to fall back on, again unlike the SER, which is part of a huge multinational media group with many newspapers, magazines, television and satellite companies in Spain and Latin America.
Catalonian pressures have shaken the rest of Spain in a time when the country wants to move closer to a federal Europe.