Francesc-Marc Álvaro 22/4/2021
Image: Llibert Teixidó
Much has been said about sovereignty and very little about power. The independence movement has looked for the lost keys in the lighted spot near the lamp and not where it had lost them. It is easier to speak of sovereignty than of power, especially if for centuries political power – that which depends on coercion and violence – has been exercised by others. That is why we dragged enormous conceptual misunderstandings that overlap with strategic contradictions and with the order-disorder tension, the most important to analyze the collapse of the procés.
In Eugenio Trías’s essay La Catalunya ciutat (published in 1984 and republished last year by Galaxia Gutenberg), the Catalan philosopher mentions some fragments of Gaziel’s memoirs. In light of what has happened since 2012, it is worth underlining what the great director of La Vanguardia wrote: “Real revolutions (the only ones that deserve that name) always involve painful changes, terrible collapses and other pathetic ravages. Revolutions ‘from above’, that is, made peacefully by the wealthy and conservative classes of a country, while businesses prosper and the coupon is cut, there have never been anywhere. And, if you see one that looks like it, take a good look at it and you will see what it is up to: it is not an indisputable revolution, but a more or less skillful evolution, more or less profound, but that ultimately does not change anything essential, none of the fundamentals that support the structure of a country, as they are in a given historical hour”. Vicens Vives reaches the same conclusion when he states that the Catalans are “a people without the will to power”.
The management of the October 2017 hangover leads the independence movement to a kind of dismissal power
Leaving aside all the temporal and mental distances (which are not few), it is clear that “la revolució dels somriures” (the revolution of smiles) – driven by the middle classes, not by the upper classes with economic and financial power – has never been able to escape one of its original contradictions, as we pointed out at the time, which has to do with a key factor: Pujol’s nationalism could not dissociate itself from the foundations of the Spanish transition and the procés needed to count on the political heirs of CiU to occupy the mainstream, but that was subjected by Artur Mas to constant tests of reliability in light of the breakup stance of that ERC that was in a hurry, like the CUP and the ANC. That is why the procés seemed – depending on the perspective – two contradictory things at the same time: a disguise of post-pujolism to last and a ploy by the Republicans to click without noticing the pull.
The entry into the scene of Puigdemont, after the CUP vetoed Mas, means the end of the proces of the converts (it was one of its strong points) and the start of the proces of the authentic ones, which was a return, through the door from behind, to the attitudes that had made the independence movement of the seventies and eighties a marginal actor. Perhaps because Mas became pro-independence while still being from Convergencia, the question of power (which means having institutions, budgets and levers) was part of the baggage towards Ithaca. With the leadership of Puigdemont –who was pro-independence rather than from Convergencia–, the sense of power becomes a secondary issue in the pro-independence imaginary. The emphasis on holding a referendum, even if it was not recognized, associated the exercise of sovereignty with the automatic obtaining of power, a misleading story.
The arrival to the presidency of Torra, who considers autonomy an obstacle to secession, culminates this journey in the opposite direction to the history of Catalanism. Prat de la Riba had the will to power, otherwise he would not have made the most of the Mancomunitat. Tarradellas had the will to power, that is why he knew how to give credibility to his theater. Pujol had the will to power, that’s why he asked for the maximum of powers, even in prisons.
The independence movement is presented as a constituent power in the face of a state in crisis like the Spanish one, but the management of the hangover of October 2017 leads it to be something else, a kind of dismissing power without wanting to and without being conscious of it. In Archeology of politics (Arcàdia), Giorgio Agamben proposes this term, ‘destituent power’, to designate –he does not do it in a negative sense– a path that would have as its main objective “to neutralize and delegitimize the existing power”, within the framework of a criticism of neoliberal conceptions.
The struggle-negotiation between ERC and Junts to govern and establish a shared strategy can be interpreted as the clash between the Republicans’ commitment to reinforcing the will to power (manage autonomy and accumulate forces) and the intention of Junts crew to exploit a logic of destituent power in the face of the dysfunctions of the Spanish State. But, in this landscape, playing the game of destituent power could be a solemn way of masking one’s own powerlessness in a perpetual puppet of gestures without any transcendence. And, then, the million dollar question appears: can one be an institution and a destituent power at the same time?