A flag is nothing more than a flag: Santiago López Petit

Further reflections on the insurrection in catalonia …

End Game

Santiago López Petit (Lobo suelto 23/10/2019)

The Spanish State will never grant independence to Catalonia. And if there is no negotiation, if there is no negotiated separation, history teaches us that the only possible option is war. For obvious economic reasons, but above all because it would mean its own political suicide, the Spanish State can never agree on a genuine independence referendum. The idea of Spain, and its materialisation in the Spanish State, corresponds to a concept of unity that fully subsumes the differences, all differences; as much those that inhabit the periphery, as well as those that inhabit the center. During the Franco regime, at school, it was explained to us that Spain was “a destined unity under the universal.”

An endgame, then? War as time of truth. The enemy’s determination determines ourselves in what we are and can become. It takes us back, without any deceit, what really constitutes us. For that reason, war is a life or death struggle. One of the politicians exiled in Belgium, in an outburst of sincerity and possibly because of his personal situation, spoke clearly: “If we consider that the Catalan republic is the condition for full citizenship, that you are not free if you are not fully a citizen, the question – unfair and unpleasant, but inevitable – is what price we are willing to pay for our freedom. There will be no independence without sacrifices.” His statement fell like a bomb and the unanimous reaction was one of total rejection. A minister responded immediately: “Harming the Spanish economy hurts us too. We are in a global world.” Artur Mas, the resurrected messiah, declared that the response to the legal sentence against the “procés” should not alter public order: “It is one thing to defend peaceful resistance and another to defend an alteration of public order that would lead to consequences that would not be good for everybody”. A question hammers away at my head. If we are not willing to hurt and hurt ourselves, then what are we playing at? Perhaps everything has been nothing more than a tale that has ended badly; very badly. With detainees, exiles and wounded. The independence politicians, were they inept or were they naive? I think those adjectives are no longer insufficient to qualify them. The President of the Generalitat, unperturbed, encourages moving forward and, at the same time, commands his lieutenant to repress. No doubt, they comply diligently. Far away we hear the cries of: “The Spanish police and the Catalan police together will never be defeated”. Rubber and foam bullets together always hit their target!

It is but a rubbish bin

Beckett in its purest form. The Spanish State lives protected inside a rubbish bin. It has no legs and reaches out with its hand to hunt anyone who approaches. I would add that it also has no brain. The independence movement, for its part, is waiting for Godot, and as to entertain us, organises choreographies some of which are brutally attacked. Of course, violence does not represent us. We are people of peace. The independentist politicians affirm that, if we persevere like the drop of water that falls insistently, someday we will win; an assured climate change that will cooperate in this immense task. “Ho tornarem a fer” (We will do it again). Beyond the admirable personal dignity of the one who pronounced this phrase, it is a childish phrase addressed to the Father who is angry. What if we killed the Father? Don’t worry, don’t worry. We will build a much broader and sunny new nation-state. Quiet, we will be able to move from “the Law to the Law”. We even already have state structures. In addition, all of Europe will support us. The world looks at how beautiful we are. All a lie. In prison, the political prisoners rot. Freedom now for them. But when they return home, please read Marx. Also Carl Schmitt. He was an inveterate but intelligent Nazi. Studying a little the history of Spain would not be bad either. Incidentally, we appreciate the dedication of these jurists who, although they have never defended any social movement, participate in social gatherings to reveal the secrets of the legal condemnation. But stop beating around the bush. It was precisely this reactionary German who had already made it very clear: “No law is necessary to make the law.”

The theater scene closes momentarily. The rubbish bin in which the Spanish State resides has a crack through which it watches over an increasingly exalted street. It seems that a stone has dented its pride. Catalan nationalism, meanwhile, begins to fear a certain lack of social control. We don’t really know which of the two governments – the one written with “b” or the one written with “v” [in Castilian versus Catalan] – is more fearful of what is happening. They are people of order. The deputy with the name of thief [Gabriel Rufián], and who combines ignorance and cynicism as no one has ever been able to do before, was expelled from the demonstration called on the day of the general strike.

Life takes many turns

When the police hit and take out eyes, many of us immediately know which side we are on. We do not doubt it even for a moment. In the same way as October 1 [2017], the day the referendum took place, we went to vote when we never vote. On that occasion, however, one had to go, even if it were simply to introduce a paper in the ballot box that read, “I do not wish a State for anyone.” Because they certainly are two nationalisms confronting each other – independence is another form of nationalism since there is no pure and free difference – but they are not equal. Believing that they are interchangeable is too easy and comfortable. Which, of course, does not mean deceiving oneself. Through the State, Spanish nationalism applies a single programme: “to transform force into law and obedience into duty.” It is its concrete way of defending capitalism. There is no more. In fact, this fascist drift of capitalism has always been inherent to it; the novelty is the different forms it currently adopts. In our case, this involution that is occurring worldwide, does not reflect populism but democratic politics. t is in this sense that we must interpret the sentence against the independentist politicians. Obviously, it is a revenge of the Spanish State, but the repression points to all kinds of dissent. From now on, any alteration of public order, any protest or criticism, can be judged as sedition and punished with many years in jail; even a bar fight with the wrong people in a place where they are little loved.

Catalan nationalism, although on a small scale, also participates in this democratic policy that has allowed the application of well-known neoliberal measures: cuts, privatisations, public-private management of social services, etc. “Business friendly”, they called it. Moreover, its headlong flight in the car of independence has worked wonderfully to hide corruption and capture the political expression of social unrest. The Generalitat put twenty 15M protesters on trial for having surrounded the Parliament and the condemnation of eight of them to three years in jail especially satisfied one of the defence lawyers for the now independentist political prisoners. This lawyer and politician said that “the sentence agrees very well with the majority sentiment of the people of Catalonia.” The future and long-awaited Catalan state was also training in revenge, even if the judgement was hypocritically deferred to the National Court.

Immanence dismantles fiction

The reasons for the emergence of independence are many and undoubtedly go beyond what has been said. The Spanish state is a war-state. The Catalan party system, meanwhile, is a dung beetle incapable of self-criticism. The ball that it pushes with its front legs is a big lie made of multiple small lies. The big lie which paradoxically is also the weak point of independence, is to try to build the Catalan people as a political unity. The fiction of a homogeneous people, that is to say, of a mass mouldable through rites and references to sacred mountains, constitutes the foundation on which the legitimacy of the future State is based. It must be recognized that the Government has been a master in the management of transcendence. We, your representatives, above. You, our people, below. Now let’s sing together. That is why it is essential to analyse how on each occasion when that people – ultimately belittled by the elites of power – wanted to speak, it was silenced. To silence means something very concrete, the deactivation of any act or manifestation that escapes from the fold and can overflow the negotiation that never comes: starting on October 1st, with the referendum already about to be canceled in the morning, to the the historic demonstration of October 3rd, called off because of the approach of fearsome fascist groups (or so they said), not to mention the mock Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or the enthusiastic participation in the elections called by the Spanish State itself that had just repressed the people. Instantly. When the people cracks the imposed corset of political unity, when it is transformed into an opaque body in which both unbearable historical Catalanism and the discomfort of those who have no future are collected, then the malleable fiction disappears and immanence becomes fearful. Now is the time to cleanse the people of violent infiltrators.

It is claimed that Catalan independence is divided between pragmatists and those who continue to defend unilateralism. At this point – just look at the political disaffection and anger of the people – no one believes that this division is really an important issue. It is a simple struggle to see who monopolises more seats in the next elections. Basically, what is really posed is the famous Nietzschean question: how much truth is the independence movement capable of supporting? Or what is the same translated in monetary terms: who will manage the disappointment? That is, who will pay the price for having pushed the shit ball nowhere?

The function is over

Endgame. After the general strike of October 18, the situation has changed a great deal. The theatrical function continues to play itself out, but the rubbish bin where the Spanish State is sheltered has been strongly shaken. Some of its ministers had to step up and speak on its behalf. There is a separation of powers and we assure you that the rubbish bin is clean. Spain is a consolidated democracy. The dung beetle runs about the stage without knowing quite what to do. It is lost. The Catalan party system has no road map. There are very angry people who want to crush it. They think they’ve been defrauded. Others are fed up and have simply decided to come down from the world of representation. They no longer expect the unexpected. Now people’s strength has been transformed into the strength of pain. “Father and mother: you have let us down again.” And some son or daughter with a little more bad milk will surely add: “All that remains is for you be placed within the security zone, between the police and us, singing La Estaca.” Nationalisms either embrace or kill each other. Believing that nationalism and anti-capitalism can be combined is a chimera. Just look at the disorientation of the independentist Left and hear its empty rhetoric. Ignored at the key moments, used when appropriate. In this game, there is no other way out. “Traitors” are sought to sign a surrender pact. The good people who love order, wherever they come from, that silent majority so appreciated by power, will consider them “brave” and call them “statesmen.”

Independence does not (only) go with independence

From a logic of State (and a desire of State) another exit cannot be expected. Hegemonic nationalism – starting with the current President of the Generalitat – has always wanted to enclose the independence movement within an identity claim. Without forgetting, of course, the question of Catalonia and all that its history entails, this self-interested strategy has provoked silence and misunderstanding in Spain. However, the demonstrations of these last days have completely redefined the word “independence.” The shout of independence, more and more, is heard here, but also in Madrid, Granada … like a shout of collective rage. Who prevents us from thinking and defending a different way out then? Let us imagine that those who are fed up with lies and precariousness, those who see that each day of their life is worthless, decide to occupy the Parliament and declare a Republic of republics. Imagine that the stength of pain is strategically organised to shout “Que se vayan todos/That they all go” and the “procés” continues, although now as a process of destitution. The class struggle put back in the foreground and who wants to continue waving the stared flag, that they do it but without deceiving themselves. A flag is nothing more than a flag, and hatred against this unjust and miserable society does not need any to express itself. But one has to go on to the end.

L’Estaca by Lluís Llach …

L’estaca/The stake

Pa’ Siset spoke to me softly
One morning just before dawn
Light danced beneath the horizon
As cars passed our door and were gone
–L’avi Siset em parlava
–De bon matí al portal
–Mentre el sol esperàvem
–I els carros veiem passar

Siset, can’t you see that post there
To which we’re tethered and locked?
Unless these chains can be broken
We’ll never be able to walk!
–Siset, que no veus l’estaca
–On estem tots lligats?
–Si no podem desfer-nos-en
–Mai no podrem caminar!

But if we pull you’ll see it fall
It cannot last much more at all
You’ll see it tumble, tumble, tumble
Crumbling down you’ll hear us call
–Si estirem tots ella caurà
–I molt de temps no pot durar
–Segur que tomba, tomba, tomba
–Ben corcada deu ser ja


I grab my chains and pull for you
Pick up your chains and pull for me
You’ll see it tumble, tumble, tumble
Only then will we be free
–Si jo l’estiro fort per aquí
–I tu l’estires fort per allà
–Segur que tomba, tomba, tomba
–I ens podrem alliberar


Siset, it’s been a long while now
My hands are starting to slip
As my strength begins to leave me
The post still retains its firm grip
–Però, Siset, fa molt temps ja
–Les mans se’m van escorxant
–I quan la força se me’n va
–Ella és més ampla i més gran

It’s clear that the core has all rotted
It weighs us all down just the same
When my strength starts to betray me
Your song helps to lessen the strain:
–Ben cert sé que està podrida
–Però és que, Siset, pesa tant
–Que a cops la força m’oblida
–Torna’m a dir el teu can’t:

But if we pull you’ll see it fall
It cannot last much more at all
You’ll see it tumble, tumble, tumble
Crumbling down you’ll hear us call
–Si estirem tots ella caurà
–I molt de temps no pot durar
–Segur que tomba, tomba, tomba
–Ben corcada deu ser ja


I grab my chains and pull for you
Pick up your chains and pull for me
You’ll see it tumble, tumble, tumble
Only then will we be free
–Si jo l’estiro fort per aquí
–I tu l’estires fort per allà
–Segur que tomba, tomba, tomba
–I ens podrem alliberar

As Grandpa Siset drew his last breath
A cold wind took him from this world
God knows where, but what’s clear is
That I still sit here by the door
–L’avi Siset ja no diu res
–Mal vent que se l’emportà
–Ell qui sap cap a quin indret
–I jo a sota el portal

As I watch the children pass on by
I sing without a second thought
The last song that Siset wrote
The very last thing that he taught
–I mentre passen els nous vailets
–Estiro el coll per cantar
–El darrer can’t d’en Siset
–El darrer que em va ensenyar

But if we pull you’ll see it fall
It cannot last much more at all
You’ll see it tumble, tumble, tumble
Crumbling down you’ll hear us call
–Si estirem tots ella caurà
–I molt de temps no pot durar
–Segur que tomba, tomba, tomba
–Ben corcada deu ser ja


I grab my chains and pull for you
Pick up your chains and pull for me
You’ll see it tumble, tumble, tumble
Only then will we be free
–Si jo l’estiro fort per aquí
–I tu l’estires fort per allà
–Segur que tomba, tomba, tomba
–I ens podrem alliberar

(translation source here)

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1 Response to A flag is nothing more than a flag: Santiago López Petit

  1. Pingback: Enough 14Its time to revolt!A flag is nothing more than a flag: Santiago López Petit

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