Saturday, 29 December 2007

Catalan Independence and Political Activism: A very brief history

Since the end of the War of the Spanish Succession and the defeat of Catalonia by Spain in 1714 after the siege of Barcelona, symbolised annually by the Catalan National "Diada" or Remembrance Day on 11th of September, the Catalan people have constantly been reclaiming their citizens’ rights to freedom and their Constitutions. This struggle has been hidden away by a carefully planned strategy to wipe away the facts and reality of the Catalan polity, its culture and language.

Firstly, the Nueva Planta decrees suppressed the institutions of the lands that were formerly part of the Crown of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and the Balearic Islands), including the dissolution of the Generalitat (Catalan government):
"Having ceased with the entry of the arms of the King, Our Lord, to this City and place, the representation of the Council and Generalitat of Catalonia, the most Excellent Lord Marshall Duke of Berwick and Liria has ordered me to mandate that the councillors and judges of accounts (auditors) of the Generalitat of Catalonia furl all ensigns, cease totally, along with their subordinates, the exercise of their offices, occupations and posts, and surrender the keys, books and all other things concerning the house of the Council and its dependencies...." Decree of dissolution, dictated by José Patiño, President of the Spanish “Real Junta Superior de Justicia y Gobierno” (Royal Superior Committee of Justice and Government) on 16th September, 1714.
Having, with divine assistance and the justice of my cause, pacified entirely by my Arms the Principality of Catalonia, my sovereignty established shall govern therein…Nueva Planta decree, 16th January, 1716.
The hearings of the Royal Audience (Court of appeals) shall be held in the Castilian (Spanish) language.Article 45 of the Nueva Planta decree, 16th January, 1716.

The government of Philip V sent his Corregidores (Spanish royal civil servants locally representing the Crown) secret instructions that same year and again in 1727, indicating among other things that “You shall take special care to introduce the Castilian (Spanish) language, to which end you shall make the most tempered and disguised provisions, so as not to reveal our concern”.


The suppression of Catalan identity, went on and on. King Charles III signed a Real Cédula (Royal Warrant) whereby:
I mandate that the education of the first readings, Latinity and Rhetoric be made generally in the Castilian (Spanish) language, wherever practised, and that the corresponding Courts and Justices take care to enforce its compliance, recommending also by My Council that the Bishoprics, Universities and the Regular superiors keep exact observation and diligence in extending the general language of the [Spanish] Nation for greater harmony and mutual bond.” Article VII of the Royal Warrant signed at Aranjuez on 23rd June, 1768
Yet another Warrant bans Catalan from mercantile records:

.. that all Merchants and Traders, whether wholesale or retail, Domestic or foreign, shall observe the Law of the Kingdom therein and which provides for Records in the Castilian (Spanish) language.” Royal Warrant signed by Charles III of Spain on 24th December, 1768
This has continued to the present day, with further peaks of repression under the absolutist monarchy and the civil wars during the 1800s, the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera in the 1920s, and Franco’s regime from 1939 onwards.


Notwithstanding, the Catalan nation, defending her rights, culture, heritage and language, and thus Catalonia’s identity, has resisted without abate:
  • 1734 – “Via fora els adormits” (Get out with thee, ye drowsy), a pamphlet against the Bourbon monarchy, is published.
  • 1736 – A letter is published, addressed to George II and titled “Reminder of the Alliance, made to His Serene Highness, George Augustus, King of Great Britain” appealing for his commitment to recover the freedoms lost when the British crown turned its back on the Catalans after the War of the Spanish Succession.
  • 1760 – The representatives of the Catalan-speaking countries (Catalonia, Valencia and Majorca) submit at the Court of Charles III the first “Memorial de Greuges” (Record of Grievances) in which they denounce the perverse economical, institutional and cultural effects of the regime imposed by the Nueva Planta decrees.
  • 1789 – Revolt in Barcelona against the Quintas, whereby one of every five able-bodied men is conscripted without compensation into the Spanish army to fight wars from which Catalan society is disassociated, and often deployed against the civilian population itself.
  • 1789 – The “Bread Disturbances” break out in Barcelona, Vic, Mataró and elsewhere, brought on by the Spanish government’s economic mismanagement which had led to a famine, particularly due to the increase in the price of wheat, and also meat, wine and oil.
  • 1835 – Further disturbances, the pro-liberal “Bullangues” break out spontaneously against the absolutist monarchy, the church, which supports the monarchy, and the Royal Statute of Prime Minister Martínez de la Rosa.
  • 1842 – Another revolt leads to General Espartero’s bombardment of Barcelona and a successive repression by General Van Halen of the working population, banning al forms of association.
  • 1843 – The “Jamànsia” revolt breaks out in reaction to generalised famine and poverty. General Prim follows Espartero’s example and bombards Barcelona again.
  • 1855 – Workers’ leader Josep Barceló is executed and a general strike is called.
  • 1873 – Republican leader Baldomer Lostau proclaims a Catalan State from March 5th to 7th. The proclamation is called off after the Spanish Prime Minister’s (unkept) promise to withdraw the army from Catalonia.
  • 1888 – A message is presented to the Queen Regent appealing for attention to the Catalan issue.
  • 1892 – The Catalanist Union holds an assembly in Manresa to approve the “Bases for a Catalan Regional Constitution”, a project for autonomy for Catalonia.
  • 1900 – Anti-government riots upon the visit to Catalonia by Eduardo Dato, then minister of "Gobernación" (Home Office in the UK or Justice Dept. in the US).
  • 1919 – The Mancomunitat or “Commonwealth” of Catalonia, which builds up infrastructures in the absence of initiative by successive Spanish governments, approves a project for a Statute for autonomy. This is rejected outright by the Spanish government.
  • 1926Francesc Macià organises a foiled plot to invade Spain from Prats de Molló to rid Catalonia of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship.
  • 1932 – A Statute of Autonomy is finally approved under the Spanish Republic, but this democratic government is defeated after only seven years by a military uprising led by General Franco, who installs himself as Generalissimo at the head of a fascist dictatorship for over 40 years.

1 comment:

Rab said...

Hi George, excellent post about the history of Catalan pro-independence politics.

Keep it on!