Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain

If Spain and Catalonia were playing a real rather than figurative game of Russian Roulette, the revolver would now be loaded with at least two or three bullets. On Tuesday night, an extra one was slipped into a chamber when the Principe de Asturias prize-winning economist Juan Valerde announced that Madrid may have to “bomb Barcelona” in order to put a halt to the region’s rising separatist aspirations.

Speaking in an interview with Tele Madrid, Valerde, once a member of the extreme right-wing movement Falange and a former contributor to the Francoist newspaper Arriba, warned that what the Catalan government ultimately seeks is similar fiscal conditions to those which the Basque Country and Navarra have enjoyed for decades — conditions that, if granted, would cause unbearable pain to a “slowly recovering” Spanish economy.

To avoid such a showdown, Madrid must get “tougher and more serious” in its negotiations with the north-eastern province, said Valerde.

The Real Scandal

For those unfamiliar with life in Spain, such extreme rhetoric is often par for the course in the mainstream press, especially on the issue of Catalonian nationalism.

Indeed, the most alarming aspect of the interview was not so much the blitheness with which Valerde discussed the prospect of a military attack against Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city (at least for now!), but rather the abject failure of the news presenter to challenge or hold him to account.

Just imagine what would happen if a noted English economist had advocated the bombing of, say, Edinburgh or Glasgow, in order to keep the unruly Scots in check. And all the while, the BBC interviewer had merely smiled and beamed into the camera.

There would be an instant uproar! Said economist would be disgraced immediately and would likely lose his job as well as be stripped of all his honours. The BBC, meanwhile, would suffer a serious blow to its (already tarnished) reputation. As for the journalist, she would probably never work in the news-“making” business again.

In Spain, by contrast, no pasa nada (at least outside of Catalonia): no official complaints, no official apologies and no dismissals.

Clearly, Spain isn’t the U.K and Catalonia isn’t Scotland, no matter what the leader of the Catalan government, Artur Mas, might think. Spain, for instance, has traditionally been a country of political extremes, and to a great extent still remains so — people tend to be either VERY liberal or VERY conservative, and there is very little in the way of middle ground between them.

What’s more, Spain is arguably even more polarised — not just geographically, but also politically and socially — than its Northern neighbour. And the main reason for that, I believe, is the long, dark shadow that the Franco era continues to cast over Spanish politics and society.

The Ghost of Franco

Franco’s dictatorship ended only 38 years ago — a mere blink of the eye in the great scheme of things — and Spain’s “transition” into a full-fledged constitutional democracy remains very much half-finished. Its institutions of democracy and civil society are still precariously young and extremely fragile.

Perhaps most importantly, Spain, as a living, breathing whole, is yet to come to terms with its recent past. The reason for this is simple: In the wake of Franco’s death in 1975, rather than confronting and reconciling themselves to the injustices and horrors perpertrated in his name, most Spanish people, including many on the left, simply swept all memory of them under the rug of collective amnesia.

Instead of confronting the fear and loathing that had built up during 36 years of brutal dictatorship, not to mention three years of bloody civil war, the Spanish people, egged on by the political and business establishment, chose to simply forget.

Yes, street names were changed, statues were brought down, unions were legalised and new political parties were born. But ultimately these changes, many of them cosmetic, masked a far deeper, darker reality — namely the preservation of many of the same power structures that had supported the Franco regime.

While some authority may have been devolved to the people and the new institutions and parties intended to represent them, a large part of it remained in the hands of the people and institutions that had dominated power during the later stages of the dictatorship

As an essential part of this process, one of the very first acts of the first democratic government elected after Franco’s death was to pass the Law 46/1977, of amnesty, which exempted of responsibility anyone who committed any offence for political reasons prior to this date.

Franco’s Natural Successors

In many ways, Rajoy’s scandal-hit Partido Popular represents a slightly mellowed, outwardly (but certainly not inwardly) democratic descendent of Franco’s regime. Indeed, the party’s original incarnation was founded by a man called Manuel Fraga Iribarne, who had previously served as a former Minister of the Interior and Minister of Tourism in Francisco Franco‘s dictatorship, and who, even long after Franco’s death, openly admitted admiration for the late dictator’s regime. Besides members of the fascist old guard like Fraga, the party also counts among its ranks the children of men who served the Franco regime.

Since taking the reigns of power, in Nov. 2011, Rajoy’s government has resurrected many of the long-forgotten social pillars of Francoism, including a water-tight alliance with the Catholic Church; the return of religion to the classrooms; the extreme centralisation of education; and the proposed banning of abortion. It has also betrayed the same sense of hubris, impunity and entitlement that once characterised the Franco regime.

However, when it comes to honouring the Francoist tradition, few can hold a candle to Rajoy’s predecessor José María Aznar, whose father was a Francoist official and propagandist journalist during the dictatorship. During Aznar’s presidency (1996-2004) Gabriel Jackson, a noted American historian, journalist and leading authority on the Spanish civil war, described his style of governance as “Francoism dressed up as civil democracy.”

It was a charge that was all but confirmed in 2003, when Aznar’s administration decided to award one of its most generous public grants to the Francisco Franco Foundation, a non-profit entity run by Franco’s daughter, Carmen Franco y Polo, and whose stated mission is to raise awareness about the Generalisimo as well as “support” historical research on Francoist Spain — something many historians have disputed, claiming that the institution often blocks their access to important documents.

There is perhaps no better indictment of the true ideological colours and moral bankruptcy of the Partido Popular than the fact that it donates scarce public funds — including, no doubt, money paid, through taxes, by victims of Franco’s regime — to a foundation dedicated to a man whose regime was responsible for the forced disappearance of over 100,000 victims and the trafficking of tens of thousands of stolen children — a practice that did not end until the early 1990s.

The perpetrators of these crimes have remained immune to prosecution for 36 long years. Many will have no doubt passed away in the intervening years. Others, however, are still very much alive and well, and many of them will have no doubt prospered through their former connections with the Franco dictatorship. All the while, the relatives of their victims continue to be plagued by doubts about what ultimately befell their loved ones.

But that may all be about to change, thanks to action from the unlikeliest of quarters. On September 19th, Argentina’s justice department shocked the Spanish government by issuing arrest warrants, via Interpol, for four mid-level officials suspected of torturing Spaniards during the later stages of the Franco regime.

In the sweetest of ironies, Spain, the country that, in 1999, set the precedent for extraditing — or at least trying to extradite — overseas former heads of state for their roles in crimes against humanity, now suddenly finds itself the subject of an international war-crimes investigation.

As El Pais reports, the United Nations has announced that it will “send a commission to Madrid next week to examine whether the Spanish government is complying with international obligations to investigate the disappearances of people that occurred during the Civil War (1936-39) and subsequent Franco regime.”

In a statement, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances said it will look at the measures taken by Spain and “analyze in particular issues related to truth, justice, reparation and memory for victims of enforced disappearances.”

Inauspicious Signs

What could all this portend for Spain’s already strained relationship with Catalonia? Or, for that matter, its own social and political cohesion?

Suffice to say, the signs are not reassuring. In many ways, Spain is like a deeply disturbed individual haunted by a massive childhood trauma. But instead of facing the source of the trauma head-on, Spain has buried it in the deepest, darkest recesses of its subconsciousness, where it continues to fester to this day.

For decades, as the economy grew, jobs were available, credit was easily accessible and public services kept improving, it hardly seemed to matter — at least not to most people. As long as the future held the promise of progress, the past could be left where it belonged, that is, in the past. But now that the largely EU-funded honeymoon is well and truly over and Spain has begun to retrace its long-term trajectory of economic decline, the old divisions are resurfacing.

In the wake of a long line of royal scandals, republicanism is on the rise once again and, as a recent BBC investigation documents, so too is the monster of right-wing extremism.

For the moment, however, most of the nation’s attention is focused on the stand-off between Madrid and Catalonia — and quite rightly too, given the very serious threat it represents not only to Spain’s territorial integrity, but also to its economic health.

Following the massive turnout for its national day, the Diada, on September 11, Catalonia seems more determined than ever to cut the chords with Madrid. And as long as people of the ideological ilk and diplomatic skills of Juan Valerde are given airtime by Spain’s mainstream media, this trend is only likely to entrench further in the coming months.

Perhaps if Madrid had a more conciliatory, more pragmatic, less ideological and less scandal-tainted government that was not in hock to its eyeballs with the Troika, then important inroads might actually be made in the negotiations. But instead what we have are senior ministers comparing Catalonia’s (to date) non-violent separatist movement with the Basque terrorist group ETA, and “prestigious” economists calling for the bombing of a densely populated urban centre, which just so happens to be one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions.

While it is almost inconceivable that the Spanish government would order a military attack against its bolshy north-eastern province — as much as it might like to, its hands remain firmly tied by its membership of the EU — tensions between Spain and Catalonia are almost certain to deepen. So long as the bitter cycle of action and reaction, poisoned rhetoric and recrimination continues, the prospect of reconciliation between the two sides of the conflict recedes further and further into the distance.

Even the European Commission’s recent threats of expulsion from the EU — and with it, the euro — may not be enough to take the winds out of the sails of the Catalonian independence movement.

What that might ultimately mean for Catalonia, Spain or Europe as a whole is anyone’s guess. But one thing’s for sure: unless concerted efforts are made by all three parties to defuse this slow-ticking time bomb, things could soon be as hot as a mad dog and Englishman in the Andalusian midday sun.

18 thoughts on “Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain

  1. You have made a very incisive summary of the situation. The sad thing is, that many “normal” people have already been intoxicated by those poisonous discussions. Having lived many years in Barcelona and now spending my summer vacation in a little village deep inside Castilla La Mancha, for me the most worrying thing is, that most of the nice people on the countryside in this little village would see bombing Barcelona as a justified response. Even with many close (spanish) friends almost no discussion possible. If ever some change to the better to occur in Spain, the first thing to do should be closing down existing TV and radio stations immediately (and avoid them being reopened again). Spanish people (and probably everyone in every country) are/is continuously being brainwashed by TV and radio, but spanish are especially susceptible – they cant even have lunch or dinner without TV switched on and they accept that funny type of journalism as you write – permanent intoxication guaranteed.

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    1. Thanks Klaus. Television has been corrupted into the devil’s toy most anywhere in the world, but few places more so than in Spain. And as you say, most Spanish people can’t get enough of it!

      Thankfully, La Doña and I traded ours in (for nothing in return) about nine years ago. And we’ve never looked back, though some of our friends and associates regard us as strange and (I kid you not) unadjusted!

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  2. The whole article is a disgrace. I am sorry to disagree with you.
    The story that Catalonia is right while the rest of Spain is wrong and we are nothing but a bunch of bigots is wrong. Totally wrong.
    If you, living in Barcelona, are totally abducted by the environment, while understandable is no excuse for you when you deign to write an article.
    You mention a few truths, awful truths that the whole of Spain laments, regrets and feel rage against; and mix them wiht propaganda and simple lies.
    Those of you who keep talking of Spain under a sort of “Franco spell” fail miserably to know the country. First, because the only “abnormal” thing about Franco in Spain is that after the 2WW Spain was not liberated by the Allies as the other European countries who, incidentally, did have dictatorships even before the Germans invaded them. Therefore, we owe anybody nothing at all in transforming our own country from what it was to what it is now. We deserve some respect and understanding for our own situation.
    Second, because Spain is a Nation as such, Catalonia included. And it has consistently being one at least from 1812, our first Constitution. Please, remember Spain has been a constitutional country all along the 19 century. And we only had two, long, interruptions, in the 20 century. The first one, in the twenties (again, while most of Europe did fell too to dictatorships) was financed, promoted and, finally imposed by none other than the Catalonian burgoisie, who fell threatended in their interest at the time and pushed for a coup…
    Then we had the Republic, against which Catalonian nationalists organized a revolution and a proclamation of independence in 1934… A strange way of making themselves understood and accepted by the rest of the country, not to mention the fact that the poor Republic had enough troubles and didn’t deserve to see itself under such a treacherous betrayal. Two years later there was the civil war. And, please, remember that, again, many Catalonians then did support Franco and actively contributed to his victory… Something they now pretend to forget.
    Franco rewarded them with a deluge of public investments and customs protection. And, as for the language; yes, it was not taught at schools and was generally not supported by the State. But people kept speaking it; books were widelly published in it and, above all: could you, please, give me one single example of regional languages taught in any school in any European country until recently? Just look across the border, to France. And tell me where Catalan is more widely spoken, in these allegedlly repressive Spain or that beacon of freedoms which is France?…
    As for corruption, come on! Spanish public opinion is universally apalled at all the rubbish that keeps coming up to the surface now about the behaviour of our politicians, trade unionists, businessmen and other. But Catalonia is not spared that shame. We do not see in Catalonia an oasis of virtues and probity while the rest of Spain is corrupted. Perhaps, it is a little bit the opposite, as you can clearly read, see and check here http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/work/2012_02_governance.pdf
    This report was not done or commissioned by the Spanish Government. So you cannot blame it for bias. In the report, Catalonia clearly emerges as a region with poor quality of government, despite all the wildly wide autonomy it has.
    And finally, we come to the so-called right to decide, a way to hide their wish to secede. Will you be kind enough to tell me which country in the world allows in its Constitution the right to secede? I’m curious. You cannot be serious if you expect Spain or, for that matter, any other country, to facilitate secession.
    If Catalonians want to vote on this particular issue, they can always summon elections and compete there with the point of independence as number one electoral promise. No one forbids them from doing that. But Artur Mas doesn’t want to that, unless forced to, because he know h and his party will lose power to competitors… And then, they expect Madrid, that hated Spain, to rescue him from his troubles (and his huge debts).
    Catalonians can also do what the rest of Spaniards can: push for a change in the Constitution. They only have to follow the rules of the same Constitution. Why they don’t do that? Are they above the law?
    All along we only see from the rest of Spain a collection of disloyal actions and treachery in a moment when Spain should be focused in finding solutions to its real problems of unemployment, debt, deficit and insufficient transparency and accountability in Government and parties. However we are forced to be distracted from these important matters because the corrupt and fanatically nationalist Catalonian elite and a big chunk of the public want to believe in daydreaming and hate. Everybody sees the Lega Nord for what it is, why you think Catalonian nationalism is any better? The only thing it differs from the Italian cousins is that they are smarter at hiding their true face.

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    1. Thank you, Indignado, for your comment. Suffice to say you make some “interesting” observations.

      However, you fail to address the two main points that I make in the article: first, that for a Spanish economist in Madrid to get away with advocating the bombing of a very large civilian center (Barcelona) is absolutely unacceptable; and second, that Spain hasn’t come even close to reconciling itself to its recent past (which does include the forced disappearance of over 100,000 Spaniards — allegedly more than any country on the planet bar Cambodia), and that this should be a matter of grave concern given the very difficult economic, social and political situation Spain finds itself in today. This is not just about Spain vs Catalonia. In many ways, this is about one Spain versus another Spain — the legacy, I believe, of most people in Spain’s unwillingness to confront the country’s very dark and very recent past. And if you don’t think political and social divisions are once again on the rise in Spain then I strongly suggest you get out more.

      I’d like to ask you two questions. Firstm do you think it’s acceptable for a noted academic to publicly call for the bombing of civilians (even if they are Catalan)? And do you thinks it’s okay for a regime and the individuals within it to carry out a massive targeted extrajudicial policy of extermination and to walk away completely unpunished. Were the “desaparecidos” of Spain, like those of Chile or Argentina, mere collatoral damage in a battle between two political ideologies? Is it one of those cases where the ends justified the means?

      I really would like you to answer these two questions, as I feel they formed the essence of the argument in the article I wrote — an article which you yourself described as a “disgrace”!

      As for your charge that I have been “abducted by my environment” in Catalonia, I challenge you to find a single expression of overt support for the Catalonian independence movement in this, or, for that matter, any other article I’ve written. Yes, I have been living in Barcelona for 13 years and yes, I have friends who are fervent Catalan nationalists. But I also have many who are still undecided on the issue, as well as many who are completely opposed.

      Among the many issues I have been written about the last year or so has been the growing groundswell of support for Catalan independce, even among traditionally moderate folk. It is a development that reflects the sheer level of public disaffection with a central government that has ridden roughshod over the very notions of accountability and transparency. It is also a development that should cause great concern for anybody interested in continued stability, both in Spain and in Catalonia.

      Does that mean that I believe that Catalan nationalists are right? That theirs is necessarily a just cause? Or that independence is in the long-term interest of Catalonia as a whole? Well, obviously not! There are, I believe, enormous risks involved in this trend — many of which are not being openly discussed by the Generalitat. As I mentioned in this article, there is the very clear and present danger that Brussels will expel Catalonia from the EU should it decide to hold a referendum — and it’s a risk that is not being appropriately addressed by most Catalan politicians, especially Artur Mas.

      Also, as you say, Catalonia is no less tarnished by the brush of corruption than most other parts of Spain (and corruption scandals in the region will be the focus of one my upcoming articles). The Pujol scandal is, in my opinion, indicative of all that is wrong with the kleptocratic model of politics we have today — not just in Spain, but in Europe as a whole. What’s more, the wheels of justice in cases of white-collar crime are just as slow here as they are in Madrid or Valencia.

      That said, it is, I believe, very dangerous indeed to pretend, as many in Spain are doing, that the Catalonian issue is one which will simply go away by just flinging insults, making largely idle threats and rewriting history (see your comment that quote/unquote “many Catalonians then did support Franco and actively contributed to his victory… Something they now pretend to forget. Franco rewarded them with a deluge of public investments and customs protection. And, as for the language; yes, it was not taught at schools and was generally not supported by the State. But people kept speaking it; books were widelly published in it…”)

      To suggest that Franco’s dictatorship was somehow legitimated in Catalonia because a small section of the population supported it, and some people got rich off of it, is pure sopishtry — as is your attempt to minimize the impact of Franco’s repression of the Catalan language. I urge you to study a little world history and you might realise that dictators of all shape and form — no matter how tyrannical — will always find some level of support from those who either share their twisted ideology or who want to make a quick buck. However, that support does not, in any way, legitimate the actions of that dictatorship.

      You also state that no country in Europe bar Spain allows the teaching of “regional” languages in schools. I suggest you might want to visit Wales, where under the National Curriculum it is compulsory that all students study Welsh up to the age of 16, either as a first language or a second-language. This is just one example, of which I am sure there are many others. France, as you say, is not exactly a pioneer in this area, but even there some teaching of regional languages is finally being allowed.

      As for your argument that all Mas needs to do is call for new elections, and if his party is returned with a sweeping majority, then Catalonia’s right for a referendum is given much greater weight, is extremely disengenuous. First of all, Catalonia already voted for a majority of pro-independence parties in the last elections. What’s more, Madrid is blatantly determined to make Mas the figurehead of the Catalonian independence movement — all the easier to attack and discredit it.

      But in doing so, they completely ignore the reality of the Catalan independence movement, which extends far beyond just one person. Remember, it was Mas who tied his mast to the independence movement — in his usual shameless opportunistic style — and not the other way round. The Catalan independence movement is a far more grassroots-led movement than most Spaniards are willing to accept. It is, I believe, more a reflection of the sheer disaffection with the current path Spain is on (6 million unemployed, 55 percent youth unemployment, political and business scandals, a semi-bankrupt financial sector…)
      than its is an expression of national awakening.

      I speak to people of all stripes here in Catalonia. I have friends and associates who work in banks, in the police, in education, in healthcare, in business (both big and small), and what most strikes me is how their exasperation with the central government is fuelling their separatist feelings. And the people of people should realise that unless the threat is dealth with in a cool, even-handed way (that is, through negotiation) then things could ecalate to the point of no return.

      The fact of the matter is that there is no precedence for what many in Catalonia seek. And all talk of the very small minority Catalan parties trying to get the national constitution changed in Madrid, despite fierce opposition from the two main parties who control the parliament, is entirely unfounded. It will never happen. And as long as the Catalans keep being presented with political cul-de-sacs and catch 22s by Madrid, then the movement will continue to gain momentum.

      I’m not saying this as a pro-Catalan nationalist — as I said, I think I’m pretty neutral on the issue — but as a concernned citizen living and working in Barcelona. I do not consider myself, nor have I ever presented myself, as an authority on Spanish or Catalan politics or society; I am merely an indignant Barcelona resident trying to make some sense of the vast political, economic and social changes taking place around me — and not just here in Spain!

      For the moment, I am fluent in Spanish but speak no Catalan (to the eternal consternation of some of my Catalan friends). However, should my wife, who is Mexican (a country which is going through far more upheaval than Spain or Catalonia), and I decide one day to settle here indefinitely, then I am certain that I will try to learn the local language — not as a political statement, but merely out of respect for the culture of the place I have chosen as my home.

      As I wrote in my article, it is the constant cycle of action and reaction, and poisoned rhetoric and bitter recriminations that should be the greatest source of concern for both Spaniards and Catalans alike. All it needs is someone in Madrid to attack a Catalan or someone in Barcelona to attack a Spaniard, and things could get out of control very quickly.

      Now is a time for cool heads — on both sides of the divide — to prevail!Suffice to say, however, that I’m not holding my breath.

      Last, but by no mean least, I would like to address your closing comments:

      All along we only see from the rest of Spain a collection of disloyal actions and treachery in a moment when Spain should be focused in finding solutions to its real problems of unemployment, debt, deficit and insufficient transparency and accountability in Government and parties. However we are forced to be distracted from these important matters because the corrupt and fanatically nationalist Catalonian elite and a big chunk of the public want to believe in daydreaming and hate. Everybody sees the Lega Nord for what it is, why you think Catalonian nationalism is any better? The only thing it differs from the Italian cousins is that they are smarter at hiding their true face.”

      I agree that in many ways what is needed is public unity to confront the vast problems we face today. As you say, unemployment, debt, deficit and the lack of transparency and accountability in Spain’s government and political parties are massive obstacles to progress.

      However, do you honestly believe that the current government — the same government that has lied on virtually all of its manifesto pledges and which is now deeply embroiled in one of the worst corruption scandals in recent European history — is capable of, or even interested in, addressing these issues?

      What’s more, how much room for maneouvre do you think Spain’s government really has, when most of its current economic policies are being dictated by the Troika?

      Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that while many in Catalonia are pushing for independence from Spain, Spain itself, like all the peripheral eurozone economies, has been stripped of almost all of its own national sovereignty. But that, unfortunately, is a reality that most people — whether in Spain or Catalonia — continue to ignore!

      The government’s debt, mi amigo, will never be fully paid — especially with tax-funded bank bailouts to the tune of tens (and soon to be hundreds) of billions of dollars (If you don’t believe me, check this). And the price for that debt? Complete dependence on the European central banking system.

      Anyway, it’s time to sign out and do some real work. Like I said at the beginning, thanks for commenting. I do appreciate it, even though I’m disappointed that the article caused you such offence. I hope that this comment goes at least some way to clarifying my position.

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    2. I think the point is that Spain is a state in which the project of centralized nation-building, has failed: Madrid is habitually insulting and contemptuous towards Catalonia and the Basques, and most importantly language repression still continues.

      The Constitution isn’t worth the paper it is written on, my friend: it was drawn up under the guns of the Army as you must well know.

      It is all, of course, a great pity. The idea of Spain has some attraction for me, but the reality stinks. My ancestors were Navarrese nobles who fought at Las Navas, alongside Castilians, Leonese, Aragonese, and so on. Another Basque ancestor was a close companion of Jaime el Conquistador. Later, my ancestors commanded Tercios, and died, in Flanders, Italy, the Armada, France, etc. So they shed blood for Spain. I would like Spain to be a country to be proud of, that is true patriotism.

      But Spain, backward, corrupt, ill-educated, mendacious, petty and treacherous, tribal, animal-torturing Spain, is no more a nation now than it was then. It is not a welcoming and comfortable home for Basques and Catalans and is the despair of educated and cultured people. And the reality of history is that Navarra was brutally conquered with great slaughter to incorporate it into Spain. Catalonia also conquered, and the Spanish Army had no problem with slaughtering Spaniards in the lifetime of our grandfathers.

      The fraudulent Constitution of 40 years ago is an irrelevancy in this context. This is demonstrated by the way the PP hide behind it all the time. It gives them a cloak of legality.

      If we could have a Spain like Switzerland, multi-lingual and harmonious! But the Spanish peoples and the corrupt parties make this impossible. Madrid will always spoil everything with authoritarianism and taint of provincial corruption and violence.

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  3. A very good summary for those who do not know Spain well: no Democracy here folks! No rule of law either.

    The basic fact is that the Dictatorship ( Sorry, PP , ‘authoritarian government’) never ended: it’s adherents simply decided to adopt the outward forms of democracy as being more viable in the modern world, which Spain had fallen far behind, without impeding business as usual.

    After all, with elections the Francoists still stood a good chance of governing the country half the time, and many regions all the time…..

    And thus was born the Transition, which had the happy effect of admitting the Socialists to power, ie to their share of the plunder that political office confers.

    The Socialists betrayed the Spanish people well and truly. And ETA betrayed the Basques by continuing violence which only reinforced the PP by providing an internal anti-patriotic enemy, which all good authoritarians need.

    The Constitution (which the PP now call sacred) was drawn up and approved under the barrel of a gun, with the threat of Army revolt always in everyone’s minds, and effectively froze Spain in a form acceptable to the Francoists.

    Everyone else was happy to compromise in return for not getting shot or tortured. With total immunity happily thrown in for Franco’s murderers and torturers.

    And that is where we are today.

    However, I am not at all sure that given the low level of education and high level of unreasoning passion shown in Spanish politics, anything better could have resulted.

    The best thing about being a Spaniard is to have a foreign passport in reserve!

    As one of my cousins says: the red and yellow flag is just puss and shit, the perfect symbol of a putrid state where the army has killed more of its own citizens than any foreign enemies.

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    1. Thanks for your kind comments and great insights. You weave together a wonderful precis of just how dysfunctional a nation modern Spain has become.

      And what with things set to get incrementally worse for the forseeable future, these are indeed worrying times for those of us living in España!

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      1. My pleasure – good to get some things of one’s chest once in a while!

        The situation is truly tragic: Spain still hasn’t escaped the consequences of 500 years of Absolutism and Inquisition since that awful Catholic Duo and the Hapsburgs. And let’s not even go into the late Bourbons (they started a bit better)……….

        I am sorry to reflect that my ancestors upheld this awful mess as soldiers – but that’s history I suppose!

        And thanks for your site: it’s the one to refer foreigners to who want to get a quick and accurate introduction to the real Spain.

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  4. I really enjoyed this piece, having only recently stumbled across your blog. I live in south Catalunya with my family, having escaped the UK weather some seven years ago.

    I am particularly intrigued with the text
    “what the Catalan government ultimately seeks is similar fiscal conditions to those which the Basque Country and Navarra have enjoyed for decades”

    It ocurred to me a year or so ago that this indeed is what some Catalans are after, as IMHO, independence will not be viable for years, if not decades into the future.

    I would be very grateful if you could let me know what the conditions of this fiscal similarity are, and why they would so difficult to acheive in the case of Catalonia.
    It seems unfair to me that one region can enjoy a different set of benefits to another.

    When I speak to my Catalan friends, their main concern is the unfairness of the status quo and the perception that they pay more to Madrid than they receive in return. That and the fact that most if not all politicans are corrupt, to a degree or another.

    Keep up the good work

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  5. […] If these psychological and social barriers are allowed to spread and fester, things could reach the stage where rebuilding bridges within and between communities will be an almost impossible task. After all, it was only two generations ago that Spain was ripped asunder by one of Europe’s bloodiest civil wars — a war that has left deep scars in the collective psyche [here’s an article I wrote in Sep 2013 on this: Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain]. […]

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  6. […] If these psychological and social barriers are allowed to spread and fester, things could reach the stage where rebuilding bridges within and between communities will be an almost impossible task. After all, it was only two generations ago that Spain was ripped asunder by one of Europe’s bloodiest civil wars — a war that has left deep scars in the collective psyche [here’s an article I wrote in Sep 2013 on this: Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain]. […]

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  7. […] If these psychological and social barriers are allowed to spread and fester, things could reach the stage where rebuilding bridges within and between communities will be an almost impossible task. After all, it was only two generations ago that Spain was ripped asunder by one of Europe’s bloodiest civil wars — a war that has left deep scars in the collective psyche [here’s an article I wrote in Sep 2013 on this: Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain]. […]

    Like

  8. […] If these psychological and social barriers are allowed to spread and fester, things could reach the stage where rebuilding bridges within and between communities will be an almost impossible task. After all, it was only two generations ago that Spain was ripped asunder by one of Europe’s bloodiest civil wars — a war that has left deep scars in the collective psyche [here’s an article I wrote in Sep 2013 on this: Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain]. […]

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  9. […] If these psychological and social barriers are allowed to spread and fester, things could reach the stage where rebuilding bridges within and between communities will be an almost impossible task. After all, it was only two generations ago that Spain was ripped asunder by one of Europe’s bloodiest civil wars — a war that has left deep scars in the collective psyche [here’s an article I wrote in Sep 2013 on this: Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain]. […]

    Like

  10. […] If these psychological and social barriers are allowed to spread and fester, things could reach the stage where rebuilding bridges within and between communities will be an almost impossible task. After all, it was only two generations ago that Spain was ripped asunder by one of Europe’s bloodiest civil wars — a war that has left deep scars in the collective psyche [here’s an article I wrote in Sep 2013 on this: Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain]. […]

    Like

  11. […] If these psychological and social barriers are allowed to spread and fester, things could reach the stage where rebuilding bridges within and between communities will be an almost impossible task. After all, it was only two generations ago that Spain was ripped asunder by one of Europe’s bloodiest civil wars — a war that has left deep scars in the collective psyche [here’s an article I wrote in Sep 2013 on this: Fear, Loathing and Collective Amnesia in Crisis-Ridden Spain]. […]

    Like

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