Eighty-three years ago, a group of traditionalists that included Roca i Caball, Cirera i Soler, and Esteve i Ferrer broke away from their party due to its reservations about the Catalan Charter and the referendum scheduled for 2 August 1931. On a date like today, a few months later, they co-founded Unió Democràtica de Catalunya, together with Pau Romeva, Maurici Serrahïma, Lluís Vila d’Abadal and other important figures.
It is quite true that, had their main driving force been the defence of the Christian thesis, they would not have needed to abandon the Traditionalist or the Carlist parties. But their spiritual and social justice values lacked an instrument to defend Catalonia’s national rights unambiguously. That’s why Unió Democràtica de Catalunya was born. It’s no coincidence that, shortly afterwards, they were joined by Manuel Carrasco i Formiguera, one of the few decidedly separatist Catalan politicians at the time.
So Unió was born at an exceptional time in our history and its contribution to Catalan politics has been equally exceptional. Unió has never intended to play the lead role --which was sometimes misunderstood-- but always stood by Catalonia during critical times. Carrasco i Formiguera’s martyrdom exemplifies his ideological coherence. He was assassinated by the intolerance of General Franco’s regime but they failed to muffle his last cry: “Freedom for Catalonia! Christ, Christ!” This is the perfect synthesis of Unió’s doctrine.
In their foundational manifesto, those men and women speak of the need for a democratic system to have “political capacitation, sincere morality and individual freedom”. They reject all privileges based on caste and the subordination of some social classes to others, the gregarious individualism that “causes man to be exploited by man”, as well as any theory that makes individuals subservient to the collective.
They defend social justice as the key element in the progress of any community and emphasise the importance of law and authority, while making it very clear that “the law must always be based on justice”.
At a time when we are discussing the crisis of our political system, now that we are talking about re-thinking it all, the proposal of those men and women --nearly one hundred years ago-- seems very useful.
First and foremost is Catalonia and the recognition of its right to exercise its sovereignty in full. Back in 1933, during the Second Congress, the political document drafted by Pau Romeva claims that “the Catalan Charter is no definitive solution because any situation of limited freedom is an unstable one; therefore, a Confederation of Iberian nations would be better, or else Catalonia would be driven to exercise its right to separate from Spain”.
The long list of rejections to all sorts of proposals in the last 83 years is the best evidence of Spain’s refusal to accept its multi-national nature, across the board: regardless of government, parliamentary majority, economic elites and intellectual collectives. In a lapidary statement, Spain’s Constitutional Court made this crystal clear when it ruled against the Catalan Charter, striking down the will of the majority of Catalans that had voted in favour of the Charter in a referendum: “We wish to remind that the Catalan citizenship is merely a subspecies of the Spanish”.
There is a complete allergy to understanding that two peoples can only collaborate and live together in harmony --what Unió’s founders called “fraternal spirituality”-- when they respect each other and negotiate on equal terms, but never when one is made subservient to the other. Therefore, after 83 years of getting a “no” for an answer, time and again, we have reached a conclusion. In the words of Miquel Coll i Alentorn in the 1963 compendium of doctrine, when one of the parts refuses to confederate, “the only solution compatible with Catalonia’s dignity and the only means to guarantee its normal development is complete independence”.
On Sunday we will take a first step. And after 10 November we should consider bringing back the proposal made by the party in the National Council meeting of April 1, 1978 (another exceptional time): “Unió feels that we have the duty to suggest that Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya, Esquerra Democràtica de Catalunya and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya join us in a broad-base bloc to form a federation with a joint manifesto that allows us to face the upcoming election as one”.
As Shimon Peres said, in times of crisis one must be prudent and probably the most prudent thing is to be bold. So let us be bold. The Catalan people deserve it.
N.T. Antoni Castellà is a member of UDC’s Board. Unió Democràtica de Catalunya is the smallest of the two coalition parties led by Catalan president Artur Mas.