Josep Tarradellas i JoanApril 21, 2021
President of the Generalitat of Catalonia – 1954 (in exile) to 1980
Josep Tarradellas i Joan was born in Cervelló in the comarca of El Baix Llobregat on January 19th 1899. He was an active member of CADCI as secretary of propaganda, and was one of the founding members of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya in 1931, and was the party’s first secretary general. He was a deputy of the Cortes from 1931 to 1933 and of the Parliament of Catalonia in 1932. He was Minister of Governance of the Generalitat of Catalonia from December 1931 to January 1933, when he left the party and the Generalitat government due to differences with President of the Generalitat, Francesc Macià. Together with the Opinió group he formed the Partit Nacionalista Republicà d’Esquerra.
He was arrested and charged for the Events of October 1934, promoted by Lluís Companys, of which he always disapproved. From the start of the Spanish Civil War, he was responsible for various ministries, including Health, Economy and Public Services, and Finance. He organised the war industries and the collectivisations. He was exiled to France in 1939, and although the Francoist government demanded his extradition, this was denied by the French Vichy government. He fled to Switzerland, where he was given asylum, and returned to Paris in 1944.
When Josep Irla resigned due to health problems on August 7th 1954, Tarradellas was elected 125th President of the Generalitat at a vote which took place in mexico City, where most of the deputies lived. He refused to form a government in exile and “the purpose of power is to practice it and “everything apart from making a fool of yourself” are the two uotes that best sum up his attitude to oher republican institutions. Until Franco’s death Tarradellas maintained that the Presdency of the Generalitat was the only legitimate Catalan power.
After the first democratic elections on June 15th 1977, in an operation organised by President Suárez and some close collaborators, Tarradellas travelled to Madrid where he negotiated the restoration of the Generalitat. He returned to Barcelona as President, his great obsession during his exile, on October 3rd 1977 to great public acclaim. He was named President of the Provisional Generalitat with the agreement of all the major Catalan political parties and formed a unity government. After a term of office, which was personal, pragmatic and at times polemic, once the Statute of 1979 had been approved, the Parliament of Catalonia elected and Jordi Pujol invested as his successor, Tarradellas retired from politics in May 1980 with exception from the occasional critical comment.
In 1980, Tarradellas was invested doctor honoris causa by the la University of Toulouse, Languedoc, and in 1985, the Franch government awarded him with the Legión de Honor. In 1986, the King of Spain made him Maruis of Tarradellas. He died in Barcelona on June 1oth 1988 and two days later was buried in his home town of Cervelló.
Tarradellas in La Vanguardia
This article is a loose translation of a piece published in hemeroteca of La Vanguardia on the 25th anniversary of Tarradellas death on June 10th 2013. You can find the article in Spanish here.
The Vanguardia piece also gives link to other useful resources that can be found on Josep Tarradellas in the hemeroteca. Here’s a brief synopsis of what’s available.
Autonomies. Tarradellas was never in favour of café para todos. He always wanted more self-government for the historic nationalities. As the autonomic model developed, after the passing of the 1978 Constitution, he became increasingly critical of autonomic uniformity, including federalism. Nor did he hide his disappointed at the competences conceded to the Catalan autonomy, which he described as “a non-political administrative autonomy”.
Tarradellas Archive. In 1980, the President decided to donate his personal archive of documents and papers collected throughout his long political career to the Monastery of Poblet on the condition that it couldn’t be seen by the public until 1 years after the death of his wife, Antònia Macià (1904-2001). The choice of Poblet has been put down to his dislike of Montserrat. He had disagreements with the abbot, Aureli Maria Escarré, and the benedictine monastery has always been identified with the foundation of Jordi Pujol’s Convergència. Josep Benet always said that the documents of the Generalitats of the republic and in exile, which make up a large part of the Arxiu Tarradellas, should be returned to the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya.
Benet, Josep. The historian Josep Benet was always critical of Tarradellas. His book El president Tarradellas en els seus textos (1954-1988), published in 1992, provoked a long hard campaign against his arguments. Benet considered Tarradellas a terrible governor, who “gave up everything he jad defended to Suárez” and that he had agreed to return from eile “because he was in a desperate economic situation”. Amongst others Ricard Lobo, Raimon Obiols, Jaume Sobrequés and Ernest Lluch all came out in defence of the president.
Companys, Lluís. Tarradellas disagreed with the president’s policies during the Republic and was especially critical of the Events of October 6th. In fact, he didn’t have any contact with him from 1932 until the Civil War broke out. However, he recognised that he was a much loved governor with an excellent legal training and generous personality both in his public and private life.
Exile. After leaving Catalonia in 1939, Tarradellas lived in France, apart from a period in Switzerland during the Second World War, until his return in 1977. After his election as President of the Generalitat in 194, his family residence was in Clos Mosny, in Saint-Martin-le-Beau, near Tours. From there, he dedicated himself to maintaining the historic legitimacy of the Generalitat as the institution of self-government of Catalonia. Much of the Francoist opposition came to Clos Mosny. Tristán La Rosa gave him a long interview, published in 1976, where Tarradellas went over the main events of his political career, particularly relating to the parties, Francesc Macià, Lluís Companys, the war and the Generalitat.
Provisonal Generalitat. After the Suárez-Tarradellas negotiations, on September 29th 1977, thirty nine years after its abolition, the Council of Ministers approved the re-establishment of the Generalitat as a provisional measure and the regime of the Autonomous Communities was passed by the Cortes. The Generalitat was given few competences, basically little more than coordinating the four provincial diputations. Documents, which only came to light a few years ago, show that Suárez was willing to cede more self-government to Catalonia. For two and a half years, Tarradellas headed a unity government in which there were representatives of all the political parties.
Civil War. Throughout the war, Tarradellas was part of different Generalitat governments, except for a few few days after the Events of May 1937. He organised the war industry and the collectivisations, trying to make sure that the workers’ self-management and the union control didn’t put industrial continuity in Catalonia at risk. He always defended the Generalitat, especially during the the first months of the war, when he had to face the extremists of the CNT-FAI in order to avoid chaos and barbarity.
Ja sóc aquí! – I’m here at last!. On October 23rd 1977, the President was acclaimed by thousands of enthusiastic and perplexed Barcelonans who attended the restoration of an institution abolished by the winners of the war. His return was the only act of democratic rupture throughout the whole of the transition. His historic and studied “Ja sóc aquí!” (I’m here at last!) from the balcony of the Palau de la Generalitat not only linked the past to the present but also looked forward to the future. The next day he took possession of the presidency of the Generalitat in a ceremony in the Palau de la Generalitat, attended by Adolfo Suárez and two future ministers.
Legitimacy. Unknown to the majority of Catalans, Josep Tarradellas maintained the Generalitat’s flame of democratic legitimacy. This one of his great virtues and rights choices. He did it his way, with stubbornness and tenacity, but also with disagreements with the anti-Francoist opposition in the interior and suspicions regarding the Assemblea de Catalunya, which as a unitary institution could call his position as the only legitimate Catalan power into question. Tarradellas was always obsessed with power and, above all, its representation. He loved protocol and by emphasising the institutional aspect of his political authority, he protected the position of President of the Generalitat throughout the 6 years of his term of office.
Macià, Francesc. Tarradellas began his political career under Macià, first as his personal secretary and later as a close collaborator. Together they founded ERC in 1931. Later he was part of the first autonomous government under Macià’s presidency. Although Tarradellas resigned in 1933 after a fall out with the president, he was always always personally loyal to Macià. During the exile, Tarradellas looked after Macià’s heart, which had been removed on his death, and returned it to the family when he returned to Catalonia.
Nobility. In July 1986, he was named Marquis of Tarradellas and a noble title to an old republican was seen as a symbol of the transition. One of the reasons he was given the title was his important role in helping Catalonia fit within Spain and his contribution to the reconciliation. For many Tarradellists, the title embodied his personality, as he was always concerned with manners and ceremony.
Ortínez, Manuel. Businessman and one of the president’s close collaborator from the 1960s onwards. He was one of the archiects and sponsors of the operation that brought Tarradellas back from his exile in Saint-Martin-le-Beau. He was also Minister of Governance in the first government of the restored Generalitat.
Presidency. During his two and a half years leading the provisional Generalitat, Taradellas firecely defended the need for a good administration, consolidated policies on reconciliation and agreement with the Spanish government. There were few advances in the transfer of competences and he didn’t play an important role in the drafting of the Statute of autonomy as he was aware that his historic role would end with the first autonomic elections. He hadn’t restored the Generalitat along party political lines and realised that participating in the elections would tarnish his historical legacy.
Return. From 1976 onwards, the President was in contact with envoys from the Spanish government or the King, such as Milian Mestre, Santiago de Pablos ot Lieutenant Colonel Cassinello. When Suárez decided to negotiate with Tarradellas he entrusted the operation to Alfonso Osorio, Martín Villa and Carlos Sentís, UCD deputy for Barcelona and a friend of the president’s. Sentís, a Vanguardia contributor for over 0 years, wrote about how he organised the return on many occasions.
Presence in Madrid. Tarradellas’ visit to Madrid surprised and worried the Catalan parties. After a number of interviews at the end of June, the negotiation process began by giving the Generalitat the same competences as a mancomunitat or commonwealth of diputations, but finished on September 29th with the recognition that gave the Generalitat the beginnings of political power. Tarradelas applied the traditional Catalan strategy of pactism. With little bargaining power, he managed to get central government to accept the reestablishment of the Generalitat, the only republican institution included in the transition. To a certain extent, its restoration was a reconition of the specific Catalan question and of Catalonia’s position as a political subject even before the Constitution of 1978 and the Statute of 1979 were approved.
Suárez, Adolfo. Tarradellas and Suárez met on June 7th 1977, two weeks after the first elections that end in a victory for the left-wing parties, PSC and PSUC, in Catalonia. This was a decisive factor in convincing Suárez to play the Tarradellas card and include the historic Catalanist demand as part of the transition. The interview that day was was a failure but Tarradellas told the press that Everything has gone well” and later meetings between the two pragmatic and realistic leaders laid the foundations for the restoration of self-government. Years later, Tarradellas complained that Suárez no longer needed him.