Alfred Pérez Bastardas

Interviewed September 27, 2017 for Catalunya Barcelona docuseries.

Could you begin telling us your name and when were you born?

Yes, my name is Alfred Pèrez-Bastardes and I was born in Barcelona in 1944

I had many different jobs, maybe the most important one is being a historian, but also the job at the Pension Fund, which…

I worked there for 45 years and so, I could also research as a historian on the first director of ‘La Caixa’

About the second one, who was accused during the Francoism and sentenced to 12 years for a court-martial after the war

He was called Josep Maria Bosch i Raspall, and the first director, who also founded La Caixa was called Francesc Moragas, a well-known director among the institutional areas in Catalonia

Okey, one thing, if you want to stop anytime to drink water because your throat is dry, don’t worry

Could you tell us a bout the Mancomunitat of Catalonia, how does it begin, how does it end…?

Shall we start with the city council?

We start with that.

It is before…

Yes, yes

The city council is before the Mancomunitat

Well, I have to refer to my grandfather, Albert Bastardes i Sampere, who was republican, catalanism and who was a republican councilor at the Barcelona city council from 1904

Well, his institutional work was important, in that sense, he dedicated himself to culture, to the institutional situation in Barcelona…

He tried to make Barcelona renowned, appreciates, the basic nucleous of Catalonia, which already was then, actually Barcelona supports Catalonia, in a way

I’m looking forward to telling you that during 1906, when the mayor, who was the appointed expert by the government, went to Madrid for two or three months to solve some issues which involved the city council,

He always elected a Mayor Deputy

And so, he was in charge of the Barcelona city council

Councilorrs were democratically elected in that time, but not the mayor.

Then… it was the King Alfonso XIII’s saint’s day, which was on the 23th of January and the Royal Mayor

put flags in the city council and he used to place damasks and lights all around the windows in order to celebrate and he gave a free day to all his staff

Albert Bastardes, as he was a republican, he said, well… what does the law say? Well, the law says that i put the flag and that’s it. Well, so let’s put the flag and that’s it

Of course, this provoked a hugh incident because the governor said something like ‘how come the city council does not celebrate the king’s saint day?’ Well, because I have not been told to do so

Obviously, the governor presented a little decree ordering to do so

This clearly shows what is happening right now… which is the theoretical democracy nowadays

But also in that moment, the civil governor who was called Ossorio y Gallardo said ‘well, if you don’t put damasks, I will order you to’

And Albert Bastardes answered ‘if you order me to put the damaks, I will call all the municipal parliament and all the councilors and I will tell them what needs to be done’

And the governor said, ‘well, don’t you think that attitude is a contempt of court?’

And Albert Bastardes answered ‘no, I am the authority’

And of course, the other one said ‘it is not possible to talk with you’, and so it ended the possibility of an agreement, it was not possible at all

This regarding the city council, and after that the cultural extraordinary budget problem arrived in 1908

it was a specific program addressed to creating new catalan modern schools, they were bisexual schools, what meant there were both boys and girls, well, that was not possible back then…

And they wanted to do so through this extraordinari budged that the city council had left

And it was because of a previous chronic deficit and the possibilities with banks

They brought that budget to the plenary session at the city council and the Mayor Sanllehy back then approved it, he accepted it

but the church pension, the government pension, obviously the governor, pensions, even a radical and reactionary right-winger, which was related to the regionalist union of Prat de la Riba, even if it doesn’t sound real

all that provoked that the governor dismissed that project proposal and the government ended it

Of course this provoked a big scandal, and Barcelona was divided between the ones who were in favor of the budget and those who were against it

The city council gave Sanlleny a vote of censure and he had to resign

Obviously, the city council was left without a Mayor and they democratically decided that the Mayor Deputy was Albert Bastardes

This Mayor was named ‘Popular Mayor’ or ‘Democratic Mayor’ by the press and the government did not dare to

call him anything, because then, the governor would have had to resign as well

and then, it stayed as a democratic Mayor and he did all this very important autonomist political and cultural activity


Now, the city council it’s over, we can move on to the Mancomunitat, which goes from the ’14 to ’25, it will be shorter

Could you tell us about the Mancomunitat of Catalonia and its history?

Well, yes, cultural and political projects of a politic catalanism in Catalonia pointed towards a possible creation of the Mancomunitat of Catalonia

That is, to try that the Government accepted to join the four councils in order to create an entity which governed the country in both unitary and unified ways

At the end, in 1911 a lot of political programms protesting and demanding the creation of the Mancomunitat of Catalonia

Eventually, after a lot of impediments and problems, it was created on April 1914

This Mancomunitat was the reunion of four general councils, therefore, provincial councils, and so, the councelors also were councelors in the councils

The truth is that this was accomplished for ten years until the general Primo de Rivera, who mounted a coup d’etat and established the dictatorship, the first dictatorship of the XXth Century, because the segond one was Franco’s

And so, the Mancomunitat ended and he dissolved it on 1925

Therefore, he did a lot of work in ten years, although there was still some work left

For example, my grandfather, Albert Bastardes, he was also a councelor of the Mancomunitat because he was a councelor a the Barcelona government, and he worked in the cultural area, in the social insurance, which we could talk about now

Well, he asked that the Tunnel of Bonaigua was built, it hasn’t been built yet, of course, but it was one of the interesting projects to be done, because Vall d’Aran was isolated during the winter

there was not the tunnel there is now, nor the one before that, and so, every commercial action had to be done with France, it was isolated from Catalonia

Well, it didn’t go well

The Mancomunitat was a very important political entity which gave cohesion to the territory, it showed people that Catalonia is a nation, and that is has its own language

it turns out that a cultural policy needs to be established and he did an extensive practice of giving phones to all the villages of Catalonia

He also created a lot of schools, he built roads and highways in all the nucleous of the villages, also telecoms, meteorological systems, etc, a lot of work

Not a long time ago, we celebrated the century of the establishment of the Mancomunitat

it ended suddently in 1914 with this coup d’etat we were talking about

Well, from that moment, there was no autonomist policy nor a possible autonomical government auntil the arrival of the Second Spanish Republic

By creating the Republic, a Republic that was proclaimed first in Catalonia and then in Madrid, it ended having the name of ‘Republican’ Generalitat de Catalunya after a lot of talks and a less tense political situation

Okey, if you could talk about the role of banks like La Caixa during…

Wait, let’s do this… now we talk about the bar association

Ok, great

Well, one of the most important things to know it that the board of the bar association of Barcelona, a great prestige entity

the governor of Barcelona and the dictatorial government of Primo de Rivera, as every year, published the judicial guide in Catalan and the bar association asked the government to publish it in Spanish as well

The truth is that they could have done it but they said it was not necessary, that it was just a political reprisal and they rejected it

The government gave them a few months period to see if they could convince them

but when they saw that it was not possible, they decided to dismiss all the government’s board in the bar association and they sent all the board into exile, to villages that were 250 km away from Barcelona

We are talking about the year 1926, therefore, in that moment to go 250 km away, with the low communications there were, it was something important

Albert Bastardes, who in that moment was one of the members of the board of the bar association was also sent into exile, as the rest

and they sent him to Sariñena, Sariñena is a very beautiful village that has a fantastic pond and very interesting ecologically

and he stayed there for two months, and this situation was also common during the dictatorship

the dictatorship went against newspapers, against the newspapers directors, against the press, against writers, against schools… well, the normal thing that a dictatorship does

Now, the next thing is about the role of banks during the XIXth Century



No, because I don’t know…

Collectivizations here in Barcelona…?

This is during the war… no, no



The book of the beginning of modern social insurances in Catalonia?

Well, I could talk about that, yes

Well, the truth is that Albert Bastardes was also one of the principal members of the Pension Fund for many years, among other things

And as the time passed by, he made it to vice-president during the war

Well, one of the things he promoted was social insurances, which I call modern ones because they are compulsory insurances

Before that, there were optional insurances, that is, one could go to a bank and if they had money they could create one in one bank

But when the government of 1917 and above all, the one of 1921 approved compulsory insurances, that changed the whole system because compulsory insurances meant that all the parts of the population had a minimum insured when they’d retire

Of course, it was necessary to wait until they would retire, and so, the copy of money, but well, this is the beginning

Germany already had very important social insurances from the XIXth Century, here it was 1922 or 1923

And so, this was one of the problems that were considered from 1921 and they created the Social Care Management

they were managements that were in every region, like federal, let’s say, almost like the autonomous communities nowadays, it had a social care management

They created the Social Care Management of Catalonia and Balearic all together, the president was Albert Bastardes for a long time until Franco closed those managements and he undid them all, and everything went towards a unitary system

These councils did all the work, every on had a bank which supported them economically, let’s say

Obviously, this Catalonia council’s bank was the Pension Fund and a big politic promotion was done for insurances

In 1936 – 1937, right? And when the war started all the insured laborers in Catalonia were over a million, which at that time, meant a high percentage of the active population

Could you talk a little bit about the difference of reaction towards Franco’s death here in Catalonia and the rest of Spain?

Well, yes… Of course, when Franco died we were a Barcelona

And so, we were quite scared. Why? Because there was a reaction in Spain of extreme parts and extreme institutions, starting with the Falange and the own government

which thought that Franco’s death would provoke a revolutionary reaction in the country, in Spain in general, and so… something needed to be done

They just couldn’t let the lifelong anti-Francoists, the communist party, the PSUC in Catalonia

also, there was the Socialist Party to a lesser extent, because it existed but it wasn’t that clear that it was in the anti-Franquism front, in a way

and everything else, the political Catalanism with Jordi Pujol’s group, which hadn’t created Democratic Convergence yet

Even though it was known already, and the press talked about it already

What happened when the newspapers said ‘Franco has dead’?

Well, what happened was that people in Catalonia were overjoyed, they opened bottles of champagne, we did as well

A dictatorship of 40 years was arriving to its end, a dictatorship which caused thousands of deaths

Which was also the result of a Civil War and a exile, actually, it was one of the worse dictatorships in Europe, the Francoism

Now, when the Second World Wars ended, anti-Francoists, people who had been exiled and that were still in France, or Latin America, or England

they thought that the army, the allies would come into Spain and free the country from Franco’s dictatorship

They confused us

They did, above all, England, Churchill, maybe the US not that much, historians talk about that, and it is very serious that we know about that now, 80 or 90 years after, but that is how it was

Now, Franco’s death provoked burst in Catalonia, I don’t believe that the rest of Spain reacted in the same way at all

This confusion you mentioned, could you explain it more or less?


Churchill’s confusion, could you tell us a little bit about that?

Well… In England, with Churchill at the front he played both sides, the dictatorship and as an ally in the other side

They were the firsts in doing this policy of non-interference, that is, they did not send weapons because they said that is how they helped and how the conflict would end

It wasn’t true, the only ones who sent weapons were the Soviet Union, but not in a necessary dimension

And meanwhile, Germany, Italy, and Portugal, they sent weapons, troops, planes, tanks to Franco, which helped him in that war, clearly

Could you tell us any anecdote that, somehow, helps to explain how this change of suddenly being able to speak in Catalan in public was?

Well… in public, exactly… obviously, repression against language and Catalan culture was an imposing genocide during the 40 years of Francoism

First, the first years, let’s say 10 – 15, it was so harsh, not a book written in Catalan could be published, obviously, the Catalan republican press was closed down and even in Spanish if it was republican

And that provoked that the country and the Catalan culture remained annulled so only little parts of the population, maybe clandestine families could do any Catalan activities

Of course, this lasted a lot of years, after that, little by little, towards the ’60 – ’70s it started to stop, but this genocide against Catalan language and culture kept going

And, actually, this political field didn’t start opening until Franco’s death

Precisely, there’s one totally unknown thing, but for example, my family, the Bastardes Parera family, that is my parent’s family

a few years after the establishment of the dictatorship, towards the ’50s, they decided to create a family group called ‘crew’, and they thought ‘how are we going to call this?’ and someone replied ‘the snail crew’

Why? Well, because they liked snails because they two eldest kids, they would go on an excursion and come back with a pennant with a snail on it, a blue sky and a snail

I found that funny. The truth is that when they gathered, Albert Bastardes was already dead, and my grandmother too, and to keep a family environment, to keep seeing each other,

and to do these cultural like activities and games to distract themselves, they created this ‘snail crew’, it lasted for 10 years only, but it is quite a lot

They said, ‘well, what will we do in the meantime?’, ‘well, I don’t know, we’ll do the little shepherd at home, they had a very big house, a very impressive one, ‘we’ll do a play, we’ll create a little choir, we’ll go on excursions, we’ll take photos of the Romanesque Catalonia

We’ll be doing these cultural activities

But, on top of that, they said ‘ah, but we do this, we’ll do a colorful sheet of paper for each activity we do’

and then, they said ‘that’s nice, but we’ll have to make seven of them’, why? ‘well, because we’re seven siblings and each one would want one of these sheets of paper’

And then… the snail crew did this sheet of paper, they did seven actually, one by one, hand in hand, all colorful, typewritten and also by hand without carbon sheets

And they were given to each brother, that is, to my parents

As they didn’t have enough, they said ‘we could also do a magazine’, ‘of course’, a magazine as if they were for free, but that magazine needed to be done in a certain way: by hand, one by one, seven copies of each edition

A magazine that had one edition, two, three, five, maximum, and 54 editions were published, but obviously, made by hand, seven identical copies… taking into account they were made by hand

And then, it turns out they kept that, the moment ended when the kids grew up, that is, they kept it and they stapled it and the Library of Catalonia has a couple of these volumes

That is… This magazine was called ‘The Snail’, and it is nice to see it because it’s in color, handwritten, illustrated and obviously, in Catalan

It was one of the simple familiar activities, but a resistance one

Could you tell us what the ‘strategy of breakup’ was?

No… no because I don’t know it

Okey, now we are going to this subject, well…

Tell me, tell me

Do you have any anecdote about…?

One of the anecdotes I can tell you about because it happened to my family is during one of the Italian bombings over Barcelona in 1938,

they intended to bomb the electricity plant which is in Paral·lel, where the three chimneys are, which are there still

They didn’t touch them, luckily, but on the other hand, they reached a part of the population and their houses… A tram which ran at that moment in Paral·lel, in which my wife’s father was,

a siren started to ring in the tram, everyone ran out of it towards somewhere to protect themselves from the bombing

but the driver, who was driving the tram, told my future father-in-law ‘do not move, lay down the floor as I do’

They both laid down the floor and the bombing reached them but they didn’t die

Everyone else from the tram… died

It hurted his eye, and he lost it, and his leg was affected too, they had to open it in half… but they were the only two who saved their lifes

Because of that, my future mother-in-law, who at that time was carrying twins was told ‘your husband has been attacked in a bombing’ and she went to all the hospitals looking for him

Thinking he was dead he had a seven months premature birth because of… the bombing

That is, in a way, this specific bombing affected to my wife, Maria Rius, a Catalan illustrator who is very well-known

She has a lot of published books, and well, let’s hope she can enjoy that all her life

Is there an other anecdote that you would like to tell? From Primo de Rivera until Franco, or the Transition…?

Well, I could talk about a personal thing… everyone knows that in 1960 Franco came to Barcelona

That was organised by a part of Pujol’s opposition and also a cantata in the Orfeó Català, which is the orfeonistic centre of Catalonia and one the most important choral mass of Europe

And they thought they could sing the ‘cant de la senyera’, which is the hymn of the Orfeó Català, but at the same time, it was composed by Joan Maragall, a very important Catalan poet

Actually, we were celebrating the centenary of Maragall’s death, he died on 1911

Of course, the police didn’t let us sing that, people got up and started to sing, there were slappings and after a lot of people were arrested after that, among which some people of my family were arrested too

I went to the police station too but they didn’t do anything to me, and I could go out in a few hours

A few days later, Jordi Pujol was arrested, imprisoned and tried

Could you tell us your opinion about independence?

But this is not over, right?

Well, the ones we chose, yes… well


If there is something else…


Let’s talk about the amnesty

Well, the possibilities that the regime would keep going after Franco’s death were low but there still were some

Finally, that’s why the opposition made it to change it and the transition is considered to be exemplary

Actually, the transition was always forced by the most Franquist forces that were still remaining, the army and also a part of the official church, the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the big industries…

There still were the courts, that until an hara-kiri was done, it did seemed like an exemple but the truth is that we are still suffering from it right now, and it’s been a while, a few years now,

A political party like the Popular Party, which has Franquists roots, conducts and mentality, and therefore, nowadays, we are about to try to vote in this referendum which is organized, ah…

it is guaranteeing that it’ll do everything it’s possible, from a force’s point of view, of brutal police and judicial force, let’s see what happens on the 1st of October

For example, I have other anecdotes that are not really anecdores, because there it goes the life of two brothers-in-law of mine

they were hiding in a political party during the Francoism and that were arrested and imprisoned in Madrid

They stayed there for a year, and luckily, it was the last one and they were released thanks to the amnisty ordered at that time


How did Lerroux made it to be elected five times?

Paying… paying for it

Well, the Lerrouxism is a social political movement which includes not only Catalonia, but all Spain, but its first actions were done in Catalonia at the beginning of the XXth Century

Lerroux is a difficult element to determine because it tried to fight political Catalanism, that in Catalonia, is a big cross-wise movement which goes over 150 years back in time

And this fighting system was trying to convince people that Catalanism was a right-winger politics, a reactionary one, and therefore, of the Regionalist Union of Francesc Camó, and previously, of Prat de la Riba, etc

And secondly, that Catalanism cannot offer a solution to labor movement’s problems

Of course, in that situation, Lerroux also had influences of the Spanish Government he had a state grant

He placed himself in the middle of the Catalan labor movement and went to the elections, and actually won all the elections he could, also, Lerrouxism payed for those elections, he bought the vote, payed for it

But well, it wasn’t that exactly, actually the Catalan labor movement found very hard the possibility of clearly perceiving that Lerrouxism was a reactionary force which was related to the most reactionary Spanish centre

Therefore, it cannot be annulled as a political effort in favor of Catalonia because it had troubles with Catalanism, and that brought it to a starting point


Could you explain for an American audience which has no idea of this issue, the fact that during the Civil War, there were the PSUC and POUM here in Catalonia, which were against Franco but also were against each other, how do you thing you could explain this?

Of course… During the Spanish Civil War, which provoked the uprising of the army in Morocco, and so, here in Spain as well which Franco ran later on

in Catalonia there were special situations, because there was an international influence of Soviet Communism which wished for a type of politics and a different reaction from what those others left-winger political parties could have

The Trotskyist party, among others, which was the POUM, a little party but very strong politically and also in terms of important members, which fight in the front or that had different options than the Catalan communist party, which practically did not exist

but what the party did have just as much as the Soviet Union, was that it helped the Spanish Republic

Of course, these little divergences, or big ones, provoked the murderer of Andreu Nin, as an element of saying ‘nothing is stopping us, we will do the same politics as we were doing with the Soviet Union at Stalin’s times if necessary’

Of course, this provoked a political disaster during the war, in and out of Catalonia and these situations did happen even after the exile


Do you think you could tell us why Anarcho-Syndicalism was so powerful here in Barcelona, even more than in any other place of the world?

And not now? And not now?

This subject is hard… I don’t know it… There are seven or eight books here that talk about this but I don’t know it that much to give a coherent explanation and not something that I’m making up right now


He says that maybe that was because here in Barcelona, the laborer was practically helpless by the government, and then they gathered in athenaeums and when those schools of Anarchist thoughts maybe they opened to that, maybe there were more used to that type of…

Yes, but…

Could you say something about this, or…?

This is very difficult, I mean… talking about this…

Well, the labor movement in Catalonia had very unique caracteristics, maybe more anarchists in other places, but not much more

And it was useful because Anarcho-Syndicalism, the CNT, the FAI after that, they both had a fantastic power when the Republic was coming

And so, during the war, they still had a very important political potential

It is true that at the beginning of the XXth Century, Anarchists had come to Barcelona and the exposed their way of thinking in athenaeums, they were lots of athenaeums, in little labor groups which did social cultural activities, comparative analysis…

Then, this yielded results and the CNT, created in 1911, was a very big laborer political party that ran the Catalan policy in many ways

in the moment in which Franco stands up and the revolution starts, Anarcho-Syndicalism in Catalonia as a war opposition and against uprised soldiers

it was which won the revolt in Catalonia, Anarcho-Syndicalists, laborers, all their control system… they took their weapons and stood up

Therefore, the Republican Generalitat was paralyzed and it was the Anarcho-Syndicalism which had the keys to work on that disorder

because of course, it also provoked a violent reaction against right-winger groups, all those who had helped the military revolt, this has to be taken into account as well

After Francoism, it hasn’t been that strong or popular, maybe it was successful in the exile, but here it hasn’t, and it still remains, but it does not have that fortress it had before the war

Do you want to say something about the current situation of the city, why are there so many helicopters everywhere, and the police on that cruise?

Well, the political situation was determined by this referendum’s call, which I did call as well, because the audience asked me to, there were over two thousand signs calling the referendum

And the situation becomes a reality in the streets, when it is seen that people go out the streets to protest, there have been five or six important protests in Barcelona with over one million people

I’m not talking about the 1977 asking for the statute anymore, now we’re asking independence

What happened? It happened that the majority of the Catalan population has realized that the state of autonomies cannot keep going like this anymore and that it has an adaptability problem

The Popular Party has done everything in order to sink the autonomy state during the last years

How did that started? Well, it started when the governor Maragall and his government were thinking about creating a new and a suitable statute according the circumstances of that time and the real needs of Catalonia

They did it, they voted it, it was endorsed in Catalonia, they voted for it in Madrid and they endosed it as well, so it was approved definitely

But the Popular Party thought that was affecting the national essences of Spanish unity and its system, and the neo-Franquist mentality they still have and which they still try to share

and it provoked all this movement against this statute and they made people to sign against it, endorsment voting in Andalucia and in Extremadura, in Castille… and finally, they took the statute to the Constitutional Court

Four years later, they decided that this statute had different illegal and unconstitutional parts

That is, they attacked an approved statute

Never before a Constitutional Court had been over a nation’s voting, that means, what had been approved in a referendum, the Constitutional Court thought it could be replaced

What happened here? That Catalonia’s population has been going out the street for the last four or five years in big protests

until the end, it has been proved that the autonomous state is not democratic enough with the Popular Party stopping it to continue with a special regime in Spain

Now we, I mean, the political Catalanism has been defending the only democratic option, the only viable option would be independence

Which doesn’t mean a breakup with Spain, maybe Spain would win with out independence

And that is that, until now, until these moments, we are waiting for it to happen on October 1st 2017