Today the main players of the fractured Catalan pro-independence movement were to meet secretly at exiled President Carles Puigdemont’s headquarters in Waterloo, Belgium. Amid recriminations that the meeting had been overpublicised and fears that Puigdemont intended to use the summit as the political launchpad of potential new party, La Crida (The Call), it seems that President Torra will attend but the other big guns from pro-independence parties and civil organisations will be absent. Rather than a major summit it will be a low-key affair focusing on the presentation of the Council for the Republic and its role in promoting the right to self-determination internationally. La Crida will celebrate its first rally in Manresa next Saturday, 27 October, coinciding with the anniversary of the unilateral non-declaration of independence, the day from which acting President Torra can call new elections, the anniversary of that most bittersweet of days for many Catalans.
The far-left Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) was the first to announce its non-attendance at the summit. The CUP has been highly critical of the obedient inaction of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (JxCAT) since the formation of the Catalan government in June as the two main pro-independence formations set out on the path of “dialogue” and “broadening the base”. The Catalan government parties are seriously considering approving the Spanish government’s budget if they receive a “gesture” from the Moncloa, apparently consisting merely of a request that the Attorney General herself make a gesture on behalf of the Catalan political prisoners. However, most independentists would prefer a “no to everything” approach. There is also a feeling that, were the current Spanish government to fall, what could replace it might be even more fearsome.
The CUP no longer supports the Catalan government, which lost its pro-independence majority a fortnight ago when exiled and imprisoned PDeCAT MPs failed to agree on a formula to delegate their vote. They are now dependent on support from En Comú-Podem, who present themselves as the “equidistant” party, on the meridian between the poles. This is another factor that increases the probability of elections. Thanks to them, the republican majority in the parliament of Catalonia voted to censure and reject the Spanish monarchy. Incredibly, the Spanish government has referred the vote to the Constitutional Court.
And what of the forgotten Catalan Republicans? They watch in dismay as their own Foreign Minister appears on the BBC rambling on about the chimeric nature of “the 50%” – actually still the great unknown without a referendum – and going along with the Spanish State’s discredited “violent independentist” narrative due to a few displays of anger from a small minority in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the violence from Spanish and Catalan police continues unabated at all demonstrations at which people refuse to get dressed up in independentist uniforms and carry bouquets.
They are confused by calls to focus energies on the common enemy, to unite and act, to leave Catalan politicians alone. In turn, they call for their politicians to come clean. There are calls for the politicians to be brave from the people and calls for the people to be brave from the politicians. Rather than broadening the base, the return of the pro-independence parties to supposed “realpolitik” has atomised the core. The wait-and-see approach resonates little with people who know there is no, and has never been, any chance of dialogue between the Spanish State and Catalonia over self-determination. There is also no chance that any Catalan or Spanish political party will be able to put the self-determination genie back in the bottle.
The Spanish State, through brutal repression, and the fearful reasonableness of ERC and PDeCAT have successfully demobilised the pro-independence movement in the short-term, leaving it leaderless, or led by forces too diverse and dispersed for the movement to be effective. It is difficult for people to know which path to take when one of their main leaders writes a sermon on the “pure”, the “impure” and the “zealots” from his cell-cum-pulpit, while the other launches his new project from Waterloo. The ambiguity of both messages says nothing to ordinary people.
No one said it would be easy. Divided as to how to achieve the aim, there are Catalan politicians that seem no longer, or never, to have shared it. It is as if they think they awoke a beast when in fact the beast awoke them, and after a while, tired and scared, they just wanted to go back to sleep again, and things to go back to the way they were. The thing is, things are not going back to the way they were – not 4, 14, 40 or 80 years ago. They cannot.
Among the greatest enemies of Catalan Republicanism have always been the conservative Catalan nationalists, the ones wedded to the status quo, the comfortable ones, the ones who either got off or were pushed off the independence train when someone pulled the emergency cord. Now it seems that most of the politician passengers should have alighted.
Everyone needs to know the truth about their situation, and the events that have led up to it, and the current and future intentions of those that represent them. The truth is that, listening to their leaders, most independentists are neither up for it at present, especially considering what they are up against and its evidently huge power. Direct action and non-violent resistance has become the only way but most Catalan people seem simply unwilling to rise up again unless they know precisely what for.
And what of the Spanish State? It is as mad, bad and dangerous as it has been since the return of “democracy”. The principal reason for leaving has not and will not change. In fact, it is about to get worse. They know that another Spain is not possible, that the State is incorrigible. We are in that phase when the aggressor is threatening to do it again while the aftermath of last time is still in full effect and the dust is still settling.
And there are the Catalans, in limbo in their non-republic, lost in the wilderness, unsure which way to go. They should find solace in the fact that there are unlikely to be many new unionists after the past year, support for a self-determination referendum remains at 80% of the Catalan population and the secessionist movement is nothing if not mutable.