Ortega and the autonomous communities

One of the things that has surprised me most in the extensive bibliography on Ortega y Gasset is the lack of comments on his attempt to structure Spain after having invertebrate it in another widely distributed book. It could be because the attempt was neither successful nor public, as he himself acknowledges in the prologue of the book that he later published, apart from acknowledging that at that time, at the beginning of the Second Republic, “it was impossible.” But the reality is that Ortega was, I am not going to say the father, but rather the grandfather of the state of autonomies that emerged after Francoism, forty years later, when Ortega was a relic for those of us who learned to think with him, more than another thing.

And, in part, it was to blame for mixing such different concepts as region, provinces and large region, which only lead to confusion. But that the idea was the same will be verified by the reader who has the patience to read to the end.

Like almost everything that our philosopher gave birth to, it first appeared in a newspaper, ‘El Sol’, between 1927 and 1930, that is, at the end of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, under the title of ‘Ideas policies’, to appear corrected and enlarged in ‘Revista de Occidente’ in the form of a low book and the title ‘The redemption of the provinces’, which ends with the cry: «Hey, the provinces, stand up!», which leads to the first confusion , because what Ortega tries to awaken is what he calls “great region”, so as not to confuse it with the Catalan and Basque nationalisms that were beginning to threaten Spanish unity. As for the provinces, he considers them “a sad, sordid, unfortunate, arbitrary and imported institution (he avoids saying France). Something spurious, in the Spanish national body, a strange and clumsy tattoo on his skin. To continue: «While the great region, the region, is something natural in itself, something to which one belongs from birth. On it must be organized, therefore, national life. He even dares to list them: Galicia, Asturias, Castilla la Vieja, Castilla la Nueva, País Vasco-Navarro, Aragón, Cataluña, Levante, Andalucía and Extremadura. «Governed by themselves in everything that affects their internal life. Moreover, in everything that is not strictly national. Tell me if it does not look like the outline of the State of the autonomies that was enshrined in the 1978 Constitution. In fact, only the Army, Justice, interregional communication routes and pedagogical, scientific and economic services that affected the entire national territory would remain in the hands of the State , along with the right to intervene when the large regions exceed their functions. The rest would pass into local hands. And he adds: “Each one would be governed by a legislative and fiscal assembly, which would elect its own government. The election of the assembly would be by universal suffrage, with one deputy for every ten thousand inhabitants, disappearing the current constituencies, the basis of chiefdom. Both the assembly and the regional government and its different administrative bodies would be based in the city that each region chose as capital. From then on, Ortega lets his imagination run wild: «Then it would be seen how the regions, transformed from fictitious entities of nostalgia into operative bodies, took flight, while the State, free of the petty problems that had been weighing it down, achieved prestige that belonged to him. It is not a utopian or merely reformist project -he warns-, but something emanating from the Spanish reality. A reality that, during the last two centuries, politics and politicians have insisted on forgetting. Finding as a counterpart that reality forgets them. The real Spain-official Spain dichotomy comes from there. The State that we suffer resembles a device invented to create problems for the nation and present complaints to the national government. With the consequent poisoning of national life. Only a few regional governments would be capable of charging the inert provincial mass with political energy».

As if foreseeing what could happen, the philosopher comes down from the clouds and issues a warning: “If you want this political-administrative reform to have full effect, it must be accompanied by a reform of society or, better said, of the mentality of the Spaniards, forcing them to get out of their indifference and absenteeism, forcing them to assume responsibilities, to shake off their secular apathy, to transform themselves, in short, from subjects into citizens, both in rights and duties».

I think I have shown that Ortega was the first designer of the State of autonomies. But that these have not followed the course that he pointed out to them is very clear. Rather than towards autonomy, they are directed towards sovereignty. It is more: it is demanded not only by the large counties or regions, but also by the provinces, institutions “sad, sordid, lamentable” for Ortega. We are seeing it in Castilla y León, where Soria and Ávila have decided to compete separately, and surely others will follow suit. We are talking about two key regions in our history. León was the first kingdom after the Principality of Asturias, which Alfonso VII converted into an empire after annexing Galicia and Castile, which would soon become hegemonic, although Ortega prophesied it with an air of curse: «Castilla made Spain and unmade it». Warning that without being equal in rights and duties, we will never have a nation or a State. With the large regions reappearing as the holy company. Will they ask for their entry into the European Community? Puigdemont, of course.


Jose Maria Carrascal he is a journalist


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