La Diada and the Neo-Gramscians

The national day of Catalonia, la diada, passed off yesterday with the usual slow-news-day whimper. President Maragall bigged himself up on his last major public performance, confusingly wangling Europeanism into his strange brand of “am I or aren’t I?” Catalan nationalism, and the Esquerra mob nailed their colours firmly to the mast by getting involved in a pro-independence march later on in the day. Artur Mas pushed his centre-right nationalist formation, CiU, with the nifty slogan of catalanisme tranquil.  

The Catalan Socialist Party didn’t hold back in showcasing the more Catalanista face of their electoral team – Antoni Castells and Ernest Maragall – with the presidential candidate Montilla getting hassled by laid-off component manufacturers in Sant Boi de Llobregat.

So more of the same, basically. Nearly three years of supposedly left-wing government have failed to make even the mildest mark on the sociopolitical landscape of Catalonia. If you’re looking to go down well, stick to the tried and tested line of playing up your love of country.  

None of this is exactly surprising at the end of the day. The Neo-Gramscian school of thought stresses that power is not only concentrated in elected government but also in a country’s institutions. Normally used in an analysis of US neo-liberal ideas, the theory explains that as long as the media, the IMF, leading academics, opinion formers, big business and the civil service are constantly banging home the Washington Consensus, any ideas that go against this are going to have a hard time gathering momentum. In a Catalan context, anyone defending an alternative to the nationalist hegemony is going to come up against regional television, subsidy-sucking newspapers, regime-friendly small business representatives, the intelligensia, subsidised groups defending Catalanista interests (Ominum Cultural etc.) and the civil service. Witness the media crucifixion of the anti-nationalist party Ciutadans de Catalunya (hauled over the coals not just for their ideas, but also for being “intellectuals” and “rich kids”) for an example of how shirtiness levels rise when the cat is stuck amongst the pigeons by anyone questioning the commandments of nationalist thought.   

It’s easy to see why this has come about. After being denied direct power for 40 years under Franco, the Catalan bourgeoisie was not going to blow its opportunity to take the reins of the country by letting upstart immigrants from other regions of Spain get a taste for control, and the largely first-generation immigrants didn’t really feel that Catalonia was theirs for the taking. So Jordi Pujol’s CiU government started a process of Catalanization, ensuring that the regional media was sympathetic to the cause and ramming the civil service and health and education systems with nationalist apparatchiks via a screening system based on a knowledge of Catalan. Immigrants didn’t generally have the appropriate linguistic skills and were thus kept away from the levers of power. This discrimination has ensured that an ethnocracy rather than meritocracy has been leading the agenda as an exclusive group has steadily consolidated its grip on power and social influence.  

The upshot of this is that poor old Montilla, who in a preview of the satirical TV3 show Polònia was today accused of saying “Catalunya amb ‘eñe’, no ‘y'”, if elected, is unlikely to be able to do much to change a system based on propping up interested parties. 

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~ by Daniel on September 12, 2006.

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