JOAN REVENTÓS, PLACING DIGNITY BEFORE VANITY
by Nuria Escur
was a time when, as he was taking part in the final of several
poetry competitions, he used the pen name of "Pere Oliva" on his
works. "Pere", because that was the name he had assumed during
the war, and "Oliva", because the olive is his favourite tree.
Nowadays, Joan Reventós i Carner is very deeply involved in writing
his memoirs, the book on which, repeatedly urged on by friends
and acquaintances, he has now decided to work on with suitable
discipline three mornings a week. (...)
He was born in 1927 in Barcelona, the son and grand-son of politicians.
He took a degree in law at the University of Barcelona and became
a militant member of several clandestine students' organizations
that all shared a nationalist and anti-francoist ideology. In
1949, he joined the "Moviment Socialista de Catalunya" (Catalan
Socialist Movement). He later worked as a lecturer at the University
of Barcelona until 1958, when he was placed under arrest and charged
with clandestine propagandizing and association with an illegal
organization. He was jailed for three months first at the "Modelo",
then in "Carabanchel" and spent eight months more under a less
strict prison regime. He was denied a Spanish passport for fourteen
In 1974, he became a militant member of the "Convergčncia Socialista
de Catalunya" party. A strong supporter of greater unity in the
Catalan socialist movement, he battled to open the way to new
attitudes and was eventually elected first secretary of the PSC
(Catalan Socialist Party). He then worked for some time as a political
adviser to Catalan President Taradellas' government. Having become
a deputy in the Spanish "Cortes", he was adopted as Socialist
candidate for the presidency of the "Generalitat" autonomous government
in the 1980 election. Against all expectations, he lost the election.
In 1983, Reventós was appointed Spanish Ambassador to France and
spent several years in Paris. He was re-elected senator in 1989.
After publishing books such as "Dos infants i la guerra" (Two
children and the war) and "El nostre combat" (Our struggle), he
was once again elected President of the Catalan "Partit dels Socialistes",
a position which he later renounced for personal reasons, more
particularly - in his own words - : "in order to write my memoirs
and at long last devote more time to my family".
these memoirs help you to make friends or to make enemies
I don't think that they will get me too many enemies. I never
had many enemies, actually. In life, you always meet people
who try to put the screws on you and tread on your toes whenever
they can, but I think that I have the advantage of being able
to forget about them very easily. (...)
You are a Socialist thanks to - or because of - your time
at Law School.
This is true. The University turned me into a Socialist. At
Law School, I had a friend who came from a family of coal
miners, a boy from Mequinenza, and he is without a doubt the
person who made me a fully-fledged socialist. Even though
my family's long tradition of left-wing political ideas was
also influential to me. (...)
In which aspects do you find today's politicians - and today's
Socialists - lacking ?
In none, really. I think that politicians have the benefit
of a much more solid training nowadays. On the other hand,
it was impossible for us to follow a linear trajectory. We
did not have the opportunity to start at the bottom, from
a town council for instance, when we went into politics. Because
the people of my generation had to be trained first of all
to escape persecution by the police...
Then arrivism did not apply to your generation ?
Not at all ! In my times, nobody got involved in politics
for self-seeking reasons, thinking that it would help them
to make good. We had more internal, deep-rooted motivations,
we did it just for the love of it... Neither Jordi Pujol or
El Guti or myself profited by political activity.
You were therefore "purer" than today's politicians ?
The only thing I know is that our fight for democracy was
pursued on the basis of honesty and a moral attitude to life.
But there are certain levels of professionalism that we never
reached whereas, at present, others have learned how to do
let me tell you that they do not seem to do it to good effect,
judging from the growing disenchantment of the population.
Can you understand why some citizens are so thoroughly disillusioned
with politicians ?
The social atmosphere has grown cold. But the fact is that
"low-intensity" democracy is now a common phenomenon in the
whole of Europe. And I also remember some elections in the
United States at which only 20 per cent of the population
actually went to vote. Our political parties are still very
young and inexperienced and, as Campalans said : "politics
are a matter of pedagogy". Now that they are sending me here
and there to preach the Good News...., I always remember those
is the most difficult part about negotiating with another
I was told that you usually defeat your opponent by wearing
down his resistence and that you can keep arguing for hours
and hours without ever giving in... I have actually given
in many times. Many times indeed ! But negotiation is a technique
based on the capacity for reflecting over arguments (not your
own arguments, but those brought forward by your opponent)
and showing him their weaknesses. In politics, negotiation
is one of the hardest tasks you have to perform. I can assure
you that it was not easy to negotiate with either Tarradellas
or Adolfo Suárez. And it was even harder to negotiate with
In the 1980 elections, when everybody thought that you would
be the winner, the ....
No, not everybody. I for one did not think I would win.
that why they said that "Pujol cannot sleep at the thought
that he could lose and Reventós cannot sleep at the thought
that he could win" ?
During the election campaign, I could already feel that things
were not going well. Later, they said that my reaction to
the outcome of the election was of of great serenity. But
it did not have anything to do with that ! The fact is that
I had already smelled failure, I had already accepted it.
you ever felt responsible for not having shown much ambition
You know, I was convinced that I was not a charismatic man.
Even if, later, people told me I was wrong, things were still
quite clear to me. It was not my true calling.
what made you decide to stand for President of the "Generalitat"
I shall tell you... I remember a meeting at my house with
four friends. A decision had to be made about my candidacy.
One of my friends, who is now dead and whom I loved dearly,
told me : "Joan, of course you can decide not to stand as
a candidate in this election, but think that the following
step would be to become a monk at Montserrat Abbey". I swear
that it was that sentence which convinced me to act. After
so many years of political struggling, I could not shrink
from that new task and remain on the sidelines. I had to take
the plunge... But what I was not aware of is that it would
open the way to twenty years of Pujol government. (...)