Tag Archives: madrid

ERC: most evil people in history?

It has come to my attention recently that there has been something of a campaign of misinformation recently concerning the Catalan nationalist political party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya. I feel that as someone committed to truth over opinion, sophism and rhetoric, it falls to me to refute these claims and redress the balance somewhat.

Myth 1: ERC are a misguided bunch of beardy nationalists who are no more threat to Catalonia’s future than the long dead Gen. Franco.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about ERC knows that they are the most dangerous political party in existence today. Worse than the Basque Communist Party, worse than the Galician PP, worse even than CiU. ERC hold as a central party commitment the subjugation of all non Catalan speakers, the construction of a 30M wall all along the region’s border with Spain, a complete boycott of Madrid and that the Olympics should be held in Vic – even though they were only held in Barcelona 14 years ago!

Myth 2: ERC have other policies besides a neo-fascist Catalan superstate.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about the leadership of ERC knows not to trust a man with such a well-groomed moustache. Remember when Carod-Rovira snuck off to speak with Basque nazis in France? Well, the whole story wouldn’t have come out if it weren’t for brave officers from Spain’s ‘intelligence’ services taking time out from not monitoring Al Qaeda operatives who instead decided to spy on an elected official. And thank God they did! If he hadn’t been rumbled, it is believed that Rovira’s plan was to sell a field in Manresa to the terrorists so that they could use it as a training camp.

Myth 3: The boycott against Catalan products was organised as a response to Catalonia’s proposed new Estatut by a bunch of neo-fascist pricks with nothing better to do.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about Spain knows that the real neo-fascist thugs are the ones proposing to increase Catalonia’s autonomy from Spain via democratic measures. Besides, the boycott had nothing to do with a climate of confrontation during which the head of Spain’s army threatened to invade Catalonia. The reason brave Spanish patriots boycotted Cava is because Carod-Rovira called on Catalans not to support Madrid’s bid to host the Olympics – even though it’s over 14 years since they were held in Barcelona! Suggestions that the boycott was linked to a tiny group of concerted radicals who operated a suave ‘word-of-mouth’ campaign via email, internet forums and text messages are totally unfounded.

Myth 4: It’s disingenous to refer to ERC as ‘nationalist socialist’ at every single opportunity, clearly suggesting that they are the natural successors of the Nazis.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about political parties should know that ERC are a left-wing nationalist political party and that when the Nazis called themselves ‘national socialists’ they weren’t lying and trying to trick Germany’s large number of uneducated but left-leaning industrial workers: they were just telling it like it was! So what if it’s CiU who have officially stated that they don’t want any more muslims coming to Catalonia? So long as no one else reports that, we’ll be able to pin it on ERC within a week!

In closing: I hope I’ve done something to assuage some of your doubts about the true nature of Esquerra Republicana. The final piece of information is of key importance though: even the PP are better than them.

Think about that as you watch your neighbours go to the polls on Wednesday.

PP in far-right placation (again)

Much has been made by anti-Catalanista bloggers and commentators of the behaviour of certain minor extremist groups who take direct action against people they consider to be ‘fascist’ or otherwise undesirable. I’ve been directed to read one particular article about JERC teenagers causing trouble at a political meeting, by the man who penned the piece, naturally. The argument against interrupting meetings, threatening ‘undesirables’ and generally interfering with those who espouse an apparently antithetic ideology is simple: these thugs, by preventing other parties from expressing themselves freely and without fear, are attacking the very basis of our democratic society. They’re as bad as brown-shirts burning books.

So I’ve been surprised to see that these fearsome defenders of human rights, crusaders for freedom of expression and opponents of ‘bully boy tactics’ are as yet silent on the case of Pepe Rubianes. This actor’s latest play, a work about the poet Lorca (murdered by the fascists, incidentally), has been cancelled by the mayor of Madrid.

The reason for this censorship is that Rubianes has made himself unpopular with the Spanish right wing. A few months ago, he uttered some pretty offensive comments about Spain during an interview on TV3. This incident led to him being threatened with a law suit, and further enraged those same supporters of freedom and critics of Catalan TV – for having the nerve to broadcast his outburst. When it became known that this monster (who had, in the meantime, apologised and tried to explain his comments) was to perform an unconnected play in a municipal theatre in Madrid, the right wing wiped the foam from their mouths and started a campaign to stop him. At all costs.

So the campaign went into action. Blog posts were written, threats were made, demonstrations were (apparently) called. All this pressure came to bear on the one man who could do something to stop this disgraceful indulgence. Mayor Gallardon couldn’t handle that pressure. Whether it was the awareness that he was elected by ‘Libertad Digital’ reading pricks or a more personal hatred for the freedom of expression, Gallardon moved to stop the play from being performed. Another great day for democracy and freedom of expression under the PP.

At first, this case looks much like those where political meetings have been violently broken up by ultra-nationalist youths: the employment of mob rule to prevent people you don’t like from saying things you don’t want to hear. But this case is far worse. In this case, the mob has spoken and elected officials have moved to placate it. The precedent is far more dangerous and deserves strong opposition from those who oppose repression of free speech.

So where are the crusaders?

Wine, wine, wine

I’ve just discovered that Spain is the world’s third largest producer of wine. Behind France and Italy (I must admit that I can’t remember the time I last tried a glass of Italian), Spain produced nearly four million tonnes of wine in 2005. I suppose that it makes sense: from the ubiquitous Rioja, through Cava to the Valencian fare sold for four pounds a bottle in England, almost every region in Spain produces its own variety of God’s greatest gift. Personally, I’m a great fan of Priorat. The Catalan county which gives Priorat its name has a minuscule population of fewer than 10,000. And yet it manages to produce a wine whose quality and richness is even now being ‘discovered’ by the bodegas of New York City and London. Read more about Spanish and Portuguese wine at Catavino.

Speaking of wine, Gemma and I watched the film ‘Factotum’ tonight. An adaptation of one of Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical novels, it tracks the jobs, drinks and women of Henry Chinaski who weaves his way between work and bed and racetrack in the form of Matt Dillon. I hadn’t read Factotum before. I loved Post Office and Ham On Rye and so knew – more or less – what to expect. I wasn’t disappointed. The direction and acting in the film were smart and well adapted to the subject material. I laughed my head off at parts. And it stars Marisa Tomei… always a good sign, right Costanza?

Graeme at South of Watford drew my attention to the mad ravings of a Libertad Digital blogger today. Pio Moa (or Pio Mio, as I call him) wrote a piece yesterday which basically argued for the use of violence to wrest power from the democratically elected socialist government. The justification he offers for starting a new civil war is that the socialists conspired to bring about the Madrid bombings two years ago in order to steal the election which followed days later. Naturally, this theory is totally lacking in evidence but then most crazy conspiracy theories are. It would be easy for me to say that this guy needs to drink either more wine or less wine, depending on his current wine consumption.

Pio, I’d be more worried about the crack if I were you.

Nationalism and Catalonia (Part I)

Nationalism plays a major part in Spanish politics. In the press, both here and abroad, nationalism in Spain nearly always refers to Basque or Catalan separatist movements. Doubtless this focus is due partly to the violent campaign waged by armed Basque group ETA; and partly because perceived nationalism amongst minorities makes a shriller sound than the deep underlying drone of majority nationalism.

This majority nationalism – Spanish nationalism – is probably the single strongest political force in Spain today. Nearly half of all voters here can be accurately described as at least sympathetic to the Spanish nationalist agenda – that is: cetralised power in Madrid, no further autonomy for the regions, Spain is one nation: indivisible.

Opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy recently travelled around Spain collecting signatures of people who wanted a Spain-wide referendum on whether Catalonia should be allowed to claim more rights of self-governance. He managed to collect 4.5 million names. Putting aside for the moment more general criticisms of Rajoy’s politics, this is clearly a large number of people. Considering that there must have been many who would have signed had they had the opportunity to, or if they’d been pressed to, we can see that Rajoy’s petition – while not ‘the single largest political movement in democratic Spain’ as some right-wingers claimed – had the support of wide swathes of the Spanish population.

While the focus here in Catalonia is always on the two major Catalanista parties (ERC and CiU) and one increasingly Catalanista bloc (PSC), little time seems to be spent considering the reasons behind the growth of the separatist movement. As Giles Tremlett ably points out in Ghosts of Spain, almost anyone you ask about the issue has trenchant views on the debate. Whether in favour of independence, against independence, or sick of the entire question (this counts for a lot of people), Catalonia and Catalan independentism are seriously hot potatoes.

I reckon that the key arguments behind Catalan independentism are actually not nationalist, per se. Of course, political parties who are ostensibly in favour of greater autonomy often use nationalist rhetoric to win votes. To a greater degree though, the ‘nationalist’ tag is usually applied by opponents of the movement, often by the same people who can be accurately described as Spanish nationalists. The main arguments I hear over and over again are historical (some Catalans still feel that their land is occupied by the Spanish), left-wing (Catalonia has developed a rare breed of business-savvy socialism which doesn’t marry at all well with the aims of certain Spanish political parties), and a sense of difference, so difficult to describe that I’m going to have to come back to it at a later date.

All nationalism is stupid, more or less.
More next week…


On a related note, just a couple of thoughts about politicians. Of course they’re all there to gain power for themselves, to some degree. But this doesn’t mean that none of them  have any values. It seems that if we dismiss all politicans as liars, all parties as morally bankrupt and all political philosophy as bunkum then not only do we damn the population as stupid (which I find an abhorrent attitude), but also we end up with politicians and parties who fulfill our worst expectations.

Reial Madrid

I’ve just read an interesting article in Sapiens, the molt Catalanista history and current affairs magazine, about how the football club Real Madrid was in fact founded by two Catalan brothers. Carles and Joan Padrós i Rubió were born in Barcelona, but moved to Madrid to pursue their business interests. On the 18th of April 1902, the two brothers put the finishing touches on the statutes of a new sports association: the ‘Madrid Foot Ball Club’.

For those who are unaware of the animosity between Madrid supporters and Catalans over the last sixty or so years, Real Madrid is deeply unpopular here in Catalonia. Seen as an emblem of everything that is bad about Spain, Madrid fans (or merengues as they are disrespectively termed) are thin on the ground in this most avowedly un-Spanish corner of the country. Real Madrid was the favourite team of fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, and – sometimes in openly unsportsmanly ways – had the best of domestic and foreign players and league success under the dictatorship.

For these reasons, the fact that Real Madrid was actually created and managed by two Catalan brothers will come as a shock. It certainly seemed to shock many Real Madrid officials, both during and after the years of the Genaralissimo’s patronage. On the death of Carles Padrós i Rubió in 1950, no mintue’s silence was held at the club’s ground. No one connected with the modern club attended its founder’s funeral. Similarly, during the club’s centenary celebrations five or six years ago, the families of Carles and Joan weren’t contacted to play any part – or even watch – the club’s triumphal spectaculars.

The fact that Real Madrid’s fans, a small number of whom are openly neo-Nazi and anti-Catalan, are left in the dark about their beloved club’s origins is an interesting reminder of how politics and football have been intertwined in Spain’s modern history. There’s no reason that Madrid supporters should choose to like Catalans any more simply because their club was founded by two. But perhaps it would give them food for thought enough to realise that they owe a lot to their polako cousins.

Interestingly, the Sapiens article ends with another snippet of information. Atletico Madrid, arguably the bearers of a far greater hatred of Catalonia and FC Barcelona, was founded by Basques. But that’s another can of worms, best saved for another day.

Where’s the threat?

John Barrass’s editorial on Barcelona Reporter is unduly critical of Catalan national sentiments, and of the groups committed to further autonomy for Catalonia. Indeed, the piece urges readers to ignore threats by a top Spanish military officer that the army would have to intervene should Catalonia – as irrelevant, all the while pointing out that it is Catalan seperatist elements who are the real threat to democracy.

What worries me about these claims is that I don’t believe it’s wise to discount the growing far right sentiment in Spain as unthreatening. The PP have successfully radicalised a large percentage of Spanish conservatives, via groups like the fictitious AVT (Victims of terrorism Association, dedicated to campaigning against PSOE policies and filling PP rallies), via highly suggestive rhetoric (the so called ‘Balkanisation’ of Spain) and by openly referring to ‘the socialists, communists and anarchists’ when what they meant was the centre-left PSOE government. The words ‘communist’ and ‘anarchist’ have a particularly powerful effect on Spaniards of a certain generation.

Barrass also drags up scraps of data about various local initiatives put in place to redress the inbalance caused by nearly forty years of brutal repression. TV3, the regional broadcaster, comes in for special attention. Apparently, it receives ‘far too much funding’, and yet it and 33 are the only watchable channels on Spanish television. What’s the problem with a strong regional broadcaster? The PP invested over five times more in Madrid than in Barcelona when it controlled the central government. Would it be preferable to return to that imbalance? I don’t think so.

Yet again, efforts are being made to ‘split the vote’ in Catalonia, suggesting that non-Catalans living here are somehow at risk of being disenfranchised (or even persecuted!) by the Govern de Catalunya. Needless to say, this is scaremongering. What Barrass is absolutely right on is that the rule of law and democracy must always prevail. Catalonia and Spain share a shameful history of corruption and nepotism. Before anything can really be improved, this culture should be changed.

Top Spanish general threatens military response to L’Estatut

Aguado.jpgIn a speech which should send shivers down the spine of anyone who believes in democracy, Commander of Spanish land forces Lt Gen José Mena Aguado yesterday warned of severe consequences should Catalonia achieve further autonomy. Claiming the constitutional duty to ‘guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Spain and defend its integrity and constitutional arrangements’, the general warned that if Catalonia’s proposed new statute of autonomy were approved, it would be necessary for the military to step in.

Catalonia has sent its new Estatut to Madrid effectively demanding national status within Spain. The proposed law would hand much power to Barcelona including taxation and replacement of the supreme court. Similar reforms in the mid 1930s were used as an excuse for Franco’s military rebellion.
Spain’s highest-ranking general has asked defence minister José Bono to sack Aguado immediately. According to some reports, Aguado has been placed under house arrest. It is illegal in Spain for military personnel to make political statements – a law which reflects the very delicate state of Spanish democracy.

Aguado’s comments, broadcast on state radio yesterday, confirm a long held suspicion that there remains a powerful counter-democratic element in Spain’s armed forces poised to seize power if it becomes displeased with the actions of the elected government. The speech, which was clearly a planned warning, also highlights the need for reform in Spain’s armed forces which have never been successfully purged of their fascistic elements. Further reform to the Civil Guard is also in the pipeline – paving the way to the demilitarisation of Spain’s police forces.

Reform of state security and the constitution (which was imposed under the threat of an extended dictatorship) must now be priorities for the elected governments of Spain and Catalonia, if they are to prevent a treacherous army taking up arms against citizens as they have in the past. It is worth noting, however, that José Bono has now stated that he believes that Aguado was acting alone, and that there is no conspiracy behind him preparing for a coup.
Dick O’Brien has written an article on this story which better explains the whole story.
[Edited with new information; Monday 09 January at 1330]


Those who live in Catalonia, along with those who are simply interested in the region’s struggle for self government, will be watching the next few weeks with interest.

Catalonia’s government, the Generalitat (or rather Parlament), has proposed a series of changes to the statute that enshrines the autonomy of Catalonia. The new Estatut basically sets out to reinforce the concept of the Catalan nation as a separate entity to that of Spain. Anyone who’s still reading this will probably be aware of the huge importance Catalans attach to their nationality and difference from Spaniards, and will probably be aware of my opinions on the subject.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I consider myself to be a sort of non-Catalan Catalan republican. I have read the history of the issue and certainly side with the Esquerra Republicana when it comes to their most basic aim: the independence (and republicanism) of Catalonia. Indeed, I support a Spanish republic… but I do feel that Spain could slip into civil unrest (if not war) if a republic were declared.

Anyway, the Generalitat has sent their new Estatut to the Spanish government in Madrid where it will meet skepticism from Spanish Socialists (the ruling party) and out right damnation from the Partido Popular – that bastion of fascists and the nemesis of Catalonia (I’m not misusing the word fascist here… just take a look at the origins of this young political party, and you see that it is absolutely the creation of the crumbling fascist dictatorship). There’s going to be a big fight over this Estatut which some commentators are saying could lead to a split in the ruling Socialist party.

What (mostly right wing) people are worried about is that the 1978 Spanish Constitution will somehow be cancelled out if Catalonia is referred to as a nation. They feel that if Catalonia is referred to in this way, it will mean that legally, the Spanish nation is not really a nation. For me, this is one of the reasons why the Estatut is a great idea. The 1978 Constitution was forced on a nation still rightly fearful of a re-establishment of the former dictatorship – the parliament had recently agreed an ‘Act of Forgetting’ which absolved all fascists from any crimes they had committed during the civil war they started, and the 40 year dictatorship they imposed afterwards. For this reason, the Spanish Constitution needs to be reformed anyway. L’Estatut is just the start of a range of changes needed to address the modern idea of what Spain is. That and the fact that Catalans want to control their own finances. And it’s going to be debated in Madrid starting this week, I believe.

What we can look forward to is a Socialist party divided along lines of nationality, but essentially not unhappy with L’Estatut. They will be forced to make changes to the document, but how far they are forced to move is still not clear. Which makes the next few weeks of great importance when it comes to the movement for rewriting the Spanish Constitution.

The English text of L’Estatut is available from the Generalitat’s webiste here. More information about these issues can be found in the Catalunya section.