What is Catalanism and what does it advocate?
Catalanism is the name of a movement of national vindication that advocates for the political-cultural recognition of Catalonia within Spain. After the failure of the violent uprisings of Catalans during the 17th century (the War of Catalan Secession of 1640) and the 18th century (the War of Spanish Succession of 1714), starting in the 19th century the movement to preserve Catalans’ national rights became more peaceful and civic. From the start of this renewal, Catalanism expressed itself through different ideological currents (Catholic, liberal, working class, etc), aided by the popular use of the Catalan language, the defense of a distinct culture and the popular anti-centralist movements. Thus, the loyalty of the working classes to their distinct Catalan identity – expressed, above all else, in the language they spoke - is what has supported Catalanism, a word that synthesizes the pluralism of Catalan Nationalism. Long before the creation of the first strictly Catalanist political party in 1901, which tended to be conservative, the national awakening of Catalonia was ignited by the popular republican and federal movements, cultural and historical nationalism and the emotional separatism that had taken root among members of the rural population, who had been the great protagonists of the previous secessionist revolts.
It would be impossible to explain Catalanism without first taking into account that Catalonia is a differentiated society within Spain. And it is differentiated from a national but also an economic point of view. The needs of Catalan industrialization, which followed the English model of economic development based on the textile industry, were also factors that favored the growth of Catalanism. The colonial crisis of 1898, which marked the end of Spanish Colonialism, encouraged the Catalan bourgeoisie (which up until then had been closely tied to the Spanish State and profoundly Castillianized) to turn and give support to some of the very first groups of national vindication. This agreement between old federalists, cultural nationalists and the conservative-bourgeois groups gave Catalanism a boost, and its new focus became the vindication of a greater status of political autonomy in the Spanish context. The history of Catalanism in the 20th century can be summed up in this struggle to achieve self-government, a struggle that has had to overcome the wars and the dictatorships sparked by Spanish militarism. Catalanism, therefore, is an anti-centralization movement that has only achieved institutional recognition of its self-government on three occasions: 1914-1923 (with the monarchy of Alfons XIII), 1931-1939 (during the Second Republic), and the present, which began with the reestablishment of democracy of 1978, the restoration of the monarchy and the approval of the Statute of Autonomy.
After twenty-six years of the 1979 Statute being in effect, the Parliament of Catalonia approved a new Statute following a long and tense negotiation in the Spanish Parliament in which changes were made to the fundamental articles on the identity and the powers for regulating the Catalan economy and finances. Since then the tension between Catalonia and the Spanish authorities has been increasing and the strength of Catalanism is becoming more and more evident, a Catalanism that is now calling for full sovereignty within the context of Europe.
Director of the Arts and Humanities Department at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), Professor of Contemporary History at the Universitat de Barcelona (UB) and director of the Fundació Catalanista i Demòcrata (CatDem Foundation). Member of the Editorial Board of In-Transit.