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Post "We Lived Better Against Franco"; on Brainwashing
Created by John Eipper on 11/14/17 4:10 AM

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"We Lived Better Against Franco"; on Brainwashing (Jordi Molins, Spain, 11/14/17 4:10 am)

The risk of objectification of Catalonia, by Spanish nationalists, is increasing, as described some time ago in WAIS.

I would like to highlight some recent comments in WAIS which have, frankly, surprised me:

There have been several phrases of the kind "Statement X appears in the Catalan media Y, so it must be false," without giving any other reason for such an opinion, rather than the implicit assumption that "everything which is Catalan is bad." Instead, quotes of Spanish media are considered to be neutral, even for example "El Español" (if I may).

Another statement that has raised my eyebrows has been "neo-Nazis and Francoists cannot, for obvious reasons, be considered 'constitutionalists.'" Neo-Nazis and Francoists consider themselves, very clearly, Constitutionalists. They have attended all demonstrations whose motto is "to defend the Spanish Constitution." Another completely different issue is if a given person likes that neo-Nazis and Francoists are Constitutionalists, or not. But confusing reality with wishes is a serious mistake, especially in relation to such sensitive issues.

But the comment that surprised me the most was Eugenio Battaglia's "of course [the educational indoctrination] process did not work with me, but it worked very well with most of my friends." I do not know if Eugenio was ironic and self-deprecating (if that is the case, forget my comment), but it does not look like it. At least thinking about myself, I would be really worried if I had written such a comment. When thinking thoroughly and coldly about it, I believe I could not escape from the feeling that I was the most brainwashed of them all.

And clearly this is a risk for the Republican movement: as some old left-wingers say ironically, "contra Franco vivíamos mejor" (against Franco we lived better). It is much easier to recognize the mistakes of others, rather than your own. And if the Republican movement succeeds, clearly we will have to confront this reality.

What I would like to think about myself is that I do not think that I am not brainwashed when others around me are, or that some media sources are wrong just because of their origin, irrespective of the research quality of the given article. Or to negate reality, when reality is against my ideological preconceptions. I hope Catalans do not fall into this trap; otherwise we will not be worthy of our country.

JE comments:  The brainwashing topic has brought in a number of responses.  Jordi Molins reminds us that it's easier to see the brainwashed speck in your neighbor's eye than the equivalent log in your own.  Another Jordi Tuesday Truth:  living (and complaining) against an unjust system can be more satisfying than the hard work of building a better one.  Should they finally separate from Madrid, Catalonians have their work cut out for them.

Next up:  José Manuel de Prada also writes from Barcelona.

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  • A Wedding in Gandia; Valencia and Catalonian Secession (Phyllis Gardner, USA 11/15/17 2:49 AM)
    Hello from a long-lost WAIS participant.

    My son just married a woman from Gandia (part of the Valencia region). Her parents speak Catalan and Spanish (not English, for an instigation to me to learn some Spanish), and the family is decidedly against Catalan secession. Having just returned from there, hearing multiple perspectives, mostly anti-secessionist, I was left wondering what the potential Catalan separatist nation envisions for its military, border control, trade agreements, and multitudes of other issues. This is also in light of the fact that the EU seems disposed to not recognize an independent Catalonia. I would be grateful for any perspectives on those issues.

    JE comments: First of all, Phyllis, congratulations to Jay and his new wife! (I hope I've remembered your son's name correctly.) And welcome back to WAIS, Phyllis.  I have missed you.

    In our extensive discussions on Catalonia, we haven't mentioned the Valencian perspective.  Valencians (almost) share a language with Catalonia, but they see their Catalonian cousins as no less different (differently different?) than the rest of Spain.  An independent Catalonia would put Valencians in a difficult situation, as they would become even more of a minority in the rump Spanish nation.

    Is there any talk of joining Catalonia?  I cannot see what Valencia could gain by trading Madrid's hegemony for Barcelona's.

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  • Catalonia Crisis: Thugs, Company Flight, Etc. (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 11/16/17 11:16 AM)
    In reply to Jordi Molins's latest post (November 14th) and some of JE's queries in other recent ones:

    1. I would like to say that the Neo-Nazis and Francoist nostalgics that show up at Constitutionalist demonstrations are, as I have already said, a tiny minority of of individuals keen only on causing havoc and destruction. The fact that they attend the demonstrations do not make them Constitutionalists, whatever they may claim. As I said, they are thugs who only represent themselves.

    Unfortunately, it does not seem that same can be said of the fervent Republicans who showed up at Ciutadans' rally in Llavaneres, harassed Isabel Coixet or wrote threatening graffiti outside the shop of Albert Rivera's shop telling them "Go away, this is not your home." They are, or so it seems, mainstream "Republicans" and I have not read or heard of any rebuke for their actions from the ANC or any other branch of the pro-independence movement. Obviously they are considered useful to the cause, and I wonder when the rest of us non-nationalists will be told to go away because this is not our home. This said, Jordi Molins is right in that one has to be careful of information on these issues gathered from the media. There is lot of intoxication on both sides (some of it, apparently, promoted by the Russians on behalf of the independence movement), so better to exercise caution at all times.

    2. About companies fleeing Catalonia. JE states, "The number 2300 sounds inflated to me--how do you pack up and leave in just over one month?" What the companies are doing at this stage is moving their registered office from Catalonia to elsewhere in Spain due the legal uncertainty caused by the pro-independence unrest. Many of the companies that have fled so far are big shots, such as CaixaBank, which moved to Valencia, or the publishing giant Planeta, which has moved to Madrid. Many others are small companies. At this stage, this is just a warning shot, but the exodus can have serious consequences for Catalonia if things don't improve and these companies actually "pack up and leave."

    I am sure some jobs have already disappeared because of the unrest, and more will be lost if things don't change. Certainly this is happening in the area of tourism, as the drop in the numbers of international visitors is already being felt. Yet in spite of the hard evidence, the pro-independence movement refuses to admit that this is a serious blow to their promise that an independent Catalonia would be instantly rich and prosperous. Some voices are even blaming the Spanish government for forcing the companies to go, while the truth is that it only modified a regulation to make the change of registered office easier. The companies are going of their accord because they don't feel safe in Catalonia. Yet, in amazing twist, a company belonging to Joan Font, a prominent advisor of Artur Mas in matters connected to independence, and funder of the ANC, has moved its registered office to Madrid! Perhaps his true motto is "La pela es la pela" (one doesn't play with money, so to speak):


    3. JE asks, "How did they [private schools] impart Catalonian sentiment when to do so was prohibited and punished?" Well, the episode about the course of "Catalan national sentiment" took place in the very early 1980s, when Spain was again a parliamentary democracy. But the fact is that as early as 1973, when I was 10 years old, a weekly hour of Catalan language was given. Catalan certainly didn't count for the final grade, but I'm sure everything was done legally and reflects the very limited "liberalization" of the late Francoist period.

    Before the restoration of democracy, "Catalonian sentiment" was imparted by teaching us Catalan songs, telling us about illustrious Catalans, etc. Jordi Pujol's recommendation, as quoted in a recent post by J. I. Soler, of "Garantizar el perfecto conocimiento de la geografía, historia y otros hechos socioculturales de Cataluña, además de potenciar el uso de la lengua catalana por parte de profesores, maestros y alumnos" ("to guarantee a perfect knowledge of the geography, history and other socio-cultural facts of Catalonia in addition to promote the use of the Catalan language among professors, teachers and students") was also followed, although certainly with caution. Things, of curse, changed quite noticeably in the late 1970s, specially after 1977. It was then that indoctrination truly began, at least in that school. Certainly my last three of four years there I found really suffocating.

    4. John further asked, can nationalism ever be progressive? I certainly doubt so. What about liberation movements, ask our moderator. Well, one case I know well is that of the ANC in South Africa. The African National Congress was an effective liberation movement, but a lousy political party and now is a total disgrace. I would like also to bring the example of Ireland. Thanks in part to British blunders, most of the country became largely independent in 1922 with the establishment of the Irish Free State. Yet for decades to come Ireland was a poor, underdeveloped country under a nationalist regime that had the full support of an obscurantist Catholic Church. Specially dark were the years of Eamon de Valera's rule. His rabid anti-British stance plunged the country into a long era of depression. I quote here the words of novelist John Lanchester (whose mother was Irish and grew in that period) in his fascinating memoir Family Romance (London: Faber, 2007): "The ascent to power of De Valera's government in 1932 ... saw Catholicism and nationalism locked in an inseparable tight clinch. ... Now [after having contributed to end British rule] the Church was garnering its reward at the centre of a state that was, if not exactly theocratic, then not far from it; the least you could say is that it was distinctly, defiantly unsecular. The air was heavy with piety: a peculiar and deeply Irish national-Catholic piety. The new state religion was religion and the state" (p. 41).

    Only in the last few decades has the Republic of Ireland freed itself from the "tight clinch" of Catholicism and nationalism. And there have been recent revelations of the horrors of Church-sponsored hospices and orphanages. So even for Ireland freedom from British rule was a mixed blessing.

    I am pretty sure that, even without the Catholic element, a nationalist regime in an independent Catalonia would resemble in many ways the De Valera period in Ireland.

    JE comments:  Font's move to Madrid says a lot.  Interestingly and ironically, Madrid might reap the biggest financial gain from Catalonia leaving. 

    What is the latest news on Russian meddling in the crisis?  Boris Volodarsky believes Russia has bigger fish to fry, but any destabilization of the EU is a feather in Putin's cap.

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  • Catalonia's Republican Movement: Integrating and Anti-Racist (Jordi Molins, Spain 11/16/17 3:13 PM)
    Brainwashing is often tainted by biases. For example, a Catalonian Republican will favor news suggesting that Constitutionalists are wrong, and vice versa, a Constitutionalist will prefer to watch news that confirm his or her own bias.

    As a consequence, it is hard for an external observer, not versed in the particular discussion at hand, to find out "who is right and who is wrong."  In fact, in normal times, nobody is completely right, or completely wrong.

    However, there are circumstances in which evil dominates one of the sides of the conflict. It is important to have robust indicators that preemptively may announce such a course of events.

    Casual observation of historical events suggest to me that evilness appears as a consequence of objectification: when a human group considers the rivals to be an object, inert and with no autonomy, which can be owned and used as a tool for any purposes. Objectification usually results in the dominating group making public claims which are, even for external observers, directly wrong or, at least, highly suspicious. Instead, in normal circumstances in which objectification does not apply, members of both sides of the conflict will always be rational and reasonable enough to make claims which are not obviously wrong, or suspicious, to external observers. From an empirical point of view, the existence of such odd claims is the "traffic light indicator" needed to preemptively identify the initial phases of an objectification process.

    I want to highlight a paragraph of a recent post by WAISer José Manuel de Prada:

    "Regarding indoctrination, it certainly exists, and in some private schools it was common already in the 1970s. I can vouch for this because I attended such a school from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The school in question was well known for its Catalanist orientation, and at that time my parents considered that placing us there was the progressive thing to do. It was a sad mistake, realized too late. Nationalism is never progressive! Fortunately, my siblings and myself resisted the indoctrination, but that was not the case of many thousands of people who attended this and other similar schools and are now among the elites who support 'the process.'"

    Let me emphasize that Franco died on November 1975, and the Spanish Constitution was enacted on December 29, 1978. As a consequence, José Manuel de Prada considers that he would have been less indoctrinated by attending schools subjugated to the extreme Spanish nationalism of the Franco dictatorship. In my opinion, this claim is highly distressing, even for foreigners with no or little knowledge about the Catalan situation.

    I would like to point out that Republicans have consistently been behind the "Refugees welcome!" demonstrations in Catalonia in recent months and years. Constitutionalists were much less numerous in those demonstrations. In fact, the leader of the Popular Party in Catalonia, Xavier Garcia Albiol, became famous with his political campaign to "clean" his city, Badalona, from Romanian gypsies. Neo-Nazis and other similar extremist groups, all of them Spanish nationalists, have been the responsible of the recent surge in racist attacks against Catalan citizens with non-European physical appearance.

    Finally, let me point out that an overwhelming majority of my family is of Murcian (non-Catalan) origin.  I can personally confirm the Republican movement is deeply integrating and anti-racist.

    JE comments:  José Manuel de Prada never said that Francoist indoctrination didn't exist pre-1975, only that pro-Catalonian indoctrination was common afterwards.  The distinction is important.

    Jordi, have the Catalonian Republicans outlined a refugee and immigration policy?  How will they balance an "open door" with the desire to preserve the language and culture of a small nation?  Are they looking, say, to Denmark for a model?  

    Building a nation is hard work.  Political independence is the easy part.

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    • Is Washington Feeding Catalonian Republicanism? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/18/17 5:15 AM)
      I have been very interested in the WAIS discussion between the Republicans and the Constitutionalists (even if calling the Falangists neo-Nazis is an error). However, so far nobody has explored what the Empire is doing.

      The following argument was recently made by Dario Fabbri of Limes (Rivista Italiana di Geopolitica):

      Spain is a good colony of the Empire with many important military bases. However, Spain is also an obedient lackey of Frau Merkel. The problem is that Germany, even if covered with US military bases (70+), is seen with suspicion because of its increasing hegemony over the European Union. Therefore for the first time Washington thought to side with Barcelona.

      By the way, the idea of Catalonian independence in modern times emerged after the imperialist war of the US against Spain, by which Barcelona lost all its important trade with the Caribbean and the Philippines.  The Catalans started blaming this misfortune on Madrid.

      The regional government of Catalonia spent $1.5 million on lobbying in the US, met with Bob Corker and found a good ally in Dana Rohrabacker.

      An independent Catalonia would reduce German influence in the building of Kerneuropa, the part of Europe completely under German influence, including northern Italy [sic].

      One 26 September, Rajoy went to Washington and convinced Trump to side with Madrid.  This was also pushed by the Pentagon. The same Italian government was later immediately ordered to side with Madrid too. Anyway the status quo with no independence for Catalonia is in the interest of Italy.

      Anyway, it is in the interest of a strong Empire to give force to the little regions looking for independence but covered by the Imperial umbrella.  On the contrary, a weak Empire would need big strong countries as allies. Anyway the present Emperor may easily change this idea.

      The order (immediately followed) to side with Madrid is proof of the colonial status of Italy.  This has been shown by the visit to Washington by Di Maio, the leader of the populist party "5 Stars."  This party in next spring's elections may be the winner.  Therefore it is imperative to get the blessings of the Empire and assure it of its loyalty.

      JE comments:  I am confused:  if Washington is fanning the flames of Catalonian independence in a "divide and conquer" strategy, why would it also coerce Italy to side with Madrid?  Italy faces the risk of regional separatisms, too, so an intact Spain is more in Rome's interests than Washington's.

      Does Fabbri give any evidence for US fear of German hegemony?

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