Javier Cercas, 4 September 2021
Of course there is, secessionist friends. It begins by pushing back fantasies and acknowledging reality. It must be recognized that Spain is not Turkey, that it is a poor, fragile and insufficient democracy, like all of them, but it is a democracy. It must be recognized that the right to decide does not exist anywhere, nor can it exist, because to decide is a transitive verb and in a democracy it is not possible to decide what one wants. It must be recognized that, although the right of self-determination does exist, the truth is that, understood as the right of secession -which is how you understand it-, it is inapplicable in Catalonia, because it is only applicable in situations of colonial domination or massive violation of human rights. But, above all, we must recognize the essential, and that is that, as shown by all the elections held in recent years, more or less 50% of Catalans vote for secessionist parties and more or less another 50% vote for non-secessionist parties; this means that the Catalan problem is not first of all a problem between Catalonia and Spain, which should be solved with a pact between both governments, but a problem between Catalans that must be solved from the start with a pact between Catalans. That pact existed, it was called the Statute and, better or worse, it worked for decades; we will not discuss now when and why it was blown up, or who was responsible, because for the moment we are not going to agree on that matter. The fundamental thing is something else, which is obvious: if we aspire to straighten out the one-eyed man, if we want a livable Catalonia, where one half does not live with their backs or facing the other, it is necessary to agree again. We need, sooner rather than later, a new Statute.
How should this future Statute be? I don’t know, but two things seem obvious to me. The first is that it cannot be like the previous ones; the pacts that once served no longer serve: you have to agree on everything anew. The second is that the new pact must attract as much support as the 1979 one, if possible even more; either the pact belongs to everyone or almost everyone, or it will not work. There is a third thing. In one of his rare moments of lucidity, Pablo Iglesias enthusiastically quoted a phrase from the Lehendakari Urkullu about Catalonia; according to him, a good pact is one in which neither party gets what it wanted, nor is it therefore completely satisfied. “Hallelujah, dear Pablo!” I thought. “Welcome to democratic politics.” I also thought that if Iglesias had cared to find out what really happened in the Transition, instead of inventing a Transition to suit him to turn it into a tool for access to power – the former leader of Podemos is not unaware that it is impossible to control the present without first controlling the past—, I would have discovered that this was precisely what happened in the Transition: that neither the Francoists nor the anti-Francoists got what they wanted and neither were they entirely satisfied; that is why the Transition pact was not a bad pact.
We should repeat something like this now in Catalonia. It will be said that the pact is difficult, and it is true; but it cannot be more difficult than the Transition pact, because it cannot be more difficult to agree after 40 years of democracy than after 40 years of dictatorship. It is difficult, but it is also indispensable. One has to be brave. The hatchet must be buried. You have to stop fantasizing. You have to stick to reality. Grievances must be forgotten. You have to kill the rancor. We must push politicians of good will, capable of putting everyone’s interest above their own interest and of understanding that here there may be many losers, but only one winner: democracy, which is the other name for the rule of law. And in a few years, when all this is just a nightmare memory and when there are other new “Pablo Iglesias” denigrating us for having signed a pact of cowards, which entailed resignations and forgetfulness, we will make a toast with pacharán to his health, dead with laughter.