THE OBSERVER

The kind of people we want to be

We have the right to demand that our political leaders make a responsible calculation that any step taken will be sustainable over time and supported by an unquestionable majority

Luckily this time the next battle will be at the polls. A British reporter on a short trip to Barcelona was stupefied when attempted to understand the medium-term Spanish and Catalan political strategies. He couldn't understand either. I reassured him: many in favor of sovereignty don’t, either. We concluded, as a top Catalan businessman would agree a few days later in a private conversation, that if any positive lesson can be drawn from recent years, it is that Barcelona has not been bombed this time. The conclusion is not so cynical as it is a sadness disguised as irony that attempts to make bearable the impotence and humiliation of collective defeat. Collective defeat in Spain and Catalonia, words that have yet to be written or verbalized by some of the players who want to lead the future, given this stalemate that threatens to be become chronic, unless it is seriously worsened by a victory of the right in Spain. The victory of the right and the return of direct rule is an option that continues to seduce some who have not yet read what happened on the afternoon of October 27 after the declaration of independence, or who underestimate the importance of keeping the institutions alive.

The trial of the Catalan political prisoners has so far confirmed their determination and leadership, at the same time as it has also shown the fragility of the situation after this week's testimony by two high-ranking Catalan police officers. The sentence is open and the prosecution is beginning to have some public cards to play. While we wait for the verdict, which will mark a new political milestone, the preparation of electoral lists for the general election has become an agonizing process of reconstructing an ideological space, in some cases and, above all, one of controlling the lists. With a unified pro-sovereignty bloc in Madrid’s parliament once again ruled out, ERC is making overtures to Bildu with no internal conflict, while the post-Convergència space has played a leading role in a battle to kill the willing-to-negotiate soul that characterized the parliamentary group in Madrid. Presidents Puigdemont and Torra have drawn up customized lists with the surrender of David Bonvehí and Ferran Bel. Still divided between pragmatists and legitimists, the neo-Convergent space of PDECat (1), the pro-Puigdemont list of JxCat, and the Crida project are fighting over a restructuring that foretells the end of the Convergent PDECat, which favored negotiated agreements in Madrid, giving way to a position that the sector imposing it defines as "positive confrontation". Catalan president Quim Torra is strengthened and Puigdemont has shown that he continues to pull the strings from Waterloo, as even Inés Arrimadas recognizes. The unknown is whether Jordi Sànchez shares the strategy and will be in a position, from prison, to lead this new phase. At the moment, his first statements emphasize "trying once again to create a space for dialogue with Spain after April 28", but heading a list with key players from Torra's circle.

Resist or lead?

The country is bogged down with a sentimentally humiliated pro-sovereignty movement, prisoners with growing moral leadership but who are threatened with long prison sentences, an exile with unavoidable problems of disconnection, a stressed but disciplined ERC, thanks to the influence of Junqueras, and a tense pro-Puigdemont political alternative that has not yet defined its own ideological space.

Leading a country requires authority, responsibility, and a long-term vision that assesses the forces that it asks of its citizens at each step. Gaziel said that in Catalonia we do not know how to do politics. He defined it this way: "A player who we say has bad luck is not a player who always loses. Even the most unlucky have good days. It is the whole of his attempts to win his fortune that in the end finally sinks the unfortunate player. Not the impossible coincidence that, whenever he plays, he loses everything he gambles. If around an ill-favored table you find "the player that always loses", who realistically cannot play his cards without losing his skin, you’d be wise to distrust them right away. The odds are that he is not an unlucky player, but a bad one, which is a completely different thing. You just have to sit behind him silently to see how he plays. It will not take long to discover that he is playing spades when hearts are called for, and betting when he should pass, and not hitting on anything. Well, Catalonia is this kind of player." Gaziel did witness the Barcelona bombardment before writing The Kind of People We Are. Today we have the right to hope and demand that the country's president and political leaders make a responsible calculation that any step taken will be sustainable over time and supported by an unquestionable majority. The dignity of our institutions belongs to all Catalans, and the first test is that of today's reality, which precedes history.
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Translator’s note:

(1) To a large extent, Catalonia’s PDECat is the successor of Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya, the party founded by Jordi Pujol who went on to be the president of Catalonia for over two decades and had a pragmatic stance when it came to dealing with Madrid.

EDICIÓ PAPER 24/03/2019

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