THE OBSERVER

The bait

The PSOE and the pro-independence groups want to gain maximum benefit and minimal public erosion

In politics, the long term ceased to be calculated in years a long time ago. It is no longer a matter of thinking about projects that have to be executed decades from now, nor even in the next term. During the toughest years of the crisis, in Catalonia’s Ministry of Economy it was said ironically —which could freeze the smiles on many faces— that long term meant nine in the evening. Today, in Catalan and Spanish politics, the long term on which strategic decisions are to be made each morning isn't even as late as noon. The impossibility of a national political strategy is the result of the uncertainty caused by an unstable parliamentary majority, the stable electoral blockade by the sovereignty and constitutionalist blocs, and the existence of deeply destabilizing elements, such as the organized presence of the far-right Vox party and the upcoming celebration of a trial against the Catalan pro-independence leaders based on a fabricated story of nonexistent violence and inspired by the idea of making an example of them. There are also populist strategies applied by means of tweets and fake news.

Although unending gesticulation disguises it, some undercurrents seem to be taking shape. In Madrid, PM Pedro Sánchez has decided to present himself as the advocate of progressive Spain in opposition to the hurricane winds of reaction coming from the south, which have found in Pablo Casado a bellhop who has opened the door of the halls and the offices of respectability. The radicalization of the PP and the complicity of Ciudadanos leave Sánchez with a large center-left space within which he is prepared to hold out, but he will need the pro-sovereignty and peripheral parties —as they like to call them in Madrid— to allow him to get his budget approved. And if he can't, he will already have a scapegoat that will give him a patriotic stamp of approval. Today everybody knows that the best for both is to cooperate and to gain time, but both the PSOE and the pro-independence groups want to gain maximum benefit and minimal public erosion. This week, the president of the Generalitat voiced his impatience, warning of a "crisis of government" if the pro-independence parties allowed the approval of the Spanish budget, and meanwhile the political parties waited for a gesture that has taken shape as an improvement of investments in the Spanish budget, which depends on growth in public revenue that borders on the psychedelic. There is a promise of investments, but not the gesture of the negotiation table that independence supporters are demanding. ERC reminded Torra that he has little say in the matter, and the PDECat was once again divided, unable to reach a consensus and publicly express a single position. They look at each other askance and expect the other to take the first step. Does this sound like the recent past, dear reader?

The last year has confirmed the division by blocs, and if Pedro Sánchez reminded the pro-sovereignty faction on Saturday that it does not have an indisputable majority, the same logic should be applied to his position. The pro-sovereignty majority has not been diluted or demobilized, and could support a pragmatic policy that would allow improvements in the current situation with a strategy of referendum and independence in whatever time period necessary. There is no going back, but that is a crude interpretation of reality and there is a long way to go. A interim period that will have to be managed in the most pragmatic way to benefit the proper working of Catalan society, and which can administer the usefulness of gestures. It is the prisoners themselves who are asking to stay out of the equation.

Another river and another bridge

A year later, a well-informed interlocutor in the Catalan center-right sphere once again privately shared the phrase attributed to Julius Caesar: "When we reach that river, we will cross that bridge," and if then the river was Article 155 and the Dec 21st election, now the river is the City Council of Barcelona. The need to choose an electoral slate, for which a media-friendly candidate was initially sought, is internally perceived as the opportunity to try to bring harmony to the atomization of party acronyms and tendencies within the world of PDECat, JxCat, and Crida. It is also necessary to heal the deep wounds inflicted by the rapid construction of the JxCat list in Waterloo, which was imposed on PDECat. The regrouping operation has already started, as shown by the movements and conversations of recent days in Lledoners, Barcelona, and Waterloo. The Forn-Artadi operation could include Ferran Mascarell in an attempt to stand up to Ada Colau, Ernest Maragall, Jaume Collboni, and Jordi Graupera with a team led by a political prisoner who knows the City Council well, a Maragallist ex-councilman and former minister, and Elsa Artadi, an emerging leader whom they initially wanted to reserve for future elections for the presidency of the Generalitat. The political grooming of Artadi will also be affected by the short term. Perhaps inspired by the illustrious economist John Maynard Keynes, when he said: "in the long run, we’ll all be dead."