In this year's sessions run by the Cercle d'Economia (1), our friend Antón Costas made a bold statement, in my opinion. He said that a constitutional reform and an independence referendum "are not mutually exclusive" and that "the time for political negotiation isn't over yet". It is a bold thing to say because, so far, the PSOE has made it crystal clear that its proposal for a new constitution (as agreed in Granada) completely excludes a referendum in Catalonia. And the PP has said countless times that Spain's unity is not up for negotiation.
In the light of the royal succession, perhaps we should re-read Antón's words for a better grasp of their meaning. At any rate, his statement is an invitation to ask again a question that we've probably asked ourselves many times before: if the time for political negotiation isn't over yet, how long should we wait? However, before giving an answer, it's inevitable to address a prior issue: what is it that we are supposed to be waiting for? In other words, what are the minimum conditions needed for such a longed-for negotiation to begin, with a fair chance of being successful?
Nearly all the Catalan political actors (including supporters of full independence, a confederation or a plurinational federal solution) understood and stated, long ago, that a new constitutional pact that didn't include Catalonia's right to self-determination would be rejected by a clear majority of Catalans, regardless of how federal or confederal its content might be. Let's be clear: only a Constitution that allows for Catalan independence at any point in the future -that's what the right to decide is about- might garner the support of the majority in Catalonia.
If the Spanish camp refuses to accept this, what's the point of striving to achieve a new constitutional pact? Let's put ourselves in the shoes of those who, even today, still honestly dream about a plurinational federal system. A few years ago they advocated "active federalism": actively explaining their position to persuade the rest of Spain that the federal alternative would be good for all the regions. Now, once they've come to accept that the right to decide is off-limits for them too, they can only practise a "passive federalism": to wait for the main Spanish parties to accept that Catalonia can only stay in Spain if most Catalans want to; to wait for Spain to face the risk of freedom, like this: it's only legitimate to stay together if it's equally possible to leave.
But, is this scenario really conceivable? Or does it belong to the category of "joint miracles". Allow me to explain myself: in an ordinary miracle only one Virgin is needed; but for a joint miracle to occur, several Madonnas need to work together and in unison. Don't you think that a joint effort by (at least) the Virgins of Pilar, Rocío and Covadonga, as well as the Moreneta (2), would be required for the main Spanish political parties to accept Catalonia's sovereignty?
All joking aside, I'd like to rephrase the original question: is it sensible to wait for such a miracle, i.e., a Spanish proposal that meets the bare minimum standards for Catalonia? I know this may come as a surprise, but I think it is; provided that we choose to wait in a particular way. You see, I think the real dilemma is not whether to wait or not, but how we'll wait. That is, what we choose to do while we wait.
I don't think it would be worth our while to wait like the main characters in "Waiting for Godot". The absurd conversation between Vladimir and Estragon while they are waiting for God knows who -who is Godot, anyway?- reveals that the true absurdity, in fact, lies with the wait itself rather than with their dialogue. While we wait for Spain to accept our right to decide, however, we could move forward towards becoming an independent country. This depends largely on us and we could then wait for as long as necessary.
Today at the Catalonia stop there is a bus with the engine running, getting busier and busier. It's the independence bus and it's ready to drive off. At the very same stop, another bus is supposedly due to arrive at some point: the bus of federalism. The commuters know very well that they should be getting on a bus but don't know which one is best for them. What should they do? You will agree that the most advisable course of action is for them to get on the bus that's already waiting at the stop before it leaves, just in case the next one doesn't show up. Not now, not ever.
1 The Cercle d’Economia (Economy Circle) is an influential Catalan business club.
2 These Madonnas or Virgins were traditionally revered in the Spanish regions of Aragon, Andalusia, Asturias and Catalonia.