Little room for naiveté

2015 is an election year in Spain: local, regional, as well as to the Spanish Parliament. It could also be a year for plebiscite elections in our country, but for now this last possibility is only a hypothesis.

How could this situation affect the independence process in Catalonia? Before answering this question, I have to admit that someone might think that it's irrelevant, given that after 9 November we will have voted already, the yes-yes vote will have won, and when elections are held in Spain, Catalans won't be a part of it. I guess anything is possible in life, but I believe most of us will agree that this scenario is unrealistic and that, in any case, it's advisable to analyze the possibility that things may not develop in such a lineal and rapid way.

Let's return to the question that I just raised: could the fact that next year has a strong electoral component in Spain affect the attitude of the PP and the PSOE towards the Catalan process in any way? All this in the context of the loss of influence by the two traditional parties, as we have seen in the recent European elections. That is, in a context of nervousness.

To answer this question you have to bear in mind the three-pronged strategy that political parties normally use when they plan an electoral campaign. In this respect, I will follow the analysis that sociologist Manuel Castells made of this subject in his book "Communication and Power".

The first strategic objective of the parties is to try to ensure the support of their historic base, the loyal voters. This makes it difficult for a candidate to stray very far from the political positions that have been fundamental in the past in establishing the influence of their party. For this reason, the PP will have every incentive to persist in its traditional messages regarding Catalonia: more Spain, in unity is strength, the Constitution (as we interpret it) is untouchable, it's necessary to pursue a re-centralization bid to become more efficient (in theory), etc. Clearly these are messages that have served to unite their voters in the past and the tendency will be not to move away from them.

The second objective is to demobilize and confuse the core voters of the rival parties. This is achieved by pointing out their defects, contradictions and also their illicit activities. Smear politics, be it real, distorted or invented, will help to achieve this objective.

The final strategic objective is to win over the votes of the undecided and independent voters. This group has traditionally shown itself to be very sensitive to negative messages. By not having pre-established loyalties, they become accustomed to mobilizing themselves against the potentially negative consequences of choosing a particular candidate or political option. This explains the importance of negative messages in electoral campaigns and pre-campaigns.

Scaremongering is part of this strategic axis: an independent Catalonia will be expelled from the EU, the UN, planet Earth ... we won't be able to pay pensions, and the long trail of intellectual indecencies that we already know by heart. Smear politics, as mentioned above, could also be tied in with this strategic approach.

Within the framework of the third objective, we can also find subtler working lines: how can you possibly consider having your own state when you can't even manage your own police force? Much care and intelligence are needed here. Some groups in our country are falling into this mental trap created by the Spanish conservative wing.

The conclusion that I draw from this reflection is that the only thing that we can expect from the main political parties in electoral periods is an intensification of their key messages and the same strategies that they have used up to now in regards to the Catalan process. In all likelihood, the fact that 2015 is an election year will only deepen, if that is possible, the politics of denial of the right to self-determination.

I am well aware that this conclusion won't surprise many. And it's also true that a frontal denial of the right to self-determination, accompanied by harsh forms when expressing it, helps to consolidate the peaceful, democratic movement that constitutes the strength of the Catalan process. But we must remain alert to the politics of fear and scandal. To all kinds of fear, even the most obscene and obvious, but especially to those messages that can generate anxiety and that are subtler, such as the ones I mentioned earlier. We will need plenty of individual and collective maturity to minimize the risk of manipulation as much as possible.