Tuesday, July 5

Four notes on historical nationalities and plurinationality

These days Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s PP has become entangled in a controversy with his partners on the extreme right (the only ones who can accompany him to power in the autonomous communities and the Government of Spain) regarding the term “nationality” and the existence or not from a multinational State. It was Feijóo himself who opened Pandora’s box by alluding in a speech in Barcelona before the Cercle d’Economia that “Catalan nationality must regain leadership” and exacerbated the anger of Vox the general coordinator of the conservatives, Elías Bendodo , by stating that “Spain is a plurinational State”, to be finally corrected by its leader after the angry reactions of Santiago Abascal’s ultras. “It is obvious that Spain is not a multinational state,” Feijóo settled after considering his number three statements an “error”. The episode gives rise to some notes on the political structure of the Spanish State and its deficits.

one- Nationalities in the Constitution. When the Spanish Constitution of 1978 textually collected “the right to autonomy of nationalities and regions”, Miquel Roca Junyent, from Convergència i Unió, one of the fathers of the Magna Carta, stated: “From a nationalist perspective, from my perspective nationalist, I cannot fail to note, not without emotion, that today we all agree on the will to put an end to a centralist State; today we all agree on achieving, through autonomy, a new sense of the unity of Spain, and almost all of us agree on giving the recognition of the plurinational reality of the Spanish nation the sense of an end point to old internal quarrels”. It was an overly optimistic view, not only because of the nuance of “almost all” but also because of the “end point to the old internal disputes.” The constitutional treatment of the autonomous State reflected some of the ambiguities that have turned it into a hybrid model, a composite State, with a federal tendency, which recognizes, without giving it an effective charter although it does have a notable degree of self-government, the diversity that this includes. which has come to be described as a “nation of nations”.

2- Beyond Catalonia, Euskadi and Galicia. For Feijóo, Catalonia, Euskadi and Galicia are historical nationalities, something difficult to discuss (although his friends from Vox, and from the almost extinct Ciudadanos, do so with great emphasis). However, the strength of the nationalist and independentist formations in these autonomous territories turns the term “historical nationality” into a decaffeinated substitute for what they really are. But the definition appears in other autonomy statutes, such as those of Andalusia (where Bendodo is a director), Aragon, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the Valencian Community. In the latter, the reference to the condition of “historic nationality” was included in the statutory reform of 2006, with Francisco Camps as president of the Generalitat Valenciana and an absolute majority of the PP in the regional parliament. It is certainly more than just a curiosity. Behind this definition lies the affirmation of a differentiated collective, linguistic and cultural identity with which even the Spanish right, albeit demagogically, has committed itself at times.

3- The topic of the oldest nation. History lends itself to great distortions. One of the most insistent has been over time that Spain is “the oldest nation in Europe”, which has existed for “500 years”, in reference to the unity of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon in the century XV under the Catholic Monarchs. But that was a dynastic union, an aggregation of countries with differentiated laws, institutions and languages ​​and without awareness of national unity or political unity in the sense that it would be given, for example, from the Spanish Constitution of 1812. If Spain it was such an ancient nation, how is it that the War of Succession ended with a victory for the Bourbon centralism of Philip V who imposed the laws of Castile and between 1707 and 1715 liquidated the institutions, laws and freedoms of the crown territories of Aragon “by just right of conquest”? Ernest Lluch published a very interesting book entitled precisely The conquered Spains of the 18th century.

4- The multinational State as reality and as anathema. Plurinationality is expressed in different ways in the uses and customs of the states. The United Kingdom, for example, assumes in the field of sport the existence as nations of England, Wales or Scotland (an unthinkable fact for the Spanish ultra-nationalists that proliferate in peninsular politics). On the other hand, the denial of the multinational generates diverse reactions. It is at the base of conflicts such as the one carried out by the Catalan independence movement, whose imaginary evokes the historical origin of a Catalonia that was already independent at the time of the County of Barcelona, ​​before Ramon Berenguer IV and his link with the Aragonese dynasty. However, Valencianism, which shares the linguistic claim and to a certain extent “national”, due to its cultural and historical nature, with Catalanism, starts from a different circumstance, since the current Valencian Country was constituted as a kingdom, through a military conquest over the Arabs and a Catalan and Aragonese colonization, within a broader state structure, that of the Crown of Aragon, together with Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Aragon. Therefore, despite its centuries of self-government, it was never strictly an independent political entity but was born with its own laws and institutions linked to the “politerritorial” apparatus created by Jaume I, in which it would achieve a great role (with Alfons el Magnànim in Naples or the Borja popes in Rome) while it became a true Mediterranean power, until the conquest of America changed all scenarios. In any case, when Bourbon absolutism arrived, the “ciutat i Regne de València” saw any political capacity annihilated.

The “Spanish complexity”, to call it in some way, has been emerging here and there, sometimes in a folkloric and sentimental way, sometimes more ideological and combative, on the slab of uniformity of centralism, it acquired some boiling degrees in the Second Republic and resisted the dictatorial repression of the Franco regime. Already in democracy, the “autonomic solution” has proven to be imperfect and the need for an evolution with a vision of the State and the will to reach a pact (the only framework in which the Catalan independence conflict can be redirected) is evident, because plurinationality, more that a “legal” or constitutional problem is a “real” fact to which responses must be given from politics. But as Feijóo has been able to verify, if he wants to return to power the PP will have to flirt with intolerance, involution and anathema. Bad business.