The supporters of the break with Spain believed and made believe that they would have state structures: on 28 October 2017, that promise vanished.
The photo illustrating this information was taken on 28 October 2017 by EFE agency photographer Andreu Dalmau. “I reckon it was between 8 and 8.30”, he says. Dalmau took a photo for history. Plaça de Sant Jaume was deserted.
Fifteen hours earlier, very close by, the Catalan Parliament had passed the resolution unilaterally declaring Catalonia an independent republic.
But that morning in the Plaça de Sant Jaume, in front of the Palau de la Generalitat, which was to be the seat of the last government born in the heart of old Europe, nothing happened. Nobody turned up. There was nothing. And the Spanish flag was there.
Carles Puigdemont himself has explained that they gave up going ahead to avoid a bloodbath. Simultaneously to the declaration of independence, the Spanish government had suspended Catalan autonomy while the judiciary prepared the indictments that led – and may yet lead – many pro-independence leaders to jail.
In the independence movement’s blind spot – the blind spot when we look back in the rear-view mirror – the task of building the so-called structures of state was abandoned.
Mas saw the structures of state as a negotiating tool, Puigemont, we don’t know.
For five long years, from 2012 – under the mandate of Artur Mas – until October 2017 – under the presidency of Carles Puigdemont – successive Catalan governments worked hard on the conception and construction of the structures on which a new European state was to be built. In October 2017 they vanished.
There are thousands and thousands of documents (the documentation accumulated for this article alone totals 270 megabytes), enormous hours of work by civil servants and specialists in each subject who worked – many voluntarily – to decide, for example, how pensions would be paid, what would happen with nuclear waste, in which census the members of the new Catalan nation would appear or how international trade transactions would be guaranteed in a new country that did not wish to be disconnected from the world…. It was a question of constructing a rational, convincing narrative to accompany the epic of the moment. It was not a botched job and they were not bluffing, that was the message their leaders repeated wherever they went.
They wanted to construct a convincing narrative to accompany the epic discourse.
Was it all a sham? Some months ago, the then CUP MCP Gabriela Serra explained in an interview with journalist Gemma Nierga that shortly before the declaration of independence on the 27th, they were told that “there was nothing and there is no plan to make this viable”.
There was nothing. It’s not true,” replies one of the members of Puigdemont’s government who was tried and convicted by the Supreme Court, “a lot of work was done, there were many things. But you can make all the papers you want, paper is not enough.”
“A lot of work was done. But paper is not enough,” explains a former member of the government.
The vast majority of those who have spoken about their experience in order to write this article have preferred to do so anonymously. Among other reasons because even today there are still pro-independence activists awaiting trial for having participated in this task. Others prefer not to say what they think.
Between 2012, when Artur Mas’s government made the pro-independence discourse its own, and October 2017, there are at least twenty declarations, motions and political and institutional agreements that address and commit to the construction of state structures. In fact, Artur Mas’ government of December 2012 began with three parallel commissions. One of them already has the mission of building them. Pere Aragonès, the current president, was one of its members representing ERC.
The Consell Assessor per a la Transició Nacional was born, a project to be led by Carles Viver Pi Sunyer and which will finish its work in 2014. There, the cable box of an ideal country was exposed.
In reality,” explains one of the institutional officials of Artur Mas’s party, “it was a question of having a story with which to tell the Spanish government: we have a plan. And it was also the way to control it [within independence]. To prevent others from directing it”. To carry the baton. First Mas and then, definitively, Puigdemont would lose it.
In 2015, when Artur Mas was consigned to the dustbin of history and Carles Puigdemont assumed the presidency, Junts pel Sí – the coalition of ERC and CDC – undertook to hold a referendum in 18 months and… to have the structures of state ready. The consultation – an unprecedented popular and civil mobilisation – will take place. The state structures will not see the light of day.
During those months, Viver Pi Sunyer visited the ministers to find out how the task of building the structures was progressing in each area. A minister – also tried by the Supreme Court – who considered that this task was unfeasible, recounts how one of those visits went, “I explained to him how I saw things and he left the way he had come in”. Puigdemont, he adds, knew where he stood on the matter. “He never censured me for it”, he points out.
Paradoxically – seen from the current political situation of independence – the ERC-controlled departments in that government – particularly the vice-presidency led by Oriol Junqueras and the foreign affairs department – were the ones that worked hardest to build the future institutional architecture. And perhaps this explains their more pragmatic vision at the end of the procès. “They discovered then that ‘fer la independència’ was not so simple,” reflects one of those involved.
Not all the documents are known: perhaps it would be the best antidote to ‘fast food’ independence.
No source – perhaps because no one was able to get a complete picture – agrees on how many decrees should have been published in the Diari Oficial de la Generalitat after the declaration of independence in order to give birth to the state structures. Some speak of 50. Others of little more than twenty. None of them saw the light of day. Their content is still not fully known today.
Perhaps the public exposure of all these documents would help to make what happened more comprehensible and would embarrass those who still preach fast food independence.
Is all this information stored somewhere? An employee of CTTI – the Generalitat’s digital services provider – admits to having seen this repository somewhere.
On the same day, 28 October, the Official State Gazette did publish the central government’s decrees. In them, the Generalitat was liquidated, its powers were divided among different ministries and all of the Generalitat’s foreign delegations were closed. Until mid-December, the Boletín continued to publish successive new decisions dismantling everything that had anything to do, even if only indirectly, with the structures of the state. One by one.