THE OBSERVER

Puigdemont and the Beagle

The Spanish state’s sole strategy is repression

According to Darwin, mutations occur as part of a long process in which the key concept is natural selection. Those who adapt better to the environment, including humans, are more likely to survive and reproduce.
Catalonia’s independence movement is having a moment of reflection that will lead to either a change in its strategy as a response to the reality that is unfairly imposed on it or to remain stuck in an unfair fight with the dinosaur. Let’s not forget, even the dinosaurs went extinct.

1. The 1 October referendum was a great victory for the independence movement. A civic victory that was repeated at the ballot boxes on 21 December, which gave an indisputable democratic legitimacy to the popular will to become an independent state. The elections made it clear that secession has 47.5% of the popular vote. It was a great outcome if one looks to the past, though it is a result with all too apparent internal limitations if one plans to erroneously accelerate the future.

2. Any political strategy undertaken by Catalonia which maintains the confrontation with the Spanish state must be prepared to pay the price of the inequality of forces. Much of the judicial power, the main opposition party and Spain’s docile media, not to mention the Crown and big business, are all perfectly aligned with the PP government. Their aim is to put an end to the Catalan process no matter the cost.

3. The Spanish state has decided to crush the Catalan movement. And in doing so, to accept the costs in terms of its reputation and democratic quality, even if means an embarrassment in the international arena. The European Union has agreed to look the other way while Spain rips up its legal and democratic guarantees. Solidarity between states is unquestionable and, if one day European justice sides with the pro-independence politicians, many will have paid a very high price.

The European Union has agreed to look the other way while Spain rips up its legal and democratic guarantees

4. Negotiations concerning the election of a president are essentially gridlocked due to the judicial timetable. The CUP’s Mireia Boya, is due to appear before the Supreme Court on the 14th, while on the 19th it will be the turn of the general secretaries of ERC and PDECat, Marta Rovira and Marta Pascal, to make a statement before the judge. Tension exists between ERC, the CUP, President Puigdemont’s slate and PDECat over their conflicting interpretations of the situation and their evaluation of what personal price dozens of front-line political positions can be asked to pay.

5. There is a risk of an internal rupture within the independence movement. Personal relationships were put under a great strain by the events ahead of the 27 October declaration and the accusations of betrayal against the president and those who supported calling a snap election. Speaking off the record, one the participants admits that strategically they ended up doing "the worst thing they could’ve done", which was "to proclaim but not to execute the Republic". This disappointed both those who believed in an effective express proclamation and those who believed in a gradual operation based on the internal majority. History will judge the hours between the symbolic parliamentary statement on that Friday and the Monday morning with Carles Puigdemont on his way to Brussels via Marseille while minister Josep Rull was in his office surrounded by cameras.

6. Saturday saw the 100th day since Oriol Junqueras and Joaquim Forn were sent to prison, and the 117th in the case of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart. The personal price all four of them have had to pay is enormous, and it will be necessary to proceed with extreme caution in order not to make their situation worse. In the next few months the case against them will be heard in court. Meanwhile, it will be impossible to conduct politics beyond the day-to-day running of affairs, coexisting with the macro-trial against the independence movement.

7. Those who favour the politics of confrontation need to seriously assess their strength, while those who favour the politics of resistance need to find a place from which to conduct it. One needs a castle in order to defend oneself, and at the current moment Article 155 is a daily humiliation that paralyses the country and the Catalan government. It would also be a humiliation for the institution if President Puigdemont were not symbolically recognised, though arguing that he could effectively govern from Brussels lies somewhere between blind faith and self-deception.

8. One of the disappointments in the independence process is the manner in which many Spanish democrats have acted, while fully aware of how democratic guarantees are being eroded. As the freedom of expression and free thought beats a retreat, as the legal system naturally allies itself with hard-line elements of the deep state. As the pact made during the post-Franco Transition has no one who wishes to renew it beyond the regression of Spanish nationalism.

9. Given the current situation, is it the time to forge ahead or to fall back and look for a new internal strategy? The future of Catalonia will depend on the response of the pro-independence parties and whether the implosion between them is a fact.

10. The future of the independence process depends on how forward-thinking they are, since the Spanish state’s sole strategy is repression.

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