JOSEP GISBERT, BARCELONA, 15/08/2021
XAVIER CERVERA (PHOTOS)
Jordi Pujol converges with Esquerra
Coincidences and similarities between the current thinking of the ex-president and the discourse and government programe of ERC
For Catalonia to continue to be able, at the same time, to defend its national identity, its coexistence, and its vocation for social and human progress, it is necessary to have its house in order, and now it is not”. “The shake-up is great (…), which is why the country needs to raise its head again and open a new stage (…) that will allow us to move towards the prosperous, fair, green, feminist and fully free Catalonia that we want to be”.
The two sentences could perfectly well be by the same author. But they are not. The first is by Jordi Pujol. The second is by Pere Aragonès. The first is part of the last book – Entre el dolor i l’esperança – by the former president of the Generalitat. The second was delivered by the current occupant of the palace in Barcelona’s Plaça Sant Jaume in his inaugural speech on 26 May.
Recovery from the pandemic and commitment to dialogue are the two most widely shared priorities.
The example serves to illustrate the many coincidences and similarities that exist today between the thinking of the former undisputed leader of the CDC – now dethroned after confessing that for years he and his family had hidden money in Andorra – and the current discourse of the ERC and its government programme, adapted to the circumstances and possibilities of the moment, once Oriol Junqueras himself has shelved the unilateral path towards independence rehearsed on 1-O.
An affinity that today endures the time lag between the words of one – the result of an interview with Vicenç Villatoro conducted between February 2019 and June 2020 – and those of the other, basically because during this time the sentiment of the 126th president of the Generalitat, who after the re-founding of CDC did not continue in PDECat and then did not feel identified with JxCat, has not changed. He put it in writing in the last chapter of the book with a very significant question – I ara què? – and he has maintained it since his summer retreat in Queralbs.
One speaks of “moments of upheaval”. The other speaks of “shaking up the country”. But both refer to the same thing: the need for Catalonia to recover the momentum lost in recent years. They are well aware that the number one priority now is to overcome the health crisis caused by the covid pandemic and the profound economic and social consequences that ensue. And from here the rest will follow, which in any case is no small task. Above all, it will be necessary to rebuild the relationship between Catalonia and Spain and find a solution to the political conflict unleashed since the Constitutional Court’s 2010 ruling against the Statute.
Pujol’s recipe is clear: once it is clear that neither independence is strong enough to achieve independence nor Spain strong enough to annihilate Catalonia, the two sides need to be aware of the reality and, given the climate of impasse created, make “a new effort to come closer together” and “be capable of finding a climate of dialogue”.
Aragonès and his predecessor are concerned about the health of Catalan and link national freedom and social justice.
Dialogue is, precisely, the ERC’s great commitment for the legislature, which for the moment has been articulated through the negotiating table with the Spanish government, which in September will hold its second meeting in Barcelona (the first was held in February 2020 in Madrid). The immediate future of ERC will depend to a large extent on the success of this undertaking, which from the outset has already had to combat the scepticism of its partner, JxCat, important voices in which -Carles Puigdemont, Elsa Artadi…- are beginning to disavow the two-year deadline agreed to see if the dialogue works before embarking on another path. Aragonès will put amnesty and self-determination on the table, while his predecessor considers that “to move forward it is necessary to resolve the situation of the prisoners” and understands that “in no case could the point of reunion and relaunching be lower than the Statute approved by the Parliament and ratified by Congress” in 2006, before the intervention of the Constitutional Court.
If this has to be the starting point of the dialogue, neither the one nor the other prejudges the point of arrival. For Pujol it seems obvious that it will not be independence, and he would settle for “self-government for Catalonia that guarantees identity, democracy and social and economic progress”. And today’s ERC, even if it does not say so, would certainly not make a fuss about it. An identity that, as a “neuralgic point”, will have to pay special attention to the defence of the Catalan language, which it sees as particularly threatened and which is also a priority for its successor. And an identity whose “strength and effectiveness” must be ensured, so that it can guarantee “other indispensable components” such as the welfare state, social justice and economic progress. “Catalonia will be social or it will not be”, according to Pujol. “The struggle for social justice and national freedom is inseparable”, according to Aragonès. One speaks of “a single people”, the other of “thinking of the whole world”. And both speak of “Catalonia open to the world”.
The former president has not identified with JxCat; the Republicans make a virtue of possibilism. Who is close to whom?
The time in which the former president of the Generalitat explains himself in the book, between 2019 and 2020, the pre-eminence in the Government, presided over by Quim Torra, was held by JxCat, and for him Catalonia had settled into a situation of “great disorder”. “Some may believe that they have clear ideas, but it doesn’t seem so, right now I don’t see that there are any defined priorities as a country”, he lamented.
In all this time, and even more so between when he was president of the Generalitat and now, the political references of Catalan nationalism have changed. CDC has disappeared from the map, ERC is the leading political force and occupies the central position, and it is logical that there have been transfers from one side to the other. But who has moved closer to whom? Has Pujol moved to ERC? Or has ERC become the new CDC? Surely there must be more than one answer depending on the interests of each side. But whatever it is, the conclusion can only be that these are converging paths, i.e. convergent.