Nicolás Sartorius – February 19, 2021
Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Alternativas Foundation
Image: The acting vice president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonés (i); together with the ERC leader and former vice president of the Government, Oriol Junqueras.
In the analysis of the recent Catalan elections, issues that are obvious are highlighted and others that are much less obvious are marginalized. The extraordinary abstention or low participation is mentioned and this is justified in the fear of the virus and bad weather. However, the significant fact is not highlighted that, in the rich districts of Barcelona, where the candidacy of the nationalist right (Junts x Cat) has largely won, participation has been up to 20 points higher than in the poor neighborhoods , in which the PSC and the non-independentist left have triumphed more than anything. This shows that pandemic has hit more in the popular layers and the greater detachment of these with respect to the Catalan institutions, colloquially called ‘indepes’, in that autonomous community, due to how disastrous the government of the right has been. Without forgetting that nationalists were, in principle, more mobilized by having political prisoners and escapees among their ranks. Having inmates who go out during the day to participate in campaign events is not exactly an obstacle to success, quite the opposite.
However, the PSC has undoubtedly obtained a splendid result by becoming the first party in Catalonia, and it has been shown that the “Illa operation” has been a success. But, in my opinion, the most relevant thing is that the Socialist party has far exceeded among the broad sectors of the workers in the so-called, with poetic license, ‘red belt’ in Barcelona, which in 2017 had voted for Ciudadanos. It has thus increased its social base among workers of all classes and, probably, has loosed identity ballast, which would explain the sanitary cordon that all ‘independentists’ intend to impose on it, an operation that, if maintained until the end, it would stink of classism of the worst kind, although some of the conspirators call themselves republican and leftists. Because when Junqueras affirms that ERC cannot govern with the PSC because they are the “opposite pole,” what is he trying to say? Or is it that ERC is not actually as left-wing as many fear?
“Independentists”, for their part, are very proud of the result, as they say they have won the elections. It is true that adding the independentist seats of JuntsxCat, ERC and the CUP reach 74 deputies and, in the sum of votes – counting those of the PdCat, which has not obtained representation -, they reach 50.7% of the votes. However, they do not like to remember that they have lost more than 600,000 voters compared to previous consultations, that in terms of the census they barely reach 27%, and that of the 20 most populated cities in Catalonia, including the capital, the PSC, the left and the non-independentists have won in 15, in 3 JuntsxCat and in 2 ERC. Without forgetting that 29% of the population live in Barcelona and 74% of the total of Catalonia in the homonymous province, and in both the left and the non-independentists have triumphed. Does anyone believe that with these results there is a “drive to separate from Spain” or move towards independence? They would be tragically wrong if they thought that.
The right wing, which calls itself, in a manifestly mistaken way, “constitutionalist”, have sunk into misery. Ciudadanos’ barn has emptied towards abstention, towards PSC and, probably, towards VOX. One cannot win the elections in 2017 and do nothing at all with more than a million votes when, in addition, it is proclaimed from the rooftops that it is a liberal center party and to govern continuously with Vox. Since they are described as “center”, they could have diversified the risks: in Andalusia with some, in Madrid with others; but no, always with the PP and with Vox. The problem of the PP is a different matter and consists in that it does not have a discourse and / or alternative for Catalonia, because it does not, for the moment, have an offer for the plural Spain in which we live. In Galicia, at least, they have been practicing a mild conservative Galicianism that is giving them good results. It is true that in Catalonia the bourgeoisie ground is busier, but nothing is lost by trying. To make matters worse, on this occasion, a far-right Vox has eaten his snack with a radical anti-nationalist discourse, of the worst Spanish nationalism, fed of xenophobias and various dissatisfactions, of those who feel abandoned by one or the other.
In fact, when one enters the guts of the electoral colleges one realizes that they have been the elections in which the class struggle has manifested itself with the greatest evidence. Let’s stop short stories and semantic juggling. The ‘independentist’ nationalism represents the richest sectors of Catalan society which, as always happens in these cases, drag down popular layers with various lures. However, the leadership of the ‘national movement’ is always in the hands of the large, medium and small bourgeoisies, plus the additions of agrarian sectors of the Carlist tradition. You just have to analyze the neighborhoods of Barcelona, the towns of the interior and the big cities, as we have already pointed out.
But then, how is it that ‘independentists’ parties get more deputies? For the simple reason that the electoral law that governs Catalonia is the Spanish one, which gives priority to the least populated provinces and punishes Barcelona, the most populated and the least nationalist. Otherwise, they would hardly win a single election.
In the end, the numbers are the numbers, and once the counting is done, arithmetic and / or geometry takes over. Of course, there are several options that are open, but essentially there are two, apart from the electoral repetition, which can never be ruled out: either it is governed in an independentist key, that is, more of the same, with the trio ERC, Junts and Cup, or a solution is making its way to the left – basically what the ballot boxes have indicated – with PSC, ERC and the Comúns (in this or another order).
The hypothesis on which ERC insists to add the Comúns to the ‘indepentist’ trio does not seem realistic or viable, and would be dire for the Catalan left and the Government of Spain. Can you imagine the Comúns of Podemos governing with the Catalan ‘right wing’, isolating the PSC, while governing with the PSOE in Spain? As Mrs. Albiac says, it is an unaffordable option, except in a “suicide mode”. The formula for the independence blockade is more of the same, which has failed in recent years, to return to the usual abnormality, to a dead end. When the right of self-determination and amnesty are advanced as central axes of the program, it is indicating that they do not want to agree to anything, since both things are not in the hands of any government of Spain to grant them, since they are clearly unconstitutional. Another thing would be the pardons or agreements on the improvement of self-government, financing, etc.
Catalonia cannot get into another dead-end labyrinth based on impossible dreams, in the midst of a pandemic that wreaks health, economic and social havoc, and with European recovery funds at the doorstep. The will of the voters has clearly marked the turn to the left, this and not another thing the vote said, because to one degree or another the right have gone wrong, apart from Vox that does not play, unless we end up doing all the stupid things together.
It is the moment for a left-wing government in Catalonia that allows addressing the serious economic and social problems that Catalan society has, like that of Spain as a whole, truly protecting the people who need it most and making an agreement viable that it begins to solve the existing political problem, with federalist formulas that make the whole of the Spanish State work better. And that is impossible to do by governing with the Catalan right and isolating the PSC, and in fact the Comúns, which are the ones who govern in Spain.
Therefore, ERC has to choose once and for all. Calling oneself a leftist and a republican does not mean anything if later it always ends up in the arms of the right and conservative and unsupportive policies are practiced. The deceptions cannot last a lifetime, although unfortunately there are those who allow themselves to be deceived throughout existence.
Nicolás Sartorius chairs the Advisory Council of the Alternativas Foundation. His last book is entitled ‘The new abnormality: for a new normality’ (Espasa).