Justifying political violence in Spain and Catalonia

Two cases in the couple of weeks have resurrected the spectre of political violence in Spain. At least, they have if you're a right-winger. Firstly, the man responsible for destroying the PSC – Pere Navarro – was insulted and 'punched' while attending a mystic ritual in Terrassa's main temple. He and his party, along with the rest of the Spanish right, immediately leapt on the incident as a sign of the 'atmosfera de crispació' – 'increasing social tension caused by the pro-referendum sentiment in Catalonia' (paraphrased). Navarro himself did the rounds the next day, telling anyone who would listen that he was 'convinced' that the attack had something to do with the independence movement. No evidence for this link, of course, except that the woman who attacked Navarro called him "un grandíssim fill de puta". (Turns out she was someone who had argued with Navarro for years about Terrassa's town hall's Catalan flag being dirty – she denies hitting Navarro).

This week the PP's cacique in León, Isabel Carrasco was shot dead in the street, in what some English commentators referred to as an 'assassination' [false friend? or does any murder of a politician automatically equal assassination? I think the motive has to be political rather than personal]. This time, the right blamed the killing on the 'atmosfera de crispación' in Spain, whereby politicians are regularly jeered and insulted and in which anti-austerity protests have targeted politicians' homes ('escraches' – a form of protest I thoroughly support). El Mundo's editorial to this effect was published even though everyone already knew that the murder was almost certainly the result of a personal vendetta. The two suspected murderers are both also members of the PP.

Now politicians and newspapers trying to take advantage of farce or tragedy is nothing new. In fact, it's practically chapter 1 in the politics playbook (Spain edition). In this case, however, conservative forces have responded in identical ways to two significantly different incidents. And they way they have responded tells us a lot about the way they think. There is a determination on the side of the Spanish right that any political movement which acts in opposition to its central policies is inherently a destabilising factor which is capable of violence. Multiple parties here talk about 'tensions' and 'division' in society (never along class lines, of course: always along political or ethnic lines) – as a sort of intentional self-fulfilling prophecy.

There's a subtext to all this talk of potential and actual violence in the Catalan and Spanish political scene, and it's not aimed at the left. When El Mundo effectively says that a murder is the natural result of anti-austerity protests, it is not just trying to win political points. There is a subtle implication behind Navarro's words and El Mundo's editorial. The implication is that 'in the current climate', political violence is inevitable. Inevitable and therefore, to be expected. Expected and therefore, to a certain degree, justified.

One thought on “Justifying political violence in Spain and Catalonia

  1. It is unlikely, given the magnificently indiscriminatory fashion in which rain falls and dust blows, that the municipal or Spanish flags were any cleaner, and the lady in question has a CiU son-in-law, so it's difficult to imagine how the assault on Navarro could not have been Catalan nationalist.

    Of course this type of fetishism (and the related violence) is not unique to the separatists – you probably enjoyed the photo of Vidal-Quadras kissing the Spanish flag the other day.

    And just as Catalanism and the left are not exactly great fans of individual liberties, neither is the Spanish right monolithically opposed to free expression or to the expression of sentiments capable of damaging Rajoy. Take Losantos en El Mundo:

    Yo entiendo que Rajoy, por respeto a la familia y, lo que es menos respetable, en interés de su partido, guarde silencio. Lo que no entiendo y me parece contrario al interés de la familia y del propio PP es que el otro Margallo, el Ministro del Interior, diga que va a hacer no sé cuántas cosas contra las infamias difundidas en la red. Hasta ahora, todo apunta a una ejecución fríamente calculada, incluida la eliminación del arma y la negativa de las detenidas a colaborar con la Policía y la Justicia. Eso no se explica amenazando a las nubes sino informando. Si se quiere informar.

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