Books in Catalan about greed

A 11Onze ens hem engrescat i hem recopilat alguns dels llibres que s’han escrit en català sobre l’avarícia. Com s’ha construït aquesta mala fama que diu que els catalans tenim un desig excessiu d’adquirir riqueses per guardar-les?

 

A través de tots aquests personatges avars, patètics, miserables i egòlatres, els escriptors catalans han retratat, no només la gasiveria de la burgesia catalana i la mesquinesa del ‘lumpen’ que malda per sobreviure, sinó la societat del seu temps en el seu conjunt, tan patològicament malalta com tots aquells que l’habiten. 

  • L’escanyapobres’ (1884), de Narcís Oller. L’escriptor Narcís Oller (1846-1930) ha deixat a la literatura catalana algunes obres mestres. A ‘L’escanyapobres’, que sovint és lectura obligatòria de batxillerat, abandona el romanticisme i se submergeix de ple en el realisme i el naturalisme. La novel·la narra les desventures de l’Oleguer, l’avar que viu a la masia de la Coma i que, per culpa del seu caràcter esquerp, es baralla amb tots els pagesos de la contrada. Oleguer sempre mostra dues cares: de cara enfora, l’home treballador que manté la masia; però, de cara endins, l’home obsessionat amb els diners que humilia els seus subalterns. A banda de ‘L’escanyapobres’, és obligatori esmentar La febre d’or (1890-1892), perquè és la gran novel·la de la Barcelona del segle XIX, on la burgesia creix sense aturador gràcies a una especulació malsana. L’obra és un retrat d’un moment crucial de la història de Catalunya.
  • Terra Baixa’ (1897), d’Àngel Guimerà. A Catalunya, sobretot durant les primeres dècades del segle XX, hem estat molt dels drames rurals i l’obra teatral d’Àngel Guimerà (1845-1924) és possiblement la que millor ho exemplifica. ‘Terra baixa’ mostra de forma descarnada el conflicte entre les imaginàries terra alta i terra baixa. A partir d’una història d’amor possessiva, el drama tracta les misèries de la vida al camp, les penúries de les llars catalanes de l’època i l’estructura jeràrquica de les societats rurals.
  • Drames rurals’ (1904), de Víctor Català. També narra els drames rurals de la Catalunya de principis de segle XX la nostra Víctor Català (1869-1966), el pseudònim amb què va publicar Caterina Albert. Club Editor recopila en tres volums els contes d’aquesta gran autora catalana, que representa amb una sensibilitat sense precedents la cara més fosca de la vida rural, i que sovint s’acarnissa amb les dones.
  • La Xava’ (1905), de Juli Vallmitjana. Rescatat de l’oblit no fa massa, l’escriptor Juli Vallmitjana (1873-1937) va retratar els ambients més pobres de la Barcelona de principis del segle XX. A ‘La Xava’, com també fa a ‘La ciutat vella’, mostra la parla del carrer als barris de sota de Montjuïc, la lluita descarnada per sobreviure i com els senyorets de Barcelona, avars i narcisistes, feien servir la pobresa més negra per construir la seva bohèmia d’or. Les seves obres, plenes d’històries petites, narren també els grans esdeveniments col·lectius de l’època, i el combat de les classes proletàries i la burgesia.
  • L’auca del senyor Esteve’ (1907), de Santiago Rusiñol. L’obra de Rusiñol (1861-1931), també de principis del segle XX, narra la confrontació i la reconciliació entre el senyor Esteve, un comerciant arquetípic de la petita burgesia, i el seu fill, un artista modernista que no vol heretar el negoci familiar. L’obra va resseguint la vida del protagonista, un home prudent i pràctic, que ja de petit vol dedicar-se exclusivament a la seva botiga de vetes i fils, La Puntual, i que es casa amb Tomaseta, una dona del mateix tarannà. De fons, s’hi endevina Barcelona com una ciutat en procés de modernització.
  • Vida Privada’ (1932), de Josep Maria de Sagarra. Després d’anys de prosperitat de la burgesia catalana a costa de l’explotació dels més pobres, qui narra com ningú la seva decadència és Sagarra (1894-1961). Ho fa a través de la història familiar dels Lloberola, que veu com s’esvaiex tot el seu patrimoni en mans dels més joves de la casa. Sagarra retrata amb ironia el procés de degradació social i moral de la família i fa un retrat de l’alta i la baixa societat, a través de les reunions en salons, sales de juntes i bordells. De Sagarra també cal esmentar altres obres seves, com ‘La rambla de les floristes’ (1935), ‘El cafè de la Marina’ (1933) o ‘L’hostal de la Glòria’ (1931), perquè fan un retrat calidoscòpic dels avars i els miserables que poblen la història de Catalunya del segle XX.
  • El carrer de les Camèlies’ (1966), de Mercè Rodoreda. Qui retrata els anys de la Guerra Civil i la postguerra és Rodorera (1908-1983) a ‘El carrer de les Camèlies’. La novel·la ressegueix la vida de Cecília, una supervivent, que comença la seva vida miserable a La Rambla. Després, viu engabiada en un pis de l’Eixample i acaba venent-se en unes barraques del Carmel. Rodoreda retrata una societat consumida per l’avarícia dels anys anteriors, un viatge a la fosca. Aquesta tristor grisa serà una constant en les obres de Rodoreda, com ara a ‘Aloma’ (1936) o a la famosa ‘La plaça del diamant’ (1962). També retrà comptes amb el passat a la novel·la ‘Mirall trencat’ (1974), un retrat de la decadència burgesa a l’estil de Sagarra. 
  • Feliçment soc una dona’ (1969), de Maria Aurèlia de Capmany. Com ho fa Rodoreda a ‘El carrer de les Camèlies’, Capmany (1918-1991) retrata la societat del seu temps a través del personatge de la Carola, que ha viscut intensament i ha estat víctima dels clarobscurs d’una ciutat avara que creix de manera desordenada. La protagonista enceta, al principi, un viatge a la recerca de la felicitat, però agafa el camí equivocat que li farà perdre tota la innocència. Capmany també retrata aquesta ciutat vençuda pels anys avars a ‘Betúlia’ (1974).
  • Benzina’ (1983), de Quim Monzó. L’efervescència avariciosa dels feliços anys vuitanta del segle XX la retrata Monzó a través de la història de l’Heribert. El personatge, que ha triomfat al món de l’art després d’una conquesta àrdua, viu una vida condescendent i avorrida fins que s’adona que els seus amors l’enganyen amb homes extravagants.
  • El cau del conill’ (2011), de Cristian Segura. Ja al segle XXI, Segura retrata la plàcida existència de l’empresari Amadeu Conill: les partides de tenis al migdia, les demostracions de popularitat a la tribuna del Barça, els vermuts al Turó Park o les tardes de compres a l’Illa Diagonal. ‘El cau del conill’ relata les tribulacions d’un prohom de la burgesia barcelonina en caiguda lliure i el relleu generacional d’una classe social en una decadència feliçment aconseguida en ple món globalitzat.
  • Tsunami’ (2020), d’Albert Pijuan. Finalment, hi trobem els tres cosins de Pijuan, fills dels tres germans fundadors d’un grup turístic amb hotels arreu del món. Als divuit anys, gaudeixen com mai i com ningú durant la inauguració del nou hotel a Sri Lanka: festes, alcohol, submarinisme, paisatges exòtics, luxe asiàtic… Però les coses canviaran dràsticament quan una alerta de tsunami s’escampa per tots els racons de l’oceà Índic.

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They say that you are not so much what you say as what you do, and in this sense the Catalans do many things, and the most important thing is that they do them together. There are 74,438 associations in Catalonia, according to data from the Department of Justice in 2020. A figure that serves to understand the magnitude of this network in the social sphere. Self-organisation marks and defines Catalan society

 

As a concept, associationism refers to the voluntary organisation of people seeking a common interest, be it cultural, political, sporting, social assistance, leisure or any other field. The essential point is that this activity is done on a non-profit basis and for the benefit of society.

 

From clandestinity to the creation of a social fabric

Historically, the term associationism was born in the 19th century as a result of the theories of utopian socialism and although guilds and brotherhoods were already created in medieval times with the intention of defending common interests, it was not until the era of the Industrial Revolution that associations as such proliferated. The purpose has always been the same: to look after the needs of society. As the economic and business system moved towards incipient capitalism, the emergence of organised labour became necessary.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Catalan society created associations in different spheres, such as athenaeums, schools, cooperatives and trade unions. The emergence of many of these entities corresponded to the lack of these basic services, such as schooling, health or the defence of workers’ labour interests. In areas where there was no social protection, it was society itself that sought mechanisms to protect itself. It was also in these decades that the movement for the recovery of national consciousness emerged in an attempt to reclaim Catalonia’s own personality and fight for its preservation. A milestone that was blurred in the Franco era, when all Catalan national institutions and the network of associations were persecuted and repressed. In this context, the right of association was practically disqualified, but Catalan associations survived underground.

“The emergence of many of these entities corresponded to the lack of these basic services, such as schooling, health or the defence of workers’ labour interests.”

Associationism as a reflection of the Catalan people

The values of associationism mark the path towards a more committed and less individualistic society. In fact, if we analyse some basic elements of Catalan culture, we can see that this idea is in tune with the cultural reality. Pilgrimages, sardanes, local festivals, Sant Jordi? All involve getting together, organising, living together and sharing. It is no coincidence, therefore, that most Catalans spend part of their free time in associative or social activities with the aim of improving the quality of life of the country as a whole.

Variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to organisations, there is something for everyone. Any Catalan can nowadays find an association that is of interest to him or her, and where he or she can contribute his or her grain of sand. Sporting, historical, food-related, scientific, academic and social welfare concerns? Everything has a place in the Catalan associative fabric because everyone has a place in the associative fabric.

Beyond the reach of public bodies, this network of unstoppable people can actively and significantly contribute to creating opportunities and ensuring the benefit of all groups; no one can be left behind from a social point of view. In particular, associations have done and continue to do essential work focused on excluded groups, social emergencies, people with fewer resources, those affected by banking or systemic abuses, minority illnesses, support groups, and a long etcetera. Entities that have had to organise themselves internally and, in many cases, without public support, to meet the basic needs of citizens, both physical and psychological, in order to improve their quality of life.

A task that has never received the support it deserves and which, in many cases, is financed through donations and aid from citizens. Fortunately, social awareness is becoming more and more important and cooperation goes beyond the association itself to open up to all citizens in a circumstance in which the support of each one of the collaborators is essential. This shows that the associative fabric has a double aspect: active participation from within or collaboration from outside, so that the whole of society becomes part of it.

“Social awareness is becoming more and more important, and cooperation goes beyond the association itself to open up to all citizens.”

Culture, a basic pillar of development

In Catalonia, the culture of an entire people has been maintained over the years in the face of all kinds of social and political situations, thanks in large part to the associations and their work to preserve and strengthen the cultural fabric. To give us an idea of the importance of this, of the 74,438 associations mentioned above, 34,261 are of a cultural nature. The result is that Catalan society is committed to culture, and thus to knowledge, freedom of expression and the promotion of critical thinking.

Culture plays a key role in the development of a territory and becomes an essential part of citizens’ lives. Beyond books, series or museums, culture is also the language, the way we relate to others and to the environment, the customs that make us live in a certain way, celebrating specific dates or giving value to a feeling of belonging to a territory. Social solidarity and cooperation are two values that are also highly influenced by culture and which, in turn, can have a great influence on the social functioning of a people. Culture is practically everything, and associations take on the role of preserving this identity value through organisations and activities that promote its preservation.

“Culture plays a key role in the development of a territory and becomes an essential part of citizens’ lives.”

Social cooperation, a commitment to value

Associations understand the creation of a community on the basis of inclusion and with the aim of strengthening these links so that working together allows society to advance more and to advance better. In no case, however, should this union of people work on the basis of exclusion towards all those who are not part of it. This could lead to negative feelings on the part of the rest of the citizens and is far removed from the raison d’être of this type of organisation, where respect and teamwork mark its existence. Losing this essence would mean individualising the movement and condemning it to disappear.

The feeling of identity can have a great impact on a society and can be a determining factor in its development. A territory that believes in its people, that wants to defend culture and that promotes all kinds of activities based on self-organisation and voluntary work is, without a doubt, a territory with a desire to constantly evolve. In Catalonia, the associative fabric is witness to this desire and is growing every day with its sights set on the future, but without losing sight of its origins. Working collectively for a future with a fairer and more committed society is a commitment to people and to ensure that, from the associations, their welfare and that of the territory will be looked after.

 

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We have all been victims and even contributed to it without realising it. Disinformation, understood as manipulated information that is disseminated with the intention to deceive, is a phenomenon as old as communication. Fighting fake news is within the reach of each of us.

 

“Disinformation has a part of falsehood and a part of hate speech. To combat it, we need to work on respect for the opinions of others, empathy, ethics and conversation.” Nereida Carrillo, journalist and promoter of Learn to Check, warns of the main reason for disinformation: deception. Interests, power and information are mixed in a social and technological context that makes any content of this type go viral and circulate around the world in a matter of seconds. The veracity of information transcends the roles of journalists and is left in the hands of the user.

Disinformation has increased significantly in recent years due to new technologies, which allow information to circulate more quickly and globally. But it is not only social networks that are loudspeakers of disinformation: so are the mainstream media, even if they often find it hard to admit it. Because the phenomenon of disinformation is as old as communication and the will of hegemonic power to impose its narrative. Moreover, any information, Carrillo explains, is always based on the prism provided by the author: “Objective information does not exist, there is always an account of the facts and we explain what is happening in the world through our cultural, gender or age filters,” she reasons.

Convincing with arguments

The Col·legi de Periodistes de Catalunya describes in the first article of the Code of Ethics that it is necessary to report carefully and accurately. Leaving the search for truth to philosophy, both in journalism and in the content created and disseminated by networks, what is sought is honesty and veracity. Information must be plural, it must not be misleading, it must be oriented towards informing and sources must be checked to avoid manipulation. 

At the very least, this is what we should be looking for when verifying information. One of the ambitious objectives of Learn to Check is that anyone should be able to contrast the information that reaches them. That is why there is only one way: training in tools and a critical spirit. Thanks to the knowledge that its platform shares openly, anyone can verify, without depending on mediators. This is a way of empowering citizens and achieving, together, to stop disinformation in what is called distributed verification.

The PhD in communication also warns that in the networks we have become accustomed to defending our position from the extremes: “The algorithms of social networks polarise, they place us all at opposite poles and it seems that nuances do not exist, that there can be no exchange or conversations.”

Veracity: you set the filter

In closed environments such as WhatsApp or Telegram, it is very difficult to trace where the information comes from, and this often leads us to confuse trusted sources with reliable sources, explains Carrillo. Reliable sources are those that have been verified and, therefore, are based on veracity, while the former are based on trust in the person who sent them to us. This is the main problem of older people, who let themselves be carried away by trust and verify the information according to who is sending the message and even according to which media is reporting the news.

To combat disinformation, especially in the age of social networks, Carrillo argues that we must return to conversation and learn to disseminate information and, above all, our ideas, in a reasoned way and with arguments. “Lying is a very easy and unethical way of convincing,” she remarks, adding that listening to people who do not think like us, although it may not change your mind, will allow you to understand the other person. More empathy and more veracity to face the era of global communication.

 

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As with the resolution of past conflicts, the meeting of the victors at the end of the Second World War in the German city of Potsdam in the summer of 1945 once again divided the world into two blocs. The great Western powers implemented a new economic model allowing them to impose their pre-eminence over other countries.

 

Two political, social and economic models – in principle antagonistic – that would clash several times over the decades in small, low-intensity armed conflicts that would become the great lever of economic growth for the Western world.

However, the Potsdam Conference also confirmed that industrial capitalism – initiated at the end of the 18th century – was an exhausted economic model. The more than sixty million deaths resulting from the Second World War forced the old European monarchies – now evolved into Western democracies – to adopt much more subtle ways of achieving their economic goals. The new extractive strategy therefore had to be less catastrophic and more effective. Therefore, the new economic model that will be progressively deployed will no longer involve having to physically occupy territory but will be sufficient to control local elites.

With this new strategy, the United States, as the big winner and supported by a powerful military-industrial complex, will be able to displace the world’s economic centre – from Europe to North America – through the imposition of its currency, the financial pressure exerted by its banks, and the creation of technological dependence on a global scale. Thus, the establishment of their well-known multinationals – Amazon, Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Apple, McDonald’s, Disney, HP and others – will allow it to directly or indirectly conquer almost the entire world. Entertainment, mainly cinema and major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, the Super Bowl or the World Cup, will be the real weapons of mental and material subjugation that would make it possible to extend the American dream to the whole world.

The United States will be able to displace the world’s economic centre – from Europe to North America – through the imposition of its currency, the financial pressure exerted by its banks, and the creation of technological dependence on a global scale

Social peace, the basis of the new economic efficiency

It all began in the spring of 1951 in Montreal, when representatives of various Western intelligence agencies met secretly with university psychiatry professors at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. As a result of that meeting, we know from declassified documents that the US military invested a large amount of money in McGill University in Montreal to research sensory isolation.

This research was initiated by Dr Donald Olding Hebb, who would eventually abandon the project when he realised the magnitude of the tragedy and completed by Dr Donald Ewen Cameron, who would take it to a higher level. Cameron went on to experiment with many patients who were subjected to a multitude of electroshock sessions, combined with sleep cures and constant repetition of recorded messages to the point of mental exhaustion.

The study found that sensory isolation is a way of generating extreme monotony that leads to a reduction in critical thinking capacity through the confusion of the individual’s mind. Therefore, when a person is not able to reason… we are in trouble!

The results of all these experiments will allow Western intelligence agencies to design mechanisms of control over their population to guarantee social stability within democracies. Consequently, the idea of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to private property, the fundamental basis of the free market, will be repeated ad nauseam. To ensure economic efficiency, competition will be made an instrument to drive economic growth, based on the premise that “if the company next door has better products and more sales than me, I will consequently have to develop better ideas to be better than my competition”.

Not least, the studies on sensory deprivation will enable Western intelligence agencies to develop interrogation manuals – such as the famous KUBARK manual of the US military and the CIA – to be used against internal and external dissidents of the system the West’s postulates.

The management of fear

The technological breakthrough of World War II would take humanity into outer space – to the Moon and beyond – but it also led to the development of the atomic bomb as a weapon of global destruction. It will be used as an instrument of political pressure that persists to this day.

The five main arms manufacturing countries in the world – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – are the ones who are in charge of our peace. They make a business out of war, but they sell peace, above all, through the propagandist MSM serving Western hegemonic powers that test the ‘democracy’ of each country. They are big media that confuse freedom of expression with freedom of pressure and decide who is a dictator or a coup leader, which incidentally has the “bad habit” of making people vote to find out what they think about that policy or any other issue that may affect them. And those media outlets that don’t follow these guidelines are shut down or taken to the confines of the system. The news shows a reality that often doesn’t exist to suggest, isolate and pit us against each other!

Countries like the United States, England, France, Russia and China – they are the ones who are in charge of our peace. They make a business out of war, but they sell peace, above all, through the propagandist MSM serving Western hegemonic powers that test the ‘democracy’ of each country.

Economic shock therapy

As everyone knows, the Wall Street crash of 1929 triggered the Great Depression of the 1930s. By 1932, some 5,096 banks went into receivership. Their collapse drove many companies into bankruptcy, which saw stocks of goods accumulate, and led to a significant fall in prices, especially in the agricultural sector. Finally, the decline in economic activity led to a runaway rise in unemployment.

Influenced by the economist John M. Keynes, the newly proclaimed President of the United States, F. D. Roosevelt, launched a major public employment programme to get people back to work: the policy known as the New Deal. But it was not until after the Second World War that the Depression ended, thanks in large part to the implementation of the famous Marshall Plan, which generalised Keynes’s regulatory and interventionist model to most of the Western world.

Contrary to Keynes’ postulates, we find already in the late 1940s a small group of intellectuals – known as the Mont Pelerin Society and led by the Austrian economist Friedrich August von Hayek – who were convinced that if governments stopped providing services and regulating markets, the problems of the world economy would solve themselves. One of its leading representatives and professor of economics at the University of Chicago, Milton Friedman, believed that through economic shock therapy, he would push societies to accept a purer, deregulated capitalism.

Indeed, the theses of the shock doctrine have been imposed all over the world in different processes. These radical measures have triumphed not so much from the hand of freedom and democracy but from their imposition through shocks, crises and states of emergency. Thus, far from sugar-coating the role of the US in becoming a global hegemon, its ability to control the world is due to sanctions, restrictions, blockades, freezes, confiscations or military action.

Above all, the role played by the creation of a specific international bureaucracy, generated strictly because it does not depend on the United Nations and is therefore exempt from any direct control that might upset the international community, has been essential. These supranational bodies – World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund – have executed all these economic shock therapies by the book all over the world, combining political pressure with extortion. And there is no shortage of examples!

Milton Friedman believed that through economic shock therapy, he would push societies to accept a purer deregulated capitalism.

A system in need of a financial mafia

In 2004, the American John Perkins – a former employee of the American consulting firm CHA Consulting, Inc. – published an interesting book entitled Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, in which he explains in detail how he participated in different processes of economic colonisation of Third World countries, especially on the South American continent, during the 1980s.

Perkins, as chief economist at CHA Consulting, had the task of identifying countries with natural resources of interest to the clients – mostly corporations – represented by his consultancy.

Once identified, the next stage was to send a “small army of jackals” to the country in question to promise that, with the sale of its resources, the country would achieve Western standards of social welfare and economic stability. Finally, the country was forced to take out a large loan – through the World Bank or other related organisations – justified to the public as part of the deal and because it had neither the technology nor the infrastructure to extract, produce or manufacture the natural resource.

But this amount of money never reached the country in question, since it left the World Bank – based in Washington – and was diverted to an account in Houston, Texas or San Francisco, where, funnily enough, the owner was a company that worked for the consultancy, and which specialised in the construction of the infrastructure necessary to extract, produce or manufacture the natural resource.

Thus, the money was used to pay for the cost of the construction – power stations, roads, industrial parks, ports – which in the end only generated large profits for the companies awarded the contracts. It is true that, to a lesser degree, they also ended up enriching a local minority who owned the basic industries or commercial establishments, but to the detriment of the majority. Thus, at the end of the process, all the country’s economic resources earmarked for health, education or other public services were used to repay those loans. As John Perkins explains, knowing upfront the country’s inability to repay the loans was an important part of executing the plan.

Thus, this system has allowed Western corporations or supranational bodies – the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund – to create a parallel empire that controls large parts of the planet: the so-called “areas of influence”. It is for this reason that Western democracies can tell one of these “voluntarily influenced” countries that if it cannot repay its loans, it can always sell its resources to be exploited… without the obligation of a social or environmental commitment; or that it has to allow the construction of a military base on its territory, or that it has to vote against certain countries considered “enemies” at the next United Nations meeting.

When the president of one of these countries does not accept, the government is often intervened or overthrown. The process starts with a strong national and international smear campaign, false news of all kinds is created to condition public opinion and, in the end – in favour of democracy – the coup d’état is carried out with full justification. And if it did not go well, he would end up being assassinated. Contemporary history is full of examples: Mossadeq in Iran (1953), Ngô Đình Diệm in Vietnam (1955), Lumumba in the Congo (1960) Allende in Chile (1973). More recently, the pressures of all kinds that Lula da Silva has had to endure to stop the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, and Maduro to nationalise Venezuelan oil or Petro for the decarbonisation of the Colombian economy.

The economy of death

In 2009, amid the global recession, the English psychologist Oliver James published the book “The Selfish Capitalist”, which concludes that behind the mental illnesses of today’s Western society lies the capitalism that has been practised for the last fifty years. Simplifying a lot, the thesis of the book exposes how the Anglo-Saxon neoliberal economy has pushed individuals to want to have more and more cars, mobile phones, clothes, and money… and all this has led to permanent dissatisfaction of the individual. Based on a study published by the World Health Organisation in 2004, concludes that mental illness affects almost 23% of the population in the Anglo-Saxon world and 11.5% in the rest of the European countries, given that they entered the neoliberal wheel later.

For example, in the United States, the number of young students with huge debt is increasing, just as there is a huge number of people in debt for healthcare, credit cards or mortgages. So this system, designed to exploit the so-called “developing” countries, has now turned against the West.

On the other hand, neoliberal economics has sought to maximise short-term profits without taking into account the social cost and environmental impact. And here, neoliberals like Friedman got it wrong: beyond the short term, we need to increase profits in the long term, so that everyone wins. If we are guided by the goal of paying a decent rate of return to investors who invest, we can begin to change the model.

According to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military spending increased by 3.7% in real terms in 2022, to a new all-time high of $2.24 trillion. If much of this money went to pay the same companies that get these million-dollar contracts, but instead of paying to make missiles, it would go to collecting all the plastics in the oceans, restoring destroyed natural environments, cleaning up the waste dumped in the oceans… the planet would be a much better place. And in this process, new technologies can help us to make it possible.

This system, designed to exploit the so-called “developing” countries, has now turned against the West.

Multipolarity

This system has worked as long as the winners have been the United States, since it allowed their allies to take a piece of the pie on the condition that they supported its international policy or facilitated access to their markets for its companies. The United States has shared the pie with aligned countries, but not with those who were willing to dispute its economic interests.

At this point, we are entering a new era where the distribution of political, military and financial power will no longer rest with a single country. In short, the world will no longer dance to a single tune. We have already begun to dance to the tune of oriental music, to the rhythms of the balalaika, combined with a little samba, a touch of Indi-pop and a dash of mbaqanga.

 

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It was at the end of the 11th century that feudalism finally took hold. The feudal lords, nobles or members of the Church, would force the peasants to hand over a surplus on their work, emasculating their freedoms and forcing a large part of the population into debt. Oriol Garcia Farré, 11Onze agent and historian, explains it to us.

 

It was a political, economic, legal and social system established during the Middle Ages throughout the European continent. The kingdoms were divided into small territories that had a certain degree of independence, which were administered by the new feudal lords, lay and ecclesiastical, who provided ‘protection’ to the peasants attached to the land, in exchange for tribute and labour.

At least this was the official rhetoric, as Garcia explains, “most of the existing documentation on the process of feudalisation only explains what the lords or the ecclesiastics were interested in documenting“, and he continues, “bear in mind that in this documentation broad sectors of society, such as the peasants, will be left out”.

The obligation to generate a surplus

With the imposition of feudalism, agricultural and livestock production became the mainstay of the economy. The systematic exploitation of the peasants through the collection of taxes, without which “it would never have been possible to build castles, towers, monasteries, or Romanesque gateways”, Garcia points out, gave way to the need to “demand and bind new lands for farming”.

Thus, there was an intensification of agriculture spurred on by the coercion of the feudal lords exercised over the communities of free peasants, “who throughout this process of feudalisation were forced to abandon their subsistence economy, with the sole aim of generating a surplus”, says Garcia.

 

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Banco Sabadell and CaixaBank were born in Catalonia, but by 2017 they already had more than 70% of their business outside the country that made them prosper. Many people discovered this when in October 2017 the two entities moved their headquarters in response to the independence movement.

 

In 1844 La Caixa d’Estalvis i Mont de Pietat de Barcelona was born, which would later give rise to La Caixa. In 1881 the industrial bourgeoisie of Sabadell created Banc Sabadell. Both entities were born and grew in Catalonia until they became very important players in the Spanish financial system. In October 2017, the two institutions moved their headquarters out of Catalonia, in reaction to the social movement for independence and the referendum of 1 October. But what was the point of it all?

 

The reasons for leaving Catalonia

The main reason for abandoning the Catalans was that “people were not sure the bank would continue in the eurozone” if it kept its headquarters in Barcelona, as the then president of CaixaBank, Jordi Gual, explained in February 2020 in the Parliamentary committee on the application of article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. A weak excuse, because the banking licence depends on the Bank of Spain, whether you have your headquarters in Barcelona, Valencia, Paris or anywhere else.

There are many foreign banks operating in Spain, you just have to apply for the licence and get it authorised by the Bank of Spain. Therefore, if Catalonia had become independent, Catalan banks would have continued to operate under the umbrella of the Bank of Spain, unless the Bank of Spain had cancelled the licence. Obviously, this would be very difficult to do because it would create distrust in the Spanish financial system and in the Bank of Spain itself.

One clear reason to understand the relocation of the two banks out of Catalonia and to understand that, in fact, the Bank of Spain would never have withdrawn their licence, is that in 2017 neither of the two banks was Catalan. Banc Sabadell then concentrated only 29% of its business in Catalonia. And CaixaBank even less, 22%. It is clear that the Bank of Spain would not withdraw the licence to operate in Spain from two banks with more than 70% of their assets in Spain (excluding Catalonia).

 

Entities made by Catalans

The cross-cutting response of Catalan society on 3 October was decisive. On 5 October, Banc Sabadell announced the transfer of its registered office to Alicante, taking advantage of the fact that it already had facilities there. It became the first major Ibex company to leave Catalonia. The following day, CaixaBank approved its move to Valencia, taking advantage of the facilities it had at the Banco de Valencia, and the Fundació La Caixa moved to Palma de Mallorca.

The move was interpreted as undisguised pressure from the two banks on the Catalan citizens who had made them great. But the reality is that the only thing the two institutions did was to relocate following their business model. Catalonia represented less than 30% of the volume of Sabadell and CaixaBank. In October 2017 they were no longer Catalan banks working for the Catalans, it is a false idea that citizens discovered traumatically that October 5 years ago. CaixaBank and Banc Sabadell were already large financial corporations with more business outside Catalonia than inside, so they followed their interests.

At the end of October, CaixaBank’s share price was 192,717 million euros in deposits and Banc Sabadell, 98,654 million euros. As for their stock market value, the recovery took months: it was not until early 2018 that both CaixaBank and Banc Sabadell recovered their pre-independence referendum valuations. In the case of CaixaBank, it was back above 25,000 million euros and Banc Sabadell rose above 10,000 million euros.

 

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The economy has been one of the main protagonists in the relationship between Catalonia and Spain. In an exercise of synthesis, we have compiled nine of these key moments in our history. They may not be the best known, but they are undoubtedly the ones that have marked a before and after. One after the other, they offer a chronology of encounters and misunderstandings.

 

“As long as Spain does not understand the Catalan issue,
Spain will be subjected to the same woes of the past”.
Américo Castro, 1924

 

1479. The construction of a dynastic state

After the Castilian Civil War, the two largest kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula (Castile and Catalan Confederation) together created a new political entity known as the Hispanic Monarchy. This dynastic state was formed from the union of just two elements: the army and foreign policy. The other elements that make up a modern state, such as borders, currencies, laws, and institutions, remained completely separate. Thus, with regard to the configuration and distribution of power, it should be borne in mind that, while Castile was organised according to the authority of the queen (Isabella), always above the nobility and the church, the Crown of Aragon was organised around the Constitució de l’Observança, which obliged the king (Ferran) to govern and make agreements in accordance with the laws of the Principality. This is the first difference in the system of political and economic organisation between Spain and Catalonia.

 

1556. The drift of history

With the death of the Castilian queen (Isabella), the peninsular dynastic state was at the point of dissolving. After family vicissitudes, the throne was eventually occupied by the grandson, due to the incapacity of the daughter (Juana) and the death of the son-in-law (Felipe). The dynastic union between the two kingdoms was thus definitively confirmed in the persons of Carlos (the future emperor) and his successors. For years, Emperor Charles sought to consolidate the idea of a universal monarchy that would be polyglot and open to the entire territory of the Habsburg Empire. The Emperor’s policy was aimed at changing the course of European history. It was of no use for him to believe that it was possible for the rights of cities and regions to coexist with the imperial structure, since the idea of the nation-state was gaining ground, largely as a result of the Reformation. Nor did it ever manage to create the necessary complicity between Castilians and Catalans to forge a common country.

1585. The perversity of the system

In the autumn of 1585, King Felipe II of Castile presided over the celebration of the General Courts of the Catalan Confederation in Monzón. Following the tradition established by his father (Carlos), Felipe II thus recognised the duality of power in the peninsular territory formed by the crowns of Castile and Catalonia Confederation. The parliamentary system always involves tensions – because that’s intrinsic to debating – but it seemed that an agreement would be reached. The problem arose when royal officials tried to blatantly boycott the Cortes‘ resolutions. And it is even more perverse when the Monarchy – unilaterally – decides to manipulate and rewrite the agreements made by the Catalan Cortes to favour its interests. Among the most important alterations, which affected the entire Crown of Aragon, were those relating to the control of trade, the increase in spending by the Royal Court in Catalan territory, and the dilution of the control that the Diputació del General (the Generalitat) could have over the Holy Office (the Inquisition), the repressive arm of the monarchy.

 

1626. Towards a single centralised unit

In March 1626, Barcelona received the King of Castile, Felipe IV, who had come to the city to swear the Catalan Constitutions. The reason was none other than to unravel the ambitious plan of the king’s minister, the Count-Duke of Olivares. The project, known as the “Unión de Armas”, called for each kingdom that formed part of Castile – that is, mainly the Catalan Confederation – to contribute a certain amount of money and soldiers. But what the Castilian oligarchies did not realise was that if Felipe IV swore to the Catalan Constitutions, he was automatically granted the title of count of Barcelona, which obliged him to oversee their resources. The Catalans were, therefore, more interested in having their proposals for new Catalan Constitutions approved, and their grievances addressed, than in engaging in absurd wars. Curiously, two decades later, the northern Catalan territory would be dishonestly torn away from the main body. And it would not be until forty years later that Castile would officially notify the Generalitat of the loss of the northern Catalan territory.

1760. The rules of the game change

For several decades, a new family of French origin had held the throne of Castile, the Borbones. The open dispute over that ascension had been left behind, to the point that it had had to be settled on the battlefield. Four decades after the Nueva Planta Decree, King Carlos III convened the Cortes Generales in Madrid. In that new political paradigm that emerged from the battlefield, the representatives of the former territories of the Catalan Confederation -formed by Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia and Mallorca- jointly presented a memorial containing a frontal critique of the Borbonic system in force. To put it very simply, the document, known as the “Memorial de greuges”, argued that the new state had to safeguard territorial plurality and move away from centralist and unifying structures.

 

1810. The construction of a new political reality

In the context of a European war, more than 240 deputies from all over the territory arrived in Cadiz convinced that they were going to make history, to write a Constitution. King Carlos IV of Spain had been deposed as an absolutist, after the French occupation of the peninsular territory. The Cortes of Cádiz established that power resided in the citizens as a whole, represented by the Cortes. But Cadiz was also – for the first time – a real opportunity for Catalan politicians to be invited to participate actively in the new Spanish political system that was being created. In that revolutionary context, the Catalan delegation openly defended the proposal to modernise Spain in accordance with the Austrian project that had been liquidated less than a century before. Therefore, economic and social development had to be based on the industrialisation of the territories. But the Treaty of Valençay restored Fernando VII to the throne as an absolute monarch and frustrated all the modern ideas that had emerged from the Cortes de Cádiz and its revolutionary constitution, which had shaken Spain.

1870. History always gives a second chance

That summer of 1870 in Paris, María Isabel Luisa de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias, Queen of Spain, abdicated. This renunciation of power – like Emperor Carlos – was the consequence of an intense political debate about how Spain’s modernity was to be articulated. The dispute between Carlists and Liberals had been settled on the battlefields for the past three decades. But during the following decades the impasse would continue. Spain had entered a labyrinth from which it would take a hundred years to emerge. Modernity entailed a profound structural transformation, including the distribution of power. Historiography has approached this period from the perspective of the first crisis of Spanish capitalism. But, in reality, at the root of the economic problem was corruption. 

Politicians, military officers, and nobles speculated in both the railway companies and in construction, to the point that at the end of the decade there was a stock market crash of biblical proportions. The Civil War in the United States caused an increase in the price of raw materials – cotton – the driving force behind the Catalan textile industry, which – due to a lack of foresight on the part of the state – led to the ruin of many businessmen in this sector. And a prolonged period of poor harvests led to a sharp rise in the price of basic foodstuffs, which had a negative effect on the lower classes. In this difficult context, and given that the state was so heavily in debt, two solutions were found: on the one hand, to increase the tax burden on the working classes and, on the other, to embark on a colonial adventure such as the War of the Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru.

 

1931. The mountains are a good place to think

That spring of 1931, Spain opted to manage power according to a formula that had failed in the past. Corruption had exhausted the system of the Borbonic Restoration and, therefore, a new relationship with power had to be sought. The question then – and still today – was whether Spain could be a federation of nations. It had to be proved! It was in this context that the deputies of the recently created government of the Generalitat of Catalonia, charged with drafting a proposal for a relationship between Catalonia and Spain, took up residence at the Sanctuary of Nuria. Everyone was certain that this was a historic moment. 

The result was a constitutional text that responded to the will of Catalonia and its legitimate right to exercise self-determination. It was proposing a situation of legal and political equality with respect to the other peoples of the State. It was proposing to broaden our outlook. But the state became nervous. A year later, the Spanish Cortes approved a Statute that had nothing to do with the one endorsed months earlier by the people of Catalonia. It rejected the federal formula, reduced the powers of the Generalitat, and established the co-official status of Catalan and Spanish in a bilingual model. Catalonia was reduced to an “autonomous region within the Spanish state”. It was then that sabre rattling began to be heard in the distance, forcing Spain to return to the battlefield.

 

2004. Towards a new historical paradigm

With the hangover from the events of the last decade of the last century, everyone believed that Spain had chosen to recognise its diversity. The Catalan language was spoken – even – in the most intimate circles of the Castilian oligarchy. In a climate of economic strength, social stability, and mutual recognition, Catalonia believed it could rethink its relationship with Spain. Was it possible? The scrupulousness of the mission – as in the past – in drawing up a new constitutional framework, such as the new Statute of Catalonia, meant a major effort to find a meeting point where all social strata were represented. How this story continues is known to everyone. 1 October 2017 is the confirmation of the impossibility of dialogue and the need to go back to the beginning of everything: much earlier than the Castilian Civil War of 1479.

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Since time immemorial, what the Greek geographers defined as the Iberian Peninsula has been the basis on which Spanish history has been constructed, forging different realities. But with the development of Spain – at the beginning of the 19th century – different political conceptions have sought a way of structuring it to their advantage at any price. Therefore, some have insisted on establishing a fictitious historical and territorial uniformity, simply because they share the same geography. Catalonia has shared this plot of land, but its historical reality is different and it is important to remember this, now that the debate is once again open.

 

The traditional history of Spain has been constructed based on the premise of giving a unique protagonism to Castile – extended with Andalusia and Extremadura – which has been exclusively identified with Spain. The periphery, especially the eastern Mediterranean and the northwest of the peninsula, has been allowed to play either a secondary role or to acquire a certain relevance from time to time, especially at times when Castilian decadence was most evident.

Thus, Castile – always from a negationist point of view – has made people believe that there is a “Spanish nation” and a “peripheral” identity that it has defined as nationalities. But the reality is different. The Spanish nation, like the Catalan nation or the Basque nation, exists because it is acknowledged by those who claim to be part of it. Therefore, trivialisation is once again used to confuse public opinion and try to avoid any legitimate process of self-determination. In this sense, the construction of the identity of the Spanish nation often becomes a systematic destruction of the “peripheries”, that is to say, Spanish nationalism ends up constructing its identity by repressing the differences between the territories it considers to be national.

This vision has highlighted the serious problem of Spain’s historical reality. Firstly, it has highlighted Spain’s imperfection as a political project, given that it has repeatedly shown the continuous issues of adaptability to Western standards, especially in terms of the dynamics of adopting capitalism, liberalism, and rationalism in the triple aspect of the economic, political and cultural realities. Secondly, and even more importantly, Castile’s utter failure in its task of making Spain a harmonious community, fully satisfied with itself and tolerant of the other territories that make it up. If the plurinationality of the state is hidden, the past is distorted.

Spain’s imperfection as a political project has become evident, given that it has repeatedly shown the continuous problems of adaptability to Western standards.

Dismantling “the unity of destiny as a universal fact”

Within the Francoist school system, historiography was articulated according to the concept of “Reconquest”, which is a historiographical concept – still used in the secondary school curricula of Castile – that describes the process of recovery – since the Muslims were not the legitimate owners of the Hispanic territory – of the feudal world over the Muslim and Jewish world. This process would begin shortly after the arrival of the Arabs on the Iberian peninsula (8th century) and would end with the Catholic Monarchs (15th century), who would eventually unify “Spain” as an integral state. This Reconquest would end up forging “the Spanish spirit”.

In the middle of the last century, a group of historians – in order to legitimise the victors of the Civil War – undertook the task of constructing historical arguments to support the new regime. The theoretical corpus was based on finding “the essence of Spain”. Thus, Spanishist historiography came to “prove” that there were indeed distinctive characteristics of continuity between the prehistoric past and the present which define this “Spanish spirit”.

Currently, research tends to break the territorial homogeneity of the provinces. It shows an increasingly clear predisposition to carry out research that emphasises social and territorial differences, such as the latest studies on the 8th century Hispano-Goths, which show significant differences between the peninsular societies, mainly conditioned by the habitats where they carried out their activities. The archaeological evidence -without shying away from documentary sources- shows conclusively that the process of Romanisation affected them in very different ways.

Therefore, the crises of late antiquity from the 3rd to the 8th centuries would provoke much more profound changes, which would affect the different peninsular territories unequally. Consequently, the arrival of the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula would also affect these societies in different ways, so that the idea of continuity between the Visigothic kingdom and the subsequent political formations would be diluted like sugar.

Archaeology has confirmed that the penetration of the Muslim world into peninsular territory was not as traumatic as it was made out to be. The archaeological remains reveal that, after the conquest, the peninsular territory was never abandoned. Therefore, all this would show that many Hispano-Goths professed the new Muslim faith, not so much out of conviction, but in order to maintain ownership of the land. And this land would be transformed by the introduction of new systems of agricultural production, based mainly on the management and power of water.

Research tends to break down the territorial homogeneity of the provinces and shows an increasingly clear predisposition to carry out research that emphasises social and territorial differences.

Delegitimising the origins in order to cancel out the differences

From the 9th century onwards, most of the peninsular territories were organised as kingdoms, with the king as their highest representative. In contrast, in the northeastern territories of the peninsula, the county would be the administrative structure to be implemented, and the count – imposed from Aachen – would be in charge of administering justice, guaranteeing public order and managing taxation.

This differentiating element – such as the Carolingian organisation of the Catalan territory – will be widely combated by Francoist historiography through a policy of diminishing its relevance. For this reason, it will be considered a government structure with little historical relevance and, for this reason, there will be a lack of will to disseminate it – both in academic circles and in school curricula – which will impact its knowledge.

Therefore, we should not be surprised that these historians do not want to understand that our singularity is the result of a legal framework different from the Hispanic matrix. The Catalan territory was assigned following the Carolingian policy of the Renovatio Imperii. This was probably the reason for its lack of diffusion since the essence of Spain was so far away!

Certainly, the title of king is one of the oldest and best-known political offices. The oldest ruling term is found in the Indo-European REG (to rule/rule) which evolved into Latin as REX. In the context of the political transformations that took place from the 4th century onwards in Western Europe, large territories were governed by Germanic military leaders, who gradually freed themselves from Roman domination and organised themselves as kingdoms. The new territorial leaders – whether Goths, Franks or Suevi – followed their legal tradition and adopted the title of rex as the highest political figure.

Therefore, all the peninsular rulers would be perpetuating their juridical legality. While the Astur-Leonese, Navarrese and Castilian dynasties would continue to use the title of king, the Catalan sovereign would use the title of count, given that he would continue to be legally linked to the French dynasty – heir to Carolingian legality through the Capeta family – and legitimised by the Pope, until the signing of the Treaty of Corbeil and ratified at the Treaty of Anagni in the mid-13th century. In practice, all will be sovereigns with the same power, whether kings or counts.

The most paradoxical fact about the history of Spain – built on the historiographical concept of the Reconquest – is that it is constructed on the false premise of assigning a continuing legitimacy from the Visigothic kingdom to the Astur kingdom.

It has been widely concluded that this maxim is not true. Historians have shown that the indigenous Cantabrian populations – be they Astur, Cantabrian or Basque – always maintained a very distant and warlike relationship with the Roman, Visigothic, Arab or Carolingian world. Therefore, their isolation was due more to a problem of a poor administrative framework than to fierce resistance against Roman, Visigoth, Arab or Carolingian conquerors. Consequently, the propagandistic pamphlet that the three chronicles of Alfonso III of Asturias represent – especially the Albeldense, which in fact is where the famous concept of Reconquest comes from – must be read for what they are: a legal legitimisation before public opinion (and God) of the aggression carried out against a part of the Hispanic population whose only difference – compared to the rest of the population – is that they profess a different religion.

The history of Spain -built on the historiographical concept of the Reconquest- is constructed on the basis of a false premise.

The will to alter reality

“In Dei nomine. Ego Ramirus, Dei gratia rex aragonensis, dono tibi, Raimundo [Berengario], barchinonensium comes et marchio, filiam meam in uxorem, cum tocius regni aragonensis integritate, sicut pater meus Sancius, rex, vel fratres mei, Petrus et Ildefonsus…. ” is undoubtedly one of the key fragments of the history of Catalonia that has aroused the greatest historiographical hostility, especially on the Aragonese side.

This fragment corresponds to the famous “Capitulaciones Matrimoniales de Barbastro”, which were ratified with the “Renuncia de Zaragoza” – both from 1137 – by which King Ramiro II of Aragon, the Monk, publicly informed his subjects that he was giving his daughter, his kingdom and his honours to Count Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona and that this donation would be sealed through the marriage between the Count of Barcelona and his daughter, Peronella.

As a result, the Count of Barcelona was named Crown Prince of Aragon, and Ramiro – despite retaining the title – was returned to the monastery of San Pedro el Viejo in Huesca, from where he left in haste to be crowned king. For her part, Peronella – only one year old – was sent to Barcelona to be educated as the future Countess Consort of Barcelona and Queen of Aragon. Thirteen years later, Count Ramon Berenguer married her in Lleida, once she was legally old enough to do so, that is, fourteen years old. It would then be the first-born son of this union – Alfonso el Trovador – who would become the first person to hold both titles – count and king – which would legitimise the new political conception that arose from this donation.

Unaltered historical reality confirms the fact that after the “Public Renunciation of Saragossa”, the kingdom of Aragon remained in the political background, given that it had voluntarily dispossessed itself of its succession value, a key element in the 12th century. Despite this, the successive Counts of Barcelona would always respect and maintain all the Aragonese institutions, marking the beginning of the Catalan-Aragonese Confederation.

It is therefore essential not to fall into the political trap that circulates among certain Spanish circles, who argue that Peronella of Aragon was the key element that allowed the Catalan counties to be annexed to the kingdom of Aragon. It would be foolish to believe that a one-year-old princess would fall in love with a twenty-four-year-old count of Barcelona and that the latter – at the height of his dominions – would offer his territories to Aragon in exchange for “a more prestigious title”. Likewise, the fact of constructing two parallel genealogies – Alfonso I of Catalonia is the same as Alfonso II of Aragon – shows that there is malice and a desire to distort reality.

The real problem facing Aragon at the beginning of the 11th century was to find a legal solution in the will of King Alfonso I “el Batallador”, who, having died without descendants, had given all his territories to the military Orders, and this caused an institutional debacle. The Castilians – taking advantage of this power vacuum and legitimised by the king’s repudiated ex-wife – began the invasion of Saragossa, followed by the disconnection of Navarre through the figure of García Ramírez, known as “el Resaurador”. As a result, Aragon was severely weakened economically, with the consequent risk of disappearing.

Contrary to what Aragonese extremists would want you to believe, the union of Aragon with the Catalan counties was the only viable solution for the Aragonese oligarchy. It was the only way to put a stop to the pressure exerted by both Castilians and Navarrese and thus be able to boost its agricultural and livestock economy with a clear outlet to the Mediterranean markets.

It would be foolish to believe that a one-year-old princess would fall in love with a twenty-four-year-old count of Barcelona and that the latter – at the height of his dominions – would offer his territories to Aragon in exchange for “a more prestigious title.

Setting limits to power

At the end of the 11th century, a new mentality appeared in Barcelona society, based on work, business morals and friendship. Thus, Barcelona was able to develop its own form of capital accumulation, based on increasing and improving agricultural production in its territory, which enabled it to become the administrative epicentre of the Catalan counties. The notions of profit, investment and capital crystallised throughout the 12th century and led the Counts of Barcelona to conquer the cities of Tortosa, Lleida and Balaguer, and the frustrated attempt to conquer Mallorca.

And all this was possible thanks to a climate of social stability that, after the political disaster of the feudal revolts, led to the imposition of the convenientiae or feudal pacts between equals. From then on, the culture of the pact became generalised throughout the Catalan counties and became one of our peculiarities. As a result of this pact, the first version of the Usatges de Barcelona, the basis of Catalan customary law, was drawn up.

Gradually, Catalan sovereignty would be distributed among – counts, nobility, clergy and upright citizens – who would represent a large part of society. This constitutionalist policy would therefore be one of the distinctive features of the Crown, which from the 13th century onwards would be extended as the expansionist policies of the counts continued to be implemented. These new territories would be configured as states, where the Crown would ensure that the particularities of each territory were maintained. Catalonia would then be defined as a Principality, given that its highest authority would be the figure of a prince or the first among equals.

In contrast to the rest of the peninsular territories – where the problem of power was centred on sacralisation – in Catalonia, the conflict was centred on its use. The constant evolution of Catalan law would end up granting power to the count by cession (between equals). He would therefore be obliged to manage his expenditure correctly and to respect the different privileges, customs, privileges and usages of his territories. Therefore, pactism between equals will be encouraged, in order to balance the economic interests between the nobility, the clergy and the bourgeoisie, in order to maintain social stability.

As a result – and long before the English – the Catalan Courts would be the perfect model of parliamentarianism, which would constitute the nucleus of the Catalan pacifist tradition that has survived to the present day. Unfortunately, with the defeat of 1714 and the implementation of the Decree of Nueva Planta, the Catalan-Aragonese Confederation was fulminated and broken up into different provinces of a new centralised monarchy that would govern the entire Iberian Peninsula without legal differences.

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The European Union is facing political, economic and military decline in the world. The special interests of individual states deprive it of a strong voice on the international stage, where it usually acts at the beck and call of the United States. In this context, Europe’s real sovereignty is almost a utopia.

 

Turbulent times lie ahead in Europe. The war in Ukraine has heightened tensions with Russia, which is increasingly tightening its ties with China. The conflict has led European governments to strengthen their alliance with the United States and rethink their defence and energy policies. Moreover, the war has provoked tensions within the EU itself, which are likely to grow.

Where can we go from here? It is hard to say. Europe has come a long way since the 1950 Schuman plan and the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which has made it the world’s second-largest democracy and third-largest economy. But after the dream of European Union and prosperity brought about by the fall of the communist bloc in 1989, European idealism has melted like a sugar cube. It has done so in an “international disorder” under US tutelage and marked by economic crises, pandemics, a process of partial deglobalisation and conflicts between the great powers. 

Never before has the EU had to face an international situation that is moving towards multipolarity and is plagued by crises that pose numerous threats and challenges. And it has not even been able to develop the long-awaited Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). 

One certainty: foreign policy remains one of the least integrated elements of the EU. This was demonstrated, for example, by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on a trip to China in early November 2022. This visit was met with a barrage of criticism from European partners for denoting unbridled unilateralism, as Germany’s interests clashed with those of the other EU members. 

 

European disunity

It is no secret that each country defends its own interests. As Martin Wolf, economics editor of the Financial Times, recently warned, some main problems facing the EU stem from the fact that it is not a state but a confederation of states. From this stems the difficulties of managing divergent economies within a monetary union, in which the European Central Bank plays an essentially political role to avoid insurmountable imbalances between the different economies. 

True integration is lacking. The reality is that the European single market is not integrated in the same way as the American market, for example. The lack of dynamism in a crucial sector today, such as information and communication technologies, is largely explained by this fact. It is symptomatic that only one European company, ASML, is among the ten most valuable technology companies in the world. 

There is nothing to be optimistic about. In a more fragmented international context with greater nationalist impulses, even Germany, the real engine of Europe, is finding it increasingly difficult to find markets to absorb its production. High energy costs are a threat to its heavy industry. And then there is the push from China and the United States’ move towards an interventionist and protectionist policy. 

This situation means that there is a lack of a real common European policy, weighed down by individual national interests, which even threaten the existence of the single market. 

Europe’s role in the world

A vital question for Europe, as Wolf points out, is to define what role it wants to play in the world, whether it wishes to remain a ‘servile’ ally of the United States, become a bridge between blocs or regain the status of a power. The first option seems the most plausible, since to become a power again it would need a much deeper political and fiscal union, as well as overcoming internal mistrust.

The rise of China, India, Russia, and others as economic and military powers forces the EU to be a single actor with a single voice in matters of global importance if it aspires to be one of the relevant ‘poles’ in the multipolar future. But the more active and independent the EU wants to be, the more crucial it will be to deepen its federalism, a process plagued by nationalist reluctance.

 

The rise of populism

The rise of populist movements in Europe since the financial crisis of 2008 and the migration crisis of 2016 poses a threat in this regard. Most of them are characterised by Euroscepticism, believing that the root of Europe’s socio-economic problems lies in European integration and Brussels’ decision-making. 

This is not a marginal movement: a study by the Pew Research Center shows that Eurosceptic parties already hold 29% of the seats in the European Parliament, the highest figure in history. Thus, a significant proportion of those who make the big decisions on the future of the European Union are also those who oppose further integration. And without such integration, it is difficult for Europe to regain a leading role on the international stage.

 

Little progress

The EU has set a number of priorities for the period 2019-2024, including the protection and freedom of citizens, the development of a strong economy, sustainability in Europe and the promotion of European values and interests on a global scale. Unfortunately, little progress has been made in these areas.

We live in a world characterised by disorder, growing protectionism and conflicts between great powers. It is certainly not the world of which the founders of the European Union dreamed. But if its current leaders wish to preserve something of the original spirit, they should strengthen the foundations of the project and move towards real European sovereignty. This would require halting deindustrialisation, driving digital transformation, deepening integration and establishing a single voice in the world.

 

11Onze is the community fintech of Catalonia. Open an account by downloading the app El Canut for Android or iOS and join the revolution!

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This year, university admission tests that decide the future of thousands of students will be held from 14 to 16 June. We present ‘selectivitat.io’, the definitive tool to prepare for them and give you the best chance at success.

 

In 2021, at the age of 22, Jaume Plana created selectivitat.io, a platform that offers all the teaching material to prepare for your GCSE, as well as for university admission tests. The initiative was born from the experience of Jaume and other people around him who had, as he describes, a feeling of abandonment when it came to studying and preparing for these exams.

In just over a year, the platform has collected all the material necessary for the subjects taken in the GCSE: notes sent by the students themselves, notes from academies and professionals, mock exams, grade calculators, courses and podcasts. All with the philosophy of free access, as Plana explains: “It’s free now and forever and ever, we believe that you don’t have to pay for educational material”.

In addition to these basic and free services, there are additional paid services for students who may need the support of a teacher to help them resolve doubts and accompany them in this process.

 

The grade that decides your future

This is the well-known, and dreaded for some, cut-off mark. The mark that is extracted from the ‘selectivitat’ and which will decide which degree the student can study and at which university, within the range of options that he or she has chosen. A system that Plana himself considers unfair and with a great risk of loss of talent along the way: “There are incredible people who would be perfect in entrance examinations, but they can never get there because the filtering is based on marks” when the employment sector, he remarks, “is not based on marks”.

The current education system focuses on grades from the start. Even in nursery school (from three to five years old) there are schools that initiate students into this selection system that will accompany them for the rest of their academic life. Therefore, they become accustomed to selection by grades. 

However, Plana points out that they are not taught the basis of the learning process and take advantage of it. There are thousands of students who, due to a lack of organisational tools, lack of support or fear of not achieving their objectives, end up failing in this system.

Pressure closes doors

Managing pressure can be very important in terms of the results of the university entrance exams. In this sense, the mental preparation of students is relevant, as Plana explains: “Pupils who get a 14 or very good marks are very good students who know how to handle pressure very well”.

Jaume Plana also points out that we are not prepared for failure, as we are not educated to identify it as something natural and even positive. On the contrary, those who fail are singled out.

The pressure when it comes to tackling studies is subsequently transferred to the way we approach the labour market, which becomes a limiting pillar for many young people. 

Therefore, in addition to academic preparation for the entrance exam, there is also mental preparation, which includes three main aspects: having the support and accompaniment to be able to face these tests; being aware that it is OK if you fail, as there will be new opportunities, and finally, making it clear that your aptitudes will be more important for your future than any grade.

 

11Onze is the community fintech of Catalonia. Open an account by downloading the super app El Canut for Android or iOS and join the revolution!

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