THE OBSERVER

The Reality Principle

The crucial period our country is facing calls for us to look reality in the eye. Now is not time to go with one’s gut feeling, nor for emotions to cloud one’s thoughts. Let us begin by saying that the PP government is entirely responsible for the pressure which is being exerted on Catalan society at present. It has arrogantly imposed state re-centralization and is busily using public prosecutors, the police and regulatory bodies to take us back to a more than traditional and all too familiar idea of Spain. Confidence in the capacity for dialogue and reform of a Spain which imposes such uniformity is obviously very limited. As a consequence, an open debate must be held within the independence movement in order to calculate the possible consequences for Catalan society of any one strategy.

THE PRICE OF TRANSITION

Though at present no one knows the economic consequences of the current situation, they must not be ignored. Apart from the limited effect of companies moving their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, economic growth is largely based on confidence. On the expectations of consumers and investors, which would clearly suffer a blow if there were to be a long period of instability or uncertainty. In the medium term, Catalonia is economically viable, but we must be made aware of the true costs involved in the transition, which no one has explained realistically. Spain cannot be relied upon to negotiate a transitional agreement, meaning confidence —and, therefore, the economy— will worsen due to the climate of fear that the Spanish government has generated, which has led to a flood of businesses moving their headquarters. Spanish deputy PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría warns of the effects of independence on the Catalonia brand and the Barcelona brand, in spite of the fact that she represents a government that has slowed down the Catalan economy with policies on investment and infrastructure that have favoured Madrid as the macrocephalic capital of a country that only wants one capital: hers. The PP government is acting in an irresponsible manner, as are those who believe it is possible to punish a territory that contributes 20% of its GDP to Spain without causing itself serious harm. Likewise, it forgets that the true source of instability in Catalonia are the countless images of the Spanish National Police charging unarmed civilians who were protecting the 1-O ballot boxes. Unarmed civilians and ballot boxes. Sheer brutality. The subsequent outbreaks of violence have always been caused by those on the unionist far-right, with none being committed by the pro-independence camp. If the economy is suffering, then it began the moment in which the world —and many Catalans— realised that violence is an option for Spain. That repression is seen as a viable option for resolving a political issue. As unbelievable and as hopeless as that.

THE PEOPLE AS INTERLOCUTORS

The three phone calls which took place between Chancellor Merkel to Rajoy are proof of the fact that the Catalan affair is on the EU’s agenda. So too are the words of the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, speaking for the other states, and his pledge not to make a diplomatic move like the one last Tuesday without Germany’s approval. A meeting of the Council has been convened for next week, when the Catalan issue will presumably be the main topic of debate in the corridors. But one must be realistic and it has become clear that Juncker will not act as a mediator, since only the Catalans have requested it.

In recent days the Spanish government has confirmed that there is no room for dialogue, having adopted political positions that might have made sense a few years ago but that many would now call inadequate. If Spain plans to continue with such judicial and repressive means, the whole situation is likely to worsen. The president of Catalonia must now choose between maintaining the suspension of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), while trying not to lose control over the institutions from where the next step will be organised, or declaring a UDI, thus handing power over to the people on the street. Reducing the leadership capacity of politicians while increasing the active role of the people will mean we enter into an uncertain phase. As an EU source put it, "a political process is more predictable than a process in which the people act as an interlocutor". Europe will not play along and the Catalan government’s PR efforts will take a blow.

CONSEQUENCES

The Catalan president is currently listening to economic, political and social actors and appears inclined to respond to Rajoy’s demands with a reasoned argument, rather than a binary reply. The pressure on him from certain sectors is huge, including by some of the architects of the whole venture.

Whatever the president's decision, the independence movement has only one way out: peaceful resistance and peaceful actions, as well as the expression of its will via the ballot box. Spain has already shown that it is ready to use every weapon at its disposal, ranging from violence to promoting a social divide. There are no magic solutions and all choices will come at a price. Clearly the status quo can only be changed by convincing the majority of Catalans. Europe will look on but refuse to act whilst internally there is a structural blockage that certain forces wish to stir up in order to divide us socially. The threat of violence is a real one. The decision is not easy and those who wish to simplify it prefer propaganda to facing up to the unpleasant reality principle [as Freud referred to the ability of the mind to assess the reality of the external world, and to act upon it accordingly] facing the president. He is well aware, however, that the dignity shown by 2.2 million people on 1 October and their desire to exist will not simply evaporate.

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