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JOAN REVENTÓS, PLACING DIGNITY BEFORE VANITY
by Nuria Escur

There 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. (...)

Biography
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 years.

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".

  • Will 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 it.
  • Well, 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 words. (...)
  • Which is the most difficult part about negotiating with another politician ?
    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 Pujol. (...)
  • 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.
  • Is 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. (...)
  • Did 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.
  • Then, what made you decide to stand for President of the "Generalitat" government ?
    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. (...)