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World Association of International Studies

Post Barcelona Report: Street Protests, Disruptions at Airport
Created by John Eipper on 10/14/19 2:03 PM

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Barcelona Report: Street Protests, Disruptions at Airport (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain, 10/14/19 2:03 pm)

I just returned home after doing some errands in the center of Barcelona.

I also went out in the morning, just after the sentence was made public.

The protests described by Bàrbara Molas (14 October) have caused some traffic jams here and there, but nothing serious so far.

There have been serious disruptions at the Barcelona airport in El Prat, but that cannot be considered a protest, but sheer sabotage.

No matter Junqueras's pompous rants, the nationalists achieve their goals in the foreseeable future for the reason I have stated here several times: about 49-51% of Catalans are simply opposed to independence and reject the idea of living in an state ruled by the likes of Puigdemont, Torras, Junqueras and their accomplices.  As long as this is the case, the push for independence will not succeed, but this same push will keep deepening the divide in Catalan society, something which can have serious consequences. Not that Junqueras and company care about this.

Because we do not think like them, nationalists politicians just ignore us and speak and act as if their objectives had an almost unanimous support, which is far from being the case.

Their attitude implies that they consider non-nationalists as people who have no say in the future of Catalonia.

Recently, I was shocked to read in the New York Review of Books (April 18, 2019) an article by Neal Ascherson (a review of J. H. Elliott's Scots and Catalans: Union and Disunion) in which he said this: "When the smoke cleared from the Catalan independence referendum in October 2017, it seemed that a crushing 92 percent of the voters had chosen independence. But it was also clear that some opponents to independence--including many in the huge non-Catalan minority--had preferred to abstain from an 'illegal' poll'" (my emphasis).

How can someone like Ascherson say such a thing?

Not even the most radical nationalist leaders have dared to say openly such a thing, even if there can be no doubt that they actually believe that.

In any case, to consider those opposed to independence as "non-Catalans" is to introduce in the Catalan crisis the kind of toxic notions of ethnicity that in the 1990s caused so much death and destruction in the Balkans.

JE comments:  Grateful for your report, José Manuel.  My apologies however:  what am I missing in the Ascherson statement?  Doesn't it say that the opponents to independence "include" (therefore, are not limited to) non-Catalans--which I understand in linguistic terms?

Finally, do you believe the protests will grow in strength, or conversely, peter out?

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  • How Can Catalonia Go It Alone? (Phyllis Gardner, USA 10/14/19 3:54 PM)
    My son and daughter-in-law, who is Spanish, now live in Madrid and Gandia (south of Valencia, ergo south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast). We have very close friends for decades who are scientists who live in Madrid.

    Clearly my view is very biased, but the desire of Catalonians for independence is an anathema to me, as well as my Spanish family and friends. What kind of little country could they carve out? Clearly tourism is a big business. What will happen to passports and visa requirements? What sort of military defense are they prepared to mount?

    I do not understand this concept (as opposed to Scotland with the possibility of Brexit rupture). I hope someone can give me a better overview.

    JE comments: WAIS has been discussing the nuances (pro and con) of Catalonian independence for a long, long time. Not quite since the War of Spanish Succession in 1701...but almost.  Kidding aside, the strongest case in favor of Catalonian independence has come from our own Jordi Molins.  Here's a good place to start:


    There are many posts in our archive in the wake of the October 2017 referendum, with José Manuel de Prada and Ángel Viñas giving excellent arguments for the Constitutionalist (non-Independence) side.

    Here in far-off Adrian, we've discussed Catalonia in my Advanced Conversation class.  My students don't have a strong position either way, but they seem to agree that if they want to go, let 'em go.  Phyllis Gardner has identified a devil's worth of details involved with setting up a nation-state.  

    One final thing:  Catalonia, at 7+ million population, is larger than Scotland, at 5+ million.  Both nations in turn would out-human number of full-blown EU members.


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  • "Ethnic Catalans" and "Non-Catalans" (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 10/15/19 6:05 AM)
    In connection to JE's comment on my previous post, I don't think Neal Ascherson's "non-Catalans" are so because of not being proficient in the language. He is certainly referring to immigrants from other parts of Spain, no matter if they speak, or not, Catalan. These are considered by nationalists to be their enemies, unless they have converted to their ideas. A myth current among them has it that Franco encouraged immigration to "dilute" their national feeling.

    As I understand it, Ascherson thinks there is such thing as "ethnic Catalans," as opposed to "outsiders" that are not so. Even in the Balkans and Rwanda such distinctions were dangerous simplifications.

    In his review, Ascherson chides John Elliott for giving a "sharply hostile" account of Catalonia's present independence movement and "presenting its main participants as shameless demagogues and manipulators."

    Elliott is absolutely right, and Ascherson has not done his homework on the recent events if he fails to see it.

    Has he any idea of the anxiety, and downright fear, experienced by the non-nationalist half of Catalonia since 2012, and especially in the weeks before and after the so-called referendum?

    The mendacious propaganda, the pro-referendum demonstrations questioning Spain's democratic regime, the "casserolades" at 10pm, etc. etc.

    The fear and anxiety are back.

    Because, to answer JE's other question, yes, I'm afraid we are up for a protracted period of unrest (and lies, threats, disruption of public services, and so on).

    JE comments:  It certainly is problematic to equate a language with an ethnicity, and much worse, a "race."  I hope our pro-independence colleague, Jordi Molins, will weigh in.  If I recall correctly, Jordi's maternal side (Coronado) is not of Catalonian origin.

    How many generations do you need before you belong to an "ethnicity"?  In some parts of the world, the answer is simple:  never.  The US is more fluid in this regard, because we're a nation of immigrants.  I pass as a Michigan native after just 33 years, although I still don't talk like one. (Some key words that "out" you:  pop, kitty-corner, expressway, Yooper.)

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    • What Is Meant by "Ethnic Catalan"? (Jordi Molins, Spain 10/16/19 9:47 AM)
      As a reply to José Manuel de Prada's comments on ethnic purity in Catalonia, I wrote on WAIS two years ago:

      "In relation to ethnic purity: the two Republican political parties have, for each voter who has Spanish as the mother tongue, two voters who have Catalan as their mother tongue. Instead, the Constitutionalist political parties are much more ethnically pure: the PSOE has 14 voters with Spanish as mother tongue for each voter with Catalan as mother tongue. Ciudadanos has a 11 to 1 relationship. And the Popular Party, a whopping 25 to 1. In conclusion, Constitutionalist political parties are ethnically pure, while Republican political parties are somewhat diverse."


      As John Eipper recalls, my mother's family is from Murcia (Spain). Since the family of my father is rather small, about 90% of my family members are of Murcian origin. This fact is very common among Republicans. Foreigners open to learn a new culture (as my family ancestors, and luckily, as most of the Spaniards that came to Catalonia decades ago) become Catalans in the first generation already. Catalans only need a foreigner to utter a few words in Catalan ("Bon dia" / Good morning) and "you are in."

      Instead, Constitutionalists are overwhelmingly ethnically pure.

      100% of neo-Nazis in Catalonia are Constitutionalists.

      100% of Francoists in Catalonia are Constitutionalists.

      In Catalonia, there were recent massive demonstrations in favour of refugees, all organized by Catalan Republican organizations. Close to 100% of racists in Catalonia are Constitutionalists.

      JE comments:  Jordi, do you know, or know of, any Republicans (Independentists) who are monolingual in Castilian only?  Please forgive this language guy's tendency to link language with cultural identity.

      Fellow Barcelonan José Manuel de Prada checked in this morning, after a sleepless night.  Stay tuned.

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      • Castilian-Speaking Catalonian Separatists: Súmate (Bàrbara Molas, Canada 10/17/19 4:31 AM)
        To address John Eipper's question on Spanish-speaking separatists in Catalonia:

        I believe it is worth highlighting the existence since 2013 of a political platform of Spanish-speaking Catalans for independence: Súmate. The platform supports the creation of an independent Catalan state because, they argue, it would be favorable to the working classes. Súmate insists, however, that its members will not renounce their identity as Spanish-speaking members of the Catalan community. They arguably defend a Catalonia which is open and diverse. They believe that the Spanish government undermines the Catalan "welfare state" and causes its "fiscal imbalance."

        Their motto is "What matters is not where you come from, but where you go" (my translation). Here is their website: http://www.sumate.cat/?v=3e8d115eb4b3

        JE comments:  Súmate might be translated as "join us"--literally, it's "add yourself."  The website repeatedly stresses the diversity of Catalonian society, although the "who we are" section is directed to transplants (and their descendants) from other parts of Spain.  The website doesn't appear to have a version in Catalan--or English, for that matter.

        Jordi Molins (next) also addresses the topic of Castilian-speaking separatists/Republicans.

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      • Castilian Independentists in Catalonia (Jordi Molins, Spain 10/17/19 5:49 AM)
        John Eipper asked me: "Do you know, or know of, any Republicans (Independentists) who are monolingual in Castilian only?"

        Yes, there are many of them. The following description would probably fit well most of them:

        "I am not really an independentist. In fact, I despise all kind of nationalisms. Traditionally, I voted for PSOE, as did my parents and grandparents. For me, PSOE was the political party to defend the decency of my nation against the indecency and immorality of Francoism. I recall the first victory of Felipe González in 1982 as one of the happiest days in my life. I thought Spain would change forever.

        "However, now I consider the PSOE as just an instrument of the Francoist elites that control Spain nowadays. The current PSOE has nothing to do with the PSOE I used to love. For me, the only way to be consistent with myself, and with my family heritage, is to vote for Catalan Republican political parties. They are the only ones genuinely fighting against the Francoist status quo in Madrid."

        JE comments:  Can we conclude from the Catalonia crisis that PSOE has nowhere to go but down?  Sánchez faces a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.  A pickle.  The PP is in an easier spot:  show some mano dura to the independentists.

        Empathy is a WAISly forte.  So here's my question:  if you were the Spanish PM, what would you do in Catalonia?  Crack down, and you're a despot.  Capitulate to the protesters, and you will be viewed as the only person in 550 years who allowed the disintegration of Spain.

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      • There are No Catalonian Francoists? Nonsense (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 10/17/19 6:01 AM)
        According to Jordi Molins and his statistics, Catalan pro-independence nationalists are 100% jolly good, refugee-welcoming, well-educated and ideologically pure fellows, while non pro-independence Catalans are benighted, non-refugee-welcoming fellows who only hang with each other, are "ethnically pure" and, because of this, prone to racism, Neo-Nazism and Francoism.

        Is this for real?

        Is Jordi so naive to believe there are no Catalan Francoists or Catalan racists?

        Regarding Catalan Francoists, I have known more than one during my life. Some had very Catalan surnames, and so had their grandparents and great-grandparents!

        They may not exist in huge numbers, but exist they do.

        As for racism, I have more than once heard 100% kosher Catalans make derogatory comments about Andalusians and people from other parts of Spain, making fun of how they talked, resenting their presence in their towns, even though they were taking the jobs that, by then, "pure" Catalans did not want.

        And certainly I have heard many racist comments about black people, South Americans, Asians, etc., uttered by Catalans in very choice Catalonian idiom (in shops, subway trains, restaurants and all kind of places).

        Apparently, this is an experience that so far has eluded Jordi, who thinks that "close to 100% of racists in Catalonia are Constitutionalists."

        It is dangerous to speak in absolutes. Reality tends to be much more complex!

        Even the assertion that all acts in favour of refugees have been "organized by Catalan Republican organizations" doesn't ring very true to me.

        What does Jordi mean by "the Constitutionalist political parties are much more ethnically pure"?

        What sense has "ethnicity" here? What sense "purity"?

        This is really scary language.

        Does Jordi really believe there are ethnic divisions in Spain, or on the Iberian peninsula for that matter?

        Rwandans spoke essentially one language, but ethnicity was imposed on them by the Belgian colonizers, and we all now what that led to.

        In Catalonia, apparently, it is the allegedly colonized who have decided to construct non-existent ethnicities in order to be able to extricate themselves from their colonizing neighbours (even while claiming diversity)!

        To the extent that the concept of ethnos has any sense, there is only one ethnic group in Rwanda: Rwandans, within which there is diversity.

        In Catalonia, as in the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, there is only one ethnic group, call it whatever you like (perhaps we should call ourselves Iberians?), within which there is great cultural and linguistic diversity.

        Yet no matter the idiocies that Junqueras and other misguided and ignorant politicians (Torra among them) may have said about the (statistically proven?) superiority and uniqueness of Catalans:


        ...we are all of the same blood.

        It would be a tragedy if blood were to be shed for the sake of notions that by now should be rotting in the dustbin of history.

        I hope I will sleep soundly tonight.

        I cross my fingers.

        JE comments: José Manuel de Prada sent this last night; I hope he got more rest than he did on Tuesday.

        José Manuel is certainly correct that ethnicity is exploited for political gain.  Ethnicities are constructed, but is it the same thing to say they don't exist?  In Spain, the Catalonians see the Andalusians as backwards and simple-minded.  But reverse the roles, and you hear stereotypes about Catalonians as cold and miserly.

        As for Catalonian Francoists, shouldn't we begin with the Caudillo's biggest sponsor/Svengali of all--the Mallorcan oligarch Juan March?  He bankrolled the 1936 rebellion.

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        • You Can be Catalonian and Francoist (Enrique Torner, USA 10/18/19 4:43 AM)
          I've been closely following the discussion on Catalan independentism and ethnic "purity." I completely agree with José Manuel de Prada, and disagree with Jordi Molins.

          Independentists are distorting reality for political purposes. My family was Francoist; they barely survived living in Republican Catalonia through the Spanish Civil War. My great uncle was a priest, and his apartment in Barcelona was vandalized by some Republicans who destroyed--among other things--all of his religious images/art, except for one religious picture, which, though it had been cut in several places, somebody in my family was able to restore. This picture ended up at my parents' house, and I grew up seeing it on a daily basis. Every so often, I would stop in front of it, get really close, and notice where it had been cut.

          So does being "Francoist" make you less Catalan? That's ridiculous! It's like comparing apples and pears! The Catalan independentists are instigating hatred among Catalans, and hatred between Catalans and Spanish non-Catalans. It's time to stop this craziness! Most Catalans who are against independence didn't vote in the last "independence" elections because the referendum was declared illegal by the national government, and, unlike their independentist "compatriots," they followed the law. Of course, the fear factor played a big role too! So, why risk your life to participate in some elections that are actually illegal? It made no sense for them. I don't know of any relative or friend of mine in Barcelona who voted in those crazy elections. So, if independentists won the elections, it's only because those against Independence had the common sense to stay home. Those election results were not representative of the total Catalan population.

          Finally, regarding this friendliness towards foreigners: I still have to meet a student of mine who was in Catalonia and was greeted and welcomed in Castilian. On the contrary, they tell me they had to struggle to understand the little Spanish they heard there because it was always surrounded and overwhelmed by Catalan speakers! Do you call that acceptance of foreigners? When I lived in Catalonia, if there was one single person who didn't speak Catalan in a group, the group had the decency to speak in Castilian, even when they were used to speaking among themselves in Catalan! So, whenever I'm advising students about studying abroad in Spain, as much as I love Barcelona and Catalonia, I advise them to go to study somewhere else, and, if they visit Catalonia, expect trouble from Catalans, and enjoy the city.

          Whatever has happened in Catalonia?

          JE comments: My first visit to Barcelona was in 1985, and I made several local friends who told me this was coming (independence). At the time it seemed unthinkable that any border in Europe could be redrawn, but I was very wrong.

          Come to think of it, I haven't returned to Barcelona since.  It's scary how fast a third of a century goes by.

          Enrique, can you share more of your family stories about living in Republican Barcelona during the war?  Did your great uncle survive the experience?

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          • In Catalonia, (Castilian) Spanish is Alive and Well (Jordi Molins, Spain 10/19/19 4:07 AM)
            Enrique Torner wrote on October 18th: "I still have to meet a student of mine who was in Catalonia and was greeted and welcomed in Castilian. On the contrary, [my students] tell me they had to struggle to understand the little Spanish they heard there because it was always surrounded and overwhelmed by Catalan speakers!"

            This is false. I have spoken with my friend Germà Bel, formerly at Princeton and Cornell, now at the University of Barcelona. Germà Bel is one of the leading Republican Catalan economists, and publicly an independentist (with some political responsibilities in the past). By the way, I believe WAISer Sir Paul Preston has helped Germà publish some of his books. Germà has authorized me to explain that he is currently giving three courses (between undergrad and graduate studies): two of them in English, and one in Spanish (most students of which are Latin American). This is in the Faculty of Economics, the biggest one in Catalonia. In the undergrad course, for example, there are several classes in parallel for such a course, in English, Spanish and Catalan. The language for each class is clearly described before the students enroll in the course.

            My wife is Ukrainian. When she came to Barcelona, we discussed which language she should learn first, either Catalan or Spanish (we speak in English to each other). We decided she would learn Spanish first, since in Barcelona there are many Spanish monolinguals, but all Catalan speakers are bilingual. Now, she is learning Catalan with me, but she is more fluent in Spanish than in Catalan.

            In the meantime, the neo-Nazis have razed Barcelona at night, with the complicity (some say; I do not dare say anything bad about the Nazis, since the Spanish law protects them so much) of the Spanish police. There are several videos of the neo-Nazi aggressions towards citizens, and the friendliness between the Nazis and the Spanish police (up to the point of shaking hands in a video).

            JE comments:  Catalonian independentists seem to prefer English over Castilian Spanish.  The latter is viewed as the language of empire, while the former is simply a lingua franca.  Do I understand this correctly, Jordi?  I find myself offering my students the same advice Enrique Torner gives his:  Barcelona is not the best place to learn Spanish.  It's difficult enough for kids to immerse themselves 24/7 in a foreign language, without having to face the possibility that the language you're trying to speak is resented by the person you're speaking it with.

            (It's also hard enough to communicate with a spouse, but imagine when both of you do it in a foreign language!)

            Jordi, is the turmoil in the Barcelona streets dying down, or the opposite?  You point out a right-wing backlash.  Are the two groups fighting each other?

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            • Barcelona Report: No "Right-Wing Backlash" (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 10/20/19 6:43 AM)
              The Neo-Nazis are not razing Barcelona, contrary to what Jordi Molins says in his latest post. This means that there is no such thing as a "right-wing backlash," as John E described it.

              It took about 24 hours for Qim Torra (the President of the Catalan government) to refer to the acts of violence that started on Tuesday evening.

              I say "refer," because so far he has not condemned them, as he would certainly have done so if the Neo-Nazis were to blame.

              Nobody can deny that the majority of the demonstrators are peaceful.

              Yet it is clear that the main actors of these disturbances are mostly radical pro-independence activists. However, as in any crisis of this kind (such as, more recently, the case of the "yellow-vests" in France), other kinds of radicals have joined them just for the sake of confronting the police and causing harm.

              The bulk of them are, to use Jordi Molins' term, "Republicans."

              The police (a combination of the "Mossos" and the national police), far from being in fraternal terms with the perpetrators of these acts, are doing their best to contain them, so far without the full support of anyone in the pro-independence leadership save for the Conseller d'Interior.

              Other leaders and nationalist politicians are actually criticizing the performance of the police, accusing them of being too harsh.

              Needless to say, no nationalist would be questioning the police if if they were hitting the Neo-Nazis.

              (And, by the way, contrary to what Jordi Molins says, Spanish law doesn't protect Neo-Nazis.)

              What is very disturbing here is the willingness of the nationalist leadership to take as much political advantage of the violence as they can, instead of firmly condemning it.

              This was the tactic of the Basque nationalists of the PNV in connection with the terrorist attacks of ETA and its allies.

              In the case of Torra, he notoriously encouraged the radical CDR a year ago. Very soon after, the radicals assaulted the Parlament, and the Mossos only barely prevented them from getting inside.

              Bizarrely, even that police action was criticized by some nationalist politicians, who fear that this kind of episode can be harmful to the Procés.

              After the regrettable charges by the national police in October 2017, it would certainly not very edifying to see the Catalan police hit Catalan patriots, even if this is justified because the patriots in question threaten to storm a key institutional building.

              Yet this position is absolutely untenable, when there are people within the movement that are clearly violent, and when the Catalan premier himself tells them very explicitly "apreteu i feu bé d'apretar" ("you put pressure, and are right in putting pressure").


              Even this past Monday the spokesperson for the Generalitat said that she "empathized" with the massive action that aimed to stop air traffic at the airport. Yet at the same time she justified the police action on the grounds "the crowds endangered the safety of the people."


              John E asked if "the turmoil in the Barcelona streets is dying down, or the opposite."

              I fear it is the opposite.

              JE comments:  There are reports of 37 people injured, but so far no deaths.  Is this information accurate?

              I'm sure Jordi Molins will respond.  For now, a question for Jordi: what do you mean by the Spanish law "protecting" Neo-Nazis?

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            • Language and Study-Abroad Programs in Barcelona (Enrique Torner, USA 10/20/19 1:27 PM)
              Responding to my claim that I still have to meet a student of mine who was in Catalonia and was greeted and welcomed in Castilian, Jordi Molins (October 19th) replied that my statement is false.

              However, the only support Jordi was able to offer was that the University of Barcelona offers all kinds of courses in English, Castilian, and Catalan. That does not have anything to do with being welcomed to a place! When you first arrive at a city, if you are a foreign student, you are usually welcomed by a family, a friend, or an employee working at an airport, a hotel, a restaurant, or anything of this sort. The family, out of a desire to please you, will welcome you in English; later, they will speak to you in Castilian, because they are being paid to help students learn Castilian. The same with friends, who many times are friends of friends they have met in another city in Spain. Employees at any establishment start conversations in Catalan more than 90% of the time; once they realize the other person doesn't speak Catalan, they will switch to another language, Castilian or English, depending on where the other person is from.

              Students attending courses at Catalan universities in Castilian will be welcomed by the professor in Castilian, and classes will be in this language. However, students only spend a few hours of the day taking classes. Instead, they spend most of their time with peers they have befriended, and these friendly conversations usually take place in cafeterias, bars, or homes. One on one, Catalan speakers will speak Castilian to foreign students of the language, but Catalan to Catalan-speaking friends, and Castilian to Castilian-speaking friends. That's the way it was already when I lived in Barcelona over 30 years ago; this is the situation my students have been describing to me during the 27 years I have been teaching Spanish in the US. I have a hard time understanding people at noisy places like restaurants, and I have been living in the US for over 30 years. Just imagine students who have only been studying Spanish for 2-4 years!

              Now, don't misunderstand me: I love Barcelona and Catalonia, and am proud of my Catalan culture. And the students who go to Barcelona love the city much better than Madrid. They love its history, art, cuisine, and even the people they befriend: they just feel frustrated that they can't cope at friendly, noisy places, and they spend lots of time there!

              JE comments:  Enrique, can you comment on the experience of Minnesota State students in Spain vis-à-vis Latin America?  My conclusion after 20+ years:  Spaniards rarely befriend American students.  Rather, US students tend to hang out with other Americans.  Students who spend a semester in Latin America (our most popular destination countries of late:  Peru, Chile, and Colombia, in that order) make many local friends.

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        • Juan March, Mallorcan Oligarch (Timothy Ashby, Spain 10/18/19 10:02 AM)
          John E referenced "the Mallorcan oligarch Juan March" in his remarks on José Manuel de Prada's post of October 17th. While I am open to correction by our distinguished WAIS Catalan and Spanish experts, I doubt if the old pig and tobacco smuggler would have considered himself a "Catalonian Francoist" but rather a "Mallorcan Francoist."

          March's 1920s mansion, Sa Torre Cega, is on a hill overlooking the harbour of Cala Ratjada, very close to our home. I can see it on my morning walks. Photo below. Sa Torre Cega (which was build with smuggling profits) is now administered by the Fundación Bartolomé March (Bartolomé, a noted art collector, was one of Juan´s sons). The gardens are open to the public and classical music concerts are staged in the mansion during the summer (I regret to say that I have not yet attended one but these are on my agenda for next year).

          The March family is still very prominent in Mallorca, known for charities of various types, and seems to be very well regarded amongst our Mallorcan acquaintances and friends. The Ca's Patró March Restaurant overlooking the stunning harbour of Cala Deià was made famous by the Night Manager TV miniseries based on John Le Carré´s novel.

          Although Catalan is a co-equal language with Castilian, and road signs are in both languages, Mallorcans will politely inform you that they are NOT Catalans and do NOT speak that language but rather Mallorquin. Education is bilingual and the native people are very proud of their culture. There seems to be little sympathy for Catalan nationalists, and I have recently heard contempt for what more than one islander has termed the "terroristas" rioting in Barcelona. The Balearic Islands have been an autonomous region of Spain since 1983. I have yet to meet a single Mallorcan who thinks the Illes Balears should be independent from Spain.

          JE comments:  What a nice place you can build with smuggled smokes!  I was tempted to title this post "Marching past the March Manse," but WAIS is not Variety

          WAISer Sasha Pack gave us an excellent introduction to Juan March in this 2015 post (link below).  Interestingly, Sasha identifies March as probably the most Anglophile of the Franco sponsors, and played a role of funneling British money to the Generals to ensure their neutrality in WWII.

          How many respectable oligarchs started out with petty crime?  I earlier noted the smuggling/bootlegging roots of Kennedy and March families.



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          • Juan March, Not Catalonian (Paul Preston, UK 10/19/19 3:49 AM)

            Juan March is a very prominent character in my book A People Betrayed: Corruption, Political Incompetence and Social Division in Spain 1874-2018, which will be published in Spain next week and in the UK in February.

            From before the First World War until his death in 1962, March accumulated eye-watering amounts of money through the most daring and shameless schemes. I agree with Timothy Ashby that it is inconceivable that he would have considered himself Catalan in any way.

            As for whether he was a Francoist, it is certainly the case that he bankrolled both the Primo de Rivera dictatorship and Franco's civil war effort. However, he derived spectacular profits from both operations.

            JE comments:  I totally "stepped in it" with my reference to March as a Catalonian oligarch, but it's an honor to be corrected by the Maestro himself, Paul Preston.  I should have remembered the fact that the Mallorcans don't consider themselves Catalonians, even if the Catalonians view the Balearic people as compatriots.

            March is a venerable surname from Barcelona.  History's most famous March is probably Aleida March, Che Guevara's second wife.  (She is still living, at 83.)

            More on the Marches:  https://www.blasonari.net/apellido.php?id=624

            Congratulations on the new arrival, Paul!  Corruption, Political Incompetence, and Social Division:  are you sure it's not a study about America today?  (!)

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        • Catalonia Crisis: An Analysis (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 10/19/19 6:45 AM)

          Here are my thoughts on the events in Catalonia and several recent posts from WAIS colleagues.

          First I believe that after the violence of the Catalonian street protests in recent days, it is hard to maintain the independents' claim, articulated by Jordi Molins, that their movement is of a pacifist nature. It is far-fetched to blame the police and the Mossos exclusively for the unnecessary violence. There is clear evidence that both sides have sustained and caused injuries.

          Second, it is necessary to correct some of Jordi's other statements in his post of October 15th. Jordi wrote that Spain, "as predicted for a long time on WAIS [who predicted this? Jordi?], is transitioning towards a totalitarian state, in analogy to Turkey." Jordi bases this opinion on a supposed official declaration that literally says, "NATO support to Turkey is aimed at contributing to a de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance's border." It is obvious that this Spanish declaration is nothing more than a formality to support to Turkey as an official NATO member. Jordi sees the declaration rather as an ill-intentioned and twisted proof that Spain is transitioning to a totalitarian state.

          It is again useful to repeat once more, for the benefit of those Spaniards of the extreme "left," independentist Catalonians and many foreigners (I refer particularly to Timothy Brown's question and John E's students), that still believe in the argument of self-determination, that such a right does not exist in any body of laws anywhere on the planet, except for the UN referring to regions under colonial status (this is not the case for Catalonia). The claim that holding a referendum as a solution to the secessionist problem in Spain is against the Constitution. It is vain and useless. Why?

          Under the hypothesis that a referendum should be held and the outcome is NO to independence, called a "political" solution, what would be the obstacle for Catalonians to periodically request another referendum (such as the case of Scotland or Quebec)? If the result were YES, among other things, what then would be the fate of those Catalonians who still consider themselves both Spanish and Catalonian? (This is apparently a majority.) Shall they be obliged to renounce either of their nationalities? Would they be expelled from the country in case they do not want to do so? In consequence, the so-called "political solution" would really not be any solution at all, but the creation of many other critical problems.

          On other matters, Jordi in an ill-intentioned way also mentioned that the average prison sentences for people convicted for the 23 February (1981) coup d'etat, or the neo-Nazi Pedro Cuevas guilty of killing an independentist, were less severe than the recently sentenced Catalonian politicians by 8.3 years. This is untrue. The sentence for Tejero was 30 years, and for Pedro Cuevas it was 18 years. The fact that they ended up spending less jail time is due to certain benefits of the Spanish Penal system. This will certainly happen with the condemned Catalonian politicians, who will be out of jail in maybe 3 or 4 years. So, the recent sentences for the "seditious" Catalonian politicians are not really "out of proportion" as John E seems to have misinterpreted. On the contrary they seem to be light and benign.

          Jordi argues also that the VOX (radical right party) is a neo-Nazi party. Again this claim is exaggerated and distorted. Perhaps Jordi should read more carefully the political program of this party to better understand it. I did exactly that, and nothing in there is remotely "Nazi" unless you don't understand what Nazism was/is. It should be clear I am not by any means a supporter or sympathizer with this political party, which I consider to be very far from my political views.

          Now the question of ethnicity discussed by José Manuel de Prada and Jordi. Not only am I in complete agreement with José Manuel, but also in the past I have showed on this Forum evidence of racism among the Catalonian independentist leaders Pujol, Junqueras and Torra. I have also had many personal experiences with Catalonians expressing similar racist prejudices against fellow Spaniards from other regions.

          Furthermore, it is not a surprise to observe racist and xenophobic prejudices among many independentists that are originally from other regions of Spain. In fact, as I have said before, there is no one more radical or fanatic than an ideological or religious "converso." For them it is a question of mimetic and social acceptance in order not to be rejected by the community.

          A couple of other related questions. Timothy Brown asked why Spain has serious independence movements and France has not, even though Spain is the oldest "consolidated" nation in Europe. John E blames Napoleon for the absence of independence movements in France. This may be the case, but the Napoleonic invasion of Spain was also a reason to consolidate Spanish nationalism.

          To explain it simply, I believe the current exacerbated independentism in Catalonia is because of a set of complex causes. Its oldest origin is the 1700s War of Succession. The 1900s prosperity of Catalonia resulted in a rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona. Add to this incompetence of the monarchy, the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship, the extreme autonomy privileges and decentralization of the 1978 constitution, and finally the 2008 crisis. The question of different languages and cultures among the regions are, on my opinion, less crucial and rather unimportant, but sustained by independentists as mantras to be repeated constantly.

          Jordi claims that the Catalonian question is no longer about independence, but of basic human rights. This is hardly justifiable in objective ways. Rather, it is another example of the independence movement's victimization syndrome. I insist that self-determination is not a "basic human right" as I explained before. Other basic human rights such as freedom of speech are enjoyed by Catalonians, provided they do not collide with violent protests or democratic laws. It is unclear what other "basic right" Jordi is referring to. On the contrary the right for a nation to preserve its sovereignty and territory is a basic universal right.

          So now in a effort to answer John E's political dilemma of what the Spanish government should do regarding the Catalonia independence movement, the answer should be obvious. It should comply with the above-mentioned universal right at all cost if necessary, and at the same time maybe try to negotiate some political autonomic concessions to satisfy Catalonian aspirations in that sector of society.

          JE comments:  Yes, I also predict a compromise short of total independence.  As long as we're on the topic of separatism, what is the latest from Scotland?  Too bad we have no Scottish WAISers.  Tim Ashby, who lived and studied there, is a quasi-Scot.  He now (coincidentally) he lives in Spain (Mallorca).  Tim, what are you hearing from Edinburgh?

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    • Catalonia: Unrest in the Streets (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 10/16/19 10:07 AM)
      This past night has been one of violence, anxiety and fear in Barcelona and other major Catalan towns, courtesy of hooligans encouraged by the puppet president of the Generalitat Joaquim Torra, who this morning refused to condemn these acts of violence.

      This cannot surprise anyone, since it is clear Torra himself has been encouraging the riots, and welcomes them.

      As a matter of fact, he has to all intents and purposes outsourced these kinds of mobilization to the the CUP, a small party of anti-system fanatics which have been key in the Procés since their votes in the Parliament became essential after the 2015 elections.

      Junqueras and the other recently convicted leaders have condemned the violence, but in quite lukewarm terms.

      The Catalan police ("Mossos") and the national police have had to charge against these vandals this past night, but today some Nationalist politicians were questioning their performance, I am not sure on what grounds.

      Perhaps they should have let the hooligans (most likely connected with the CDR, "Committees for the Defense of the Republic", closely connected to the CUP) do their burning and vandalizing in peace?

      If any of you want to visit Barcelona, do not tarry. It's better to come while the air is still breathable and all buildings are standing.

      In other terms, may I remind Jordi Molins and other WAISers that the trial of the 1981 rebels took place in a very different political climate, when democracy in Spain was still fragile?

      Also that Carles Sastre, formerly member of the terrorist band Terra Lliure, was sentenced to 48 years in prison for his participation in the murder of businessman Josep Maria Bultó but ended up serving only 11?

      Sastre and his accomplices attached a bomb to the body of their victim, who was killed horribly when it exploded.

      Sastre should be rotting in jail, like Pedro Cuevas, but there he is, at the service of the Procés, organizing the (mostly failed) general strikes we have suffered in the past two years (including, I imagine, the one this coming Friday).

      Yes, as Jordi Molins says, this is now "about basic human rights, freedom and democracy": it is about the human rights, freedom and democratic liberties of the half of the Catalan population that is being held hostage by the other half.

      Did you now that Carme Forcadell, the now-convicted ex-speaker of the Catalan Parliament, said plainly in 2013 that the non-nationalist political parties, and by implication their voters and sympathizers, were "adversaries of Catalonia"? All the rest were "el poble català" (the Catalan people).


      Forcadell's blatant partisan use of her office as speaker in the months before the so-called referendum puts to shame even the achievements of that master of the field, Mitch McConell, aka "Moscow Mitch."

      Last but not least, can Jordi Molins give us a critical analysis of the situation?

      What he has done so far is just repeat nationalist propaganda one can find easily in the Web.

      Or perhaps he really thinks that the political management of the present situation is, to quote Donald the Ineffable, "perfect"?

      Was Jordi really capable of sleeping peacefully last night knowing, perhaps listening, what was going on outside?

      For my wife and myself it was a sleepless night.

      And we brace ourselves for what may happen tonight.

      Meanwhile, (dis)Honorable President Torra has joined a march from Girona to protest the Supreme Court ruling.

      JE comments:  Please stay safe, José Manuel...WAIS needs you!  I trust cooler heads will prevail before people get hurt.

      What is Torra's story?  How is it he was not involved in the original referendum?  (Had he been involved, he'd presumably now be in jail.)

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    • Separatism in Spain and France (Timothy Brown, USA 10/17/19 4:15 AM)
      I'm curious. It's my understanding that Spain did not become a full-fledged union until the 15th century, when it became a union of different principalities. Several of them had then, and still have, recognized native languages other than Spanish, Catalan and Basque being two of them.

      Catalan and Basque are also the primary languages of prefectures of France, Basque on the Atlantic and Catalan on the Mediterranean. Today Spain has had serious independence movements in both but France has not. Why the difference?

      JE comments:  I always blamed (credited?) Napoleon for this, and the aggressive centralization of the Imperial era.  Franco sought to do the same thing in Spain, but he came 140 years later.  Doesn't Spain also grant more political autonomy to its diverse regions?

      Still, Tim Brown raises an important question:  why are there no significant Roussillonnais or Pays-Basque separatist movements?  It may be significant that France has no major city in either region, unlike Barcelona, Bilbao or San Sebastián/Donostia.

      The events in Catalonia will take the front and center position today on WAIS.  First, we'll hear from Barbara Molas.

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