As we enter the last stage of the Catalan independence process, its strengths --and the weaknesses that should be addressed-- are becoming increasingly apparent. Among the former is one of most admired qualities of the pro-independence events: their cordial atmosphere. Despite the warnings of social tension and sectarian divides in Catalonia, the Catalan bid for independence has been not only peaceful, but also surrounded by an exemplary good vibe. A good vibe coupled with extremely deliberate care to make a point without being accused of bigotry, aggressive anti-Spanish sentiment or selfish profiteering.
Now, it is precisely this very virtue that might become a weakness. As the challenge against Spain progresses, the difficulties that we face will grow exponentially. We saw it with the participatory vote of November 9, when a celebration of democracy became a case of disobedience to the State; the president and two of his ministers are now indicted, facing criminal charges. We mustn’t ignore the consequence of what will happen when the definitive breakup occurs. When that time comes, no expression of festive cuteness will be enough to forge ahead. The question is: how can we expect the pro-independence camp to withstand a climate of confrontation with Spain, if there are signs of demoralization every time that we struggle to reach an internal agreement?
Apropos this point, I find it naive that anyone should expect the political parties that must lead this final stage to behave in the same manner as civil society does. We can’t expect them not to think about the electoral support that they will require to continue leading the process. We can’t expect their assessment of the democratic formalities that will grant us international recognition to be the same. We can’t assume that their leaderships will abandon the political prudence needed to prevail in the end. Good vibes are not enough to move on. Rather, much shrewdness, careful planning and strategic thinking are necessary.
I also think that there is too much emotional sensitivity, as seen in the impatience of some at the complex negotiations for an agreement that will allow us to make progress; likewise, a lack of confidence can be observed when new political parties arise and are immediately given a degree of importance that they haven’t earned yet. If support for Catalan independence were as shaky as you might be led to believe, then it would mean that we have been deceiving ourselves and, ultimately, those who used to predict that the soufflé would collapse were right all along.
Despite the panic, personally I still feel that the independence bid is strong. A sentence by Ramon Trias Fargas --who passed away twenty-five years ago-- that Joaquim Ferrer (current president of Fundació CatDem) quoted recently confirmed my feelings on the matter. During a lecture thirty years ago, in 1984, Trias Fargas said: “Catalonia has survived because her cause is entwined with the cause of freedom. (...) We shouldn’t forget that we are a nation of free men and women, united by a common language, who stand on historic roots that go deep into the Catalan land, our motherland, and together we stand looking forward to a future of progress and modernity, a nation that addresses Europe, that respects everybody, that wishes to improve the lives of all those who live in it”. Nobody could summarise it any better. And, sooner or later, we will prevail, because the cause of freedom has never been a soufflé for the Catalans: it has been the reason and the force behind our survival as a nation.