THE OBSERVER

Ten thoughts for tough days

Last Sunday some thought the people would go down on their knees, but they stood tall instead

1. Only a week ago thousands of people turned what the Spanish government referred to as “nothing” and “a picnic” into a bold operation conducted by anonymous citizens, with over two million votes and a brutal crackdown seen by the whole world. The events of October 1, with the pictures of ballot boxes, passive resistance and police brutality and intimidation, have changed the game completely. A new framework has emerged and doing politics is all about tailoring actions to new variables.

2. The referendum is an outstanding political message that arises from the dignity of many and is aimed at the whole world, even though the conditions in which it was held mean that it cannot be recognised by everyone in Catalonia and abroad. The main value of the referendum is the message of determination and civic-mindedness by all the people who protected polling stations, that carried on voting and forced the Spanish Interior Minister to call off the operation in the afternoon, in a blatant display of incompetence.

3. The street protests on October 3, following Sunday’s crackdown, were massive, peaceful, civic-minded and broad-based. They exhibited the core values of Catalan society, the same values that have driven our every response ever since the Generalitat was restored. That demonstration was an accurate depiction of the social majority that support the right to decide our collective future, as shown by opinion polls.

4. Spain’s King Felipe missed an opportunity to act as a moderating element, as a peace-seeking, inclusive head of state. His mandate has been hijacked by the martial, homogenising spirit that prevails over the spirit of civic-mindedness and mutual understanding. Despite the brutality of the police operation with which the PP government reacted when they realised that they had failed to block the vote, the head of state did not lift a finger. Not even a gesture aimed at his subjects who were desolate, following the violence in our streets and schools.

It is essential for the Comuns and their leader, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, to side with the Catalan institutions

5. Catalonia and Spain need to lower tensions and any gesture that seeks to accomplish that will be an intelligent one. The words of the Spanish government’s spokesman about negotiating “with guns on the table” are a further insult against a society that has never used them, a further act of recklessness. All the parliamentary groups that do not support self-determination could have condemned such a disproportionate, ill-conceived operation and could have asked for the Interior Minister’s resignation. It is not too late to facilitate the withdrawal of Spain’s Policía Nacional and Guardia Civil units, which make many feel uneasy. Catalonia has its own police force. The values of our best Catalonia are freedom, democracy and peaceful coexistence. Non-violence. Today they constitute the framework that should guide any action aimed at preserving everything that binds this society together.

6. The economic onslaught is nothing but the result of a suicidal tendency in politics and a willingness to impoverish Catalonia at the expense of our global reputation. The reputations of Spain and Catalonia are entwined and any attempt to grow by damaging one of Spain’s main economic workhorses is suicidal, as the IMF warned last Friday. Weakening Catalonia’s economy is a further act of disloyalty when negotiations require mending mutual trust between both governments after it was shattered many years ago. Companies will continue to do business in Catalonia, where a good deal of their clients are based, and they have every reason to hold on to them. The general public’s concern over the effects of economic uncertainty is legitimate and we have been waiting for a much-needed response from business leaders since last Friday.

7. Being totally persuaded of your own reasons is no guarantee of victory. You only need to ask one of the sweet old ladies who cast a ballot of dignity last Sunday or my own grandparents during the Spanish Civil War. They were right, they had the dignity, but they suffered a tremendous defeat. We must think strategically and avoid making mistakes that might precipitate the events. We must strive to hold and broaden the front line at home and abroad solidly and in an exemplary manner for the world to see, as well as many Spaniards who also find the PP government’s policies shambolic. It is crucial to hold on to our institutions. The Catalan school system, our public broadcasting corporation and police force are in jeopardy. At the moment, the Catalan government is not yet in a position to succeed in declaring independence right away, as the internal debate this week has shown.

8. It is time to preserve the unity of the political parties that got to the referendum together and preserve harmony. It is time to urge the parties that do not support independence to remain loyal to Catalonia. It is essential for the Comuns and their leader, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, to side with the Catalan institutions. The socialist party (PSC) have already made their choice.

9. We must ask ourselves whether it is useful to give a reason to those who wish to act with all the force of their authoritarian nature. They are desperately looking for an excuse and we must prevent hard-liners from earning an international alibi.

10. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Courage and clarity of mind are needed, not recklessness. Last Sunday some thought the people would go down on their knees, but they stood tall instead. Now they think we will make it easy for them to crush our institutions by pushing a unilateral agenda that will be used as an alibi. This is not a passing fad, but a growing, solid, cross-party movement. Let us display the intelligence that is required to rise to this challenging time that we are going through.

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