Independence for Catalonia!?

Nationalists in Tarragona bull ring

Catalan Nationalists banner in Tarragona

As a referendum about Scottish Independence approaches I thought it would be useful to hear about another region of Europe that wants the same thing, Catalonia wanting to separate from Spain. Here are the ideas of a Catalan from Barcelona.

Michael, here you have my opinion about this issue you asked for after the recent elections of November 25th.

In Madrid the official centralist mass media says that independence is now not possible as CiU (Convergència i Unió, the party of Artur Mas) doesn’t have an absolute majority, but they forget that ¾ of the new Catalan Parliament belong to political parties who support the call for a referendum on self-determination.

ECONOMIC REASONS

The reason why CiU saw its support fall on November 25th is simply because the Catalan people didn’t like the Messiah-like campaign which Artur Mas implemented. And also, of course, because of the very important economic reasons working people have for being angry with the ruling class.

A CERTAIN ‘END-TIMES’ FEELING

The monthly magazine Catalonia Today, in its latest issue of December, says:

“… an end-times feeling has become a common one for many families in Catalonia. Thousands have lost jobs and homes, and what is worse, the hope of replacing their losses in the near future. During the year, the media have been full of financial horror stories about high risk premiums and devaluation by rating agencies, while the financial problems of banks and administrations have become the daily bread of a society increasingly concerned about its future. The great demonstration and general strike on November 14 is just the latest proof of a growing discontent…” (1)

Nowadays, the savage, neo-liberal measures, put in place by the Spanish government of President Mariano Rajoy (PP, Popular Party) have been even reinforced and deeply worsened by the Catalan government of Artur Mas, with the consent of the so-called Catalan socialists (PSC, Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya).

FIRST CUTS MADE BY ZAPATERO

This PSC, which is federated with the PSOE, is being more discredited now than ever, because everybody knows it has also been responsible for the aggressive cuts initiated by Zapatero years ago. These cuts, being now even greater with the policies of the PP government, allow us to say that the high degree of desperation afflicting the Catalan and Spanish working class is not only due to the global crisis but also – and above all – to the savage and oppressive measures used by the ruling class to confront this crisis.

CiU IS BLATANTLY RULING CLASS

And the CiU is a political party of the ruling class. A very conservative one, using the nationalist feelings of Catalan people in favour of the economic interests of the Catalan capitalists. We must also take into account that the heirs of that Catalan capitalism, which very much helped General Franco during the Civil War of 1936-39, are not all inside the Spanish nationalist right-wing of the PP; they are also inside the Catalan nationalist right-wing of the CiU.

THE POWER OF THE CATALAN MASS MEDIA

Today the power of the media depending in one way or another from the Generalitat (Catalan government) is bigger than ever before… and they are completely biassed and manipulated. The only image of Spain they are selling now in Catalonia is centralism, aggressiveness against Catalonia and not at all sympathetic. Any other Spain, different from this, doesn’t exist in the eyes of the CiU.

For example, the fact that, some weeks ago, the 3rd Spanish political party in terms of numbers of votes, IU (Izquierda Unida – United Left) voted in the Spanish Parliament in favour of self-determination for Catalonia, has been totally ignored by the Catalan media dominated by the CiU. This media are simply clubbish and this Catalan nationalist right-wing is deeply anti-left; they don’t want to even talk about changing proportions in the laws regulating polls, which now are clearly in favour of giving much more advantage to the right-wing parties. So the Catalan left is scarcely represented in the Catalan Parliament and, in any case, less represented than the Spanish left in the Spanish Parliament.

… MAYBE BACK TO SPAIN

In the face of that nightmare very few intellectuals dare to push in the right direction. Professor Vicenç Navarro of the University of Barcelona is one of them. Some of the ideas expressed in this article are also his.

However there are moments of hope, like during the big demonstration on November 14th or some days ago, when the Financial Times considered – on an economic level – an independent Catalonia is possible.

As long as Spaniards don’t treat us, the Catalan people, like brothers and sisters independentist feelings will grow even more and they won’t be able to stop them.

I would propose that, in a near future, if Spain again becomes a People’s Republic of the Workers, established on a basis of freedom and justice for all, then we must call for another referendum, in order to go back again to this new Spain. I feel I’ve more in common with a single jornalero from Andalucia, or an industrial worker from Bilbao, or a fisherman from Galicia than with all the Catalan bankers and bosses together!

Francesc Arnau i Arias, Barcelona, 13/12/2012

To read more about Francesc’s ideas click on the link below (in Catalan)

Des de la finestra

(1) Catalonia Today, No. 0359, December 2012, Annus horribilis, by the editor Marcela Topor.

Although slightly dated (it was written in the 1970s when the issue wasn’t independence but devolution) here is a pamphlet written in opposition to dividing the working class on issues of nationality.

Unity not Devolution

 

A walk around the Jewish Quarter of Segovia

Corpus Christi Church/Synagogue Segovia

Corpus Christi Church as part of the Segovia City Walls

A short walk, peaceful and crowd free, which explores Segovia’s Jewish past providing a perspective on the ancient town missed by most visitors.

In Segovia it is impossible to miss the Roman aqueduct but most of the thousands of visitors to the city are totally unaware of an area of narrow, medieval streets which bore the brunt of one of the most traumatic episodes in Spain’s history.

In Granada, on March 31st 1492, just a few months after the final defeat of the Moors, the ‘Catholic Monarchs’, Isabel and Ferdinand, promulgated The Edict of Expulsion, decreeing that the Jews in all of Spain had four months to either convert to Christianity or leave the country. This ended almost 300 years of Jewish presence in Segovia.

However, now there’s a growing movement to recognise the role of the Jewish community in the development of the city and visitors have the opportunity to re-discover something of the past.

A Jewish community can be traced back to 1215 and for almost 200 years there were few restrictions on their place of residence. That changed in 1412 when they were restricted to the area, more or less, around the present Cathedral but things worsened in 1481 when they were forced into much more of a ‘ghetto’, the area of this walking tour.

The start is in the small square of Corpus at the top end of Calle de Juan Bravo. Here there is a fork in the road and the entrance to the Judería Vieja is the one to the left – the quieter of the two, this is not a walk that will be hampered by crowds of people!

Before entering the narrow street go through a Gothic arch, on the left, taking you to the entrance of the Corpus Christi church, which used to be the Principal Synagogue, but only for a few decades. This building has had a troubled past. It was a synagogue by 1373 but was expropriated by the Catholic Church after a supposed and unproven act of profanation around 1419 – a painting in the church depicts the alleged sacrilege. A disastrous fire in 1899 destroyed virtually all remnants of the old synagogue and it was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century. Further work has attempted to recapture much of the old Synagogue with its horseshoe arches, the capitals decorated with vegetable and geometric designs and the beautiful, wooden ceiling.

On returning to the street turn left into the Judería Vieja and in a few steps go down left through the archway (the Puerta del Sol). From here you have a view of the other side of the church, forming part of the city walls.

Return to the Judería Vieja and continue along to number 12, the Didactic Centre of the Jewish Quarter (Centro Didáctico de la Judería). This Education Centre is based in a building that was part of the property of Abraham Seneor. Very rich and powerful he had enemies in both the Jewish and Christian communities and by the time of his death in 1493 had probably attained more influence in the Spanish court than any Jew ever before – quite amazing when you remember that this was at the time of Isabel and Ferdinand, under whose reign the Inquisition was initiated and who decreed the expulsion of the Jews.

Established in 2004 by the Segovia City Council, the Centre houses a small exhibition space which tells of the history of the Jews in Segovia and Spain. The information boards and the two video presentations (one in 3D) are in both Spanish and English and are very much directed to those who know little about Jewish history or culture. The centre also stages discussions and conferences which address Spain’s Jewish past.

Turn left on leaving the centre, reach the corner of the Cathedral and then follow the road as it goes quite steeply downhill (Calle de Martinez Campos) towards the Puerta de San Andrés. Here there is a museum that gives the history of the city wall. The narrow, stepped street that goes up hill to the right is the Judería Nueva, a street that is virtually unchanged from the time of the Jewish presence more than 500 years ago.

From the gate continue along the lower road to what is now the Museum of Segovia, housed in a building that was originally the Jewish slaughterhouse.

Return to the Puerta de San Andrés but this time go through the gate and outside the wall. Take the path immediately on the right hand side and within seconds you get a fine view of the abattoir, standing on a rocky outcrop over on the right. From here it is easy to understand the reason for its location, the blood and offal would be just thrown down into the gully.

Follow the wide path downhill and then, in less than a minute, the narrow path, indicated by a stone pillar with a carved menorah (the seven-branched candle holder), that goes down to the left. Cross the small bridge and then straight ahead as the path climbs, go through a tunnel beneath the road to come out to the old Jewish cemetery. This has been excavated a number of times but not a lot of information has been gained from these investigations – the gravestones having been looted soon after the remaining Jews had converted to Christianity.

However, it’s possible to see the different methods of burial used, the limestone being carved in the shape of a human body or a cave-like room being created for multiple burials. What can be seen is that all the identifiable graves point in the direction of Jerusalem, with the heads orientated to the west and the feet towards the east.

Another poignant feature of the cemetery is that it was here that those who refused to convert spent their last days in the area, before leaving both Segovia, and then Spain, forever. Their last view of the place they had called home being one of the sun shining on the magnificent, golden, medieval walls.

After a relatively short walk in distance, but one that is full of interest, together with the walk down to the dry river bed and up to the cemetery (that has to be done twice!) when you return to within the city walls you will be looking for a good place to eat and drink.

This can be a bit tricky in a town whose culinary speciality is roast, suckling pig but there are a number of restaurants that are now offering Sephardic menus and this gets extended every September, for a weekend, when many restaurants provide a Jewish orientated menu – some even offering kosher wine.

Useful Information:

The Corpus Christi Church/Synagogue, Puerta de San Andrés and the Segovia Museum are all closed on Mondays.

A recent book, in English, about the history of the Jews in Segovia providing more information than I have been able to give here is the ‘Jewry Guide to Segovia’ by Bonifacio Bartolomé Herrero, available in the Centro Didáctico, priced €16.

Segovia City Tourism

Segovia City Map

 

Segovia City Map

 

 

 

Segovia City Wall

 

Segovia’s City Wall and San Andrés Gate

 

 

Centro Didáctico de la Judería

 

Centro Didáctico de la Judería – in Spanish

 

 

Segovia, World Heritage Site

 

Segovia, World Heritage Site

 

 

Workers take over a palace in Andalusia

Moratalla Palace and SAT members

SAT members outside the Moratalla Palace.

First a raid on supermarkets, now workers take over a palace of a cousin of the king. It is occupied for a day by workers angry at the extremes within Andalusian society. Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo and his jornaleros (day workers) are rapidly becoming the bête noir of the Spanish establishment.

The momentum has been growing following the raid on 2 supermarkets in Andalusia by the Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajardores/as (SAT) on Monday 6th August.

Following the news locally it has been interesting to see how the government and the judiciary are pursuing the matter. The leader of this present wave of direct action is Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, an Izquierda Unida (United Left) senator as well as being the long-term mayor of the Andalusian town of Marinaleda. As a senator he is immune from prosecution and there have been calls for him to resign his position in Parliament to show that he is prepared to face the consequences of his actions. He has replied that he is prepared to give up his immunity but why should he give up his seat if he thinks that he is merely representing the people who voted him in in the first place.

Soledad Becerril, a member of the present Conservative ruling party (Partido Popular) was appointed as La Defensora del Pueblo (what would be called a Omsbudsman in the UK) earlier this year. She has come out arguing that the union members who raided the supermarkets did so because the only opposition they knew they would face at the check out desk were women.

Her argument, somewhat bizarrely, is that they did not choose a supermarket where there were men built like heavy weight boxers at the tills for fear of their own physical safety. She has still to indicate where these supermarkets can be found as she indicates, by omission, that this is the norm. Perhaps if you know of such an establishments you could let her know.

Sanchez Gordillo responded by branding her a fascist, as she was selective with the facts in making her accusations. So no love lost there, then.

There must have been images in the newspapers or on the tele making references to one of the women being quite distressed by the events that took her by surprise on that Monday, (I myself have not seen them). And it has to be accepted that it must have been a shock. However, the question to be asked is why, under those circumstances, did she try to stop them when they must have told her that their fight was not with her but with the wealthy in Spanish society and the inequalities they are perpetuating.

It has to be remembered that they were not furtive in their actions. They were not masked or using anything more offensive that a supermarket trolley (although that can be a lethal weapon in the hands of some people I’ve encountered in supermarkets). They even had their pictures taken and these have been widely broadcast. It was, therefore, obviously an open and clear political act.

There’s an open letter (by a Blogger called Pascual Serrano) to the woman who was depicted crying as events unfolded. It’s in Spanish but the gist of his case was why did she feel she had to protect the interests of her employers when they were paying her not much more than minimum wage levels and apart from being multimillionaires in their own right had a reputation for the poor treatment of their employees. Pascual’s argument came down to basically asking her which side was she on, that of the rich or of her own class?

Although the Defensora del Pueblo, Becarrill, maintains she is standing up for the rights of poor working class women it is worth noting that she herself is a Marquesa and stands for, and represented in her political past, the interests of her own class, one that would be challenged if such activity were to spread.

And spread it has.

On Tuesday 21st August a group of 200 people, including Sanchez Gordillo, invaded a palace of a cousin of the king in a place called Hornachuelos, again in Andalusia. This palace was not occupied and is in the process of being converted into a luxury hotel. One of their reasons for choosing this particular location was the fact that workers doing the renovation work have a dispute over payment for their work.

Again this action took place in the full light of day, no violence was involved, the people were happy to have themselves filmed and they even jumped into the swimming pool (the temperatures in Andalusia that day topping 40ºC). Can’t imagine what the water in the pool would have been like if it had not been treated for some time but at those temperatures I suppose they didn’t care.

So it appears the movement is growing. More people becoming confident and not caring about the consequences. And their position will only get stronger as more people are attracted to the cause. Poverty is not something that has just affected Andalusia in the last few years with the present economic crisis. It has always been a low wage economy and there have always been problems caused by the almost feudal manner in which many of the rural workers are treated. Social welfare services are minimal and people are literally without the wherewithal to find money to pay for their next meal.

Some of them, still a small number but seemingly increasing as time goes on, are starting to say that they are not prepared to accept this situation any longer.

SAT members in the gardens o f the Moratalla Palace

Jornaleros in the gardens of the Moratalla Palace