The end of the Catalan nation (Opinion)
IN TRANSIT – Article by Catalan writer Vicenç Villatoro
In 1905 Salvador Sanpere i Miquel published Fin de la nación catalana (“The end of the Catalan nation”), a comprehensive work on 1714 and its consequences. Despite the powerful title, the author did not believe that the 1714 date had been the end of the Catalan nation, as past authors had proclaimed, both with joy and with sadness. On the contrary, what Sanpere said was that “the only thing that died was a State, a political organization, not a nation.” Because “a nation lives so long as its language lives.” Thus he situated himself in the Catalan tradition that, unlike others, distinguishes between a nation and a state. The state is the political organization, it has to do with power and administration. The nation would be a community that shares significant features (like a language), that has more to do with social ties than political citizenship, and that recognizes itself as such.
Three hundred years after 1714, if we distinguish nation from state, it is evident that the Catalan nation did not die. Not even to come back to life in a renaissance. The state died, and it could be that this state will be brought back to life three hundred years later precisely because the Catalan nation did not die. If there is a nation, there can be a state once again. Of course, if you have a state –a very powerful one and with a huge capacity for symbolic integration—you can get to the point where you can build a tailor-made nation. France is the proof of this. But it is no guarantee: in 1714 the Spanish state was born, unitary and standardizing, and in three hundred years its success in having created a Spanish tailor-made nation, homogenous and similar to the French one, is rather questionable.
This coming 2014 will be one of intense debate and political action about the state. That’s perfect. In the modern world it is difficult for a cultural nation to survive without the complicity of a state. And the Spanish state has not wanted to be an accomplice of the Catalan nation, of its language, of its interests as a community. But, if the state is a necessary tool, it is not sufficient. The year 2014, which will be the year of the state, also has to be the year of the nation. It is what Sanpere always said: a nation lives if its language lives. The language is the most visible symbol. But the nation is much more. It is the language, culture, history, tradition, and law. The legacy. But it is also about its project for coexistence, social cohesion, everything that makes people living side by side become a community. The language –and even more so in our case, precisely because we come from so many different places—but also our urban planning, communication, economy, a productive mentality, shared values, social justice. The year 2014 is also the year of all of this. It’s not just about the state, which is a central issue and calls for strong efforts whether one has a state or doesn’t.
A few words on the language. It is important, but it is not the only distinguishing feature. It is a symbol of a sense of belonging. It is not true that where there is a language, there is a nation. Different nations can share a language, and nations that place the core of their identity in another area may have different languages. In our case the health of the nation depends on the health of the language wherever it is spoken. To have a language that is alive, useful, a tool of a powerful culture, which has prestige and social use, means to defend it where it is spoken. The year 2014 will also have to be the year of the defense of Catalan wherever it is spoken. It will need it.
The year 1714 was not the end of the Catalan nation. The Catalan nation was able to survive without a state in its favor, and at times with a state that was openly hostile against it. In the 21st century a cultural nation –understanding that culture here includes art and creativity, tradition and innovation, but also social cohesion and co-existence—can no longer survive without the complicity of a political power. Some of us are calling for a state precisely because of this: to serve the nation, as do all states of the world, and the Spanish state just like everyone else. There are those who are not calling for a state because they believe that the nation does not need it, and what we have today is enough. There are those who want to prevent there being a state because the nation bothers them or they couldn’t give a damn either way. There are those who are calling for a state because they like states, but also because they couldn’t give a damn about the nation. Fine. We will vote to see how many of us are out there. But the year 2014, for some people, is not just the year to work for the state, but also for the nation. Or, if you will, working for the state is the most urgent way (but not the only way) to work for the nation.
Original text: http://www.it-intransit.eu/articles/end-catalan-nation