The black hole

On February 27th 2001, President Pasqual Maragall published an article named  Madrid se va ("Madrid is leaving") in which he wrote: "The surprise that uniformitarian people will have the day that Spain tells them, at the ballot box, that the country is not as they would like it to be, that it is free and diverse, that it is made of powerful and sensible singularities, capable of understanding each other and respecting a common project. Common, not imposed".

Almost twenty years after the publication of that article, Madrid has long since become a black hole that absorbs energy and resources from the rest of the State, driven first by Aznarism and now inspired by the autonomous region of Ayuso, which tries to act as an ideological counter-power to the Spanish government. The uniformitarians, as Maragall called them, have had more than one surprise with Catalonia in recent years, and have had to leave a lot of democratic quality along the way to drown a problem that they are still unable to admit if they would resolve - if they want stable results over time - at a long and complicated negotiating table.

The uniformitarians, despite Maragall, are not alone in the PP, but some of the PSOE barons and an old guard still incapable of retiring with dignity share the same homogenising vision. An old Jacobin guard and a PSC leadership that forgot about the referendum, and the frustrations experienced by its Catalanist sector in the economic and political management of Catalonia, when polarisation threw them into the arms of Ciudadanos and the 155 of Rajoy.

President Maragall was right to teach the democratic lesson. "At the ballot box" Catalonia is a country that has changed its political centre of gravity and has a solid sovereignist determination, despite the frustrations, prison sentences, and the 1-O. Neither health and economic difficulties nor collective discouragement dilute sovereignty claims, but rather reinforce them with the evidence that good management of public resources in Catalonia requires control of the tax base and a new relationship framework for working with Spain.


In Spain, the democratic lesson has also been important, and the bipartisanship has passed to a better life, overwhelmed by the Catalan and Basque independency and by the left of Unidas Podemos, and the needs of Pedro Sánchez. Sánchez's presidential inauguration is a torpedo on the waterline front of the bipartisanship that managed the post-Transition without any vocation to adapt to changing reality, or to reform the errors of the 1978 system. The torpedo is especially dangerous for the PP, which not only did not want to reform the system, but also used its power to reverse the Transition consensus, which was anchored in a sociological right that occupies the deep state and acts as a very effective counter-power. This is a PP incapable of making a constructive opposition even in a crisis like the present one and which strains Vox and Aznar, its Chinese vase.

Today the reality - not the ideal setting in which to move - is that Catalonia's finances depend on Spain. Decades ago, most of the public spending was transferred from the State to the autonomous communities and local authorities, but the financing system is a mayoralty that does not improve the prospects of the south of the Peninsula, it grips the economic engine of Catalonia and favours the Basque Country thanks to the power to make decisions on its resources, and also favours Madrid, thanks to receiving the resources of all the rest of the country with the excuse of being the capital. That is to say, thanks to all the investments of the State that allow in the Autonomous Region of Madrid a policy of tax reduction that acts magnetically as a pole of attraction of companies and high executives - and that goes in detriment of the rest. The majority of the investment that will now allow the approval of the State budget is the biggest change in Spanish politics in forty years. It is the framework for action and change after 2017. Of course, it will not be enough for a Catalan independence, perhaps not even for her own management of resources, but in the meantime - and with frustration - they must be managed without giving up.

As almost always in Spain, the debate is about the eternal return. Instead of reviewing the origin of the drama - a financing system that does not exist today and which has been replaced by the funds created during the 2008 crisis and the controls on finances against the independence bid -, the subject of debate today is the taxes of Madrid. Even the PP knows that Madrid is in unfair competition with the rest of the communities, including those of the same ideology.

The negotiation will run on high voltage, and it would be paradoxical to hurt oneself by accepting a cutback in fiscal policy capacity, but we must bear in mind that the central government has already exercised its prerogative to put an end to it in Catalonia. We must also remember that a crisis like the current one is paid for with taxes and, if possible, with those of large companies and large fortunes first. Or does anyone believe that European funds will arrive like manna did?

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