THE FIRST AND LAST WORDS

Diarmuid Breatnach

The Basques have a saying in their language which means “The first and last words in Euskera” (Basque language): “Lehen eta azken hitzak euskeraz”. The Irish would do well to adopt the slogan or dictum for their own: “Na céad focail agus na focail deiridh i nGaeilge”.

          The Basques developed their slogan (the word is from the Irish, slua-ghairm: to call the crowd/ multitude/ troop) in their movement to conserve their native language and spread it among those who had abandoned it. The Basque homeland (which was certainly once larger than it is now) is today situated on the north-west of the Spanish state and the south-west of the French one. Their language is considered an older arrival to Europe than all other languages extant upon the continent, to be not of Indo-European origin and so not of the same family group as any of the nearby Romance languages: Galician, Asturian, Castillian, Languedoc (Occitan), French, Catalan.

Within the territories they control, Spanish and French state administrations have dominated and suppressed all the languages other than Castillian and French; they have done so through official disregard, censure, shaming, even physical punishment and jail. But the Basques have struggled to keep their language alive and to spread it among those who have lost it. And they have been much more successful at doing so than we Irish have at doing the same thing with an Ghaeilge. The Catalans have done much better yet, certainly in Catalunya itself1.

So, why the slogan of “first and last words in Euskera” and what happens in-between? Is it intended like the “cúpla focal” (“couple of words”) of Irish politicians (and increasingly, not even that many), a kind of mini-lip-service? Not at all, its intention is restorative towards the language and is a practical measure which anyone can adopt — indeed we in Ireland should embrace it for our own language.

When we meet someone, we greet them and, in Ireland, the majority of us do so in English. Having done so, the rest of the conversation is likely to continue in English too. Taking our leave of them, naturally, we tend to do so in English also.

The impression on anyone within hearing of this exchange and so many like it is that Irish does not exist or, if it does, hardly anyone in Ireland knows it or, if they do, don’t use it in their daily life. Not far from the truth, one might comment. Indeed but the reality is that a lot more know the language (or some of it at least) than one might think.

(Source photo: Internet)

Let’s return to that interaction touched upon earlier, when one person meets another. It could be a customer in a bar, restaurant or shop. One of them says “Hello”, the other replies likewise and from there onwards the verbal communication is all in English. Or another scenario, a friend or acquaintance of one, introduces another in English and both who are strangers proceed in English also.

(Source photo: Internet)

Perhaps the customer and the shop assistant, waiter or bartender in the first example were fluent Irish-speakers or at least competent – none knows this about the other and they continue in the dominant language, English; each may return home later without having spoken a word of Irish that day. The strangers being introduced to one another by a mutual acquaintance, perhaps at work on in a social setting, may have a similar experience.

Suppose that instead the customer or person being introduced had greeted in Irish? The recipient of the greeting now has the choice, assuming some knowledge of the language, to respond likewise. Should this occur, they can now proceed to the limits of their knowledge of the language or of the situation in which they find themselves. Other factors govern the choice being made but we can discuss those later.

What of the impression on those others within hearing? They might be surprised or even astonished, impressed or embarrassed; however everyone is reminded that Irish exists, that it is a medium of verbal communication and some people in Ireland use it, even outside the shrinking Irish-language reserves.

Of course, that was perhaps only two people heard speaking it in a whole month or even a year. But what if more people did the same? Why, some of those who overhear might even adopt the same habit, na céad focail in nGaeilge! Gradually at first and then suddenly, everybody would seem to be greeting in Irish! Why, it might even be worth learning a little oneself! At least enough to reply and take the conversation a sentence or two forward ….

In addition, sometimes the experience flushes out other Irish speakers too. On the top deck of a bus heading into the city centre one day, I could hear some young lads at the back of the bus (where else!) speaking in Irish. I could tell that they were not fluent but one at least was doing reasonably well. As they passed me to get off in Sráid Uí Chonaill, I remarked in Irish to them that it was great to hear the language being spoken in public. While they stumbled over a reply to me, the main across the aisle from me addressed them also, in fluent Ulster Irish. What an experience that must have been for the young lads but certainly for us, two Irish speakers a few feet away from one another and totally unaware, until that moment, of the other’s existence.

What about the last words being in Irish – just a courtesy or a whim of some kind? Well, imagine one greeted the stranger, shop assistant, waiter or bartender in Irish and the reply came in English (which at the moment would probably be the case)? Thereafter the conversation flows in English but, as the Irish speaker is leaving, she says “Slán”. By now, the other has recovered a little from being somewhat wrong-footed by being addressed in Irish and furthermore, since the customer is leaving, is not worried about exposing what he considers to be his shamefully little knowledge of the language, so he replies also in Irish, “Slán”.

(Source photo: Internet)

Of course, that situation was not momentous for the survival of the language but neither was it totally negative. The Irish speaker draws a little comfort from it. The other feels perhaps a little pride, is maybe even encouraged to respond in Irish should he see that person again or if some other addresses him in Irish. How hard can that be? He’d do it in Crete in Greek, in Spanish in Torremolinos or in Cancun, even though he can’t speak more than a few phrases from the tourist guidebook.

SHAME

          Of course, it is not the same. In the first place, the linguistic environment in Greece is Greek, in Torremolinos and Cancun, Spanish. Even migrant workers there will have learned the language. Not everyone around one in Ireland is speaking Irish in public, in fact, in most places, almost no-one is.

Secondly, there is no expectation of the English-speaker to be fluent in Greek or in Spanish. No expectation that the Irish person can speak Irish either, one might think. But actually, there kind of is. Inside the head of every Irish person there is the knowledge that this is their language and a feeling, buried deeply or lightly, that perhaps they should be able to speak it.

This feeling or knowledge can manifest itself in a reluctance to expose one’s limited knowledge of Irish to the perverse but understandable extent of refusing to speak it at all. Or of responding aggressively. Those are possible outcomes but so are more positive ones.

A person who has very little Irish may think: “But if I reply ‘Dia’s Muire dhuit’ and she lets loose with a flood of Irish, I won’t know what she’s saying and I’ll be mortified! Better to say nothing at all and not be so ashamed.” Of course, that is one choice. But it is not the only possible one. He could, instead, after she spoke to him some sentences in Irish he did not understand, reply in a sentence had learned off by heart: “Gabh mo leithscéil ach níl ach cúpla focal agam” (“Excuse me, I have but a few words”). She might in turn reply: “Go raibh maith agat, úsáid a bhfuil agat” (“Thanks, use what you have”).

In that kind of exchange, there has been a positive outcome for each participant. Not a huge step forward for the language in general but for anyone overhearing, a reminder that the Irish language does exist and that in this case, a person who did not seem know it well, still chose to learn a few words and use them. All of that goes to the credit side of the ledger in the psychological struggle for the maintenance and restoration of Irish.

IMPOLITE

          An issue that is often raised with regard to speaking in Irish in the company of non-speakers, is one of politeness. It is generally considered rude to speak in a language that other people in the company do not understand. Strangely enough, people tend to think that more about people speaking Irish in Ireland than they do about people speaking French, German or Spanish among themselves here.

The issue must be faced. Neither of those languages is in any danger but Irish is – and in serious danger. Despite the growth of nurseries, primary and some secondary schools teaching through Irish, the actual daily use of the language is in decline. And the Gaeltachtanna — those areas where the language of the home has always been Irish – are shrinking at an alarming rate.

We need to find social strategies for linguistically-mixed company, whether it be occasional translation for the non-Irish speakers, or the tolerance of the latter – or conversing parts in Irish and parts in English. For the sake of the language we cannot allow the rules of politeness to deprive us of every social occasion to speak in the language other than some tiny domains hidden away somewhere, small groups of us meeting like conspirators in places where we are unlikely to meet anyone we know.

Another issue often raised is related to foreigners, whether they be migrants or visitors. I would say that the same rules apply. Most of those migrants have their own language as well and speak it among themselves, in public too. And they must surely wonder why we don’t speak our own. The children of migrants are learning Irish at school and many are competent, some fluent in it. Some of their parents know a few words too: a Nepalese in a bar serves me through Irish and a Pakistani in a shop thanks me or tells me I am welcome, in Irish also.

SMALL STEPS

          In the public library, you may wish to greet in Irish and hand the returned books towards them saying: “Isteach”; the likelihood of you being misunderstood is minimal. Then, with the books being removed, “Amach”. In the Post Office, you can ask for “Stampa i gcóir Sasana, le do thoill” or “Stampa i gcóir na hEorpa”. To the question “Payment by cash or card?” when you present your bill, you may wish to show notes and reply “Le h-airgead” or, displaying your card, “Le cárta”. Leaving the bus or the taxi, you could say: “Go raibh maith agat, slán”. Sometimes, you will hear a reply in Irish and it will probably lift your heart a little. And the world around you will hear a little too …. and wonder.

None of that on its own, of course, will save the Irish language. But I think it will help.

The pro-independence political parties in the southern Basque Country make their public speeches either totally in Euskera or bilingually, in Euskera and Castillian. It is the same with the majority Basque trade unions. Also with the feminist and environmental movements, those against repression, against animal abuse, etc. In their public discourse, all organisations and parties in Catalunya that are not specifically Spanish-unionist (and even some of those), use Catalan first in public and Castillian secondly, if at all.

None of Ireland’s political parties (mainstream or oppositional), trade unions or campaigns (other than those specifically for the language) does anything much to promote the Irish language and some are hostile to it. That means it is up to us as individuals – everything we do for it can help at least a little.

So, as the Basques say, the first and last words in the language.

Do ye likewise; go out and multiply.

End.

FOOTNOTE:

1Catalan is spoken elsewhere than in Catalunya, for example in the Paisos Catalans (“Catalan Countries”) such as Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where it is not as strong as it is currently in Catalunya, also in part of Sardinia.

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CATALONIA — WHO BEST TO EXPLAIN? QUI ES MEJOR PER EXPLICAR?

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Outside of Catalonia or the Paisos Catalans (“Catalan Countries”, which includes the Balearic Islands and Valencia), who best to explain the realities and the controversies concerning the current independence bid of Catalonia? (Version in Castillian follows this one)

There are of course many unionist Spanish commentators but for the most part they rely on denunciation rather than explanation. When they do supply some explanation it either relies on a legalistic explanation of the Spanish State Constitution of 1978 or of a misreading of Catalan society (or both together).

Inside the Spanish State there are other groups which may well provide an adequate explanation, such as for example the Basques, the Galicians and small groups in other parts.

Outside the Spanish State, there are those struggling for the national liberation of other small nations in Europe who may well have studied the Spain-Catalonia question or have quickly informed themselves and, along with them, anti-fascists and revolutionary communists or socialists.

Catalan independence solidarity groups can of course collect accurate information and disseminate it but they are comparatively small and with little influence in the societies around them.

Undoubtedly, the largest and generally best-informed group of people are the Catalan diaspora – Catalans living in other states.

Of course, these Catalans may have a wide range of views among themselves on whether Catalonia would best be independent of the Spanish State, in a federal arrangement or totally independent. They may disagree on which political party is best – or on whether any should be supported. Socialism or not might be issues for discussion, as might whether to get independence first and resolve those other questions later. Even on the issue of whether armed resistance is justified or viable, there might be considerable variation in opinion.

But anyone from Catalonia can give the lie to the Spanish unionist propaganda that the Spanish language and those who use it are under attack in Catalonia, and also to the lie that the Catalan independence movement is of a racist-nationalist kind. Anyone from Catalonia who is being honest will say that the violence of the Spanish police on the day of the Referendum, 1st October 2017, was inexcusable and a crime against civil rights (indeed some Catalans who wanted to vote ‘No’ to independence would now vote ‘Yes’ as a result of that attack). Catalans for ‘Si’ or for ‘No’ can explain many things that are not available to most people outside Catalonia.

Man and child, faces painted in the colours and symbols of the estelada, a pro-Catalan independence flag. (Image source: Internet)

This reservoir of information about the struggle around Catalan independence is the largest outside Catalonia – but is it being used? These Catalans living abroad have partners, children, workmates, fellow-students, neighbours and friends they have met in the country in which they are living. In many states of Europe these Catalans are free from the fear of deportation and therefore free to speak out to those around them about what is happening in Catalonia and in the Spanish state.

 

AN EXAMPLE

It might be instructive to examine a historical example with some parallels.

In 1968 a struggle broke out in the British colony in Ireland, the Six Counties, as a struggle for civil rights for the Catholic community (mostly descendants of the pre-colonial inhabitants). The British colonial statelet responded with great violence from its armed force, backed up by the British Army and was responded to with armed guerrilla resistance.

It may surprise many to realise that initially, the civil rights struggle often received truthful and even sympathetic coverage in the British media. Once the British army went in, this began to change noticeably and with the first British Army casualties there was no longer any real pretence of unbiassed reporting.

British media reporting then wished not only to justify the actions of the British State to the world but also to its own population. But in the latter case, it faced a serious obstacle – the Irish community in Britain.

As well as being the longest-establish migrant community in Britain, it was by far the largest. Many of these people knew their history and also at least something about conditions in the Six Counties. It was less than 50 years since the creation of the Irish State after a guerrilla war of national liberation following 800 years with many armed uprisings and cruel English repression. And these Irish – including first-generation born in Britain and even second-generation – were capable of undermining the effect of the colonial discourse on partners, friends, work-mates, neighbours and trade-union members.

Old anti-Irish racism embedded in British culture could disturb the Irish diaspora’s counter-discourse but not, it seemed, sufficiently. The Irish not only undermined the State discourse by speaking what they knew to those around them, they also organised solidarity campaigns, held pickets and demonstrations – sometimes huge ones.

The IRA’s bombing campaign in Britain could have weakened the reception for the Irish voice but, though it certainly did it no good, it did not weaken it sufficiently. The British State decided to gag that voice with state terror and prepared legislation, waiting for the appropriate moment to introduce it, which they received with the 1974 massacre resulting from an IRA bomb in a Birmingham pub and problems in communicating a warning.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced under a Labour Government and passed in a few hours, allegedly as a only a temporary measure but was renewed every year under different party governments until 1989. The Act permitted banning of Irish Republican organisations; 5-day detention without charge (which could also be extended); search without warrant; detention for questioning at airports and ports under which many thousands were interrogated, often missing their flight or boat as a result; deportation; exclusion to the Six Counties (amounting to internal exile). And of course, not officially permitted but tolerated, frame-ups, threats, beatings and torture.

Nearly 20 innocent members of the community and their friends were arrested and framed on bombing-related charges in five different cases and all convicted of murder and terrorism, to spend long years trying to establish their innocence, most of their marriages destroyed, their mental health severely injured, one to die in jail. That, and the ongoing repression of arrests-and-release, raids etc, was enough to silence, for the most part, the Irish community.

Until the Hunger Strikers of 1981 brought them out in mass again.

 

THE REASON

Why am I telling you this history? To frighten you? To make you feel sorry for the Irish in Britain in those years? No, I am retelling this history to illustrate the potential power of the diaspora to tell the truth about what is happening in its country of origin. That power was so great against the British propaganda machine that the State felt obliged to weaken it, to terrorise the Irish community, to take hostages from it.

Women with faces painted in Catalan national colours, one with the estelada design and the other with the ensenyera
(Photo credit: JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, the Catalan diaspora outside the Spanish state has a similar power but it is not “in the belly of the beast” as the Irish in Britain were nor in most cases is it subject to threat of imprisonment or other state terror.

To have that power implies a responsibility to use it, to explain things to those around them in whichever country they find themselves.

 

End

(VERSION IN CASTILLIAN FOLLOWS)

 

Fuera de Cataluña o de los Paisos Catalans (lo cual incluye a las Islas Baleares y Valencia), ¿quiénes son los mejores para explicar las realidades y las controversias sobre la actual candidatura de independencia de Cataluña?

Por supuesto, hay muchos comentaristas españoles unionistas, pero en su mayor parte se basan en la denuncia más que en la explicación. Cuando ofrecen alguna explicación, se basa en una explicación legalista de la Constitución del Estado español de 1978 o en una mala interpretación de la sociedad catalana (o ambas juntas).

Dentro del Estado español hay otros grupos que pueden proporcionar una explicación adecuada, como por ejemplo los vascos, los gallegos y grupos pequeños en otras partes.

Fuera del Estado español, hay quienes luchan por la liberación nacional de otras naciones pequeñas en Europa que bien pudieron haber estudiado la cuestión España-Cataluña o se han informado rápidamente y, junto con ellos, antifascistas y comunistas o socialistas revolucionarios.

Los grupos de solidaridad con la independencia catalana, por supuesto, pueden recopilar información precisa y difundirla, pero son comparativamente pequeños y con poca influencia en las sociedades que los rodean.

Sin lugar a dudas, el grupo de personas más grande y generalmente mejor informado es la diáspora catalana: los catalanes que viven en otros estados.

Some european cities where Catalans may be found
(map source: Internet)

Por supuesto, est@s catalan@s pueden tener una amplia gama de puntos de vista sobre si Cataluña sería mejor independiente del Estado español, en un acuerdo federal o totalmente independiente. Pueden estar en desacuerdo sobre cuál es el mejor partido político, o si se debe apoyar a alguno. El socialismo o no puede ser un tema de discusión, ya sea si obtener la independencia primero y resolver esas otras preguntas más adelante. Incluso en la cuestión de si la resistencia armada es justificada o viable, puede haber una variación considerable en la opinión.

Pero cualquiera de Cataluña puede desmentir a la propaganda sindicalista española de que el idioma español y los que la usan están bajo ataque en Cataluña, y también a la mentira de que el movimiento independentista catalán es de tipo racista-nacionalista. Cualquier persona de Cataluña que sea honesta dirá que la violencia de la policía española el día del Referéndum, el 1 de octubre de 2017, fue inexcusable y un crimen contra los derechos civiles (de hecho, algunos catalanes que querían votar “No” a la independencia ahora votarían “Sí” como resultado de ese ataque). Los catalanes para ‘Si’ o para ‘No’ pueden explicar muchas cosas que no están disponibles para la mayoría de las personas fuera de Cataluña.

Esta reserva de información sobre la lucha en torno a la independencia catalana es la más grande fuera de Cataluña, pero ¿se está utilizando? Est@s catalan@s que viven en el extranjero tienen compañer@s, hij@s, compañer@s de trabajo, compañer@s de estudios, vecin@s y amig@s que han conocido en el país en el que viven. En muchos estados de Europa, est@s catalan@s están libres del temor a la deportación y, por lo tanto, pueden hablar libremente con quienes les rodean sobre lo que está sucediendo en Cataluña y en el Estado español.

UN EJEMPLO

Podría ser instructivo examinar un ejemplo histórico con algunos paralelos.

En 1968 estalló una lucha en la colonia británica en Irlanda, los Seis Condados, como una lucha por los derechos civiles de la comunidad católica (en su mayoría descendientes de los habitantes ante coloniales). El estadito colonial británico respondió con gran violencia de su fuerza armada, respaldado por el ejército británico y fue respondido con la resistencia guerrillera armada.

Puede sorprender a muchos darse cuenta de que inicialmente, la lucha por los derechos civiles a menudo recibió una cobertura sincera e incluso simpática en los medios británicos. Una vez que entró el ejército británico, esto comenzó a cambiar notablemente y con las primeras bajas del ejército británico ya no hubo ninguna pretensión real de informar sin sesgos.

Los medios de comunicación británicos entonces deseaban no solo justificar las acciones del Estado británico ante el mundo, sino también ante su propia población. Pero en este último caso, se enfrentó a un serio obstáculo: la comunidad irlandesa en Gran Bretaña.

Además de ser la comunidad de migrantes más antigua en Gran Bretaña, fue, con mucho, la más grande. Muchas de estas personas conocían su historia y también al menos algo sobre las condiciones en los Seis Condados. Pasaron menos de 50 años desde la creación del Estado irlandés después de una guerra guerrillera de liberación nacional, después de 800 años con muchos levantamientos armados y la cruel represión inglesa. Y estos irlandeses, incluyendo la primera generación nacida en Gran Bretaña e incluso la segunda generación, fueron capaces de socavar el efecto del discurso colonial en los socios, amigos, compañer@s de trabajo, vecin@s y miembros de sindicatos.

El viejo racismo antiirlandés incrustado en la cultura británica podría perturbar el discurso en contra de la diáspora irlandesa, pero no, al parecer, lo suficiente. L@s irlandes@s no solo socavaron el discurso del Estado al decir lo que sabían a quienes los rodeaban, sino que también organizaron campañas de solidaridad, celebraron piquetes y manifestaciones, a veces enormes.

La campaña de bombardeos del IRA en Gran Bretaña podría haber debilitado la recepción de la voz irlandesa pero, aunque ciertamente no le sirvió, no la debilitó lo suficiente. El Estado británico decidió amordazar esa voz con terror estatal y preparó una legislación, esperando el momento adecuado para introducirla, que recibió con la masacre de 1974 que resultó de una bomba del IRA en un pub de Birmingham y problemas para comunicar una advertencia.

La Ley de Prevención del Terrorismo se introdujo bajo un gobierno social demócrata y se aprobó en unas pocas horas, supuestamente como una medida temporal, pero se renovó cada año bajo gobiernos de diferentes partidos hasta 1989. La Ley permitió la prohibición de organizaciones republicanas irlandesas; 5 días de detención sin cargos (que también podría ampliarse); búsqueda sin orden judicial; detención por interrogatorio en aeropuertos y puertos en los que se interrogó a miles de personas, por lo que a menudo perdieron su vuelo o bote; deportación; exclusión a los Seis Condados (equivalente al exilio interno). Y, por supuesto, no está permitido oficialmente, pero se tolera, enmarañamientos, amenazas, golpizas y torturas.

Cerca de 20 miembros inocentes de la comunidad y sus amigas fueron arrestados y acusados ​​de atentados con bombas en cinco casos diferentes y tod@s condenad@s por asesinato y terrorismo, por largos años tratando de establecer su inocencia, la mayoría de sus matrimonios destruidos, su salud mental gravemente herido, uno para morir en la cárcel. Eso, y la continua represión de detenciones y liberaciones, redadas, etc., fue suficiente para silenciar, en su mayor parte, a la comunidad irlandesa.

Hasta que los huelguistas del hambre del 1981 los sacaron a la calle de nuevo en masas.

LA RAZÓN

          ¿Por qué les estoy contando esta historia? ¿Para asustar les? ¿Para hacer les sentir mal por los irlandeses en Gran Bretaña en esos años? No, estoy contando esta historia para ilustrar el poder potencial de la diáspora para contar la verdad sobre lo que está sucediendo en su país de origen. Ese poder era tan grande contra la maquinaria de propaganda británica que el Estado se sintió obligado a debilitarlo, a aterrorizar a la comunidad irlandesa, a tomar rehenes de él.

Hoy en día, la diáspora catalana fuera del Estado español tiene un poder similar, pero no está “en el vientre de la bestia” como estaban l@s irlandes@s en Gran Bretaña ni en la mayoría de los casos está sujeta a amenazas de encarcelamiento u otro terror estatal.

Tener ese poder implica la responsabilidad de usarlo, de explicar las cosas a quienes los rodean en cualquier país en el que se encuentren.

Dublin & 40 European cities protest Spanish political trials and Catalan political prisoners

Rebel Breeze reporter

 

Leading up to the start date of the trials in Madrid of 12 Catalan independence activists, nine of whom have been in jail for 15 months awaiting trial, 40 cities around Europe were to hold solidarity protests. Today, 9th February, was the turn of some, including Berlin, Germany and Dublin, Ireland.

 

(Photo source: Rebel Breeze)

The defendants are charged with ‘rebellion’, ‘sedition’ and ‘misuse of public funds’ arising out of organising peaceful demonstrations and a referendum and later supporting a declaration of independence — and the Spanish State has refused to make provision for international observers.

Though the call for international actions came from the leadership of the grass-roots organisation ANC (Catalan National Assembly) in Catalonia, the action in Dublin was organised in cooperation by CDR (Comitè de defensa de la República) Dublin and With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin. This followed very soon after organising to welcome Puigdemont to Dublin to take part in a debate at Trinity College and also to meet politicians at the Dáil (Irish Parliament).

Placards displayed in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Placards displayed in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Placards displayed in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Placards with images of exiled (Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The solidarity protesters met in Merchant’s Arch, a well-known spot for people living in Dublin and well-trodden by tourists, leading from Temple Bar to the Ha’penny Bridge on the other side of the road. This iconic pedestrian bridge crosses the Liffey river from south to north in the heart of Dublin city.

Some displays were set up inside the Arch by CDR, which also draped a huge banner over the railing of the boardwalk on the north side of the river, which read “Freedom for All Catalan Political Prisoners and Exiles!”. Over the same railing WCLC hung large bunting with the word “SÍ” on each flag, a reminder of the verdict for an independent republic in the referendum on 1st October 2017.

Catalan Estelades (pro-independence flags) were attached near the entrance to the Arch as was a small banner calling for freedom for political prisoners. Placards of the Catalan pro-independence activists on trial were also on display.

Supporters handed out informational leaflets and engaged members of the public in discussion before untying the banner and streamers from the riverside, packing up the displays and placards in Merchant’s Arch and heading off for warm food (and possibly drink).

“Si” bunting hung along north riverside
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

The 12 go on trial in Madrid on 12th February, a day when further solidarity protest actions will take place in various European cities and a General Strike in Catalunya.

CDR Dublin and WCLC will continue to organise in Ireland, according to their spokespersons and welcome involvement from others of whatever ethnic background. “Contrary to what the Spanish State and its supporters claim, we are not anti-Spanish” their spokespersons said. “We are for the right of self-determination and as democrats must be against the repressive behaviour of the Spanish State, so reminiscent of its previous dictator General Franco.”

End.

Merchant’s Arch entrance seen from Ha’penny Bridge steps
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Setting up in Merchant’s Arch (Photo: Rebel Breeze)
Banner-minding duty
(Photo: Rebel Breeze)

PUIGDEMONT IN DUBLIN DEBATE: INDEPENDENCE, NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY

Diarmuid Breatnach

Section of audience queuing to enter the auditorium

A debate on the above theme was organised in Trinity College for the 29th January and advertised at less than a week’s notice, which however gave rise to such interest that the venue had to be changed from the 160-seat Robert Emmett Theatre to the Edmund Burke and people were turned away after the 406 seats had been filled.

          Trinity College is a prestige university in Dublin and in the world generally, though its history in Dublin was for centuries of a religious sectarian and colonialist nature, founded as it was by Elizabeth I to ensure the education of the male children of English colonists in what she considered the ‘true faith’ of Anglicanism (which was and is still the State religion of England and of which the English monarch is Head). Its location too is very central to the city, being just across the Liffey on the south side and in 1916 served as a Headquarters for the British suppression of the Rising.

Section of audience waiting to back left of the auditorium in Trinity College, Dublin (Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of audience to the left and front of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of audience to the rear of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of section of audience to the right of the auditorium. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

 

Huge human rights solidarity banner unfurled in the auditorium for photo but not while the debate was in session. 
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Puigdemont had been invited to take part in a debate on Independence, Nationalism and Democracy by TRISS, the Trinity Research in Social Sciences department, whose MC for the evening was clearly taken aback by the numbers who had pre-booked tickets and most of whom queued for half an hour outside the lecture theatre – and some for even longer waiting to get in.

A quick photo opportunity for some supporters of Catalan (and Basque) independence outside the Trinity College’s main gate before entering to hear the debate on “Nationalism, Independence and Democracy”.
(Photo: Marina Dolcet)

Members and supporters of the campaign group With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin, Comite de Defensa de la República and the cultural organisation Casal Catalá de Irlanda were there of course but so were a great many others; mostly Catalans with some Irish and people from other countries sprinkled among them and including some from elsewhere in the Spanish state. The overall feeling was clear when, as soon as Puigdemont was spotted entering the auditorium from a side entrance, along with other participants, he was applauded in what turned out to be a mostly standing ovation.

The MC or chairperson, Gail McElroy, Professor in Political Science and Head of the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, made a special plea for good behaviour from the audience and also revealed that she had experienced some trepidation in preparation for the event. These expressions led to speculation among sections of the audience that the organisers of the debate had been subjected to a bombardment of hostile electronic communication. People in the Spanish state and sometimes abroad are familiar with this behaviour from right-wing Spanish nationalists, including outright fascists and even state-orchestrated trolls but for someone encountering it for the first time, no doubt it can be intimidating.

Puigdemont at lectern.

PUIGDEMONT: IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN EUROPE

          Puigdemont began by saying that some of those present might want to know why Catalans do not want to be part of Spain. He could answer that question by recalling the history of Catalonia as a nation, its struggles, its language and its culture. That would be the discourse of 19th-20th Century nationalism, he said. However he preferred to outline it as modern process in the 21st Century, rooted in Europe and in democracy.

The President-in-exile surprised some of his listeners, no doubt, by pointing out that as recently as four years ago, the majority of the Catalan independentist parties had been asking only for greater autonomy from the Spanish State. The history of recent growth towards a majority demand for independence has been as a result of the refusal of the Spanish State to concede any greater autonomy and of the Spanish Court revoking laws passed by the Catalan Government.

But the Spanish response to Catalan demands has always been “no”, to everything”, said Puigdemont. “No” to dialogue. “No” to negotiation. “No” to reaching a democratic solution. Given the refusal, and obeying the mandate given to us by the majority of Catalan citizens, the Government of Catalonia, which it was my honour to preside, called a referendum on selfdetermination on 1 October 2017, with the legal backing of the Parliament of Catalonia. We did so while observing the basic principles of universal rights.”

And the world had seen the violence of the Spanish police inflicted upon people wishing peacefully to vote.

The aim was not just to confiscate ballot boxes and ballot slips”, Puigdemont maintained but instead “to make people give up their right to vote. But this ignominious act backfired on the politicians responsible for it. Over 2.4 million citizens overcame their fear and went out to vote. We do not know how many tried to do so unsuccessfully, but we do know the polling stations that were violently closed represented a further 770,000 voters.

Puigdemont continued: Today, democracy in Spain is at risk because basic rights have been de facto” suspended, and this represents a major threat to all Catalan and Spanish citizens, as well as to the European Union. Today, an EU member state cannot guarantee the judicial rights of its citizens, given that in recent months Spain has contravened international treaties ratified by the Spanish state itself, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Referring to the Spanish State taking direct control of the Catalan government administration and preparing criminal charges against grass-roots organisation leaders and elected representatives, taking some as prisoners while others went into exile, Puigdemont said that this was not an internal Spanish problem but instead a Europan one. Seven hundred others, mostly town mayors, are under investigation too. Those independence activists, who have done nothing wrong and even according to Spanish law are innocent until proven guilty, have been kept in prison for over a year.

Concluding, Puigdemont said: “We will not falter. I have often said that what threatens democracy is not disagreement; indeed, democracy needs disagreements. What really threatens it is a lack of tools to solve disagreements democratically. We Catalans hope and trust that the political conflict over our selfdetermination can be resolved peacefully, without war, without violence, without winners and losers, without victims and thugs. We reject all the violence used in the last century in any part of the planet to resolve political conflict.

As Pau Casals, a well-known Catalan, reminded us in a memorable speech to the United Nations Assembly in 1971, Catalans in the eleventh century met ‘to talk about peace, because at that time, the Catalans were already against war’. Ten centuries later, we maintain these same values of peace and harmony.”

THE OTHER SPEAKERS IN THE DEBATE

          Located as the debate was in the capital city of Ireland and in the centenary of the founding of the first democratically-elected Irish Parliament, an Chéad Dáil, it was most noticeable that neither Puigdemont nor the other speakers referred to the experience of Ireland’s struggle for independence.

Dr Marvin Suesse – Assistant Professor in Economics, Trinity College Dublin spoke on The Economic Costs of Sovereignty”, from his research on the political economy of separatism and nationalism. He said that while the benefits of independence in terms of feelings of pride, promotion of culture etc. were difficult to measure, the economic benefits were not. Suesse went on to give examples which indicated that the costs of independence were greater than the benefits.

Dr Michelle D’Arcy – Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity College Dublin. spoke on “Secession and the Fiscal Contract: Reflections from the Post-Colonial World.”

D’Arcy teaches African politics and the political economy of development to undergraduate and postgraduate students and her research broadly focuses on understanding how politics and institutions enable and constrain human development and more specifically on democratization in Africa and state-building in Europe historically. Though she made some interesting points and believes that independence movements engage in a “fiscal contract”, it was difficult to see where she stood on the question under discussion.

Dr, Coman’s screen display
Dr. Coman at lectern.

Dr Emanuel Coman – Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity College Dublin spoke on “When does the Right to Self-Determination Actually Apply?”

Emanuel Coman is Assistant Professor in Political Science at Trinity College Dublin, teaching courses in comparative institutions and American Politics. His research is primarily in the fields of party politics and elections, with empirics driven primarily from Eastern Europe.

Coman, from Rumania as he told his audience, analysed the European nations that were successful in gaining independence after WWI. Most had been under the rule of the defeated belligerents. His thesis seemed to be that a nation’s bid for independence required the support of the big powers exerting influence in the area.

ONE MUST ALSO WEIGH THE COST OF NOT DECLARING INDEPENDENCE!”

          Commenting on the presentations of the other speakers and responding to questions after his presentation, Puigdemont was more lively than when reading his speech and at times showed some fire, particularly when he responded that as well as weighing the costs of independence, one must consider the costs of not becoming independent, which brought some applause from sections of the audience. Aside from anything else, he said, it is a question of dignity: the Catalans had the right to make their own decisions, whether they be correct ones or mistaken.

A much greater applause and cheers broke out when Puigdemont denied that the Spanish State could be described as “a democracy” and stated that this was not opinion but fact, given that the Monarch and Head of State (father of the current monarch) had been personally appointed as his successor by the fascist coupist General Franco, whose mausoleum is a national monument of the State.

Responding to a suggestion that the Catalan pro-independence movement might benefit from employing the tactics of the “Yellow Vests” of Paris, Puigdemont was most emphatic that his movement was peaceful and would never under any circumstances resort to violence.

One member of the audience criticised the panel (other than Puigdemont) for not addressing the actual issues in Catalan independence and the Spanish State’s opposition.

Asked by a member of the audience to describe his feelings of exile, Puigdemont replied that he could not indulge those feelings since he would be unable to continue the struggle if he did so. He revealed that his own grandfather, in a concentration camp in France after the fall of Barcelona to Franco’s military-fascist forces, had written to his family so that they were aware of the feelings of exile even though they never saw him again. His voice seemed to gain a heightened emotion when he remarked that when he compared his situation to that of refugees, like those from Syria, launching themselves on the hazardous journey to European shores, survivors arriving often to be badly treated, he felt he had little of which to complain.

Puigdemont surrounded by well-wishers and the curious after the debate while others are in excited conversation.

AUDIENCE REACTION

          The audience gave Puigdemont and, one supposes, the other speakers and TRISS for having organised the debate, sustained applause and cheers, during which one could hear some pro-independence slogans in Catalan. Afterwards, many remained in the auditorium to speak to Puigdemont or to chat amongst themselves in a general buzz of excitement.

Views expressed by a number of listeners afterwards on the content of the debate were in general positive though these varied through a continuum from “excellent” to “all right but somewhat disappointing”. All feedback received agreed that on two points Puigdemont had been excellent: on the question of calculating the cost of NOT seceding from the Spanish state and also on the characterisation of the Spanish State as not being a democracy, as one that had failed to break properly with its Franco-fascist past.  Few gave positive feedback on the other debaters.

Crowds delayed leaving for around half an hour, gathering talking among themselves or queuing up to shake Puigdemont’s hand, talk to him etc. and Casals Catala presented him with some books on Irish history.

COMMENT:

          Puigdemont comes across as quite genuine in his convictions and as an able debater, even in a language which cannot be his first or second. His vision of Europe does not perhaps coincide with the views of some others and one may doubt the practicality of his commitment to non-violence. One may also question whether anyone has the right to commit the movement to peaceful resistance alone, even if it were to be attacked violently.

I did not hear him speak any words in Irish but the written text of Puigdemont’s speech did contain some. Although it was good to see some Irish there, for the few words he was going to speak in the language, Puigdemont (or his advisors) might have taken the trouble to formulate them correctly. Addressing “mná agus uasal” although addressing women first, suggests that the audience was an almost all-female one and who were not “uasal” (noble, important), but was surely unintended. And “dea-trathnóna leat (‘to you’, singular) go léir” (to all of you) is a conflation of singular and plural in the same address; likewise with the “go raibh maith agat” which thanks one person rather than the audience which was the intention and “go mór” which if not incorrect is clumsy and straight from Google Translate for “thanks a lot”.

Standing outside the auditorium with a placard announcing the Catalan solidarity demonstration on Saturday 9th April, at one point I noticed Puigdemont standing some metres away with some others. As he caught my eye, he stepped towards me, hand outstretched.

I gripped his hand and smiling, said: “Fáilte go Baile Átha Cliath!”

“Thank you,” he replied, smiling also and stepped back.

Whatever else he may be, I suspect he is what we in Dublin would call (with a meaning remote from any kind of subservience) “A gentleman.”

End.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON PUIGDEMONT:

          Born in Amer, a village in the province of Girona and fifty-seven years of age last December, Carles Puigedemont is a journalist by trade and ex-Mayor of Girona, a major Catalonian city of over 100,000, just under 100 kilometres (62 miles) north-east of Barcelona. In 2006, after a track record of activism in Catalan culture and nationalist activism, he was adopted as a political candidate by the CIU (Convergence and Union) political party and later to represent the reformation of that party in the Junts per Si (Together for Yes) coalition, composed of mostly nationalist capitalist elements. He has been successful in every election and currently heads the uneasy Junts per Cat (Together for Catalonia) coalition. The current Govern is made up of a coalition between JuntsXCat and ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), with the other pro-independence party, CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) in opposition, though not voting with the Spanish-unionist opposition.

In what seems an action contradictory to his political position, in January 2019 Puigdemont filed a constitutional application for amparo (remedy, to put right) directed against the President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent and the Board of the Chamber, to the Spanish Constitutional Court. The application argues Puigdemont had been denied the use of his political rights as Torrent did not allow him to delegate his vote from Belgium after Puigdemont’s criminal indictment and suspension of his parliamentary position by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

Despite constant Spanish-unionist claims from both Right and Left, the Catalan pro-independence movement has shown itself more tolerant of migrants and diversity than can be said in general of much of the rest of the Spanish State; one of the laws of the Govern sought to give migrants equal access to Catalan national health care but was twice squashed by the Spanish Supreme Court. Puigdemont is himself married to Romanian journalist (Marcela Topor in 2000) and they have two daughters, Magali and Maria, the family home in Girona. His children are multi-lingual and Puigdemont himself speaks Catalan and Castillian (Spanish), as do most Catalans but also English, French and Romanian.

LINKS AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Text of Puigdemont’s address in the debate in full attached at the end of the brief report in El Nacional: https://www.elnacional.cat/en/news/puigdemont-dublin-bertie-ahern-trinity-college-ireland_349173_102.html

Pre-event publicity from Trinity College: https://www.tcd.ie/ssp/events/lectures/2019-01-independence/

With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland/

CDR Dublin: https://www.facebook.com/CDRDublin/

Casal Catalá de Irlanda: https://www.facebook.com/casalcatalairlanda/

CATALAN PRESIDENT-IN-EXILE MEETS IRISH PARLIAMENTARIANS IN DUBLIN

Rebel Breeze Reporter

Puigdemont. President-in-exile of Catalonia, visited Dublin to take part in a debate in Trinity College on Tuesday 29th January and visited the Dáil and a number of Irish politicians on the same day.

Puigdemont and Puignól at the Barcelona-ireland friendship tree in Cow’s Lane, bracketed by activists of Casals Catalá de Irlanda, Catalan cultural organisation in Ireland on each side.
(Photo source: ACN, El Nacional).

          Carles Puigdemont was elected President of the pro-independence Catalan Government, declared an independent Catalan Republic but immediately suspended it; then had his Presidency abolished by the Spanish State, which took direct control of Catalonia for a period. He went into exile with a number of other Catalan Government ministers in order to avoid arrest; the Spanish State issued a European Arrest Warrant for him which was party unsuccessful and then withdrew it; however, he remains in exile in Brussels. Most pro-independence Catalans and even others consider him the legitimate President of Catalonia, though another had to be elected to fill his place; Quim Torra, who is currently the elected President, says that he considers himself only “the interim President”.

Carles Puigdemont was elected President of the Govern, the Catalan Government, in January 2016, in an agreement between pro-independence parties. On 27th October 2017, with a majority of October 1st Referendum votes salvaged and counted — after the Spanish police attacks on the voters – in favour of independence, he declared a Catalan Republic on behalf of the Govern. However, he almost immediately suspended it, to the dismay of many Catalans, including supporters of his own party. The Spanish State, the Constitution of which forbids any secession without the majority vote of the Parliament of the whole territory, was not mollified by the suspension and, as the Spanish State prepared criminal charges against him and Catalan Ministers, Puigdemont went into exile (as did another five Catalan ministers).

ARRESTS AND EXILE

          The Spanish State arrested a number of others, including seven ministers and two leaders of grass-roots movements and charged them with sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds, carrying 30, 15 and six years in prison respectively and European Arrest Warrants were issued for Puigdemont and other ministers. On 25th March 2018, Puigdemont was detained on that warrant while passing through Germany on his way back to Brussels from a speaking engagement in Finland. A German judge decided the issue of the “rebellion” charge first, declaring that any such charge had to provide evidence of violence, of which there had been none by the detainee (there had been plenty of violence but all by the Spanish police) nor under his direction.

The German court decided in July that Puigdemont could be extradited to the Spanish State to be tried for misuse of public funds but the Spanish State, not wishing to have to try him and the other ministers only on those while the other ministers were being tried on the more serious charges, withdrew the arrest warrants. These charges can of course be renewed at any time and another warrant issued.

Since his return to Brussels after release by the German court, this Dublin visit has been Puigdemont’s first venture outside Belgium.

Accompanied by Jordi Puigneró, the current Minister of Digital Policies and administration of Catalonia, also visiting Ireland, Puigdemont paid a brief visit to an olive tree donated by Barcelona to Dublin in acknowledgement of the Irish who had fought for Catalonia in the War of the Spanish Succession. After a meeting with the Mayor of Dublin for the year, Niall Ring, Carles Puigdemont attended the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) for a private meeting with Bertie Ahearn, a Fianna Fáil party parliamentarian and ex-Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

Puignól attaches a yellow ribbon to the Barcelona-Ireland olive tree in solidarity with the Catalan political prisoners.
(Photo source: Casals Catalá de Irlanda)

MEETING IN THE DÁIL

          Afterwards Puigdemont addressed a meeting room of around 100, organised by the Dáil organisation Oireachtas Friends of Catalonia, with its chairperson Pat Gavan, Sinn Féin Senator, presiding.  Jordi Puigneró sat beside Puigdemont as did Lynn Boylan, Sinn Féin MEP.

Puigdemont in the packed Dáil meeting room, Leinster House, Dublin.  Others L-R: Minister Jordi Puignól, MEP Lynn Boylan, Sen. Paul Gavan.
(Photo source: Internet)

Fifty-seven years of age last December, Carles Puigedemont is a journalist by trade and ex-Mayor of Girona, a major Catalonian city of over 100,000, just under 100 kilometres (62 miles) north-east of Barcelona. In 2006, after a track record of activism in Catalan culture and nationalist activism, he was adopted as a political candidate by the CIU (Convergence and Union) political party and later to represent the reformation of that party in the Junts per Si (Together for Yes) coalition, composed of mostly nationalist capitalist elements. He has been successful in every election and currently heads the uneasy coalition platform Junts per Cat (Together for Catalonia). The current Govern is made up of a coalition between JuntsXCat and ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia), with the other pro-independence party, CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) in opposition, though not voting with the Spanish-unionist opposition.

In what seems an action contradictory to his political position, in January 2019 Puigdemont filed a constitutional application for amparo (remedy, to put right) directed against the President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent and the Board of the Chamber, to the Spanish Constitutional Court. The application argues Puigdemont had been denied the use of his political rights as Torrent did not allow him to delegate his vote from Belgium after Puigdemont’s criminal indictment and suspension of his parliamentary position by Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena.

Despite constant Spanish-unionist claims from both Right and Left, the Catalan pro-independence movement has shown itself more tolerant of migrants and diversity than can be said in general of much of the rest of the Spanish State and one of the laws of the Govern, twice squashed by the Spanish Supreme Court, sought to give migrants equal access to Catalan national health care. Puigdemont is himself married to Romanian journalist (Marcela Topor in 2000) and they have two daughters, Magali and Maria, the family home in Girona. His children are multi-lingual and Puigdemont himself speaks Catalan and Castillian (Spanish), as do most Catalans but also English, French and Romanian.

Addressing the full room, after thanking Gavin for presiding over the meeting and those assembled for their presence, Puigdemont presented his case that Catalonia had the right to secede, that holding a referendum was a democratic activity per excellance, that the arrest and trial of politicians for having promoted that referendum was undemocratic and that such activity was not within keeping of the EU ethos.

Replying to questions on what he would ask Irish politicians to do in order to help Catalonia’s struggle and on how he saw his nation’s struggle combining with other nations within the Spanish state, for example the Basque Country, Puigdemont said he did not wish to tell other countries what do and that the struggle of Catalonia stood on its own. He declined to relate the content of his discussions with Aherne, which he said were confidential. One member of the audience reminded Puigdemont that 100 years ago, the first democratically-elected Irish national parliament had met and that many of its delegates were also in jail or in exile.

To a question about alleged flight of business from Catalonia, Puigdemont said that one had to read alternate media to some of the dominant ones and make up one’s own mind, critically examining all sources – including himself! But he did say that although some addresses of head offices were transferred to the Spanish State in what he said was not legally right, not one factory, working office or member of staff had been transferred out of Catalonia. Also, the struggle with the Spanish State and some Spanish attempts at boycott had obliged Catalans to look outside the Spanish state for their markets and business links whereas previously, imports from and exports to the Spanish state had accounted for 90% and 80% respectively. Jordi Puigneró commented that he was in Ireland in part because of that, in particular to follow up on the Irish state’s success in attracting and developing information technology business.

After the Dáil meeting, Puigdemont and Puignól pose for photos with Catalan solidarity supporters.
(Photo source: Casals Catalá de Irelanda)

Outside in the icy cold after the fairly short meeting, Puigdemont lined up for a few photos surrounded by Catalan and other well-wishers and departed to the singing by them of Catalan’s national anthem, Els Segadors (The Reapers). He had a debate at which to speak in a few hours and most of the Catalans in attendance would be there too.

 

End.

OTHER MEDIA REPORTS:

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/well-continue-fighting-for-our-freedom-it-doesnt-matter-if-were-in-jail-excatalan-president-tells-tds-37763055.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/carles-puigdemont-i-may-participate-in-the-european-elections-1.3776372

 

 

GAINS FOR THE HARD RIGHT IN ANDALUSIA – REASON TO PANIC?

Diarmuid Breatnach

Summary: Alarm is being expressed in a number of quarters, especially within the Spanish state’s territory, at the gains made by the hard right in the regional elections in the southern Spanish province of Andalucia. Held on 2nd December this year, a fairly new party, hard-right Vox won seats for the first time – 12 of them. Ciudadanos, another hard-right party which has been around longer, increased their share of the seats by twelve to 21. Should we be afraid? I think not …. we should certainly be alert – but for other reasons.

Vox supporters celebrate their party’s results in Andalusian elections (Photo source: Internet)

NB: This is not a deep analysis but rather a look at some of the circumstances in Andalusia in relation to those of the Spanish state as a whole and in the context of its history and current situation.

On 2nd December, elections were held in the Andalusian region, one of the 17 ‘autonomous communities’ of the Spanish state. At the time, the social-democratic PSOE controlled the regional government but only with the ‘confidence and supply’ support of the very right-wing party Ciudadanos; the latter withdrew their support and the PSOE called a snap election. The extremely right-wing (to use the most neutral description applicable) political party Vox for the first time had some electoral success and took 12 seats.

Vox is opposed to the right to choose abortion and also to equal same-sex marriage, proposing instead a different “civil union” for gay and lesbian couples. Like all the main Spanish political parties (and many smaller ones), Vox upholds the territorial integrity of the Spanish state but unlike most others opposes also the Statute of Autonomy which created regions with a degree of autonomy (which was part of the deal of ‘Transition’ from the Franco dictatorship, mainly to placate the nations within the state’s territory). The party is critical of multi-culturalism and immigration policies in general and regarding Islam in particular.

The election of those 12 Deputies has caused a wave of panic across many left-wing and democratic sectors across the Spanish state and one hears and reads comments that “this is the first time a party of the extreme right has gained seats in the Spanish state since the end of the Franco Dictatorship.” If that is true, it is so only in the perception of those commentators.

NOT ONLY FASCIST DEPUTIES HAVE BEEN ELECTED SINCE FRANCO BUT FASCIST GOVERNMENTS TOO

The fact is that fascism was never defeated in the Spanish state after the Popular Front Government was overthrown by Spanish military-fascist coup, aided by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, in 1938. For four subsequent decades, there was a fascist dictatorship. After that, there was a fake “Transition”1 in which political groupings directly related to the dictatorship formed political parties and the first two governments (September 1975-July 1976) were of unashamed fascist background followed by two of the UCD (July 1976-December 1982), also of fascist background but wearing the veneer of being ‘centre-right’. One of UCD’s most important movers and shakers was Manuel Fraga, the director of murderous State repression of all antifascist, anti-monarchical and independentist resistance during the “Transition”, his slogan being “The streets are mine”.

The next Government was of the social-democratic PSOE, which swept the board, assisted by a panic about the restoration of a fascist dictatorship, aroused by a somewhat farcical very minor attempt at a military coup, the supporters of which entered the Parliament while it was in session and took it over for a while before they surrendered when it was clear they were out on their own.

The PSOE and its associated trade union, the UGT, had been illegal under Franco. The attempt to rebrand the Spanish State as a “democracy” required a bipartisan social democratic party and also a restraining hand on the illegal trade unions (i.e all that were not fascist). But legalising the PSOE and the UGT would be insufficient if the Communist Party of Spain and its allied trade union, the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) were left out in the cold, where they would certainly cause a lot of trouble. Both parties were anti-monarchist — would they agree to to monarchy being foisted on the public after more than four decades without one? Could they guarantee not to go after any fascists for crimes of torture and murder? Would they support a unionist constitution? Would they control their unions? They could, would and did, even putting up with the murder of union lawyers (PCE/CCOO) and bombing of the UGT headquarters during the ‘Transition’.

The PSOE was in government from December 1982 to May 1986, during which time it ran assassination and terror squads (GAL 1983-1987) against the Basque left-wing pro-independence movement with the aid of high-ranking Spanish military and police officers directing Spanish and foreign fascist mercenaries.

A number of scandals including the one about GAL helped push the social democrats out of government and next in was a new party of the ‘centre-right’. Well, a new name anyway: Partido Popular — its founder was “The-streets-are-mine” Manuel Fraga, leading a split from the UCD. The PP has been consistently alternating in government of the Spanish State with the PSOE ever since: 1996-2004; 2011-2018.

The PSOE got into government of the state again in 2004-2011 and is in once more at the moment, in a minority government, having unseated the PP on a vote of no confidence on a corruption scandal.

THE 2018 ELECTIONS IN ANDALUCIA

The first thing to note perhaps is that the total turnout was under 57% which indicates a high level of disenchantment with the electoral and political system. The PSOE had been in government there for thirty-six years, i.e since the incorporation of the regional government in 1982. What had it delivered for the people in those years? One need only look at the region’s place in the Spanish state’s economic tables – second from bottom.

The election results gave the the PSOE a drop of 7.4% in votes on their last performance and they lost 14 seats. However, with 33 seats they remain the party with the most deputies in the regional Government, with a seven-seat majority over their nearest rival, the Partido Popular and its 26 seats.

Diaz with PSOE party faithful after making statement on the party’s results in Andalusian elections (Photo source: Internet)

The other social-democratic party, a coalition around Podemos, also took a drop: 5.57% in votes and lost three seats.

The combined or total loss of seats to parties of social-democracy was 17 and the sum of their loss of votes was 12.61%.

As it happens, the right-wing Partido Popular also dropped votes and seats, -5.99% and seven respectively.

Ciudadanos, a newer party than the PP but just as hard right, benefitted with 12 additional seats and 8.99% increase in their votes. And then Vox took the remaining 12 seats from a previous zero on only a 10.51 % increase in their percentage of votes (they had stood before but got no deputies elected).

Where did the other votes go? Apart from the 1.8% invalid votes (exactly the percentage drop of voters on the last turnout, curiously), they were spread between 22 other parties or platforms, of which no less than 15 were totally new in elections. Some of those are right-wing but most, going by their titles, seem to represent a band varying from soft to hard Left to Independentist or regional.

In conclusion, the election results show no sudden far-right advance in reality but a newish party of the far right, competing with other far-right parties, took 22 seats it had not had before, while the social democrats, though losing votes, remain in government for the moment.

Some commentators, including many on the Left, have sought to ascribe the rise in the support for Vox as a reaction to insecurity around the fear of the secession of Catalonia from the Spanish state. This is bit rich from often the very commentators who have tried to portray the popular Catalan movement for independence as an elitist movement, motivated by selfishness to keep their wealth and not share it with poor regions like Andalusia.

So we can all relax, we needn’t worry? No, we DO need to worry but not so much for the reason of these election results. We need to worry because of the fascist nature and history of the Spanish ruling class and its State; because fascist groups are on the rise in the Spanish territory; because the Left has real problems in countering fascism and because fascism is on the rise in Europe in general.

The fact is that most of the Spanish Left, from social-democracy to ‘revolutionary’ socialists, are also totally committed to Spanish territorial integrity. That, and their reluctance to mobilise the masses to take decisive firm action against fascist mobilisations and provocations, makes it very hard for the Left to build a mass and effective anti-fascist movement.

ANDALUCIA

Map of Spanish state (yellow) including Canary Islands with Andalusia in red. (Source image: Wikipedia)

The southernmost part of the Spanish state is where to find Andalucia, sharing a land strip with the Rock of Gibraltar; it is the most populous and the second largest in area of the autonomous communities in the state and its capital is Sevilla (Seville). It is the only European region with coastline on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Parts of the province record the highest temperatures of the state but other parts see quite high rainfall.

The earliest known paintings of humanity have been found in the Caves of Nerja, Málaga.2. The region has been under Phoenician, then Carthagenian control, later under the Visigoths, followed by the Romans and even by the Eastern Roman Empire. For three-and-a-half centuries Andalusia became a Moorish domain from which comes the name (Al Andalus) the region bears today. It was an area of great culture and learning and Christians and Jews were tolerated and protected. The Spanish Christian conquest employed divisions among the Moors, conquered Al Andalus and eventually forced all Muslims and Jews to convert to Christianity or suffer expulsion, allowed only to take the clothes on their backs.

Andalucia in the early-to-mid 20th Century was ruled by a landed aristocracy in a semi-feudal relationship with the mainly rural working population. The region got an early visit from Franco’s military invasion in 1936 and, although there was little armed resistance apart from Malaga and that ill-equipped, an estimated 55,000 were killed deliberately, in executions of thousands of workers and activists of the leftist parties during Franco’s repression.3

The region is characterised by a variety of climatic conditions and topography, inhabited by a great biodiversity of flora and fauna, although some of the latter are quite threatened, such as the Iberian Wolf, Iberian Lynx and the Ibex.

Agriculture and husbandry have traditionally been the main products, with olives, citrus fruits, stone fruits, nuts, alongside some other produce in lower percentages; there is also a depleted but active fishing industry. Andalucia is the single largest producer of olive oil with about 40% of the world market. “One-third of Andalucía’s agricultural land is planted with olive trees, and sales of Andalucian olive oil grew a staggering 56 per cent between 2011 and 2015, to a million tonnes, worth 2,000 million euros. Nearly 500 companies export their olive oil from Andalucía, with Britain the fifth-largest market at nearly 100 million euros.

Another world-renowned product from Andalucía which is exported all over the world is jamón ibérico de bellota, gourmet air-cured ham made from Iberian acorn-fed pigs, nothing less than a religion for Andalucians, while sustainably-caught bluefin tuna caught off the coast is frozen and sent to Japan to be served as delectably tender sushi.

In total, one-fifth of all Spanish food and drink exports originate in Andalucía, where the number one area is fruit and vegetables – and tomatoes are the top product”.4

What cause would people in that province have for dissatisfaction that right-wing parties could then exploit? Well, there are no shortage of reasons.

Andalucia is the second-poorest administrative region in the Spanish state. Although unemployment has taken nearly a 4% drop over the previous year, it still stands at an average of 24.4%. Averages conceal other realities and though average male unemployment is almost 3% lower, the female average share is higher than the average by 3.5%. As they age profile drops below twenty-five, the unemployment figures soar to almost 50%.

Table unemployment statistics in Andalucia

Unemployment rate (LFS)

24.4%

28.3%

Male unemployment rate (LFS)

21.6%

25.7%

Female unemployment rate (LFS)

27.9%

31.4%

Unemployment rate less than 25 years

47.9%

57.8%

Unemployment male less than 25 years

48.9%

55.0%

Unemployment rate female less than 25 years

46.6%

61.3%

Unemployed rate over 24 years

22.7%

26.2%

Male unemployment rate over 24 years

19.6%

23.6%

Female unemployment rate over 24 years

26.5%

29.3%

Unemployment rate less than 20 years

66.4%

78.2%

Male unemployment rate less than 20 years

66.8%

76.4%

Female unemployment rate less than 20 years

65.7%

80.5%

(Source: see link for “Unemployment statistics Andalucia)

The situation then in Andalusia may be characterised as one where about every fourth person is unemployed as is every second one under the age of twenty-five. Where paid employment is hard to find, wages are likely to be low, trade union victories harder to achieve and conditions therefore far from the optimum obtainable from the system.

Between 2000–2006 economic growth per annum was 3.72%, one of the highest in the country. Still, according to the Spanish Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE), the GDP per capita of Andalusia (€17,401; 2006) remains the second lowest in Spain, with only Extremadura lagging behind.” (Wiki)

Traditionally a region known for agriculture and husbandry, these sectors are now the lowest contributors to GDP in Andalusia. Construction for the tourist industry siphoned off many workers but the collapse of the construction boom left most of those workers with nowhere to go, much of their old agricultural employment mechanised or replaced with migrant labour. Despite agriculture’s very low position in GDP, 45.74 percent of the Andalusian territory is cultivated. That does not mean that those areas are efficiently5 cultivated however and one of the activities for which one Andalusian trade union movement6 has become known is the occupation of agricultural land which is not being adequately or at all maintained, due to absentee owners or land held by banks but not in production.

The large landowner past of Andalusia has not changed substantially although the banks and some companies now own much of what belonged to semi-feudal aristocrats. “The agrarian census of 1982 found that 50.9 percent of the country’s farmland was held in properties of 200 or more hectares, although farms of this size made up only 1.1 percent of the country’s 2.3 million farms. At the other end of the scale, the census showed that 61.8 percent of Spain’s farms had fewer than 5 hectares of land. These farms accounted for 5.2 percent of the country’s farmland.”7

In May of this year the trade union SAT (Andalusian Union of Workers) published a denunciation of a new Land Law proposed by the PSOE in which they also pointed to some structural problems and their impact on the working people of the region8.

The most recent act of savagery is the new Land Law that they (PSOE) intend to approve, to finish hanging any dream of Agrarian Reform for our working people of Andalusia. Andalusia is not understood without the struggle for land, and this is more recent than it seems, much more real and topical than we would like.

The concentration of land ownership is a problem that annihilates our people, currently in Andalusia, 2% of the owners have more than 50% of the arable land, and the worst is that this figure is increasing.

If we go to Jaén, this figure is even more scandalous, because 4% have 66%, and much of it without giving a job, as is the case of Cortijo del Aguardentero, our Cerro Libertad, one of more than 150 farms, the majority underutilized by the BBVA9 in the Jaén de Piedras Lunares and Olivares de Miguel Hernández areas.

These figures contrast with the alarming fact that in Andalusia every three days a worker dies, or that more than 60% of Andalusian employees earn less than € 1,000 per month. Also alarming are the number of marginalizations, risk of poverty and lack of school resources, all at more than 40%.

There are laws that can put an end to all this, but there is no political will in a government that is more a plug-in factory than a socialist party, which only seeks to perpetuate itself in power, being supporters of corrupt banks, all at the cost of death of our land.

There are alternatives:

1 ° Repeal of this Land Law proposal.

2 ° Implementation of Law 8/1984 of Agrarian Reform of the Statute of Autonomy of the Junta de Andalucía on farms that can be clearly improved.

3 ° The land has to fulfill a social function, for the human and sustainable development of Andalusia.

4th Comprehensive Agrarian Reform, which allows the Usufruct and Land work in Andalusia. Work in the labor force, in the sowing and harvesting, in the primary sector. We do not want property, which must be of a public entity, we want to work and live in peace.

5th Creation of productive, industrial and agro-sustainable Andalusian fabric, generating employment in the transformation and packaging of the product collected.

6 ° Domestic consumption and export of the sown, harvested and agro-transformed product, giving employment and work in the tertiary sector, services.

This would suppose a Revolution of our earth, a valorization of what we were, of what we are and what we want to be: A FREE PEOPLE WITH FREE PEOPLE.

This is possible, but political will is needed, and for that, and more importantly, we need the human will to mobilize, as we are defending with our sweat and our lives El Humoso in Marinaleda, Somonte in Córdoba and Cerro Libertad in Jaén10.

Challenge to the Andalusian society to face with arguments and mobilization the nonsense and unreason of the government of the PSOE of the Junta de Andalucía.

We announce mobilizations this summer for this, and we call for you to join.

Andalusians and Andalusians, get up, ask for land and freedom.”

And then, on top of capitalist exploitation and mismanagement, there is corruption. “A recent probe revealed the extent to which PSOE officials exploited their power in the region of Andalusia, where the party has governed without interruption since the return to democracy. Two former regional presidents, Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán, are currently on trial for their alleged part in a scam that included fraudulent early retirement packages, company subsidies and commissions handed out to the tune of €136 million”.11

A recent corruption table based on individual cases puts Andalucia way over all other regions and the PSOE in about 25% of the corruption cases by party (see References for the link to the report).

CONCLUSION

There was no huge swing to the hard right although considering how the social-democrats had abused the votes the people gave them, it would not have surprising if there had been (and there still might be).

Despite their appalling record, the PSOE got 33 seats, the party with the most in the regional Government. That is worth thinking about – despite the crap the working people of Andalusia have had to put up with from the PSOE, they still gave most of their votes to the social democrats. Since this cannot logically — on the performance of the party for the people – be as a result of great affection for the PSOE, it seems likely to indicate at least a dislike or fear of the right-wing parties.

What actually happened is that in a regional election in an impoverished region, on a low turnout and with many candidates; within a state where fascism was never overthrown, with huge legal and illegal repression, with the Partido Popular — a part of the Franco heritage — regularly in government and other right-wing parties snapping at its heels, where social democracy and the established communist party colluded most shamefully with fascism and an imposed monarchy, where the history of the Anti-Fascist War is not taught: a new version of the bedrock Right in Spanish politics won seats in a regional government which it had never won before.

That is what happened. But that is far from being the first time the hard Right won seats in the Spanish state – it has done so regularly in all elections outside parts of the Basque and Catalan countries and has regularly been in government.

Those on the Left who are now wailing about Vox’s success have been and are upholding the myth of Spanish democratic politics since the Transition. They are colluding in the decades of suppression of the Basque and Catalan national movements and the propaganda against them. And many of them have marched with the Right – including fascists – in demonstrations in support of permanent Spanish union, against ‘terrorism’, etc.

Those on the Right who are complaining about Vox are being disingenuous too: they marched with Vox and other fascists for a ‘stronger Spain’ and against the independence of the nations; they saw the fascist salutes and emblems and heard the fascist slogans (whether they joined in with those or not). They were happy to have Vox take out prosecutions against Catalan independence activists and politicians.

NEVERTHELESS, WE SHOULD BE WORRIED. Because generally throughout the Spanish state, the fascists are mobilising on the streets. The fascists are particularly worried by the independentist movements in Catalonia and in the southern Basque Country as well as by proposals to demolish the shrine to Franco and Riveras12 and to remove their remains to a common graveyard. The fascists have strong links with the Spanish police and armed forces and the latter have shown themselves particularly tolerant of the behaviour of fascists on the streets. And in preparation for the repression of the working class in economically austere times to come, fascists have been mobilising throughout Europe with state laws and procedures becoming more repressive. Migrants are being targeted both for extra exploitation and for attack by word and action. We need to do more than worry – we need to mobilise and find ways to unite in effective action.

End.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Parties standing for election in December 2018 and their share of votes and number of elected deputies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Andalusian_regional_election#Results

Political parties in government in Spanish state since the Franco Dictatorship https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Prime_Ministers_of_Spain

Vox political party: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vox_(Spanish_political_party)

Unemployment statistics Andalusia:

https://countryeconomy.com/labour-force-survey/spain-autonomous-communities/andalusia

Andalusia, political and history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andalusia

http://www.andalucia.com/spain/government/politicalparties.htm

http://www.andalucia.com/history/civilwarandalucia.htm

Andalusia production: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/spain/ultimate-andalucia/andalucia-food-and-drink/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Spain

SAT (Andalusian Union of Workers): http://sindicatoandaluz.info/

Corruption in Andalusia: https://www.politico.eu/article/spain-corruption-country-of-thieves-high-court-trial/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/10770712/Spain-investigates-1.5bn-embezzlement-of-EU-funds.html

Corruption table of regional governments and political parties according to individual cases reported: https://www.casos-aislados.com/stats.php?fbclid=IwAR3CXDoQKjG4LIRtERu_SC_soRMp2rZH9bew3jJLbbd-I2emMGCgWyxCD2E

FOOTNOTES

1All the fascist police commanders, senior armed forces officers, judiciary, lawyers, clergy, senior civil service administrators and academics retained their positions. All the business men and media barons continued and kept whatever plunder they had managed to appropriate during the war and after.

3Executions: “ …. in the city of Cordoba 4,000; in the city of Granada 5,000; in the city of Seville 3,028; and in the city of Huelva 2,000 killed and 2,500 disappeared. The city of Málaga, occupied by the Nationalists in February 1937 following the Battle of Málaga experienced one of the harshest repressions following Francoist victory with an estimated total of 17,000 people summarily executed” (Wiki).

5To be confused with “intensively” which usually implies large-scale monoculture, chemical fertilizers and chemical sprays of fungicides, pesticides and insecticides, along with very advanced mechanisation.

6Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (SAT, ‘Andalusian Union of Workers).

9 Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, the second-largest bank in the Spanish state.

10Lands occupied and worked by SAT supporters

11See Corruption in Andalusia links

12Valle de los Caídos, a park built in part by political prisoner labour, containing a mausoleum for Franco and Rivera’s remains, a site of frequent fascist demonstrations in homage to the memory of both men.

SPANISH TV CHANNEL COMPARES CATALAN INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT WITH NAZI POGROM

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

On the anniversary of Kristalnacht, the Spanish TV channel Telecinco showed a program about the Nazi attack on Jewish premises and people on 9-10 November 1938 which, because of the breaking of shop windows and looting, came to be be known by that name, which translates as Broken Glass Night. In showing the program, they inserted shots of Catalan independentist events, drawing a clear parallel between the two.

 

A journalist at a German television channel denounced the Spanish TV station for this and challenged them to explain their actions.

https://www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/esbroncada-periodista-tele5-senyeres-nazis_323184_102.html

KRISTALLNACHT: NAZI ANTI-SEMITIC GENOCIDAL POGROM

Wikipedia: Estimates of the number of fatalities caused by the pogrom have varied. Early reports estimated that 91 Jews were murdered during the attacks. Modern analysis of German scholarly sources by historians …. puts the number much higher. When deaths from post-arrest maltreatment and subsequent suicides are included, the death toll climbs into the hundreds. Additionally, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.

Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. The rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland, and over 7,000 Jewish businesses were either destroyed or damaged.

SPANISH UNIONISTS CALLING CATALAN INDEPENDENTISTS “NAZIS”

Spanish unionists have often accused the Catalan independentist movement of being Nazi or Fascist. No evidence has ever emerged of the Catalan pro-independence movement being anti-semitic or even right wing. A few years ago the Catalan Parlament, with a pro-independence majority, passed a law to give migrants equal access to health care with Catalan nationals but the Spanish High Court ruled the law illegal. The Parlament passed the law again this year. Giving migrants equal rights in health services hardly sounds typical of fascists.

But logic has nothing to do with this. Nor has history.

In accusing the Catalan movement of being fascist in nature, Spanish unionists not only exhibit their ignorance of the nature of Catalan society and the independence movement, but also their ignorance of the history of the Spanish State.

It is in fact the Spanish unionist forces which have a very close connection with fascism.

It was the military coup and fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War (or more correctly, the Anti-Fascist War) which sought the overthrow of the democratically-elected Popular Front Government and which, in order to succeed, called in the German Nazis and Italian Fascists for military assistance. Catalonia ndependentists were a major component of the anti-fascist alliance but Barcelona eventually fell to the fascist forces and a fascist dictatorship under General Franco followed. After Franco died, the right-wing forces put together a political party to participate in forthcoming ‘democratic’ elections and named it the Partido Popular.

Franco & Hitler reviewing fascist troops in the northern Basque Country during the Iberian Antifascist War
(Image source: Internet)

This party gathered most of the old regime and die-hard fascists into it and is one of the two main political parties of the Spanish state. From December 2011 until it was unseated recently in a no-confidence vote due to corruption scandals, the PP was in Government of the Spanish state. It was that Government that sent Spanish police searching for referendum ballot boxes in September last year and on 1st August 2017 to attack voters with truncheons, boots, fists and rubber bullets. It was the PP Government which charged and jailed without bail Catalan independence activists and began proceedings against hundreds of others including a great many Catalan town mayors, which the current PSOE Government is processing.

The PP has been nearly eliminated electorally in Catalonia but another political party with similar ideology is strong there, also Spanish unionist, criticising the Catalan independence movement at every opportunity and supporting Spanish repression of the movement.

There are also actual openly-fascist organisations in the Spanish state which have representation inside the police and military and which regularly flaunt their banned fascist emblems, salutes and slogans with impunity. As well as being anti-semitic and otherwise racist, Spanish state unity is a central them with these too.

(Source of image: Internet)

All of these elements – along with many Spanish unionists of other political types, such as many in the PSOE – have denied the democratic right to self-determination of the Catalan people and supported fascist-type attacks on their activists and movement.

In summary then, although of course one may – as anywhere else – find some anti-semites and nazi types in Catalan society, even in the independence movement, the greatest number and natural home of this type is to be found in the Spanish unionist movement and its various political parties – the very ones who are accusing the Catalans of being fascists.

But drawing parallels, no matter how irrational, between the Nazi Kristalnacht and the democratic Catalan independence movement is a new low, even for them.

End

 

REFERENCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecinco

Short news report on the issue: https://www.elnacional.cat/ca/politica/esbroncada-periodista-tele5-senyeres-nazis_323184_102.html