Nationalism is both a political doctrine and a method to achieve power. As a political doctrine it aims to place ethnic, linguistic or cultural identity at the top of the moral scale, above freedom, equality, solidarity or justice. This characteristic of nationalism makes it ethically aberrant.
As a way to conquer power, it is based on the rational use of the irrational to achieve the uncritical support of enough people in a particular territory to configure a majority in an election. This aspect, typical of all forms of populism, makes it extremely dangerous because it involves potential recourse to violence. It was not in vain that the French President François Mitterand pronounced in one of his last speeches the famous phrase: “Le nationalisme, c’est la guerre.”
Catalan nationalism is one of separation and not of unification, as were the German, British or Italian nationalisms, which managed to build large-scale nations merging smaller political entities.
All identity nationalisms are by nature divisive, exclusionary, supremacist and overtly or covertly racist. Catalan nationalism, a political movement that was born in Spain in the last quarter of the 19th Century, has not been and is not an exception. It has exhibited all these features with more or less virulence over the last century and a half, depending on the time and circumstance.
Catalan nationalism is one of separation and not of unification, as were the German, British or Italian nationalisms, which managed to build large-scale nations merging smaller political entities. Catalan nationalism, on the contrary, is determined to put an end to Spanish national unity by fragmenting a state with five hundred years of existence.
A feeling very different from ethno-linguistic particularism is patriotism, which is manifested through the love of one’s own country, understood as a space of rights and freedoms, of affection and mutual help among its citizens and of treasuring a cultural heritage with a universal vocation. The conception of national identity as a starting point to open up to the world, or as a barrier that isolates us in our corner, is the fundamental difference between pathological identity nationalism and healthy civic patriotism.
The nationalists’ messages are directed directly to the limbic system of the brain, cancelling to a large extent the left side of the neocortex.
The separatists obviously need reasons that seem weighty enough to justify their disturbing purposes. In the selection of motives that lend meaning to their destructive project, nationalism is protean and can resort to the most diverse issues. Race, language, religion, geography, history or the distribution of natural or financial resources constitute the base of the arguments that feed the secessionist fire.
The fact that they respond to an objective reality or that they are pure inventions or exaggerations has never been an obstacle for the nationalist leaders to use them emphatically as an effective instrument to awaken emotions and generate supporters. In this sense, they play with the advantage that their messages are directed directly to the limbic system of the brain, cancelling to a large extent the left side of the neocortex.
Catalan separatists have distorted history by presenting the secular relations between Catalonia and the rest of Spain as a succession of completely imaginary grievances to the Catalan community and fantasising about a sovereign Catalan state that has never existed. In recent times they have added to these chimeras the protest over the unfair distribution, according to their biased calculations, of the fiscal balance between the Autonomous Community of Catalonia and the rest of Spanish regions. Leaving aside the evidence that the territories do not pay taxes, but physical persons and the companies do, and even accepting their scheme of fiscal flows, numerous studies of prestigious academic and financial institutions, including the Department of Finance of the Generalitat, have shown that their figures are pure propaganda.
Another important element to highlight in the perverse conceptual construction of Catalan nationalism is its dramatic and constant appeal to democracy and hence its demand for a referendum of self-determination to establish whether or not Catalans wish to remain united to Spain.
“What’s wrong with putting polls and asking people what they want?” is the tricky question they ask to attract international sympathy for their claims. If the United Kingdom has allowed a consultation to the Scots, why does not the Spanish state authorise a similar plebiscite in Catalonia?
The answer is clear: the process that led to the holding of the referendum in Scotland on September 18 2014 took place with scrupulous respect for the British constitutional order and within the law. According to the Spanish Constitution, a consultation of this nature is unconstitutional. To be brought about – assuming that the Spanish Parliament authorised it – the Fundamental Law of 1978 should be reformed beforehand.
Catalan separatists broke the law by promoting and conducting the referendum of October 1 2017, and their leaders committed, in accordance with the criminal code in force in Spain, criminal offences of considerable seriousness, such as rebellion, sedition, prevarication, disobedience to the courts and embezzlement. The four prominent separatists who are in preventive detention have not been put behind bars by the government, but by a judge applying the law, as befits a democratic État de Droit.
From the very beginning of self-government in Catalonia in 1980, the nationalists have not stopped for a moment in their efforts to separate this Spanish land from its national, historical, economic, cultural and sentimental matrix. Persistently and maliciously, they have used all the institutional, political and financial means with which the Spanish Constitution has entrusted them. They have acted in schools through the systematic indoctrination of children and young people, in the public media, creating a climate of opinion hostile to everything Spanish, and encouraged private media to work for their objectives by buying them with subsidies. Throughout the social fabric they have promoted and financed a wide range of private entities in the service of the independence movement.
The nationalists undertook to develop their policies within the framework of the Constitution and not to question the indivisibility of the Spanish nation.
This constant poisoning of consciousness, and disregard for the law, represents a flagrant betrayal of the great civil pact of the Transition, which allowed, after the death of General Franco, the peaceful move from an authoritarian regime to a democracy, such as those existing in the free West and, in particular, in the European Union. In essence, the deal consisted of transforming Spain into one of the most politically decentralised states in the world. It structured it into autonomous communities endowed with broad and intense legislative, executive and budgetary powers, with recognition of the co-official nature of the Catalan, Basque and Galician languages in their respective zones of presence and favouring a noticeable visibility in the symbolic domain – flags, hymns, commemorations – of the corresponding identities.
In return, the nationalists undertook to develop their policies within the framework of the Constitution and not to question the indivisibility of the Spanish nation. Well, one party, the state and the Crown, has unreservedly fulfilled this transcendental agreement and the other, the nationalists, has smashed it with absolute impudence and flagrant violation of the given word. In the universal history of infamy, this felony will remain an indelible stain on an unworthy and vile Catalan political class. Add to this the fact that the Catalan Autonomous Administration has stood out as one of the most corrupt in Spain, and an unfortunate picture of moral degradation and political irresponsibility is perfectly drawn.
Spain is a great nation with enormous potential that will undoubtedly survive the treacherous attack of a gang of coup plotters whose mediocre greed has dragged them into failure and ridicule.
The flight of companies, the paralysis of investments, the total absence of international support, the deep fracture of Catalan society in two halves, the exemplary firmness of the Crown and the overwhelming reaction of the courts have shown the non-viability of the separatist putsch in Catalonia.
We hope that the waters will return to their course and that out of this bitter and miserable experience, the wisdom, the respect to the law and the cohesion among all Spaniards will prevail. Spain is a great nation with enormous potential that will undoubtedly survive the treacherous attack of a gang of coup plotters whose mediocre greed has dragged them into failure and ridicule.