Against neither Spain nor Merkel

Now that the fashionable voices in Europe (Iglesias, Tsipras) are proclaiming a defensive patriotism, we can build something less primary

I have in my hands, via the North-American Nuri Vandellós, daughter of the eminent exiled Catalan Josep A. Vandellós (died Ithaca, NY, USA in 1950), a copy of a conference addressed to Catalan youth delivered on March 7, 1934, in the Sala Mozart in Barcelona, by the unclassifiable Josep M. Tallada (1884-1946), erudite engineer. The yellowed book that I have on my desk is dedicated to Vandellós. Tallada, director of the Social Museum during the Mancomunitat (Commonwealth) of Catalonia, was a pioneer in demography and an economic thinker, and was a social democrat before its time, although he was a member of the Lliga. He defended a type of social liberalism, in search of a midpoint between capitalism and socialism, two forms of organizing the economy and society which --to him-- had the same identical fault: materialism. On this point, he was inspired by the Russian thinker Nicolai Berdiaiev, exiled first by the Tsarists and later by the Soviet regime, who died in Paris two years after Tallada: "Socialists take from the bourgeois capitalist society its materialism, its atheism, its hostility towards the spirit and all spiritual life, its taste for life, of fruition, its struggle for egotistical interests, and its ineptitude for interior concentration".

In full worldwide economic crisis, in the midst of the rise of fascism and with Soviet communism already dominated by the terror of Stalin, Tallada proposed a capitalist reformism based on three points: preventing swings in the system due to financial speculation (the disastrous "capitalism of speculation", he said), ensuring social mobility (he spoke of facilitating the "movement of men from one class to the other"), and deepening the democratic system (he defended "the establishment of the referendum for important matters"). Eighty years later, his program seems perfectly applicable to the current situation. And his ethics as well: "Civilization has, for a long time, been synonymous with material progress, and spiritual and moral progress have been left in the corner. The nineteenth century (and we could now add the twentieth as well: consumerism) has made men believe that the idea of material progress coincides with the idea of perfection and happiness".

Tallada also longed for that Europe in which one could travel from one country to another "without a passport nor paperwork of any kind". And he proclaimed the common sense of not believing "in man-made miracles, nor in rapid results of an idea". "I am convinced that transformations in human societies happen slowly and in an evolutionary manner".

The Catalonia of today needs a referendum to know what road it wants to take. It needs to turn the page on the speculative economy and return to producing real wealth. It needs to recover a welfare state that ensures equal opportunities. It needs some kind of shared dream (what Tallada called "spiritual progress"). It needs to have its own voice in a higher project of the European community, and not only for economic reasons. And it needs to understand that its future does not depend on any providential leadership (Can we bury Pujolism once and for all?), nor can it be based on only one ideology. It is instead a collective and cooperative project, and social and national change do not happen overnight.

Now that the reformist political voices in vogue in Europe (Iglesias, Tsipras) proclaim a defensive patriotism (against Merkel), which is reminiscent of the worst nationalism, we can build something less primary. Let us not be carried along by the easy current. Let us, for once be, serious and ambitious: we are seeking our own national and ideological synthesis. Let us look for that midpoint that Tallada wanted. And let´s not act against Spain, nor against Merkel, but rather in favor of Catalonia and Europe.