THE OBSERVER

Where is the Catalan independence movement headed?

A useful analysis of the situation will only be possible if the independence movement first rejects a certain political paternalism and it acknowledges its serious misjudgement of the Spanish State’s might, the miscalculation of its own strength, the pitfall of undue haste and the price paid owing to internal discrepancies

Two years on from the collective trauma [the 1 October referendum and its aftermath], which feels like a lifetime away, Catalan politics is trying to extricate itself from the shredder and prepare itself for a new era when the verdict is handed down in the trial of the independence process due in a few weeks’ time, most likely in the first half of October. The aftershocks from the earthquake have been felt across the entire political spectrum and are having an impact on the formation of a new government in Spain: incumbent PM Pedro Sánchez is hoping that the only political ally who is capable of lending him the backing he needs in parliament [Podemos] first renounces its policies on Catalonia and declares its surrender before the verdict is handed down. Not a good omen.

In Spain an analysis of the Madrid’s errors undertaken by the major political parties, the Spanish press and many intellectuals, is conspicuous by its absence. Meanwhile, in Catalonia sufficient time has passed and the aftermath of October 2017 has been so tough, that a debate has taken place which contributes, for those who have the courage to listen to something they may not like to hear, to a lucid, honest reading of the successes and failures of the independence bid. A useful analysis of the situation will only be possible if the independence movement first rejects a certain political paternalism and it acknowledges its serious misjudgement of the Spanish State’s might, the miscalculation of its own strength, the pitfall of undue haste and the price paid owing to internal discrepancies. Only an analysis which is free from self-indulgence will overcome a short-sighted approach in which policies are imposed and, instead, lay the foundations for a viable future aimed at the majority of society which wishes to build a better, undivided nation.

An analysis of the situation also indicates that the independence process has led to a transformation of the political landscape, and that the detractors of independence would be making a grave error if they continued to underestimate it. With Catalonia’s top political leadership either in jail or in exile, new leaders are readying themselves in a context which has undergone a veritable electoral metamorphosis. A substantial part of Catalan society has repeatedly and consistently voted for a pro-independence majority in Parliament, in local, European and general elections which have taken place in the worst of circumstances.

It is clearly neither a temporary blip nor a fad. A quick look at the harsh words used in speeches made in Madrid by successive Catalan presidents over the last decade is sufficient to explain Catalonia’s relationship with the State. They have gone from growing disappointment with the role of Spain’s autonomous communities to frustration with federalism, followed by the declaration of the unilateral referendum and the threat of a new era of peaceful disobedience in response to the verdict, following a contaminated judicial process.

Since 27 October 2017, Catalonia’s pro-independence parties have been undergoing their own internal catharsis amid calls to unity —frustrated due to a lack of a shared reading of the situation— that might allow them to propose a long-term project. Today they no longer speak of unity but instead of a "strategic consensus", although there is no consensus as to the strategies which are called for and any discrepancies are openly and frivolously aired on Twitter.

The next milestone will be the reaction to the Supreme Court’s verdict. Jordi Cuixart, who took the initiative with his "We’ll do it again", has publicly admitted that what would be most demoralising for the political prisoners would be if the public were to lose interest. Cuixart, who leads an organisation whose membership has grown to 170,000 thanks to its inclusive stance, openly admits that such drawn-out processes have their moments of acceleration, deceleration and reconstruction.

In fact, the public’s initiative is now in the hands of Òmnium Cultural, the ANC and the newly-formed Democratic Tsunami, which all share a non-violent approach. Jordi Cuixart, speaking from Lledoners prison, made it clear during his interview with ARA this week, that "falling into the trap of violence" would be the end of the independence movement and that its inclusiveness encompasses the Comuns and the PSC.

The Catalan government’s reaction to the verdict depends on the President of the Catalan government, Quim Torra, who has declared that "the nation’s response will be reflected in the institutions" though he has not revealed any details, aside from stating that he personally will refuse to accept the verdict.

The president likes to repeat that "the highest republican institution is the people’s will" but it is precisely the manner in which the people’s will is expressed where there is the greatest discrepancy between the various political parties. Those who support JxCat [Torra’s party] believe that calling a snap election brings no guarantee of a better outcome, whereas ERC is in favour of going to the polls and creating a broad coalition government. Next Wednesday a demonstration is to be held once more to mark the Eleventh of September, Catalonia’s National Holiday. I believe that its success or failure can be seen as distinct from the mobilisation which may occur as a response to the court’s verdict.

This is where the strength of the Catalan society’s grassroots movement lies. A society which deserves to be governed well and to be able to build the nation it dreams of.