On November 2, judge Carmen Lamela of Spain’s National High Court—direct descendant of the Franco-era Court of Public Order—took the war of the Spanish state against the Catalan pro-independence government to a new level of judicial violence.
It was not enough that Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the two leaders of the Catalan mass pro-independence organisations the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Catalan cultural and language association Omnium Cultural, were already in jail. It was not enough that the Catalan government had been sacked on October 27 under article 155 of the Spanish constitution.
Now the deposed ministers had to be humiliated: facing charges of rebellion (up to 30 years jail), sedition (up to 15 years jail) and misuse of public moneys, eight of the ministers were sent into preventive detention supposedly to prevent them destroying evidence and fleeing the Spanish state.
The decision immediately provoked a new massive storm of protest across Catalonia, with two nights of demonstrations outside town halls and the country’s parliament, deafening evening cassolades (banging of pots and pans), and a planned November 11 demonstration in Barcelona that is sure to be oceanic. The minority, but rapidly growing, union confederation Intersindical-CSC trade union confederation called a general strike for November 8 and was joined by the main Catalan education union and the Farmers’ Union.
By contrast, in the rest of the Spanish state, where the latest Centre of Sociological Research (CIS) poll show the prospect of Catalan independence as now the second greatest concern of people after unemployment, the arrest of the Catalan ministers was greeted, if anything, with satisfaction. Ever since the October 27 Catalan declaration of independence, Spanish nationalism has been on the rise in reaction, in Catalonia itself and across Spain as a whole.
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who is presently in Belgium with his remaining four ministers, immediately denounced the action of the Spanish judge. They have been issued with a European arrest warrant, but it is far from certain that the Belgian legal system will return them to the Spanish state. At the time of writing (November 7) the Belgian presiding magistrate had released them without bail and on the sole condition that they be contactable by the court.
The extradition process could take up to 60 days if the Catalan leaders have to make full use of their right of appeal under Belgian law. In the meantime Puigdemont is free to stand as the lead candidate for his party, the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat) in the snap December 21 elections, called by Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy as part of his plan to marginalise the Catalan independence movement.
What impact on December 21 poll?
The detention of the Catalan ministers has impacted on the debate within Catalonia’s pro-independence and pro-sovereignty parties as to how they should approach the snap December 21 elections. When Rajoy announced his intervention under article 155 of the Spanish constitution (on the same day as the Catalan independence declaration), everyone was expecting a war of position: the central government would behead the Catalan government, sack its senior executives, purge the Catalan police, public broadcasting and education systems, offer election bribes to parts of the population and then—and only then—risk regional elections.
No other strategy seemed possible in a country where unionism (“constitutionalism” to its supporters) had won less than 40% of the vote at the September 2015 “plebiscitary” Catalan elections that put pro-independence forces into government. So it was a surprise for all sides when Rajoy moved with lightning speed–for the first time in his political life–to call Catalan elections for December 21.
Three main factors determined the decision to go early: first, confidence that the considerable body of people who support ongoing unity with Spain but traditionally don’t vote in Catalan elections can this time be mobilised by a blitzkrieg against secessionism and second, hope that the pro-independence camp will split between those favouring boycott of December 21 and those supporting standing. The third and most pressing need of the Rajoy government is to end once and for all the European and international disquiet about the legitimacy of recent Spanish state repression.
The biggest risk Rajoy’s move runs is that of creating unity among the often fractious pro-independence and pro-sovereignty forces, either behind an election campaign to validate the Catalan Republic declared by parliament on October 27 or behind a broader campaign to oppose Madrid’s article 155 coup and build support for a Catalan right to decide.
At the time of writing, the Spanish People’s Party (PP) government’s hope of provoking a split between pro-independence forces in favour of a boycott and those who will stand on December 21 looks like failing, especially after premier Charles Puigdemont announced at an October 31 Brussels media conference that the Catalan independence movement was not afraid of the ballot box.
The November 2 jailing of the ministers also made a more united approach by forces deciding to stand more likely. The conservative nationalist Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat) and the centre-left nationalist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), partners in the outgoing Together for the Yes (JxSí) ruling coalition, both announced they would “meet Rajoy at the polls”, and opinion within the anti-capitalist pro-independence People’s Unity List (CUP) is also started to swing that way.
On November 4, major CUP affiliate Poble Lliure (Free People) issued a statement that said:
[W]e believe that the milestone to be achieved on December 21 is to create a broad parliamentary majority that makes evident rejection of the application of article 155, thoroughly denounces the insane people-fearing mobilisation of the State and the police occupation suffered by the Catalan people at the same time as it commits to making the Republic effective from December 22.
We believe that what is required is the creation of a broad winning ticket to stand on December 21, one that works out in the coming weeks what governmental action is needed to implement state structures and Republican legality, as well as working for international recognition of the Catalan Republic.
At the time of writing (November 7) the debate within the pro-independence forces has moved on to how they should stand in the December 21 poll that has been illegitimately imposed upon them.
The initial gut response of many pro-independence activists on hearing about Rajoy’s election announcement was to say that the independence movement should have nothing to do with it. This reaction didn’t just come from the anti-capitalist CUP, as in MP Mireia Boya’s tweet to the effect that it would be an ideal day to have a community paella. Members of PDEC and the ERC also condemned Rajoy’s elections as “illegitimate”, with David Font, the PDECat mayor of Gironella saying: “Let’s see if these elections Rajoy wants to have on December 21 he doesn’t have to have in the streets, because the councils aren’t going to provide halls.”
Joan Manuel Tresserras, close to ERC and a former Catalan culture minister told the daily Ara on October 30 that pro-independence forces should “certainly not” run on December 21. He added:
Another thing would be if wouldn’t be right to call the constituent elections [envisaged in the Catalan Law of Jurisdictional Transition] and, if necessary, even have them on the same day as those called by the Spanish government. It is important that the government make a proposal and that this be discussed and agreed with the CUP and the other components of he pro-independence bloc. If the commons [Catalunya en Comú] are there too, all the better.
Albano Dante Fachin, general secretary of Podemos Catalonia had a similar response, telling radio public Catalunya Radio on October 28 that “it would be an enormous contradiction to says ‘No’ a million times to article 155 and then rush out to take part in some elections as if nothing had happened.”
Impact of Madrid’s coup
However, these sorts of speculations were quickly invalidated by the real state of play in Catalonia resulting from Madrid’s coup. That brought the Catalan independence movement’s advance, and all the future projections arising from the October 27 independence declaration, to a halt. Joan Tardà, ERC MP in the Spanish congress, stressed this is a November 5 interview on radio RAC1:
The October 1 referendum was an enormous landmark, but the conditions so far haven’t existed to implement the Republic … [N]ow we have to conceive the conditions in which it becomes truly possible to realise, sooner or later, the Republic.
Tardà made clear that the ERC position was that the referendum decision was legitimate, as was the opening the constituent process established in the Law of Jurisdictional Transition and Foundation of the Republic, but that it would be “absurd” to rule out a further referendum agreed with the Spanish state.
The declaration of the independent Catalan Republic was without doubt an inspiring and proud moment for hundreds of thousands of Catalans, the culmination of a decade of struggle culminating in the extraordinary David-over-Goliath achievement of holding a referendum under assault from 12,000 police. It was also something that the older generations of militants thought they would never live to see. Now the Catalan Republic lives in the hearts and minds of millions, and the Catalan struggle exists as never before as a spectre haunting European, and even world, politics. It was, in Tardà’s words, “an objective, historic fact”.
However, what else is it? After ten days of takeover, most of the institutional structures of the Catalan Republic were demolished:
• The Catalan police (the Mossos d’Esquadra) was brought under the control of the Spanish interior ministry and their previous chief sacked;
• Police protection was withdrawn from Puigdemont and his ministers;
• All Catalan diplomatic missions were terminated, with the exception of Brussels, where the Catalan representative to the European Union was sacked;
• All Catalan agencies to do with the transition to independence were closed down;
• The parliament was suspended, a state of affairs accepted by speaker Carme Forcadell; and
• Premier Puigdemont and his ministers and speaker Forcadell and the other members of the speakership panel who allowed debate and vote on independence were charged with rebellion and sedition.
In this situation, calling for the Puigdemont government to implement the resolutions attached to the declaration of independence was never realistic—his cabinet was never in any condition to make them operative.
The impossibility of building and defending the institutions of the fledgling Catalan Republic after the Rajoy coup has made participation in the December 21 poll inevitable. Moreover, the thought of what the PP and Citizens would do with Catalonia’s institutions if they ever got their hands on them in the end made boycott unthinkable.
However, despite these big losses the political force field being emitted by the deposed Puigdemont government has not vanished, as the president’s October 31 Brussels media conference with five of his ministers, attended by 300 journalists, confirmed. At it the Catalan premier appealed to the world about the basic questions at stake in his country’s struggle: Do the Catalans have a right to self-determination? Is the Spanish constitution and legal system democratic? Was the October 1 referendum binding?
The goal of the conference was to appeal to the ordinary citizens of Europe over the heads of the European institutions that have lined up with the Rajoy government, increasing the pressure for negotiation and dialogue that a number of European leaders have talked about. Puigdemont said he would accept the result of the December 21 election and challenged Rajoy to do the same. He also challenged the European Union and the international community to support Catalonia’s right to decide, denounced the legal action taken against his government for doing what it promised to do; and repeated the commitment of the government, pro-independence parties and mass movement to non-violent methods, even while calling on Catalans to resist Madrid’s assault on Catalonia’s institutions.
With this intervention, Puigdemont also explained to independence supporters in Catalonia disoriented by the Madrid coup and the lack of immediate resistance how much the strategic balance had changed. He also put the Spanish political and legal system on trial: the November 5 decision of the Belgian magistrate to leave the Catalan premier and the four ministers in Belgium at liberty until their extradition case is heard on November 17 was effectively a criticism of the Spanish National High Court decision to detain the other two thirds of the cabinet.
Nor does the beheading of the Catalan government mean that popular resistance has ended, as the present wave of actions against the jailing of the Catalan ministers, featuring a November 8 general strike and culminating in a Barcelona mass protest on November 11, confirms. The movement retains its strength and may even mobilise previously untouched layers of the Catalan population appalled by the jailing of the leaders of an elected government.
If and when the managers imposed from Madrid eventually move against Catalonia’s firefighters, railway workers, teachers, health workers and other public servants, they will more often than not run into a wall of non-cooperation, organised through the most active trade union confederations and the Committees to Defend the Republic. In addition, the country’s 750-plus pro-independence councils (out of a total of 947) will continue to project the symbols of the Catalan Republic and to organise what disobedience they can get away with in their “liberated zones”.
The scare campaign
The Rajoy government has made the December 21 election a decisive test of strength between pro-independence and pro-unionist forces. How does unionism plan to mobilise the extra 200,000-250,000 votes election analysts calculate it will need to win? Such a level of mobilisation would see the participation rate climb over 80%, surpassing the previous record of 74.95% reached at the “`plebiscitary” elections of 2015.
The size of the task is revealed by the latest polls: all show a slight swing to the unionist parties but none yet show them winning enough support to wrest government from the pro-independence parties, who at most would depend on critical support from Catalunya en Comú.
The core unionist strategy—common to the PP, its new right clone Citizens and the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC)–will take the form of the mother of all fear campaigns. Catalan voters will be bombarded with the message that a vote for the pro-independence parties and even Catalunya en Comú will bring economic disaster, job loss, the destruction of social welfare and entrenched discrimination against Spanish-speakers. The specific gaol will be to terrify those who never or rarely vote in Catalan elections to come out to save their families’ future.
The economic blackmail will include the refusal to return home of the 1800 firms who have shifted their headquarters out of Catalonia since early September unless stability returns and a decline in tourist bookings and planned foreign investment because of “alarm generated by the uncertain political outlook”. Indeed, the Rajoy government is not above damaging the Spanish economy’s own economic prospects (Catalonia accounts for around 20% of Spanish GDP), if some self-harm is needed to defeat the “secessionist threat”. PP government spokespeople have also made it clear that, even if the pro-independence forces win on December 21, the intervention under article 155 will remain in place—the Catalan parliament elected will basically be a talk shop with all its legislation subject to vetting by Madrid.
The other fear campaign will be aimed at frightening Catalonia’s Spanish-speaking neighbourhoods with the nightmare that awaits them as second-class citizens cut off from the Spanish homeland. This was the tone of the two large unionist demonstrations to date: the Catalan threat to the unity of Spain wasn’t just illegal and unconstitutional, it would mean Spaniards becoming foreigners in their own country.
Amidst this hysteria, the only half-credible line of attack unionism has is that independence could never have taken place and that obsession with meeting the independence movement’s eighteen month timetable for “disconnection” meant that the concerns and needs of ordinary citizens were sacrificed.
The incomplete preparations for independence—driven by deadlines that the 2015 Together For The Yes campaign set for itself and which the Spanish government and courts intervened to upset at every turn—provides ammunition for this line of argument. Civil Guard wiretaps of conversations between Catalan treasury secretary and ERC member Josep Lluís Salvadó (one of the senior public servants arrested by Spanish authorities on September 20) have revealed that finance minister Oriol Junqueras had been told that the Catalan tax office was far from ready for independence but kept this from Puigdemont and the rest of the cabinet.
According to the Civil Guard transcript of the wiretap, on August 30 Salvardó told a Catalan government adviser called Raül Murcia:
For the month of October [date of independence in case of a Yes vote] the capacity is not there, we don’t have control of customs or a bank. The thing doesn’t stand up, it’s very premature. Anyone with half a brain knows that. Now, it gives me a panic attack that if we convey things as they really are, these people will end up not authorising it [independence] so that they can blame Junqueras for not having prepared the country so we could declare independence on October 2 … If we tell the truth we’re dead. If we say what the real situation is they will end up saying that the department of economy hasn’t done its job and, as such, it’s Junqueras’s fault.
The PSC in particular will hope to exploit this and other material in the Civil Guard transcript to draw attention away from its own support for the article 155 intervention and pose as the party that tried throughout the “intoxication” of the independence process to look after the interests of ordinary working Catalans. For its part the PP will put in an immense effort at doing what it did so well in the June 2016 Spanish general elections–mobilise every last vote from the nursing homes against the “red separatist threat” that is hanging over Spain.
What basis for unity?
How, then, will the pro-independence forces confront December 21?
The response of the ANC has been to call for a single ticket of all forces committed to the repeal of the article 155 intervention, the release of the political prisoners and the recognition of the October 1 result as binding. This ticket would encompass all forces from the most conservative parts of PDECat right across to the CUP and even pro-independence parts of Podemos Catalonia. The PDECat its November 3 National Council also endorsed this approach.
There is a precedent for such an all-embracing ticket in Catalan political history, the broad electoral front Catalan Solidarity that in 1907 won 61 of the 64 Catalan seats in the Spanish parliament in reaction to the militarisation and recentralisation policies of the Spanish government of the day. However, a 2017 version now seems unlikely, despite the call from the ANC, PDECat and Puigdemont himself.
The underlying cause is the leftward shift in Catalan society over the years of the rise of the independence movement and in particular over the past two years of Puigdemont government. The main reflection in politics has been the displacement of PDECat by ERC as the leading pro-independence party, with recent polls showing the ERC winning up to three times as many seats as its more conservative ally and rival.
At its November 4 national council meeting the ERC voted that it would support an all-embracing Catalan Solidarity-style single ticket, provided that it really was broad and the CUP was involved, but would not support a re-edition of the Together for the Yes (JxSí) coalition in which it was a junior partner to PDECat. The PDECat still considers a re-edition of JxSí the next best option.
At the time of writing, the most likely outcome would seem to be what is being called a “common front with separate tickets”. The common front would be based on five demands: rejection of the article 155 intervention, recovery of the Catalan institutions, release of the political prisoners, withdrawal of the 12,000 Civil Guards and Spanish National Police and the launching of a constituent process for the Catalan Republic. The common front could also have a visual logo or identifying mark (such as “Democracy!”) to appear alongside the name of each of the lists, marking them off from the unionist tickets.
Was October 1 a binding referendum?
Some in the pro-sovereignty camp, especially the left in the ERC around Joan Tardà, hope to draw Catalunya en Comú into come sort of complicity with this approach by stressing the need for a broadly-based constituent process involving all forces who support a Catalan right to decide. These forces also do not rule out a negotiated referendum with the Spanish state, in opposition to those who insist that October 1 was the referendum.
With the takeover by the Spanish state now set to unfold, four positions are crystallising out as to how to regard October 1. There are those, principally Catalunya en Comú, for whom it was never a binding referendum, even though they grant it great value as a mobilisation in favour of a Catalan right to decide. The weakness of this position is that it can’t really acknowledge that the up to three million who came out on that day (of whom 2.3 million managed to register a valid vote) actually thought they were participating in a referendum.
At the opposite pole are those, especially within the CUP, who see October 1 as having settled the question of a referendum once and for all, with the struggle now focussed exclusively on the consolidation of the Catalan Republic. However, this position brushes aside the relatively low participation on a day dominated by police violence (the Yes vote amounted to 37% of the electoral roll of 5.5 million), and the undeniable fact that many voters who would oppose independence did not feel that the referendum was legitimate (the highest figure at which participation could be put is 56% compared to the 75% in the 2015 “plebiscitary” Catalan poll).
The third position is to recognise the referendum as binding, to advance with the constituent process of the Catalan Republic however much that is really possible and to continue to consider the Puigdemont government as Catalonia’s legitimate government, but with a view to continuing the fight for a negotiated referendum whose result would have to be accepted by other states (the result of October 1 has not been recognised by even one).
Lastly are those who don’t see taking a position on October 1 as a central concern because the chances of making real the declaration of independence based on it are judged to be very remote and the most important task is to increase pressure on the Spanish state to end its intervention in Catalonia and negotiate. This was the meaning of a November 6 statement by around 150 well-known Catalan cultural, political and intellectual figures demanding that all parties standing on December 21 include the demand for a negotiated referendum in their program. The list of signatories was notable for its breadth, including former PDECat, PSC, ERC, CUP, Initiative for Catalonia-Greens and even one PP figure along with cultural and sporting personalities.
Tensions in Podemos
The issue of how to regard the October 1 referendum has provoked divisions within Podemos, and even within Anticapitalists, its most politically homogenous current. A n October 29 Anticapitalist communiqué expressed no doubts about the adequacy of October 1, welcoming the declaration of the Catalan Republic and the launching of the constituent process as “without doubt a proposal that breaks with the 1978 regime, with its political consensus and with a constitutional order that serves the elites.” At the same time, statement acknowledged that
the new Catalan Republic faces internal challenges that cannot be ignored in a country where a significant section of the population does not feel represented by the pro-independence movement. The first challenge for the process is to work to overcome this division, integrating the popular sectors not supportive of independence into a project for the country, avoiding the social confrontation that only benefits the forces of reaction while at the same time organising a movement capable of resisting the repression of the State. The constituent process must be a instrument operating in that direction, integrating the demands of the popular classes that go beyond the national question, putting social issues in the centre and radically democratising Catalonia.
But what if the “significant section of the population that does not feel represented by the pro-independence movement” regards October 1 and the constituent process arising from it as illegitimate and alien? This was the concern of the leading members of the Anticapitalists current in Andalusia, Teresa Rodríguez (general secretary Podemos Andalusia and head of the Podemos fraction in the Andalusian parliament) and José María González, mayor of Cadiz). They stated in a joint communiqué that “as Podemos has expressed on various occasions, unilateral solutions, short cuts that don’t take account of the other half of society, whether from one side or the other, will not work” and said they “continue committed to the road of dialogue and negotiation to achieve an agreed referendum to solve the crisis.”
The genuinely thorny issue here—how to value, remain loyal to and build on the heroic achievement of October 1 while finding the way forward, under enemy fire, to overcoming its shortcomings—never troubled the Pablo Iglesias leadership of Podemos in the Spanish state. Having first urged Catalans not to vote on October 1, the state Podemos leadership moved to block Podemos Catalonia, led by general secretary Albano Dante Fachin, from testing out whether it should be part of a united campaign of all forces, pro-independence or not, that support a Catalan right to decide and oppose Rajoy’s planned destruction of Catalan autonomy.
The Iglesias leadership had already decided that its preferred option for December 21 was for Podemos Catalonia to be part of the Catalunya en Comú campaign, whose line was best summarised in Barcelona mayor Ada Colau’s expression “neither 155 nor UDI [Universal Declaration of Independence]”. Iglesias has been opposed to any alliance with pro-independence forces, basically because he judges that it would destroy any chance of winning support from working-class unionist voters—first in Catalonia and later across the Spanish state. Their vote would go to the PSC or even the new-right Citizens. (The November 7 CIS poll, taken after the October 27 declaration of independence, showed that these fears are not groundless—the only party to gain in voting intentions–from 14.5% to 17.5%–was Citizens, the most Spanish-centralist outfit of all.)
Using its power to require regional Podemos organisations to conduct membership ballots on important questions, the Spanish state Podemos leadership asked its Catalan members take position on this proposal:
Do you support Podemos standing in the December 21 elections in coalition with Catalunya en Comú and related political forces that do not approve either the declaration of independence or the application of article 155, with the word Podemos in the name of the coalition and on the voting paper?
No alternative could be presented and no organised debate took place. The result, with a record 17,000 members taking part in the ballot (60% of the membership), was that 12.432 (around 72%) supported running on the Catalunya en Comú ticket while 4876 (28%) were against. This result reflects the political composition of Podemos Catalonia, which on the national question is roughly divided in thirds between members who don’t want any change in the structure of the Spanish state, members who want a more decentralised state, and members who support independence.
Before the result of the ballot was known Fachin, describing the intervention from Madrid as “Iglesias’s 155”, resigned and was followed by eight other members of the Podemos Catalonia executive, including fellow Catalunya Yes We Can (CSQEP) MP Àngels Martínez. These resignations embody the final split between those forces within the non-independentist Catalan left which basically accept the legitimacy of October 1 (three of the Podemos MPs in the CSQEP parliamentary group including Anticapitalist Joan Giner) and those that don’t (the rest, with a majority of them coming from Initiative for Catalonia-Greens).
In his resignation media conference, Fachin commented that the poll of Podemos Catalonia members was based on “a trick question that treated members as underage”, adding that:
Pablo Iglesias has put his foot in it again just as he did with October 1, when he said that [if he were Catalan] he wouldn’t participate and the rank and file afterwards said that they would. Once again he displays his inability to understand what is happening in Catalonia … [T]he worst of it all would be if Catalunya en Comú ended up adopting his position uncritically. Doing politics on the basis of diktats from an office in Madrid—we’ve already got Miquel Iceta and the PSC for that.”
Pablo Echenique, the Podemos organisational secretary for the Spanish state justified the state leadership’s intervention in Catalonia in these words: “How was the State Citizens Council [Podemos state leadership body] not going to take a position on this if there was a possibility of forming an electoral alliance with parties that defend independence for Catalonia? I believe we would have been neglecting our duty if we hadn’t intervened in this case.” Describing the intervention as a “democratic cleansing”, Echenique added: “I would like when other parties like the PP or PSOE intervene in a region they do it by calling on the membership to make a decision. That would be nice to see.”
Reflecting on the political meaning of this experience, Fachin told the November 7 edition of the web-based Catalan daily NacióDigital: “What worries me, beyond myself and the party, is that what has happened in Podemos could be the confirmation of a much deeper problem, that synthesis between Catalonia and Spain is almost impossible.”
The CUP’s decision
At the time of writing it is not clear how Fachin and the Podemos Catalonia members that maintain the need for electoral collaboration between pro-independence and pro-sovereignty forces will now orient towards the December 21 poll. Short of trying to construct a separate ticket with like-minded forces from Constituent Process, their choice would seem to come down to joining either an ERC-centred or CUP-centred alliance.
The CUP’s 3000 financial members and sympathisers will meet on November 12 to decide their position towards December 21, for the pro-independence left an “illegitimate” election that will come second to the central task of “building the Republic”. The meeting will first vote on whether to stand or not: if the answer, as seems likely, is in favour, they will then have to choose between three options that have been most supported in discussions in the organisation’s territorial assemblies. These are: to stand, as in 2015, as the CUP allied with supportive affiliate organisations in the front Constituent Call; to take part in a broader left front that would exclude PDECat (and in which, it is understood, the ERC would not be interested); or to set up a “citizens ticket” that would leave out parties.
The option for a left front would be aimed at drawing in the main component of the pro-sovereignty left that has not yet found representation in the Catalan parliament–Constituent Process with its slogan of “a Catalan Republic for the 99%”. Such a formula would also possibly allow Albano Dante Fachin, who has refused to stand on a purely CUP ticket, to stand again.
The option for a citizen’s ticket would see figures like imprisoned ANC and Omnium Cultural leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart in leading positions, with Carles Puigdemont included as the legitimate president of the Catalan Republic. It seems unlikely that this proposal will succeed, simply because the political figures that would be required to make it work have different conceptions of what should happen on December 21, with Puigdemont, for example, supporting an all-party single ticket.
The October 27 declaration of independence, the stripping of Catalan autonomy under article 155 and the Spanish justice system’s creation of political prisoners have convulsed the political battleground in Catalonia and Spain and presented the European institutions with their biggest headache since the 2015 election of SYRIZA in Greece. As Catalan president Puigdemont asked a November 7 rally of 200 Catalan mayors in Brussels:
Mr Juncker, Mr Tajani, is this the Europe you want? Is this the Europe you are inviting us to build? Will you accept or not the results of the Catalan elections? If the people support the decision of the Catalan parliament and continue supporting an independent state, will you accept that? Or will you keep helping Mr Rajoy’s coup d’etat? We are prepared to respect the results, so our citizens have the right to know whether you will accept the result of their vote.
Whatever the final shape of the pro-independence and pro-sovereignty ticket or tickets for December 21, we are certain to see the dirtiest election campaign in modern Spanish history. At stake is whether the Spanish state can succeed in mobilising enough resources to defeat the pro-independence and pro-sovereignty majority in Catalonia–and open the door to a new period of reaction across the whole Spanish state)–or whether the mobilisation of the democratic forces can defeat this assault–and open up a period of crisis for authoritarian Spanish centralism in both its PP and PSOE variants.
Any socialist, any progressive, any democrat will be doing what they can to help tip the balance in favour of what would be an enormous victory over Europe’s forces of darkness.
Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona. He is presently running a live blog on the Catalan struggle for independence.