Before the verdict

Anyone in the PSOE who believes that doing nothing is an option will be effectively fuelling a pro-sovereignty majority

Ahead of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the trial of the Catalan leaders —and before the emotional mercury rises again in Catalonia— we should take a moment to ask ourselves some questions and undertake the analysis that the sovereignty movement owes to itself collectively, making a rational effort to shun the comfort provided by grievances, regardless of how unfair they may seem and how outrageous and cruel they actually are.

The defendants’ pre-trial imprisonment, which now totals 622 days in the case of Cuixart and Sànchez, and the examining phase that preceded the trial as such have fully exposed the extent to which the State was prepared violate due process and democratic guarantees. However, the prisoners themselves have repeatedly shown that they are not, nor are they willing to be, the determining factors in the political decisions needed to maintain the pro-sovereignty strategy without any more blunders. Nor were Jordi Cuixart or Jordi Sànchez "determining factors" when they watched the decisions that led to the events of late October 2017 from a prison cell.

In fact, the inclination by the JxCat political prisoners to abstain in the vote to re-elect PM Pedro Sánchez could be construed as an exercise in realism. They know the kind of Spanish government that would be less harmful to the management of a verdict that —although theoretically open— will follow an examining phase and a trial in which the spirit of revenge seemed to replace the spirit of the law.

Awaiting a judgement that could fall on Catalonia like a bomb and, whether the members of the court want it or not, still has the potential for enormous political destruction and social bitterness, the election results have shown the consolidation of Catalonia’s public opinion into two largely stable blocs for and against independence.

Time and again, the two blocs have become firmly established while waiting for events that may not even happen. Whoever thinks that one day Catalonia will return to a normality understood as the status quo prior to the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the Statute, can only be called naive. That "normality" is dead and buried by the movements of public opinion and the occupation of the political center by the sovereignty movement.

The question is: now what? Are we moving towards what some have called a permanent chronic situation and others a stable blockade, and will we stand by while the conflict stagnates? Or are we edging towards a long and costly tilting process that could have dire consequences for the vitality, economy, and pulse of Catalonia?

Contrary to what some Spanish observers might think, the lack of a political dialogue and the repression play into the hands of the sovereignty project. Driven by the ruling against the Statute and the PP governments, the lack of a respectful response from the PSOE to the two million pro-sovereignty voters will further tilt Catalan voters towards independence. The question is how long that will take and at what cost to Catalonia’s progress, amid an atmosphere of defeat and repression.

In Ernesto Ekaizer’s La novel·la de la rebel·lió [The Novel of the Rebellion], the new book he presented this week in a conversation with lawyer Xavier Melero, the author quotes professor Nicolás García Rivas and the need for what in law is known as "interpreting the rules in accordance with the context and the social reality of the time in which they must be applied." That applies to the verdict, as well as to political action. Anyone in the PSOE who believes that doing nothing is an option will be effectively fuelling a pro-sovereignty majority. In some socialist circles they are uncomfortably aware of this and they wonder what Pedro Sánchez will do, as they observe with concern how some seem to think the problem has gone away now that the Catalan leaders have been tried. The same people who described the Catalan independence bid as a "soufflé" —something which would eventually deflate— are unable to read the consistency of the election results in Catalonia, which do not resolve, do not "solve", but reveal the immovable existence of the determination by many to stop belonging to and participating in the reform of a Spanish State that has repeatedly shown it does not want to be reformed.

The discomfort caused by the lack of a response from Spain to foster a dialogue makes other unionist sectors nervous, even the most hardline elements, who wonder how the Madrid business community that helps them could close its eyes after the elections to the existence of two million people who have voted for independence and have proven that they will not go away.

From the analysis of October 2017, with the success facilitated by Rajoy's crackdown on October 1st and the Catalan U-turn on the 27th, it is essential that the men and women willing to lead Catalonia take a good, hard look at the facts. The risk of decadence, of provincialism, of a Gallic village-type resistance depends not only on the State, but on the response to its onslaught, with more strategy than despair. And on how to manage the country by thinking a decade ahead rather than the next ten minutes.