Tag Archives: Societat Civil Catalana

The decline and fall of the PSC

From a high in 1999, where it won 38% of the vote in Catalan parliamentary elections, the PSC is now at an all time low. While it's easy to blame this problem on meddling from Madrid, the decline of the PSC is intrinsically linked to its abandonment of basic principles which it defended at the height of its success – most importantly the right of Catalans to decide their future democratically.

Under Carme Chacón's stewardship (from what I understand she remains the most powerful figure in the PSC), numerous mistakes have been made:

  • Chacón has used the PSC as a tool to try to obtain personal power at state level. This is evidenced by her adoption of a patently dishonest discourse regarding the question of Catalan separatism, aimed not at securing the PSC's position but at boosting Chacón's own chances of leading a PSOE still dominated by anti-separatist sentiment (see José Bono, Susana Díaz).
  • Chacón's leadership has also boosted the right wing of the party, and left it without a true social-democratic focus (in line with the PSOE as a whole).
  • Her powerful position in the PSC has helped to ensure the appointment of a series of weak and ineffectual leaders in Barcelona, particularly Pere Navarro and Miquel Iceta, who have been totally unable to run the PSC on their own terms. This has further weakened the party when faced by more dynamic party leaders like Mas, Junqueras, Rivera and more recently, Colau.
  • The PSC's adoption of an anti-Catalanist position is at odds with its line under Maragall, who defended not only the independence of the party within the Socialist federation, but also the Catalans' right to decide. This decision was at least in part conditioned by the rise of Cs. Cs is a pseudo-centrist party which has learned one of the best tricks of the PP – know how to speak to the far right, and how to adopt its positions on questions of nationality, language policy, the right to decide, etc – without actually espousing right-wing policies (well, not very often anyway: the mask slips sometimes, like when its leaders say that gay marriage is "problematic" or that male violence against women "doesn't exist"). The PSC's shift in position culminated in its purging the party of anyone with pro-independence views, further boosting ERC and the newer Podem-EnComú.
  • I have a feeling that the PSC's analysis of the rise of Cs is flawed. The PSC seems to think that it can win votes by seeming to be nearly as unionist as Cs. But at the same time, it hasn't been willing to drop its commitment to policies like 'linguistic immersion' (education in Catalan for all), which Cs opposes. This has led to a disjointed position which Cs has found it easy to exploit. It has also led many former PSC voters – a large number of whom supported the new Estatut and, at least nominally, the right to decide, to look elsewhere – ERC, and the CUP have benefited. Every time the PSC takes a step towards Cs in terms of policy, it loses votes. This is an example of a very common mistake in politics: when a political movement seems to be gathering momentum, you can either co-opt it and try to lead it (see: CDC and the separatist movement) or you can oppose it. What you can never do is follow the upstarts (in this case, Cs) and hope to gather a few votes by clinging to their coat tails. It never works.
  • But it has worked for Cs and for their friends in Societat Civil Catalana. Probably the clearest symbol of the PSC's decline is its involvement in SCC, a unionist organization founded by and operated in the tradition of, the unionist far-right. This takes the PSC beyond an accusation of Pasokification. The PSC now regularly shares a platform with SCC – and each time it does, it provides a new coat of democratic makeup to a group founded by the likes of Josep Ramon Bosch and Javier Barraycoa. That SCC is Somatemps 2.0 is well established. For the PSC to share a platform with a group like this shows just how far the PSC has fallen. We end up with situations like the youth PSC of Cerdanyola attacking the CUP over apparently invented accusations of violence on the UAB campus, while defending SCC and their neo-Nazi boot boys.

Now, you wonder how much longer Chacón can continue, given that she has managed to lead the PSC to its worst ever results in both Catalan and Spanish parliamentary elections. When, as predicted, we end up with fresh elections this summer, I'd expect them to be her last chance. The alternative is annihilation.

UPDATE: ah well, there you go. It turns out that the last elections were her last chance. Chacón is out. Maybe she read this. We'll never know.

Farewell, Juan Arza. May we never meet again.

It is with great sadness that we announce that Juan Arza, former correspondent on these humble pages, has stepped down as a member of Societat Civil Catalana. Not because he was caught lying. Or because he couldn't argue his way out of a bag. No, it's because as an activist for the PP, the poor chap couldn't stomach SCC's endorsement of a PSOE-Ciutadans coalition in Madrid.

When you think about it, about the only thing sadder and lonelier than being a member of SCC is being a member of the PPC. Bon vent, Juan, i barca nova. Oh and watch out for those seagulls. They can be vicious brutes.

It's time for Juan Arza and Societat Civil Catalana to apologize, but I'm not holding my breath

Last month I wrote about how Societat Civil Catalana, a group of around 70 people opposed to Catalan independence, and its spokesman, Juan Arza, lied about SCC's links to Spanish far-right groups. The article was carefully researched and edited to ensure it contained nothing which wasn't demonstrably true. I wouldn't like to defame anybody, just as I wouldn't like them to defame me.

So what was the response? The article was shared a few hundred times on Twitter and garnered a vague legal threat from SCC itself. Typically, whenever someone reveals the truth about SCC and its founding members' political allegiances, the group trots out some stuff about how they're going to stand up to "accusations, threats and intimidation". This time around, they tweeted that they would be taking me to court for defamation, or something like that. They block me on twitter, so I can't actually read their threat. They have also threatened Catalan journalist Jordi Borràs, one of whose photographs I used in my article, and UK-based anti-fascist magazine Hope Not Hate, which published one of his articles. To the best of my knowledge, they have yet to open legal proceedings against anybody.

Societat-Civil-Catalana-constituye-independencia_EDIIMA20140407_0358_4
Photo from: http://www.eldiario.es/politica/Societat-Civil-Catalana-constituye-independencia_0_247075680.html

And it's not hard to see why. As this photo clearly shows, Javier Barraycoa was present at SCC's first major event, its presentation to the Col.legi de Periodistes. You can even see Arza sharing a platform with him (Barraycoa is second from the left, standing next to SCC president Josep Ramon Bosch. Arza on the, er, far right – no double entendre intended).

Juan Arza finally commented on the article a couple of days after it was published. He said he was writing in a personal capacity and that he had recently blocked me on Twitter for 'lack of respect' (I asked him whether SCC could call itself a 'transversal' movement when its spokesman regularly campaigned for the PP on his Twitter account – this is Arza's definition of lacking respect). He went on to fail to refute any of the claims I made in my article, claims by which I still stand. He referred to my articles about SCC as a "witch hunt" and insinuated that I was pursuing this topic for personal gain. Now, that's kind of defamatory. Read our buying guide on best hunting knife only at knifefellas.

I don't expect SCC or Arza to apologize for insulting me. It's part of the deal when you write articles like that. But they should apologize to everyone they are deceiving regarding SCC's links to the far right. They should apologize to the journalists and media outlets that SCC has threatened simply for publishing the truth. They should apologize to the European Parliament which awarded SCC a medal under false pretenses. And they should apologize to the true civil society of Catalonia, whose name they have usurped.

Don't worry, I'm not holding my breath.

Societat Civil Catalana lies about its links to the far-right

Exclusive: Juan Arza lied about Javier Barraycoa's involvement with Societat Civil Catalana

A few weeks back, I asked anti-Catalan independence pressure group Societat Civil Catalana to confirm or deny Javier Barraycoa's reported involvement with the group. SCC's spokesman and key political mover, Juan Arza responded unequivocally:

Mr Javier Barraycoa was present in some meetings previous to the creation of Societat Civil Catalana, however he is not an associate (socio) nor is he part of our executive council (junta ejecutiva), nor does he have any link with SCC.

In response to a follow-up question, he was even clearer:

During our early stages and before registering the association many meetings took place with the participation of many people. Mr. Barraycoa was one of the attendants to some of these meetings (he presented himself as an historician [sic] and University professor, but never mentioned his political activities).
Indeed, he came to Madrid with us on April 8 2014 paying his own expenses. He didn't participate in any of the meetings we had with politicians.
He didn't play any role in our presentation to the public on April 23, and he distanced himself from us just after that date.
He was never a partner of SCC.

But a document that has been brought to my attention shows SCC to be lying on several points. In fact, SCC itself described Barraycoa as a 'founding member' of the group. A PowerPoint presentation prepared for its event at the Col.legi de Periodistes de Catalunya on April 7th 2014 includes one slide where Arza and Barraycoa are both listed as 'Membres fundadors' of Societat Civil Catalana. The man Arza describes as being present 'in some meetings previous to the creation of SCC', is identified by the group itself – and one must assume, Arza himself – as a founding member, establishing him as a socio from the very beginning.

SCC's presentation from April 7, 2014. Javier Barraycoa (as 'Xavier'), bottom left. Juan Arza (as 'Joan'), top left.

Of course, Barraycoa was only identified as a founding member of SCC for a short time. In that same month of April, Vilaweb broke the story about Barraycoa's links to the far-right and in the scandal that ensued, SCC quietly removed references to him from their literature.

Arza insists that Barraycoa "distanced himself from us just after that date". Presumably, this is because the press got hold of the story that Barraycoa, a noted ultra-conservative and Carlist, had attended a meeting with Democracia Nacional, an extreme right-wing party, on February 8th 2014. He was apparently there to promote his book and unfortunately for him, his talk was filmed. You could almost mark that down as a mistake on his part. If it weren't for the fact that he turned up at another Democracia Nacional meeting, this time in November. The meeting was once again filmed. Fool me once, shame on you, as the saying goes. Based on this evidence, there is no question that Barraycoa has links to the far right.

Arza is also misleading us when he says that Barraycoa "didn't play any role in our presentation to the public on April 23". Because although he wasn't on stage, he was there outside the event, with his accreditation hanging from his neck. Only organizers of the event were provided with accreditation.

Javier Barraycoa outside SCC's introduction to the public (note his accreditation, and the falangist he's talking with). April 23, 2014. Credit: Jordi Borràs. Used with permission.
Javier Barraycoa at SCC's inaugural event, welcoming the public outside the Teatre Victòria on April 23, 2014. (Photo: Jordi Borràs.)

The third lie:

…he presented himself as an historician [sic] and University professor, but never mentioned his political activities

– implies that Barraycoa simply walked in off the street and presented (some of) his credentials. But Barraycoa is closely linked to Josep Ramon Bosch, SCC's President. They ran the right-wing group Somatemps together. Somatemps was effectively the precursor to SCC, the latter only being created when it was clear that Somatemps didn't have a hope of passing for the transversal group that SCC has presented itself to be.

The idea that SCC didn't know the background of a founding member and long-established collaborator with its own president is patently absurd.

The suggestion that Barraycoa and SCC distanced themselves from each other is another lie. Months after his connections to the far right were revealed, and at which time SCC was hiding its relationship with him from the public eye, Mr Barraycoa manned an SCC stand in Badalona on August 21st.

Barraycoa in Badalona
Javier Barraycoa at SCC's stand in Badalona, August 21 2014. (Photo: SCC)

SCC secretary Isabel Porcel and SCC Board member José Domingo were also present, as this SCC video shows. Which indicates that they had no problem with Mr Barraycoa's presence there.

Juan Arza and Societat Civil Catalana insult our intelligence when they claim not to know about Javier Barraycoa. They've lied about his status as a founding member of the group and his activity for the group, continuing at least as recently as August of last year. And they've failed to publicly distance themselves from him. Why? It can only be because while they're perfectly happy having the support of the far-right, they would rather keep it a secret.

An open letter to Societat Civil Catalana

Dear SCC,

Firstly, congratulations for the European Parliament medal and everything. I'm not entirely sure why you were nominated. You don't seem to have done anything.  Except publish press releases and organize two or three sparsely attended demonstrations at which pretty much the only reliable will-shows were the boot boys from Democracia Nacional and Plataforma per Catalunya. Still, it's not for me to explain the workings of the European Parliament, and I won't ask you to either.

But I do have a question or two for you. They're about one of your founding members. No, not Josep Ramon Bosch. I couldn't care less if the alleged highlight of his Dad's year was organizing a mass in honor of General Franco. The sins of the father, etc.

No, I'm more interested in Javier Barraycoa, listed as a founding member on Wikipedia. He is, apparently, also the secretary of the Catalan section of the Carlist party 'Comunión Tradicionalista Carlista', a party dedicated to 'God, Fatherland, Charters and King'. CTC promotes a sort of 'organic democracy', (known by pretty much everyone else as 'authoritarian democracy'), generally considered to be a key component of Mussolini and Stalin's respective brands of totalitarian dictatorship. He's on the record as saying that he "doesn't believe in elections".

Question 1: Is Javier Barraycoa a member or official of SCC? I ask because a search of your organization's website shows no sign that he has any connection with you. But at the same time, I can't find any press stories detailing his expulsion from SCC. So I have to ask. You understand.

Question 2: Do the values of Carlism fit with the values of the SCC?

Question 3: Did you never worry that linking your so-called 'plural' organization with someone from Spain's traditionalist far right wing could look bad? Is that perhaps why his name doesn't appear on your website?

Question 4: As proud members of a plural Catalan and Spanish society and defenders of democracy, do you as an organization condemn the military rebellion of 1936 and the dictatorship it led to?

I look forward to your responses! Have a great week!

 

Yours,

Tom Clarke