In English Voices From Spain

The Return of Pre-Politics

Photo by Rémi Jacquaint on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish. ´El retorno de lo Pre-político´. Jorge del palacio. El Mundo. 

15th May 2018

The Catalan process has served to many to discover Quim Torra. He is a politician who feels comfortable in a discursive register that seems to draw on Gobineau, the notorious author of An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, identified by Hannah Arendt as one of the fathers of modern racism. Torra’s register is neither an isolated phenomenon nor exclusive in our politics. On the contrary, it is an expression of the crisis environment of the European project who has fuelled a new sovereignist wave that dreams of redesign the European borders along ethnic lines. Nothing that could come as a surprise, however, considering the supports collected by Puigdemont in Europe from far-right parties, whether in a traditional version or a populist format.

Torra has apologized for his xenophobic vilifying messages against Spaniards, claiming to be repentant. Episodes from the past that never will be repeated. However, it is disturbing to know which is the ideological corpus operating in the thoughts of a president of the Generalitat who is called to be every citizen’s president. Specially because what has been revealed from his articles and declarations outlines a catalogue of ethnicistic clichés used as a strategy to delegitimise the political adversary, to the point of dehumanization. In an article published by the Catalan newspaper El Món he described the Spaniards in Catalonia who not used the Catalan language as “scavengers, vipers, hyenas. Human-shaped beasts”.

In Western politics, the delegitimation has acted as an instrument to signal for the public which party or group was fitted to rule according to their values. Sometimes, the delegitimation has had democratizing and inclusive effects. In the post-war era, for instance, the centrality of liberal democracies led anti-communism and anti-fascism to act as regulating principles, not always made explicit, that allowed to signal the legitimacy depending on its familiarity with democratic values. However, most of the times the delegitimation has been used to exclude a group from political life signalling for the public its alien character for the community. On these cases, the strategy of exclusion has been all the more effective when the principle for political framing has been race or ethnics.

The political implications of the deep world economic crisis unleashed in 2008 are being a crash course on the fragility of the order built during the post-war era. However, something good comes always from bad, and it might be useful to understand that liberal democratic principles upon which our institutions are built are neither natural facts nor indestructible realities, but the result of a highly precarious balance always threatening with collapse. Nevertheless, the toll —or the ordeal—of this learning process is to cope again with illiberal daydreams and ethnicist nationalisms, as that of Torra, that we believed to be discredited after the catastrophe of the Second World War.

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