The Shadow of Lluís Companys – Notes from Spain | Edward Anderson
In the second part of our look at Catalonia and on the 80th anniversary of the death of Lluís Companys, where is Catalonia heading?
Earlier this morning, a man was led barefooted to his execution by the Francoist state. He was put up against a wall and shot. His crime had been to, on the 6th October 1934, declare the Republic of Catalunya and of course opposing the Francoist side in the Civil War. There would be no amnesty for anyone who opposed Franco; he had made this clear when in a translated interview with James Miller in November 1938 he declared “criminals and their victims cannot live together”. Perhaps more chillingly, in the same interview Franco said he believed in “redemption through the penalty of labour” (which I had read before, worded slightly differently, on a gate.) And so, on 15th October 1940 Lluis Companys was executed by the (then) Spanish state.
Of course, today in Spain we are lucky that the Spanish state no longer asks Germans to hand over elected Catalan Presidents… Ok, well at least the Germans don’t actually hand them over now, so it is progress of a kind. Obviously with the Covid, any sort of day of memorial will be muted, but here in Madrid our esteemed leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso gave her own anniversary speech, being reported to have said today in the Madrid Parliament that the Spanish state is imprisoning Madrid “at gun point.” I will leave it for the reader to judge if she was deliberately baiting people in Catalonia or just incredibly tone death to history.
Monica Garcia of Mas Madrid (a left-wing group whose national party are propping up the national PSOE – Podemos Government) would respond by mockingly making a gesture (that to some looked like she was pointing a pistol) on the other side of the chamber. I look forward to hearing from people back in the UK that European politics is more consensus based because the chamber is a circle…
Two weeks ago, I said we were heading towards new elections and sure enough, the day after we posted here the Speaker of Catalonia would announce that elections would take place on February 14th next year after the (now ex) President Quim Torra was disqualified by the Spanish Courts. Once again though, when it comes to elections in Catalonia, nothing is ever easy. There is talk that this is not even possible as a Vice President or Acting President has no right to call elections, so the Catalan Parliament will have to select one first before we can get to that stage.
If they do, I am almost expecting at this stage that person to get the boot from the Spanish Court and indeed I am half expecting that the Barcelona Football Club elections next year will be broken up, as Spanish police smash though the windows of Camp Nou and take any ballot boxes in sight. It is probably not a sign of a healthy democracy that even sad obsessives like me who follow this stuff are struggling to keep up with how many Catalan politicians are in a prison, disqualified or on the run.
But should another election take place next year, what (apart from everyone switching from being an American political expert to a Catalan political expert in time for the next election) would we be looking out for? Well, although the previous election delivered a majority of seats for the referendum supporting parties, they have never claimed a majority of the vote. Are they on course to do that? Polling would suggest not, showing the main separatists in Junts per Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya just shy of 45% and when you add the votes of Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, they are short the 50%. That really seems the only thing at stake here, if they can get more than 50%, we have a story. If not than I suspect the only change will be the political party of the next Catalan President to be barred from future elections.
So, if nothing is changing for the separatists, what about the others? Well as mentioned before, it follows the story we are seeing at the last general election. Ciudadanos will be squeezed from their historic result of 2017 that pushed them into national prominence with over a million votes and 36 seats back to trying to cling on. The others are shuffling but again, just as in the national election following Catalonia’s referendum, Vox are set to breakthrough into the Catalan Parliament for the first time in their history. Unless the separatists can get more than 50% of the vote, it looks likely that Vox will be the real winners of an election.
In the early part of the 20th century, Spain was a politically divided nation with support for the Monarchy crumbling and a sizeable amount of Catalunya wishing to see itself leave Spain. These forces would end with a Spanish state tearing itself apart. 80 years on from the death of Lluís Companys we can repeat the old adage. History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.