I've decided to call Catalonia Calling #08 Franco's Ghost and Other Stories partly because yesterday, Friday November 20th was the 40th anniversary of the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975, and also relatively little has happened on the independence front.
The anniversary has made me think that his spectre still walks over Spain and symbolises the divisions that are still present in the country today. This is precisely why Catalonia has no other option but to separate from Spain and also why the pro-independence parties have to, and inevitably will, reach an agreement.
As far as negotiations between Junts pel Sí and the CUP on the investiture of Artur Mas as President of the Generalitat are concerned, the week started with statements of intent from two elder statesmen, Andreu Mas-Colell of CDC and Julià de Jodar of the CUP. Then Francesc Homs, one of Artur Mas's closest collaborators and the CDC candidate for the Spanish General Elections on December 20th made it clear that the party would not be making any more concessions. Then Oriol Junqueras and Esquerra gave a conference to assure everyone that everything was OK and that an agreement would be reached in the end.
Basically, what I think is happening is that each of the three main pro-independence are defining their positions before finally committing to take Catalan independence to the next stage together.
Convergència are a centre-right party that has moved much further to the centre recently in an attempt to renew their image and put suspicions of corruption behind them. A large portion of their supporters feel that the party has has already ceded enough by allowing three left-wingers to stand above Artur Mas in the Junts pel Sí electoral list. The wording of the Declaration of the Beginning of the Independence Process was a bit strong for many traditional convergents and Mas's offer of a virtually choral vice-presidency and a vote of confidence after 10 months was a bridge too far, particularly for Vanguardia readers or 8aldia viewrs. We mustn't forget the influence of the right-wing Catalan press in all this.
As a result the party has dug it's heels in and said that enough is enough. They don't want to lose their moderate middle-class support or that of the business community, both of which, incidentally, are crucial to the success of the independence process.
The position of the CUP, however annoying, really shouldn't surprise anybody. They've got no real interest in occupying positions of power or government so they're free to be as critical as they like. Furthermore, anybody in a suit and tie or associated with business provokes an immediate kneejerk rejection from them. Relations between CDC and CUP at municipal level are fraught with tension so, now they're in Parliament, it is totally predictable that the same thing should happen.
However, they are the Esquerra Independentista, the pro-independence left, so their commitment to the process shouldn't be in question. They also have an extremely sensitive sense of social justice and in this respect the Annex of the Declaration is a bit of a trojan horse of their own creation and will probably force them into accepting Mas as President.
The annex includes specific recommendations onenergy poverty, evictions, language and education, refugees and the gagging law amongst others and Artur Mas is prepared to stand by all of them. Without a government, these resolutions cannot be applied so people will be cold and homless this winter, refugees will be refused asylum and demonstrators will be arrested.
For this reason, the only sensible option the CUP have is to back down and accept Artur Mas as President.
Throughout all this, Esquerra Republicana have maintained a very sensible middle line, which despite my criticisms of them in the past is pretty much where I find myself at the moment. The agreement to invest Artur Mas as President was central to the Junts pel Sí candidacy and not only Convergència and Esquerra but also the other parties and the independents, who make up the coalition, are keen to observe it. Similarly, a lot of the CUP's policies find a lot of sympathy with many people on the left of Esquerra as well as with independents like Lluís Llach, who although an Esquerra nomination admits he has something of a CUP heart. For this reason, nobody wants to demonise the CUP.
Furthermore, Esquerra's relative silence will almost certainly reap rewards in the Spanish General Election, where CUP aren't standing and their main candidate is the very eloquent Gabriel Rufián of Súmate, who is an excellent choice in my opinion. I'd also like to take the opportunity to wish all the best to my Facebook friend, Xavier Eritja, who is standing for Lleida and although I don't know personally also seems well alright.
Speaking personally, I have absolutely no doubt, and never have, that an agreement will be reached and a new Generalitat government will be formed well before the Spanish General Elections. In fact, on Thursday, the CUP gave a press conference at which for the first time they didn't explicitly say that they weren't going to invest Mas so their position seems to be softening and when the time is right their members will take the decision at assembly.
I must admit I do get a bit irritable on social media as news comes in throughout the week, though, and one of the reasons why I discipline myself and only record Catalonia Calling at the weekend is so that I can get a bit of a perspective on things and don't shoot my mouth off as is often my way.
By the way, if any of you have anything to say about my analysis of the situation please feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.
Friday, being the 40th anniversary of Franco's death, made it even clearer to me why Catalonia has to get out Spain's strangehold. Obviously, it would ridiculous to suggest that most, or even a large proportion of, Spaniards are facists but I do think it's clear that the Spanish State has never really dealt with the legacy of Francoism, and he is treated more like a historical figure than a fascist dictator and torturer.
Apologists talk about the Dictadura, the Hard dictatorship of the early years, and the Dictablanda, or the Soft Dictatorship, from the early 1960s onwards. However, dissenters were subject to police brutalty right up until the end as did executions. The Catalan Salvador Puig Antich was executed in March 1974 and two members of ETA and three members of the Revolutionary Anti_Fascist and Patriotic Front were executed on September 27th 1975, less than two months before the dictator died. In the last years, the execution method wasn't firing squad but the particularly slow and cruel garrote vil, where the victim's windpipe is crushed using a massive screw contraption.
On Friday masses were celebrated to commemorate his death. There are still streets all over Spain named after fascists and statues of Franco are still adorning town squares. The Fundación Francisco Franco has charity status so is funded by public money and his body is now in an enormous mausoleum at the Valle de los Caidos, the Valley of the Fallen, just outside Madrid, which is a monument to the nationalist or fascist dead in the Civil War and also houses the body of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader of the Falange.
Can you imagine Germany or Italy treating the memory of Hitler or Mussolini in the same way? I'm not saying that the Valle de los Caidos should be demolished but it should be treated as a monument of shame like Auschwitz or something, where the Spaniards can learn about the country's fascist past. As it stands, the place is just a publically-funded meeting place for fascists and the extreme right and on Friday these vermin were there with their fascist yoke and arrows flags mourning the death of the dictator. In fact, a couple of years ago Partido Popular Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández Diaz said that he found it a spiritual place and often went there to pray.
And that's precisely the problem. One of the reasons why there is no significant extreme right party, like the Front National or the British National Party, in Spain is that the Partido Popular is the direct heir of Francoism and the Falange. It was founded as Alianza Popular, by one his ministers Manuel Fraga and in 1977, an Amnesty Law was passed so none of the dictator's henchmen were prosecuted for crimes committed throughout the regime. In fact, the same people went on governing Spain and running the major companies even after the country was supposedly a democracy. They just changed their tune and started describing themselves as democrats.
After the Spanish General Elections in December, it looks highly likely that the country will be governed by a coalition of Partido Popular-Ciudadanos, who are worse than the PP, if anything, so there is absolutely no chance of having a 66% in Congress in favour of making the constitutional changes that will allow Catalonia to hold the referendum it so badly needs. If we have to put up with another four years of centralisation, underfunding and attacks on the Generalitat's competences, the only option is "Adios Amigos!"
In fact the Spanish government had their own special pro-Franco anti-Catalan celebration, when firstly they announced the money that the Autonomic Liquidity Fund is lending to Catalonia will come with strings attached, which means that the government will try to control how the Generalitat spends it. Secondly, news came out that the Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural will be fined €440,000 for organising a survey prior to the 9N proxy referendum last year. It's hopeless
For more detailed information about the Franco dictatorship, you may be interested in two chapters of my book, Catalonia Is Not Spain: A Historical Perspective
Anyway, before we go, I just want to express all my love and support to FC Barcelona, who'll be facing Real Madrid in the Bernabéu at 6.15 this evening, and compared to El Clàssic, everything I've said in the episode so far pales into insignificance.
I'll be wearing my Koeman shirt, which I bought way back in 1989. It would great to hear your opinions on the game in the comments section down below.
Visca el Barça! Visca Catalunya!
See you next week!
* Incidentally, Barça thrashed Madrid by four goals to nil!