Catalan ‘Tranquilitas’

The author Jesús Moncada was born in the Franja d’Aragó (the Aragonese Strip) and wrote in Catalan. In his novel The Towpath he popularized the verb sirgar: to go against the stream. The great majority of Catalans want our language to be normalized, with no more limiting factors placed on it than any other language has. The peculiar paradox of the Catalan language, however, is that its main enemy is the deceptive counter-current that the Spanish state deploys with the help of its political and legal instruments.

It is difficult to accept, but this is the reality. The basic institutions of the Spanish state take up positions that go against the very words and spirit of Article 3 of the Spanish Constitution. These institutions deny that “the wealth of the different linguistic modalities of Spain is a cultural heritage which shall be specially respected and protected.”

Of respect and protection, not a trace. The Spanish nationalist political parties have abandoned the idea of a truly plurinational and pluricultural state, and they systematically deny any sort of political, administrative, legal or economic support for the Catalan language. The Spanish state does not respect or promote Catalan, and often mistreats and attacks it. It is the Spanish state –and not the Castilian language, or any other language— that creates an artificial current against Catalan by using resources, rulings, reinterpretations and suspensions that are unmistakably restrictive and adverse. The different territorial machineries of State obedience are systematically attempting to divide, prohibit, obstruct and minimize Catalan with unscientific arguments. They invent languages and Castillianize place-names.

The conclusion is unmistakable: the State does not serve the Catalans, it does not bring Catalans any guarantee of pax and tranquillitas, the principal function that states are born with. The Spanish state only endorses the privileges and the rhetoric of those who deny the diversity and the plurality of Spain. They exclusively endorse the same people they always have. The State sustains a linguistic deficit comparable to the fiscal deficit. It is the bastion Spanish nationalism has found to help keep this state model alive, to continue the symbolic exclusivist use of Spain and maintain certain privileges.

Those who actively oppose Catalan are not defending Castilian and in no way a bilingual society. No. They want something much more in their favor: they want a fragmented Catalan society split into two linguistic communities, they are eager to see a Catalonia that is socially divided, they long for a politically subordinated Catalonia. They want to continue reaping the same rewards by keeping things the same.

In this kind of state the Catalan language will never see the winds blow in its favor. We need a state that contains and embodies –and does not deny– the democratic will of the Catalans. We need a state that is a friend, and not a foe, of the Catalan language. Deconstruct what we have, construct a friendly state, this is the question. We are a nation with our own language. We have the right to have our own state, with linguistic sovereignty, prepared to share certain things with Europe and also with Spain, but with the capacity to act efficiently in the sensitive domain of language. We have the right to fully administer our own linguistic reality as any other sovereign state would, without currents running against us. We have the right to apply the principle of full linguistic sovereignty without reservations. We have a democratic parliament that has the attributions, the powers and the legitimacy to legislate over how we administer the relationship with our languages: with Catalan, the language of Catalonia; with Castilian, the language of many of our citizens; with Aranese and all the other languages that are essential in today’s global world.

The future Catalan state will surely have shared sovereignties. We will have taken a decisive step the moment we find a way to break away, with a clearly outlined and unitary policy, from the negative rules of the game set in place by today’s State institutions. When we make our Parliament the true sole custodian of the linguistic sovereignty of the Catalans, taking on the defense of Catalan, of Aranese, and also of Castilian in Catalonia. When we realize that Catalan’s problem is not Castilian but rather the unfavorable rules of the game imposed by today’s State. When we freely make our own linguistic agendas within the framework of a multilingual Europe. And this is also clearly expressed by providing continuity to the Catalan Government’s agendas in favor of the language.

National transitions usually materialize when the signs that they have begun are still hardly perceptible. I am convinced that we have passed the point of no return. Now we need continuity and strength. We haven’t come all this way, as Prat de la Riba would say, to “have a bigger county council or to give the Catalan spirit a small subordinated and secondary administrative body: a province. All of us want a state body for Catalonia; we all feel that Catalan popular dignity is urgently demanding the contours of a state.” The Catalan language needs its own state, one that is favorable to the language. Let us build it. Let us fully exercise our sovereignty by establishing that only Catalan institutions have the legitimacy to govern our linguistic reality. Catalonia would stand to gain from this. Spain and Europe would too.


(Published in La Vanguardia)