Yesterday’s election victory for Catalan separatists, including humiliating losses for the ruling center-right Partido Popular, denotes yet another setback for the grand project of European unification and a challenge for a continent divided between a strong north and a lagging south. The Catalan separatists won a thin majority in the regional parliament, leaving them precisely where they were before the Oct. 1 referendum on secession from Spain – with a small plurality in favor of breaking away and a large minority determined to stay. The election result, though, has dire implications for Partido Popular leader Manuel Rajoy’s minority government, and for European cohesion in general.
Nationalism is a ghost that refuses to be exorcised. As Annette Prosinger wrote in a front-page commentary in the conservative German daily Die Welt. “This election was in reality a referendum on the independence movement. The result will astonish all of those who bet on the disenchantment of the Separatists. The magic is more tenacious than people thought: It has overcome everything: The drop in tourism and economic investment, the flight of enterprise from Catalonia, and the rejection that the independence movement received from the EC. The supporters of the independence movement were not unsettled by the fact that none of the glorious promises of Carlos Puigedemont and his group came true, and that prospering Catalonia has become a crisis region.”
The term “disenchantment” (in German, Entzauberung) is deeply fraught in the German language: it was the watchword of the Romantic movement that incubated European nationalism during the 19th century, calling for the “re-enchantment” of a world left disenchanted by the Enlightenment.
To say that Europe faces a crisis of identity is a vast understatement. With total fertility rates below 1.4 births per woman in Germany, Italy, Spain and all of Eastern Europe, the nations of Europe are at a demographic turning point past which their cultures may become so diluted as to defy any future attempts at reconstruction. The Catalans speak their own language despite centuries of Spanish attempts to suppress it; the first Bible translation printed in Spain was in Catalan – not Spanish – in the year 1478, and the Inquisition burned every extant copy. They are the most productive and outward-looking Spanish region, and their capital Barcelona is one of the world’s great global cities, but a majority of Catalans will accept economic hardship in order to restore their identity.
Catalan aspirations reverberate in Germany, where the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) emerged as a right-wing protest party first in opposition to Berlin’s beneficence to Southern Europe, and emphatically in protest against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2016 decision to accept 1.2 million Muslim migrants. In a Youtube video, AfD leader Nikolaus Fest defended Catalan nationalism in the clipped accent of his native Hamburg.
The AfD’s enthusiastic view of developments in Catalonia has no direct bearing on policy; despite its 12% showing in Germany’s September elections, it remains a leper party that none of its larger peers will countenance. But the AfD has accomplished in Germany what the Catalans have accomplished in Spain: it drew sufficient votes away from Merkel’s Christian Democrats to prevent Merkel from forming a majority government. Spain already has a majority government under the Partido Popular, which lost 8 of its 11 seats in the Catalan regional parliament yesterday. The nationalists remain a minority in Western Europe, but a big enough minority to paralyze the pre-existing political configuration.
In Austria, the right-wing, anti-immigration Austrian Freedom Party has become the first “ultra-right” (that is, nationalist-populist) party to enter a European government.
Nationalism meanwhile has become a governing movement in most of Eastern Europe. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia are in open revolt against the European Commission, which demanded that every European nation accept a quota of migrants. In the name of protecting their respective cultures against large-scale Muslim migration, the Eastern European governments formed the so-called Visegrad Group to oppose European policy and now face sanctions.
The revolt against European integration has spilled into foreign policy. Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina broke with European protocol and abstained from this week’s UN General Assembly vote against the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Israel, which embodies the oldest and most successful nationalism in the world, has become an improbable source of inspiration to the Eastern Europeans, whose Jewish populations were mostly exterminated during the Second World War.
When bond traders got to their desks in Europe this morning, the first hot potato they dumped was not the debt of the Spanish state, but rather Italian bonds. Italy has twice the outstanding public debt of Spain (at $2.3 trillion), and remains the most vulnerable among European debtors. The European Central Bank’s so-called quantitative easing program expanded the bank’s balance sheet to 38% of European GDP. Its purchases of Italian debt will have financed the whole Italian budget deficit at artificially low interest rates between 2014 and 2019. The quantitative easing program will be phased out during 2018 –sooner rather than later if German desires prevail – and Italy will have to find a way to get its state finances under control.
Politically, Italy is in no position to do so. Italy remains the sick man of Europe, with an economy that is still 6% smaller than it was before the global financial crisis of 2008. Italy also is the focal point of Europe’s immigration problem, which has shifted from the Balkan route to Germany to the sea route across the Mediterranean. Italian popular hostility to immigration is far stronger than in Germany or Austria, and anti-migrant populist parties are likely to make gains in Italy’s national elections (which might be held as early as March). Despite scandals and convictions for tax fraud and other offenses, Italy’s populist billionaire Silvio Berlusconi appears back in national politics.
That is why Catalonia’s elections are bad tidings for Europe this Christmas Eve.
Note: My essay on the return of European nationalism, “The West Must Restore A Sense of the Sacred,” appears in the December-January issue of the British monthly Standpoint.
I read your long thesis of an essay as well. I enjoyed both very much. Thank you.
You have written eruditely and sensibly this time. Perhaps it is because you are writing on an issue that does not pertain to you having to defend U.S. or Zionist ideologies.
Here with the Catalan issue you have at least taken a step or two back and like a bystander view and observe things unbiasedly and as objectively as you can without being subjectively judgemental.
Of course you could have taken a further few steps back even, so that you are totally equanimous and are totally devoid of any standards of measure to evaluate the rights or wrongs or anything – Iike a ‘fly on the wall’.
That is you transcend politics and philosophy and religion and creed etc altogether, that is just let all the different diverse ‘people and civilisation’ be their parochial selves so long as they do not impose on others or interfere in other’s internal affairs.
It is to be expected that the different ‘people and civilisation’s will all be at a different stage or even direction of philosophical, social, religious, political, mercantile, academic, technological development or advancement. They are like apples and oranges. They are like worlds apart! But whatever their state or level of achievement each ‘people and civilisation’ has its right of place under the sun, God or the heavenly filaments to be free from subjugation or conquest by other ‘people or civilisation’ in any shape or manner or form by way of claims of supremacy, superiority or hegemony. There should be no World Sheriff.
On the Catalan issue I take no sides. For who am I to define what is ‘sacred’?
In anycase I opine that the term ‘nationalism’ cannot accurately describe what you consider to be ‘sacred’ to the Catalans. To be Jewish, yes, religion is the sacred holy grail of identity of ‘people and civilisation’. To be Chinese as a ‘people and civilisation’ however has nothing to do with religion so the use of the word ‘sacred’ has no meaning. In the case of the Chinese and other pagan ‘people and civilisation’ the term of ‘immutable identification’ might be preferable as in the sense of belonging since time immemorial to ancestral spirits a la indigenous American Indian tribes.
But when what is viewed as sacred is something not religious at all like the inalienable right of an individual as what you suggested is the case of the United States, then I am at a loss to determine what an American ‘nationalism’ identity truly is. At best they can only accord with ‘patriotism’. Otherwise applying your logic, to be Chinese, one has to be a Communist! Which is of course ridiculous, when the Chinese like chameleons can be all things to all people but remain resolutely Chinese within themselves eating with chopsticks, sprinkling every food with soysauce, exercise slow-motion in taichi, writing in ancient brushstroke hieroglyphics and worshipping their ancestors.
Catalan type nationalism is not a threat to an European union. In fact it is a pre-condition of such union. Not until all European true nations have become sovereign states can we start looking for the consensus which will make a united Europe possible. As long as some peoples, possessing a strong sense of identity, are denied their sovereign rights, there will be forces capable of sabotaging the unity of Europe. You can’t unite Europe on the basis of first and second class nations. Equality among them must be first achieved. If that means an Europe with 40 sovereign states, so be it. Besides, the break up of the largest European states – Spain, Italy, Germany and France – would do away with hegemonic temptations in Europe. Reaching consensus might become a bit more difficult, but once achieved they would tend to last. Europe needs more nation-states before it can unite, not less.
Of course, (((their))) nationalism is the only acceptable one.
Nationalism is the cure for the demo decline Spengler always talks about, not to mention a lot more. But I don’t think he really wants Euros to turn things around.
It’s part self-admitted schadenfreude, and part not wanting history to repeat itself.
Unite on whose terms?
Someone will always be calling the ultimate shots in any supranational entity. And it’s a fair bet that they won’t be friendly to nationalists, if the current EU regime is any indication.
This a difference between Spain having democracy and a facist Apartheid Entity of Israel which has illegally occupied Palestine and has no regard for international law. You have Israeli terrorist killing poor women and children daily and even killing disabled people with no remose and here in Spain you have elections.
Yes, Spengler/Goldman/Mossad, those days of ruthless regimes are over and hopefully we will soon see peace in the land of Palestine.
You raise an excellent,and difficult question: What do the Chinese hold sacred? How does this Western (or West Asian) concept translate into East Asia? China is not a nation but a multi-national civilization. No Chinese for millennia prayed in "Chinese" but rather in Cantonese, Medan, Penang, Taiwanese, Zhangzhou, Quanzhou, Xiamen,Hakka, Xiang, Foochow, and Gan. Mandarin is now spoken more widely, but not for prayers. If I understand Kong Qiu correctly, family hierarchy is sacred, and the Emperor is at the top of the hierarchy. Unlike Japan, there is no emperor worship in China; the Chinese attitude towards the tax-collector in Beijing is pragmatic rather than religious. I have thought about the problem but cannot give you an adequate answer at present.
Few people love European high culture as much as I, and it would be sad to see Europe fade away.
Tell me which Middle Eastern country gives Arabs more democratic rights (one man, one vote, fair courts) than Israel. There are Arab Knesset members and Arab supreme court judges. Apartheid, Schmartheid.
Not just sad, but colossally tragic, as modern civilization will not persist in its absence.
White culture is dying because whites as a group are dying, whether from low birth rates or displacement/replacement. Not to mention policies that are fully intended to achieve these ends.
And the process is far more advanced in the US, where whites are no more than two-thirds of the population.
Is an openly white nationalist movement in the US the way to reverse this? Because the GOP certainly isn’t getting the job done, and has no intention of getting it done.
@David Goldman, during Nazi era, many jews who also had German nationality were spared and even those who didn’t have German nationality were spared as they were in administrative position in prison camps. So by the same token, why did Jews ran away from Germany or hated the Nazi?…Keep in mind that Zionist, Apartheid regime has even taken away the rights of return of Palestinians where in fact Hitler never did..he would actually allow Jews to return and stay in their homeland.
There can never be an answer from an ‘outsider’ to what is the ‘sacred’ or ‘hallowed’ or ‘sacrosanct’ or ‘immutable’ common bond or belonging or identity of or to any particular ‘people and civilisation’. The answer must come from within that particular ‘people and civilisation’ itself.
And it cannot be sacrosanct and immutable when it needs to be ascertained, identified and declared by a self-proclaimed ‘scribe’ or sage or seer within that ‘people and civilisation’. For it to be hardwired almost genetically in the psyche and the mindset across and of a ‘people and civilisation’ it has to be inexplicably intuitive in nature and form, innate and inherent in the heart, mind and soul. It is more a matter of oral tradition handed down from mothers to their babes over the generations from antiquity. For longing and belonging is psychologically motherly nurtured.
In a very broad sense it has to be a ‘stirring’ of a common belonging of a living mass of continuing antiquity and lineage; and of a continuing journey or passage since time immemorial of a people – something that perhaps only the Australian Aborigines, Jews, Hindus, Chinese and other ancient tribals have in common.
There is one historical difference between the Jewish and Chinese experience or passage through time, in that the Jews were a smaller group of ‘people and civilisation’. When the Chinese were conquered by the Mongols and the Manchus and others, the conquerors had to become ‘Chinese’. When the Jews were conquered they were driven out of their homeland and spread out as a ‘homeless’ diaspora. But as a ‘people and civilisation’, they not only remained intact but excelled and flourished in the lands of their hosts.
And so here is the pertinent poignant point or lesson from the Jewish experience. Every tribe on Earth is entitled to its ‘homeland’. And this is what the Western imperialists and colonialists blinded by a white superiority complex and hegemony do not seem to understand. It does not matter whether it be philosophy, religion, politics, ideology, customs, traditions, morals, language, food, fashion or whatever. You have to let others be, just as they should also let you be. And that is the Golden Rule – all creatures big or small or whatever their form or nature, are entitled to have their place, their hallowed homeland, under the Sun. The world is not one but many, not homogenous but heterogenous, not uniform but diverse, not one God but also many or none!
Like her case in independent seeking Slovenia, the EU Brussel sprouts should let go off Catalan.
I disagree with the central premise of this article, that resurgent regionalism and separatism are bad for Europe. On the contrary, it is the rise of the EU that has enabled age-old local cultures to flourish once again. It is a strength of human culture that it differentiates and flourishes through individuation, and thus supports the unique and varied voices, languages, and expressions of the mind. Freed we all hope now from centuries of nationalism and war at the nation-state level, regionalism threatens no such militarism, but rather the peacefulness of creative cultural expression. Of course this will include some more noticeable political extremism previously submerged at the national level, but it’s always better always to express than suppress. Let all be seen and heard such that no cancers grow undetected. Let’s celebrate in this holiday period 70 years of peace that the European ideal has inspired and enabled.
James Agapios, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day down the road, someone would find documents showing that Rothschild was taking care of the trains going to the concentration camps… Rich jews knew when, where and how to go safely with their gold, and the trains were probably for the people to be sacrificed in the name of Zion’s plans
It’s always fun to watch the leftists and neocons around here go at it.
And with lefties softening/amending their traditional stance on Nazis. Interesting.
The "creative cultural expression" acceptable to the commissars of the EU has exceedingly limited bounds.
The EU is hell-bent on destroying age-old local white cultures, along with the white nations they comprise, by the mass importation of non-Europeans. Try opposing that publicly in "free" Europe.
It is true that nationalism is still a spectre that haunts Europe, the EU was born to counter that spectre; other countries of Europe face the same challenge. Having said that every nationalism movement is different and there is a tendency to over simplify data, analysis and resort to clichés.
A very long held cliché about Catalan outwardness, identity and repression are present in this article. Catalonia is not an outward looking and dynamic society (no more than any other region), in fact Catalonia sells more to neighbouring region Aragon than Germany. Sells more to Cantabria another Spanish region of less than 600.000 thousand habitants that the whole of the EEUU. Basically, if you analyse data away from clichés most of the commerce of Catalonia takes place with other Spanish regions. Not to mention that some of the big exports are cars from Seat a brand from the German group Volkswagen and Nissan, which are not Catalans; the Francoist government sponsored the location of this factories in Catalonia. You may say, that proves Catalonian economic dynamism, but you should research Spanish protectionist policies dating back to the xix century. Are you aware of any metropolis setting high tariffs to protect an “allegedly occupied territory” for the benefit of that territory against the metropolis (Spain) itself.
It is true that there was a trend over centuries to unify the language of administration to Spanish (I do not think there is any difference with France and the French language, Netherlands, and Dutch language (see Frisian language for example) and any other European country). From the fifteen century most of the books published in Catalonia are published in Spanish.
Even under Franco´s regime children in Catalonia had three hours a week of Catalan language taught at Francoist state schools.
For some reason there is not a movement among those Catalan nationalists demanding the creation of a Catalan football league were Catalans teams would compete against each other like Scottish football teams do; thanks to that Scotland have their own national football team competing in international competitions under their flag.
There are "Catalan historians” that receive subsidies from the Catalan regional government that claims, among others, that: "Don Quixote" was written in Catalan and the Spanish inquisition destroyed all the copies in a cover up operation, that Catalan language was spoken in the whole of America because the Catalans discover America. I am not kidding; Tax payer’s money is utilized for that with the blessing of the Spanish government. The fact is that Catalonia was never an independent state.
The bottom of the Catalan nationalist movement has to do with the maintenance of Spain as a captive market for the Catalan industry. When Spain joined the EU the protective tariffs were not possible in the context of the common market; Catalan manufactures were not exposed to competition that is why there was no need to innovate. Catalan products face competition from more efficient and cheaper European manufactures, the only way to keep the same level of rent in Catalonia is to be favoured by the Spanish government in infrastructures and any other domestic economic policy in detriment of other Spanish regions. How do they secure this treatment: by victimising themselves and providing fake historical data.
Anti-Europeans like Alternative für Deustchland, Flemish Nationalist party, Lega Nord for the independence of the Padania in Italy, Nigel Farage … supports and salute any movement in the direction of the brakeage of the Europe.
@Michael Klopman , this has nothing to do with lefties or softening on Nazi. I am expressing facts. As these Israeli termites are trying to justify their brutal killing of poor defenseless people yet every year cry for holocaust victims. They have not learned anything from history except how to efficiently kill people.
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