Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fierce Confrontation: Cristòfol Soler

It's a letter dated 1 September this year. It was published for all to see as a jpg and in the process it has acquired some discolouring. It looks as though it should be much older, as though it has been oxidised over time, as though it might have been typed with a typewriter. But no, it was definitely 1 September. It says so at the foot of the letter under the name of its author, Cristòfol Soler i Cladera.

Soler was the president of the Balearics for a year from 1995 to 1996. He replaced Gabriel Cañellas, who had been forced to resign over his implication in the Soller Tunnel affair, and he himself found it necessary to resign not because of any involvement with alleged corruption but because his policies brought him into conflict with his party - the Partido Popular - both locally and nationally.

"Solerism" had been a faction with the Balearics' PP. "Canyellism", that of Gabriel Cañellas, had been the other. Both factions shared certain things in common, but Solerism was characterised by a more sensitive attitude towards language and environmental matters and by a greater openness towards dialogue with the opposition and society as a whole. Canyellism had been a philosophy of regionalism without any Balearics' nationalist pretensions. It had also been sensitive towards language, and it was the Cañellas government which, in 1986, introduced the law on language standardisation, by which the official status of both Castellano and Catalan was recognised.

An intriguing aspect of that law's introduction was contained in a report in "El Pais". The report explained the purpose of the law and also said that there were no statistics available to show the extent of knowledge, use and social penetration of different forms of Catalan. One has to consider that report in the context of the time. Though it was less than thirty years ago, it was also only eleven years after the death of Franco. By 1986, Catalan was, so the report implies, not that strong.

The law sought to change this. The Minister of Education and Culture, Francisco Gilet, said that it would make the use of Catalan normal and natural while it would also protect the various dialects. This law was, therefore, at the heart of Canyellism. What the Solerism faction sought was a greater emphasis still on Catalan, hence why Soler came into conflict with his party.

Soler's letter was addressed to Rafel Torres, president of the PP in Inca (where Soler lives) and also mayor of Inca. In it, he explains why he has decided to leave the PP. The reason is clear enough; the policies of the current PP regional administration. Soler refers to the "fierce confrontation with our culture and our language" and to a lack of respect for self-government.

The look of that letter suggests something old-fashioned. Soler, and Cañellas for that matter, are from the old school of the Balearics' PP. They differed in their approaches but they adhered to essentially the same philosophies - regionalism, autonomy, promotion of Catalan. These are precisely the philosophies which Soler says that the Bauzá administration has sought to undermine. But can one say that Bauzá is a moderniser? What is modern, in any event, when the timeframe has been as short as it has been - 40 years since Franco's death?

In an interview last weekend, Soler went into very much greater detail in explaining his reasons for quitting the PP. He traced the discontent that he has (and that many in the regional PP share) to Bauzá's election as leader. He had been presented as the regionalist alternative to Carlos Delgado's "españolismo". Soler didn't for one moment think that Bauzá would change in the way that he has. Either he was guided to change by Delgado, the true power behind the throne, or by Madrid. Bauzá's ideology, according to Soler, has become "españolista" not just in terms of language but also in his attitude towards regionalism - he has little faith in the notion of autonomous government.

Soler also took issue with the idea that TIL (trilingual teaching) formed part of the PP's manifesto in 2011 and was therefore something that the electorate had voted for. The PP had not promised TIL. It had promised parental free selection of language (between Catalan and Castellano). When this proved to be a total flop because the overwhelming majority of parents opted for Catalan, TIL was introduced as a means of undermining teaching in Catalan.

So, Soler has now left the PP, unable to any longer accept the direction in which the party has headed. It is not the departure of a bitter man, because he hasn't been in frontline politics for years. Might, though, the reasons why he departed as president in 1996 repeat themselves but in reverse? Soler was too Catalan. Bauzá is anything but.

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