Manel Manchón – 09/02/2020
Josep Maria Sala (Barcelona, 1945) has been everything in the PSC. Now it remains in the background, but it is still a reference. It is part of the national council of the party, and participates in a multitude of events with social entities of every sign. He entered prison for the Filesa case, which affected the PSC and the PSOE, although the socialist leader always denied the participation of the Catalan socialists. He was secretary of organization of the PSC and now has a certain nostalgic look for a Catalan political map that maintained a balance between CiU and the socialists. In this interview with Crónica Global, with its agile verb that he has not lost, Sala points out that a new internal “pact” must be faced in Catalonia, but that everything goes through a moderation, from all sides: “You must return to the moderation, in national terms, ”he says, to clearly warn that the Catalan bourgeoisie“ has been asleep ”. Sala, who prepares a book on “the moments of the PSC”, asserts: “We have witnessed a strategic failure of the Catalan bourgeoisie.”
– Question: Is nationalism to blame of everything that has happened in Catalonia, which was going to derive, by force, towards this situation?
–Answer: Catalan nationalism, as such, no. Catalan nationalism had a reformist position. In a certain moment it makes the leap towards radical approaches and that is the problem. Nationalism is something rooted in Catalonia, but what has been is a drift towards independence.
– Should it drift towards that?
–No, we were also supporters of a classless society, but that does not condition you for more immediate actions. It has also happened in the Basque Country. The PNV would like to have independence, but they have considered, after an initial failure, that what they practice now was better. The problem is the drift, considering that they can get the situation on track, as the PNV has done.
– Can it be redirect to Catalanist positions?
It will be difficult, but we can find a moderate nationalism, which may not be, of course, the same as before. When we recovered democracy, Convergència was not Catalanist. It declared itself nationalist. We, the socialists and the PSUC, were the catalanists. Then they acquired that label. But I think they will have realized that independence is a path that has not led anywhere, and that they should rectify.
– At what time do you think that drift occurs and why?
The economic crisis was important. The loss of leadership of Jordi Pujol too. I think those two questions explain the clear drift in Convergence. Because in the case of ERC, the independence bet already existed. That leads them to make the leap, a bet of the leaders themselves, of Artur Mas, which leads them to join ERC.
Do you think the role of the leaders is essential?
–Totally. Yes, the problem now is the emptiness in the direction of Convergence. The directions set the course. Esquerra has a more defined plan, but everyone is also dragged by the CUP.
– Some intellectuals close to Citizens have considered that the PSC is, in fact, the legacy of Jordi Pujol, in the same way that Tony Blair was Thatcher’s legacy, according to the former British minister.
–Not at all. I find that expression unwise. We are the same as always. We are socialists, catalanists and federalists. And we are not going to move. We are not the heirs of Convergence, a conservative political force. We are what we are, and that is the success of the PSC. We have not changed the acronym. We define ourselves as socialists and catalanists for the same reasons. Convergence has never been a federalist.
–But one can understand that the PSC followed the rules of the game that had marked the pujolism, which never hit the table.
We never wanted to break society, something that Citizens have not done, for example, which has followed a different model of thesis and antithesis. Denial on the other side leads nowhere. The PSC tries to integrate society, another thing is that mistakes have been made. And they were committed, more tactically than strategically, as was the commitment to the right to decide. There were threats from some members of the leadership, which led in the election campaign (2012) to defend the right to decide. We shouldn’t have done it. But those who made an internal blackmail are now elsewhere: in Convergence, or in Esquerra, or in stand by.
– Whether they blackmailed or not, the fact is that they were inside the PSC, and that means that the PSC could defend those positions at some point.
What happened is that they did not resist the drift of Convergence towards the independence approaches. But the founders of the party continue, and there are many who are in that stand by position.
–Could you recover them?
What I defend is that you must have a positive attitude, in general, and, in particular, with some. With Marina Geli, for example, what I see is that she was very combative with the Convergence Health policy and is now with them. Then there is Ernest Maragall, who has also gone, to ERC. Quim Nadal, on the other hand, is in stand by, is a person we respect a lot. And I repeat that the founders are still in the PSC.
–Yes, Obiols, and others, with their different points of view.
– The parties have a hard time admitting mistakes. Was it, in the case of the PSC, the Statute, the formation of tripartite governments with ERC?
The tripartites were an opportunity to end long years of Pujolist governments and that change was convenient. The only possibility was that. The balance is reasonably positive. On the subject of the Statute, it must be said that Pujol was more cautious, and did not get into that issue. Perhaps it should have started with a constitutional reform, to cover a new Statute, although I admit that it would have been impossible with the PP.
– Something else could have been done, and not a new Statute.
–Yes, but it was also an election promise from ERC. An agreement had been reached, although, later, the methodology was not correct. The wording was offered to the Institut d’Estudis Autonòmics, chaired by Carles Viver Pi-Sunyer, one of the movement’s ideologues. But I repeat that neither the Statute nor the subsequent ruling of the Constitutional Court explain what happened. It was the economic crisis and the situation of Pujol, with his case in Andorra, plus that campaign by Artur Mas as a leader who was going to take the promised land, which drove the independence drift.
–But there was no data. It was rumorology that Pasqual Maragall picked up.
– So Maragall was wrong?
–No. He was recognized twenty years later. It was checked. But at that time there was no evidence. Convergence was transformed, the name was changed, and it made a great mistake, as now admit its own leaders.
– Wasn’t the PSC wrong with its policy regarding the public media of the Generalitat?
It happened more in the second tripartite, product of the negotiation, and of our position, weaker than in the previous mandate, where we had Caterina Mieres in charge of Culture. Then it was in the hands of Republican Tresserras. And it was preferred to have the educational policy than Culture, although it went to the hands of Ernest Maragall, which I don’t know if it was the best decision. But the tripartites exercised their role. A long stage of pujolism was closed. And we had as president José Montilla, a person who had no family roots in Catalonia, and that was important.
– Now, if positions are approaching in Catalonia, and pro-independence movement lands, is it time for a new internal pact, for the end of the consent policy, as Antón Costas says?
–Well, yes. The social consensus has been broken, that is clear and recognized. There are issues such as cultural or linguistic policy that require a new consensus. An attempt must be made to recover the consensus of the beginning of democracy, and independentist radicalism must be abandoned. It has to return to moderation, in national terms, and that is represented by the PSC.
– On what issues should one act?
The possible exits go through a reform of the Statute, with a Constitution that can cover it well; through competencies that do not remain at the expense of the governments of the day in Madrid; and through better financing. All this with a constitutional reform, with a federal perspective. Internally, plurality should be better reflected. Protect Catalan, but not to the detriment of Spanish. And see, in the matter of infrastructure, what can be done, because we have seen how some areas of the territory are, after the last storms, as in Terres de l’Ebre.
–And in the media of the Generalitat?
–Yes, also, because now they transmit the dominant position of the Catalan government. In private media there is more plurality. Public media are directed only to a part of Catalan society.
–Because, who broke the contract? The essayist Juan Claudio de Ramón pointed out that he does not believe that constitutionalism has broken it. Or has independentism defended some truths?
–In the diagnosis, there may be some meeting point, but not in practice. Independence has been wrong, it is a project that is not going anywhere. It is unfeasible. The issue, however, is that from the extremes there is no solution. There are two million people in each part. And, from the positions of the PP or Citizens this will not be fixed. Citizens do not have adequate therapy for the country. He has the one to deny, and that chronicles the problem. The criticisms they launch at the PSC are not based on the truth. We are federalists, we defend Catalan popular culture, from the most classic entities to those from immigration, or from new migrations. In Convergence these expressions were given coverage from Social Welfare!
–But Citizens nourished the leaders of the PSC
Of PSC voters, of little leaders. Very few. At the beginning yes, with the linguistic immersion, there was a pole of attraction towards Citizens. But for a long time they had three deputies. Then, with our weakness, with the right to decide, they increased their weight, because they did not see us strong enough before the independence drift.
–That weakness can appear again now?
-No, we have learned. We have the position we wanted to have, with a recovery of confidence. But we must explain the situation very well, with the Spanish Government in charge, with the idea that it is possible to reach a more reasonable Catalonia.
– Can this new PSOE relationship with Esquerra harm the PSC, which now appears as a possible ally?
–I think not, because in Catalonia it has been preferred that there is a leftist Government, and that radical climate that has been created against that Executive, helps us close ranks here. The right-left axis is still very important, after being blurred for a while.
– Has the PSC always had a complex of not going out to win in the Catalan elections? Can you believe it now?
We have always been criticized for that. Now we must go out to win, in deputies, although it is difficult for an electoral law that will have to be changed once at some time.
– How do you go out to win?
Working hard, and believing in it, believing that it is possible. This time with Miquel Iceta is possible. We must convey that it is convenient for the country that the new stage is headed by someone who looks at both sides of the abyss. And I think that moderate Catalanists who have no refuge and non-independentists are convinced that there is a non-independence party that can win the elections. That is a useful vote. And if we stay as the first game, many things can be changed. When talking about a new tripartite, I think it is not taken into account that it is a formula of the past. No longer exists.
– Can those Catalanist formulas, such as the Democratic League with Lliures, bear fruit?
Moderate catalanists can come together in the PSC. The important thing is that a non-independentist party wins the elections. And to join later, may things change. Diversity may be present in our lists, with the current relationship with Units per Avançar. If the PSC vertebratses an alternative, the Comuns will be added, sure.
– In Barcelona, Jaume Collboni has not been overshadowed by the figure of Mayor Ada Colau?
–Not overshadowed, what happens is that it has the cost that mayors are always those who benefit from the actions of the municipal government.
– Will Collboni benefit, however, from those fruits?
Those fruits are already being seen, yes. It is seen with the economic promotion led by Collboni, or with security policies, with Albert Batlle in charge. The important thing is that the city goes well. And then the fruits will be collected. And I say this because I still don’t understand the position of Citizens, who didn’t support Colau’s vote, as Manuel Valls did, which seems to me to be a clear and understandable decision.
– What has happened to the economy class in all these years? Do you think Catalan business has been up to par?
We have witnessed a strategic failure of the Catalan bourgeoisie. Now it seems that is beginning to recover. Entrepreneurs thought they could make a profit based on certain supports. But what has happened in the Chamber of Commerce is the reflection of that failure. They have fallen asleep. Now, Foment, the Circle of Economy or Pimec are in the right direction. The Catalan bourgeoisie, at one point, was confused. They hoped to get more fruits from Madrid, and they didn’t know how to stop. Now they are paying those positions, I reiterate, with the loss of the Chamber of Commerce, with very peculiar leaders.
–Is Artur Mas recoverable?
–Is something they have to decide, the convergents. If the decision is to have him, let them do it. People learn from mistakes, and it is clear that moderate nationalism, if they want to be, lacks leadership. But I don’t know what they want to do, while Puigdemont and Torra circulate.
–You knew Jordi Pujol’s 2000 agenda. Did you trust that it would never be fully applied?
What we do know is that Pujol would not have done everything that has happened in Catalonia in recent years. But Andorra happened, and the convergents were left without leadership.
Do you think you can trust Esquerra now?
–We have to check with time We must give confidence. If you distrust everyone, is bad. We will see if they enter the path of rationality. But it is true that its story is what it is. They broke the Statute agreement, did not support Joan Reventós in 1980 and preferred Jordi Pujol. It is a long story. We will see.
– What lessons have been learned by the political parties, after your experience with the Filesa case, which took you to prison?
— I’ve said it many times, that the PSC had nothing to do wiht Filesa, regardless of whether it was my turn. And against the PSOE, later, they didn’t find anything else. The PP lost the Government, but people learn. And I don’t think the PP will return to things like Gürtel.
– What should be done now with the imprisoned pro-independentist politicians? Will there be a way out for that situation?
The line of pardon and amnesty is very complicated. Perhaps a reform of the penal code, if done well, can be a way out, because it is true that what happened, which seemed more like a rebellion, was fitted as a sedition because it was not understood that there was violence. Perhaps that reform of the penal code, with tighter penalties, could be a way out, but everything must be done according to the legal channels, and without the impression that it has been ‘an arrangement between some’. In any case, Catalonia needs a little respite.