Born in Barcelona city in 1981, Jordi Borràs is a Catalan illustrator and photojournalist that has specialised in investigating the network of Spanish nationalist groups in Catalonia and their ties to the far right. His book Desmuntant Societat Civil Catalana (“Catalan Civil Society: an Exposé”) is about a group which he regards as being more dangerous than the fringe far right.
You are an illustrator and a photojournalist who has put pen to paper to paint a picture of Societat Civil Catalana (SCC)
It is a full on picture. I deliberately chose not to put together a photo album of Spanish nationalism. When photography fell short, I resorted to words and this is how Desmuntant Societat Civil Catalana came to be.
What did you set out to expose about Societat Civil Catalana?
I meant to show why, how and who founded and funds this group, which aims to be the Spanish nationalist mirror image of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC).
Would SCC have had the same impact, had it lacked any grassroots support?
Societat Civil Catalana has virtually no support at a grassroots level. They barely managed to gather enough people to fill Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya on Spain’s National Day in 2014 despite the vast amounts of money spent —the event cost over €330,000— bringing people from Spain by the busload. The rally garnered so much attention from Spanish media that you would have thought it was the greatest event ever in Catalonia. SCC is a vertical organisation, built from the top down and driven by three circles of power; namely, politics, finances and a very worrisome third: Roman Catholic fundamentalism.
In your book you mention an ongoing fight through the media. What does SCC fight? Who is their enemy?
SCC is an instrument of the Spanish State. We won’t know until we find out where the funds come from and who started it, the ease with which they were allowed to make some moves … It is a face-off with the Spanish State.
Were you able to ascertain where SCC’s funding comes from?
I wasn’t. In my book I provide some evidence that points to large IBEX 35 corporations, such as Telefónica. We do not know for sure. But we do know that in 2014 SCC spent €1,084,000. The group has 75 members and 4,000 volunteers. In 2014, 97 per cent of its funds came from anonymous donors. We don’t know who they were.
Are you suggesting the cash came from a state-controlled slush fund?
I suspect that the Spanish State has its finger in the pie, one way or another, be it through a slush fund or by pulling favours from corporations. It is obvious that the financial powers are involved.
I’ve heard you say that SCC is more frightening than the skinheads with swastikas that march in Barcelona on Spain’s National Day (October 12). What exactly do you mean?
Societat Civil is a group that advocates democratic principles, but shelters and is founded, conceived and managed by far-right people. But it is not a far-right group in itself. It is worse than that because it is able to draw in the far right and sugarcoat its discourse.
Still, someone might argue that it is not SCC’s fault if non-democratic groups try to cozy up to them.
It is hardly surprising that they are approached by people like that. After all, some of SCC’s founders and promoters are the likes of Josep Alsina, a former member of the Spanish National-Socialist Party (PENS) who directs a publication called Nihil Obstat, and Javier Barraycoa, former Secretary General of Comunión Tradicionalista, a Carlist party; also Josep Ramon Bosch, the former SCC chairman who stepped down recently following a judicial probe into threats issued from a Facebook account which he allegedly managed. On his account he praised far-right groups and admitted to having been a member of the youth branch of Fuerza Nueva, the Spanish fascist group, when it was led by José María Fuster-Fabra Torrellas, who happens to be Bosch’s lawyer nowadays.
Shouldn’t it be normal to have a civil platform that represents Spanish nationalists in Catalonia, just like the ANC does within the pro-independence bloc?
I was actually happy when Societat Civil Catalana was publicly presented because I thought that, for the first time ever, Spanish nationalists were —at last— getting their act together and they would take the Catalan independence process seriously. The group could have become the all-embracing organisation that might have represented unionism across the board, had they managed to keep out the far right. It’s no wonder that progressive unionists don’t fancy going to a SCC rally: there are people waving fascist flags and members of Movimiento Social Republicano, Plataforma per Catalunya (1) and so on. Spanish nationalism has not learned to ignore these groups, partly because it can’t.
(1) N.T. Movimiento Social Republicano and Plataforma per Catalunya are two fringe fascist/racist political parties.