In the future we can review the mistakes and haste of the pro-independence movement, the risks of reducing the social base needed in order to win the referendum. But today it is essential, once again, to single out the objective as well as who is fanning the flames. To proclaim, loud and clear once again, that the goal is to bring out the ballot boxes, and make clear who the agent provocateur is. To continue to highlight the irresponsibility of a State that is knocking down Catalan home rule and trying to suffocate ideas with abusive arrests, provoking political parties that are legal, with unpredictable police deployments, and the invention, with propagandists showing the way, of an atmosphere reminiscent of the kale borroka (1). It will require a level head, much restraint, and strategic responses. Spain has coercive power, but it still doesn't realize that times have changed and that its democratically weak response will lead to Catalonia's definitive farewell. It is only a question of time.
The PP government didn't begin the disassembly of home rule yesterday. Since the ruling on the Catalan Statute, the PP governments have acted by decree at each cabinet meeting to hollow out the rights and responsibilities of the Generalitat. History is repeating itself as the Spanish government is acting with stealth [as in 1712, when Spanish agents were instructed to introduce the Spanish language in Catalonia without showing their intent], with the conviction that many Catalans are simple-minded, alienated by TV3 [the Catalan-language public broadcaster]. It would do them well to read The Economist or the Financial Times, which from London interpret the gravity of the situation better than Madrid, as well as the purely political character of the Catalan question, which Madrid is trying to disguise as a question of public order.
Last Saturday the BOE (Official State Bulletin) took over the Generalitat's financial powers by disloyally making use of laws originally passed to tackle the European debt crisis. This Saturday, hiding behind euphemisms of cooperation, they once again struck at home rule by trying to put the Mossos [the Catalan police force] under the command of Spain’s Guardia Civil. The Mossos clearly understood the intentions of the Spanish government, as they had complained several days ago that "they want stuff done their way, but with our uniforms". Not only do they not pay the bill for [the Catalan police] deployment, not only do they withhold essential information for the fight against terrorism, but they are trying to take control of the Mossos and, in doing so, they are tossing aside Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy.
The Spanish government and the political parties that criticize the methods used in the taking of decisions by the Catalan Parliament are twisting the law so as not to apply Article 155 and thus formally suspend Catalan autonomy. They are chipping away at decentralization via the judicial system, which is weakening its role as guarantor of the democratic system, and an Attorney General's office that is playing politics at the hand of its director. The PP is acting with the support of Ciudadanos and the cooperation of the PSOE.
There is no room for surprise. Nobody should be surprised by the reaction of the Spanish State, as abusive as it is predictable. The reaction won't end here. The objective is to beat Catalonia 10 to 0, as they say in the Moncloa, and the instruction manuals for this type of crisis say that the public media and pro-independence leaders will be the next targets. It is evident that the goal is to charge the leaders of the ANC and Òmnium with sedition, and spread fear among those people intending to vote. Perhaps they will even act against the President.
Spreading fear is a trip back in time that is having a boomerang effect for the PP, as it broadens the base in favor of independence with every step. It is too reminiscent of a time when home rule had to be fought for and won. The base will grow, to the stupefaction of Spanish nationalism, with a very broad base and with family names originating from all over. This is nation is a blend, preciously impure, stubbornly bilingual, that will not renounce its institutions.
Rajoy must think that the siege of the referendum and repression by the State will be able to bring down home rule and a generation of political leaders, but on October 2nd Rajoy will have demonstrated his inability to analyze reality, and that the only things he has in his hands are repression and a reading of the Constitution that a large part of the people does not recognize, and will never recognize when applied by decree.
The actions by the police have left the referendum's guarantees at a bare minimum. People know where to vote, but there is no Electoral Board. There are so many difficulties that deploying ballot boxes will be a symbolic feat of great impact, but even if they are not able to be deployed, the predictably massive popular response on October 1st will be the key to what could happen from the 2nd on. To each response from Spain there is an incentive to keep moving forward. Rajoy made a political choice when he decided not to make any political moves and rely on repression. He made a political choice in taking apart Catalonia’s self-rule, when he didn't listen, and when he took advantage of the illegitimate benefits that opposing Catalonia gave him in the majority of Spain. The response can now be seen in the streets, this is a people that has repeatedly shown its civility. It is quite clear in Europe and the world who the agent provocateur is.
(1) “Kale borroka” (literally “street fighting” in Basque) refers to the violent rioting the we used to see in the streets of the Basque Country in support of ETA.