Monday, October 02, 2017

The Ghost of El Caudillo Returns to Catalan

When Castilians Rode Through Catalan

A fellow left a comment here yesterday:

"...not unlike Albertans, the Catalonians have bemoaned the fact that as a rich province, they remit more taxes to central government than they receive back. Just so unfair, ain't it? Apparently the thought of federation is too much for them to tolerate. No, they are following the "I'm all right Jack" routine of self-absorbed greed. Not very different from Scotland where dreams of all that North Sea oil "rightfully" belonging to them, not the dreaded Sassenachs, feed the dream of Scottish independence and untold prosperity."

I began to wonder if it all might be greed as he suggested. Then I heard the faint voice of El caudillo coming from the graveyard.  The voice of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

Madrid is Castilian. Franco was Castilian. When, in 1936, the Popular Front won the election and moved to establish a republic, Franco and his fellow monarchist generals rose up and launched a bloody civil war. With the aid of Hitler's Luftwaffe, Franco prevailed and made himself dictator. Slaughter ensued.

Franco gained military support from various regimes and groups, especially Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, while the Republican side was supported by Spanish communists and anarchists as well as the Soviet Union, Mexico and the International Brigades. Franco personally requested of the Germans and Italians the aerial Bombing of Guernica in 1937, which opened the way to the capture of Bilbao and his victory in northern Spain. Franco won the war, which claimed half a million lives, in 1939. He established a military dictatorship, which he defined as a totalitarian state.[4] Franco proclaimed himself Head of State and Government under the title El caudillo, a term similar to Il duce (Italian) for Benito Mussolini and Der Führer (German) for Adolf Hitler. In April 1937, Franco merged the fascist and traditionalist political parties in the rebel zone, as well as other conservative and monarchist elements, into FET y de las JONS, outlawing the rest of political parties, thus Spain became a one-party state.

Upon his rise to power, Franco implemented policies that were responsible for the repression and deaths of as many as 400,000 political opponents and dissenters,[5][6][7][8][9] through the use of forced labor and executions in the concentration camps his regime operated.

I don't know about you but to me that sort of thing can't help but leave lasting scars.  400,000 political opponents and dissenters dead. Forced labour, concentration camps. A lot of those dead have relatives and some of those relatives are Catalans, Basques and other non-Castilian Spanish.

Even after the war, Franco was a real son of a bitch, especially if you weren't Castilian.

By the start of the 1950s Franco's state had become less violent, but during his entire rule, non-government trade unions and all political opponents across the political spectrum, from communist and anarchist organisations to liberal democrats and Catalan or Basque separatists, were either suppressed or tightly controlled by all means, up to and including violent police repression. The Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) and the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT) trade unions were outlawed, and replaced in 1940 by the corporatist Sindicato Vertical. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) were banned in 1939, while the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) went underground. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) went into exile, and in 1959 the ETA armed group was created to wage a low-intensity war against Franco.

Franco's Spanish nationalism promoted a unitary national identity by repressing Spain's cultural diversity. Bullfighting and flamenco[84] were promoted as national traditions while those traditions not considered "Spanish" were suppressed. Franco's view of Spanish tradition was somewhat artificial and arbitrary: while some regional traditions were suppressed, Flamenco, an Andalusian tradition, was considered part of a larger, national identity. All cultural activities were subject to censorship, and many, such as the Sardana, the national dance of Catalunya, were plainly forbidden (often in an erratic manner). This cultural policy was relaxed over time, most notably during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Franco also used language politics in an attempt to establish national homogeneity. He promoted the use of Castilian Spanish and suppressed other languages such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque. The legal usage of languages other than Castilian was forbidden. All government, notarial, legal and commercial documents were to be drawn up exclusively in Castilian and any documents written in other languages were deemed null and void. The usage of any other language was forbidden in schools, in advertising, and on road and shop signs.

Madrid, the central government, is still Castilian to the core. It decides how much autonomy each of the other regions may have and, for the entire lives of most Spaniards who still draw breath, it always has.

To say that the Catalans are opportunists, greedy pocket liners, is unfair. They've got grievances with the Castilians, legitimate grievances and plenty of them.  We see yesterday's brutality from our perspective, not theirs. To them, it's proof that El Caudillo is back from the grave.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the well-reasoned response. You may well be correct in the particular case of Catalonia. However, I see many more cases of groups wanting their autonomy and the general fracturing of societies. There are almost two hundred so-called independent nations now represented at the UN, when back in the 1960s there was, I believe, about 110. There is a reductio ad absurdum at play here, where people look back, if necessary for centuries at grievances, look at it from today's perspective, if necessary to bolster arguments, if not then on what happened years or centuries ago, and decide they're not going to take it anymore.

Catalonia believes Spain is holding it back from serious glory and treating it poorly, and one needs to read a bit of Orwell to see how Stalin took over the socialists in the Spanish War of Independence against Franco, subjecting its leaders to a rather brutal end if they didn't follow the Soviet line - another sad part of Catalonian history. I claim no special knowledge of Spanish thought processes, but even prewar, Catalonia was the industrialized well-off part of Spain and the focus of the revolution rebelling at central government restraints. When Stalin stuck his big boot in and co-opted the trade unionists, then lost against Franco and Hiltler, Catalonia could hardly expect fair treatment as the loser inviting in the Communists. But do they apportion any blame to the Russians? I don't know. There's always fault on both sides.

My main argument stands, I believe. People will only be happy when they perceive they're running their own show, free of "them". We'll be reduced to thousands of global villages again, easily ripped off by global corporate interests and the omnipresent bankers. Not to even get into resource depletion and global warming. The big 3 nuclear powers tend to brainwash their citizens into being patriotic lackeys (or for their rebellious areas techniques even more unpleasant than the Spaniards are adopting, Tibet, Western China, Chechny,a and the US through paid-for local strongmen or by neglect), thus making them immune from much of the tendentiousness inherent in tribal thought worldwide. That's how they can take advantage of the fractious smaller elements elsewhere by making big promises. Meanwhile the Earth groans.


The Mound of Sound said...

I lived and briefly worked in Spain in 1969 and I was struck at how menacingly authoritarian the country still was under Franco.

In my travels through Europe I kept bumping into these three Australians, a guy, his wife and his 'mate,' - who were on an extended holiday from their jobs in Slough. Sure enough I ran into them in Barcelona. The fellows and I were out for drinks one night. I left early to return to my camp site. The following day the wife spoke with me.

The fellows, it seemed, stayed for several more drinks. At one point one of them delivered himself of his views of the Generalissimo. Within minutes the Guardia Civil dragged them out and hauled them off to their caserne. The guys were given two choices - a stay in a cell or leave Spain right now. They were allowed to get their passports and were driven to the French border.

The wife was left to clean up, gather their things, and drive their van back to France the following day. She was kind enough to let me know. That story is typical of other experiences I had with Franco's thugs in 1979.

We like to this of this Catalan issue as past history. What if it was your grandfather that Franco butchered, your dad that he worked over in the 60s and yesterday you watched your sister getting punched out by the same Castilians? That's not past history for you, it's simply a continuation.