Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash
29 April 2018
Javier Cercas interviewed by Manel Manchón. Part I
Javier Cercas (Ibahernando, Cáceres, 1962) is experiencing vividly the political situation in Catalonia. He is aware that he has become targeted by the secessionist movement, which does not tolerate that he, being a staunch supporter of Catalanism and the Catalan language and culture, firmly challenges the Catalan secessionist process. But he stays afloat, he keeps creating, writing, giving lectures here and there. And he expresses his anger, interviewed by Crónica Global, when it comes to the left’s behaviour. “It is unforgivable that the left has been complicit in the secessionist movement”. His criticisms go straight against the Catalan left, but also the rest of Spain, which has “made a mess of all things, confusing the Spanish government with the state”.
There have been some events in the secessionist process, apart from the assessments. What has been really decisive in Catalonia in recent months?
I think that what happened the 6th and 7th of September of 2017 in the Catalan I think that what happened the 6th and 7th of September of 2017 in the Catalan Parliament is indeed decisive. The secessionist movement says: What about the October 1st? I hold that it was a result from the 6th and 7th of September. It makes no sense not to consider such precedent. Without that, there would be no October 1st. And what happened in those September days is a postmodern civil self-coup. A coup does not need violence to be a coup. Consider Kelsen’s precepts. It is a coup when the legal system is changed bypassing the legal channels of that very legal system. And that is exactly what happened with the Law of Juridical Transition, which, according to the Catalan Parliament lawyers themselves, abolished both the Spanish constitution and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy, and the international laws, because such concept of self-determination only applies, with the support of UN, to cases with colonised territories or blatant abuses of human rights.
But… does a “Catalan people” even exist?
The Catalan people is already recognized, within the house that belongs to all of us, which is Spain. We can not decide on behalf of everyone —it is anti-democratic, unfair and immoral. I believe in a federal Europe as the reasonable utopia that we Europeans have created. In a federal Europe there could be a law establishing the conditions required for a part of the territory to secede.
Taking the Canadian Supreme Court ruling as reference, then…
Exactly. Let’s suppose that over two or three terms in a row the secessionist options yield a 70% support —that is when negotiation begins.
A negotiation, rather than a recognition of secession.
A negotiation, yes. You start to negotiate, to find a solution, and all of us get to decide. Because one of the worst things that happened was that lies were told on behalf of truth, and democracy has been violated on behalf of democracy. Now, since the 6th and 7th of September, the subject is not the independence, but the respect to the game rules. We listened to secessionist leaders like Carme Forcadell saying things like: “We will not obey”. That is unacceptable. This is about democracy. And that really is a result from Francoism. Francoism led to a discredit of law, and no democracy can exist without laws.
Do you think that such Francoism does still exist in sociological terms?
Rather it still exists from a psychological point of view. What is really Francoist is taking down the law, that was what Franco did. That is what worries me the most. If you do not respect the rules, you do not respect the adversary nor yourself.
Has Spain recognized sufficiently its plurality?
It is possible to do better. But Spain is one of the most decentralized countries in the world. It is false to speak of an oppression of the Catalan language. That said, the Spanish state can and must deepen its recognition of the linguistic and cultural plurality. The Catalan language is not a problem. Not at all. Remember the Quixote, when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Barcelona run into a bandit, Roque Guinart. They stay for three days, they speak Catalan, Castilian and Gascon and they understand each other perfectly well. Those of us who are not secessionists must support the Catalan language. And Spain can recognize, as Francisco Rico puts it, symbolic questions proving and showing that plurality. The Catalans we must also recognize the Castilian as a language that does belong, thank God, to Catalonia.
Do you think that, due to the effect of the secessionist process, a detachment from the Catalan language might occur, by identifying it with secessionist political positions?
I am absolutely against that such eventuality, because that would imply that something which is mine is taken from me —the Catalan language. And I want to promote it to the maximum. Those of us who are not secessionists must claim the Catalan language. To surrender the Catalan language to the secessionists is a disaster, is accepting defeat. In this respect, Spain, the state, can and must do more.
The secessionist movement accuses the leftist intellectuals from the rest of Spain that they do not involve in the process in Catalonia, even when it is understood as a democratic process. Why do you think it is? Why there is neither a resounding rejection, and there is a certain silence or indifference?
There is silence, because if you are not a secessionist, you are a “facha” [Francoist]. In my view, the left’s failure is massive. Left and nationalism can not be conciled. It is an oxymoron. Nationalism is reactionary by definition. I can not understand that the Catalan left has been complicit in this, nor those who claim to be leftists in the rest of Spain. It is, again, an inheritance from Francoism, because everything that was anti-Francoist was understood as leftist. There is a great deal of confusion. The state is confused with the government. It is an irresponsible left that has used a coup against democracy to go against the government.
Is it a mistake by both the Spanish and the Catalan left?
The unions joining a demonstration where it is said that there are political prisoners shows an absolute ignorance of history. And we see how Izquierda Unida and Podemos, for instance, are like and egg and a chestnut. It is only logical that Carmena does not get along with Podemos, or Coscubiela with Colau. It is a Machiavellian left. The government made a lot of mistakes in 1936, but I stand by that government. And if I have to choose between the People’s Party government, democratic and legitimate, and the people who have attempted a coup, I stand by the government. It is the government of my country. It has made mistakes, as many as you wish. But you can not put on equal footing the Government with the perpetrators of the coup. The left’s failure is shown by the rise of the Citizens party. I do not like Citizens, but he has grown because of the left’s neglect.
What do you think about the possibility that Manuel Valls can make politics from Barcelona?
In this regard, I really feel like Fabrice del Dongo in The Charteuse of Parma. He attends to the Waterloo battle, but he sees nothing, he does not know if Napoleon has passed by there, and he might even be in front of him. I mean, we need to wait until everything gets ventilated, to let the dust pass. But I do think that Manuel Valls represents a fact —that the left is not nationalist. He can run for Citizens, and that is symptomatic. You can be a Catalanist, I am myself a Catalanist, but it does not mean that you can support the atrocities that have been committed. I am a professional anti-Machiavellian. The means are what justify the end. A good cause well defended it is a good cause. And the ways employed by the secessionist movement have been awful. They had not any possible justification.