In English Voices From Spain

The Eternal Process

Originally published in Spanish. Ignacio Varela. El Confidencial.

“WE, the democratic representatives of the people of Catalonia, in the free exercise of the right of self-determination.

CONSTITUTE the Catalan Republic, as an independent and sovereign State.

ENTER into force the Foundational and Legal Transition Law of the Republic.

INITIATE the constituent process.

AFFIRM the desire to open negotiations with Spain. The negotiations shall necessarily be on an equal basis.

APPEAL to all States and international organizations to recognize the Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign State.

URGE the Government of the Generalitat to adopt the measures necessary to fully enact this Declaration of independence and the provisions of the Foundational and Legal Transition Law of the Republic”.

This appears in the text that following the session of the Catalan Parliament on October 10th, was solemnly signed by the 72 MPs pro-independence. They signed it as “the legitimate representatives of the Catalan people”, denying that condition to the remaining 63 MPs that form part of the House. It was signed by PDeCat, ERC and CUP MPs. The text is obviously aimed to go down into History, to be read the next day and to be framed in public centres of Catalonia, including schools.

You really have to want to be blind, or driven by a voluntarism nuclear-explosion-proof, or being as cynical as Pablo Iglesias to claim that this is not a declaration of independence. Even the structure and the bombastic overloaded wording are a pitiful imitation of the historic text by Thomas Jefferson 241 years ago.

However, the news according to political leaders, media and opinion leaders is that there was not any declaration of independence at all in the Catalan Parliament; or, if there was any, it was immediately suspended to give way to a noble, sincere and generous offer to dialogue and negotiation by the Right Honourable President Puigdemont, until the day before described as the bigot, schemer coup leader by the same people that now are praising his moderation and spirit of compromise. Tell us about post-truth! Marcel Proust’s statement, “belief creates evidence” never was truer.

Possibly it is me who is deaf or wrong. But what I humbly heard in Mr Puigdemont’s speech was the following:

First, that on October 1st took place in Catalonia a referendum on self-determination, valid and binding for all purposes.

Second, that it is appropriate that “Catalonia becomes an independent state as a Republic”, adding —in case it was not clear enough—: “This is TODAY our duty”.

Third, that “we propose the Parliament to suspend the declaration of independence effects in order to initiate a dialogue in the coming weeks”.  A dialogue, he pointed out, based “necessarily” on the results of the alleged referendum.

That is: we declare Catalonia as an independent state starting today, but we defer the effects of this declaration (not the declaration itself) to show our dialogue spirit. Not a dialogue about wheter there is independence or not —that goes without saying—, but about how to carry it out.

This formula is a copy of the Slovene case (modestly overlooking the fact that there they had to suffer a war with casualties), but replicates the Brexit: we announce we leave, and this is out of the question. Now, we are going to discuss for a while about dowry distribution.

He made it look as if his foiled party was resurrected to twist the will of his extremist partners. He personally assumed the consequences of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, ensuring that, in his case, it will be him and not anyone else who will be honoured by entering prison flanked by two Spanish civil guards. He started to recover the role of valid interlocutor in an eventual negotiation. He provided the Colau-Iglesias duo with the pretext they needed to keep on board the pro-independence bandwagon. And above all, he reintroduced the seed of division into the constitutional bloc, trying to enervate it —or at least, to make the adoption of exceptional measures to restore legal order in Catalonia much costlier.

Nor does Mr Junqueras, the actual independent state’s Chief of Staff, came off that bad. He undermines his two partners/competitors at once: he gets Mr Puigdemont to shoulder the disappointment of the people gathered outside to wait for the Holy Advent while shaking off himself the annoying blackmail of the CUP, advancing in his career to presidency. And he buys time to keep stretching and extending “the process” ad infinitum, which is what he was pursuing in the first place.

But in my opinion, the true winner of the day was Pablo Iglesias. That day he began to reap the benefits of the strategic deal he sealed with Mr Junqueras in the infamous dinner at Jaume Roures’ house. Now he has a speech for his very disoriented voters, who were starting to not understand nothing at all of their leader’s actions, and a leverage to keep pushing on Pedro Sánchez. That is the advantage of dialogue, that it goes a long way as a brand. Specially if you do not have to explain it.

What we have to day is not a sudden reaction to the declaration of independence, but an abstruse hermeneutic debate within the constitutional bloc about how to read Mr Puigdemont’s words. Once again, a wide win by pro-independence movement in the narrative and communication area.

Meanwhile, the much missed Javier Fernández reminds us that first we must restore the constitutional order, and after that —and not any earlier—, comes dialogue. Because order matters. Indeed, it is what matters the most right now.

The former President Felipe González, when he was in office, used to describe his experience negotiating with the unions by comparing it with the distribution of a sausage. They, he said, started by taking their half of the piece into their bag, and then they negotiate about your remaining half. So, if we extrapolate that picture, what Mr Puigdemont did on October 10th was to collect his half of the sausage, and now it is Mr Junqueras’ turn to cut the remaining half in slice-by-slice. And we are happy because we are dialoguing.


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