JOAN Esculies – 22 AUG 2020
The president of the the Commonwealth of Catalonia (Mancomunitat), Enric Prat de la Riba.
“We need the strongest men in the party in the cabinet. We had to hold our own people together. I took a look at the party and concluded that these were the strongest men. So they had no right to deprive the country of their services.” This is how Abraham Lincoln expressed himself, according to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, to justify the inclusion in his executive of some republican figures who had opposed him in 1860 in the race for the presidency.
Lincoln convinced William H. Seward to serve as Secretary of State, Edward Bates for the position of Attorney General and Salmon P. Chase for Secretary of the Treasury in the mandate 1861-1864, in which the Civil War was unleashed. Goodwin brilliantly narrated the strategy to Team of Rivals (Simon & Schuster, 2005). The president of the United States earned the respect of the senator of New York, Seward, a priori his main opponent. The former governor of Ohio, Chase, on the other hand, plotted against him from the executive to relieve him in 1865 (he did not succeed). Even so, Lincoln kept it for his ability to finance the war. They were not the only rivals he attracted to his cabinet, but they were the most significant.
In 2009 Barack Obama justified the election of his party rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, to the post of secretary of state, according to Lincoln’s teaching. With knowledge of the history of Catalonia he could also have argued for this gesture, if he had taken the figure of Enric Prat de la Riba as an example.
We do not know how aware Prat de la Riba was of Lincoln’s biography. In any case, from 1914, as president of the Commonwealth of Catalonia, he went further than the Yankee. He formed a team with a line of antagonists to launch a broad project to modernize the country, to the extent that the budgetary and political limitations of the councils allowed it.
The socialist engineer Rafael Campalans was in charge of public services and served as director of the School of Labor. The leader of the Republican Nationalist Federal Union, Pere Coromines, joined the School of Higher Commercial Studies as a professor. The republican Catalanist Antoni Rovira i Virgili was part of the press office. Carles Pi i Sunyer, in the 1930s a member of ERC, was director of the Higher School of Agriculture.
These and many other profiles outside the Regionalist League committed themselves to the objetives of the Commonwealth. There is no need to mythologize Prat de la Riba – nor does Lincoln or Obama. His party was not the majority minority until the year he died, in 1917, so to govern he had to count on elements from the other minorities as well.
Prat was not magnanimous from an absolute majority, as is often believed, but a skilled politician capable of directing this new device with a simple idea: the progress of Catalonia. In essence, and regardless of its political ideology, try to make life better in general, aspiring to excellence with a commitment to what is possible and a European perspective.
It is not necessary to recapitulate the situation in which we find ourselves, like the whole Union. From Brussels, thanks to the almost Hamiltonian momentum, they will reach bottom: an opportunity. In Catalonia we have a lot to learn and to improve. Propaganda can no longer hide the fact that we have not been as far (or not at all) from the rest of the territories of Spain as we were, nor that we are not as much an engine for Europe as we were or thought we were. However, the forums and the press put forward proposals to take a leap forward.
The Catalan elections, which are urgent, will also be an opportunity. The next executive, of whatever color, should dispense with those cadres with no other merit than that of belonging to or applauding the ruling formations – the easy way – and attracting trained and committed profiles regardless of their ideology. Because there. It is not necessary to bring them together under bombastic labels (of concentration, of unity or of the best), nor for the parties to stop promoting their ideals (which is what they are for). One just have to follow, even at ground level, Lincoln and Prat de la Riba: set a feasible goal and unite talent to make it possible.