In English Voices From Spain

The benefit of confrontation

Photo by AJ Colores on Unsplash

Originally published in Spanish: «La utilidad de la confrontación», Joaquim Coll, Crónica Global

October 31, 2018

One year ago we suffered a big socio-political tension that the majority of us don’t want to live again. Those of us that identify ourselves with constitutionalism always knew that confrontation, at the end of the day, was going to be with our own fellow citizens. The secessionists, on the other hand, imagined until then that confrontation would be only with the State, never o very seldom, if ever, in Catalonia, with other part of the Catalans. They wanted to believe that their cause personified the whole of Catalan people and that those who opposed actively were a minority, that could be insulted calling them Fascist. However, now things are beginning to be seen in a different way. For a week, we’ve been analysing what happened.

In no case the secessionist politicians would come out well. For those of their voters that still keep some critical spirit it must have been painful to realize how flippantly their leaders acted. The deception is discovered and the secessionist voters ask themselves what was the actual target on October 1st (“1-O”). Today it’s clear that it was not implementing the independence, contrary to what they promised. But it’s also obvious that there was not a strategy to negotiate with the State. This is supported by the fact that they didn’t call elections immediately, in the early days of October. Calling to vote was the only way to assert their strength in an eventual negotiation, if the results were very favourable for them. It was also the only option not to lose the political initiative in those weeks. But, as they didn’t have a strategy –and no one was truly leading the procés–  they collapsed into stagnation and end up looking ridiculous.

However, there’s something very important that has been pointed out by two of the shadow leaders of the so-called “General Staff of the procés”: entrepreneur Oriol Soler and republican former regional minister Xavier Vendrell. Both say that one of the mistakes of secessionism was not assessing the reaction from unionism, not from the politicians but from the ordinary citizens who appreciated the seriousness of the secessionist thread and that made themselves visible during October 2017. Soler, who organized some campaigns for ANC and was one of the main advisors of the regional Government in the making of 1-O, explains in an interview with RAC1 that “the most painful thing that we did wrong was not seeing that an important part of the society didn’t want the independence, and that they were scared; it’s a very important political myopia that we must acknowledge; I don’t want independence with a 40% of the people frightened”. Let’s see: can we believe that someone like him didn’t know which was the sociological reality in terms of support to secessionism in 2017. Obviously, we can’t.

This sentence shows that the constitutionalist mass was not expected to break its silence and to show up, for example, in the October 8th massive demonstration. Before that, during that week, tension was felt in some districts, with spontaneous rallies and lots of Spanish flags popping up in many balconies. That was when Soler got scared. If the attempted secession try would have been achieved, the civil confrontation would be ready. Soler exemplifies it with a phone call to a Unionist friend of his who confesses, in tears, that from time to time she wishes those secessionists like him on prison.

Vendrell, former secretary of organization of ERC who attended the meetings of the “procés’ Sanhedrin”, talks in an interview for digital Vilaweb in very similar terms. The mistake of secessionism was awaking the Spanish Catalonia. On his city, Sant Joan Despí, 70% voted on regional elections for parties that want people like him “to go to jail”, as he says. “I don’t want independency with neighbours like those. I don’t believe that no one who votes for 

Ciudadanos can be a democrat. People that have been voting for leftist parties during their whole lives can’t have turned into Fascists. Simply, we have frightened them and they have sheltered in the party that offered more warranties to defend their Spanishness”, explains Vendrell. Setting aside the unacceptable stigma against the orange party, what happened is that the non-secessionist Catalans took seriously the thread of secession and went out to defend their rights. Those leading the procés would’ve never thought that could happen. They believed that Spanish Catalans would accept passively a break up process and that the conflict appeared in terms of Spain vs Catalonia.

That’s why one year after it’s good not to forget the lesson learnt from the procés. In October 2017 the unexpected happened: the internal confrontation was visualized. That, added to its own blatant mistakes, stopped secessionism. And today it gives cause of reflection for some like Soler or Vendrell. They know that unilateralism is not a feasible way. Not only for the response from the State, first of all from justice, but because it leads us to a civil strife. Therefore, when from the politically correct speech we surrender to the calls for dialogue, let’s not write off confrontation. We must not excite it, but it’s been necessary and useful to prevent worse evils.

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