Catalan language policy: Marxist, Stalinist, Francoist or fascist?

The precedents for, and some possible implications of, the Catalanisation of Barcelona’s cinemas. Plus some crowd-pleasing video of the Quebec language police in action. (Allez! Allez! Allez! And the hell with the economy!) All in somewhat fevered response to an article by Martin Dahms in the Tages-Anzeiger.

Last night I had a quick beer with someone who wonks policy for the Catalan governing coalition. He was very upset about a piece published a couple of days ago in the Tages-Anzeiger, a left-leaning, Zurich-based, mass-circulation daily, by a respected German foreign correspondent called Martin Dahms. Entitled “In Barcelona Hollywood has to speak Catalan,” the article is a well-researched and objective look at Catalan government plans to force cinemas to show half of films in Catalan. These plans have caused the cinema industry association, which controls some 80% of seats in the region, to call a strike next Monday. They fear that frustrating the overwhelming market preference for Spanish showings (to which, given that everyone speaks Spanish, you can take all your friends) will inevitably accentuate the already rapid drift, particularly among the young, away from public cinema (and video clubs) to internet downloads. And even the Chinese haven’t completely figured out how to regulate or impose quotas on those.

Mr Wonk’s main beef was about Mr Dahms’ comparison of the Catalan government’s gradualist strategy to banish Spanish from public life with the Franco government’s summarily implemented, anti-Catalan version of this policy in 1939. “How dare he! There is a world of difference between us and them!” he cried, echoing Christian objections to analysis linking human beings with other primates. Apart from all the usual “didn’t never have no niggers/faggots/Spanish here before” paleocrap essential to any progressive discourse in Barcelona, Mr Wonk also made the interesting claim that Catalan linguistic aggression is essentially Marxist, designed to create a common language and thus achieve equality of opportunity for all.

Neglecting the fact that we already have a common language–Spanish–you’ve got to be pretty stupid or ignorant to believe that The Beard’s works sanction cultural interventionism, whether we’re talking about ironing out dialectal variation and linguistic diversity or any other field. As any Eastern European child over the age of 50 can tell you, Marx actually says that culture is superstructural to the economy. So the only strategy open to a conventional Marxist who wants to make Catalan the common language in Catalonia is to leap into a time machine, rip back to the 14th century, close the borders, thwack down the populace, and try to make anti-revolutionary autarky work … for ever. Which, for all I know, may indeed what President Montilla has in store for us.

However, at this point the barman suggested that a far better left-wing model for the restriction of individual language rights is provided by Stalin. Stalin knew Marx rather better than my friend and realised that if Marx had got it right then

  1. the language of the Tsars should have disappeared automatically as a superstructural consequence of the economic changes wrought by the October Revolution;
  2. there was no theoretical basis to justify the (violent) Russification of the Soviet Union.

He got round this by saying–obviously not in so many words—that Marx was wrong and the Nazis were right: that language is not superstructure but is by some ingenious and unspecified means generated by the entire course of a society’s history, reflecting not needs based in time or class but the Volksgeist.

Like Stalin’s massive programme of cultural expansionism, the Catalan government’s willingness to pay for Catalan education, exhibitions, street signs etc in areas of France and Italy to which it has cultural and thence territorial claims, as well as hegemonist pressures on Valencia and the Balearics, show that its ambitions are imperialist. In that sense it may be closer to Stalinism than to the Francoist programme of Hispanicisation in the 1940s, which reasserted (by totalitarian means) public dominance of the national language in territories which had been formally Spanish for some 500 years and where Spanish had been the language of the educated class and the administration for respectively some 400 and 200 years.

In another sense, however, Catalan nationalists would say Catalanisation is merely reasserting (by totalitarian means, of course) the public use of Catalan in territories which in the late Middle Ages were Aragonese and where Catalan and other southern French dialects were at the time the language of the educated class and, subordinated to Latin, of the administration. Which is rather complicated, but at least indicates that they accept the Catalanism/Francoism parallel.

And that’s all so Ulster isn’t it! For novices, here’s a helpful summary of provincial life by Manuel Estimulo:

As I am understand it, the place is divided up into two part, one ruled over by a militaristic authoritarian misogynistic reactionary Protestant fascism, which want to take everyone back to the 17th century, and the other part is rule over by a militaristic authoritarian misogynistic progressive Catholic fascism, which want to take everyone back to the 1920s. And even though they seem to have everything in common with one another, the main sticking plaster is they cannot agree over which football team to support. It all very much seem like a stork in a teacup!


I find neither Francoism nor Stalinism to be an entirely satisfactory parallel, because neither is afflicted by the all-devouring inferiority complex which drives mandatory Catalanisation: the notion that if people are not forced to use the language, it will die, and that this is for some reason of transcendent importance.

A few years ago following a rather wild bet I denounced myself to the language police for using English preferentially in (public) business communications, and when they failed to respond an Italian friend commented that the narrow focus of their paranoia–a rival Romance dialect–was reminiscent of the persecution of French in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, reaching its peak under Mussolini.

French was a more vigorous language, with far greater intellectual, artistic and industrial reach, and so strenuous efforts were made to deny French-speaking families education in French and other public opportunities to use it, and to cleanse Italian of all trace of French loanwords. (There’s a fascinating piece here on the Aosta Valley, the persecution of French by Italian nationalists, and the French-language anti-fascist resistance.)

Mussolini was inverted in 1945 but his world was not, and full Italianisation of French-speaking areas was achieved in the post-war period by the pervasive influence of Italian mass media. Yet while Catalonia has succeeded in denying access to Spanish-language education, and while heavy fines are used to ensure that businesses promote themselves according to the ethnic fantasies of civil servants rather than according to their perception of customer need and their desire to maximise profits, it’s difficult to see in the internet age how putting cinemas out of business will contribute either to getting people to speak Catalan or to rescuing the region’s struggling economy.

Whether or not you agree with me that this is closer to (Mediterranean) littoral than to continental totalitarianism, it’s clear that the direct inspiration for Catalan ethnic bulldozering comes mainly from Quebec. Stuff that should concern serious people: despite considerable natural potential, Quebec has succeeded in driving away much of its original business class, it has struggled to maintain foreign investment, it has a poor record on wealth creation compared with other provinces, and, although it effectively runs its own immigration policy, immigrants there are spectacularly less successful than in neighbouring Ontario, which has no such powers or ethnic paranoias. And so on.

Stuff that may amuse less serious people: an old favourite, Inspector Clouseau of the Quebec language police at work [old video disappeared, replaced here by comedy clip]:

The people want bread? Let them eat government decrees!

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  1. Interesting article! I sometimes feel talking to a Catalan nationalist is akin to speaking with an evangelical christian – not even scientific facts or basic logic stand a chance against the power of dogma

  2. Yup. The parallels are quite amazing. Having lived through the referendum for Quebec seperation, I sometimes wonder why I’m subjecting myself to this again.

    Quebec has the Plains of Abraham, Catalunya the siege of Barcelona.

    Looks like soon I’ll be getting my phone bill in Catalan.

  3. TerrorBoy, a very long rant for a law that only aims to have a level playing field of 50/50.
    And I thought you were in favour of bilingualism, silly me…
    What is this “common language” nonsense you have come about in this post? And should it not be Catalan the common language in Catalonia? Ahh, I get it: it is ok for Spanish to be enforced via the Constitución, but seeking legal parity between the two languages is interventionist. Aye right.

    As for the other silly comments, the article in the Swiss paper has been discredited and refuted by the Col.lectiu Emma. It turns out that Switzerland has a similar law…funny old world.

    Economic under-performance of Quebec is explained by infrastructure investment by the federal government not by language policy.

    You and other immigrants, sorry expats, should consider that if you dislike Catalan language and Catalonia so much, the world is your oyster. Nobody is forcing you to live in Catalonia…if you don’t like it, get out. (I did but for different reasons). Simples!

  4. Hey, mate, here some other neo-mussolinian franco-stalinist totalitarian states. Looks like an epidemic.

    In Iceland, televised programme material in a foreign language must be accompanied by Icelandic voice-over or subtitles.

    In Denmark, independent television broadcasters must ensure that a significant element of their programming (outside of one hour per day of locally produced news and current affairs programming) is in the Danish language or is produced for a Danish public.

    In Greece, the public service broadcaster and private television stations are required by law to reserve more than 25% of their transmission time (excluding news, sports events, games, advertising and teletext services) for original works in the Greek language; providers of pay-radio and television services are under the same obligation.

    In Estonia, the volume of foreign-language news programmes and live foreign-language programmes without translations into Estonian may not exceed 10% of the volume of weekly original production.

    Broadcasting for the French Overseas Territories is the responsibility of a nationalised programming company, which is charged with promoting the French language as well as regional languages and cultures.

  5. @santcugat: I know a woman who’ll come round and flog you for only 30€ an hour.
    @Rab&Primo: I’ll dress up as a woman and come round and flog you myself; my accountant (based in Zaragoza) will be in touch re price. That (soon-to-be) bits of the EU – like Quebec – are stupid and corrupt enough to force ethnic product down the throats of their consumer slaves in the majority language is one thing; that Catalonia wants to do it in the minority language is simply fucking hilarious. I am dying for the day when I go to a bookshop and am obliged to buy a book in Catalan to compensate for the damage to the nation caused by purchasing one in Spanish. And the damage wrought by Franco (whose reign lasted only as long as democracy now has) will surely only be righted when all Rioja purchased in Barcelona is produced in Igualada. (FYI I live in several places and don’t provide services to businesses or individuals based in Catalonia: apart from the fact that the language police might come after me and wipe out my entire annual earnings in the region in one fell swoop for billing in Lérida dialect, no one in Barcelona pays on time.)

  6. @Trevor: Is Quebec really about to join Europe? Syntax, man, syntax. Or extreme fear.

    @SantCugat: nice post about the fiscal deficit.

  7. In my house, Catalan is the majority language. In the outskirts of Paris, French is the minority language -being imposed upon the majority. Majority, minority… means sweet fuck all, everything is majority and minority at the same time. Stop moaning about fictional grievances that don’t exist anywhere except in your diseased mind… obliged to buy book, rioja from igualada wtf??

  8. @Trevor: Can she call me Franco and yell at me in Catalan?

    @Rab: I like Catalonia. The nationalism is a definite minus, but as long as they keep paying us, we’ll stay here. In the meanwhile, I’ll complain as much as I like, thank you very much.

  9. Individual rights? In a nation-based federal Europe? The Council of Europe’s language site contains repeated approbatory references to the imposition of bilingualism to ensure the survival of little-used languages in violation of majority-speaker civil rights. Another document you may find interesting is by Dr. Thomas Jeffrey Miley from Yale, who says that although Catalan education policy in the shape of the 1983 Llei de normalització lingüística may conceivably have been constitutional in its original conception, but the Tribunal Constitucional in 1994 betrayed its institutional obligations by bowing to PSOE pressure to save devolution and rejecting an appeal against the 1983 law even though it was clear that the exclusion of Spanish from schools begun in 1992 was completely unconstitutional.

    Europe is a failed region. It’s a bloody, expensive, anachronistic, embarrassing joke. You’re due for another war soon because killing each other is the only way you seem to be able to cope with your failure.

  10. On the contrary I think in bits of Brussels there is an excellent understanding of what an individual-rights-based agenda is and how it could be implemented, but when push gets comes to shove in a weak federal structure ethnic or state claims win out. I don’t think in this sense that any real lessons have been learnt from the Bosnian War. So I’d agree that the next few decades are most unlikely to be happy or prosperous for many of the Europeans who decide to stay put.

  11. @Jeremy: what form of nationalism is a minus? Spanish nationalism that aims to impose a unitarian and centralist vision of Spain (including the enforcement of Spanish as “common language”) or Catalan nationalism that merely tries to ensure the cultural, political and economic survival of its homeland?

    It appears that every minority in the world is entitled to protection -except the Catalans, who just must accept being second class citizens in their own country.

    Most of you claim to be in favour of bilingualism, but in reality you are just in favour of the status quo of Spanish being imposed via the Constitución and any attempt to seek legal parity between the two languages is derided. The day when a Catalan member of parliament can use his own language in the Congreso, or in the European Parliament, I will believe the fallacy of multi-cultural Spain. That the 12th most spoken language in Europe is being kept as a second-class language is a disgrace and if it was any other community in Europe, this would not be happening. Irish Gaelic is an official EU language despite having fewer than 1m speakers (and only spoken in a remote area of Ireland) and nobody battles an eyelid.

  12. Trevor: your logic is getting more bizarre by the day.

    How do you define majority and minority languages? Why do you define Catalan as a minority language when Catalan is the native language of Catalonia. It may be a minority language in some areas of Barcelona but if we accept that language policy should be dictated by migration trends, then Urdu should be official in parts of England, Arabic in Paris and Marseille, and Polish in East Anglia. What a silly argument.

    Territories have languages and their laws normally state so. In Catalonia, all parties except the PP and soon to be disbanded Ciudadanos (combined 15%) support the current policy as it is the only way to give everybody a chance of being bilingual. You know that, I know that and most people know that and that’s why the PP is stuck in Catalonia unable to make progress.

  13. Rab – You’ve obviously been reading those cataloony interpretations of Quebec history. The main reason that francophone Quebec – outside of Montreal, Quebec City and Hull remains stuck in permanent economic recession is the conscious PQ education policy to keep them stupid. Nothing has changed since Duplessis.

  14. @Rab – I think it was santcugat who said it was a minus. I likened catalan nationalists with evangelical christians because I think most of your arguments have as much credence as intelligent design (creationism).You can read some of my blog posts to see why.

    I will say statements like “we’re second class citizens” and complaining about “Gaelic” only seems to support this theory. Second class citizens don’t control the media, the banks, and the educational system which Catalans do.

    My biggest issue with this is that it’s being imposed and driven by a small cabal of men and women who don’t represent the true feelings of the citizens and it’s unconstitutional; a document your elected leaders signed.

  15. I dislike all forms of nationalism (be it Spanish, American, Quebecer or Catalan) It’s just another stupid invention of the “us-vs-them” world view.

    Sure, let people speak Urdu. Why not?

    I suppose I’ve been corrupted by the US idea of a government that lets people do what they want as long as they’re not hurting anyone. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way (ask the Iraqis), but it’s a good idea.

  16. You are being observed on an academic linguistics mailing list. Most of the participants agree that you are problematic and generalising, without any of them really being able to put their finger on specific errors. That’s surely completely unconnected with the fact that most of them earn their academic living writing about regional languages and many have lucrative language policy consulting gigs. See turkeys@Christmas.

  17. let them speak urdu? sorry it doesn’t work like this. first you have to ensure that those urdu speakers need not learn english. and the only way to do this is make english speakers learn urdu. so we make urdu a mandatory subject in uk schools, or even better, make it the only language of instruction for 50 years. then urdu becomes the “common language”, you see?? now flood the country with 20 million urdu speakers and if somebody complains call him a totalitarian nationalist who wants to impose their little-used language to the majority and anyway it would ruin the economy and the well-being of the entire nation of course.

  18. Jeremy: you are in denial or living in a parallel universe. The policy has the overwhelming support of people in Catalonia and the political map in the Catalan parliament makes that very clear.
    The policy does not contravene the Constitución and the recent sentence by the TSJC makes that very clear too.

    The Constitución is a document +30y old, agreed by our parents generation. The new generation does not give a fuck about a legal framework which did not break with the Fascist regime of Franco. It was a compromise made at a time of great fear by weak people. And anyway, if you hold the Constitution so dear, what about the right of everybody to have a home?

  19. Do I believe in the right of everyone to have a home, sure? I wish it were the case and you spent half as much energy for that as a free catalunya. also casually dismissing the constitution because you don’t agree with it adds further credibility to the fundamentalist analogy I used at the beginning, so keep the arguments coming.

    let’s see “overwhelming” might be a bit of an exaggeration since most parents I know aren’t happy with the educational system here and based on the test scores I wouldn’t be either. as for political policy being an accurate reflection of the public wishes, how many examples would you like me to show you that this is rarely the case? i didn’t see people clamoring for a new cultural center known as the forum when the prices of housing was sky rocketing. as for the current make up of the government, I know a few CIU supporters who claim it’s undemocratic and how is esquerra republicana who got 8% of the votes yet is in charge of the education an accurate representation? shouldn’t a child’s education be free of politics so they can focus on important subjects like science, math, foreign languages?

    But let’s be honest Rab, deep down even you know the whole idea of Catalunya being a different country than spain is really fantastical. you can’t undo 400 years of a symbiotic relationship and the history that comes with it not matter how much kool aid you drink and want to believe it.

    honestly, listening to nationalistic arguments reminds me of a temperamental teenager. There’s the world how you would like it to be and the world as it is. The faster you accept reality, the closer to are to taking the first step to change it.

  20. I think I’m accused somewhere above of claiming to be in favour of bilingualism. Well, if it’s a personal choice, yes, but just as I’m opposed to the Catalan nationalist socialist state’s attempts to drive Spanish underground, so I am also opposed to Ciutadans’ proposed obligatory bilingualism. Let me explain. For individual Anglo Brits it very rarely makes economic sense to learn other languages, while for native Maltese speakers it is a case of study or die. (The EU’s desire to impose the mother-tongue-plus-two formula on the UK may please the French, but is economic madness.) Similarly, even though the Catalan authorities having been trying to force folks to use Catalan for getting on for 20 years, there’s still little real need for Barcelona residents to learn it unless they hope to live off the taxpayer, so why waste economic resources trying to make them? On the other hand, if you live in Camprodón it’s not so easy to get by without Catalan, but why should the choice be forced on you?

    If you respect individual choice in this fashion, the logical consequence is to demand that the state, instead of trying to change the people alla Brecht, provides services according to consumer demand. For example: hold a STV poll every ten years and provide services in first and second placed languages, provided that each registers at least 35% in the first round. If that means that Urdu and English are the two languages used in Bradford Council, that’s fine by me. If Spanish continues to remain absent from official Ripoll, no problem here. If that means that Catalan disappears from town halls in the Llobregat valley, then some people may feel hurt but school results and employment prospects will improve, and there’ll be more money to waste on stupid government projects.

    @The Doc: Re the experts (someone told me yesterday): There’s a mad old theory still around (I think it flowered amid soul-searching about Auschwitz) that since academic linguistics originated in the need to find a scientific basis for the racist ideology that Them Is Way Different From Us academic linguists are generally unreliable bods, who without some doomed language to protect would have to find something useful to do. Maybe one of them will give us some return on all those tax dollars and explain why that is not so.

  21. @ Jeremy

    Well, then the same applies to everybody: I wish immigrants to Catalonia spent more energy in defending other articles of the Spanish Constitución (right to have a home, or a job, or equality between sexes, etc,) instead of being obsessed with preventing Catalan language becoming legally and socially equal to Spanish in Catalonia.

    So rejecting the 1978 Constitución makes one a fundamentalist. Alright then.
    Who would you define the people who refuse point blank to even debate any changes to it? Even threatening with Army intervention?
    I would say they are more fundamentalist than anybody else by anchoring to a piece of legislation over 30 years old and arranged immediately in the post-Franco era, under threat from the military, and refusing to adapt it to the new world.

    You see, this is the problem: I support the right of people now in 2010 to change laws if they get enough support via the electoral process, for example a referendum on independence or change in language policy in schools.
    You seem to reject this right. I think you are the fundamentalist then.

    I think your little poll at the school gates is unrepresentative when election after election, and with all the help from the Madrid-based nationalistic media and the orchestrating of the PP, winding up division for narrow party political interest ahead of society’s cohesion, no party who rejects the current policy can win any significant support in Catalonia.
    Excuse me if I attach more value to that than to your anecdotic evidence.

    If it was such a big issue, as you all make it out to be, don’t you think that people would vote with their feet and do something about it? They don’t, because the current system gives everyone the best chance possible to be fluent in both languages by the time they leave school.

    I agree completely with your point: a child’s education should be free of politics. I just wish immigrants in Catalonia (whether from Jaen or Colchester) would just accept that Catalan is the indigenous language of Catalonia and that tuition is delivered in Catalan language as a means to ensure a cohesive society and to give every pupil the best chance at gaining fluency in both languages.

    I find all the agitating of the anti-Catalan lobby tiresome and frankly quite prejudiced, not to mention dangerous and ill-conceived. I wish they would leave their political prejudice out of education.

    How you define 400 years of a symbiotic relationship? I think at best is a obligative relationship: Catalonia could survive without Spain. But Spain seems to struggle to find its place in the world unless it by ensuring the cultural, political and economic assimilation of Catalonia.

    More than symbiotic, or even commensal, I think it is an parasitic relationship: one organism is trying to destroy the other.
    It could be a mutualism relationship, in which both organism benefit, but it is clearly not. Catalan politicians have tried for the last two centuries to “fit in” in Spain but it has been impossible. It does not work, Spain cannot accept Catalonia in ways that Catalonia find acceptable. Hence this argument has gone on and one for decades and we are all very unhappy: the Spanish are unhappy because the cannot completely assimilate Catalonia, and the Catalans are unhappy because they cannot find the way to fit in within Spain.
    This has been the script for centuries but now, in this new globalised world, a new generation is coming up who do not have the fear of their parents. A 400 year relationship based on conflict and strife is easily cut off: plenty of new sovereign states have been set up in the last 25 years who also had a centuries-old symbiotic” relationship with a neighbour or colonial power.

    Nationalistic arguments? Reality?
    The problem with your logic is that nationalistic arguments are reality are fuzzy concepts.
    Who is more nationalistic? PP or CiU? Nobody in CiU has ever threatened to use Army intervention, however many people in the PP happily come out in public saying the Spanish Army would have to intervene if the Catalan parliament ever declares independence or even passes a motion for a referendum.

    And what is more nationalistic, trying to preserve the indigenous language of a territory or trying to impose an alien “common” language into a community through centuries of political oppression and with the help of massive migration flows?

    The reality my friend is also that language policy in Catalonia receives wide support (>80% of political representation). The sooner you lot accept this reality the less resentful your life in Catalonia will be for yourself and your family.
    And I repeat again, if you guys don’t like it, the world is your oyster: there are plenty of places in the world where they don’t teach Catalan in the schools.

  22. Trevor, There is only one way to describe your idea: utter nonsense.

    Please tell us: is there any country in the world where such a scheme has been implemented?

  23. @Rab: It’s not actually my idea, and if you stop and think a wee bit you’ll find that providing state services according to consumer language requirements, while not formalised in such a fashion, is widespread. This is particularly true in countries and regions which are more concerned about educational achievement and subsequent earning potential (= less welfare spending + higher tax revenues) than about imposing symbols of nationhood.

    So, for example, there are some 150 programmes in the US which allow children to receive 90% of their education in languages other than English – the main beneficiary being of course Spanish. See the National Dual Language Consortium for more general information and the Center for Applied Linguistics database to check my figure. The result is that, despite the poisonous English-only movement, it is now easier for children to study in Spanish in California and Arizona, where Spanish is not an official language and where first language Spanish speakers form a minority, than in Catalonia, where it is and where they are the majority.

    There is a wealth of other public-service-access legislation and practice, of which, as I say, you will surely be aware. Whereas Barcelona Council has just announced that it is going to its best to make it difficult to obtain documentation in the city’s common language, bodies like Greater London Authority and a substantial number of British councils have made it standard practice to make documents easily available to residents in a variety of local languages. Maybe someone will tell me more about what goes on in other places – I know next to nothing for example about the Californian Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act.

    A few European states have chosen to follow closely the model of Quebec by identifying a national language and then discriminating against and harassing the substantial minority who prefer to use another one. Of those, Slovakia, Estonia and Latvia all face a realistic prospect of ethnic violence, as well as economic stagnation, over the next few years. What do you think’s going to happen in Barcelona?

  24. Let’s see Rab, where to begin? Rejecting the constitution doesn’t make you a fundamentalist. I completely agree you have a right to seek address for parts you don’t agree with through political means, or if you feel passionately enough through peaceful protest and if need be, violent struggle; that is your right as a human being. It’s what has been happening in the states since we signed a very flawed and unfair constitution in 1787 that considered slaves 3/5’s a person and only allowed for land owning men to hold power. What I don’t agree with is saying that because you don’t agree with it or because it was signed 30 years ago, it isn’t a valid legal document. Perhaps in the future, Europe will be a collection of small independent states, but as it stands now Catalunya is part of Spain and to deny this is factually incorrect and to refuse reality just like someone who says we don’t come from monkeys.

    Because of my job I’ve literally spoken to hundreds, if not thousands, of local people from across the political spectrum making it more than a single anecdote. The one area they all agree on is how unhappy there are with the level of education. The fact that Spain ranked third from the bottom OCED nations behind Hungary and just ahead of Portugal confirms their displeasure, I think. And I don’t distinguish Catalunya from Spain, because while the subjects may be taught in a different language the way of teaching remains the same.

    You keep screaming about the elected parties while neglecting to point out nearly half the population didn’t vote, further reducing the true representation. Some of this maybe apathy but most is disgust at the options. This is often the desired outcome politically and known as wedge politics. This disconnect between the politicians and the people is again not unique to Spain as it seems to be the case in many places sadly. In the US it’s religion and who’s the real American; here it’s nationalism and language. All are corrosive and warp their respective political systems because they distract normally like minded people from focusing on the what truly needs to be changed. Plus, as immigrants we have no voice but if we wanted to take part in the process, you realize we’d first have to become Spanish.

    I don’t know how anything I’ve said could be labeled prejudiced or dangerous. I don’t deny people have the right to study what language they want or how they want or associate with whom they want. As Trevor pointed out, there are examples of multilingual educational systems that work and ones that don’t. As a proud Catalan I imagine you would like to try the ones that give the next generation a better chance. Also, internal migration did not only happen in this country, especially after crisis and war. You say it was some great plot at the point of a gun but when I look around most of these families settled in Santa Coloma and L’Hospitalet and came in search of a better life. They don’t live in L’Eixample or along Passeig de Gracia as puppets of the great dictator. I still see many Catalan companies and most upper management I know is Catalan. My perceptions and attitudes are based on what I see and hear, not what I read in the news, which is why I take great issue with those like Laporta who try to equate the situation with being an occupied territory. Catalunya is not Gaza.

    But look, I come from a land where there is no official national language and a state projected to be majority Spanish speaking in less than 20 years, so this colors my perception of the situation. My country too has had a long history of conflict and strife, our relationship with Mexico equally as violent and exploitive, up until today. Yet, there isn’t a la Raza preparing to use the new Latin ethnic majority to seize control and make everyone speak Spanish or change the laws to benefit them. And thankfully the lunatic nativists looking to impose English as the official language remain on the fringe and not even their representatives listen to them, which may not have happened so long ago. Why? Because the people who are running the system know you can’t impose a language and a culture on a person and if you know anything about California politics, that fact that the two parties can agree on anything is amazing. It’s dysfunction rivals Spain. Hell, we have Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.

    We obviously have areas of agreement so let’s focus on those. One of which is that energy is better spent on more pressing needs than linguistic and cultural issues and it’s time to put this to bed. If you have to get the last word in, go ahead, but I kindly decline to respond in advance as this is taking up way too much time that I need to dedicate to more important things.

  25. The situation at the moment is the same in Catalonia as in Andalucia and other parts of Spain. People aren’t going to rise up and demand civil rights as long as their unemployment benefits are higher than their parents earned, so they’re not going to go to demonstrations in support of their right to use Spanish in Arenys or vote out PSOE thieves in Sevilla. Where that clientelism may break down is when wages start falling dramatically in real terms, i.e. this year. Until then + 5 years just do as I do: don’t read political blogs, don’t get involved in civil society (which is all run by the government), make sure you haven’t got any assets or business here that they can touch, and enjoy the sunshine.

  26. Congrats for such a brilliant article!

    The catalan nationalism wears me out. It’s anachronistic, fascist and intolerable.

  27. Hi, I write from Barcelona. This is not a linguistic problem, this is a political-secesionistic afair and a civil rights problem.

    In the 70’s, many of us, no nationalistics catalans, defended the catalan language against Franco’s politicies. Nationalistic and no nationalistic fighted together defending catalan lenguage.

    Today catalan language has been took by nationalistics as a war gun with an unic goal: the independance. They don’t recognize this fact but his dream is cleanup Catalonia from spaniard signs.

    No matter civil rights and anyone who questions the dogma is silenced by the Catalunya Oficial.

  28. And the facking absurdity of it all is that the main result of independence would simply be to pay roughly the same proportion of GDP to Brussels (which operates in a language which few here understand) instead of to Madrid (which operates in a language which everyone, still, can speak).

  29. Spanish language should be vanished in Catalonia.

    We speak Catalan, we are catalans, we don’t speak spanish, we’re not spaniards.

    I Salute the quebecois!


  30. TerrorBoy, that must be the silliest argument you have put forward yet. By being a sovereign state, Catalonia could look after its interests in Brussels, something that Spain does not do -quite the opposite.

    Rather pay a contribution to the EU like Denmark or Austria (and have plenty left) than running a fiscal deficit of 10-15%, starve the place of investment, and still be subject to commercial boycotts, and hatred by Spanish radio stations and newspapers. There is no Catalonophobia in Brussels, as today’s news show:

  31. exactly, i don’t mind paying to brussels. in fact, we would need not pay at all! just join the efta and enjoy the wonders of the common market for free. spain go to hell.

  32. @Broer Rabid: Don’t let the Zapatero roadshow drive you to despair.
    @Primo de la Ribera: Telling your main export market to fack off and doing an Enver Hoxha has always struck me as the most logical and interesting solution.

  33. The Only real issue here is this: Independence or no independence (which means to continue being a Spanish region).

    Spain could respect us, but they didn’t, they chose to persecute us, banning both our language and our culture and even bringing here the war and a fascist dictatorship which lasted for 40 years.

    Nowadays, Spain doesn’t allow us to organise a referendum on the independence. This is a democratic right that every country or region must have, recognised by the UN, and Spain simply denies it.

    So, for some of us, that’s enough. WE’LL GET OUR INDEPENDENCE.

  34. If you want to be independent, why do you make other people pay for the films you want to watch? That’s called dependence.

  35. Very interesting. You’ve forgotten to mention that in Spain movies must be translated into Spanish. And not 50% of them, but 100%. Of course original versions can be played, but the majors must import the translated version. But I suppose it’s only fascism or Stalinism when Catalan is involved and I’m talking about Spanish, so…

  36. So is that a law, and if so then when was it last enforced? If you can’t give me a “yes” and a date, you’re making a misleading comparison.

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