The more discredited politics becomes, the more necessary it is. Given the events of this week, it is worth remembering Enrico Berlinguer, the Italian Communist Party leader nicknamed culo di ferro or ‘iron ass’ for his perseverance and determination, who refused to leave a meeting until all possibilities had been explored, thus exhausting the other participants. Likewise, in Spain former Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez is said to have occasionally left the negotiating table to take a short nap, leaving everyone else to continue negotiating the Moncloa Pact [a far-reaching, cross-party accord in the Transition to democracy]. Negotiating requires skill and a cool head, which Catalonia’s coalition government partners failed to exhibit this week, exposing how fragile unity is on the independence camp. Clearly the situation is a complex one, and the substitution of MPs either in jail or in exile is a result of parliamentary interference due to the highly questionable rulings of Judge Llarena. Nevertheless, politics is all about overcoming hurdles.
Berlinguer’s nickname can be traced back to Weber's ethics of responsibility and the pragmatism of Bismarck’s German realpolitik and it is nothing less than the ability to evaluate the consequences of political decisions. It is opposed to the ethics of convictions, which puts values before consequences.
Conducting politics means looking for strategies that adapt to the circumstances to achieve clearly defined goals, and this week there was a lack of politics and an excess of political posturing.
JxCat and ERC’s negotiators openly admit that during Thursday’s gruelling meetings there was "an excess of testosterone". Such conflict can only be explained either by their "lack of ability", as some claim, or as part of a strategy to weaken the standing of the Speaker of the House by those who believe that the more people there are on trial or in prison, the closer the independence movement will be to a referendum. The postponement of the plenary debate on general policies until Tuesday has provided ammunition for those who doubt the viability of the current legislature. On Friday, President Torra and Vice President Aragonès made some progress by holding a meeting and a subsequent public appearance, thus buying them some time. In the words of Quim Torra, "until the rulings are handed down".
Torra spoke of "strengthening this term’s strategic agreement". However, the government's strength has lost credibility thanks to Thursday’s warning shots, the hasty ultimatums and the typical response from certain individuals to tweets by the religious police, who constantly keep an eye on the propriety and has a particular influence over politicians from civil society.
Anyone who wishes the Catalan crisis to come to a speedy end has a long wait ahead of them, both in Catalonia and in Spain. However, there have been glimpses of a new political scenario, in spite of the black canvas that conceals the goings-on and directs people’s attention to the upcoming court cases. One may speak of pragmatists and legitimists, to both govern and resist or to enact prose or poetry. Call it what you will, but the fact is that the independence movement is experiencing internal tensions over the correct strategy to follow. The internal motto is to resist since no one is interested in calling a snap election and since the trial of the former ministers will bring about a public outcry that will need to be studied to see how it can be managed, and in a democracy crises are usually channelled democratically by holding elections.
Madrid will stop at nothing
A year ago Pérez Rubalcaba, working behind the scenes, made it clear that the state had decided to "accept the cost" of carrying out its work in Catalonia. He was not only referring to 1 October and the operation by Spain’s security forces, but also to the Spanish state using every mechanism at its disposal to put an end to Catalonia’s independence bid. This is precisely what it did, and after having heard certain irresponsible PP politicians speaking of a corralito [referring to the informal name for the economic measures taken in Argentina in 2001] during the crisis, on 1 October it responded by applying even more pressure on businesses and financial institutions. Recent articles in this newspaper by Àlex Font, Albert Martín, Natàlia Vila and Albert Cadanet have explained how companies regulated by the ECB and banks that are dependent on it were forced to relocate their headquarters, in an extremely risky move, economically and financially speaking. They pulled out all the stops. The Spanish government set to work in an operation to apply pressure that politically and economically affected the Catalan government and Catalan society as a whole.
A year later enough information is available to implement different strategies and to engage in politics. Independence supporters only have the mechanisms of majorities and grassroots action at their disposal to strengthen the internal calls for a referendum. The alternative is to prolong the stalemate in a justified outrage.