miércoles, 15 de noviembre de 2017

Notes from occupied territory

I got tired from writing gonzo. I've got a family which comes first, so it was always going to be night work. I'm no longer up to that for very long. I'll keep up the weekly report for some time, as many crazy things are still going to happen - wait and see for the stolen elections - , but attempts like this one to prop up the old daily contribution scheme should be considered fruitless. I've been working on it for two days, first thinking and then writing, and I can't even get it finished today. The circumstances are not helpful. It's all become so ugly. The high energy emotions of October have slumped into the current mood of despair and depression, only the anties making noise, more than ever. So just some thoughts on how the power grab is being executed.

One of the nastier aspects of Madrid's cynical take-over of Catalunya is the judicialization of Catalan life. Any action, posture or idea which does not coincide with the strictest interpretation of often quite archaic rules, many of them stemming from the Franco era and never before used, can be considered reason for prosecution by a judicial system which cares not for its reputation, tightly leashed as it is to the political views of a ruling class which has carefully prepared its crime against one of the best functioning, modern and successful regions of Spain. What started with the imprisonment of the Jordi's for leading a popular movement, the submission of the regional police force and the suspension and persecution of the government, has now reached not only schools and care but even people's homes. Families taking their children to the peaceful and celebratory yearly independence gatherings are suddenly accused of putting their offspring in harm's way, which, in the case of protests with a rebellious nature, must be deemed a sign of shortfalling parenthood. There we go. Where have we heard that one before? This deliberately offensive claim, as far away from the truth as imaginable, is being swept over a land which in the last two weeks has seen all new measures turn out in the worst possible way. The courts in Madrid are basically chasing everybody they've got footage of, or some other proof, which must be thousands of ordinary people over the years. Ever been to a demonstration (participating in rebellion), seen putting up a Catalan flag (showing contempt for the holy unity of Spain) or shouting at an aggressively behaving police officer (disrupting the functioning of the law), found to have helped in preparing for a referendum (engaging in illegal activities) or voiced your opinion (inciting hatred)? You had better get ready. They may not come immediately, but in the end they will.

And now even the families. They are laying their dirty fingers on the holiest of institutions in Spanish society, the family. Remember, they did it before. Minus the obvious violence, which they could only show a measure of intent of, partido popular are following quite similar paths as their great hero seventy-eight years ago. They are certainly applying the same tactics, trying to inflict pain where it hurts most, the relationship between parents and their children. Back then, they tore families apart by sending children to re-education camps, now they are merely threatening, for the moment, to do so again. It is stunning, and it's not nice. I feared for culturecide early on and they certainly haven't given us any reason to believe the contrary.

Despite perceptions of Europe having required some largesse from Madrid, things are progressively going downhill over here without any reprobation by Brussels officialdom or the press. Left to our own devices, all we can do is protest, still in large numbers, though many children have chosen to stay home since the violent police crackdown of 1-O. Our best hope may be some honest judge making progress on Rajoy's corruption trial, though in today's climate not even that might make a difference, as parliament will most likely keep him in place in the case of a conviction, with the judge in jail. Meanwhile, we must stave off this assault, full of lies and smirky psychological torture. They really seem to be enjoying themselves.

If anybody still believes the independence movement was nothing but a reactionary rebellion by a well-off middle class refusing to share their wealth with lesser performing cousins, they should try informing themselves on alternative channels. Vilaweb.cat and ara.cat offer two or three English translations a day. They rank from fiercely to mostly indepe. From inside the belly of the beast, just like me.

viernes, 10 de noviembre de 2017

How the Catalan psyop unfolded

With another general strike just behind us and preparing for a large turn-out on this weekend's march against the imprisonment of political leaders, it is time to put everything that is happening in Catalunya these days in perspective once again. A lot of non-truths have been told over the past couple weeks, both in the national and Catalan press, while the international media tend to simplify matters beyond the point where the deeper meanings of the struggle can be appreciated. Yes, it's about money, and it's about pride, but there is so much more going on. In fact, what we are seeing now has been cooking for many years, laid upon earlier episodes which have never wanted to go out of collective memory.

Let us start in 1978. A constitution was approved for the new Spain, establishing the autonomous regions, each region bound to Madrid through a statute regulating the balance of competence between the centre and the outland. This formed the basis of the successful cohabitation of Spain's two main population centres, Madrid and Barcelona. Competition was friendly, not in small part thanks to Jordi Pujol, a Catalan banker and politician who for many years headed the Generalitat, with close friendships in the inner circles of Spanish power. From Madrid, Felipe González healed the country's wounds and brought a modicum of prosperity. After a long dark period, Spain was going up. Then Barcelona got the Olympics of '92 and turned it into a showcase for itself. It's safe to come back to our city, it said, we've even got a new beach. Nowhere was Spain mentioned in all the euphoria, though the chairman of the comity was a good old Franco fascist. I've always believed this was a turning point. Madrid realised it would have to reign in those pesky Catalans or it might lose them completely someday. The idea to strike up a deal, by the way, never came to mind.

What followed is a long story, leading all the way to the current troubles and what is meant to come next, the complete reinstallation of Madrid's direct rule over the whole country, something very close to what seniors still remember from last time round. It all began with José Maria Aznar and his recentralisation programme, investing almost exclusively in Madrid. Catalunya suffered it for eight years, and then came, with the seemingly superfluous help of the Madrid train bombings of 2004, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a nice guy from León, not belonging to any power structure. He modernised the face of Spain and we all thought we looked pretty smart. His were the easy years, until he hit upon the Wall Street crash, which he attacked in Keynesian fashion, quickly eating away at the reserves before the banks took over. It postponed the bang for another year, at least, though it made the crisis only worse. Regions also got to update their statutes. Catalunya's, after its formal approbation by national parliament, was challenged by then opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, who in a televised campaign brought 4 million signatures against parliament's decision. Though it wouldn't bear fruit, it hurt a lot of Catalans who had half-heartedly consented with the somewhat maltreated original proposal and now felt their willingness wasn't appreciated. I heard about it, but new in the country as I was I didn't take it for much.

Next on is 2010, when the whole spectacle really got going. The constitutional court, strongly influenced by Rajoy's partido popular, dealt at his request the statute a final blow. So many ordinary rules were deemed unconstitutional, that the document became basically unworkable and Catalunya had to continue with the old one. Within a week the streets of Barcelona filled up with indignant people, many, though not all by far, shouting for independence. Soon after, Artur Mas, a right wing upper class politician with close friendships in USA and Israel, gathered the nascent independence movement around his party, CiU. This was a strange decision, to say the least, because the burgesia catalana has business contacts all over Spain. Surely, they wouldn't want to risk all that by promoting a rather whimsical independence adventure? Yet it makes sense when we realise the process must have been the result of negotiations between Rajoy and Mas. Simply put: Madrid wanted to kill off the Catalan spirit, take the Cat out so to say, and bring Barcelona back in line behind the capital. Mas were to keep his business interests if he played along. To this end they chose a high-risk strategy which even at this point in time may still backfire: Mas would grow the movement and then just before it got too big Rajoy would crack down and dump Catalanism in such a deep depression it could never recuperate. Let it have its fun, let the rauxa (Catalan desire) run its course, and then take it all away, back to the early seventies. That was the plan, and had been the plan for a while. Mas was in on it, not out of conviction, but because he had no choice. He needed to save the business. This may seem rather cynical from Madrid, but that's how Spanish power brokering works, from the work floor to the highest office. You rob and steal. Luckily, there are decent people as well. It is the core expression of what is called clientelism, you totally depend on the person in front of you as the law offers no protection. We see this in the way the judicial system has been politicised by partido popular. Catalan leaders are sent to jail on totally fabricated allegations, just as in the last couple years the functioning of Catalan parliament was basically paralysed by challenging every single law it emitted. Rajoy asks and the tribunals deliver. Yes, Mr Rajoy is utterly corrupt, but we knew that already.

Unaware of what was going on behind the scenes, the movement happily grew and people started honestly believing it could be done, their own republic, politically away from Madrid though economically still fully tied. Why not? It sounded reasonable and we would of course pay our dues as we had always done. We were simply free to do what was best for us. If Madrid couldn't provide us a minimum of trust, then we should create it ourselves. That not everybody agreed, certainly among the population with Spanish ties, with foreigners mostly keeping a low profile, was never seen as problematic. We were going to get a good deal which would benefit the malcontents as well. Who cares about borders? Though wary of the role politics played in all this, I fell for the naïve enthusiasm of the many families that filled the streets of my town every eleventh of September, waving their flags and singing old Catalan songs. If they really wanted it, then why not give it a try? I never believed big countries to be particularly democratic. And so we walked open-eyed into the trap set up for us by Mr Rajoy and the ruling families hiding behind his unseemly figure. Then came October 2017, our revolution month. It culminated in the pro forma proclamation of the Catalan republic while the Senate was already glorifying the crackdown, followed by one of the strangest weekends I have ever lived in my twelve years here. I was in town with a student of mine and we were surrounded by happy faces, Mercè included. Everybody loved their little republic, knowing full-well it would be gone by Monday morning. But it just felt so good. For two glorious days we were freed from a Madrid which over the years had been a growing nuisance and then became a full-on threat. Sunday afternoon was already smeared with a counter demonstration which not so much asked for union, as their slogans had it, but rather begged Mr Rajoy to give those Catalans a good old beating up. The new era was descending upon us.

You get the feeling the European Union were in on the game. They can only be too happy with centralised rule in their constituencies, if only to keep things simple. They may have counselled dear friend Mariano to take it easy on the economy, as too much flight of companies out of Barcelona is not really helpful to Spain's payments to the northern masters. It would be nice if the Commission also understood we can't let the fabric of society get torn apart by brute, vengeful intervention. We need to stay Catalans to a certain extent to maintain our position, and I can't see how hurting our economy would be to anybody's benefit. So, if you want us to stop dreaming of independence, may we suggest a good surgeon to delicately take out the unwanted feelings? We might even do it ourselves, as our health care ranks among the finest this country has to offer. We shall forget, if that's what it takes. No, that is not true. We won't forget, never. But we will accept the terms.

As their influence is strongest in the early stages, psyops drive you towards a certain situation, but once there, the rising pressure can take proceedings in unforeseen directions. I kept a daily blog of the struggle, writing from the mood I felt around me. 1-O with its police brutality against voters wasn't particularly nice for many people, but it was the price we had to pay to appear on worldwide tv, and at least nobody was killed. Then Puigdemont missed his chance at gaining worldwide notoriety, preferring to offer Madrid a last opportunity to negotiate. In today's seconds only attention span era, our little struggle was suddenly not heroic enough. Game of Thrones apparently is more exciting. We were losing the battle for sympathy. Only the Anglo-Saxon press showed some consideration, with European media following the official line that not much was going on and Madrid should restore order as it deemed fit. Now, with Puigdemont up in his attic somewhere in Brussels, trying not to become Yasser Arafat, all we have left is our fight to stay on the screens. A lot of nasty things are still bound to happen, so we should be able to provide content for a while longer. Particularly the angry reaction of some of our non-aligned neighbours may be cause for attention.

For a long time to come, the vast majority of Catalans will never know how they were set up. They will rightly blame Mariano Rajoy, but not look much further. Soon, they will be concentrating on how to keep society together. I fear Madrid has done a lot of harm here already, with its exaggerated and dishonest portrayal of the troubles. But we shall overcome. We will get back to understanding with our neighbours. That is one thing I like about this town: in the end the class struggle will always be more important than any nationalist or religious movement. We were done in by power and we shall have to bounce back. And we will.

domingo, 5 de noviembre de 2017


Almost a week into the takeover and things aren’t looking particularly good. It has become clear by now where we can find support for our struggle. Answer, nowhere. We have been thrown back in time, or perhaps forward, from our peaceful and democratic, if somewhat haughty, republic to traditional Madrid misrule. It has always been like this and it will always stay this way, that seems to be the message we have received these days from our various “partners” and enemies. You thought you lived in Catalunya, you thought you had the right to create your own society, you thought that your relative success was a measure of the viability of your visions, you thought the only way was up – but no, sorry, you lot, you happen to live in Spain. Spain is different, remember? Now deal with it. After months, weeks and days of anxiety, hope and euphoria, reality has sunk in. We are beginning to get a picture of where we are heading. What we now know:

Podemos are traitors. They side with Rajoy to defend the holy unity, whereas every politician worth their salt could have seen that the Catalan Question was an ideal chance to rally many of Spain’s malcontents against the central government, after all the main culprit of their sorry state, and demand the change at national level they claim to seek. Podemos are nothing but words, with Pablo Iglesias the pied piper who leads the innocent away from their destiny. It makes me retract what I wrote about Ada Colau for president, though I do appreciate her as maire. It’s her job to improve the town and so far she has been doing that. I was inspired to these harsh conclusions by the excellent blog elrobotpescador, in Spanish.

Podemos’ treason has inevitably turned our struggle into a total loss. We have not managed to escape in time, if ever we stood a chance, and are at the mercy of those who have called for our punishment on nationwide television, with their local representatives buddying up with the most rancid of anti-Catalunya organisations. It is our task to calm these nervy types down to avoid malice. Nothing easy, as the growing number of incidents involving hardcore unionists beating up bystanders indicates. Surely no politician or medium is going to help out, pretending it’s all our own fault. It’s this type of irresponsible idiocy which makes you feel most vulnerable and alone. Moreover, the complete lack of understanding for our predicament by the European Union is starting to feel unpleasant once again. The careful optimism of only last Monday is quickly fading.

There’s no denying any longer, all this was a play, a psyop, written well in advance. La burgesia catalana has sold us out once again. I can’t imagine it was their initiative this time around, as there was nothing to fear from Barcelona’s thriving middle class, though they eagerly offered us as bait for Madrid’s insatiable usurpy. The rich get to keep their town, so who cares the price the working classes pay? They are, as always, left to their own devices. The script was written in Madrid, by the most despicable of characters, only interested in keeping their fellow men poor and uninformed, and likely edited in Brussels. The weeks leading up to December’s Xmas elections will be full of minor surprises, but the end is there for everybody to see. How on earth can Madrid grant administrative powers back to ERC unless it is completely sure of their adherence to the new status quo? Expect dirty tricks by the truckload and distrust any positive result.

Under all these pressures, the movement is inflating. Late arrivals are the first to leave. People are tired, they want to go back to their lives. Winter is coming. The great demonstration against the imprisonment of the govern, which should have taken place yesterday, is called for next weekend. What are we protesting by that time? I guess ANC and Òmnium want their leaders out of jail and have decided to throw the towel. With Barcelona’s main newspapers against us from the beginning and now calling for Puigdemont to end the farce and give himself in, our president is the last man to defend the purpose of our struggle and somehow influence the outcome. It is important to remember that psyops can never be written until the last page. They draw up the roadmap, but unforeseen circumstances, having mostly to do with the resilience of the losing side, may slightly adjust the end result. You sometimes get the feeling that putting up a good show is minimal requirement to be considered for favourable intervention from above, in recognition of an entertaining episode in the great work in progress called human history. So I say, stay free, Puigi! Don’t let those bastards get their dirty little hands on you.

Among its opponents, FC Barcelona is known as Farsa. El més que un club is just as ugly and greedy as the rest of them, and their titles just as unjustifiably won, the reasoning goes. You can say the Catalan independence movement has been a farce. History repeated itself, but this time without casualties. In the archives of the city of Barcelona there is news film about the militias leaving for the Aragó front in the summer of 1937. The camera is following the open cars and trucks full of young men and women turning from Passeig de Gràcia onto La Diagonal, cheered on by large crowds. A couple things are noticeable. People are very stylishly dressed, men in high-waisted wide trousers with a white, blousing shirt, the women in skirts which only just cover their knees. Men wear their hair short but thick, with locks freely flowing in the wind. People’s manners and faces are decidedly modern. They are sure they are going to successfully defend their accidental republic, not realising that some in the crowd are fully aware they have been sold out. Knowing all was lost less than two years later, makes looking at this beauty heart wrenching. Now we have written a similar story, only this time we won’t grab for arms to defend ourselves. We walk out on the street when everybody does and we meme our disappointments. Another glorious defeat.

I guess it’s always good to know who your friends are. We have none. That is nothing to get embittered about, it’s just a realisation. If you want to change your world, know that nobody will come to your rescue and that the story of your little revolution has already been written and is waiting in some drawer to be used against you. Still, if you feel you are right to fight injustice, don’t let certain defeat hold you back. Feeling all those different emotions run through your body is a most enlightening experience. And, as easily as you lose friendships, you are bound to make new ones. Therefore, outcasts of this world, dream on. Keep rising up and keep questioning. For one things is sure, you will never trust authority again, and that shall be your greatest victory.

Fins la república sempre!