Catalonia and Spain: The Way Back into Politics Together?
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
The English journalist and writer, George Orwell, wrote about the Spanish Civil war that a true history of that war could never be written.
There was no reliable information, and no way to get it. For the first time, he read journalistic information that had no relation to the truth he was experiencing. Papers did not contain truthful information about what was happening - instead, they offered pages and pages of speeches and propaganda-drenched stories written by people many kilometers away from the warfront. No intention of respecting the truth, but with the intention to boost the morale of the people on the home front. In ‘Homage to Catalonia’, Orwell wrote:
“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”
Obviously, Orwell did not mean that this was a trait of the Spanish media and politicians. Rather, he wanted to assert that in times of war and conflict, journalism gives way to propaganda, and truth is buried under a mountain of lies and exaggerations filled with political intentions. We can see this in every country, and especially on social media.
Though Orwell was not referring to Spain, nowadays we can observe this phenomenon on a daily basis when reporting on Catalonia, the independence movement, its leaders, and especially with former Catalan president and MEP Carles Puigdemont and the defamatory campaign pursued by Spanish media and politicians against him. Some call this fake news. But when the information is not only fake but also intended to damage reputations and spread an opinion targeting a particular political movement to uninformed citizens, this goes far beyond what is fake or not. This is pure propaganda.
As Orwell wrote, lies and hatred come invariably from people far away from the fight, with no reliable information and no intention to obtain it. It comes especially from people who are not willing to take the risk that comes with trying to achieve your goals through democracy and politics. Fundamentally, that is what politics is about: the art of creating possibilities, achieving the unachievable, and even making the impossible possible.
What happens with lies and with the parties that create them is that they sink like a stone. As Jonathan Swift said, lying is the last resort of a defeated and submissive political party - and as proven in the recent Spanish elections, lies indeed lead to the defeat of the parties spreading them. But not having learned the lesson, today hatred and lies persist between those same parties.
In the streets of Madrid we recently saw a great deal of hysteria and hatred - rioting, even - as a reaction by the Spanish right and far-right parties to the agreement between Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and President Puigdemont, which facilitated Sanchez's stay in power. The agreement is the result of the long negotiations between the Spanish labour party, PSOE, and Catalan independentist party, Junts per Catalunya. The agreement is simple in its forms, but with profound political implications: 1) To approve a law of amnesty in Spanish Parliament to bring an end to the judicial case against Catalan independence movement (affecting more than 4,500 individuals - politicians, government officials, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens alike), 2) the recognition of the national singularity of Catalonia and its historical rights as a nation, and 3) the establishment of a negotiation framework with international mediation to find a resolution to the conflict between Catalonia and Spain.
Each of these agreements, on its own, has the capacity to steer the resolution of the conflict that has paralyzed Spanish politics for more than 10 years, and which has fragmented the Spanish parliament. But collectively, it represents the will of the Catalan independence movement to face a new political era, one that must be marked by negotiation, respect, and mutual recognition. As simple as that, and no more complex than that.
It is just the same as governments are formed in all European countries: without assimilation, without denying the political positions of one another; but working despite these differences, so that each party can achieve a specific objective. This agreement does not turn Sánchez into a separatist who wants to break the Spanish constitution and the rule of law - nor does it make Puigdemont the shadow Spanish Prime Minister, the puppetmaster directing Spanish politics from his exile in Belgium. Yet still, the propaganda machinery has already been set in motion. ‘Sánchez is giving away Spain’, ‘the amnesty will mean a free pass to commit crimes’, ‘Vladimir Putin will dominate Spanish politics through Puigdemont’ - who knows what other inventions they will be able to create in these months.
Propaganda, screaming, lies, hatred and fear.
This reaction is not a surprise, but it's a shame that the political party that won the elections is incapable of coping with this new parliamentary arithmetic with political acumen, on par with the culture that built the European project. With the European elections just a few months away, Spain needs a left and a right that are willing to do liberal politics and not spread illiberalism. Spain needs it, and Europe desires it. They have a historic opportunity; it's their decision whether they want to seize it or not.
As far as we are concerned, Catalan independentists decided to take this decision to try to break free from the fatalism into which Catalan politics had been led, that took away our decision-making ability. Instead, we decided to believe that we have the freedom to do just that: to choose. This is the path of freedom.
Viktor Frankl said, 'everything can be taken from a man except one thing: the ultimate of human freedoms, to choose one's own attitude in any set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.’
So in times of deceit, and in front of the hatred of those defeated by their own lies, we choose to stay on the path that - sooner rather than later - will lead us to the freedom of our country.
We truly hope that Spain knows how to choose wisely, to be able to break free from the spiral of discord into which it sank a few years ago, and to find the way back into politics together.
About the writer:
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) alone. These views do not necessarily reflect those of LYMEC.
January 24 2024
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