Spanish nationalists want to close an academic history symposium in Catalonia
With the title ‘Spain against Catalonia: an historical overview (1714-2014)’, this academic symposium aims to discuss the political, economic, social and cultural repression the Spanish State has carried out against Catalan institutions and people throughout the last 300 years. The event will offer more than 20 lectures given by prestigious university chairs. It is organised by Catalonia’s Science and Language Academy (IEC) and by the Centre of Contemporary History of Catalonia, which is linked to the Catalan Government. The symposium has raised controversy with its title. The People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, has made cancelling the event a condition for holding a dialogue with the Catalan Executive. Furthermore, the PP, the anti-Catalan nationalism Ciutadans (C’s) and the Spanish nationalist and populist UPyD have filed a complaint against the symposium for “spreading hate”. Paradoxically, UPyD compared the symposium with “Nazism”.
Barcelona (ACN).- With the title ‘Spain against Catalonia: an historical overview (1714-2014)’, this academic symposium seeks to discuss the political, administrative, economic, social, cultural and linguistic repression the Spanish State has carried out against Catalan institutions and people throughout the last 300 years. The event, which will take place in Barcelona between the 12thand 14thDecember, will offer more than 20 lectures and debates, and around 20 other communications mostly made by prestigious academics holding chairs in Catalan universities. It is organised by Catalonia’s Science and Language Academy (IEC) and by the Centre for Contemporary History of Catalonia, which is linked to the Catalan Government. The symposium’s title raised significant controversy when it was announced half a year ago. However, the protesters have not engaged in a discussion about its specific contents. Spanish nationalist parties – including the governing People’s Party (PP) – have requested its immediate cancellation and filed a complaint against it for “spreading hate”. Meanwhile, they were comparing it with “Nazism”, a comparison that extreme-right Spanish nationalist televisions often make about Catalan nationalism. The Catalan Government criticised those who go against “an academic event” but “shut up when Nazism is trivialised”. In addition, the Catalan Executive pointed out that “when academics with a prestigious career organise a symposium it is a scandal, but when renowned Fascists are in charge of security [at the 6th December demonstration for Spanish unity in Barcelona] then it’s the example” to follow. On Monday, the symposium organisers highlighted the “academic” and “objective” nature of the event. They also insisted that there are manifold examples in the last 300 years of a systematic repression of Catalan institutions, people and culture by the Spanish State. They announced that they will present a compendium of such examples in the coming months.
A complaint filed for “spreading hate”...
The People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, the anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) and the Spanish nationalist and populist UPyD have also filed a complaint at the Public Prosecutor’s Office against the symposium for “spreading hate”, a felony included in the Penal Code and penalised with 1 to 3 years in jail. UPyD – which is a marginal party in Catalonia – was the first to announce this action on Tuesday afternoon.
...while comparing the event with Nazism
Its leader, Rosa Díez, compared the symposium with “Nazism” and said it was “encouraging violence”. “We will do everything in our hands to stop this hate spiral that is generated by the Catalan independence and nationalism [movements], because blaming everything that’s happening on somebody is something that Europe’s history has already gone through: Nazis did it with Jews and we all know how it ended”. The European Commission has warned Spain not to trivialise Nazism. It did so a few days after the Spanish Government's Delegate in Catalonia, member of the People's Party, paid tribute to Spanish soldiers that fought for Hitler.
A few hours later, C’s replicated the action and filed its own complaint. The Spokesperson of C’s, Jordi Cañas, said that the symposium aims “to promote the idea that Spain is an oppressive State” and “that everything that is Spanish is an enemy of Catalonia”. Finally, in the evening, the PP also filed its complaint. According to the PP, the event “is a clear and unambiguous incitation of hate”.
The Catalan Government accuses Spanish nationalists of “double standards”
During the morning, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, accused those criticising the symposium of having “double standards”, when they criticise such an event but “they shut up when Nazism is trivialised”. Homs pointed out that “when academics with a prestigious career organise a symposium it is a scandal, but when renowned Fascists are in charge of security then it’s the example” to follow. He was referring to the 6thDecember demonstration for Spanish unity in Barcelona, whose private security service was undertaken by recognised members of Falange, Franco’s Fascist party that is still legal in Spain. Finally, Homs added that the criticism is actually motivated by “the will to Hispanicise” Catalonia, as the Spanish Education Minister stated before Parliament a year ago.
On Wednesday, after the PP, C’s and UPyD had filed their complaint against the symposium and in a Catalan Parliament’s Committee, Homs stated that these parties “have the political objective to end with Catalonia as a nation”, made “from an imperialistic approach”. He said so when PP and C’s MPs were criticising the symposium and were asking for its cancellation. “The academic debate does not interest you. Be honest” Homs told them. He pointed out how the Spanish Education Minister said that his will was to “Hispanicise Catalan pupils” and he ask them “not to manipulate things” and “be transparent”.
Cancelling the symposium as a condition to talk about Catalonia’s political situation
The PP has made cancelling the event a Spanish Government’s condition for continuing the dialogue with the Catalan Executive. According to its Spokesperson in Catalonia, Enric Millo, if the symposium is not cancelled, “it will mean the Catalan Executive refuses to talk”. Until this moment, the Spanish Government has refused to talk about allowing a self-determination vote in Catalonia and also about reforming the Spanish Constitution.
The PP will organise its own “symposium of the truth”
Yesterday, the Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, said that the event is “a flagrant falsification of History” made by “excluding and nationalistic pseudo-historians”, although he acknowledged that he only knew the event’s “title and subtitle”. On Wednesday, the Spanish Justice Minister, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, said he was “sad” that “a Catalan could believe the lies” of the symposium. This Wednesday, the PP’s leader in Catalonia, Alícía Sánchez-Camacho announced that her party will organise a “symposium of the truth, historical rigour and living-togetherness”, as an answer to the “forum of hate and division”. Sánchez-Camacho asked other parties to join the event where “prestigious Hispanic scholars” will be invited, specifically mentioning the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC).
The symposium organisers defend its “academic” and “objective” nature
Jaume Sobrequés, a prestigious Catalan historian who nowadays directs Catalonia’s Centre of Contemporary History (CHCC) and the Catalan Society of Historical Studies, is chairing the symposium. The event is organised by the CHCC, which is linked to the Catalan Government, and the independent Institute of Catalan Studies, which is Catalonia’s Science and Language Academy (IEC). On Monday morning, Sobrequés presented the final programme of the event and wanted to answer those who had criticised the event. He insisted on the “academic and objective” nature of the symposium and on the “rigour” of the participants. The more than 20 lectures and debates will be given by renowned History Professors holding chairs in Catalan universities. Furthermore, he stated that “the animadversion” of the Spanish State towards Catalonia throughout the last 300 years is “an objective reality”.
After an introductory overview given by the prestigious Josep Fontana (UPF Chair), the symposium will have four parts. The first one will deal with “institutional, political and administrative repression”. They will discuss how the Spanish State eliminated Catalonia’s own laws, Constitution and self-government institutions to implement a centralised and homogenous state. They will also talk about the military repression and how the Spanish Army bombed and attacked Catalan people on several occasions. For instance General Espartero, who chaired the Spanish Government and was Regent of Spain in the mid-19th century, stated that “Barcelona has to be bombarded at least every 50 years” in order to keep Catalans under control. The second block will deal with “economic and social repression”. There will be lectures on the creation of specific taxes for Catalonia that were not implemented in the rest of Spain, Catalan industry as an economic engine of Spain, social inequalities and “fiscal plundering” in several periods, including democratic times.
The third part will deal with “cultural and linguistic repression” and there will be discussions on how Catalan language was banned, Spanish language was imposed in schools, communication media were censored and history was falsified and written by the winners. In addition, they will look at how the Spanish State has persecuted Catalan language users in the Balearic Islands and Valencia and continues to do so. Finally, the last block will deal with the exile of many Catalans for political reasons. The symposium attendees will review the exile of those who had to leave when the Bourbon dynasty arrived and imposed a centralised and uniform Spanish State. They will also look at the different exiles during the 19th century and those who had to run away during Franco’s Fascist and Spanish nationalist military dictatorship. A final lecture will be given about the rise of Catalan independence support as a reaction to the last decade of recentralisation and the “humiliation” of trimming the Catalan Statute of Autonomy in 2010, which had been previously approved by the Catalan people through a binding referendum in 2006.