Alex Ramos, Barcelona 8 October
Alex Ramos Torre is co-founder and vice-president of Societat Civil Catalana.
Demonstration against the pro-independence ‘procès’ on 8 October 2017.JEFF J MITCHELL
Catalan Civil Society: Five years of a historic demonstration against independentism
Nationalist Catalonia punishes dissidents harshly, and the price for taking a stand against the pro-independentist ‘procés’ can mean civil death
Much has been written about the large demonstration by Societat Civil Catalana (SCC) on 8 October 2017. Today I would like to give a more personal view, as I had the privilege and honour of proposing and organising, on behalf of the SCC Board of Directors, that mobilisation. A challenge that was possible thanks to the involvement of the board and workers, hundreds of volunteers, the Fundació Boscà and, above all, the extraordinary lesson of dignity of a million people who seconded our call for seny.(common sesnse)
Initially, SCC had planned to demonstrate on 30 September against the dangerous secessionist drift, but the parties loyal to the Constitution (PSC, Ciudadanos and PP) dissociated themselves from the initiative at the beginning of September, so we preferred to call it off. Then came the fateful 1 October. With the Catalan authorities having executed the challenge to the constitutional order, the members of the SCC Board decided to reactivate the demonstration for 8 October without prior consultation with the parties. The huge social and media knock-on effect seems to have influenced no constitutionalist party to stay on the sidelines this time. Salvador Illa, Carlos Carrizosa and Santi Rodríguez, among others, played a key role.
Mario Vargas Llosa, Josep Borrell, Carlos Jiménez Villarejo and Francesc de Carreras also participated. Mariano Gomà, then president of the SCC, and myself as vice-president, managed to convince them. José Rosiñol, at that time a member of the Communications Committee, coordinated the Seny campaign.
The media impact of the speeches by Borrell and Vargas Llosa was impressive. Borrell, who was no longer in the political front line, achieved such public exposure thanks to the demonstrations of 8 October and 29-October that, coincidentally or not, he was first appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and then Vice-President of the European Commission. If in any way the SCC had an influence on this just promotion, it would be a source of pride for our organisation.
However, it is no secret that nationalist Catalonia punishes dissidents harshly and the price for taking a stand against the pro-independence ‘procès’ can be civil death. As an example, I received a furious reaction as a result of the public leadership of those two demonstrations. The day before 8-O, a very close political relative, a regular at nationalist demonstrations, sent me a message by WhatshApp full of barbarities that ended like this: “I never want to see you again in my life, not even on the day of my funeral”.
I worked at the Barcelona College of Physicians for 30 years as director of the Study Centre. The Board of Directors, chaired by Dr. Jaume Padrós, accused me of being “the enemy of the house”. For the next three years they emptied me of my duties and in October 2020 they proposed a dismissal from my job, which they retracted five minutes before the trial by recognising an unfair dismissal with severance pay. Politically reprimanded with the collegiate members’ money!
Thousands of Catalans have had to pay a very high personal and professional price for having contributed to the collective awakening of a large majority silenced by nationalism that has emerged as a political subject – firmly and with a vocation for harmony – to build a Catalonia without exclusionary projects. A majority that woke up five years ago on 8 October 2017.