Antoni Bassas’ analysis: “The far right wants us scared”

Rather than standing up to them, I’d suggest wising up. Let’s not be afraid, but let’s stay wise

Verges mayor Ignasi Sabater reported that, late last night, a group of people bearing unionist symbols arrived in the small Girona village “with masked faces (and some carrying twelve-inch knives) and they got down to the business of removing pro-independence flags, until some locals stood up to them”. The mayor posted a video of the incident.

This morning he announced that he has filed a complaint with the police on behalf of the local council and he added a further comment: “Violence. That is their only argument”.

We have had people take down the yellow ribbons [that show solidarity with the political prisoners] from day one, and there are several reasons why they are so keen:

Among others, the former PP justice minister stated in parliament that yellow ribbons were offensive to him because displaying them was akin to saying that there are political prisoners in Spain. In other words, slamming symbols of dignity is endorsed by the State. What more could you wish for? Well, why not throw in a court ruling: eight days ago, on July 24, Catalonia’s Higher Court of Justice [TSJC in Catalan] reminded official institutions that “they must remain neutral” and ordered the city council of Sant Cugat del Vallès to take down a pro-independence flag that used to hang in a local square.

As a result of that, the PP and Ciudadanos wasted no time to see who could get the largest number of ribbons and flags taken down. Ciudadanos, for instance, launched a campaign to “clean up the streets, squares and beaches in Catalonia by removing separatist symbols” and asked their voters to join in. “Clean up” is a dangerous choice of words which indicates true supremacism. But we are talking about the streets, where —more often than not— the strongest side prevails, regardless of the law or the support of a political party. In a brute force tug-of-war, the far right displays its aggression with a power to intimidate which average people who have put up a yellow ribbon simply cannot match.

Like some political parties that have tried to secure a victory behind closed doors, after it had been denied to them at the polls, now some unionist or Spanish nationalist elements want to win by force what they cannot win politically. And if it’s about using sheer force, the pro-independence camp stands to lose because it has always been peaceful. And when sheer force is used, we all stand to lose because peaceful coexistence is at stake.

Spain’s far right, the traditional kind and the kind that’s had a makeover to make it look like a democratic party, wants to sow panic, to shut us up, to make us feel guilty for putting forward a political project, for having an idea and standing by it. Former Spanish PM José María Aznar said that they wanted us divided but would accuse us of being the dividers. Since they keep losing elections, they now refuse to play ball: they lock people up, threaten us with another stint of direct rule and so forth.

At the minute social networks in Catalonia are brimming with a message: “We must stand up to them”. I understand, but we must keep a cool head to avoid getting hurt (literally), so that we don’t have to mourn over a unfortunate incident. Rather than standing up to them, I’d suggest wising up. Let’s not be afraid, but let’s stay wise. Sure, I know it’s just a sentence, but staying wise —particularly in the autumn, when the trial will begin and tensions might rise— is about continuing to win elections, agreeing on a joint strategy, being extremely resilient, asking the Catalan and local police forces to protect us from violent types and having everyone muck in to the extent that they possibly can. Let’s not be afraid, but let’s stay wise

Freedom for all prisoners, for the indicted and the exiled.