We're here at last. The day that we imagined, pictured, prepared and rallied for has come. And everything is very like we had anticipated. Madrid is deploying all its allegedly deterrent arsenal: the most terrible threats, damnation in the deepest hell or in galaxies lost in space, accusations of lack of solidarity, of illegality, of acting outside the Constitution and the law; they have taken advantage of our own mistakes and, finally, they are explicitly using the corruption that was always known about but was never dealt with.
We are also predictable and tend to castigate ourselves pointlessly: we are afraid of all sorts of disasters; we have growing doubts about our actual determination; there is a risk of a split and a rupture between society and the political parties; there are defensive reactions to protect the status quo of the last 35 years (including unacceptable personal conducts, as we've seen recently).
So it's advisable to take a moment to examine the map of strengths and weaknesses with a cool head, to become aware of where we are and draw up a plan for the immediate future. This must include the best estimation of the decisions that must be taken at every moment and --equally important, if not more-- the attitudes, roles and responsibilities we may take on and we should expect from ourselves. Let's go over it as concretely and briefly as possible.
With regard to the open calendar of the coming months, the formal steps that we need to take before November 9 are rather clear:
1. Catalan Law of Consultations, now backed up and endorsed by the Consell de Garanties (1).
2. Formal calling of the consultation and presentation of the questions and the ballot.
3. Publication of the electoral register and choice of polling stations.
4. Posting individual poll cards.
5. Procedure for debates and specific programmes about the consultation.
6. Setting up the Electoral Commission and selecting polling personnel.
7. Setting the rules for independent and partisan scrutineers.
8. Holding the actual vote.
9. Ballot counting and announcement of results.
However, the political and legal steps needed to direct, accompany and protect the consultation will be much more demanding and complex:
1. Confirming and widening the bloc of political forces that support the consultation, including the direct representation of Catalan socialism, which already has three seats in the Catalan Parliament and an MEP. These forces must jointly endorse in public --and without delay-- the vote and the questions agreed upon in December last year.
2. This joint commitment should be expressed formally with a solemn event on the very day that the consultation is officially promulgated, proclaiming the strongest possible Catalan Alliance between institutions (government and parliament), political parties and Catalonia's civil society. The event should yield the resolve needed to fulfill the expectations and the procedures required to effectively carry out the consultation that has been called.
3. Given that the unionist forces and the Spanish institutions are likely to promote an active boycott, we will have to deliberately encourage those in favour of keeping the current status quo --or eventual third ways, yet to be discovered-- to engage in the debate and vote. We need the Yes-No and the No-No ballots to be cast in order to adequately measure everyone's position, to find out the strength and actual weight of what today appears to be the predominant opinion and the general feeling in Catalonia.
4. We need to deploy the most intense action of institutional relations at all levels within Spain and especially abroad, with a particular emphasis on the European institutions. This will need to be coordinated by the government, but shared across the forces that form the Catalan Alliance I mentioned in 2.
The world will understand us provided that it notices the ideological amplitude, the social depth and the European commitment of the Catalan proposal, as well as our resolve to openly act as a complete and fully legitimate political subject.
5. We will likely need to pursue all the legal means within our reach with the same intensity and efficacy. In Catalonia, in Spain, in Europe and in the UN ... wherever necessary. We will not accept passively any pretense of illegality or any administrative or forceful imposition coming from Spain.
The greatest coordination and a single criterion will be needed here, too. Every step, every decision will be shared and supported by each and every one of the members of the Catalan Alliance.
6. In any case, we will have to be able to explain and defend the double legitimacy of our consultation:
Should Madrid hopefully authorise a normal consultation, the legitimacy of the result that arises from an open, participative process where both camps have explained and argued their own position.
Otherwise, it wil be the legitimacy derived from a consultation carried out only under Catalan law and that, therefore, will provide an unquestionable democratic verification of our will to decide the institutional and political future of our nation.
In the latter scenario, the likely low count of No ballots and the expected victory of the Yes camp won't be the measure of our legitimacy. Rather, we will need a sufficiently large voter turnout that proves to ourselves and to the world the strength and the quality of Catalonia's bid.
7. A stable institutional framework will be required to manage such a highly demanding time. This should adequately represent the social and political union of the Catalan Alliance. Therefore, such a government will need the trust and effective support of the parliamentary majority, at least until the Catalan self-determination road map is completed.
The current CiU government does not qualify for this. Beyond the obvious role of higher representation that President Mas is playing with dignity, we will need a patriotic, provisional, temporary government with full powers for the task at hand that justifies it.
A wide-base government that is entirely consistent with the social and political spectrum it must represent, with a key role for ERC as a central party that is fully committed to the Catalan project but is also in a position to balance and give stability to such a government.
8. It must also be a government with a "can-do" attitude, with a precise job, briefly outlined in a few key points:
-The management of the formal, legal, institutional and political process leading to the consultation of November 9.
-The shared decision to call an election after the consultation, including the preparation and definition of the common ground shared by all the forces that support the right to self-determination.
-The drafting and passing of a budget for 2015 that marks the beginning of the end of the austerity policies.
-The deployment of the campaign of presence and direct relationship with Europe's institutions, the EU member states, the multilateral international organisations and the main world powers.
9. A belated thought that is entirely necessary at present. The collective process that Catalonia began four (or rather ten) years ago is the cleanest, most positive, interesting and creative force of political construction in Europe today. We can't allow it to die as a result of our own divisions, doubts, fears or traditional uncertainties.
Less so by the effect of the attacks on our collective morale based on the destruction of leaderships, people or institutions, no matter how justified that may be from a fiscal or penal standpoint and regardless of how spectacular the judicial events stemming from it all might be. We have to build the new country and we have to do it now, wiping our old and new errors and horrors off the slate. And we must do it ourselves to the bitter end, never hiding behind the excuse of an external attack or the notion that now is not the time.
For this very reason, the criteria of social and political unity that must accompany the Catalan Alliance take on a new meaning and must explicitly include this clean Catalonia that has every reason to offer Europe and the world a social and democratic mould that deserves the attention and the respect that we expect from them in return.
So, for a short moment --if we measure it in historical terms-- we must be willing to become the protagonists and conscious builders of our own future. And let us begin with a collective celebration next September 11, the symbolic start of the most demanding (but also the most exciting) time that we have ever granted ourselves. Now is the time.
(1) N.T. Catalonia’s Consell de Garanties Estatutàries (Council for Statutory Guarantees) is an avisory institution that opines on whether a piece of legislation conflicts with the Spanish Constitution or the Catalan Statute.