Considered one of today’s leading Catalan historians
- Ms Serra, what is your analysis of the current situation in Catalonia?
After 40 years under the Franco regime and 40 years of 2trnsition” with Spain, the situation of Catalonia is unsustainable from all points of view, social, economic, cultural and linguistic, and Catalonia is bereft of a way out as a country. During the last 40 years the attempted coup d’état on 23 February 1981 and the LOAPA (Law for harmonising the regional autonomic process) the horizon has done nothing but become more sombre. Not even the insignificant 2006 Catalan Statute of Autonomy has been allowed to prosper and the Constitutional Tribunal has become one more part of the PP-PSOE alliance, as well as a criminal court. The Platform for the Right to Decide (2005), the consultation in Arenys d’Amunt (2009) and the citizen participation processes all over Catalonia (including Barcelona: 2009-2011), the ANC(Catalan National Assembly) (2011) and the AMI (Pro-independence Association of Municipalities) (2011) proves that there is a grassroots democratic movement which is demanding national and social rights, which has forced the Catalan government to set up a citizen participation pre-self-determination poll on 9 November (2014) and has placed the 1978 political structure on hold, together with the political parties, both Catalan and Spanish in Catalonia, involved in the transition. The people, regardless of their origins, demand a real renewal and new political mechanisms. In Catalonia, this movement is prior to the economic crisis. You only need to look at the timeline. We are, therefore, before a very important cross-roads with very positive possibilities because the government is involved – the Parliament and the people in the street and our problem here and is not so much the Spanish government, which keeps strangling us, as the internal fifth column, that is both those who are against the self-determination referendum on 1 October, as those who are ambiguous. Success on 1 October of the pro-independence forces is not only a necessary aim for Catalans and their cultural family, but also in order to put Spain before a mirror reflecting tits miserable reality without any alibies. Finally, the Catalan case could be the most democratic and socially and environmentally fair political model for a Europe in crisis in the context of the globalisation of a predatory capitalism.
- Why have the Catalan people reached the conclusion that the only possible route is that of the Independence of Catalonia?
The facts are flagrant. For centuries, “catalanism” has been struggling in vain for Spain to become a modern democratic state. Up against the Spanish State, the Catalans have kept failing, beginning with the defeat of the Spanish Federal Republic (1873). Then they tried to find refuge in a personal fit into the Parliamentary Assembly in 1917 with their internal weaknesses, the Mancomunitat which, albeit with limitations, was a crucial period of having their own policies, but was diffused by the Primo de Rivera dictatorship; finally, the second Republic in favour of autonomies was not able to survive either. Yet again, the Catalans were subject to a gruelling military occupation (1939). If we move from the long term to the short term, as I have evidenced in the previous answer, the past forty years have ended in a cul-de-sac. Catalonia has no political mechanisms of its own and cannot solve the issues of all types it faces at the beginning of the 21st century. Despite the propaganda, the threats from Spain, the State’s underground machinations, the unutterable political interests and a lack of awareness over years without transparency against Catalans, the Catalan people are undergoing a powerful awakening that aims at turning the situation around. You only need to see how, currently, Catalonia cannot even approve democratic and fiscal legislation to help the most fragile members of our society, because the Constitutional Tribunal prevents it. The majority of our citizens are now aware of this and their firm citizen action may soon be decisive in changing the scenario.
- Very schematically, can you tell us which are, from a historic point of view, the key dates of the past five years in the determination of the people of Catalonia to holding a self-determination referendum?
As I said before: The resolution by the Constitutional Tribunal (2010) against the 2006 Statute places the Catalans before a dilemma regarding their future; the response was the PDD (2005) and the first large demonstration in Barcelona (18 February 2006) for the right to decide followed by the 10.000 demonstrators in Brussels (2009); the citizen participation consultations on independence starting in Arenys de Munt (2009) and ending in Barcelona (2011); all this process led to the creation of the Catalan National Assembly ANC (2011) and the association of Pro-Independence Municipalities AMI (2011). Until Muriel Casals became its Chairperson (2010) Omnium Cultural (Catalan Cultural Association) didn’t join the movement. They weren’t at the demonstration in 2006, but it was present at the one on 10 July 2010. Finally, the 11 September celebrations (Catalan National Day), since the “Catalan Way” in 2013, if not before (the 2012 demonstration was already massive), have been political statement landmarks. The 15th May (2011) is not as significant in Catalonia; it leads to a coalition of parties with an electoral goal that wants to make a different kind of politics within the Spanish State but has not, as yet, become a decisive movement in Catalonia.
- Which advantages do you believe Catalans will have if Catalonia becomes independent?
Firstly we will have a republic and we will leave behind a spurious monarchy and their followers and we will also leave behind an anti-democratic state. Without the burden of the Spanish state, Catalan society would tend to improve its democracy and govern according to fairer social principles, putting a stop to inequality, as it will no longer have the excuse of blaming Madrid. Once we have our own political mechanisms and resources we will be obliged to be better citizens both with regard to paying taxes (we used to call it “contributions” which is a more genuine expression: that we contribute rather than tax) and with regard to our loyalty to to our environment, our culture and our language as a common tongue and in terms of solidarity with new arrivals or immigrants.
- As a university professor of History of the Catalan nations, what can a new Catalan Republic contribute to the other Catalan territories?
I never did history of the Catalan Nations. My subject was modern world history. At the end of my teaching career, I was able to do what is officially called Catalan Modern History, in which I did include Valencia and the Balearic Islands. The vision as a whole of the Catalan Nations enables us to observe the internal unity: they all belong to a single cultural and linguistic reality; originally, they were rural, craft and trade based societies, they had their own institutions with a sortation electoral system and they had “Corts” (Parliaments) and laws drafted by consensus of the Corts; so they had a parliamentary history until 1707-1715 and the Bourbon monarchy imposed a grueling repression and dismantled their institutions. But we can also observe differing rhythms: Valencia and the Balearic Islands emerge as Christian countries later under the Catalan sphere and with Catalan immigration and settlements, but they are weaker in their resistance to the monarchy. Although they are all rebel nations, as shown by the “Germanies” of Valencia and the Balears [Trad: a revolt in 1521], there was no revolution like that of 1640; however, from 1707 to 1715, they did make a war collectively in defense of their political and social identity against the Bourbon king. The political defeat brought about a cruel repression and even so, the Catalan nations, all of them, had a strong republican tradition throughout the 19th Century: it is not a coincidence that an official map of 1854 still differentiated an “Incorporated or Assimilated Spain” from a “Uniform or purely constitutional Spain” . However, the Spanish splitting up into provinces by Spain (1833) contributed to the trend towards the dismemberment of the Catalan Nations. The second Republic (1931-1939) was a wasted opportunity and then the unifying power of the anti-Franco struggle was defeated by the 1978 Constitution. The creation of three distinct autonomous communities, not allowed to federate, has contributed to entrench the differences.
6 Which arguments would you use for the international academic community to understand why Catalonia wishes to be independent?
Historic arguments, Social justice, economic arguments, fiscal arguments European federation. Even scientific arguments on the need for a more balanced territorial organization respectful of that territory with regard to climate issues imposed by predatory capitalism. The subsistence and development of a society with strong, persistent historic and current identities demand their own mechanisms of power in order to resolve their current needs and issues. A federal Europe will not be possible if it does not silence the ill named nation-states of the 19th century who created colonialism and two world wars. An independent Catalonia would also be a motor for an improvement of Europe.
Eva Serra Puig (Barcelona, 1942), is a historian who has taught at several Catalan universities. She was awarded the “Premi Justícia de Catalunya” [Justice Prize of Catalonia] (2008). She coordinated the transcription of the Textos jurídics catalans (Catalan legal texts) by the Catalan Ministry of Justice, of the Catalan “Corts” of the modern era (15th – 17th Century 1493-1714) and of the city of Barcelona (Llibre de l’ànima-1498-1713)