Conversation with Ferran and Marta, Catalans in Africa and loving it

2017-11-06 01:40

Hassen Lorgat in Conversation with Ferran and Marta, Catalans in Africa and loving it ...

A conversation in Joburg about the developments in Catalunya is not an easy task.

The aim of the conversation largely a request from the Barca penya members and many of our friends and comrades is to present some views on a complex process that is currently unfolding.

There are some obvious points we have to put upfront, is that we are unashamedly on the side of people resisting injustices as this comes from the type of work we do.

In fact, I first met my partner in a meeting of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, and thus our personal lives could not escape our concerns for eradication poverty and inequality globally.

As internationalists, we are concerned and support many causes – but the struggles in the countries where we come from are not far off.

In addition, as practical activists we fight where we find ourselves, and that for the moment is South Africa.

My partner Marta hails from Barcelona.

We have tried to focus the questions that we hear in spaces where we meet, but clearly there is a need to discuss the limits of the power of seeing nations as configurations where people have to find all their solutions within.

The nation-state is a historical reality but does not answer the questions for many within of justice, equality equity, freedom nor does it necessarily present all groups with a sense of belong or conviviality.

It is strange to say this, as when everyone meets us, they present the Catalan question as a question of nationalism, or a selfish one at that, without a context nor knowledge of their own realities.

They see these questions through South African eyes.

How different is it from what Inkatha tried to do, with its threats of secession in the 1980s or its demands for federalism? Or even worse, one of our friends asked how different is it from a the chauvinist Boerestaat?

Then there is the obsession about where FC Barcelona would play, and looking from our history of boycott of official sports – Why Catalan sports people do not do likewise? We deal with some of these concerns below.

So enough of this long introduction – but I must say of all the things they want to compare between South Africa and Spain people often ignore the lessons of Nelson Mandela who advised the world, that if you want peace, you must speak to your adversaries even if they are considered enemies, do not speak to your friends.

Secondly, whilst many of us are critical of South Africa slow reconstruction since the fall of apartheid, there are some bright lights “warts and all” which many in the world have tried to emulate and adapt – but not Spain.

I am talking about our Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which sat to hear stories from victims of apartheid abuses of power, and to those perpetrated these deeds were given amnesty if they spoke frankly and truthfully.

On 11 October 2017 Judge Billy Mothle ruled that the martyred Communist activist, Ahmed Timol, was killed by the apartheid police and those who committed this cowardly be act be prosecuted.

The events too place some 45 years ago, after a state inquest, convened under apartheid exonerated his killers.

The apartheid version of events was that the Timol had committed suicide by throwing himself off -10 floors in the apartheid interrogation rooms in John Vorster Square.

This case also opens up the possibility for dozens of other cases where families, friends and comrades believe their loved ones were murdered by the apartheid police.

In Spain, the Socialist government under leadership of President Zapatero introduced a law called the he Law of Historic Memory which promised to recognise the suffering of the victims of General Franco's actions during the civil war between 1936 and 1939, and his 40-year dictatorship.

Sadly, the lack of political will and the political opposition from the right-wing government killed this initiative.

It was not the time to deal with these issues, they argue. It will open old wounds.

Amnesty International called the failure of the government to deal with those who disappeared during the Civil War and under the rule of Francisco Franco (1936-1975) “shameful”. 

For many South Africans this is incomprehensible.

Finally, I believe that those who were aligned to Franco or were in his party, still occupy high political office (as well as judiciary, military, etc. and large sections of the media) in Spanish society. But what do I know ... Let me ask my friends for some answers.

1. First, some basics: please provide a historical context for South Africans? Tell us about the political arrangement in Spain and the autonomous communities, the various languages and the workings of the constitutional court. I am particularly keen to learn about taxation and the fiscal transfers from the central state to the autonomous communities like Andalucia, Basque country, Catalunya and so on ...

Ferran: First, the 17 Autonomous Communities and two Autonomous Cities bordering Morocco (!) are a political and administrative division of the State established in the Constitution of 1978, after almost 40 years of dictatorship. It addresses the demands of self-government of 'historical nationalities' in the Spanish State, mainly Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. These peoples have their culture and language, two of which come from Latin like Spanish or French (Catalan and Galician) and the other is Basque, whose origins I do not know. Maybe others do.

Anyway, but it addresses these demands in a way that it’s been described as "coffee for everybody", that is, the same structure rules different realities. Of course, this was one of the results of a "democratic transition" that was administered, rather than a democratic revolution like in Portugal, by the ultra-Spanish nationalist dictatorship that preached National Catholicism.

Marta: It must be added that the constitution allowed for more power to be decentralised and so the idea was that this was to be developed over the years, when a democratic culture would be more rooted in Spanish politics. As in South Africa, the transition towards democracy was a very fragile one, with strong Francoist sectors still strong and a military that had commandments unhappy about this new rule of law. It is not by chance that in 1981 (three years into constitutional monarchy), there was an attempted coup d’etat led by some high ranking officials in the Guardia Civil (that national police, which unlike here in South Africa is a very militarised police in all manner – in its command structure and the way it relates to citizens) and the military.

Ferran: ... It is important to discuss the constitutional court, it basically supports the whole system set up in the Constitution but unlike your Constitutional court, this court has a notorious right-wing bias and is de facto linked to the executive branch of the State. The court further trimmed in 2010 the new Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia approved by the Catalan and Spanish parliament (which trimmed it first) and approved in referendum in Catalonia in 2006. For most, such failure in answering the very popular demands for further self-government and acknowledgement of national singularities revealed that the Spanish State, deeply conservative, neo-liberal and Spanish-nationalistic, is not keen to advance towards a truly federal or confederal arrangement.

The Greco report “The Council of Europe’s complaint in the so-called Greco Report is symptomatic, in which it criticises the kingdom of Spain for failing to follow its recommendations over strengthening judicial independence.”

“In 2013, the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (Greco) sent the kingdom of Spain eleven recommendations to better combat corruption amongst parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors. Almost three years later, they believe that none of the eleven measures proposed at that time has been satisfactorily answered. Six of the measures have not even been started up. The institution reminds the kingdom of Spain that ‘the political authorities must not intervene in any of the stages of the process of appointing magistrates’. […] And it must not be forgotten that the General Council of Judicial Powers appoints all magistrates of the Supreme Court, all presidents of the superior courts of justice and all presidents of the provincial audiences.”

Marta: In fact, month after this ruling, a mass march took to the streets of Barcelona under the slogan “We decide!”. Since 2010, with PP in Spain’s government, a minority pro-independence part of Catalan society has grown exponentially with every new blow from Rajoy’s government, from attacks on the regional language, to a purposeful under-investment in the region’s infrastructures that need urgent upgrading, to a political use of the Constitutional Court to turn down new Catalan progressive regulation on house evictions, gender equality, fracking, etc.

Ferran: You also asked about fiscal relations. There is redistribution between the Communities mainly because wealth and incomes concentrate in certain regions, two of them Catalonia and Madrid, while public goods and services are supposed to be equitably provided. But many Catalans believe that the taxes that go to the Spanish State surpass the money the State channels to and spends in Catalonia to a punitive extend –for example, the income ranking of Autonomous Communities changes after redistribution. From my viewpoint, the system must surely be improved, but I wouldn't say that it chokes the Catalan economy because the growth dividend of redistribution sustains a large trade surplus that benefits economic activity in Catalonia. In any case, the main socio-economic problems of Catalonia (unemployment, poverty, inequality…) do not come from fiscal relations with Spain. 

Marta: We must find time to speak of the different treatment granted by the political dispensation to the Basque region when in comes to taxation and fiscal allocations, by which the Basque Country has the power to regulate taxes and the necessary autonomy to manage and collect them. The region then remits some of the taxes collected to the Spanish Treasury to cover general expenditure on areas of national interest, like defense, customs, foreign affairs or general transport infrastructures. Should Catalonia be able to strike a similar deal in a federal, republican Spain? I would rather go for an equitable system based on solidarity that is equitable and supports people living together in harmony not what is currently in place. CUP has defended all along that, even an independent Catalonia, should pay money to poorer parts of Spain in the transition, it could be for 20 or 30 years. “We are internationalists and we are in solidarity with workers and the poor in Spain”, the party insists.

2. Why do Catalans believe they are a nation? What do they rely on?

Ferran: Because they are consciously aware that they have their own culture and language. The history of its people is thus peculiar. The feudal control of its (changing) territory was independent from Castilla and what would much later become Spain. It remained largely independent from it until 1714, when the Spanish Crown imposed its rule in almost the whole Iberic peninsula besides Portugal.

Since then there have been ups and downs in Catalan nationalism, but it has always been there. There is a sense of belonging that has evolved and survived the most barbaric repression from Francoism (the ‘Catalan issue’ was one of the reasons of the military coup against the II Spanish Republic in 1936) and the challenges of mass immigration. The massive flow of Spaniards from other regions into Catalonia, most especially in the sixties, almost doubled the Catalan population in some 40 years (because of the same migrants and their children). Then in the 2000s we have to add another one million immigrants from outside the Spanish borders. Still, there is a shared sense of belonging to the land and community (each one in its own personal way given the particular origin and social reality). Catalan is still spoken, written and understood by the vast majority, and it is the mother tongue for around half of the Catalans. Perhaps, one key explanation of the sustained, if changing, believe that Catalans form a nation is the task of the Catalan Socialists (PSUC) in making it an inclusive concept: "Catalan is whoever works and lives in Catalonia", regardless of origin, and we form “one people”. Catalanism, in general, cannot be caricaturised as a chauvinistic nationalism, but rather open to the world.

Marta: Let me add something about Catalan, a language that has been persecuted repeatedly throughout history by different Spanish monarchs and dictators (and sadly, the will to undermine the use of Catalan is still very much rooted in a part of the Spanish political class). If you happened to see the short and disastrous speech of King Felipe VI last Tuesday after the general strike in Catalonia to protest the violence against peaceful citizens, in the background there was the image of Carlos III, who imposed in the 18th century Castilian language at the expense of Catalan in the education system, including jail terms for teachers who breached the rule. A closer look to the painting, reveal the king on a horse, holding a baton. A rather disturbing painting to appear with, after thousands of peaceful citizens were attacked with batons and rubber bullets in the streets of Catalonia, whilst the current king said not one word regarding the violence by the militarised Spanish police or the injured citizens.

3. Before we delve deeper, please explain the different currents of Catalan political opinion today (2017)

Marta: Whilst in the overall political map in Spain, there has traditionally been two main parties, PSOE and PP, Catalonia has always had a more diverse political map, given that right and left politics mix with more Catalanist vs more Spanish nationalist positions.

Ferran: We have all sorts of political movements and parties: fascists, independentists, communists, liberal, conservative, etc. Most positions in the nationalist axis are compatible with the left-right axis. The vast majority of fascists are ultra-Spanish nationalists, though a small minority are for “Catalans-first” sort of policies. In the left (so not including the Partido Socialistat Obrero Español (PSOE), which is not socialist and even less proleratian, at least since the Constitution), the most common position range from all grades of federalism to independence. The Partido Socialista Unificat de Catalunya (PSUC) was the main party in Catalonia fighting Francoism, and as popular a party Catalanism was ingrained in it. The Unitary Popular Candidature is an anti-capitalist and independentist party and movement (with 8.2% of the votes in the Catalan 2015 elections). The party that unites the Catalan branch of Podemos, the descendants of PSUC, the Green Party, etc. (CSQP) pushes for more federalism and the celebration of a binding referendum (9% vote). Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) is independentist and socio-liberal party, to the left of the centre in Catalan politics. The Catalan right-wing party suddenly became pro-independence or independentist in 2012 to ride the independentist tide and shift the attention away from the disastrous consequences of austerity policies, their shameless corruption scandals, etc. In the last elections they run with ERC in a coalition that ‘would lead Catalonia to independence’ and won 40% of the vote. The Spanish nationalist right-wing got 26% of the vote, and the Catalan PSOE 13%.

Marta: A further read into the electoral percentages that Ferran has given reveals that: the pro-independence vote got a 48,2% and, more importantly in the light of the mobilisation seen on October 1st, parties that included the demand for a binding referendum on independence (or higher autonomy with respect to the central state) received close to 60% of the vote. This does not mean that all those who wanted to vote or the referendum wanted independence.

4. What has grown the Independence tendency from its low numbers to what others say is about 40% today? Tell us about the social, economic and political forces that coalesced with the national sentiment ...

Ferran: The percentage is surely above 40% now, the issue is how much, and how much is necessary to declare the Independence. I’ve already sketched these forces: recession, austerity, negligence from core Spanish institutions, political opportunism by the main Catalan party and PP+PSOE, increased tension created on purpose for electoral reasons by both Spanish and Catalan parties, very well organised Catalan-nationalist civil society groups..

Marta: What is important to stress here is there have been other attempts (all legal and constitutional) to reach a deal with Madrid in the past, such as the 2005 developing of an autonomic framework through the proper procedures, that is, Catalan and Spanish parliament and Senate, and a referendum to approve the statute of Autonomy. And even now, if you are following the events closely, the Catalan government is the one asking for dialogue. Rajoy and his team current line is that they won’t be blackmailed into dialogue by the ‘unconstitutional’ referendum held recently. The truth, however, is that they have never attempted to sit and dialogue over the last two mandates to sort our a political crisis that demands a political solution.

5. So, it is not like an Inkatha (IFP) claim in the 1980s arguing to go it alone?

Marta: I sincerely think that most Catalans 15 years ago would have supported a more federal Spain, as many Spaniards on the left for that matter, where there is a greater say in internal affairs of the community.

A bigger say on language matters (we come from 40 years of the Catalan language being forbidden by the state, it could not be spoken publicly nor taught in schools), on our regional infrastructures, etc. Spain has a highly centralized state, which disregards the different needs re infrastructures in some parts of the state and over invests elsewhere based on corrupt networks. There are many cases out there of ghost airports, etc. and if you follow the leads, you soon end in the vicinity of the government of Spain. I know for a fact that many people now supporting independence see it as a way to break away from the Spanish political system.

6. More importantly, South Africans are concerned about groups that they consider secessionists, implying that they are either selfish or against working with others. Can you talk a bit about solutions that are beyond the nation-state, and also what efforts have the Catalan independence movement made to live with the Spanish state.

Marta: What I have found exasperating in the last weeks, is the constant mantra about nationalist secessionists as the encompassing evil. What this point misses is that Spanish nationalism is also a nationalism, an extremely conservative one, and by no means one which aims to recognise, respect and celebrate the diversity of languages and cultures in Spain. Not a unifying one. A cursory look on the demonstrations these last days “for the unity of Spain” will show many neo fascist / nazi groups organising the marches, and it is easy to spot Francoist Spanish flags, Nazi salutes and the singing of Cara al sol, a Francoist anthem. Unlike South Africa, after 40 years of dictatorship, there was no attempt to come up with a totally new flag for Spain or a different Spanish nationalism other than the one that considers that other cultures / languages in the peninsula, that is, Galician, Catalan or Basque pose a threat to the Spanish nation state, that there cannot be other identities other than the Spanish one. Hence to me, ultimately, what is a stake now is the defense of the right to have a say by minorities in overall Spain, the right to talk / question the current state of play, in a current political system that, as a true inheritor of Francoism, has a profound disdain to political dialogue, and chooses to use judicial and police repression instead.

As we speak, there have been 50 000 people protesting in the streets of Murcia against a wall the government is planing to build that goes across the city (effectively dividing it) for the high speed train to pass. People have been asking for it to go underground, but the government is pushing for this wall and choosing again police repression against protesters. On October 9, Valencia celebrates its Diada, and the history is worth reading. The traditional progressive demonstration of the afternoon is often attacked by Neo-Fascists. This year Neo-Nazi grups well known organised on social media to go and disrupt the demonstration with huge Spanish flags, they attacked people under the passivity of the government delegation that did nothing to stop what was obviously a violent concentration with no permission to march and did little to protect peaceful demonstrators.

Again last October 12, a day that Spanish State nationalism celebrates as the National Day of Spain - because it marks the beginning of the colonisation of America by the Spanish Kingdom (!) - with a huge military parade in Madrid and the royal monarchy as special guests, a day that was instituted as National Day by Franco... Well, we had in Barcelona again neonazi groups marching for the “unity of Spain” with Spanish flags. At some point a street fight broke out between two of these groups, where chairs and tables of nearby cafes or restuarants were used as weapons. We have over 13 000 Spanish militarised police in the city because of the referendum, yet none of them was to be seen to stop the destruction that took place. By the way, Radio 2000 wrongly reported that it had been a fight between Spanish nationalists and Catalan pro-independence... and I called to correct that.

7. So, the push on 1 October referendum itself was propelled or to put it differently caused anger by other tendencies too? Please explain ...

Ferran: Since the Constitutional Court trimmed the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia after been approved in both parliaments and in a referendum, in 2010, the tension has been on the rise. This was seen by many as reactionary Spanish nationalism of the old kind, and of course humiliating. This combines with the daunting economic crisis that started in 2007/08 and crazy austerity policies (it has only been recently that Catalonia reach the pre-crisis GDP level), and an incompetent and pyromaniac government in Madrid of the Popular Party (the heir of Francoism). Their policies are seen for many as humiliating.

The Education Minister was not ashamed to claim in parliament that his policy was to ‘Spaniardise’ Catalans. Obvious infrastructure is constructed and further delayed, while magniloquent projects are carried out in low-population density places for electoral reasons. And a long etc. In 2014 there was a referendum for independence which the central government attempted to stop by all means. In the end, it was a "participation process" by the Government of Catalonia, after a "non-referendum popular consultation" on the same topic and for the same date had been suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain. The Central Government has categorically refused to start any negotiation on a referendum, while the Catalan government raised the stakes and called Catalan elections in 2015 which allegedly would represent a referendum. The turnout was a parliamentary majority for independentist parties, with 48% of the votes with a clear “yes to independence” meaning and a 11.5% of dubious interpretation. This is the government that organised the referendum of 1st October. The Spanish institutions (government, courts public prosecutor’s office, etc.) have declared it illegal and, with the help of the brutal force of the Police and Military Police, almost literally crashed it. In the meantime, they had reverted direct control on Catalan political competencies, including public expenditure. 

Marta: PP's legalistic and judiciary approach to what requires political dialogue and solutions has been rather spurious: the constitution seems at times something they don’t relate too and at times something written on stone. The constitution, in fact, allows for its own reform if need be, as it was already foreseen in 78 that with time, certain articles would have to be revisited and reformed. One such amendment, a neoliberal one for that matter, dealing with Article 135 of the Constitution was introduced in less than two weeks back in 2011.  The main purpose was to set arbitrary limits to public expenditure and prioritises the interest of international creditors over the basic expenditure such as public health, education, pensions, etc. 

So to answer the question, the movement was seen by some as rushed, by others as precarious given that was not “agreed” with the central government (an impossible deal with the current government whose position is “there is no problem, hence nothing to talk”)...

8. What happened on the 1 October? Many South Africans saw on SKY TV, BBC, CNN, Aljazeera, France 24 and numerous other news agencies show such violence, bloodshed and intimidation – tell us some more ....

Ferran: On 1st October the Catalan government called citizens to a referendum which had this question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic? Yes or NO”. As I mentioned, it was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court and the Spanish Government tried to stop it. They tried to, and sometimes did, dismantle necessary infrastructure of a referendum. Still, the on the 1st of October the referendum was in place. This was thanks to a very organised and agitated society, which literally defeated the police. For example, they put the ballot-boxes in the polling stations and the police could not stop it. During the whole weekend lots of people occupied the polling stations (most of them schools) to make sure that the police would not seal the buildings.

The Spanish central government didn’t tackle the referendum as a political problem, but used judicial means and the police to stop it. They sent more than 12,000 extra police to Catalonia, who on the 1st they had orders to confiscate the ballot-boxes at all costs. The cost was more than 900 people injured because of police brutality against everybody, old and young, women and men. Still, 43% of the Catalans voted. Solidarity and organisation were impressive. Masses moved from one school to another, from one village to the other, to protect the people and the ballot-boxes from 5am to late at night. It was lived as a popular uprising fighting with democratic means and peacefully against an authoritarian government and its military police. It will leave a profound mark in Catalan subjectivity.

Marta: Indeed, a massive civil and peaceful act of disobedience, brutally repressed by militarised police who had been sent from all parts of Spain over the previous week to stay in Catalonia. Groups of 50 policemen arrived on the day in villages of just over a hundred inhabitants, clearly intimidating (and ridiculous) actions if you ask me. And a 1984 kind of situation on Spanish national TV, which hardly showed any of the images of violence (TV journalists protested on the day and the following day demanding the sacking of the directors for the editorial censorship pushed on the news of the day). Rajoy appeared only at the end of the day, in a short press conference with no questions allowed, congratulating the militarised police for their efficient and proportional use of force and saying no referendum took place. Efficient and proportional was the Spanish Government Newspeak on the day and there after to describe police in paramilitary gear beating old and young peaceful unarmed population...

Ferran: Also the government and King’s reaction after the referendum was not well received by many progressive people in Catalunya and in other parts of Spain.

This is because he implicitly endorsed and justified police brutality and thus it was a threat of things to come. There was not talk of accountability nor acknowledgment of the victims of the violence. Nor did the king and government leave open the door for talks or dialogue...

9. Since then, the Catalan Parliament has declared independence and Madrid has imposed direct rule over Catalunya through what we now know is article 155 of the Spanish constitution ... 

Ferran: There was a heated debate in Catalonia on how to proceed after the referendum of 1st October: some demanded to declare independence unilaterally, others to avoid the imposition of article 155 by all means and keep building popular support for the Catalanist cause, others just want to sustain the status quo and some even wish for authoritarian rule via article 155 . The situation was extremely tense because the Spanish State had threatened to take full control of Catalan institutions and jail the current government –actually, the two leaders of the two main pro-independence civil society organisations (Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart) had already been jailed without bail on charges of sedition and rebellion. 

Marta: Just to point out that the charge of sedition which according to many experts the Catalan leaders stand accused for having “risen up publicly and in tumult (meaning, violently) to prevent the application of the law”. So again there seems to be an instrumentalised and biased reading of the above, given that it should not apply to the peaceful mobilisations that have characterised the pro-independence movement in Catalonia.

Ferran: Finally, on Friday 27 October the same day that the Spanish Senate was in the process of approving the take-over of Catalan institutions by the central government, the Catalan government decided that the way to go was to declare independence. However, in reality the parliament did not declare independence, but voted for the Catalan government to take the necessary steps towards an independent state.  This was communicated publicly as a declaration of independence by both the Catalan and Spanish governments and the media. From my viewpoint, the ‘declaration’ was a huge mistake and also a ‘play’ by the Catalan party in government to keep playing the game without having the necessary infrastructure to actually create an independent state. 

Direct rule from Madrid (article 155) was finally approved, and Rajoy and Co. have taken control of Catalan government, sacking Catalonia’s cabinet members as well as directors of other public institutions. It is important here to note that Rajoy’s party, Partido Popular, only obtained 8% of the vote in Catalonia in the last elections (they have never done well in Catalonia, neither in general nor regional elections for that matter), and yet now they are in full control of the region’s public institutions. In contrast to public declarations of the Catalan government, the imposition of article 155 has not been resisted. However, the central government is well aware that they cannot rule Catalonia for long in such a way, and thus, with the ‘legitimacy’ of article 155, they called for regional elections on 21 December. 

Marta: The call for elections with such short notice – although lawful - can also work in their favour, as there is little time for the rest of the parties in Catalonia to build strategies and coalitions for such an important occasion,… But you asked about the meaning of all the above for the future of Catalonia. Well, first and foremost, what is extremely worrisome is the suspension of a hard fought for level of autonomy as well as a democratic regression on the hands of Spain’s government. Since then, PP officials have been arguing in other regions of Spain where they do not rule that there might be also reasons there to call for the application of art 155. Equally, as we speak now, half of the ministers of the Catalan government are currently sitting in jail, 600 km away from home. This is a clear act of revenge where there is little basis in the law for such move - and read by many as the first electoral campaign act by the Partido Popular for the upcoming elections in Catalonia. 

10. So this convening from Madrid for regional elections in Catalonia on 21 December, what does it mean for the struggle for autonomy or independence?

Ferran: It seems to me that the support for independence has not changed much because of the recent events. What we know for sure is that positions about independence have been further polarised. What is worse, it has been polarized to some extent by maquivellically confronting indentities and sentiments (which is definitely not a new strategy). Sectors of the population in Catalonia believe that Spain cannot be changed; that it will always be a repressive, centralistic and Spanish nationalist State with the support of the majority of equally stubborn right-wing Spanish nationalist. Some other sectors feel that the current government has a project that does not appeal to their sentiments and moreover may entail their impoverishment. Some complain that social issues have been neglected at the expense of a nationalist-only race for independence. 

In short, the move towards a unitateral declaration of independence and the barbaric retaliation of the Spanish State has further polarised the Catalan society. On the other hand, it has further united the vast majority, who wants to move towards more democracy, autonomy and national recognition. The near future appears both critical and uncertain, which I belive it signs that history is being written. 

Marta: What is also important to note and that provides some context is that as we speak, the Gürtel case is finally being dealt in court (many years after, with some relevant witnesses missing because of death, proofs having been destroyed, etc), in which 37 business and political figures of PP were accused of involvement in a kickbacks-for-contracts scheme, one of many corruption scandals that have engulfed this party over recent years. This past July Rajoy became the first serving Spanish president to testify in a criminal case, that is, the Gürtel case. He is not accused, just a witness. However, among the accused is the former PP treasurer Luis Barcenas, once a close ally of Rajoy, who has claimed that high-level officials knew about the illegal contributions. In fact, Barcenas had received supportive messages from Rajoy when he first found himself in legal trouble: “be strong”, “the party is doing what we can”, etc. There are hand written notes by Barcenas where he recorded payments made in envelopes to PP senior politicians where a couple of cash payments to a “M. Rajoy” are recorded.

Yet very little of this is being discussed in the public sphere, and it is scandalous. The current crisis is undoubtedly a smokescreen for the current party in the Spanish government, which, on the other hand, is making a biased used of the law and courts to wipe out the independence movement. Not good news for all who believe in the separation of powers in Spain.

Equally worrisome is that we have entered into a reactive phase where, to the interest of some elites wanting to shush corruption scandals (and here Puigdemont’s party has its own share of corruption scandals) and also because most energies go to counter the repressive measures adopted by the Spanish state that suppose a serious cutback in democratic rights (with possible middle and long term effects), the space to discuss and work on necessary social issues that been reduced and/or postponed and here nobody wins. Not that we were winning earlier neither: it is important to remember that the Spanish Constitutional Court has blocked progressive laws passed by the Catalan parliament in recent years: on fracking, on evictions, on taxes to banks or a Catalan energy law which guaranteed gas and electricity supplies for vulnerable families.

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February 18 2018