In the hands of the people

Like all days marked in red on the calendar, this October 1st came slowly. It is the culmination of a phase of Catalan political life, and any reading that could be made of it will depend on what each person decides privately today, and how it is interpreted by Spain and the European Union. Everyone must be aware that the world is watching at the moment, and it might not do that again for a long time due to the volatility of the media agenda. The pro-independence process is now being played out in the streets, and the reading of this Sunday's events will mark the future of Catalonia for the coming years or decades.

The surge that began after the ruling on the 2006 Catalan Statute, handed down by the Constitutional Court on June 28, 2010, has reached a pivotal point with a force that few could have foreseen. Politicians and institutions climbed on board and rode the popular movement that has shown that it isn't a passing fancy, but instead a deep current that has encountered no luck in negotiations with the Spanish government, which has continued to periodically fuel it with its disdain and its notion of a uniform and centralized autonomic Spain.

During this legislative term, the pro-independence parliamentary majority has withstood a vote on confidence in President Puigdemont, a government crisis that revealed different sensibilities, the complexity of organizing a referendum that breaks with Spanish legality, and the tempestuous approval of the laws on the Referendum and Transitional Legality. It has overcome the hurdles and the public majority in favor of a referendum has grown with the reaction from Spain, whose scorn and detailed deconstruction of self-government has become an all-out attack that affects hundreds of mayors and public servants, and that threatens leaders of the ANC and Òmnium, and even the President of the Generalitat, with arrest. The strategy of Rajoy and Attorney General Maza has been very useful in transforming what was a complicated calling of a referendum into a much broader cause for democracy and freedom of expression. The foreign press understands this, and has put what some hoped was an internal affair onto the front pages of newspapers worldwide.

The helicopter’s flight

On Friday afternoon, while we were interviewing President Carles Puigdemont in the
Hall of the Montserrat Madonna, a helicopter flew over the Generalitat Palace with its characteristically unsettling sound. Puigdemont looked up at the ceiling and said with a smile: "It visits us every day, and it's not from the Mossos (the Catalan Police)". Carles Puigdemont knows that he could be arrested, but also that behind him there are others, and that ideas are irrepressible in a democracy. He knows that those who try to solve the Catalan question with repression will try to prevail, but at a very high price for a 21st century European democracy.

The fact that politics is still in the hands of the people has advantages and risks. The advantage of direct participation in a collective future, but also the risks of emotion and provocations when some want to use a mistake or an incident to smear a movement that has pacifism as a core value. The events of this Sunday will send an undeniable political message, and whether it is civic, peaceful, and democratic will be in the hands of the people. That the presence of Spanish police forces, which have been sent to Catalonia amidst Spanish nationalist proclamations, is seen as an element that increases tensions explains many things about our recent past.

If on Sunday the people will have their say, on October 2nd the focus will shift back to politics, and both brave and strategic decisions will be made. This week ARA has interviewed both Puigdemont and Junqueras, and both trust in the power of the people's message. They are counting on that message strengthening their position before the Spanish government and European institutions, if there is a strong turnout. They know that in a democracy everything--and by everything, I mean everything-- crosses a negotiating table. They know that doing politics is more complex and risky than making maximalist proclamations at a rally or in revolutionary panel discussions, and that the Process will be stronger the greater the majority that is driving it. Having got this far considering the actions against it from the entire Spanish governmental apparatus, is a success from the Catalan government's point of view. For ballot boxes to be deployed at polling places is a humiliation for the Spanish government, after they swore up and down since the day after the 9 November 2014 consultation that there would be no referendum. October 2nd will be the moment to make a lucid reading of the situation, to weigh the strengths and compare forces. With courage and a sense of responsibility. The Process does not begin today, but there is much political work yet to be done.