While the Community of Madrid is still in official mourning for the death of Queen Elizabeth II of England and the Sex Pistols’ song “God Save the Queen” is playing in some homes around the world, Catalonia’s national day, the Diada, took place. This 11 September will be remembered for an aspect that is not the brightest or most heroic part of politics: the division between pro-independence parties and organisations, with spectacles of deplorable verbal confrontations. Preambles of rupture.
Not that the norm is that of too much unity among a movement that for 10 years knew no mobilising rival in Europe in terms of constant and massive citizen participation. Soon it will be five years since October 1, the date of the banned and repressed referendum, with thousands of graphic documents of the beatings of the population by the Guardia Civil and the Spanish National Police that went around the world. Only five years have passed, but those were different times. The Catalan conflict has yet to be resolved, nothing has been done, except perhaps in terms of form. And there is no doubt that there are those who value highly precisely the change in form. They may have an important role to play.
If the three formally pro-independence Catalan parties have always had major differences – Junts and the CUP are at political antipodes, beyond each defending Catalan independence in its own way, and ERC has at times been closer to Junts and at other times to the CUP – to which we add the other formation that formally defends the sovereignty of the Catalan nation, En Comú Podem, the differences increase rather than diminish. The constitutional bloc, PSC, PP, C, s and Vox, is the counterpart defending the strictest legality of the ’78 regime, the Constitution and the Bourbon monarchy. Visceral anti-republican. The first group, not at all homogeneous, currently has 82 deputies, the second, not homogeneous at all except in the defence of the aforementioned legality, has 53 deputies. The population in favour of Catalan independence, according to repeated surveys, ranges between slightly more and slightly less than 50%, with a downward trend in recent years. The population in favour of the right to self-determination is well above this percentage, in any survey it would be above 70%.
The norm, we said, has not been pro-independence unity among the different parties that formally defend it, but in the weeks leading up to this Diada, disunity has broken records. Disunity and public disagreements over the call for the central demonstration of the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya (ANC), although the verbal confrontations have not been limited to that call.
In the weeks leading up to the Diada, a number of events took place that have set the scene for this year’s Diada, as they once again revealed various conflicts with the central state apparatus. One is the so-called Catalangate. As is well known, this is a case of spying on the Catalan pro-independence movement, including the four presidents of the Generalitat of Catalonia since 2010, two presidents of the Catalan Parliament and other elected officials, including members of the European Parliament, using the NSO Group’s Pegasus spy programme. In addition to these politicians, there are a good number of activists, computer scientists, lawyers, etc. The report that Citizen Lab (a laboratory of the University of Toronto that studies Internet controls that pose a threat to human rights) published on 18 March 2022, identified as many as 65 victims, a figure considerably higher than in any of the cases they had previously studied, surpassing those of Al Jazeera (36 victims) and El Salvador (35 victims). The Catalangate remains open and has been an obvious source of conflict between the Spanish and Catalan sides. So far, there is no explanation that could have satisfied any Spanish democrat, no matter how unmotivated he or she might be in the fight for the right to self-determination. Or so it would be better to think.
Another conflict. At the end of August, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the Kingdom of Spain “violated the political rights of former members of the Government and Parliament of Catalonia” by suspending the public functions of Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull and Jordi Turull. As will be recalled, these were four of the defendants in the trial. The ruling of this UN committee agrees with the four complainants who claimed that the suspension of their functions prior to the existence of a conviction violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The opinion argued that this suspension from public office violated the rights recognised in article 25 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Kingdom of Spain is a signatory, being one of the 172 states that have signed it. Ratification was published in the BOE of 30 April 1977. Evidently, although not directly because it is not binding, the opinion of the UN Human Rights Committee may affect the ruling that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will have to decide on complaints from many defendants afterwards the referendum of 1 October 2017.
The third conflict was on 10 August when the Spanish Ministry of its Interior acknowledged and justified in an almost tabernacular way the infiltration of police agents in different Catalan social organisations. As the details are explained in this article in this issue of Sin Permiso, no more will be said, with one exception: remember that the current minister of its interior has already accumulated as a magistrate three of the six ECHR sentences imposed on the kingdom of Spain for torture. Is there a problem? It seems that he is a candidate for mayor of Madrid for the PSOE in the next municipal elections.
Another conflict, particularly sensitive, concerns language. If anything is completely unknown or misrepresented outside Catalonia, as I can personally testify, it is the reality of the Catalan and Spanish languages in this nation. Demagogy about the “persecution”, “discrimination” or “marginalisation” of the Spanish language is all the rage and is believed by a large part of the non-Catalan population. An ultra-press has succeeded in this as in other things for years. It has been concretised in the judicial offensive on the “25%”. If any reality remains, once prejudices, apriorisms and Spanish nationalism (and Catalan nationalism, if you like) have been put aside, it is the one that anyone can verify: the Catalan language has suffered an immense setback to the benefit of the Spanish language over the last few years. Currently, 36.1% of Catalans in Catalonia speak Catalan on a regular basis. Much less than 15 years ago. And Spanish has gained in regular use. A Castilian language that, being “marginalised”, “discriminated against” or “persecuted”, is curiously gaining ground in social use. Let’s say that something doesn’t add up, no matter how fanatical one may be about it and how much one has already taken sides before any data. As this has been written about in detail in these same pages, we refer to this article to expand on the issue.
And to end the list of conflicts, although this one is very old: Catalonia’s fiscal deficit. According to the Catalan government, in 2019, Catalonia’s fiscal balance deficit with the state public sector stood at 20,196 million euros, equivalent to 8.5% of Catalan GDP. The calculation was made according to the two standard methodologies: that of the monetary flow (which reflects this 8.5%) and that of the charge-benefit incidence (which distributes part of the centralised expenditure and lowers the deficit to 6.1%). The controversy over the correct amount of the fiscal balances has been going on for many years, but it has not been a good system to suppress the official publication of these fiscal balances for 17 years. It was in 2005 that the only one was published. Spanish governments have not published them since then, and for some years now they have not even provided the necessary data to the Generalitat so that territorialised state spending can be calculated. No one doubts that it is within the realm of possibility that the Generalitat governments are fakers and all the data provided are false, or clearly biased or even invented, but it does not seem a way to prove these assumptions by suppressing information that could allow the Spanish government’s data to be evaluated, analysed and projected, and under the pretext that making these data transparent provokes conflicts. It rather resembles the suppression of the question on the evaluation of the monarchy by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas seven years ago. The method of suppressing information that is of no interest or of avoiding obtaining it can hardly be accepted as an argument, let alone as a rational debate. It will be recalled that, in October 2020, precisely due to the absence of an assessment of the Bourbon monarchy by the CIS, 16 independent media conducted a survey on this issue with this result: 40.9% of those surveyed said they would support the republic in an eventual referendum compared to 34.9% who would opt for the monarchy. It is not only that Catalonia does not have the recognised right to self-determination to decide what relations it wants to have with the kingdom of Spain and the world, nor can the Spanish population democratically decide whether it prefers a republic or a monarchy. Nor information on fiscal balances or what people think of the monarchy. What can be annoying, it is better to suppress. This should not be an accepted method of rational discussion. In any case, the fiscal deficit is the elephant in the room of which few speak, but which continues to have a decisive effect on Catalonia’s capacity to manage its needs, especially to cover the most basic ones such as education, health and dependency. It is well known that Catalonia ranks at the bottom of all the Autonomous Regions in terms of social spending per inhabitant, despite having an above-average cost of living.
A few days ago, in an article by Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, an aspect of the political reality of the kingdom was mentioned that I think deserves to be retained. The professor at Madrid’s Carlos III University said: “[F]ollowing the Catalan crisis, which was a kind of national trauma, a self-satisfied Spanish nationalism has re-emerged that denies that Spain has structural political problems. As is well known, we are a flawless democracy, among the best in the world. The pessimism and gloomy look of the past decade has been replaced by a pride in the country in which there is hardly any room for a critical view of our democratic system”. What is quite rightly pointed out in this article is not that there has been a resurgence, which is moreover evident, of the most Carpet-veto-esque Spanish nationalism among the extreme right and the extreme right, as the article assumes. He points to this Spanish nationalist resurgence among ranks separate from the previous ones. Between the very moderate left and the less moderate left, and, even if this has only a cheap museum value, some perhaps only testimonial cases of revolutionary Stalinists (sic) should also be included. Things have been seen or heard over the last months and years that surpass the wildest imagination: self-proclaimed republicans shouting “long live the king! “(yes, the current Bourbon); leftists who have only seen in the Catalan mobilisations “petty-bourgeois ideology” (if not outright bourgeois); writers who have identified a thousand times the most exclusionary manifestations of Catalan nationalism with all Catalan nationalism and its various branches (and outside of their intellectual horizon the evidence that defending the right to self-determination and independence is not something exclusive to nationalism of any kind; It can be defended for exclusively democratic reasons) and, to finish somewhere, intellectuals or academics who have detected a “nationalist virus” in Catalonia that has colonised once brilliant Catalan minds (because evidently, at these levels of intelligence, the nationalist virus is Catalan or Basque or even Galician, but never Spanish).
This non-Carpetovetonic Spanish nationalism, at least in part of the official left, because it is true that that of some recognised members of the PSOE, retired or not, is indistinguishable from that of Vox or the PP, is what is at the so-called table of dialogue with Catalonia. A dialogue table that not even the most hopeful person on the Catalan side would dare to affirm (with facts) that it has meant anything more than the symbolism of meeting. This does not mean to say that there are reasons to continue to say that it is a table that should continue to meet, even if only to accumulate evidence that there is a side of the table for which the right to self-determination is only recognised for the Sahrawi Republic… until a few months ago, and now not even that once good relations with the Moroccan satrap have been restored. The assessment made at the dialogue table has been a hot topic on this Diada between the opponents, right and left, and the supporters.
Although for many people in the kingdom, including a portion of the inhabitants of Catalonia, on the extreme right, right and left, it is a pity, as was said in a recent article that was not exactly passionate, “independentism has not disappeared, nor have the independentistas melted away”. And even more important: “Whoever believes they can make policy in Catalonia (and in Spain) without having them in mind is mistaken”. And remembering the history of the kingdom and the trajectory of certain characters, he can add to the mistake with much empirical evidence: or he simply becomes a defender of the unity of Spain without fissures and above any other consideration. There are plenty of names to go around.
What are the prospects for the continuation of the right to self-determination when the EU and the Spanish government are militantly against it? Difficult, but some elements are essential: abandoning self-promotion and magical moralising, defending amnesty to respond to the almost 4,000 people indicted for the protests; linking national and social demands, especially with the serious social and economic crisis; seeking alliances that are more open to sovereignty, social movements and the left in Spain as a whole. Easy to write, difficult to put into practice. But The Nobodies, except for the occasional irresponsible person, have never said that the great objectives are easy. It has been said in many ways, but there is someone who said it very well: “Most of the worthwhile things in the world have been declared impossible before they were done”. It was the great jurist Louis Brandeis who said it.
It was not the most ideal time to achieve a huge turnout for the events and the central demonstration of the Diada, but even so, hundreds of thousands of people on the streets is no small thing. 150,000 according to the Barcelona police, 700,000 according to the ANC. To which must be added many thousands more from events in other parts of Catalonia. In any case, that’s a lot of people. To the hope of some and the despair of others.