[lg policy] Catalan language policy: Marxist, Stalinist,Francoist or fascist?

Joseph Lo Bianco j.lobianco at UNIMELB.EDU.AU
Thu Jan 28 20:20:56 UTC 2010

This article is pretty bad.  So much heavy duty labelling, so little
analysis or understanding.  Essentially let's let those who dominate
continue to do so because unpicking the past is difficult.    Of course
we should condemn coercion and authoritarianism in language policies,
but that is just used as a ruse in the article to essentially tell
minorities to "cop their lot".  In a speech at the opening of the great
Library of Alexandria Umberto Eco made the point that perhaps the
greatest gift of literary and educated culture is the capacity to make
distinctions. Consider the absurd section of the article where the
author fails to notice the difference between Fascist language
repression and Italy's 1946 constitution which expressly recognises
minority regions.   The invitation to Inspector Clouseau is telling in
more ways than one.






Lo Bianco, Orton and Gao, (2009), China and English: Globalisation and
Dilemmas of Identity.  UK: Multilingual Matters

Lo Bianco, J. (2009), Second Languages and Australian Schooling.
Australian Council for Educational Research


Joseph Lo Bianco, AM, FAHA, FACE

Professor of Language and Literacy Education

Associate Dean (Global Engagement)

President, Australian Academy of the Humanities

Melbourne Graduate School of Education

The University of Melbourne, Parkville, 3010 VIC Australia

Tel: +613 8344 8346

Fax:+613 8344 8612

MOB: 0407 798 978



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[mailto:lgpolicy-list-bounces at groups.sas.upenn.edu] On Behalf Of Harold
Sent: Friday, 29 January 2010 2:30 AM
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Subject: [lg policy] Catalan language policy: Marxist,
Stalinist,Francoist or fascist?


Catalan language policy: Marxist, Stalinist, Francoist or fascist?


The precedents for, and some possible implications of, the

Catalanisation of Barcelona's cinemas. Plus some crowd-pleasing video

of the Quebec language police in action. (Allez! Allez! Allez! And the

hell with the economy!) All in somewhat fevered response to an article

by Martin Dahms in the Tages-Anzeiger.


Trevor @ Wednesday January 27th 2010 16:40


Last night I had a quick beer with someone who wonks policy for the

Catalan governing coalition. He was very upset about a piece published

a couple of days ago in the Tages-Anzeiger, a left-leaning,

Zurich-based, mass-circulation daily, by a respected German foreign

correspondent called Martin Dahms. Entitled "In Barcelona Hollywood

has to speak Catalan," the article is a well-researched and objective

look at Catalan government plans to force cinemas to show half of

films in Catalan. These plans have caused the cinema industry

association, which controls some 80% of seats in the region, to call a

strike next Monday. They fear that frustrating the overwhelming market

preference for Spanish showings (to which, given that everyone speaks

Spanish, you can take all your friends) will inevitably accentuate the

already rapid drift, particularly among the young, away from public

cinema (and video clubs) to internet downloads. And even the Chinese

haven't completely figured out how to regulate or impose quotas on



Mr Wonk's main beef was about Mr Dahms' comparison of the Catalan

government's gradualist strategy to banish Spanish from public life

with the Franco government's summarily implemented, anti-Catalan

version of this policy in 1939. "How dare he! There is a world of

difference between us and them!" he cried, echoing Christian

objections to analysis linking human beings with other primates. Apart

from all the usual "didn't never have no niggers/faggots/Spanish here

before" paleocrap essential to any progressive discourse in Barcelona,

Mr Wonk also made the interesting claim that Catalan linguistic

aggression is essentially Marxist, designed to create a common

language and thus achieve equality of opportunity for all.


Neglecting the fact that we already have a common

language-Spanish-you've got to be pretty stupid or ignorant to believe

that The Beard's works sanction cultural interventionism, whether

we're talking about ironing out dialectal variation and linguistic

diversity or any other field. As any Eastern European child over the

age of 50 can tell you, Marx actually says that culture is

superstructural to the economy. So the only strategy open to a

conventional Marxist who wants to make Catalan the common language in

Catalonia is to leap into a time machine, rip back to the 14th

century, close the borders, thwack down the populace, and try to make

anti-revolutionary autarky work ... for ever. Which, for all I know, may

indeed what President Montilla has in store for us.


However, at this point the barman suggested that a far better

left-wing model for the restriction of individual language rights is

provided by Stalin. Stalin knew Marx rather better than my friend and

realised that if Marx had got it right then the language of the Tsars

should have disappeared automatically as a superstructural consequence

of the economic changes wrought by the October Revolution; there was

no theoretical basis to justify the (violent) Russification of the

Soviet Union. He got round this by saying-obviously not in so many

words-that Marx was wrong and the Nazis were right: that language is

not superstructure but is by some ingenious and unspecified means

generated by the entire course of a society's history, reflecting not

needs based in time or class but the Volksgeist.


Like Stalin's massive programme of cultural expansionism, the Catalan

government's willingness to pay for Catalan education, exhibitions,

street signs etc in areas of France and Italy to which it has cultural

and thence territorial claims, as well as hegemonist pressures on

Valencia and the Balearics, show that its ambitions are imperialist.

In that sense it may be closer to Stalinism than to the Francoist

programme of Hispanicisation in the 1940s, which reasserted (by

totalitarian means) public dominance of the national language in

territories which had been formally Spanish for some 500 years and

where Spanish had been the language of the educated class and the

administration for respectively some 400 and 200 years.


In another sense, however, Catalan nationalists would say

Catalanisation is merely reasserting (by totalitarian means, of

course) the public use of Catalan in territories which in the late

Middle Ages were Aragonese and where Catalan and other southern French

dialects were at the time the language of the educated class and,

subordinated to Latin, of the administration. Which is rather

complicated, but at least indicates that they accept the

Catalanism/Francoism parallel.



And that's all so Ulster isn't it! For novices, here's a helpful

summary of provincial life by Manuel Estimulo:


As I am understand it, the place is divided up into two part, one

ruled over by a militaristic authoritarian misogynistic reactionary

Protestant fascism, which want to take everyone back to the 17th

century, and the other part is rule over by a militaristic

authoritarian misogynistic progressive Catholic fascism, which want to

take everyone back to the 1920s. And even though they seem to have

everything in common with one another, the main sticking plaster is

they cannot agree over which football team to support. It all very

much seem like a stork in a teacup!




I find neither Francoism nor Stalinism to be an entirely satisfactory

parallel, because neither is afflicted by the all-devouring

inferiority complex which drives mandatory Catalanisation: the notion

that if people are not forced to use the language, it will die, and

that this is for some reason of transcendent importance.


A few years ago following a rather wild bet I denounced myself to the

language police for using English preferentially in (public) business

communications, and when they failed to respond an Italian friend

commented that the narrow focus of their paranoia-a rival Romance

dialect-was reminiscent of the persecution of French in Italy in the

late 19th and early 20th centuries, reaching its peak under Mussolini.


French was a more vigorous language, with far greater intellectual,

artistic and industrial reach, and so strenuous efforts were made to

deny French-speaking families education in French and other public

opportunities to use it, and to cleanse Italian of all trace of French

loanwords. (There's a fascinating piece here on the Aosta Valley, the

persecution of French by Italian nationalists, and the French-language

anti-fascist resistance.)


Mussolini was inverted in 1945 but his world was not, and full

Italianisation of French-speaking areas was achieved in the post-war

period by the pervasive influence of Italian mass media. Yet while

Catalonia has succeeded in denying access to Spanish-language

education, and while heavy fines are used to ensure that businesses

promote themselves according to the ethnic fantasies of civil servants

rather than according to their perception of customer need and their

desire to maximise profits, it's difficult to see in the internet age

how putting cinemas out of business will contribute either to getting

people to speak Catalan or to rescuing the region's struggling



Whether or not you agree with me that this is closer to

(Mediterranean) littoral than to continental totalitarianism, it's

clear that the direct inspiration for Catalan ethnic bulldozering

comes mainly from Quebec. Stuff that should concern serious people:

despite considerable natural potential, Quebec has succeeded in

driving away much of its original business class, it has struggled to

maintain foreign investment, it has a poor record on wealth creation

compared with other provinces, and, although it effectively runs its

own immigration policy, immigrants there are spectacularly less

successful than in neighbouring Ontario, which has no such powers or

ethnic paranoias. And so on.


Stuff that may amuse less serious people: an old favourite, Inspector

Clouseau of the Quebec language police at work:






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