By Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira
“The strategy to generalize a system of autonomies throughout the State had a clear objective: reduce, dilute and neutralize the national influence of Catalonia as a political community.”
Everyone knows, now, that the strategy to generalize a system of autonomies throughout the State in 1977, had a clear objective: reduce, dilute and neutralize the national influence of Catalonia as a political community. In fact, the Principality was the only territory that, before Franco’s era, had its own government and parliament, known as the Statute of Núria, named after the place in which it was drafted. This Statute was approved on July 26th 1931 by 1,063 municipalities (98% of the total) and, a week later, on August 2nd, also by 595,205 favourable votes (99%) and 3,286 against, with a participation of 75% of male voters. Women, who had not yet the right to vote, undertook a support campaign which gathered close to 400 thousand signatures delivered to President Macià. The Generalitat of Catalonia, however, was restored ten months before the approval of the Spanish republican constitution. It was, therefore, both an accomplished fact (the Catalan Republic proclaimed by Macià) and the existence of a differentiated national community originating way back in history.
Until the breakout of the war of 1936-1939, only two governments and two parliaments existed in the State’s territory: the Spanish and the Catalan, no other. But, in the Summer of 1936, the new circumstances made it possible for Catalonia to assume a series of competences and faculties until then exclusive to the State, which clearly exceeded the present constitutional frame. So then, in a period of independence we could qualify as de facto, President Companys had the right to absolve, reserved to the President of the Republic. And, the Generalitat assumed the control of the frontiers and all organisms concerning public order (civil guards and assault guards), as well as the Mossos; it created a Ministry of Defence and organised a Popular School of War for the training of officials; it promoted a war industry and established its own war fronts and military objectives (Aragón and Balearics), while the consulates located in Barcelona became extraoficial embassies to the Catalan government, in times where the majority of European Ministries were convinced of the imminent conversion of Catalonia into an independent State.
In Galicia, the plebiscite for the Statute took place on June 28th 1936, and, once approved by the electors, it was presented to the president of the Republican Courts on July 15th 1936. Three days later, the Francoist uprising began, and Galicia stayed on the side of the Francoist militants. It was not until February 1938 that the Courts, transferred to Catalonia, admitted to process a text which was never put to debate nor approval, and consequently did not come into effect, and there existed no government or parliament in Galicia. As to the Basque Country, its autonomous Statute was not approved by a referendum, but by the Republican Courts, also transferred to Valencia on October 1st 1936, and limited to three of the four southern Basque provinces, excluding Navarra. The first government, presided by the Lehendakari Aguirre, was constituted on October 7th and was effective in Basque territory only during six months, until March 30th 1937. Consequently, Valencia, the Balearics and Navarra were not able to establish any autonomous political power.
Only Catalonia established a real institutional framework of its own, with a legitimacy that endures until today. It is for this reason that, once President Companys was assassinated by the occupying Spanish army, the succeeding mechanisms evolved with normality, according to Catalan legality. Companys was succeeded by Josep Irla in 1940 and Irla by Josep Terradellas in 1954. When Terradellas, after maintaining the institution in exile, returned to the country, he did so as President of the Generalitat of Catalonia, and he was recognised as such, not only by the Catalan people and their political representatives, but also by the Spanish government, thus endorsing the legitimacy of the Catalan Republic. And it did so fourteen months before the establishment of the Spanish Constitution in December 1978, recognizing in this way that Catalonia was a political community before the Constitution itself, and was not, therefore, a consequence, a result of, or a concession.
Furthermore, there is a historical continuity which cannot be forgotten at any time, because it is the one which gives sense and rigour to our existence as a people. Indeed, in 1359, the Diputació del General or Generalitat de Catalonia was established in Cervera. An institution which, except for the repeated periods of Spanish dictatorships, has withstood up to the present. Few countries, in Europe and around the world, can show such a long institutional tradition. And even fewer countries can refer to their President as President number 131, not even Spain. For this reason, however much Rajoy, Sáez, Montoro, Méndez, Dastis, Rivera, Sánchez and anyone else pretend to diminish the political and national influence Catalonia has, mixing it into the same pot as the rest of the 17 autonomies and two African cities, persistently referring to it as “an autonomous community”, or even “region” (wanting to ignore that constitutionally it is a nationality), history and reality arise against the falsehood and manipulation they show off with. However, the consciousness of today’s Catalan people also increases, evermore aware that they are not anyone’s concession, but the will of a people. And no manipulations can beat the will to exist.