Catalonia, Unionists & Democracy


There are politicians that believe performances can change anything. There are those that do it the old-fashioned way, with the most precise and abominable of cynicisms, with an irritating professionalism. There are also those that seem to have concluded at some point in time that we are all just a bunch of imbeciles who really don’t understand why we vote or our own reasons for choosing a particular option. All of them appear convinced that the situation the Catalan people created with their own consciously cast ballots is an error. But it is not. I can understand that this reality fills some with a sense of dread and I am quite sorry about that. But if that is the case, they’ll have to learn to get over it.

The show put on by the Unionist bloc of the Catalan Parliament during these past two days has been regrettable, pathetic, insufferable and truly shameful. They made an enormous effort to wear us down and to make us feel tense, with an endless back and forth designed to kill time, twist the rules, invent non-existent realities, sow confusion and make off-key and inappropriate proclamations.  The scene  was of the type generally witnessed on momentous occasions; the words, at times, very solemn. But they were sorely lacking in one very basic and fundamental thing: credibility.  That of these speakers was simply non-existent.

It is absolutely incredible that we were subjected to lessons about democracy and legitimacy from those who came to public life directly from the nursery of Francoism, those who have looted the citizenry of this country to fill their own pockets, those that have thousands of their own on trial for corruption, those that smashed the constitution with their judicial coup d’etat against the 2006 Statute of Autonomy, those that told us that the March 11th, 2004 terrorist attack had been carried out by ETA knowing full well they were lying and thus mocking the cadavers splayed about in those trains, this, so we might forget the night of camaraderie and laughter with Bush and Blair in the Azores, a night that sent us hurtling into a savage and unjust war, one that we did not want, and whose consequences we will be paying for many decades.

It is absolutely incredible that they now seek to give us lessons on democratic rigor and methods, and how to comply with the law, those that created of the GAL kidnapping and death squads and the torturers of the Barcelona Olympics, those that forced us into NATO, those that changed the constitution in a few hours—violating all manner of procedural norms—to please European financiers, those that said they would support the 2006 statute of the Parliament of Catalonia and then ridiculed it after it was severely whittled down in Madrid, those that adulterated the Basque elections of 2009 by prohibiting the participation of that country’s second political force, those  that accompanied a condemned assassin to the gates of prison and hugged him there without shame, those that while President Maragall,  one of their own, was arguing for the 2006 Catalan statute in Madrid, were working behind his back to water it down.

There are politicians that think that performances can change everything.  And in normal times this can often be true. But not in moments like this, when everything is on the line.

On September 27th, 2015, we Catalans went to the polls to vote. And however many dialectical twists and tricks they might try to employ now and in centuries to come, indeed until hell freezes over, the fact remains that the majority of this country voted freely and democratically on that occasion. We knew what we were voting for and we did so in full understanding of the consequences. We did not do so in error. I repeat, we did not do so in error.

And it is for this reason, that is, because of my vote, because of the vote of others near and far from me, that Carme Forcadell is the President of the Catalan Parliament today, and is now forced to tolerate their lack of respect. And it is for this reason, that is, because of my vote, because of the vote of others near and far from me,  that  Carles Puigdemont is the President of Catalonia today, and must put up  with their insults and attempts at provocation.  With all their talk about rules, norms and processes, they seem to forget the first and most basic  principle of democracy: that it is the people and not them, that get to decide; that it is within the realm of the people, and fortunately not from among their ranks, that legitimacy is born.

They can play the role of the Pharisee for as many hours and days as they like. We will resist their cynicism with patience. But in the interest of their own health, they would do well to look into the face of the country they represent and realize that we no longer fear them, that we no longer fear power, that we know how get to where we want to go, and that we are no longer willing, not even for a day, to bow before the system of subjugation that these parliamentary deputies, with their grandiloquently disguised cynicism, their shouts, and their windmill-like gesticulations, seek to portray as a vision for the future. That’s all behind us: the vote is ours and we won’t let them take it way.

Vicent Partal is founder and director of the influential Vilaweb on-line newspaper in Spain.

Translated by Thomas Harrington.

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