In English Voices From Spain

Torra and why words matter

Photo by Nicole Mason on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish. ‘Torra y el valor de las palabras’ José Andrés Rojo. El País.

22nd May 2018

Everything’s moving very quickly. We had hardly had time to take in the new Catalan president’s impressive collection of publicly exhibited xenophobic ideas when the race started to make gestures that could only be meant to bury his dark past. First came the sycophantic press conference with Carles Puigdemont in Brussels. Then came an inauguration ceremony which he tried almost to keep away from prying eyes, intimate, diminishing the importance of the institution he is to preside, as if saying, in his withering pomp, ‘I’m just passing through’.

The third act was the establishment of the Catalan government, a deliberate provocation which might strengthen his leadership by providing another potent hit of victimism. Nothing new under the sun: the secessionist process carries on. Nothing seems to have changed.

Nothing? Has nothing really changed? Everything’s moving very quickly and amidst all the racket of the latest news things are easily masked, but we might need to stop and rewind. Of course things have changed with Torra. Up until now, for all their breaking with the rules of the game and all their institutional violence, what we had on the battlefield was a sector of Catalan secessionists confronting a state in which they didn’t feel comfortable.

What we have now, and this is why words matter, is that the man that has been appointed to lead the Catalan government thinks that what he’s going to settle is a struggle between a superior people –Catalans– and the barbarians living in the rest of Spain and of which they even have some inside their own borders, like a pustule. We’ve already witnessed attempts to dismiss these words by Quim Torra as if they were some kind of minor playground prank. They’re not.

The republic underlying this discourse ia supremacist, holding an almost puerile conviction that some races are superior to others, with xenophobia as the engine that makes the wheels turn. Things actually have changed: we can no longer focus on the Spanish government, or even on Catalan constitutionalists, but rather on the other secessionists. Is this the republic longed for by whatever classical liberals are left in the Democratic Party of Catalonia and by the old leftists of Esquerra? The republic that the anti-capitalists of the CUP are willing to defend on the streets? Torra’s words are not words written in sand that the sea can wash away: they were conceived to lie at the heart of a plan. For those who do not agree with them, it is now their turn to erase them.

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