Sunday, January 18, 2015

The democratic transition and the debate about the new constitutional context of multilingualism

In 1975 Franco died and the transition towards a democracy comparable to the rest of Western Europe commenced. With the end of the dictatorship autonomy returned to the regions where Catalan is spoken and a relative official nature was awarded to the linguistic and national diversity. However, the resistance to the autonomic process, its homogenisation  Valencian linguistic sectioning and the administrative division of the regions where Catalan was spoken made the advance of Catalan difficult.

With the death of Franco, and in spite of their not being an explicit break with Franco’s regime and that the head of state was the man the dictator had chosen as his successor, King Juan Carlos, the democratic process commenced. In 1977 the Generalitat de Catalunya was restored, with Josep Tarradellas, who had returned from exile, as its president. A year later the Spanish Constitution was approved and the Statutes of autonomy of the region of Catalan language and culture under Spanish sovereignty (in Catalonia, in 1979; in the Valencian region, in 1982, and in the Balearics, in 1983). This new context has allowed for the recuperation of the normalising and rule making task of Catalan by continuing in the footsteps of the Mancomunitat de Catalunya and the republican Generalitat.

As results of this pact amongst the heirs of Franco’s dictatorship and the forces born from clandestineness, the new democratic Constitution of Spain acknowledged, with reserves, the national and cultural plurality after four decades of enforced ‘Castilianization’ of the non-Castilian territories. This was the face of the new legal panorama which was favourable to the recuperation of the Catalan language; its only cross was its limits and ambiguities. Contrary to the right to self-determination, its second article speaks of the ‘undeniable unity of the Spanish Nation’, although it recognises and guarantees the right to the autonomy of the nationalities and regions’, but without specifying them. The new Spanish supreme law also explicitly prohibited the federation of autonomous communities (article 145.1), which impedes the articulation of legal spaces amongst the Spanish Catalan regions.

Although the new Catalan, Balearic and Valencian (in a lesser degree) Statutes defined Catalan as their ‘own’ language and established its official nature, Spanish was kept as a co-official language and continues to be the only official language of the whole of Spain. The co-official nature of ‘the other Spanish languages’, thus, was restricted ‘to their respective Autonomous Communities’ (article 3.2). The three newly born autonomies fixed the duty to know and use Catalan and decided to normalise its use, but they did not force its knowledge over the constitutional duty to know Spanish. According to article 3.1 of the magna charter, attributed to the centre politician Adolfo Suárez, who was then the president, ‘Spanish is the official language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it’. In spite of this inequality, the Statutes established ‘full (linguistic) equality’ in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands and the non linguistic discrimination in the Valencian region – officially known as the Valencian Community –, that is, an ideal bilingualism for which they developed laws of nature and effect throughout the 80’s which were subjected to successive governments – which were firm in the Principality, weak or regressive in the Valencian region and vacillating in the Islands.

With democracy we also gained the first mass media communication means in Catalan. The first newspaper in Catalan after the Civil War, ‘Avui’, was born in April 1976; parallel, the first county newspapers appeared in the Principality, like the Manresa ‘Regió 7’ and the Vic ‘El 9 Nou’, in 1978, and ‘El Punt’, then known as ‘Punt Diari’ and limited to Gerona, in 1979, and also magazines of general information like ‘El Temps’, or literary ones like ‘Els Marges’ or historical ones like ‘L’Avenç’.

In 1975, the year of the death of Franco, the Catalan circuit of Spanish Television (TVE), which had its headquarters in the Miramar studies, emitted 17 monthly hours in Catalan and, by the end of the seventies, its quota had increased considerably. It would still be more than ten years before TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio [Catalonia Radio] were born. Joaquim Maria Puyal, in January 1976, made the first football re-transmission in Catalan of the post-war period on Ràdio Barcelona (SER), which already broadcast the odd slot in Catalan since the 1950’s. The first radio in Catalan, since the end of the Civil War, was Ràdio 3, which was created in 1976 by Radio Nacional de España [National Radio of Spain] (RNE).

The Congress of Catalan Culture, from 1975 to 1977, allowed the elaboration of a route sheet with the obstacles which must be overcome to correct the language’s situation. Even before the approval of the Spanish Constitution and of the enforcing of the laws of Catalan, Valencian and Balearic linguistic normalization, Catalan was reinstated as a subject in teaching through the decrees of bilingualism in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands in 1978 and, the following year, the Valencian region.

Although ‘Valencian’ is the common name of Catalan in the Valencian region, the fact that its Statute text of 1982 referred to it with this name, without mentioning the unity of the language, was not casual. During the transition, Valencian linguistic secessionism, also known as ‘blaverisme’ took hold which, from the point of view of a conservative and apparently regional ideology, affirms, against scientific evidence, that there is a Valencian language which is different to Catalan. This late response to the new Pan-Catalan Valencianism of Joan Fuster, which was articulated in the 60’s, and which found it maximum representation in the ultra-right and terrorist Grup d’Acció Valenciana [Group of Valencian Action] (GAV), was affirmed, during the transition, by politicians of the post-Franco party Unió de Centre Democràtic [Union of the Democratic Centre] (UCD). Their aim was to stop the advance of the left wing and of Valencian Catalanism. During the so-called battle of Valencia, the ‘blaverisme’ managed to place the crowned ‘senyera’ [Catalan flag] in front of the bare flag, which belongs to historic Valencianism, and the name ‘Valencian Community’ instead of ‘Valencian Region’.

The ‘blavers’ [supporters of ‘blaverisme’] accused Pan-Catalanism of being imperialist; the Valencians who supported Fuster’s point of view, that is, were defenders of the Catalan nature of the Valencian region understood as a part of the Catalan region, accused the ‘blavers’ of being supporters of the Spanish State. The ‘blavers’ write the language in accordance with unofficial rules like those of Puig, which were created in 1979 by the Real Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana [Royal Academy of Valencian Culture] that was founded by the Diputació de Valencia, and which is the linguistic referent. In contrast, the second group used the Fabra rules of Castellon, from 1932, which were assumed by the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua [Valencian Academy of Language] that was created in 1998 by the Valencian Generalitat as a meeting point between the two movements. This institution self-proclaimed a normative entity on the same level as the IEC, although, indirectly, it passed the normative. In spite of this, some sectors of Valencian supporting culture and teaching have accused it of giving to much favour to the ‘blavers’ with regards to morphology and lexis. There is also linguistic secessionism in the Balearic Islands and in the Aragon Strait, but in these cases this attitude is clearly marginal.

In 1876 the term ‘Catalan region’ was born as the denomination of the areas of Catalan language, and in the 60’s this name was promoted by Fuster. However, since the transition, its linguistic, cultural – and, depending on how you look at it, national – articulation has suffered with the political stigma attributed by ‘blaverisme’ and, by extension, the supporters of the Spanish State. The two movements refer to it as a supposed principality imperialism. The political cooperation between the Catalanophile Spanish regions, which constitute a good part of the Catalan region, does not only clash with the constitutional prohibition, but also with a weak or nonexistent communitarian sentiment. This weakness is, in part, a consequence of three centuries of isolation inside the Spanish State structure, which has strengthened the national and regional Spanish identities.

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