We are about to start the week of the court ruling in an atmosphere of uncertainty and impending shock. In Catalonia the main pro-independence parties admit that they have learnt a lesson from the application of direct rule in 2017, and that they must retain control over the institutions. Neither losing control over the Catalan administration nor the dissolution of Parliament now seem like sacrifices which are likely to bring about independence or a referendum. In practice, they now accept that there are no shortcuts; though without saying as much, and in some cases while publicly insinuating the opposite, though without any real ability to affect political action.
In the days ahead, speeches will be made at all levels of government, as the administration grinds to a halt when the ruling is announced. Pro-independence political and civil society leaders are still working to generate a majority to oppose the ruling by focusing on the civil rights angle, with support from among the ranks of the Comuns, who are trying to keep a low profile. While on the campaign trail, however, they all try to ensure that they don’t get carried away and upset the delicate balance called for by Spanish politics.
Who is leading Catalonia? Leadership is divided between those in prison and those who head the institutions. For the Catalan government it will be difficult to combine holding on to the institution with exercising political authority over the Mossos d’Esquadra [Catalan police] and the strategic distance between the president's rhetoric and the statements made by some of his cabinet ministers. According to government sources, in recent weeks, president Quim Torra has shifted towards a more resigned position than the one he expressed in his August address at Prada. The president has a fiendishly difficult position, which finds him with his institutional obligations towards all the people of Catalonia, an awareness that the Mossos top brass would seriously consider arresting him if ordered to do so by a judge, and his beliefs as an activist who refuses to give up on independence, while coming up against the limits of political action on a daily basis.
The part played by the people on the street in leading the movement is thanks to the recognition on all sides —including PSC leader Miquel Iceta— of the movement’s peaceful nature. The CDRs, organised in such a way that the leaders remain anonymous in a response to attempts to shut them down, announced in our Friday issue that they would never endorse "the use of explosives or put people’s lives in danger". The organisation known as the Democratic Tsunami, inspired by the classic model of a movement engaged in non-violent resistance, is a means of channelling a response on the street which no one is capable of anticipating.
Everyone agrees that the hardest part will be telling those on the street to stop demonstrating when the strategy calls for it. Just like the old anti-Franco trade unionists used to admit that the most difficult part of a strike is stopping it, today it remains unclear who will assess the gains and losses resulting from mobilizing the public, based on to what extent it proves useful for obtaining a seat at the negotiating table and a referendum.
Poor old Spanish democracy is having to pay a very high price in exchange for the ‘unidad de destino en lo universal’ [“unity of destiny in the universal”, a reference to a slogan used by Spain’s fascists in the 1930s]. The justice system is facing unprecedented reputational damage for having constructed and adapted the case against the Catalan independence bid to meet the political obligations which the PSOE and the PP have subsequently resigned. We will see if the Supreme Court judges consider the social and political leaders of the independence movement to have committed a crime against public order, if they interpret the law more or less rigidly in terms of the crimes under consideration, and whether the sentences are accompanied by certain conditions.
After two years in prison, the countdown begins for Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull. It also begins for the defendants who remain free for now, but face an uncertain future: Carles Mundó, Santi Vila and Meritxell Borràs.
It is exceptional for a whole nation to be awaiting a court ruling. Catalonia is holding its breath and the coming days will be troubling for any member of the public who has a humanistic, constructive vision of public life. Those who seek independence and the majority who are concerned by Spain’s democratic deterioration will have to keep their calm in the face of those who always seek to humiliate their opponent, a characteristic which is rooted in the multiple vestiges of the Franco regime.
The verdict will coincide with the exhumation of Franco’s remains, which is not a contemporary victory but rather a failing of a frightened Transition and a regressive democracy which sees the management of the burial of the dictatorship as exceptional. One need only listen to the prior of the Valle de los Caídos [where Franco was buried] or the heads of the Guardia Civil making bold political statements. Once again Catalonia is facing days which will mark the years to come.