Monday, October 2, 2017

Catalonia: Three Inconvenient Truths (Courtesy of Stanley G. Payne)



NOTE: The following phrases are excerpts from “Catalan and Basque Nationalism,” an article by Stanley G. Payne that appeared in the Journal of Contemporary History in 1971. Dr. Payne is probably the greatest living Hispanist. 
  1. Catalonia Owes its Prosperity to Madrid:  
“The crisis of Catalan integration within the pluralistic Hispano-Habsburg system came in the revolt of 1640-52, which reproduced key features of the struggle of the 1460s and 70s, including sharp internal conflict and the ever-present threat of falling to the status of a French protectorate. The outcome of that revolt was merely a return to the pluralistic status quo, but Catalan espousal of the Habsburg cause in the Spanish Succession War of 1702-15 finally brought the abrogation of most features of Catalan particularism, the main exception being retention of the regional legal codes.”  

“For the first time in its history, Catalonia during the eighteenth century was fully integrated into the broader affairs of Spain. This was a period of notable expansion in Catalan agriculture, manufactures, and above all commerce. Catalans revealed themselves to be fully conscious of the advantages offered by the Spanish system and proved completely loyal subjects of the crown.”  

“Though at first political affairs in Catalonia were kept under tight central control, the upper middle class Catalan elite was largely integrated into the two rotating Conservative and Liberal parties that governed Spain in the final quarter of the nineteenth century. The years 1878-88 were a period of almost unprecedented prosperity for Catalan industry and commerce, and were known as the era of the febre d'or (gold fever). The expansion of the nineteenth-century Catalan economy was 
paralleled by a rebirth of Catalan vernacular literature, commonly referred to as the renaixenfa (renaissance).” 

“During the two main Carlist civil wars (1833-40 and 1869/73-76), Catalonia had been second only to the Basque country and Navarre in the degree of support given to the traditionalist [Jaime de Andrade note: i.e. pro-absolute monarchy] cause. Though overt support for Carlism [JdA note: i.e. support for absolute monarchy]  declined steeply after 1876, former Carlists showedbincreasing interest in the pro-traditionalist, anti-centralist aspects of Catalanism.”  

“The new protective tariff of 1891 largely satisfied Catalan demands, however, and the expansion of trade with Cuba during the final quarter of the century provided a closed and protected market that absorbed the bulk of Catalan exports outside the peninsula. Hence, despite growing demands by cultural particularists, political reformers and regional traditionalists, the main economic interests of Catalonia, were largely satisfied with the functioning of the established political system until the disaster of 1898 [JdA note: i.e. the Spanish-American War].”  

“Enric Prat de la Riba defined Spain as the political state and Catalonia as the true fatherland of Catalans, who were said to constitute a distinct and fully developed nationality; hence their state must be altered to conform to their nationality. Catalan nationalism was not separatist but demanded a regional parliament and government and a fully autonomous regional administrative system, which would develop the economy, society, and culture of Catalonia, while preserving its traditions” 
  1. Catalanism Was Significantly Strengthened by the Spanish-American War: 
“It has sometimes been suggested that full-blown regional nationalism was the result of the disaster that befell Spain as a national and international entity after the Spanish-American war of 1898. In one sense that is correct, but it overlooks the steadily rising tide of Catalan particularism that had been building up since at least 1869.”  

“At least 1869. Catalan economic interests had denounced concessions to the Cubans, but in 1898 Catalan spokesmen were the only significant group in Spain that opposed the war with the United States, deeming it impractical and completely hopeless.” 

“The disillusion that attended Spanish affairs in the aftermath of the loss of the last remnants of the historic empire gave rise to numerous calls for 'Regeneration', ranging from the radical republicans to the Carlists. In Catalonia, Regenerationism gave a major impetus to Catalanism.”  

“Yet the first political attempt of an alliance with middle-class Catalanism foundered on the divisions among the forces composing the Silvela government itself and also on the hostility of Catalan economic interests to paying higher taxes in order to meet post-war government debts. This resistance led to a brief but intense taxpayers’ strike in Barcelona that ended with the temporary imposition of martial law”  

“Catalonia was more affected by the first world war than was any other part of Spain. By 1915 war orders, mainly from France, gave a powerful impetus to commerce and industry. Production, profits, employment and worker immigration increased enormously during the next three years. The Lliga and Catalan economic interests, however, took the position that insufficient assistance was given by the government, which refused to grant Barcelona unique status as the only free port in Spain, and in 1916 Liberal reformists in Madrid pressed for a special tax on war-related profits.” 
  1. Radical Leftists, Both in Catalonia and in the Rest of Spain, Played a Key Role in the Radicalization of Catalanism:  
“Cambó had a considerable talent for manoeuvre and superior intellectual gifts. Like nearly all Catalanists before 1923, he was not a separatist, but merely sought a role of autonomy (and pre-eminence) for Catalonia within Spain.”  

“The king, Alfonso XIII, decided to use his constitutional prerogative to appoint a minority reformist Liberal government under the Conde de Romanones, whose main task would be to put through a workable Catalan autonomy statute, with the aim of satisfying the moderate and functional elements of the Catalanist movement and so rechannel Catalanism within the mainstream of the Spanish system, using it as a force for integration rather than disintegration.”  

“However, this coincided with the general crisis attending the end of the war, which affected Spain almost as much as many other European countries. The revolutionary movements increased their activity, and left-Catalanists sent a delegation to Paris to seek international support for their demands. Spanish republicans and socialists saw the moment as propitious to press for the overthrow of the monarchy. The establishment of Catalan autonomy would resolve one of the country's main political disputes and so strengthen the constitutional monarchy of Alfonso XIII. Hence they urged left-Catalanists to refuse to co-operate with the commission and to reject any solution from 'Madrid'. Most of the left-Catalanist factions,believing that the general Catalan movement was about to obtain enough leverage both at home and abroad to impose a solution of its own, rejected the commission's proposal for a system of regional political and administrative autonomy for Catalonia, on the ground that autonomy must be established exclusively on the terms of Catalans and not of 'Spaniards’” 

“Cambó personally opposed this, but with great bitterness agreed to support the left Catalanist veto in a desperate effort to maintain the recently established unity of all factions of Catalanism before they split as under once more.”  

“The whole episode was a classic of the famed Catalan all-or-nothingism. An excellent opportunity to obtain genuine Catalan regional autonomy was rejected by the Catalans themselves, owing to the determination of leftists from all parts of Spain not to see constitutional monarchy strengthened by the passage of major reforms within the system.”  

“During the last five years of the parliamentary system (1918-23), the Lliga co-operated with the central government and with the all-Spanish party system, and Cambó became one of the three or four most trusted and respected public figures in Spain. The political chiefs of the Lliga and the representatives of Catalan interests in general became increasingly concerned about the disruption of the Spanish system by class struggle and internal division. Though they did not in any way relinquish the goal of Catalan autonomy, they refrained from emphasizing the problem.” 

“Three months later General Miguel Primo de Rivera overthrew the parliamentary regime and set up a military dictatorship. At the time he was military commander of Catalonia and was at first supported by middle and upper class Catalanists who regarded him as a bastion of social order and took at face value his protestations of sympathy for Catalanism and his vague hints at reform. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the dictatorship was a product of the febrile, extremist climate of Barcelona. But once in power Primo de Rivera came to embody a centralist reaction against Catalanism. The Mancomunitat was dissolved in 1924, and the first generation of political Catalanism ended in failure and in authoritarian rule.”  

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