GISELA REVELLES 01/12/2020
Interview with Fernando Sánchez Costa, president of Catalan Civil Society (SCC)/ Image: Europa Press
At 36 years of age, Fernando Sánchez is the president of Sociedad Civil Catalana (SCC), the constitutionalist entity that was born in 2014 to confront the then all-powerful Catalan National Assembly (ANC), presided over by the now-convicted Carme Forcadell. Unlike his predecessors, Sanchez is clear that the presidency of the SCC cannot be the only image offered to society of this platform, which is now involved in mobilising the constitutionalist vote for the elections of 14 February. Circumstances have forced him to do a lot of internal work, but now, with his accounts in order and five times more members, Sánchez faces the coming months with only one idea in mind: “We constitutionalists have to go and vote to turn the situation around.
In recent weeks it has been published in some media that Ciudadanos (Cs) had asked him to return to active politics and participate in his candidacy for Parliament for the elections of February 14. Is this the case?
In fact, I have not had any invitation or any concrete offer. Over the last few weeks, we have had many conversations with constitutionalist parties in general and, in particular, with Cs. These conversations have been to see how to articulate a strategy of mobilisation in the face of the Catalan elections. We have also spoken with Inés Arrimadas and Carlos Carrizosa, whom I greatly appreciate politically and personally, about what each one’s role might be. But I have not had an invitation or a formal offer because they know very well that I am now completely focused and dedicated to SCC. My place is at SCC and they know that I am committed to developing a medium- and long-term strategy to win the cultural battle against nationalism in Catalonia. This requires a platform that goes beyond political parties. It must be a platform that brings them all together, that collaborates with all the constitutionalists but that is beyond the strategy of each one.
You were already in active politics years ago with the PP. This party has been reluctant to make a pact with Cs for the next elections. Previously, it had been the PP that had asked Inés Arrimadas, but she did not want to. Now the talks have been broken off by Cs after declarations by Pablo Casado in which it became clear that the PP was not in favour of making a pact. From outside the parties and as president of the SCC, how do you analyse this situation? Why is there this difficulty among the constitutionalist parties in Catalonia to reach agreements at such a critical time as we are experiencing?
I do not deny that many of us who have worked for the unity of constitutionalism in recent years would have been a little excited about a joint candidacy. Having said that, we absolutely respect the autonomy of political parties. We believe that they have reason to make decisions and now the important thing, on their part and on ours, is to focus on getting all the constitutionalists to vote on 14 February. The stakes are high. It is not just the independence or the constitutional structure of Spain, which is also at stake. We are risking our future and that of our children. 10 more years of proceedings and Catalonia will not recover in 50 years. At SCC we are completely committed to mobilising all citizens so that all those who voted for constitutionalism in 2015 and 2017 do so again. There is no room for pessimism. There is no room for discouragement. There is a great opportunity because we are fed up with separatism and it is immense.
CS HAS MADE ME NEITHER AN INVITATION NOR A FORMAL OFFER BECAUSE INÉS ARRIMADAS AND CARLOS CARRIZOSA KNOW THAT I AM TOTALLY DEDICATED TO SCC.
It seems that SCC had fallen into a certain lethargy. Everything was always waiting for actions of independence. It is as if the pandemic and the confinement had left everything on standby.
I do not entirely agree with that view. SCC, in a very delicate financial situation, has managed to increase the number of members fivefold in the last two years. We have significantly expanded our base and have maintained a constant activity that, right now, is focused on the digital. In this sense, we have been pioneers, ahead of the independence platforms, for example. We have also managed to overcome any disagreements that may have arisen in the past and to return to being the common home of all constitutionalists. And all of this at an extremely difficult time for the constitutionalist world. The old unity of action has been broken by the government in Madrid and, despite this, we have managed to keep people from the PP, the Socialist Party, Cs, and many others who are not politically active seated at the same table. And there we continue, we have made agreements, we have agreed on positions… And it hurts us a lot to see that this has been and is impossible in Madrid, where the logic of parties avoids a minimal constitutional harmony, as we did in Catalonia.
When the SCC burst into Catalonia, it did so as a constitutionalist response to an ANC that was managing a huge number of resources and had enormous influence on separatism. Over the years, that ANC has lost a lot of weight and you, SCC, seem to be looking for your place again. You have moved from a very presidentialist SCC to one where there is much more internal work and work for the entity and not so much for a specific president.
About a year ago we made the decision that SCC should be known more for its actions than for the statements of its chairman. It was a conscious decision that I promoted, and we believe that it is important for the consolidation of SCC in the medium and long term. That does not mean that, when the pandemic subsides a little, we will not raise our voices a little more to clearly vindicate constitutionalist sensibility in the public arena. Especially at this time when there is a clear risk that Madrid will once again confuse Catalonia with nationalism and that, once again, we Catalan constitutionalists will be made invisible. This is something historic. We do not count, and we are invisible to the Government and, at the same time, we do not count, and we are invisible to the national government, which subordinates Catalan politics to its interests and its parliamentary arithmetic in Madrid. This has happened for decades and is happening now. That is why it is important that there should be an independent, autonomous, and plural entity that can raise its voice, as we have now done with the Celáa law.
WE CAN’T TAKE ANOTHER 10 OR 2 YEARS OF “TRIALS” BECAUSE, AT THIS RATE, WE’RE GOING TO LOSE OUR MINDS AS A SOCIETY
It is very discouraging to see what the central government intends to do with the language in Catalonia.
That is why we at SCC are making it clear that it is neither fair nor acceptable for the official state language to be treated here as a foreign language. We are talking about the majority language in Catalonia, the mother tongue of most Catalans.
Independence has been gradually deflated. What are the consequences of this for constitutionalism?
It is clear that the actions of the pro-independence supporters have fallen. This has meant that the feeling of risk has diminished in constitutionalism. And that can lead us to a tremendous labyrinth. When independence is at its worst, when it has managed the COVID-19 crisis so badly that it has led Catalonia to a decline and a more than evident decadence, they are going to win the elections because of our failure to appear.
But we are talking about an independence movement that will go to the polls with Catalan and independence by flags, totally ignoring the consequences of its disastrous management of the COVID-19 economic, health and social crisis.
Yes, today we met a tweet from a character called Mark Serra who is running in the JxCat primary. He says that the Parliament does not need good managers, but people who are prepared to defend independence. This is the summary of what Catalonia has suffered over the last 10 years. When the world was changing profoundly and Catalonia had the opportunity to be a European and world reference, here everything was being thrown away. And now it is up to us to decide whether to enter another decade of confrontation and regression or to turn the page and rebuild Catalonia. In any case, it is true that SCC was born in some way as a replica of the ANC but, over the years and in the current scenario, we want to be more like an entity like Òmnium Cultural, if I may compare. It is a question of working not so much on strict political current affairs, but on the creation of cultural frameworks, of civic awareness, which end up having an influence in the medium and long term. I am clear that, sooner or later, we will manage to turn Catalonia around and most of Catalans will want to turn the page on this suffocating nationalism. In the end, thousands and thousands of Catalans will deny that they had anything to do with the process because they will be ashamed of having been involved in it.
IT IS UP TO US TO DECIDE WHETHER TO ENTER ANOTHER DECADE OF CONFRONTATION AND REGRESSION OR TO TURN THE PAGE AND REBUILD CATALONIA
If this is clear to you and me, why is it so difficult to have a constitutionalist front of political parties? Independence is increasingly atomised, and it seems that constitutionalism is going down the same path, although it is also true that the polls may surprise us all on 14 February.
Yes, I also think we can see a surprise because the level of boredom is extremely high. Especially because of the management of the pandemic. Many people are already aware that we cannot stand 10 or two more years of trial because we are going to lose our minds as a society. We, as a civil movement, hope to convince a large part of the public that the time has come to make a very profound change in Catalonia. It is true that in the constitutionalist sphere, unity of action is somewhat more difficult because we are not subject to the messianic tone of the process, in which everything is subject to populist discourse. The constitutionalist is more plural, somewhat less emotional, and more normal because, in addition to the national question, it considers social and economic issues, etc. In any case, the SCC is already calling on the constitutionalists to build, after the elections, a non-independence front to return to the tune of 2017. A harmony that served to get to know each other and to know that it is possible to govern together. Moreover, this collaboration between the centre-left and centre-right could be incredibly positive for Catalonia.
You even recently organised a debate with the leaders of Cs, PSC and PP, and there it became clear that there are more things that unite them than separate them.
Above all, it was clear that there is a great deal of agreement on the need to rebuild Catalonia and overcome this sectarian use of the institutions. Here we have experienced a terrible degradation of public space, of the institutions, of coexistence… But, in the end, the truth is that the solution to this is in the hands of the citizens. We expect too much from the State. It has never come to solve these problems and it is not going to come now. It must be us, the fraternal Catalans with the rest of Spain, who empower ourselves and decide to set out to change things in Catalonia. SCC, to a large extent, has been doing this. And as president, I invite everyone to leave the culture of complaining from the couch and to get involved in what we can. We do not have to wait for the State or Europe to come and solve our problems. It must be us.
THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF CATALANS WILL DENY IN THE FUTURE THAT THEY HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE ‘PROCESS’ BECAUSE THEY WILL BE ASHAMED
I understand, then, that SCC now has two immediate objectives. On the one hand, to mobilise the constitutionalists. And, on the other, to give a wake-up call to the parties so that they attend to this mobilization.
Yes, we have a double objective. To give a voice to constitutionalist Catalonia, to the million or so people who have taken to the streets and who no longer want to be invisible and are not prepared to have others decide for them. They want to play an active part in building the Catalonia of the future. We also want to raise our voice in the debate at national level because we do not want to go back to being a bargaining chip. On the other hand, we are also working on recreating the culture of bonding, contrary to what independence has done for so many years. We want to promote those links that exist, commercial, literary, artistic, business, sporting… To this end we have already launched a TV programme that is broadcast on YouTube and in which all the constitutionalists have a place and a voice. SCC is an instrument in the hands of the citizens. If anyone has a project, they should come to us because we want to get involved. And, in the short term, we are trying to get most of the population to vote on 14 February. If we all vote, we will give them a democratic kick and we will finally breathe. We need four, eight or 12 years to totally detoxify ourselves from the nationalist virus.