Tuesday, July 11, 2023


I’m spending a few days in Lleida, one of the four province capitals in Catalonia, located in the northwest of the region. In the hotel where I’m staying, the very kind receptionist that welcomed me and my daughter when we arrived is from Eastern European origin. In the hotel’s neighbourhood, most shops, bars and restaurants appeal to the mostly African immigrant population. This is not uncommon in today’s Catalonia, a small open economy in the core of the euro zone.

Near the hotel, I spotted a VOX (the far right party, which has a small presence in the local city council of Lleida) election campaign poster: it shows the face of its leader and the word Fronteras (“Borders”), next to Lo que importa (“What matters”). Other things "that matter," in related posters, are “family” and “security.” Besides a conventional far right set of messages, VOX –a party that is reaching regional agreements across Spain with PP, the more conventional conservative party- also calls for the prevalence of Spanish justice over European justice, like the Brexiters, and a call to close borders to stop immigration, which to them is related to crime (according to data and facts, it is related to economic growth and prosperity).

An influential VOX in the Spanish government after the July 23rd election would mean the undoing of Spanish and European federalism, with a more centralist Spain in a more fragmented Europe. Wikipedia defines Sovereigntism, sovereignism or souverainism as the notion of having control over one's conditions of existence, whether at the level of the self, social group, region, nation or globe. Typically used for describing the acquiring or preserving political independence of a nation or a region, a sovereigntist aims to "take back control" from perceived powerful forces, either against internal subversive minority groups (ethnic, sexual or gender), or from external global governance institutions, federalism and supranational unions.

The world of parties like VOX is a world that would be frozen in time, with less diverse populations and harder borders, a world fragmented in ethnocracies and “pure” populations. Of course, that is almost impossible in today’s Europe, but that is what many sovereignist forces are calling for.

Sovereignism is a popular word in Catalonia, to many positively associated to the right of self determination (defended by many self-proclaimed leftists), interpreted as the right to secede, something that the Spanish Constitution (or any written democratic Constitution) does not allow. But it also defines the principles of VOX, Netanyahu and his allies, Modi, Meloni, Orban and many others.

There is also an openly xenophobic Catalan pro-independence party now, called Catalan Alliance, which is the party of the new mayor of Ripoll, the town where the yihadist terrorists of the Ramblas terror attack of 2017 came from. This party has reached the top job in the town because of the abstention of the more conventional separatist conservative party, Junts (“Together”). They plan to expand at the regional level.

Sovereignism is a key component of national-populism, both in the extreme left and the extreme right. The chair person of the Chilean conventional assembly that tried to draft a new Constituion last year, someone associated to left wing populism, and a representative of the Mapuche historically discriminated ethnic group, boasted in an event the support of Carles Puigdemont, the leader of Junts, last year. Nationalism, identitaranism or sovereignism are probably the most effective drivers of national-populism beyond traditional ideological divides.

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