Monday, 10 August 2009

Carles Muñoz Espinalt talking about Josep Maria Batista i Roca

Prelude of the Independence.

Carles Muñoz Espinalt, 1992


5th Chapter


When a country suffers from a crisis of patriotism, civic spirit from their best countrymen is silenced, not appreciated and is normally in the way of all those who do not bear that others have exemplary behaviour, and make fun of them saying that is ingenuity. They would like that political mastery equalled backstage plotting, and leadership was synonym of entangling situations. They would like to think everything was a trick.

Do not fool ourselves, people like these cannot have a good opinion of patriots like Josep Maria Batista i Roca –and again I will use an exemplary figure-, not better than Josep Pla’s opinion, when he wrote, on a certain place in his “Complete Works”: “Prof Batista i Roca, who was, as separatist and catalanist, as militarist. Rich family –cod fishing business-. Cambridge University –England-. I do not believe that he ever had a follower. Inevitable decadence of his surname”.

Fortunately, Josep Maria Batista i Roca never worried about other people’s judgments towards his person. All his suffering was the situation of our country. All his life was a prelude of the Independence of Catalonia. 1 He knew it was possible when there was no longer a majority of Catalans that walk on the street with fright on their sight. Batista i Roca knew the Catalans too well. Precisely, he was the first to make an exact diagnostic of the peculiarities of our enslaved character. We will not discuss whether he got the remedy right, but he did not miss an inch on telling us what was the ailment we suffered from. In 1928, wrote “A glance to the actual character of our people do not inspire reasons for optimism”. He saw us sporting very profound inhibitions and lack of audacity that create in our soul a situation that Batista i Roca defined as follows: “We take, unreflectively, defeat for granted even before we try to attack”. However, we infuriate when we are told so, but this attitude must be confronted if we want to strengthen our damaged and frightful character. “In front of a difficulty –Batista i Roca continues-, we have thousands of ways of going around it, shutting our eyes, thinking of overcoming it, although the obstacle remains intact”.

During the last years of his life, Batista i Roca remembered his diagnostic –formulated nearly fifty years before-, with nostalgia and regretfulness for not being able to do everything he wanted to help us rebuilding our character. I asserted that, to me, it had been a shame not to have known his diagnostic, when I, in 1955, participated in a controversial debate with Vicens i Vives, and vehemently, I did not stop telling him that it would be a very costly mistake, in the future, to affirm that Catalans go from wisdom to rage. Catalans go from wisdom to merriment, thinking that they might defeat their fears with laughter. Or are we not proud of being people that laugh at the dead and who stays at the funeral wake?

Confessions like these, motivated that Batista i Roca put a thoughtful face, where man could see how he had suffered during the exile, not being able to stay near those who he would have exercised some mentorship. To me, it represented an incalculable wealth of knowledge, to have had the privilege of maintaining around thirty long talks with Batista i Roca, the majority of them at my house. The rest, with me going at his place, being Batista i Roca seriously ill. We talked and we talked again about the situation of Catalonia, he never tired.

At moments, he seemed to get angry, when I referred that, in Catalonia, the problem is the strong unconsciousness of their leaders more than the preparation of the people. “Look how short-sighted and careless they are –I remember telling him-, that they have neither understood the peculiarities of Spanish Fascism nor they know their chimeras of the main admirers and theorists”.

Like pausing, I looked for papers from my archive and with major emphasis, I added: “Who has worried about what Ledesma Ramos said in 1931? He exclaimed angrily ‘No matter how many ideas a man can have about the regional characteristics of the country, it appears, in sheer manner, that the unity of Spain is only in danger in Catalonia, where the autonomic opinion is only a hidden separatism that cowardly waits for its time’”.

I wanted to point at Batista i Roca that the actual Catalan politicians, do not smell –even right at their noses-, the obsessions, prejudices and deliriums that are the essence of Spain, whatever their ideology. I cited again Ledesma Ramos, with the aim of seeing what consideration he would extract. The sentence was controversial too: “Basque people are noble and their loyalty is so notorious that they convert their regional dispute in an inoffensive and ingenuous claim”.

Heard this, Batista i Roca remained thoughtful, an instant, to comment, bluntly: “And, this conception remains the same, despite the same Catalan politicians do not want that to be said. With hindsight, the likes of Adolfo Suarez and Felipe Gonzalez were more or less important officers of Fascist organizations. Could be possible that they denied their old masters? In this way, Basques will be nobles, inoffensive and ingenuous, regardless of how many Civil Guards are killed and we will be hidden separatists that cowardly wait for their time, regardless of what smiley face we put at them when they scrape-clean our pockets.

I answered that,” in Catalonia, we can only overcome this by training leaders with temper, asking ourselves everything from scratch and looking at everything from another angle, being able to cheer the quiet and to return hope the disappointed”.

A few weeks after this conversation –I am talking about 1977-, Batista i Roca published on the Catalan newspaper Avui, a sort of compendium of his thought in the last years of his life. The title cannot be more meaningful: “Begin again”. The article commences with a sentence in the most typical style of Batista i Roca, because his most original thoughts carried a comment that was highlighted by tone of voice. He also used dashes when he wrote. That sentence was “They robbed us our wallet. Now they say that they wanted to return us it –but empty”. Please note that, after it, he put that dash, means that allowed him, even when he talked, to increase his sarcastic tone. Then, like a pounding sledge hammer, used to follow expressions like “-but empty”.

I think that Batista i Roca is one of our more eminent characters that has ever produced Catalonia and its best teacher of civics as I remembered in my speech at his funeral in Barcelona. I still confess you that I miss him. His only presence would have accelerated the prelude of Independence of Catalonia. Do not go further, when the young troops of my followers go around towns and cities to spread the question “Will 1992 be the year of the Independence for Catalonia?”, not for the people to answer with a confident yes or a fearful no, but to create a new motivational image to renew the reasons of our rights with a psychological strength that was able to melt the hurdles. Or is it not true that faith is able to move mountains? Therefore, when my disciples come back to Barcelona and tell me their argues, often, what I do is asking myself What Batista i Roca would have said about that?

Some might think that, if so operative were the ways of doing and of looking at ourselves, when Batista i Roca returned from exile, why did he not found more warmth and welcome in the Catalonia of the last Borbonic restoration? On one side he was already eighty years-old, on the other, he lived in moments of considerable political confusion. I remember that, in 1976 I recommended a lot of young men with political worry that they must support Batista i Roca to formulate the prelude of Independence of Catalonia, but the proposal did not set. Some of them said that we was too far right, thing that, later, has not made them frown their eyebrows and they have featured in the most nationalist conservative candidatures. Some others, that people would suspect that shaved every morning singing “The International”, pointed that Batista i Roca was an exalted extremist and that Lenin had already sentenced that leftism was the early age illness of communism. And so on.

All this, would return us to talk again about all those who deliberately confuse political capacity with messing about with politics. However, in the foundation of all this, we find a worse ailment. Let’s talk about it: Even if it only was to wash our faces with a dirty flannel –with the previous approval from the Spanish empire-, in the last decades it was imposed a false version about the Catalan ways of life, that quiet the culpability complex of a lot of conservatives and, at the same time, seduced the leftists because they thought they could advance from romanticism. From this convenient version, with the objective of praising it, Raimon Gali gave a clarifying synthesis: “One of the qualities of Vicens i Vives and his school was that he used adequately all that the Marxist school has of usable. One of the other qualities, his vision of our bi-polarization between the wisdom and the rage, it appears to me that is the only coherent psychological explanation about our personality. All others are pure pamphlets”. Therefore, we just knew what to expect. The interpretations of other Catalans, like Batista i Roca, that had nothing to do with this non-sense of wisdom-rage, were “pamphlets”. And pamphlets have no consistency. In summary, without the half a dozen of friends that have strived to keep the figure alive, people will end up questioning the existence of Batista i Roca or if he had been a 17th Century outlaw, or if we had invented him now, like when somebody creates a fictional character for a novel. And, then, another interpretation for the prelude of Independence of Catalonia that had been made disappear.

Carles Muñoz Espinalt, 1992


Josep Maria Batista i Roca (Barcelona, 1895-1978)

Had an intense activity in the field of anthropological research and folklore, but as an excursionist, his most important contribution was the creation of the “Minyons de Muntanya” –Catalan Boy Scouts- and his constant preoccupation for the increase of wellbeing for the young Catalans.
At political level, Batista i Roca defended, until the last minute, the right of auto determination for our people. Consequently, because of his political ideas, exiled after the War in Spain (1936-39).
We must remember that he was the main promoter of the newspaper “Excursionisme” and the patriotic movement Palestra.

No comments:

Post a Comment