Former Catalan president Jordi Pujol turns 90 this Tuesday in almost clandestine surroundings and deprived of any kind of public recognition, except for that organized by a group of loyal followers who have opened a congratulations website. For many, he brought it on himself after the disappointment felt by so many people by his confession, on July 25th, 2014, through a statement acknowledging that he had had undeclared money abroad. For others, it is simply an excessive condemnation that can only be explained by the anti-Pujolism that exists in large sections of Catalan society. In any case, the political Pujol is, whether his detractors like it or not, the essential reference if one is to understand Catalonia in the second half of the twentieth century and in the first years of the twenty-first. Political Catalanism has suckled from Pujol in the same proportion as Hispanic Socialism has done on Felipe Gonzáles and the Spanish right on the duo of Fraga and Aznar.
To analyze Jordi Pujol on the basis of only corruption is almost the same as trying to examine his legacy without it. Because, as with all those personalities whose biographies have suddenly been truncated by a scandal, the idol falls and shatters. It is only later that the pieces can be reassembled. But his work remains. How can it not remain, this thing that anti-Pujolism wanted to put to an end by any means it could and failed to do so in his 23 years as president? The strong national identity of Catalonia is clearly the fruit of history, of a shaping that took place over many centuries and with many defeats behind it. But in recent times, since 1980 with the first autonomous Catalan elections, this new impetus has had names and surnames associated with it. And both lights and shadows, of course. And a corruption which Jordi Pujol has confessed obscures almost all of that. But not quite all, as some seem to want. Make no mistake: Pujolism exists, even though today no-one formally wants to be its political heir.
Just as there is Felipism despite the revelations about the GAL as a criminal organization that murdered people, and Aznarism that continues despite Spain's involvement in the Iraq war and the disproportionate corruption that is seen when you look at the photo of that prime minister's first cabinet. And there is a Germany which recognizes Helmut Kohl as the father of the current state as he was chancellor for 16 years and the politician who carried out the reunification of the country, although he later had to resign because of corruption. Kohl would have turned 90 in April as well.
On many occasions, Pujol had presages of an end to his political life like that of the German chancellor whom he idolized and then saw fall into ostracism at the end of last century, amid great damage to his reputation. It was the first warning, and perhaps then he began to imagine and fear that his future would not be so different. Many years went by until the legacy left by his father Florenci Pujol came into play. Interestingly, Kohl also failed to retire in time from political life. Before he died, he was served with several discreet - in fact, very discreet and supported by a minority - gestures of rehabilitation and recognition. His death in June 2017 was, however, a reunion with all those who had forgotten him. “The father of the new Germany has died,” the country’s leading newspaper headlined, forgetting the fierce campaign it had waged to get him out of politics for corruption. And Strasbourg held the EU's first state funeral.
History only leaves us with examples and no two situations are alike. Pujol knows he has been condemned and has assumed his disappearance from the public scene. Knowing, perhaps, that in his case, the weight of his confession has toppled the idol and carried away the person as well.