The issue of the Multiculturalism

  An approximation to the language immersion in Catalonia as a multiculturalist contention



Will Kimlicka, Canadian political philosopher specialist in liberalism, multiculturalism and minority rights, asserts in his book Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction that the traditional model of “citizenship-as-rights” has been challenged lately from two directions:

The first challenge, discussed in the chapter seven of his book, explains the need to intensify the debate on the focus in the relation between the rights and the civic virtues, and the promotion of the active political participation of the population. The second challenge, examined in the next chapter, tries to explain how we could step up the common rights of the citizenship, especially in cases where the political and cultural pluralism is strong, and often problematic. About these questions, debated in this chapter called “Multiculturalism”, is what I am going to discuss about. Trying to expose it in an abridged version especially in terms of “rights of the national minorities”, discuss about it and try to explain these questions applied in a linguistic contention in Catalonia, north-east Spain.

Kimlicka’s definition of the term

As Kimlicka states, this movement of study, this “second challenge” is also called “politics of difference”, “identity politics”, “politics of recognition” or simply “multiculturalism”. The common idea, is basically that they are not about economic or power interests, they are about “identity”, and therefore they are forms of “identity politics”.

In the traditional model of “citizenship-as-rights”, Kimlicka says, the target was to promote a certain sort of common national identity amongst citizens. T.H. Marshall once said that “citizenship is not just a certain legal status […] it’s also an identity, an expression of one’s membership in a political community”(pag.328) . Inside this sentence, inside the word identity, it’s included the need of certain social rights in order to help integrate the possible excluded group in this called common national culture. This certain social rights are good, both from the point of view of the excluded group but also for the state.

This vision of integrate lower classes in the common national culture has been seen in early 20th century, trying to integrate the working class into the “national culture”, previously with access only for the well off citizens. This was not only for altruistic reasons. As Marshall notices, there were fears that if the working class didn’t identify with the loyalist feeling to British civilization, might be tempted to support foreign ideas, as communism and Bolshevism. Therefore, we can see that for the state it’s easier to govern a society when its citizens share a common national language, culture and identity. All the functions of the state work better if there is a certain commonality unity amongst citizens.

As Kimlicka argues, “the right of education is not a right to education in any language the children or parent choose, but rather to education in the national language, since the goal is not just to meet some abstract need for rationality, literacy or knowledge, but also to educate people in a way that will help integrate them into the national culture”. We will discuss this sentence later, in the case of the linguistic contention in Catalonia.

To sum up, with the social rights the citizens gain benefits, trough common public institutions in a common national language, creating and reinforcing a common national identity as a goal.

However, with the time and perspective, we have seen (and we are seeing it nowadays) that many groups still feel marginalized (or stigmatized) despite possessing the common rights of citizenship. They demand “differentiated citizenship”, as Iris Marion Young defines it. The reason is simple; they can’t accommodate their needs in a “standard citizenship” based in the “standard human” -white, male, able-bodied and heterosexual. This stigmatized groups (sometimes out of the standard definition) want to go further and the recognition of rights for their group; they demand a differentiated citizenship.

Supported by, for example, the “national minorities” like the Québécois, Catalans or Flemish, this idea of differentiation clashes with the idea of a single and monolithic common national culture, defended by the larger state. They consider themselves different nations, hence fighting for the survival of their own culture, self-government institutions and the operation of this in their own national language.

Other groups accept the idea of national integration, but seek different forms of treatment, for example the gay people, a clear example of stigmatization.

These groups that claimed differentiated citizenship are heterogeneous, often with the same contrasts as the larger society and internal differences that makes the problem more difficult.

Kimlicka explains that, to oversimplify, in every Western democracy there are two powerful hierarchies: an economic hierarchy (one’s position is determined by one’s relationship to the market or to means of production) that can be tackled with the politics of redistribution, and the Status hierarchy (the closer you are into the standard spots of the “normal or correct” human, the upper step in the status hierarchy you are) also shaped by discriminatory laws. Precisely, the fights against these discriminatory facts (laws or lack of them) generate the “politics of recognition”.

But, in the real world, politics of redistribution and politics of recognition are usually mixed. Although they have strong relation, the status hierarchy is not reducible to the economic hierarchy. For the national minorities, for example, Klimckta states that “they enjoy the same standard of living as the majority and in some cases actually a higher than average income, yet their language and culture is seen as inferior to that of the majority” (ref. pagina 333). Hence, the economic equality has not eliminated the status inequality, therefore they demand and mobilize for a politics of recognition.

Even so, there are people who reject the idea of group-differentiated citizenship as a contradiction in terms. They say that the real democracy promotes that people should be equal under the law. What are the moral arguments for or against such group-differentiated rights? To answer these questions, Klimcka tries to separate out the different groups involved. I will try to focus on the rights of the ethno-cultural groups as national minorities, although they often are the same with other marginalized groups.

These ethno-cultural groups have two characteristics in common: 1) They go beyond the individual citizenship rights of the liberal democracies, and 2) They are adopted to recognize the distinctive identities of the groups. Klimcka use the word “multiculturalism” as the set of claims, or simply “minority rights”.

To understand why nowadays these claims are in the forefront of the political theory, we have to take a look after the fall of the communism. This deep change caused a revival of the conception of the ethnicity and nationalism (sometimes aside the refusal of the immigration) and the growth of the nationalisms inside old Western democracies (Quebec in Canada, Scotland in Britain, Catalonia in Spain..). Hence, it’s obvious that the problem of the minorities in Western democracies it’s far to be solved, and that’s why is increasing, as Klimcka points out, the debate of these kind of rights inside the political philosophers. Klimcka defines three stages in the debate.

First stage: Multiculturalism as communitarianism

Dated before the 1989, with analogies for practical reasons, the debate over multiculturalism was equivalent in the debate between liberals and communitarians (let’s say between individualists and collectivists).

On one hand, liberals insist that individuals should be free to decide on their own, arguing that individual is morally prior to the community: The community matters only because it contributes to the well-being of the individuals who compose it. Are the individuals who decide to eliminate or maintain the cultural practices of the community?

On the other hand, communitarians say that individuals are “embedded” in a particular social roles and relationships. They inherit a way of life which defines their good for them. “Rather than viewing group practices as the product of individual choices, communitarians view individuals as the product of social practices”. (pag. 337)

In this first stage, it was the assumption that one’s position on multiculturalism was dependent on one’s position on the debate announced above. Liberal means opposition to multiculturalism and conversely, communitarian means uphold multiculturalism, a way of protecting communities from the effects of individual autonomy. Specially in terms of ethno-cultural minorities, with a “communal way of life still not under the liberal individualism”.


Second Stage: Multiculturalism within a liberal framework

In the second stage, the debate got deeper, out of the binomial “liberalism or communitarianism”. Despite some ethno-cultural groups clearly communitarian (isolationist ethno-religious groups like the Amish), most ethno-cultural groups in Western democracies, like national minorities, want to be included and equal in these called “modern liberal societies”. Creating a distinct society, but in a modern and liberal way, sometimes more liberal than the larger state.

Thus, the debate turned inside the liberalism, amongst the meaning of liberalism and what is the scope for this new vision of the multiculturalism, now within a liberal theory. We can see that there are groups who endorse the basic liberal consensus in terms of democracy, but they disagree (sometimes drastically) in the interpretation of multi-ethnic societies, specially about language, nationality and identities. The main issue now is inside the groups who, despite of sharing the same vision in the liberal theory, still demand minority rights. Why aren’t they satisfied?

Kimlicka echoes the explanation of Joseph Raz, who claims that multiculturalism (acces to the individuals to their culture) helps to ensure the cultural flourishing and mutual respect in a “cultural membership”, that at the same time enforces the national identity in a modern freedom-seeking citizens. This vision, where this cultural interests sometimes need special rights for minorities in the name of the liberal principles of freedom and equality, is defined as “liberal culturalist” position according to Kimlicka.

Some say that people can choose to form a strong link with a particular language or culture, but that is their choice, not a need. We can answer it justifying that language and culture where people are raised in are not chosen circumstances, not voluntarily. And, moreover, abandon one’s culture for another it’s especially easier for minorities than for the larger society, that lives well off in their own.

For the liberal defenders of multiculturalism, is crucial to distinguish the bad minority rights, that involve restricting individual rights from the “good” minority rights, that supplement individual rights. The first, called internal restrictions, involves the right of a group against its own members (protecting against internal dissent). The second, external protections, involve the group against the larger society (protecting against external pressures).

Although there some controversial points between the application of these rights (both are collective rights so both could be found mixed), it’s clear that, as Klimcka affirms, “granting special representation rights, land claims, language rights to a minority often doesn’t put it in a position to dominate other groups. On the contrary, such rights can be seen as putting the various groups on a more equal footing, by reducing the extent to which the smaller group is vulnerable to the larger”. (pag. 341)

We can argue that minority rights are consistent with liberal culturalism if 1) they protect the freedom of individuals of the group and 2) they promote relation of equality (non-dominance) between groups. (Kymlicka 199a: ch.3).

That is what we can observe in the majority of the ethno-cultural groups that seek their rights. In national minorities, the self-government right devolve powers to smaller political units, so that minority cannot be outbid by the majority on decisions of particular importance to their culture (language, education, immigration)… as we saw external protections that helps the minority, and very rarely transformed in internal restrictions. But this second stage also has flaws, and Kimlicka points out it misinterprets the nature of the liberal state, and the demands it places on minorities, giving way to the third stage of the debate.

The third stage: Multiculturalism as a response to nation-building

Kimlicka explains that there is the assumption in the liberal state not to intrude in the multicultural facts, in the name of the “benign neglect”, since is indifferent to the ethnocultural identities of its citizens. In this liberal way, liberal states treat culture in the same way, as Kimlicka points out, as the religion -people is free to choose in their private life, so is not the concern of the state. Therefore, in this vision of liberal neutrality, there cannot be official cultures or the promotion of a particular language or religion in the name of efficiency and the social harmony.

This vision of “benign neglect”, in such case, is defended also for the ethno-cultural diversity. But it has the opposition of minorities and liberal culturalists. They try to show that, departing from the benign neglect, the minority rights supplement, rather than diminish individual freedom and equality. And also, the false assumption that the states are indifferent to ethno-cultural identities. In this liberal-nationalist strategy the state protects and promotes always the majority language, culture and traditions (due to the power of the majority in the state institutions) in the name of the integration in the “societal culture”, with a common membership to enforce.

This liberal-nationalist has awaked resistance inside the state. It’s clear that the institutions that promote this nation-building cannot only promote one societal culture. So the question falls on the role of the nation-building: does it create injustices for minorities? Can we help these minority rights against these injustices? In this part, Kimlicka open a new front, trying to explain this new model in the five models of culturalism that he announces. I will explain basically the model of the national minorities.

Five models of multiculturalism

We’ve seen that in the process of nation-building the majority culture is the one that gains privileges, marginalizing the minorities. How can they face this problem? Kimlicka distinguishes four options. 1)Emigrate in mass, especially if they have a friendly state near them (like Jews from Russia to Israel); 2) Accept the integration in the majority culture, but seeking better terms of integration; 3) Try to defend the rights on self-government to maintain their own societal culture (some national minorities); and 4) Accept the permanent marginalization (like the Amish culture).

National minorities

In this case, (main case I will speak about) we talk about groups as “societies in an historic homeland prior to being incorporated into a larger state”. (pag. 349). Kimlicka divides this group in “substate nations” and “indigenous peoples”. The first ones are nations without a currently state, but in almost all the cases or they have had an state or they seek one. Maybe they’ve been conquered or annexed by the larger state in the past, or they were united with another kingdom (or because a voluntary agreement) and often in terms of weakness by the current minority.

In the case of indigenous peoples, they are groups with traditional lands that have been overrun by settlers, and forced to integrate in the larger state as foreigners; that’s why they seek to maintain traditional ways of life and nevertheless participating (in their own way) in the modern world. They seek recognition of the larger state and respect for all the suffering of the past.

These forms of resistance this nation-building from the state by national minorities are showed in, for example, the claim for a own self-government institutions, operating in their own language and live in their own culture (schools, media, political institutions..) even claiming for the self-determination right to exercise the secession, using the language of the “nation-hood”.

As we can see in this upper definition, the national minorities just wanted to be granted the tools to live in their own societal culture, hence they need the same tools that the majority uses to promote this nation-building. So, now the question is how should liberal democracies respond to such minority nationalism?

These democracies have tried to suppress minority nationalism. Banning language minority languages in the schools, marginalizing traditional customs, persecuting publications and illegalizing political associations of this substate nations. They thought they had to disempower national minorities. Otherwise, this nations could be disloyal or secessionist.

Over the years this attitude has changed. It was mistaken. It simply didn’t work. As Kimlicka affirms, the character of a national identity can change quickly (customs, stories, collective imaginarium) but the identity itself is much more stable. The application of self-government arrangements diminish the options of violent conflict, while the opposite arise the level of conflict. Therefore the best way to ensure this valued loyalty has been to accept, and not attack, this distinct nationality.

The other four models of multiculturalism are models I won’t explain because they are not relevant to the field I want to put the focus on. These models are the immigrant groups, the isolationist ethno-religious groups, the metics (long-term residents who are nonetheless excluded from the polis, as Michael Walzer defines) and the group of African-Americans.

In this third stage, hence, Kimlicka asks to solve the question about how each group’s claims can be seen as specifying the injustices which majority nation-building has imposed on them, and identifying the conditions under which majority nation-building would cease to be unjust. Minorities don’t say that nation-building programmes are inherently impermissible, but they should be under limitations. A majority nation-building in a liberal democracy is legitimate under the following conditions:

  1. No groups of long-term residents are permanently excluded from membership in the nation. They must be able to gain citizenship, and become an equal member of the nation.
  2. The socio-cultural integration which is required for membership should be understood in a thin sense, a pluralist and tolerant one. Trying to accommodate the identity and practices of ethno-cultural minorities.
  3. National minorities are allowed to engage in their own nation-building, to enable them to maintain themselves as distinct societal cultures.

We need new patterns of ethnic relations, in this complex dialectic of state nation-building (state demanding on minorities) and minority rights (minority demands on the state).

These demands are legitimate; really do serve to protect them from real or potencial injustices. What gives the state the right to insist on common national languages, education systems, imposing such things on minorities?

A new front in the multiculturalism wars?

Kimlcika, in this part, puts the accent in the justice of minority claims. Liberal opposition to multiculturalism insists in the “colour-blindness” of the state, but the facts show us that this enforces the mainstream institutions and the larger society in front of the minorities.

Multiculturalism is not giving privileges or discrimination to the majority, but a compensation for unfair disadvantages. In this case, the opposition puts the focus no longer in the justice, but in social unity, a unity which sustains a healthy society. Even though, this is not correct. As we have seen, social unity is enforced when the state helps the integration and the recognition of minorities, instead of trying to deny this rights.

In the claim of national minorities, where there is a distinct national identity, the larger state should recognize the self-government, fact that promotes the political stability. “The political implications of multiculturalism depend in part on whether the people invoking multiculturalism accept the liberal premises about the revisability and plurality of our ends (liberal form which seeks to challenge status inequalities while preserving individual freedom). If not, it’s a conservative form of multiculturalism that seeks to replace liberal principles with a communitarian politics of the common good. But in this respect, multiculturalism bears the same political ambiguities as the nationalism.” (pag. 369)

To finish the chapter, Kimlicka states that there are two dynamics related: liberal forms of nation-building tend to generate liberal forms of multiculturalist responses, while conservative forms of nation-building generate conservative forms of multiculturalist responses.

Once we have seen the theory, causes and consequences of the different points of view of the multiculturalism of Will Kimlicka, let’s see a special case about the controversial case of the linguistic immersion. A fight of a sub-state nation for the minority rights against the larger state, who defends not to permit it in the name of the freedom.


What does language immersion mean?                                                                   

Language immersion is a method of teaching language, usually a second or a minority language. This also called target language, in order to be known by the students, is used for instruction in the majority of the class subjects. The goal is to achieve a bilingual education, where the students, when they finish the study, they should have the same level in both languages, in order to have equal opportunities in the society.

Every society needs to share a common language, as we have seen in the precedent lines. This common language is also one of the tools to unify and to give a common identity, trying to build a same-level-society when it comes to social opportunities, where its members of this society can interact and cooperate with each other using the same language.

In the Catalan case, the main language used in the program of the language immersion is the own language of Catalonia, the Catalan language. Despite it’s not a threaten language in its entirety (more than eleven million speakers and in some parts very good health) it is a minority language endangered by lack of a state to protect it, or enough institutions to defend it from other stronger languages.


Since hundreds of years ago, the Catalan language is divided within three states, and usually this territories where the Catalan is present call themselves Països Catalans, “Catalan countries” (map). The biggest part of the Catalan-speakers are in Spain, in Catalonia, but also in the País Valencià (south east Spain), in Aragón (called Franja de Ponent) and in the Balearic Islands. Also in Andorra, in a small southern part of France called Catalunya Nord and in a small city in the italian island of Sardegna (L’Alguer).

The problem of the language is that, exept the small country of Andorra, any of these states have the Catalan as a first language, or even as an official language. These states, as we have seen in the Kimlicka’s chapter, defend the interests of the larger societies, and the Catalan is seen as a second language, seen as less important than Spanish,  French or Italian. Even usually these states have seen Catalan as a politic enemy, in terms of impede the “national unity and identity” of this big states. It’s normal to find so many laws against the Catalan language in the history (prohibition, banning and persecution, illegalizing the education in this language, associations to promote it etc.). Practically disappeared in Sardegna, suffering in south France and very threaten in the rest of the territories except in Catalonia. Let’s see the reasons.

In 1975, Dictator Franco died. The fascist regime of Franco, during forty years tried to unify Spain under a fascist national Spanish identity, supressing national minorities as the Galician people, the Basques and the Catalans. Catalan had seen as a politic enemy and during this dictatorship was severally damaged.

In 1983, eight years after Franco’s death and with the Spanish state into a transition to the Democracy, the regional authorities agreed that in the Catalan school system children wouldn’t be segregated on account of their parents’ language. So they had the idea to follow effective teaching system in Quebec, Canada, where all the children is schooled in one common language without regard of what they speak at home.

When the pupils start the school, they are schooled in Catalan. When they are between 5 and 8 years, Spanish language is slowly introduced, as well as the English language. Once we have these languages in the teaching system, Catalan is the vehicular language in most of the courses, in order to acquire an equivalent knowledge of  Catalan and Spanish languages at the end of the students’ schooling.

This need to equalize this languages is because there are a lot of children with a Spanish mother-tongue, most of them with parents immigrants from all around Spain that came to Catalonia. Also, with the new wave of immigration this last years, in the Catalan schools there are children from all around the world, with several different mother tongues and with the need to be integrated in a same common language in order to have the same social opportunities as other citizen of Catalonia.

This system, after all this time, has very good results, not only in terms of grade of knowledge of the languages, but in terms of integration of non-Catalan-speaking families: involving them in this education of strong integration, it contributes to generate among immigrant people a feeling of help and reception by this new society, where they are called to participate in it as “normal citizen” do.

But since the creation of this system where the Catalan is the “common language of the Catalan society”, the Spanish nationalism is trying to hinder the normalization of the Catalan language. Especially from the main party who commands the Government of Spain nowadays, which does not agree about this education system.

The right nationalist party of Spain, Partido Popular, tries to undermine the language immersion in the name of the right of the parents to choose the language in which their children should be educated. They propose Catalan or Spanish, trying that the non-Catalan speakers choose Spanish, avoiding so the Catalan.

 Who has the reason? Motifs and arguments of both sides.                                                  

The contention in this case of language immersion is, as we can see, politic. So there are reasons beyond the rational facts, historical and strategic grounds to consider.

For Spanish nationalist speech, language immersion is a nation-building tool too much powerful for a “region” that they say it shouldn’t be so self-governed. They don’t want to ban the language, but the Spanish nationalism knows that Catalan identity is threat inside Spain, and the Catalan is the main icon. If they can reduce the language just into the folklore and the private life (as Franco and the previous governors tried), they would have the control of the Catalan policy in some decades.

They put as a starting point to discuss this case with the Freedom as a flag. In this view, the parents should have the power to choose the language. Spanish or Catalan in an equal terms. It seems, hence, a very good point to start, or a rational speech to defend. If we consider the freedom of the individual a basic right, the right to choose the language of your children should be fair.

We can defend also, as the Catalan-language defenders do, that live the life in the language of your territory is a non-rebuttable individual right. Every citizen should be free and able to use the language of their territory in their territory in all the levels of the daily life. But to fulfil this premise, all the citizens of this territory should know the language of the place where they are, in order to be able to speak with the speakers of the language of this territory. The education in Catalan for all the citizens makes it possible, so this national minority can live in their own language inside their frontiers.

But if we accept the Spanish nationalist premise that defends the right to choose the language, we accept as well that there will be few citizens without enough knowledge of the language where they are, because they have tried not to study the language of the immersion program, so they won’t be able to speak in the language of the territory, in this case the Catalan. We can say, therefore, that this right of choosing languages attacks the right to speak the one’s own language in one’s land, and it contributes to segregate citizens in the moment where there are citizens who know the language of the territory and citizens who don’t, eroding the society.

Spanish nationalists answer this question with identity reasons. The common language of Spain is the Spanish (and by law the single one official), and, as Catalonia is Spain, also the main language of Catalonia is the Spanish, at least. As is said before, the Catalan is relegated in a folkloric and private ambit.

Basically, this fight is not about the language. It is a fight about what does it mean Catalonia, and the role the nation-building tools that Catalonia controls. As we have seen before, every larger state tends to defend one of the languages, in order to build one common society in a common rules. But what if we find national minorities? Catalonia is a national minority and in due to the Spanish nationalist attacks its separatist movement is growing day after day. The Spanish attempts have been to integrate Catalans into the larger Spanish society, the single ones that Spanish establishment says that exists. Catalonia cannot develop its  “own society”, because from the Spanish nationalist point of view, Catalonia is not a nation, it’s just a region as other.

Suggestions to solve the problem                                                                                  

The problem is that for every side there are different problems to solve. In the Spanish nationalist side, the problem is how they can stop the development of a society that works out of the “Spanish social reality”. A society, the Catalan one, that is building, after the prohibition for so many years, their own society. In the Catalan side, the language is not a problem. The problem is how the Catalan national minority can achieve more power in order to be protected from the Spanish nationalism attacks, even asking for the self-determination right, as other nations do (Scotland, Quebec…)

Kimlicka proves that there is only one way to solve the integration of the national minorities into the larger societies: accepting and respecting their own standards of living, even defending it by the larger state. Dialogue, listen each other and talk in terms of equal. If the State and the larger society cannot accept and respect national differences into their own frontiers, there will be a long problem, and it is what’s happening in Spain. J.K.Rowling said that “understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

The solution of this issue  is not a magic chimera. It is needed, and it is worth it.

Joan Ferran Sala

Contemporary Political Philosophy: Equality

Πανεπιστήμιο Κρήτης

I would like to aknowledge the Professor Kostas Koukouzelis

Under Creative Commons – Mention it if you use it

“Catalunya no és un poble mesell”

Crònica d’uns temps convulsos:

Els fets de la Canadenca i la figura de Salvador Seguí

El discurs de Salvador Seguí a l’Ateneu de Madrid l’1 d’Octubre del 1919

“A Catalunya, els elements reaccionaris del catalanisme, sovint aixequen la bandera de les reivindicacions catalanes, en un sentit nacionalista. I quan més soroll fan és en el moment en què es produeix un fet social de ressonància, talment com si cerquessin la intervenció de les autoritats de l’Estat espanyol per a batre els treballadors catalans.
Ateneo de Madrid
Nosaltres, i ho dic ací, a Madrid, i si convé també a Barcelona, som i serem contraris a aquests senyors que pretenen monopolitzar la política catalana no per assolir la llibertat per Catalunya, sinó per a defensar millor els seus interessos de classe i sempre amatents a malmetre les reivindicacions del proletariat català.
I us puc assegurar que aquests reaccionaris que s’autoanomenen catalanistes, el que més temen es el redreçament nacional de Catalunya, en el cas que Catalunya no els restés sotmesa. I com que saben que Catalunya no es un poble mesell, ni tan sols intenten deslligar la política catalana de l’espanyola.
En canvi nosaltres, els treballadors, com sigui que amb una Catalunya independent no hi perdríem res, ans al contrari, hi guanyaríem molt. La independència de la nostra terra no ens fa por.
Estigueu segurs, amics madrilenys que m’escolteu, que si es parlés seriosament d’independitzar Catalunya de l’Estat espanyol, els primers i potser els únics que s’oposarien a la llibertat nacional de Catalunya, foren els capitalistes de la Lliga Regionalista i del Fomento del Trabajo Nacional.
Tanmateix hi ha moltes proves que confirmen el meu raonament. Tant se val que proclamin el seu catalanisme en discursos i articles periodístics….quan són a Barcelona, si pensen que es troben en perill els interessos de la seva classe benestant, enfollits i a corre cuita fan cap a Madrid, per oferir els seus serveis a la monarquia centralista, i més d’una vegada els haureu pogut veure vestint la casaca de ministre.
És per ventura, amb la col·laboració ministerial com es poden afirmar les aspiracions de la llibertat nacional de Catalunya, sotmesa a una monarquia centralista enemiga de l’emancipació dels pobles hispànics?
Sortosament la Catalunya vexada, injuriada, privada de la seva llibertat nacional, coneix be els seus detractors i sap de quin cantó estan els seus veritables amics i defensors.
Una Catalunya alliberada de l’Estat espanyol, us asseguro amics madrilenys, que fora una Catalunya amiga de tots els pobles de la península hispànica i sospito que els qui ara es volen presentar com a capdavanters del catalanisme, tenen una entesa fraternal i duradora amb altres nacionalitats peninsulars.
Per tant, és falsa la catalanitat dels qui dirigeixen la Lliga Regionalista, i es que aquesta gent avantposa els seus interessos de classe, es a dir, els interessos del capitalisme, a tot altre interès o ideologia.
Estic tant cert del que dic, que sense por d’exagerat, puc assegurar-vos que si algun dia Catalunya conquereix la seva llibertat nacional, els primers si no els únics, repeteixo, que li posaran entrebancs, seran els homes de la Lliga Regionalista, perquè a Catalunya, com a tot arreu, el capitalisme està mancat d’ideologia“.

Salvador Seguí.

Discurs de Salvador Seguí, el Noi del Sucre, l’1 d’Octubre de 1919 a l’Ateneu de Madrid. Del llibre “Salvador Seguí: escrits”. Recull a cura d’Isidre Molas. Pàg 53-54. Ed.62, 1975


Els fets de la Canadenca i la figura de Salvador Seguí

“El present és la conseqüència del passat, i en ell s’ha d’engendrar el futur llançant a la terra bona llavor.”

                                                                                                                 Salvador Seguí (1923) Escola de Rebel·lia

La Història de Catalunya ha viscut nombrosos temps i èpoques de canvi.  Temps convulsos i moguts, que ens recorden que som una terra de moviments i contradiccions. Una terra que mai ha restat a l’espera, immòbil, del futur. Sovint avançada al seu temps, la societat catalana ha sapigut resoldre dubtes –i obrir preguntes- allà on d’altres no hi veien debats possibles.

Plena de contradiccions i de reptes, la Història de Catalunya, la dels vencedors i la dels vençuts, la dels que mai surten als llibres d’història i la dels que potser hi surten massa, la història dels catalans, la dels altres catalans, és una barreja de sentiments i pragmatisme, de lluita i de pacte, d’escoltar i intentar ser escoltats.

Diuen que sovint la història tendeix a repetir-se. Malgrat que aquesta frase no crec que sigui tant certa com la èpica demanaria, sí que crec que, en la Història, tendeixen a repetir-se fets històrics, comuns i característics, que invariablement i cada cert temps reapareixen en escena per recordar-nos qui som i d’on venim.

No crec que exageri, o en tot cas no és voluntat meva, afirmar que, en l’espai d’història concreta que ens pertoca i en aquest minúscul territori per viure-la, ens hem tornat a posar dempeus una altra vegada. I si mirem enrere i veiem d’on venim, podem entreveure un fil continu d’història que es repeteix, si és que mai ha tingut un final clar. Tanmateix, podriem afirmar que es reprèn.

Aquests temps actuals de la situació catalana ens obliguen a mirar enrere i entendre el passat, ja que aquest passat es manifesta en el present, i comprenent-lo, podrem avançar en els debats presents i enfonsar les raons en les arrels del temps.

El text i la imatge que he agafat, crec que reflecteixen un clar debat que sempre ha estat sobre la taula i que es manifesta amb força aquests darrers anys.

Aquest debat no és sinó l’encaix a quatre bandes entre dues visions polítiques oposades i dues visions nacionals també oposades, malgrat que en aparença plegades:

Aquestes visions, que desenvoluparé al llarg del text, ens permeten entendre la complexitat de país, les palanques de canvi (o de reacció) i la pugna i concepció dels interessos nacionals i de classe: Una classe obrera cada cop més conscienciada i organitzada, amb projecte de futur definit, envers una burgesia moderna i culte, amb un projecte en camí oposat a les reivindicatives obreres. I l’objectiu nacional en boca dels dos, però, com podem apreciar avui dia, en ben diferents termes.

Emblema de la Companyia de producció i distribució elèctrica Barcelona Traction Light and Power C.L, coneguda popularment com “La Canadenca” degut l’origen canadenc de la seva fundació per F.S. Pearson l’any 1911. Establerta a Barcelona, serà coneguda històricament per l’expansió econòmica i empresarial de la distribució energètica, així com per la vaga que es va originar en el si d’una de les seves filials entre el Febrer i el Març de 1919, que constituí un punt d’inflexió en el moviment obrer català i espanyol.


La imatge, icone de La Canadenca, simbolitza una empresa imprescindible per entendre l’evolució de la indústria a Catalunya, globalitzada  i modernitzadora, amb tot el que aquesta evolució pot comportar i comportarà. La Canadenca també serà el símbol de les contradiccions i reivindicacions ideològiques i polítiques d’un temps que el protagonista del text Salvador Seguí, el noi del Sucre, denunciarà en la conferència a Madrid.

Conflicte dels treballadors, independència, crisi del capitalisme, Madrid, monarquia. Uns conceptes sota un discurs que ben bé podriem trobar aquests dies. Canviant els noms, la partida té unes regles molt semblants. Potser comprenent-les entendrem els futurs esdeveniments.

Catalunya al primer terç del segle XX

El primer terç del segle XX fou un segle extremadament complex per Catalunya. En l’aspecte demogràfic, fruit de l’evolució en les condicions de vida l’esperança de vida augmentà de 1900 a 1936 dels 37 als 50 anys. Això, sumat a una forta onada migratòria provinent del País Valencià, l’Aragó i Murcia, va canviar la fesomia del país, que veia també com progressivament aquesta industrialització creixent feia crèixer les principals ciutats fabrils. Malgrat els canvis econòmics que suposà, encara (i potser més marcadament que d’altres èpoques) pervivien les tres classes socials tradicionals ben diferenciades. La classe alta, amb una petita minoria de sectors nobles i terratinents i amb els membres més destacats de la burgesia i els alts càrrecs polítics. La classe mitjana, més dèbil que a d’altres estats d’europa i concentrada fonamentalment a les ciutats, era formada per professions liberals, comerciants.

Per últim, una classe baixa, la més nombrosa formada pels obrers, camperols i individus marginats de la societat., que presentava uns alts nivells d’analfabetisme i mortalitat i vivia en condicions de vida molt dures, tant a les ciutats treballant en fàbriques, com al camp, com a jornalers o masovers.

L’economia catalana era ja plenament una economia industrial. Una economia que es caracteritzà per la seva ràpida diversificació ja a inicis de segle, degut en bona mesura al capital que tornà de les colònies quan aquestes foren perdudes el 1898, així com per l’inici d’inversions d’origen estranger, sobretot d’origen alemany i anglès a partir de 1914.

Així, aquesta diversificació portà al desenvolupament d’altres àmbits més enllà del tradicional tèxtil, com el químic, la indústria del ciment, la automobilística o la que té relació amb aquest treball i que serà capdal per a l’evolució industrial del país: la indústria elèctrica.

La indústria elèctrica va ser la gran indústria dels anys 10 i 20 a Catalunya. A diferència del carbó, de producció escassa a Catalunya i limitava molt el desenvolupament industrial, l’energia elèctrica es generava aprofitant els cabdals dels rius del Pirineu català. Això va permetre que s’eliminés la dependència del carbó que s’importava d’Astúries i de l’estranger.  L’any 1911 es fundaria la companyia elèctrica més important de Catalunya, al Barcelona traction, light and power, coneguda popularment com La Canadenca, empresa a la que després m’hi referiré ja que és el vincle entre Salvador Seguí i l’icone, que és precisament el logotip d’aquesta empresa.

La Canadenca i el seu entorn –

La tensa situació política

Pel que fa a la situació política d’aquestes primeres dècades, a Catalunya era de forta conflictivitat social. El moviment obrer es començava a organitzar ja en sindicats, i ja tenien força mobilitzadora rellevant. El moviment obrer, fins llavors proper al discurs lerrouxista, va veure amb bons ulls la constitució del sindicat d’orientació anarquista de la CNT el 1911 (curiosament el mateix any de fundació de la Canadenca) de la que en formaria part Salvador Seguí, o d’altres nous moviments sindicals com el CADCI.

Pel que fa al catalanisme polític, a inicis de segle es fundaria la Lliga regionalista, el partit polític més important de Catalunya fins l’arribada de Miguel Primo de Rivera. El seu catalanisme era socialment conservador i moderat, d’un sector burgès industrial, de classes mitjanes i propietaris agraris inquiets per l’organització de l’obrerisme. Cercaven l’autogovern de Catalunya, i aixi feren reivindicacions encaminades en aquesta linia, i s’iniciaren algunes accions rellevants pel catalanisme polític com la Mancomunitat de Catalunya, la creació de Solidaritat Catalana o la campanya autonomista de 1818  i 1919.

Els anys previs als fets de la canadenca, fets que desenvoluparé posteriorment, van ser força moguts i complexos: l’any 1917, el sistema de la restauració espanyol, vigent des de 1875, va patir una greu crisi que va accelerar el desintegrament d’aquest model polític i que desembocaria en el cop de Primo de Rivera el 1923. Eduardo Dato, al cap del govern conservador, va suspendre les garanties constitucionals. La lliga de Cambó organitza l’assemblea de parlamentaris, mentres que per una altra banda l’obrerisme hi donaria una resposta contundent provocant una crisi social: La UGT (i la CNT a Catalunya) van cridar a la vaga general, amb un ull posat al procés revolucionari rus que s’estavad duent a terme aquella època. Aquesta vaga, obertament revolucionària, va ser sufocada durament per l’exèrcit a petició del Govern, restablint l’ordre després d’haver assassinat 70 obrers, provocant una radicalització de l’obrerisme.

Aquesta vaga tindrà moltes repercussions en les lluites entre la burgesia catalana i l’obrerisme en els anys que vindran, i que podem veure plenament en el discurs de Seguí: Com a resposta als republicans i socialistes espanyols, que majoritàriament havien simpatitzat amb la vaga general, la Lliga es retirà de l’última Assemblea de Parlamentaris celebrada a Madrid el 1917.

En un cop d’efecte estratègic que veurem implicitament criticat en el discurs del Noi del Sucre, la Lliga Regionalista passà a donar suport al Govern de concentració liberal de Garcia Prieto, oposant-se als propòsits de l’Assemblea de Parlamentaris. La Lliga doncs, havia preferit salvar el cadúc sistema de la Restauració abans que permetre una Revolució social.

Els precedents dels fets de la Canadenca

Un cop acabada la Primera Guerra Mundial, moltes de les indústries que s’havien creat per donar resposta a la demanda dels imperis en guerra, quan aquests van reemprendre la seva economia nacional es van veure obligades a tancar, en veure disminuida la demanda i entrar en crisi.  Això va fer augmentar notablement la conflictivitat social, que ja venia radicalitzada dels fets de 1917 i anteriors.

L’obrerisme tornava a estar ben organitzat. La CNT a Catalunya s’organitzà en sindicats d’indústria o de ram, anomenats Sindicats únics, l’any 1918,  agrupant els treballadors sota un mateix ram de producció. Així també es cohesionava els treballadors d’un mateix ofici, i provocà un augment notable dels afiliats al sindicat (que passaven a ser uns 700.000 al 1919). La reestructuració de la CNT en sindicats únics va ser obra de Salvador Seguí, líder del sector majoritari dins la CNT.

Salvador Seguí, conegut popularment com El noi del sucre, estigué implicat en política des de ben jovenet.  Amb només 20 anys, l’any 1908 impulsà el moviment de Solidaritat Obrera. Intentar unir els diferents corrents obrers des de la seva perspectiva anarquista “oberta”, fet que el va fer portar, un cop ja creada la CNT, a plantjar l’actuació conjunta amb la UGT (com la reeixida vaga general del 17). Sempre tingué clara la defensa del catalanisme, en contraposició al catalanisme burgès i classista de la Lliga. Al congrès de Sants de la CNT, el Juny i Juliol de 1918, aconseguí ser elegit secretari general de la CNT, desenvolupant els sindicats únics com a recurs d’unió obrera per evitar el recurs de la violència que sempre havia rebutjat.

Uns mesos més tard, a inicis del 1919, esclataria la vaga de la Canadenca.


Impacte als diaris –

 La vaga de la Canadenca

La vaga de la Canadenca va ser un gran moviment vaguístic, i pel que fa al seu contingut principalment pacífic la més important de la primera part del segle XX. D’origen i capital canadenc (d’aquí ve el seu nom) l’empresa elèctrica Barcelona Traction Light and power SA va ser Fundada per Fred Stark Pearson el 1911. Promouria nombroses obres faraòniques (preses i projectes hidroelèctrics) convertint-se en la primera productora europea d’electricitat, i s’expandiria en altres sectors com el dels Tramvies, els Ferrocarrils, i altres empreses energètiques.

El detontant de la vaga es produí a inicis de gener, quan l’empresa Riegos y Fuerza del Ebro (filial de la Barcelona Traction Light and Power) deicií introduir canvis en les condicions del treball del personal de facturació, un fet que feia disminució de sous. Els treballadors demanaren el suport d’una CNT reorganitzada després del Congrés de Sants, i l’empresa respongué amb l’acomiadament de 8 treballadors de Facturació. Es detindran els treballadors de Solidaridad Obrera i s’iniciarà la censura prèvia per evitar difondre al màxim aquest conflicte. El 5 de Febrer, la resta de personal de Facturació es declarà en vaga de braços caiguts en solidaritat amb els seus companys acomiadats, que serà resposta per l’empresa acomiadant 140 treballadors, i negant-se a reconèixer el Sindicat Únic d’aigua, gas i electricitat de la CNT (amb qui ja havia tingut problemes un any abans).

Els treballadors dels altres departaments es van solidaritzar, i el dia 8 de febrer es va escampar la vaga pràcticament a la totalitat de l’empresa. El dia 10 l’empresa llançarà un ultimatum als vaguistes, qui al dia 15 es reuniran amb els directius (aquell mateix dia serà assassinat un cobrador de la companyia). El dia 17, el ram del tèxtil s’unirà a la vaga, i el dia 21 la CNT declarava la vaga a tot el sector i a les empreses on la Canadenca tingués participació, escampant la vaga general a Barcelona, deixant-la a les fosques, sense diaris i (des del 27)  sense tramvies. Les companyies donaren un ultimatum als vaguistes el dia 1 de març sota amenaça d’acomiadament, i provocà la “censura roja” quan el Sindicat Únic d’arts gràfiques aprovà censurar les notícies contràries als interessos dels vaguistes.

El dia 9, el capità general de Catalunya, Milans del Bosch, publicava un Ban ordenant la militarització dels empleats sota pena de presó: els vaguistes que es presentaven a la feina, es negaven a treballar i foren enviats al Castell de Montjuïc (uns 3000) i la vaga fou declarada per la CNT a Catalunya, fent que el Govern decretès l’estat de guerra. Malgrat tot, el Govern inicià la recerca del pacte amb el comitè d’empresa, davant d’una vaga tant estesa que ja demanava l’obertura dels sindicats clausurats, la llibertat dels empresonats i l’establiment de la jornada laboral de 8 hors. A mitjans de Març es reuniren a tres bandes l’enviat del Govern José Morote, els representants de La Canadenca i el comitè de vaga, i arribarien a un acord el 17, amb importants concessions als vaguistes, com la posada en llibertat dels empresonats, la readmissió o la jornada de 8 hores.

Per subscriure aquest acord, la CNT convocà dos dies després una assemblea extraordinària a la plaça de Les Arenes on hi acudiren més de 20.000 treballadors. Hi intervingueren nombrosos dirigents obrers, entre d’altres Salvador Seguí, que tancà el miting. S’aprovà l’acord, i el sindicat va sortir enfortit d’aquest conflicte, amb una força legitima i un poder en el si de la classe obrera molt rellevant.

La implantació dels sindiats únics, havia demostrat l’eficàcia en la lluita sindical.

Malgrat tot, per la CNT quedaria molt camí per recórrer perquè la patronal, molt mal parada d’aquella vaga, es mostrà àmpliament reticent a acomplir les promeses, provocant la reactivació de la vaga el 24 de Març, quan es declararà també el segon estat de guerra. El dos d’abril tots els sindicats quedaran clausurats i els seus responsables empresonats i un dia després, el Conde de Romanones decretarà la jornada de les 8 hores a tots els oficis, i Ángel Pestaña, serà detingut com a director de la Solidaridad Obrera.

El dia 9 d’Abril es fundaria la Federació Patronal de Barcelona, i el dia 14 es donaria per finalitzada aquesta segona vaga sota una forta repressió i contundència en aliança amb el capità general Milans del Bosch.

El paper de Salvador Seguí, el Noi del Sucre: el discurs de l’Ateneo

Pel que fa al paper de Seguí en aquesta vaga, va ser força rellevant: degut al seu prestigi les autoritats li demanaren la seva intervenció per aturar la vaga, i ell ho exposarà clarament (i aconseguirà convèncer molts indecisos) a l’esmentat miting de Les Arenes. El fet de que les autoritats no apliquessin les mesures acordades, convenceren Seguí de que calia canalitzar la lluita obrera, a més a més de l’organització sindical, mitjançant un partit polític obrer d’àmbit català. Calia allunyar-se de l’apoliticisme del que eren partidaris els antics dirigents anarquistes, i calia un partit socialista català, que provocà certes antipaties als sectors purs anarquistes. Aquí és quan plantejarà aquest debat al discurs de l’Ateneo de Madrid.

Aquest discurs a l’Ateneu de Madrid, que ja enllaçaria de ple amb el text proposat, és una crítica severa al nacionalisme burgès, a la visió capitalista i de contingut buit del catalanisme polític de la Lliga Regionalista, que com afirma Seguí té com a principals els objectius de classe. Exposat l’any 1919 a Madrid, el discurs de Seguí és una desmitificació del catalanisme com a eina únicament burgesa. El catalanisme, precisament defensa Seguí, és més pur en l’obrerisme perquè no fa por als treballadors. La defensa nacional de Catalunya, fins i tot alliberada de l’Estat espanyol no fa por als treballadors, ans el contrari. És la Lliga, afirma Seguí, qui no vol permetre que el possible alliberament nacional es dugui a terme, perquè al que respon la Lliga és als interessos de classe, una classe que si defensa el nacionalisme i les estructures d’autogovern és per monopolitzar la política catalana.

Una possible independència només faria tirar enrere la burgesia, i tornar a “Madrid” a corre cuita a la recerca de la protecció de la monarquia.  Així, Seguí afirma que als treballadors la independència no els fa por, perque hi guanyarien molt més del que hi perdrien. I malgrat que Seguí mai va tenir la independència com a principal objectiu, sí que n’era conscient que la independència també possibilitaria, i en millors termes, l’entesa amb la resta de pobles ibèrics.

En aquest discurs, deixava entreveure, com hem comentat més amunt, la possibilitat de la creació d’un partit d’unió obrera. Tot i sortir de proposicions anarcosindicalistes, hi havia un sector força rellevant a Catalunya partidari de la participació política. Així, nombrosos destacats dirigents de la CNT (el propi Seguí, però també Pestaña, Periò o Foix) que no veurien amb mals ulls la creació d’un nou partit amb obrers d’esperit “bakuninista sindical”.

Per aquestes proposicions serà acusat de desviacionista i politicista per la vella guàrdia anarquista i pels sectors Faistes, però que va guanyar simpaties dels sectors socialistes i comunistes no partidaris d’Stalin (com ho demostra el vistiplau de Joaquín Maurin del POUM, que veuria amb bons ulls la defensa del dret d’autodeterminació i d’unitat obrera).

Amb la repressió de Martínez Anido, va ser detingut amb altres dirigents obrers. Fruit d’aquesta repressió moriria Francesc Layret, un dels principals suports de Seguí per a crear el partit. Seguí, al sortir de la presó de Maó de Menorca, torna a Barcelona, on seguí  teixint aquesta idea i entrant en contacte amb moviments obrers quan serà assassinat el 1923 al carrer cadena de Barcelona, a mans dels pistolers del Sindicat Lliure de la patronal catalana (agrupada entorn de la Lliga Regionalista) en el que també caurà Francesc Comes.  Amb el seu assassinat als 36 anys cauria un dels dirigents més rellevants del moviment obrer espanyol i català del segle XX, un defensor de la preparació cultural intel·lectual i tècnica dels obrers i un dels liders més recordats de l’anarcosindicalisme català.

Per saber-ne més: 

-Bar, Antonio. La CNT en los años rojos: del sindicalismo revolucionario al anarcosindicalismo. 1910-1026. Madrid, Akal D.L, 1981

-Cruells, Manuel. Salvador Seguí: el noi del Sucre. Barcelona, Ariel, 1974

-Seguí, Salvador. Escrits. Recull a cura d’Isidre Molas. Pàg 53-54. Ed.62, 1975

Recursos web:

-Ciències Socials en Xarxa:

-Història del moviment obrer:

-Cronologia de la vaga de la Canadenca:

-Història: recursoss i materials d’història contemporània:


Crònica de l’assassinat de Salvador Seguí

Placa d’homenatge al Noi del Sucre al Carrer Cadena de Barcelona

Recomano profundament l’article “Tria els rics” d’Albert Sánchez Piñol

“Passatge de la Canadenca. Empresa elèctrica que va donar nom a la vaga del 1919”. Sempre he trobat una bellesa immensa en aquesta frase tan somera, concisa, adorable per precisa. Segueix llegint-lo aquí.