Catalunya, a Catalan-language "Soli"

Mateo Rello

Whether due to a degree of centralism typical of the left in Spain, or as a reaction to the socio-economic dynamics at work during the 19th and 20th centuries, the fact is that Solidaridad Obrera represents an emblematic instance of the absence of the Catalan tongue from anarcho-syndicalist circles (the absence being less pronounced among anarchists proper). Ferrán Aisa tells us here that “In his book L’obrerisme catalá. Els precursors, Joan Fronjosa tells an interesting anecdote about Soli.” […] “In 1917 the directorship of Solidaridad Obrera was offered to Felipe Cortiella. Although in delicate health and unable to work, the offer represented just the opening he so needed. Cortiella made his acceptance conditional upon Solidaridad Obrera‘s being drafted in Catalan. At a meeting of the regional and local committees Cortiella’s conditional acceptance came up for discussion. It caused great bewilderment. Pestaña just couldn’t fathom it. Miranda puffed and blowed and El Noi, [i.e. Segui] seeing that the suggestion was not going down well, suggested that the paper should be bilingual. The latter proposal might well have proved acceptable had Felipe Cortiella not, quite rightly, stood his ground. Soli carried on being written in Spanish and Cortiella was sidelined.” [1]

The deficiency was in part made up for with the appearance on 22 February 1937 of Catalunya, an evening daily written entirely in Catalan but, like Soli, the organ of the regional confederation. According to Toryho, the launch of the new title was a publicity stunt seeking ingratiation with the more Catalanist elements within the CNT and the rest of the political forces in Catalonia. The publication was short-lived: it would disappear in May 1938 after publishing something of the order of 300 editions. In Catalunya‘s first few euphoric (and tentative) days of existence, 12,500 copies were printed: in March this fell to 3,000, dipping as low as 2,000, at which figure the average print run was set. Although sales stood at around 50%. In fact, Catalunya was always a loss-maker in financial terms: no matter how hard the Organisation strove to keep the title afloat, it never quite took off. In fact, during its short life, it changed director four times: the first was Ricard Mestres, a comrade of Toryho’s in the ‘A’ group; his place would be taken by Juan Peiró and Peiró in turned handed over to Juan Ferrer. Of the fourth director, we have only the family name, Vives. It was almost as hard to recruit readers for the new paper as it was to find journalists to write for it, for there was scarcely anybody in the anarcho-syndicalist ranks who could write in halfway decent Catalan. So inevitably they turned to the editorial staff of L’Instant, a group that accepted the challenge without enthusiasm, given its Catalanist sympathies and lukewarm feelings towards the revolution.

As for Catalunya‘s dependency upon Soli, Susanna Tavera regards the former as merely an evening edition of the latter. [2] Be that as it may, Catalunya was used as a stand-in for Soli when the latter was suspended in August 1937 for publishing with great whited-out patches instead of censored articles, a protest gesture that was strictly forbidden.

In 1978 the CNT would briefly resurrect the Catalunya title but only in a symbolic way when it appeared as a set page within Solidaridad Obrera. Carles Sanz tells us that from 1978 to 1980 that page was entrusted to Josep Serra Estruch, Gerard Jacas, Josep Alemany and Ferrán Aisa (currently a contributor to Soli). [See the web edition at www.soliobrera.org under the link ‘Historia’]

Since 1990 Catalunya has been the mouthpiece of the Catalan CGT. In its current form it has reached edition No. 90 and Jordi Martí tells us that it has a print run of some 10,000 copies.

Notes

[1] Ferrán Aisa, La cultura anarquista a Catalunya (Edicions de 1984, Barcelona 2006, p. 314)

[2] For further information about Catalunya, Tavera recommends Jordi Sabater’s Anarquisme i catalanisme. La CNT i el fet nacional català durant la Guerra Civil (Edicions 62, Barcelona 1986).

From: www.soliobrera.org. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.