A witch-hunt in Catalonia

A new political and intellectual generation are needed: the witch hunt won’t stop for a long time

When Franco's Law of Political Responsibilities was being drafted, which was to take effect as of 9 February 1939, various bodies of the state organized by the perpetrators of the coup put forward amendments and made remarks which they asked to be taken into account. One of the most revealing in relation to the political justice (or, rather, political revenge by judicial means) that was being drafted by Ramón Serrano Suñer’s team, stated: "The Minister of Justice (Tomás Domínguez Arévalo, The Count of Rodezno, a traditionalist) also questions the name of the Law, since, according to him, it appears that "political views" are being punished, the "subjective ideas", when we ought only to find a means to repair the objective, the "damage done". However, if all subjective political views are considered legitimate and respectable, the rapporteur does not conceive of how a legitimate standpoint can cause any damage that requires reparation. The notion that "thoughts do not break the law" may be true in the political sense, as long as this is not exteriorized; but to argue that only the damage must be repaired —the inevitable harvest of sowing such pernicious ideas among the masses through propaganda or actions— without punishing the ideas in any way is akin to affirming that the effect must be sanctioned while leaving the cause unpunished, which constitutes an enormous inconsequence of the purest liberal kind".

This statement by the rapporteur of the Law was one of extraordinary brutality and an undisguised attack on the Francoist Minister of Justice for doubting the legislators’ totalitarian intent: the alleged crime and the thought that had generated it were both to be punished. Upon reading the texts in which the Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena continues to justify (if one can call it that) prison on remand for Catalan political and grassroots leaders, one is inevitably reminded of the rapporteur’s comments on the Law of Political Responsibilities. By substituting certain words in the above quote, it is clear that "pro-independence ideology" causes "damage"; as a consequence, in an attempt to seek out the intellectual and legal origins on which it is based, the Supreme Court judge declares that it is necessary to pursue and, most likely, to punish "the sowing" of pro-independence ideas and "the damage" which they cause. Pure Francoist legal orthodoxy.

We are faced with a (political and legal) witch-hunt equivalent to the McCarthy era persecutions in 1940s America. The enemy is no longer the Communists, but rather those who favour Catalan independence. An Un-Spanish Activities Committee has not been created because it is not necessary (and, perhaps, because they have not dared to go to such ridiculous lengths): the PP government unleashed the State Prosecutor's Office which in turn has dragged the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court along with it, to their obvious delight.

In such difficult circumstances, it seems to me that we have to assume, once and for all, that the path taken by the Spanish government (and, with it, the entire judicial apparatus) is irreversible. As the journalist José Antich neatly put it a few days ago, their ultimate goal is to annihilate an entire political generation and turn the clock back to zero. When the Deputy PM of the Spanish government bellowed in the streets that Mariano Rajoy had beheaded the independence movement, her only error was in naming who was responsible: Mr. Rajoy merely outsourced to the judicial apparatus the job of carrying out the persecution and a strictly political witch-hunt.

The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court’s political-judicial persecution will last for years, dragging away with it dozens of individuals. There will be those banned from holding public office (as also happened under the Law of Political Responsibilities), there will be fines (as also happened under the Law of Political Responsibilities), there will be prison sentences. It will have been made quite clear that "thoughts can break the law", since independence is a political project that wishes to be implemented, it is not just simply a theory with no desire to become a reality.

One must only keep in mind that the consequences of the Law of Political Responsibilities, especially the financial ones (the most important for the Francoist legislators) persisted for years. In the 1960s, twenty years after the law was repealed, there were still unfinished cases, economic sanctions in place and assets seized which were never returned.

In this undeclared state of emergency in which the Spanish government has placed us (with the tacit approval of the PSOE and Ciudadanos, a fact we shouldn’t forget), the political, legal and financial consequences will last for years. Therefore, whoever it falls to, must be told that new strategies, new deadlines and, probably, a new political and intellectual generation are all needed. The witch hunt has begun and it won’t stop for a long time to come.