Monday, 20. February 2017




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Francisco Caja. La Raza Catalana. El núcleo doctrinal del catalanismo [The Catalan Race. The doctrinal core of Catalanism]. Encuentro, Madrid, 2009.


Crowning a long period of his career devoted to the study and advocacy of linguistic equity, Professor Francisco Caja has written a passionately argued chronicle on the liberticide measures of Catalan nationalism. Taking the title of a speech delivered by Bartomeu Robert as the starting point, The Catalan Race, Professor Caja argues convincingly that the doctrinal core of Catalan nationalism is the notion of a distinct and often superior white stock and the virginal purity of its blood and spirit. These notions, however, usually appear disguised as rural or digestive (!) metaphors, rather than celebrating its latent fascism, in order to be able to pose as the eventual savior of the land, Catalonia. Thus, Caja’s book deconstructs the discourses created by the early nationalists and their organicist metaphors, first commenting on the Sorelian theory of social myth in the formation of fascist movements in Europe, then slowly and meticulously reviewing selected chapters from the writings of those we may justly speak of as the “Catalan racialists” –from context to co-text, naked texts and nothing more.

Following a necessary prologue by Professor Jon Juaristi –an once Basque separatist and former ETA militant– describing (1) the racial identification of the European nobility with the ancient German tribes against the Latin, African, and Semitic elements, and (2) its transmission from France to Catalonia[1], the book opens with an Introduction to the Sorelian question of myth, emphasizing objectivated feelings as the focal point of the Catalanist discourse, a kind of malignant social magic. Like any other type of political magical thinking looking for correlation between utterances and political events, Catalan nationalism goes beyond the limits of Philosophy and Reason. It is, somehow, impervious. Hence its inapprehensibility: it belongs to the realm of the irrational (magic) and of belief (faith). An epistemic hole for all those colorful and quaint ideas of eco-doom-mongers, homeopathocultists, politically-correct-multicultists, and many other ominous groups, separatists included, those who, back in the old days, believed that the magical powers of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism were still not enough to preserve the “Cataloniaryan” race.

However, we should acknowledge that this notion of race cannot be reduced to mere biology, i.e. the exclusive physical distinctions of skin color (black and yellow vs. white) and facial features (Semitic vs. Aryan). Rather, the whole cultural and spiritual situation defines race as “eine Weise des Seins”, a “raison d’être” that justifies its genetic continuity and discrimination through the struggle of some kind of “cultureme” present in the land –a definition, it should be said by the way, adopted by Adolf Hitler:

“We use the term Jewish race as a matter of convenience, for in reality and from the genetic point of view there is no such thing as the Jewish race. [...] The Jewish race is first and foremost an abstract race of the mind. [...] And there in a nutshell is the proof of the superiority of the mind over the flesh!”.[2]

The “Catalonaryan” nutshell is not from a homogeneous plantation. The slaves of nationalism went actually so far as to make Hitler look like a middle school team leader, not because of their actions, but because of their words. From Pompeyo (self-called Pompeu) Gener:

“It’s been a long time since we started doubting whether most of Spain would be able of modern progress. Only in the North and Northeast have we seen real elements, both in the race and the country’s organization, that may someday develop into such a culture like their original Indo-Germanic nations. In the Center and the South, with the exception of some individualities, we have felt that, unfortunately, there is too much of the Semitic element, and more still of the pre-Semitic or Berber with all its qualities: arrears, bad administration, wasting of time and life, chieftainship, [...] One would have said that, by expelling the Moors, the Asturians and old Castilians were getting infected by the African spirit. Saracens may have lost their lands but they won influence. Thus, New Castile overcame Old Castile, and Castile was overcome by Andalusia, and Andalusia by the Gipsy element, which prevailed in all Spain.

We Indo-Germans, both in heart and stock, cannot bear the preponderance of those elements from inferior races and their leanings; hence we proudly disagree with them, we separate ourselves from those crowds, being heresiarchs against such an orthodoxy”[3].

The Kapellmeister Josep Armengou i Feliu also assured the unmetaphorical character of his conception of the Catalan race:

“The africanism (constituting one of the essential lines of the unitarian Spanishness) has never been shared in Catalonia, for already in its national prehistory it held out against the Toledan imposition; Catalonia, merely European in its political and cultural roots, She who so early finished the Reconquest of its land. This is the starting point of the Catalan differential fact, and the foundation of the mutual and up until now insurmountable incomprehension between the Spain that Castile created and Europe. It is not its false Catholicism that makes Spain repulsive in the eyes of Europe; it is its Islamism. Logically, Spain’s present place should not be the European union but the Arab League. I am saying this with no irony at all”[4].

And from the myth of the Catalan race to the aspiring separatists in the 20th century, Professor Caja starts his tour of inquiry through a chronological analysis of the establishment and development of the nationalist discourse in Catalonia. Chapter 1 deals with the federalism and nationalism in Valentí Almirall (1841-1904), father of “modern” Catalanism, who was also a regionalist and federalist. His opus magnus, Lo Catalanisme. Motius que’l legitiman. Fonaments científichs y solucions, collects the essential features of his racial doctrine of the multiple Spains: “in the actual Spain, the different races that settled there have not been melted yet but, on the contrary, historical development led them to not only keep but also increase their characteristic differences”[5]. Based on Pompeyo Gener’s racialism, Almirall pictures two basic distinctions in the Peninsula: the Castilian type –“imposing his viewpoint over that of the others” (p. 41)– and the Catalan type –“the ancient states” of “freedom” (pp. 71 ff.)–. Nevertheless, as the author remarks, neither Almirall nor Gener tried to reject the Spanish language, for it was the lingua franca “every learned person usually speaks” and “what kind of fools would we be if we don’t try to keep this advantage, improving its promotion”[6].

Chapter 2 describes the discovery that Pompeyo Gener (1848-1920) made in France in 1878, where he learnt from Jules Soury and the Société d’Anthropologie the essential points of his radical racial doctrine, “The French Illness”, as the author calls it[7]. Gener is well know for introducing the French pro-Germanic racialism in Catalonia, as we have seen in his texts, but he is also responsible for the body of Basque believers brought into existence through the creative imagination of Sabino Arana, the founder of the Basque Nationalist Party, who learnt in Barcelona the pompeyan “doctrine of the blood” and the inferiority of the Spanish-Semitic race.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to Pere Bosch-Gimpera (1891-1974), rector of the former Autonomous University of Barcelona (1933-1939) and internationally recognized archaeologist, but also a devout follower of Gustaf Kossinna, philologist turned archaeologist, who is inseparably associated with the Nazi regime. His core idea (and also, as we will see, a conception that goes back to Ernest Renan) is the Celtic characterization of the Spanish people, who have no aptitude for political life, as he expressed in a popular article published in 1925[8]. As Professor Caja remarks, “more than fifty years went by. How is it possible that this racial doctrine has survived? How is it possible that it still constitutes, now with Academic support, the doctrinal core of Catalanism? The racial doctrine, sowed on fertile ground, has been cultivated very carefully, watered and fertilized, hence it blooms; its flower, venomous, is the civil war. And it is necessary to reconstruct this process” (pp. 131-132).

Chapter 4 examines the organicist racism of the celebrated Bertomeu Robert (1842-1902). Professor Caja reconstructs the original lost speech delivered on March 14th, 1899, in the Ateneo of Barcelona, successfully proving he never shared the theory of the Catalan cranial superiority. Instead, we are left with the same old regionalist theory of the natural differences between Spaniards and Catalans: “Catalonia is ‘by nature’ a ‘living body’, well differentiated and able to work by itself”[9].

More subtle discrimination can be found in chapters 5 and 6. Firstly, Hermenegild Puig i Sais (1860-1941) confronts himself with the demographic decay of Catalonia, the new big problem of Catalanism. Thus, birthrate becomes politics, “the way of being of the sexual intercourse reflects the culture of a country”, and more surprisingly, masturbation and onanism become two separated vices, for “the conjugal onanism is also the illness of Catalonia”[10]. Secondly, Domènec Martí i Julià (1861-1917), psychiatrist and politician, director of the pseudoscientific Phrenopatic Institut of Les Corts between 1909 and 1915, called for the redefinition of the “Ideal” of the Catalan race, corrupted as it was by the Castilian Spain:

“It is so obvious, that, in the people of the South of Europe, the degeneracy of society can be perceived, because they are people without an ideal. Neither France, nor Italy, nor Portugal, not even the Castilian language people have an ideal, because they are people with disintegrated social consciousness, they are people who accept as progressive those actions that leave the individual and the society powerless, they are people who boasts about their progressiveness but commit social suicide, by letting them –the egotist individualism, the sensualism, and the erasure of all normal and biological tradition– work as the revolutionary and destroying force that weakens society’s thought, feeling, health, and even the number of its individuals. Catalonia is an exception in the middle of those people without an ideal, of those people in decline, because Catalonia has a social ideal [...] identical to that of the truly democratic and civilized people of North Europe”[11].

The numerous imperialistic ideas of the Catalan politician Enric Prat de la Riba (1870-1917) are discussed in chapter 7: the denaturalization of Catalonia and the vices of the Spanish State, the Catalan ethnogenics of the “cow-breeding-people”, the collective soul of the State and the submission of the individuals, the Ligue antisémite of Jules Guérin and its publication of Prat’s La question catalane (1898), etc. He asserted, for example, that “[c]ompared with the free citizen [of the Middle Ages], today’s man, with its inalienable and imprescriptible rights, is nothing”[12]; “freedom represents the principle of individuality; equality, of the society or the collective; one variety, the other unity”[13]; “the people are, then, an spiritual principle, an essential unity of the spirits, some sort of moral environment that seizes men, penetrates them, adjusts them, and works inside them from cradle to the grave”[14]. This theory of the submission of the mentally autonomous individual to the state is further discussed in the next chapter, “La raza lingüística o la voz de la sangre” [“The linguistic race or the voice of the blood”]: language and blood precede the individual and, because of that, they should dominate him. Furthermore, that language and that blood is not of Spanish stock, since Spanish and Catalan share the same vital space, one should predate the other. And of course, if Spanish is the language of Castile and Catalan the language of Catalonia, it is the former that is trying to conquer the later. Once Catalonia has got rid of the Spanish illness, it is time for the “reconquista”: “The Catalan imperialism can be and it should be humane, lofty humane. Just because of that it should be imposed as a moral and social, Christian, Neo-Latin factor”[15]. And as incredible as it may sound, this “racial force” would create a Great Federal State between France, Spain, and Italy, under the contamination of the Catalan Nation. This decisive chapter ends with a review of two major sources on Prat’s thought: the contrarevolutionary ideas from Germany and France (Herder, Fichte, Kant, and the less known Arndt, Goerres or List) and the linguistic races of Ernest Renan and his Histoire of the Jewish people.

If Bertomeu spoke of living organisms, it is now time for the dead, but not to be judge and stand before God, but to reclaim their lands and devour those unassimilated immigrants from Spain. Chapter 9: A digestive war where the walking dead languages infect the living speakers of Spanish and transform them into a new race. Such is what Antoni Rovira i Virgili (1882-1949) says, for example, in his La constitució interior de Catalunya[16]. A policy, it should be said, advocated also by Carod-Rovira when he edited the seminal text “Els no-catalans dins Catalunya”[17]: Now it is easy to become Catalan: avoid using Spanish –it is not important if you speak Arabic, or Urdu, as long as it is not Spanish– and wear a cool Barça T-Shirt. Likewise, nowadays the Generalitat of Catalonia favors Muslim immigration, because immigrants from South America already speak Spanish and they would hardly waste their efforts in learning a regional language.

The final chapter is dedicated to Daniel Cardona i Civit (1890-1943), former follower of Martí i Julià and comrade of Francesc Macià. Besides his militant post-fascism (he believes neither fascism nor communism were enough to consolidate the independence of Catalonia), Cardona represents one of those peculiar traits of Catalanism. This time, it is the “vaginal occupation” of Catalonia:

“It is necessary that the Catalan woman becomes our first patriotic duty by not loving any natural enemy of her motherland. For a Catalan woman only a Catalan patriotic husband”[18].

“Don’t betray your Motherland. It is one hundred times better to jump into the enemy’s front line, than into the filthy woman who degenerates you and your race”[19].

This first volume (the author promises a delicious second part dealing with the racial doctrine in Batista i Roca, Jordi Pujol or Anna Cabré) ends with a brief discussion on the ulsterism and fascism of the post-Macià writers from the magazine Nosaltres sols! (Catalan rendering of the Irish Sinn Féin): the blood cleansing and the Catalonia “über Alles” of Josep Genovès Moles; the racial policies of Pere Mártir Rossell; and the Spanish beggar of low stock of Antonio Royo Vilanova.

This book, as reflected in its various contributions, covers an exciting ground and a wide empty field in Catalonian studies. But its most important achievement, however, is the recovery of long time forgotten texts responsible for today’s political and economical crisis in Spain. To illustrate this, take the division of Spain between the Celtic races of Castile, the well differentiated Basques and Navarrese people, and the original Iberians (i.e., Catalans). This distribution was meant to establish the foundations of a future federal organization à la manière de Bosch-Gimpera. No one remembers his work, however, “although the Republic lost the war and the racialist speculations were discredited after WWII, the description pictured by Bosch-Gimpera was the leading design for the articulation of the autonomic State during the transition to democracy” (p. 16). Most of us can read the writing on the wall, but it doesn’t read “Mina Mina” anymore. Now it says “Jerc Jerc”, and it means the end of freedom in the Empire.

César Guarde

[1] See our previous review, Jesús Laínz. Desde Santurce a Bizancio. El poder nacionalizador de las palabras [From Santurtzi to Byzantium. The nationalizating power of words] (in Spanish),

[2] Tuesday, 13th February, 1945, in Adolf Hitler, The testament of Adolf Hitler: the Hitler-Bormann documents, February-April 1945, ed. by François Genoud and trans. by R.H. Stevens, Cassell, London, 19612, pp. 55-56.

[3] Pompeyo Gener, Heregías. Estudios de crítica inductiva sobre asuntos españoles [Heresies. Studies of inductive criticism on Spanish issues], Fernando Fé, Madrid, 1887, pp. 14-15 (author’s translation).

[4] Josep Armengou i Feliu, Justificació de Catalunya, clandestine cyclostyled, 1958, reed. La Magrana, Barcelona, 1979.

[5] Valentí Almirall, Lo Catalanisme. Motius que’l llegitiman. Fonaments científichs y solucions prácticas [The Catalanism. Reasons for its legitimacy. Scientific foundations and practical solutions], Llibreria de Verdaguer, Barcelona, 1886, reed, 1902, pp. 36 ff.

[6] Prologue to his Spanish edition, Valentí Almirall, El Catalanismo, trans. Celso Gomis, Barcelona, 1902, p. vii-viii.

[7] For a proper understanding of Gener’s thought in English, please see Daniele Conversi, The Basques, the Catalans, and Spain: Alternative Routes to Nationalist Mobilisation, University of Nevada Press, Nevada, 1997, pp. 193 ff.; Susan Martin-Márquez, Disorientations: Spanish colonialism in Africa and the performance of identity, Yale University Press, Connecticut, 2008, pp. 43 ff.

[8] Pere Bosch-Gimpera, “La composició ètnica de Catalunya. Com es forma un poble” [“The ethnic composition of Catalonia. How people form themselves”], Revista de Catalunya, II/9 (1925), p. 209.

[9] Bertomeu Robert, “El catalanismo en el concepto naturalista” [“A naturist conception of Catalanism”], La Lectura, 1 (1902), Madrid, pp. 11-22.

[10] Hermenegild Puig i Sais, El problema de la natalitat a Catalunya [The birthrate problem in Catalonia], 1915, pp. 41, 46-48.

[11] Domènec Martí i Julià, “L’Ideal” [“The Ideal”], La Renaixensa, 13/10/1901, pp. 104-105.

[12] Enric Prat de la Riba, Obras completas, Institut d'Estudis Catalans, Barcelona, 1998, p. 22.

[13] Id., La nacionalidad catalana [The Catalan nationality], 1906, reed. Edicions 62, 1978, p. 36.

[14] Ibid., p. 84.

[15] These are the words of Prat’s follower, Joaquim Cases-Carbó, in his “Programa polític general”, Catalònia, dec. 1898, reed. El Problema peninsular 1924-1932 [The peninsular Problem, 1924-1932], Barcelona, 1933, p. 317.

[16] Antoni Rovira i Virgili, La constitució interior de Catalunya [The internal constitution of Catalonia], Barcelona, 1932, p. 9.

[17] Id., “Els no-catalans dins Catalunya” [“The no-Catalans inside Catalonia”], La Publicitat, 29/11/1932, pp. 161-163.

[18] Daniel Cardona i Civit, “L’Hermano caça pubilles” [“The chick-hunter Brother”], L’Estat Català, II/11 (15/4/1923), p. 8.

[19] Id., “Manual del Legionari” [“Legionary’s Handbook”], L’Estat Català, II/18 (1/8/1923), p. 1.