Catalan Review

From Elegies de Bierville to Separatism: Constituent Power or Global War?

Catalan Review (2014), 28, (1), 3–17.

Abstract

The elegy IX of Carles Riba's Elegies de Bierville, written in occupied France in 1941, contains an apparent contradiction about the role of war in the construction of democracy. On the one hand, Riba writes that, in order to found democracy, the Greeks did not have to win the war against Persia; all they needed was to recognize and accommodate the longing for freedom of a particular group of Athenians. On the other hand, however, the poem suggests in the end that war is also part of democracy, as those who are not free, the universal "vanquished," can only regain their souls by acting as soldiers who fight for freedom. My paper undertakes a historical reading of Riba's political elegy and relates its contradiction to the emergence of separatism in contemporary Catalonia. My question is whether we must understand separatism as a longing for democracy or as a war to obtain state power. To formulate this question, I juxtapose Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's notion of "constituent power," which theorizes today's movements of political transformation, to Carlo Galli's term "global war," which describes the power wars in the spaces of globalization. My hypothesis is that in global Catalonia, as in Riba's poem, democracy and war continue to generate an inherent and unsurpassable contradiction.

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Illas, Edgar