New "excluders" and "sympathizers"

In April of 1952, in a well-known article published in Revista, Dionisio Ridruejo (1) coined the terms "excluders" and "sympathizers" to refer to the two main ways of thinking that had divided the winners of the Spanish Civil War. I was reminded of these political attitudes by the two manifestos on the Catalan situation published a few days ago in Madrid. The text titled "Free and Equal" is a manifestation of Spanish nationalism in its purest form. It is a cry against any political change. In effect, the manifesto of Mario Vargas Llosa, Arcadi Espada, Albert Boadella, Carmen Iglesias and others, calls for absolute political immobility. It is a defiance of dialogue. They are, in fact, the "excluders" of today, the proponents of an essentialist concept of Spanish national identity. With its whiff of authoritarianism, they remind me of the fiery speeches by Antonio Royo Vilanova, José Calvo Sotelo, and José Antonio Primo de Rivera in the republican Parliament of the 1930s

In contrast to this, the text "A federal Spain in a federal Europe" reflects, above all, the current perplexity and unease of the Spanish left. They are today's "sympathizers", and they remind me of those intellectuals of the past century, distressed because they "ached for Spain". They are the political descendants of the Manuel Azaña of 1930-1932 and José Ortega y Gasset's famous "putting up with" the Catalans. In any case, neither of those two intellectuals and politicians believed in the plural reality of Spain. It's important to remember that in December of 1931 the Catalan MPs in Madrid were left virtually alone in their defense of the idea of the Spanish Republic as a federal state. The majority of the left wing, and especially the PSOE, vociferously denied that idea and imposed the fundamental notion of a "single sovereignty".

Years later, in the final stages of the Franco dictatorship, both the platform of the PSOE and that of the PCE talked of the right to self-determination of the Spanish peoples and defended the idea of a federal Republic. But it was pure ideological rhetoric, given that there was no firm conviction, only simple opportunism. Neither Felipe Gonzalez nor Alfonso Guerra, nor even Santiago Carrillo, ever really believed that Spain was a multi-national country, nor did they ever fight in earnest for a true federalism.

I think that the manifesto of the "sympathetic" federalists comes too late and, as such, lacks credibility. Four years ago, when the Constitutional Court slashed and de-authorized the new Catalan Statute, was the right moment for those Spanish intellectuals to publicly denounce what was by then obvious: that that ruling negated any open and federal interpretation of the Constitution of 1978, and made the most restrictive and centralized view of the Constitution the main position of the conservative right wing. But they didn't say anything then-- they remained silent. Perhaps they thought that it only concerned the Catalans.

"Free and Equal" is not a text addressed to Catalans, but rather to Rajoy's government and the Spanish public opinion. It's obvious that it is the result of a desire to block any pact between the Spanish and Catalan governments. It aims to mobilize Spanish nationalism and, in passing, discredit the proposal for a federalist constitutional reform by representing it as unpatriotic and a surrender to Catalan nationalism. The text is an example of Spanish nationalism at its most simplistic, always in favor of the punitive approach, and has the gall to not recognize itself as being nationalistic. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the current position of the socialists in favor of a watered-down federalism is also the result of the current circumstances, rather than a sincere conviction.

A final clarification: the problem here is basically ideological. The idea of Spain as a single nation, which in fact both texts support, is what's at play here, even if the two texts approach it from very different perspectives. And national identities, like all ideological convictions, belong more to the private realm and shouldn't enter into politics, which is basically all about negotiation and compromise. On the other hand, beliefs, like those of religion and identity, are either accepted or not, but never negotiated.

And that's what it's all about. Because, as Josep Pla once said, "the nearest thing to a right-wing Spaniard is a left-wing Spaniard."


1 N.T.: Dionisio Ridruejo was a Spanish fascist who initially supported General Franco and volunteered to fight for nazi Germany, but later in life criticized and even opposed the Spanish dictator.