Ciudadanos, the Citizens, is a relatively new political party. It was born in Catalonia eleven years ago. (Oh Catalonia, root of all Spain's malaise.) This new-born political formation was modern, business-oriented, anti-corruption, wedded to Spanish unity, a counterpoint to any thoughts of Catalan secession and also to any Catalan dominance. It still is all of these things. It has proved to be moderately successful in taking its brand of Partido Popular-lite politics (the PP minus the corruption and with less austerity) onto a broader plain. It has modestly conquered Spain. It partially reigns (sic) on the plain, not just Spain's but also Mallorca's. And that's the problem.
Its leader, the one-time swimming champion, the occasional "little twerp" Albert Rivera, discovered last week that he was being compared to José Antonio Primo de Rivera. And who is he? Not is; was. José Antonio was the son of Miguel Primo de Rivera y Orbaneja, the first dictator, the forerunner of you know who. José Antonio was also, and more pertinently, the founder of the Falange. It clearly ran in the blood. For his sins (and there were sins), José Antonio was charged with military rebellion and conspiracy by the still Republican government. He was shot on 20 November, 1936.
Shall I compare thee in a fascist way? Who made the comparison? Was it Podemos? Was it one of the wilder Catalan elements? The Ruffian, Gabriel Rufián of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, perhaps? It was neither. It was the number two in PSOE. Adriana Lastra, Pedro Sánchez's right-hand (left-hand) woman, opined that Rivera had arrived kicking and screaming with his new-born party as a form of Adolfo Suárez reincarnate - Suárez, the godfather of democratic transition. But as the new-born grew, he started his own transition. Into José Antonio Primo de Rivera.
The C's, said Adriana, have moved to the right of the PP, which was a massive condemnation in its own right. The party has "no respect" for the style of autonomous government in Spain, that which filters down to the regions - Catalonia being one of them. Every day, Adriana continued, the C's move more to the right. Was she in fact claiming that the C's are a far-right party? When presented with this question, Adriana realised quite what she had been saying. She withdrew her remarks and apologised. But she had made them nevertheless.
Rivera does have the ability to get under people's skin. He is a sort of Aussie cricketer sledger type of politician, but then so are various others, not least The Ruffian, his left-wing opposite in Catalonia. But the Falange? Really, what was she thinking? Well, she was thinking what all too many think. The latest bout of Catalan soul-searching and navel-gazing has unleashed what is always there just beneath the surface ready to break into the light of day. The past. Spain can't do without it. A national form of self-pity characterises society and not just political society.
There was a time, certainly during Zapatero's period as prime minister, when a new-found maturity appeared to have been attained, a dispensing of the past but also an attempt at the reconciliation that was denied by the amnesia of the post-Franco amnesty. Rivera and the C's were a product of the Zapatero era. Forward-looking. But unfortunately they aren't. They, as with all other parties, are stuck with their historical memories. Puigdemont has merely taken these to an extreme and has in the process facilitated the remembrance of the past. None of them can move forward because they are all victims of this debilitating self-pity.
From a motorway bridge in Barcelona the other day, seven dolls were hanged. Heads down, they bore the logos of the C's, the PP and the Catalan wing of PSOE. The release of political prisoners was the demand that accompanied them. Of course Junqueras and the rest should be released. Wrongs there have been, but incarceration achieves nothing more than fuel the memories of the wrongs of the past. And in the midst of this are the C's, whose modest successes are giving other parties the jitters. Notably those towards the left.
In the Balearics, the membership of the C's has shot up by 20% in the past few weeks. Such a statistic will not have gone unnoticed and has not gone unnoticed by the promoters of nascent Balearic independence - Més, to whom, so the right-wing press regularly insist, can be added the name of Francina Armengol. What fools there can sometimes be on the right in drawing such an assumption.
The C's in the Balearics, and in particular their scholarly leader Xavier Pericay, are on the end of a campaign to discredit them. The main reason for this is the C's insistence that there is political pro-independence indoctrination in Balearic schools. The campaign has been started by the Unió Obrera Balear, in which the one-time hunger-striking teacher from Llucmajor, Jaume Sastre, is a key player. A poster reads: "Who are the new Inquisitors who wish to intimidate and make purges among the teachers of the Balearics?" There are photos of Pericay and Olga Ballester of the C's.
And so, the past goes even further back. From the Falange to the Inquisition.