Catalans these days are used to read in the mainstream Spanish press very biased -to put it mildly- analyses on the Catalan process towards independence. In the foreign media, however, we have mostly found (with exceptions, of course) texts with which we may agree 100% or not, but that were generally quite balanced. Or rather this was so until the publication of the article by Mr. Ljungquist in geopoliticalmonitor.com drew our attention. This is an article full of untruths, closer to rough political propaganda than to an in-depth analysis of topics with the will to shed some light upon them. I do not know what information sources Mr. Ljungquist uses or if he has ever been to Catalonia (tough apparently he has lived and worked in Madrid), but it is clear that his purpose is to discredit -and even ridicule- one of the most outstanding civic, political and democratic movements of our days. He makes false and absurd claims such as that in the streets of Catalonia there would be violent fights between extreme right–wingers and pro-independence supporters, that the latter would wave pro-ETA flags in the stadiums or that companies that did not support the Catalan way –the human chain that linked the country south to north last September 11th- would be attacked or boycotted, clearly qualify the text as a mediocre, failed attempt at reflection.
The view that Mr. Ljungquist aims to spread of Catalan nationalism, likening it to supremacist, violent and exclusive ideologies that have caused so much pain to humanity (racism, anti-Semitism etc.) does not stand to the slightest scrutiny. We shall explain it once again: the Catalan society is pluralistic and very diverse, and it is shaped by people from very different backgrounds. In Catalonia, 70% of the inhabitants were born elsewhere, or have a father or a mother with roots outside the country. During the first decade of this century, Catalonia experienced one of the most intense waves of immigration in Western Europe, welcoming (with remarkable success in social cohesion) nearly a million and a half people from various origins. In Catalonia nearly 200 languages are spoken, and Barcelona is undoubtedly one of the most open and diverse European capitals. In such a country, which has made civic inclusion one of its hallmarks, no excluding, supremacist movement can succeed. The definition of “Catalan citizen” as agreed by the central forces of Catalan nationalism is indeed a statement of intent: Catalans are those people who live and work in Catalonia. We do not look at the origins of the people or the language they speak; what matters to us is the desire to share a collective project for the present and the future. This is likely to break the schemes of Mr. Ljungquist, but to adapt the reality to one’s prejudices, and not the other way around, is an intellectually dishonest exercise.
The author’s veiled reference to the alleged inability of the Catalans to govern themselves and their presumed ability to mismanage their economy sounds also too much like the same old mantra. The assertion that during the last two years Madrid has saved the Catalan autonomy from bankruptcy thanks to its transfers to the Catalan autonomous governments seems taken straight from the Spanish government’s arguments –as if these transfers were not actually the return path of one of the most disproportionate fiscal deficits in the world (8.2% of our GDP). You can note, however, that the author uses manipulated figures when he states that Catalonia collects 60% of taxes paid by Catalans, something that obviously does not occur even in our sweetest dreams. Catalonia suffers indeed from a strangled financial situation, but not least because much of the resources our economy generates do not revert into investments and other public expenditures in our country but elsewhere. We do believe in solidarity, but we want to agree the terms and the means of this solidarity. With fairer tax redistribution, Catalonia would have sound finances and wouldn’t have had to implement harsh austerity measures that have damaged public services.
Alongside its lies and mistakes, omissions are also noteworthy in this article. There is not a single word about the democratic radicalism actually underlying the Catalan independence movement. Not a word of its bottom-up nature. No mention of its civic nature. Strangely enough, a country that mobilizes nearly 2 million people along 400 kilometres without any incident whatsoever draws no attention to Mr. Ljungquist. That 80% of Catalans claim something as normal in a democracy as the exercising of the right to vote does not deserve a single thought.
Those who sympathize with the very concept of democracy should not approach the Catalan process towards self-determination –indeed any self-determination process- in such a simplistic, propaganda-laden way. Even if one is against the emergence of new independent states, it is worth thinking intelligently about the reasons behind the purpose of a people to change their political status, and doing it in a civic, peaceful and democratic way.
Solé i Ferrando, Jordi