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History as a weapon

The Catalan government must not sponsor a symposium that presents Spain as an enemy

History is an instrument for knowing the past as objectively as possible so as to learn pertinent lessons for the future. Such an aim can hardly be the objective of the symposium now being organized in Catalonia by the Center for Contemporary History — a body attached to the regional premier's office — whose title makes no effort to conceal the slanted line it starts from: Spain against Catalonia, a historical overview (1714-2014). Here it is not a matter of approaching history in a spirit of understanding and a desire to overcome difficulties and conflicts, which certainly exist in the relationship between Catalonia and Spain, but of giving coverage to those within the secessionist movement who have embarked on an enterprise aimed at portraying Spain as the embodiment of all the evils that afflict Catalonia.

Far from what might have been expected of an academic encounter among historians, there is clearly no question here of considering these relations in a spirit of adhering to the truth. In 300 years of history there have necessarily been understandings and misunderstandings, periods of tension and periods of collaboration.

While never forgetting that the Catalan language and culture have at times been subject to persecution, and that Spanish dictatorships based in Madrid have attempted to smother expressions of Catalan identity, it cannot be denied that Catalonia has collaborated in the construction of a shared reality, and has played an essential role at key moments in the history of Spain, one particular case being the transition to democracy after the death of Franco.

The symposium, or congress, is conceived as a weapon of secessionist propaganda. It is steeped in essentialism — treating realities that are changing and complex as if they were immutable — and also in anachronism, one obvious aim being that of projecting upon the past an idea of reality constructed in the present and doctored to serve the ends of a party.

The whole program is shamelessly charged with party bias. In the titles of the various talks, the most frequent common denominator is the word repression — institutional, political and administrative repression, military repression, economic and social repression, ending in a conference entitled "Humiliation as the triggering factor of the independence movement."

For this to take place under the sponsorship of the regional government is a serious matter, indicating that this political power has no scruples in tampering with history if this seems useful in working up a spirit of activism oriented toward confrontation. Far from lending an ear to the many voices of criticism that have been heard, the regional government has responded by announcing the publication of a document that supposedly demonstrates "in an absolutely unanswerable manner" the "animadversion of Spain to Catalonia." In Catalonia there has rightly been criticism of those who have sustained anti-Catalan campaigns in the rest of Spain. These are not different from the campaigns designed to whip up anti-Spanish feelings, now being sponsored by the Catalan government — as if in illustration of the proverb about the pot calling the kettle black.

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