Catalan Independence 101

With the local polls of May 24 now firmly behind us and as we near the Catalan elections of September 27 --only 117 days to go--, I would like to go over what I regard as the basic starting points of Catalonia’s independence process. And I would like to do so before the expected call to arms makes it impossible to demand a modicum of realism without coming across as a traitor.

FIRST OF ALL, as I have said often enough, the raison d'être of Catalonia’s independence does not stem from identity --or ethnicity, some might say--, but from a civic element. And that is so because --for historic, demographic, economic and social reasons-- the Catalan nation has been built on that foundation. Of course, this does not mean that some people aren’t looking to entertain that sort of gloomy illusion, but they are few. What’s more, it would have been a mistake to capitalise on any anti-Spanish sentiment. Had we done so, the goal of independence would be democratically unattainable in an advanced, plural Catalonia.

CATALAN INDEPENDENCE is justified --in my view-- by the conviction that for any civic nation to grow, a political nation resting on a state is required. If Spain had recognised its national diversity and had protected it, there is a good chance that Catalan separatism would have remained the ideological choice of a small minority. But the absence of a state that supports us --actually, having a state against us-- is what accounts for the increased awareness of the need to have a state of our own. Therefore, a longing for national freedom, the right to self-determination, is the starting point of any expectation about the sort of country that we shall end up building.

SECONDLY, it would be useful to remember that any independent country, if it is to resemble our neighbours at all, is bound to have a bit of everything. By that I mean anything from an anti-capitalist left, a radical or moderate left, socialdemocrats, liberals, conservatives and even anti-system reactionaries. We may even have a xenophobic far-right, as they do in the countries we so admire in central and northern Europe. To exclude any of those ideologies from the expectation of independence would amount to deception and, besides, would definitely cause us to fail before achieving independence.

WE WOULD ALSO BE ADVISED, thirdly, that independence will not determine the future democratic decisions of the Catalan people. At present it is hard to anticipate what majority will lead this nation to independence. But it is impossible to try to guess what majority will rule the nation afterwards. To be honest, then, the promise and the hope of an independent Catalonia must come to terms with the fact that the future will be determined by the people’s free will, which --as we know-- is changeable.

FOURTHLY, we must be aware that any wish for independence cannot be borne out of a prior moral superiority over Spain or anyone else. Nor can it be defended in the name of a hypothetical future moral superiority. We can seek to be free and flee the unabated recentralisation devised by Spain. Above all, we may wish for a country that is ruled with greater justice and transparency, more capable of creating prosperity and welfare. But that will not make us morally superior.

FINALLY, I believe that not even an objective such as independence can be achieved at all costs, in any way or resorting to any tricks. First of all, because the hurdles will become greater between September 27 and the eventual proclamation; and if we are not determined enough to face the risks, we will fail. And, secondly, because where Petrarch wrote that “a beautiful death celebrates an entire life”, we should be able to say that “a beautiful birth anticipates a great History”.