The Catalan process as seen from France

Seen from Catalonia: after having seen people impudent enough to call it a "brawl", and after the peaceful march for the recovery of full rights, we will reach the only end worth the effort --the Catalan Republic. With a unilateral declaration of independence or not. It is said that there could be other half-strength solutions: financial plots, chartered stews, federalist salads, semi-federalist purées, regional fruit salads. History reminds us, and civil society understands very well, that with the partners that geography and history have given us, if all of this could have served at one time or another to cover up problems, now it can’t cover up anything, because nothing works nor will work anymore. That’s how we can see it from Catalonia: crystal clear, clean and definitive.

Seen from France, the skein is much more tangled. Centrist and Jacobin, France looks --when it chooses to look-- at the extraordinary political moment that Catalonia is experiencing with condescension and contempt. French opinion does not understand it, or doesn’t believe it. Or it pretends that it can’t believe it. All the demonstrations, human chains, grand Vs, and the 9N are to no avail. If they understood or believed, they would worry a little about Brittany and the Basque territory, a little less for Corsica, and not at all for Alsace or Roussillon. Bits and sparks. Occasional, sometimes violent, but lacking coherent political thought and political and economic credibility and viability. All this in spite of the spectacular effect of some fevered events now and then. Here, the separatist movements float in the political fringe, and are maintained by nationalist obsessions that have no impact in any minimally serious ideological circles, nor in their own territories, let alone on a national scale.

The problem of the confrontation between two sets of rights, the Catalan and the Spanish, where both call for an exercise of full sovereignty over the same land, and are both rooted in interpretations of international law, is resolved in Catalonia by placing the spirit of the right to self-determination at the highest, ideal level. This conflicts directly with Spain because Madrid subordinates this right to the "letter of the Constitution", set at a lower level, but a legally pragmatic and realistic one, nonetheless. This has been known by everyone in Catalonia for quite some time. Jacobin France, meanwhile, cannot even imagine, in a context of social peace, that almost all of the progressive voices and the majority of the Catalan people would want to confront Spain on the legal field.

To this point, all has been purely law and politics. Now we will talk about interests and opportunities. Today, with a frightening economic crisis, and with the two governing parties (UMP on the right, PS on the left) limping along in such a way that the far-right National Front could beat them at the polls, the current political turmoil in France does not at all favor the involvement of the “grande nation” in a Catalan debate that is more likely to destabilize it than to appease it. More than calm, France wants legal and state immobility at home, next door and in Brussels.

The Jacobin model of its republicanism can do nothing other than label the Catalan will to demand, with a single voice and a single vote, more democracy and more freedom in a sovereign republic as a Girondist evil deed-- that is, reactionary and anti-state. That’s the way it goes. Our project cannot be understood in a country in which, to say it with two words or reduce it to two surnames, “Rajoy” rhymes with the Jacobin untouchability of the State, and “Junqueras” (or Mas) with crude, reactionary, Girondist and seditious aggression. Now then: What are, really, the political contents that are behind the rigid stubbornness of Spain and Catalonia’s charming impulse? This is what France doesn’t want to worry about --nor get involved in.

Could we say "It doesn’t matter?" I don’t think so. At the top of the top of our State and republican project we have to deal with the European Commission. I don’t think that we can count on France making the journey any easier for us. And there, while the rule is "one state = one vote", practice shows us every day that Malta or Lithuania have much less influence than France or Spain.

Farce, comedy or tragedy? Our rationally invulnerable demand to achieve our full right to an obviously republican national sovereignty is in danger of having to jump, at a mid-point, a foreseeable hurdle within European opinion: the rejection --or at least the laziness-- of the nation that defines itself, proudly, as the "motherland of human rights" and as the heir to the clearest rationality.

Fine. And could all of this be reversed, all of a sudden? Yes. If President Mas, Vice-president Ortega, and Minister Rigau are dragged before a court of law. "Ugly! It’s outrageous! You just don’t do that sort of thing!" The progressive and leftist opinion in France will change its tune in an instant, it will invoke the moderation that is identified so closely with the "dignity of the States" and it will immediately look into the real nature of the Catalan-Spanish confrontation. Commentators will fill newspapers and television platforms marvelled by the fact that they have managed to understand from abroad --and before other nations--- that the demands of Catalonia are perfectly consistent with the wonder of ... a Catalan "Jacobinism".

Will there be another way of awakening opinions north of the Pyrenees without having to count on an unfortunate encounter with the esthetics of the courtroom? Maybe so, some day. But for now, I fear not. And it’s already getting to be late.