Watching from afar, via the Catalan news channel www.3cat24.cat, the massive civic demonstration in Barcelona against the ruling by the Spanish Constitutional Court on the Catalan Estatut, I could not help but draw a parallel between the organisation of the rally and the current political situation.
This political rally was called under the banner of “We are a nation – we decide” (Som una nació; nosaltres decidim). The local police, never one for inflating numbers for pro-Catalan civic demonstrations, has estimated attendance at over 1.1m people. After watching TV, I would say that is an overly prudent lower bound by a police force mostly staffed by people who would never support anything other that Catalonia being a region of Spain.
The demonstration has been a massive, unprecedented, historic success. There were more people in attendance that it was ever anticipated or expected even by the most optimist. In fact, the rally did not advance for one hour because there were just too many people. Overwhelming popular support against an attack by the unelected high priests of Spanish nationalism against the settled wish of the Catalan people as expressed in a referendum and the Catalan Parliament. If there was any question about people being not interested, surely this settles the issue.
However, anyone has been to a few rallies and knows the city a little bit, could tell you that the design of this rally was a mistake. It was meant to start in Pg Gracia / Diagonal, walk down and turn left at Gran Via until Pl Tetuan.
This is an inefficient way for people to congregate and make their way.
This particular rally should have started at Pl Espanya and terminate at Pl Catalunya/Pg Gracia.
Not only because this is a better alternative from a logistical point of view, and would have accommodated the hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, but also because this would be a poignant way to symbolise the political cul-de-sac Catalonia has now arrived at.
In a way, the overwhelming success of this political demonstration in favour of Catalonia’s nationhood, is representative of the current state of affairs. People, most people, regardless of their background and national preference are fed up with being treated as second class citizens. People are fed up with the constant insults from most of the Spanish press against Catalonia. However, the political divisions, the lack of leadership and vision amongst the Catalan political class, and more than anything the lack of cojones, are holding Catalonia back. Undoubtedly, there is popular will to change the status quo, but there seems to be no political agent willing to implement this message.
Against this, there are those luminaries who claim that the “nationalists” are only a few, that this issue does not interest the majority of people, and that this is a distraction from the real issues that matter to real people. Those who say these things are, have been and will always be nothing more than duplicitous, manipulative and resentful little people, unable or unwilling to understand, to accept that Catalonia is a nation, a stateless nation, that should be allowed to choose its own future without interference and threats from the Spanish state.
Let it never be said again that “people in the street” are not interested in the Estatut, that it is only political anoraks who worry about these things. It is because the Estatut is the vehicle that enables Catalonia to look after its interests, after its hospitals, schools and public services, and it is because of this, because people are worried about things that matter, that Barcelona has witnessed today the biggest civic demonstration in living memory if not ever.
Will this historical, massive civic demonstration of national strength achieve anything?
I am afraid it won’t.
Sorry I don’t have the time to translate the article below:
Mr Alexandre, one of the brightest minds in Catalonia, nails it again.
A political problem is resolved via political decision making and policy implementation.
Civic demonstrations and rallies are noise. A cry for attention given everything else seems to have failed.
After all, this Estatut that has been decimated by the Spanish CC is an already cut-down version of the Estatut approved by the Catalan Parliament in 2005 by all parties except the Spanish PP. In a matter of days, that Estatut was watered down by CiU and PSC-PSOE in closed-door negotiations.
Therein lies one of the conundrums of Catalan politics: support for independence, overt or subtle is ever higher, growing almost by the month. Today’s rally was a rally in favour of independence. However, none of the mainstream parties, not even ERC, let alone CiU, do try to implement the policies they carry in their manifestos.
PSC-PSOE, the party in government in Catalonia and in Madrid, claims to be a federalist party. However, after being in power in Spain for many years, in the 80s and now, Spain is far from a federal state. In fact, the judges appointed by the PSOE voted jointly with the PP-appointed judges in watering down the Catalan Estatut. This ruling by the Spanish CC has killed off the idea of a federal Spain. The federalist door has been slammed down in the face of the PSC by their own Spanish colleagues of the PSOE.
CiU claims to be a moderate nationalist party but in fact they are scared of challenging the status quo. For them, steady-as-you-go of the status quo is a happy state of affairs –as long as they are in power.
ERC, the party that is, on paper, pro-independence, is propping up a coalition government in the Catalan parliament jointly with the PSC-PSOE. Against the wishes of its electorate, ERC has renewed the coalition government a second time, achieving very little in terms of safeguarding Catalonia’s interests in terms of finances, cultural development, public services delivery or economic growth.
IC-V are the PSC-PSOE poodle and they will slavishly follow whatever direction is set by PSC.
On the sidelines, a number of pro-independence parties and movements appear to carry more support than ever but have yet to make an impact on the political scene.
The political cul-de-sac, this end-of-the-road moment in Catalan/Spanish relations can only be unblocked by elected politicians choosing two courses of action.
1) Management of the current devolution framework as set out in the Spanish Constitution.
2) Exercise of the right to self-determination via referendum bill approved in the Catalan Parliament.
The problem is that most political parties in Catalonia want a third, unviable option: a high level of self-government in a federal Spain. Despite the clear-cut ruling by the Spanish CC, PSC-PSOE and CiU will try to pursue this non-option.
Choosing option 1 would be an admission of failure, whilst option 2 requires a level of courage and dignity than anyone in CiU or ERC, let alone PSC or IC-V, can only dream of.
For over 100 years, Catalonia has tried to change Spain, make it a federal, multi-national state. The Spanish have decisively rejected such possibility.
Yet some Catalans still insist on trying to achieve a chimera.
The stage is set for either a massive climb down and humiliation or a paradigm shift in Catalan/Spanish relations the consequences of which are unpredictable.