I am not a monarchist; indeed I know of no one with any wits about him who is — at least in the quasi-religious sense the word once had. Having said this, I do not believe the political dilemma we face is a choice between monarchy and republic. In fact, I think that even to seriously propose this as a choice is a way of eluding the real problems of Spain — just as to seriously propose independence is a way of eluding the real problems of Catalonia. I far prefer a monarchy in a democracy that works to a republic in a democracy that doesn't work, such as Syria. What would a republic solve in Spain? How would it reduce unemployment, reactivate the economy, improve healthcare and education, reduce the power of the political parties and subject them to real control? In short, what would a republic do that a monarchy doesn't?
Just as I do not understand sentimental attachment to a monarchy, I don't understand sentimental attachment to a republic. Or to the Catalan flag, or the Spanish one. Or rather, I do understand it, but it seems a cheap and sugary sort of sentiment, and a dangerous one. Using sentiments as political fuel can lead to disaster.
What I fear many defenders of a Third Republic do not understand is that they are playing into the hand of our most reactionary right. I refer not to the fact that certain sectors of that right have decided to fight the monarchy, but that to demand a Third Republic is a way of legitimizing the narrative sold by the right about our recent past (and never forget that who controls the past controls the future). According to this narrative, our present political system does not proceed from the Second Republic, which was this country's last experiment in democracy; it proceeds from Franco's regime, which not only laid the economic groundwork for democracy (quite true) but later, motu proprio, spontaneously brought forth a system of liberties as the natural outcome, the ripe fruit, of four decades of dictatorship (totally false). In fact the greatest virtue of the transition to democracy was that, without saying it, perhaps without some of the protagonists entirely wishing it, it brought back to our political system the democratic legitimacy it had possessed in the Second Republic, and Franco destroyed. If this democracy is heir to the democracy of the 1930s, this monarchy is heir to the Second Republic because, with all its defects, our political order is far more progressive and modern than what preceded it.
Better or worse democracy?
I am not a monarchist, as I said; but, like many, I practice a sort of secular, utilitarian adherence to the monarchy. This means that if the institution ceases to be useful, or becomes a problem because the reforms it needs are not undertaken, I will cease to be a practicing adherent. Only then will I start talking about a Third Republic, though not without pointing out that if the monarchy is changed, everything has to be changed, from top to bottom.
Is this the time to change it? The sentimental republicans complain that, for the utilitarian monarchists, it is never the time. If things are going well, because of the ‘why change?’ argument. And if things are going badly, because it is inadvisable to change horses in midstream. Of course they are right, but the thing is, reality does not understand sentiments. For some time now we have known that to be progressive, you have to be conservative, at least in some things. You have to conserve the environment, or what is left of it; you have to conserve democracy and the welfare state; you have to conserve a united Europe (and, in passing, this country). What we didn't know is that all this also obliges us, the natural republicans, to defend the monarchy. Grin and bear it.