5 November 2021
One of the Assemblea sessions. At the table, Sellarès and Portabella. And in the first row, Benet and Carbonell.
Tomorrow, Sunday, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding act, in a Barcelona church, of the Assemblea de Catalunya, the unitary body of the Catalan anti-Francoist opposition. Its founding objectives, summed up in the slogan “Freedom, amnesty, Statute of Autonomy”, were achieved during the transition to democracy. The Assemblea was made up of political parties and trade unions that were then clandestine, professional associations, university and neighbourhood groups, and even religious organisations. The assembly that resulted from that confluence was cross-cutting and inclusive, and was organised around objectives that aroused the complicity of all those individuals and associations that yearned for the end of the dictatorship and the re-establishment of a regime of democratic freedoms.
Yesterday, the Parliament of Catalonia celebrated this fiftieth anniversary, in an official act charged with symbolism, which was held next to Antoni Tàpies’ painting 7 de novembre, inspired by the Assemblea. During the event, the President of the Catalan Parliament vindicated the founding principles of that heterogeneous but reasonably cohesive association, and seemed to want to draw parallels between the spirit of the Assemblea and that of today’s pro-independence groups. The president was right, then, to assert that the Assemblea represents values of unity and consensus. But she was wrong to draw parallels between the Assemblea’s project and those of the pro-independence movement she defends.
The unitary spirit of that platform would be very useful in this divided Catalonia.
History, despite the cliché, does not repeat itself. Or, at least, it does not repeat itself exactly. Each conjuncture has its own characteristics, which as a rule tend to be singular. There is no need to recall that in 1971, four years before the dictator’s death, there was a vindictive and hopeful atmosphere, and policies were being hatched, such as those that led to the creation of the Assemblea, in which what united the different forces was much more important than what separated them. So much so that, at that time, even the parties of internationalist obedience recognised themselves in Catalanism. The representatives of the democratic formations then forgot their differences and joined forces to create a common platform whose fruits were satisfactory.
The situation is different now. We have enjoyed a regime of freedoms for forty long years – longer than the dictatorship -, Catalonia has experienced a unilateral pro-independence process that has divided and impoverished it, and even among those in favour of secession, divergences, often profound, prevail over consensus. It would therefore seem out of place for the pro-independence movement to try to capitalise on the Assemblea’s legacy. Because the system of freedoms is already a fact, because what happened under Franco’s regime is not comparable to what is happening in democracy, and because the Statute of Autonomy does not seem to be the objective of the pro-independence movement now.
The best lesson of the Assemblea de Catalunya is that when the different political representatives join forces, the bulk of society can end up sharing their goals of progress. That was the essence of its spirit and that was its best legacy. And this unity is precisely the goal that should be achieved. But not around sovereignty, since not all of Catalan society shares its goals, but among all those who consider themselves jointly responsible for the future of this country and, therefore, are willing to put aside their differences to work together in favour of collective progress.