Part II of Dispatches from the Catalan Front.
So today October 14th Catalan president Mas just finished a historic press conference assuring the citizens of Catalonia that there will indeed be a vote on November 9th despite the constitutional court’s suspension of the Catalan law of public consultations. How will this happen? Via Plan B: implementing the vote not as a public consultation but as an exercise of citizen participation, for which the Catalan gummint has full legal jurisdiction. Now this is actually a pretty smooth move by Mas, who has tricked the opponent’s defense with a public consultation decoy attack and is going for the hail mary pass to the citizen participation runner speeding towards the goal. His argument was straightforward and a perfect example of Catalan seny or common sense: our adversary is strong and intransigent, he said. It has blocked the public consultation law and if we butt our heads against that rock we’ll end up hurting ourselves. There is another option, so let’s use it.
Obviously, while such a vote would have no binding power (the originally proposed public consultation had none either), it would serve the same purpose of finally putting some real numbers on the citizen opinion in favor of each of the 3 possible options: same ol’ same ol’, federalist state or independent country. However, not everyone is thrilled at the new strategy, starting with Mas’ partners in gummint, especially the crazy republicans of ERC who want to have the public consultation and never mind the legal bollocks. This idea denotes certain recklessness which is hard to defend given the historical precedent of 1934, when the Catalan gummint led by Lluis Companys of ERC unilaterally declared Catalonia an independent state within the Republic of Spain (please note: NOT a separate country) which lasted all of six hours before the entire Catalan gummint was under arrest by the army for sedition. So… renowned philosopher George Santayana (born in Madrid… coincidence?) said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Said otherwise: “those who remember the past can choose not to repeat it”. In this regard I for one find the Mas gambit to be perfectly legitimate as a strategy… it may not work, but at least it won’t be the same mistake as before.
But even more interesting than the plan B is what Mas had to say about the “real deal”. This vote is not the real deal, he said, in the sense that it is meant to quantify the support for different options, not vote Yes or No like they did in Scotland. The Yes/No vote is the real deal, and Mas believes that this vote will never be allowed to happen here as such. The only way it can be done legally, according to him, is by using the Catalan general elections as a vehicle to celebrate a “referendum via elections”, in which the pro-independence parties join in a single electoral list for this purpose. This is a sly subterfuge, but it also has historical precedent in the successful republican Popular Front joint ticket in the 1936 elections, shortly before the start of the civil war. The logic is that the central gummint may be able to legally block a referendum, but not the general elections of an entire autonomous community. That’s the theory, anyway. In the practice, history tells us gummint is willing to go as far as it takes to “maintain the territorial integrity of (the kingdom of) Spain”. But president Mas is probably right that the “referendum via elections” is going to be the only feasible approach unless the central gummint changes its tune radically. However, given the current discourse of Spanish politics, which can hardly be called supportive of the Catalan cause except for the crazy Basques, it is difficult to foresee how such a change would occur.
The first reactions to Mas’ idea have been derisive from his opponents and unenthusiastic by his partners, words like “farce” and “charade” abound and the politicos are flapping around in circles of headless chickentalk. But the politico chickentalk award of the day goes –once again– to Spanish president Ratjoy, who having heard the rumor that the Catalan vote was off this morning before Mas gave his conference, told the Financial Times that the vote being off was good news because Spain was a democratic country. This is the second time in a week that the Ratjoy has equated not voting with democracy in public, which indicates he is either suffering from advanced cognitive dissonance or is confusing constitutional monarchy with democracy, i.e. the legalist approach as opposed to the populist approach, which posits (fair, transparent and high turnout) public consultation as the highest law of the land. But that’s just pecatta minuta, the point is that the Ratjoy comes off as such a dickweed that he is only helping to garner more international support for the Catalan cause. Which is more or less what happened in Catalonia too; a lot of Catalans who were on the fence with the issue have been rudely pushed off onto the independence side since the Pay Pay took the gummint.
Two days ago on October 12th it was Hispanity Day, the Spanish empire’s day of self-glorification par excellence, with a big military parade featuring the kingospain, flags, anthems and Randy Mandy the goat mascot of the Foreign Legion. In Barcelona the anti-independence or unionist supporters joined forces and got some 40 thousand folks into Plaza Catalunya, which is alright but far from capacity and even further from the Diada 9-11 turnout that got a million + folks making a giant V for Vendetta. It is no secret the unionists are vastly outnumbered on this issue, no matter how many flags they burn, so instead of campaigning for the No option on the vote, they follow the gummint line of campaigning against the vote itself while trying to pretend they’re the real democrats. They prefer to stonewall than to let the real percentage of the support for independence be seen in black and white by means of a vote, a strategy that can be called many things, but democratic ain’t one of them.
Four weeks to go and it looks like we might, just might, be back in the game. Will the wily Cap’n Mas find a way to thwart the hurdles put forth by Dr. Ratdoom? How will the twisted Ratdoom respond to this new challenge? Stay tuned for the next action-packed dispatch from the front! That ain’t all, folks! Not even close!
Thumbnail art courtesy of indyreader.org/files/article_images/vote.jpg