EDITORIAL: 'Call it by its name: Democracy'

Catalonia is at a critical crossroads. After more than a century of building a nation that was based on the tenets of Catalanism, a pluralist political and cultural movement that left behind a legacy of commitment and progress despite the tumultuous history of the 20th century, the country has entered a new phase in order to resolve the endemic disconnection between Catalonia and the Spanish state. Despite the hopeful start of the Transition, Spain's four decades of democracy have not resolved the territorial dispute. The relationship between Catalonia and Spain has reached a dead end, and the majority of Catalan society has come to the rather bleak realization that it doesn't have enough strength to change Spain and have it understand Catalonia's needs regarding self-government, linguistic and national recognition, the economy and the welfare state, co-existence and social cohesion.

Ever since the debacle of the 2006 Catalan Statute, more and more people have been uniting in favor of "the right to decide," an initiative that emerged from civil society and has the support of a wide swath of the Catalan Parliament. This is not the personal cause of some leader who could easily be dissuaded after a phone call from someone in the political or economic Establishment. It isn't a partisan strategy. What we are seeing is a change in mindset of a country that aspires to be a genuine political entity; to be sovereign. It is a country that aspires to certain structures and a direct relationship with Europe in order to better navigate today's global regime change and to be a sustainable and prosperous country that will bring solutions to the world.

The Catalan Government, with wide parliamentary support and with the energy of a mobilized society behind it, places democracy at the core of its actions, and its proposal to negotiate an agreed referendum with the Spanish state is an example of this new democratic centrality. Nonetheless, the political parties and the media in Madrid do not seem at all willing to accept this possibility, which will only complicate matters further. If there is no agreement, we will continue to advance with the same serenity and firmness that have marked the process until today.

At the same time, there is also a part of the Catalan ruling class that continues to avoid the issue, feeling disconcerted about the challenge and terrified of losing influence. Despite their reservations, this minority will have to accept that there is no turning back at this point, that there is a general consensus in society, and that it is not possible to simply ignore the public outcry or trivialize current events with deceptive wordplay. We need rigor and responsibility, not subterfuges that cause nothing more than deception and self-deception. The problem is not a semantic one; it's political one. No one will be able to make this stubborn reality disappear by brewing up concepts in the lab to hide the evidence that citizens are proclaiming in the streets. This same evidence can be seen in the polls and in unquestionable majorities in Parliament. Words cannot obscure the fact that the Catalan people want to decide its collective fate peacefully and freely, with civility, and that it has encouraged the political class to fearlessly take steps in the direction of a profound change to save the country from suffocation.

It is a historic moment. What is at stake is the future of a country that wants its citizens to be able to decide whether they want a state of their own in order to ensure that state's prosperity. It is an exercise in democratic responsibility. If we are looking for moderation, this is it. The only thing that would be radical would be to forbid free expression, to deny those for and against independence access to the ballot boxes. It is time to move from words to actions. To call things by their name. No one should try to deceive people with words; let the votes speak. The only possible solution has already been invented and its name is very clear: democracy.

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