In English Voices From Spain

The Catalan process in Mauthausen or the Republic of Enric Marco

Originally published in Spanish: “El procés en Mauthausen o la república de Enric Marco”Daniel Gascón. Letras Libres.

May 6th 2019

Enric Marco is a scale model of secessionism: someone who used to present himself as a victim no matter he wasn’t one, and that appropriates the experience of the true victims.

The procés* has used analogies many times. Through these years, they have made and even recycled some comparisons: Quebec and Scotland were the first preferred models for some time. Later on, they talked about the independence of Slovenia and Kosovo. Nevertheless, the most striking point has been the use of the prestige due to the status of victim: the alleged state’s repression of independentism, which could also be described as the Rule of Law, was presented as an affront similar to the great cases of oppression in the past and the present.

Comparing Spain to a regime like Turkey’s one, or presenting it as a dictatorship is a nonsense that doesn’t work even to fool the kind of correspondent that the New York Times sends to picturesque countries where they think that nothing serious is going to happen. The data about quality of Spanish democracy – not perfect, with a room for improvement, which has always to be looked after and corrected – are a great many. When someone talks of Spain as a Francoist regime, there is no need to refute it: it is meaningless to discuss with someone who thinks that men never reached the Moon and that it was all filmed during a summer night in the desert. Life is too short for a meeting of the Flat-Earth Society.

These accusations are an insult to intelligence. However, no matter it comes from the same pretended moral superiority, the identification with the victims is even more offensive. Up to certain point, it is an element frequently present in nationalism: a defeat gives a remembrance much more fertile than a victory, as the Serbs showed in Kosovo, the Frenchmen with Alesia, or the Southerners in the United States with Gettysburg. It is a historic grievance and nationalists believe that it may be corrected in the future. Others, even more cynical, know that it cannot, but they know as well that the promise of a reparation may be profitable.

On the other hand, in our times victims have a superior moral status. As Todorov said, “if nobody wants to be a victim, we all nonetheless want to have been victims”. The fact that the status of victim is true or false is beside the point: what matters are perceptions and feelings.

It is all a question of degree and, in this case, the most striking thing is the distance between both terms of the comparison. It has never been so easy to be a hero. It has never been so cheap to be a victim. The only unpleasant moment could be facing a true victim that could respond you; you must be quite phlegmatic to look him or her in the eye. But many times the true victims died, the survivors have other things to do and the best liar is the one who believes his own lie.

However, it was unedifying to see the ANC** using the Ukraine’s Maidan as an analogy to their rebellion against a liberal democracy. It was shocking to hear MP Tardà comparing the secessionist leaders in prison with Mandela and Ghandi. It was unpleasant as well to see how independentists insulted some old Spanish republicans calling them “fascists” in a homage to the poet Antonio Machado. Israel diplomacy criticized that Elsa Artadi, at the time spokesperson of the Govern, used a sentence from The Diary of Anne Frank when talking about the situation of the politicians in prison. Institute Luther King asked Mr Quim Torra, President of the Govern***, to stop using the figure of the defender of civil rights. The pyrotechnical sector of secessionism is like one of those streakers before football finals, but instead of jumping into the pitch, they try to assume the pain and the heroism of others.

It is easy to get angry about the propagandistic use by the Govern, at a homage to the victims of Nazism at Mauthausen camp. The lack of embarrassment may be surprising. And the tactical error may be shocking, as Manuel Jabois wrote; in front Holocaust, any complaint would seem small, even the one about Raül Romeva’s pre-trial detention. Even from a strictly secessionist point of view, it is unfair. By reducing the memory of the victims of Nazism to a propaganda issue, they despise the life, the efforts and the suffering of many Catalans that actually fought against real oppressions. Prudence should suggest not assessing what this spectacle implies about the consideration of human being’s dignity.    

However, this occasion gives us a valuable key as well. Some years ago, when historic memory was on style, the Enric Marco scandal burst. Marco, president of “Amical de Mauthausen”, had been telling for years that he had been a prisoner at a concentration camp. He had explained his sufferings at schools and at the Spanish Parliament; his tragedy brought MPs into tears. Marco was invited to talk in front of Spanish prime minister and Austrian chancellor, and dozens of former prisoners, in a meeting commemorating the liberation of Mauthausen.

Historian Benito Bermejo Sánchez warned about inconsistencies on Marco’s story; he investigated and showed that his pretended captivity was false. He had never been a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. Marco’s biography that Javier Cercas told afterwards on his book ‘El Impostor’ is a series of lies that he modified from time to time: he was a forger of his own biography, a narcissist that believed his own lies and that profited from the industry of historic memory; a rogue and a walking lie.

Enric Marco is a scale model of secessionism: someone who used to present himself as a victim no matter he wasn’t one, and that appropriates the experience of the true victims. The example that secessionism should adopt in their commemorations is not a Middle-ages chief as Wilfred the Hairy, that former president called ‘symbolic father of Catalan fatherland, or leaders from the fight for civil rights whose example is inconsistent with a rebellion of the rich against the poor with an ethno-linguistic aim, but the kitsch impostor Enric Marco. Catalan Republic should award a badge with his name: the Republic does not exist and Marco was never in the camps, but we are not going to loss time with details at this stage.

* Procés: Catalan for “process”; in this context, the process to independence (TN)

**ANC: Catalan acronym for “Catalan National Assembly”, a secessionist organization (TN)

***Govern: Catalan for “Government”. The autonomous government of Catalonia (TN)

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