Taking Catalonia Forward

Independence has meant for many years and for many Catalan citizens a standalone political objective. However, the grassroots process of the ‘Referendum about the Independence of Catalonia’, held in 554 municipalities of the Principality of Catalonia (2009-2011), brought a new and necessary dimension to the concept of Independence, evolving it from the ‘political objective’ to a ‘social starting point’. Today, the great majority of Catalans understand ‘Independence’ not as an end goal but as a necessary socio-political step to take ‘Catalonia forward’.

Prior to the actual vast and outspoken acceptance among Catalans that a Catalan Independent State is key to protect and promote Catalan welfare, Catalans have had to go through a building process of awareness. Awareness of their own sovereignty or, better put… the modern lack of it, and awareness of the real possibility to be again an independent and sovereign state if they so want.

One of the great achievements during these years of international observers and international media attention on Catalonia while voting Yes to Independence, has been to successfully introduce the assurance amongst our fellow Catalan citizens that the Independence of a nation, from the state by which it is currently ruled, is not an isolated claim due to ‘specific and out of ordinary’ intrinsic conjunctures, but a normalised exercise in Europe that surpasses the description of independence as a ‘dream’. A deep down damaging description, too often kindly accepted, may we add.

Independence is possible, as long as we democratically prove we want it, independence is a ‘doable’ reality just as it has been for all the new European independent states, including the Czech Rep. Latvia, Montenegro and all the dozens of independent states established since World War II.

We are not an exception of the already independent states’ global acceptance: ‘ruling one’s own house for the best of one’s own people’s interests is the best deal’. We agree, totally.

Catalonia knows about the benefits of Independence: during the last three years there has been a prolific increase in civic self-funded groups using their area of expertise to explain the advantages of being an independent state. Catalans today not only have all the legitimate historical reasons to support their claim to independence but also hundreds of extraordinary and positive current arguments; talking to others about the restoration of an Independent Catalan state is a joyful and positive experience for the anonymous citizen.

Economic reasons have played an important roll when explaining day-to-day, down-to-earth benefits, we know now how many more schools or hospitals we could have if we were allowed to use ‘in-house’ the taxes we raise thanks to ‘in-house’ efforts. Thanks to all this given data we have awoken a genuine, street-level interest to learn more. Concepts like fiscal plundering are not strange anymore for any ordinary Catalan citizen as is neither the economical grieve that Catalans suffer because of our attachment to the Spanish State and its defective democracy. Injustice, robbery, plundering… many socio-economical deficits have been uncovered to the general public.

But Independence is not all, or only, about having more money and proving data. Independence is about deciding for our own what to do with it; it is not only about collecting our own money but more importantly about deciding how we want to raise it and how we want to spend it for the best interests of our people. The real benefit of Independence is to build and live our own democratic system reflecting our national priorities while contributing directly on international affairs.

Catalonia suffers from an extremely hard fiscal deficit due to the eight per cent of the Catalan national GDP held yearly by the Spanish State, a sum of €16 Billion per year, not a small detail. Already since the 19th century determined complaints by Catalan intellectuals were raised. Catalans have been victims of an economical plundering like no other European nation. Worldwide recognised economists like Xavier Sala-Martín explain how an Independent Catalan State would meet Catalan Government debts only with its corresponding tax income.

Understanding this, it’s fair to conclude that all the sacrifices endured all these months by the Catalan citizenship have been due to unnecessary measures provoked by the systematic leak of our GDP from our nation that could be stopped with the correct political will. And of course, these budget cuts on social policies put in place by the Government of Catalonia affect mainly the working class leaving a great number of families in a very fragile situation.

The recent rescue demanded by the Catalan Goverment to the Spanish State of €5 Billion will not amend the actual situation, accounted as a debt increase on the fiscal balances will only increase the hardship on the social, already weakened, policies. Just to highlight again the shocking situation, Catalan Government is demanding €5 Billion to a state that retains €16 Billion of Catalans taxes.

At this stage, and taking into account the automatic political interference that comes with the financial rescue by the Spanish State into Catalonia’s decissions making, you would agree that it becomes reasonable to call the situation in Catalonia ‘outrageous’.

On top of all this, Catalonia has the infrastructure ready to collect taxes from its citizens. Catalonia has a Catalan Tax Agency already working colleting the three per cent of the total tax paid by the Catalan citizenship. It’s worth mentioning that a group of owner-directors, under the name of ‘DiemProu’ (we say enough) has started to pay their periodical Value Added Tax (VAT) to this Catalan tax agency, just to prove that Catalonia can already collect all of its taxes if a determined political will was really there.

We Catalans, whether we like to admit it or not, need to accept that it will be impossible to take Catalonia forward without knowing and understanding the legacy of Franquism. Its tentacles were and still are long and for this we must review our own steps. We need to be prepared to assume that the Catalan politicians who have led us to this actual situation will themselves be placed under the spotlight, with the aim to test the price they are willing to pay for Independence or, to the contrary, the price they are willing to pay to work against it. If ever confronted with the decision of choosing between oneself and the country, only the ones choosing the country will be saved.

Directly or indirectly, Catalan elite came to terms with a transition that has never ended, precisely, because it was flawed and insincere from the start. The false ‘mutual forgiveness’ settled at Franco’s death never allowed Justice to establish the new and necessary democratic social role models. The total absence of judgements levied against those reponsible for Franquism permitted their inheritants to enjoy an outrageous moral immunity that has resulted in an unchallenged abuse of power and subsequent corruption.

The Spanish dictator died, important to note, peacefully ‘in his bed’. The new ‘Spanish’ conversion to democracy was only considered because of his death and the transition was faced by a society that still had all the power structure of Franquism active and in place to tackle it. Catalan politicians accepted to establish a self-government for Catalonia that was simply a replica of all ‘Spanish’ territories; a governing system which, of course, has been proven to be an inefficient and an unfair model for all, rich and poor.

This strategy known as ‘coffee for all’ was designed to reduce the ‘national subject’ of the historical nations of Euskal Herria and Catalonia to mere Spanish regions. However, while almost succeeding to push Catalonia into an economical cul.de-sac it has, at the same time, unavoidably created for the real Spanish regions an unhealthy dependency on the richer region, a dependency that will only be remedied with the independence of Catalonia. And that is because with a strong independent Catalunya, Spain will gain an excellent partner to work out successful scenarios within this globalised and interdependent world. They just need to believe in our good will and promote their own.

To all this, after more than 30 years of collaboration, former President of Catalonia (from 1980 to 2003) Jordi Pujol, has recently and publically admitted his failure in attempting to insert Catalonia into Spain or, trying to ‘Catalanise’ Spain. Having worked against ‘uncontrolled’ independentist aspirations and having discouraged any increase of claims to political freedom from moderate nationalism, he has only recently confessed his non-independentist stand during all that time.

Catalan Nationalism accepted a powerless ‘Generalitat’, name given to the Catalan self goverment, based on Pujol’s political talent to manage a rich nation as Catalunya while ensuring calm internal waters. Nowadays ‘La Generalitat’, far from being the original sovereign institution that it was before Spanish occupation (1365-1714), it has been exposed as a farce, simply a branch of the Spanish government, which is the one which ultimately accepts or refuses what the Catalan Parliament decides. This, obviously erases any sovereign meaning when talking about the Catalan Parliament.

The end of the impotent autonomist system installed in Catalonia has arrived and with it the acceptance that the only solution to take ‘Catalonia Forward’ is to gain Independence.

It has been openly pointed out many times by both Scottish and Catalan representatives how convenient it would have been to combine both the Catalans peoples’ and the Scottish politicians’ determinations to win independence. I recall myself, on a visit to Scotland as part of the Catalan people’s group, having this very same conversation with First Minister Alex Salmond back in 2009.

Three years later, Scottish politicians have officially called for a Referendum about Scotland’s Independence with the consequent responsibility to lead the change from being a dependant region to the independent state. And to the great interest of Catalans they have done so without any auto-reaffirming popular referenda, neither massive street demonstrations, nor favourable polls for independence. All three being real cases in Catalonia.

In Catalonia 51 per cent would vote Yes for independence, by latest official polls, in front of a 24 per cent against, however, this ‘YES’ majority has a Catalan nationalistic Government not willing to make it politically effective.

The Scottish Government has shown to the world that real political leadership is about leading one’s people to what one believes is best for the collectiveness of the nation and creating the necessary scenarios to make it possible. Their determination does not follow polls, on the contrary, polls will be changed by their determination.

Despite the individual Scottish political party preferences and seeing the scenario from a Catalan independentists perspective, the SNP may in fairness be credited with already two key victories; the first one being the moment they decided, without a social majority for independence backing them up, to include the calling for a Referendum about the Independence of Scotland in their electoral program; Second, was to place their centre of gravity in no other place than Scotland’s national sovereignty while resisting UK’s pressure.

The Government of a sovereign Parliament, because elected democratically, is sovereign to decide all matters concerning the future of their People. The Scottish Government established that the ‘When, What and How’ questions are to be addressed only by the sovereign Parliament of Scotland, and these are to be answered by the sovereign People of Scotland.

Catalans demand that the nationalist Catalan political class, again in Government since 2010, accept their duty to listen and execute the necessary manoeuvres to ensure that the will of the 51 per cent majority prevails over the 24 per cent minority. The next elections will give no room for electoral euphemism, it will be a ‘For’ or ‘Against’ Independence debate. The official calling for a referendum about the independence of Catalonia will be in the electoral programs with a clear date and will become the centre of political party discussions.

Whenever millions of Europeans have to face political difficulties in order to exercise the Universal Right of Self-Determination in any European territory all European citizens should react accordingly, and in line with, a conscious understanding of fundamental European democratic standards. In all, an international understanding of the Universal Right of Self-determination does exist beyond national focus; it is not an issue to overcome alone and only by nations working to restore their full sovereignty.

The Independence of a European nation is not a bilateral struggle between the established State and the Nation wishing to become its own sovereign state, but an international event within an international framework full of treaties, resolutions and precedents to our advantage. The outcome of the Scottish, Catalan, Flemish, Basque and South Tirolers processes will be an important litmus test for European democratic standards, either exposing them as flawed, or affording them opportunity to uphold their values.

The European Partnership for Independence (EPI) works to encourage fellow European citizens to understand the importance of supporting the rights held by historical nations (represented by millions of Europeans) to exercise their ‘Universal Right of Self-determination’ free of issues and threats.

This reflection is made from the deep conviction that Europe will only be what it deserves to be once it shows unequivocal support for the democratic socio/political majorities working to exercise democracy to its full extent and that this suport is brought to bear irrespective of the democratic deficits that still exist in some European state’s systems. These two coming years will show us if that is already the case.

The whole world has been testimony, this September 11, of one of the largest social demonstration ever: 1.500.000-2.000.000 Catalans marching for the Independence. One more impressive display organised by the people of Catalonia. Now, we all hope that all this effort won´t end up being just a `nice’ photo finish but the prelude of an unavoidable and democrat political change through the official calling of a referendum for the Independence of Catalonia.

The Nationalist Catalan Government needs to offer an ‘action agenda’ free of euphemistic proclamations.

The will of the people for the Independence in Catalonia has once again been proved, there is, therefore, a demand for an independence’ political calendar. Catalans will not settle with any other ‘via’, not interested in better fiscal treats, this demonstration has shout crystal clear to the world: we, Catalans, want the political independence.

As Goethe said: “If after 3000 years of history we have yet not learnt, we will always live in the darkness”. Justice, Freedom, Equality and Peace for all!