1. Spain returns. The process towards independence was launched on September 11, 2012. I´m not referring to support for independence, obviously, as that is much older, but to the public support and participation in the process by a significant part of the population, support which has changed everything.
Artur Mas had warned, months before, that the predictable refusal by the central government to negotiate a fiscal pact would put Catalonia in "unknown territory" (15/5/12).
Immersed in this situation, the initial surprise was the lack of response from Madrid to the growing mobilization for independence, which year after year has been able to mount larger and larger---and more impressive-- rallies. For some, this lack of response was a confirmation that victory was imminent-- the cudgel was sufficiently decayed. But for those who believed in the possibility and in the goodness of an understanding, the silence was maddening.
The silence didn´t signify inaction. The most sinister aspects of the State geared up with all means legal and illegal. Police, prosecutors, judges and journalists worked to stifle the independence movement and to crush autonomy once and for all, as described by Suso del Toro on these pages a week ago ("Catalonia? Defeated.").
But Spain is returning. First, it sent a message of hope for all Spaniards, and also for all Catalans. A just Spain not only is possible, it is more so than an independent Catalonia. A modern Spain is possible; Catalonia would never achieve it by itself. Podemos and Ciutadans have accelerated their start-ups by charging prestigious economists (Navarro and Torres on one side, Conthe and Garicaño on the other) to write their economic platforms. Spain, according to both, has a better plan than the uncertain path that a bewildered Catalonia could offer.
The return of the Spain that wants to modernize itself was to be expected. So too is the Spain that doesn´t want to do so, and this latter voice has been forceful. Andalusia has voted so that nothing would change in the Spain of Autonomous regions.
2. The process has cooled down. Chronologically, the process lost strength immediately after the conference by Junqueres on 2/12/14. I was there, and I was surprised by the coolness of the public during and after the conference. Just one week before, the ambience at the speech by Mas (25/11/14) had been enthusiastic.
It is inevitable to read into this a nexus of causality: the process cooled down because Junqueres refused to join the unified list. But things are not so simple. If a process that appears to be so powerful is slowed by an obstacle so secondary, then its potency was not as great as expected. If it had not been slowed by this obstacle, it would have been by the next, and there is always another obstacle.
In reality, the process had and still has two pending tasks. The first is to make the dream concrete so as to make it believable. The Scottish independence movement had crept along in the political scenario until it was able to fix an objective that was attractive and plausible: instead of the neo-liberal country that England is becoming, a Nordic country. A country of high taxes, potent public services, and a very strong welfare state financed by oil resources. This was a model consistent with the Scottish vote, which has been systematically for Labour. Neither Esquerra nor Convergencia have been able to make a comparable effort. Both parties are unequivocally pro-independence, but the question is "independence, but for what?".
The second challenge is to shake off the past. Oriol Pujol appeared in parliament escorted by the leaders of his party; Duran reunited Catalan patricians to proclaim him as their lobby in Madrid. Neither of the two behaviors is consistent with the aim of leading the construction of a better society.
3. In unknown terrain. The process didn´t cool down because Mas and Junqueras were not able to agree, but because what it has been able to do up to now corresponds to a finished stage. A very large number of Catalans have made it clear that they are for independence. An undetermined but significant number are against it. In between, the critical mass is waiting for proposals to be formulated. Spain has not been able to accomplish this after "five centuries of common adventure", and now the objective conditions (the "fundamentals", as the economists say) are especially difficult: demographics will tighten social cohesion to unprecedented limits, and in all these years Spain has not created a culture of solidarity or of effort. Catalonia will have it easier, but someone with a desire to lead must dare to propose a future.