Antoni Puigverd 23/02/2020
Last Thursday, in these pages, the prestigious historian Borja de Riquer glossed the manifesto for the amnesty of those convicted and charged in the pro-independence process. I was also invited to sign it. With sincere regret, I replied that I could not please them. For several reasons, fundamentally for this one: in order to demand from such a fragile parliamentary support government the enormous cost of amnesty, it would be imperative that the manifesto also incorporate self-criticism.
There is no real catharsis about what happened in Catalonia. No one assumes their mistakes. Therefore, it is not feasible to ask a weak government to face the opposition and the other powers of the State by championing the defeated party’s arguments (which the amnesty would transform into a victorious one).
The conviction and imprisonment (as well as the accusations that continue to prevail) respond, in my opinion, to an abuse of strength of the judiciary; and so have interpreted the various courts of Europe that have had to testify on the case. Professor Sánchez-Cuenca explained it: Spanish magistrates emphasize the letter of the laws, but dispense with the democratic foundation that inspires them. Now, this abuse cannot overshadow the mistakes of the condemned leaders: push the citizenry into disobedience of the laws in force, and launch the country into a unilateral adventure.
Catharsis is not taking place on what happened in Catalonia
That these errors did not deserve the imputation of rebellion or the very high penalty of sedition seems obvious to me (and it is a very broad perception in Catalan society). But claiming exits of great political difficulty to a fragile government without recognizing their own responsibility in the conflict does not seem appropriate or pertinent.
The manifesto proposes a political program: amnesty, dialogue and referendum. Also there I disagree: this program is not that of 80% of Catalans. Perhaps the amnesty would get great support (although, previously, many would like to use less daring solutions: pardon or the reform of the Criminal Code). As for the dialogue, according to the surveys, a large majority of Catalans claim it; but not “without conditions or resignations,” as the manifesto proclaims. To face the dialogue, one must be willing to make concessions, to yield.
Certainly: the hegemonic political culture in Spain assumes that only independentists must yield (they demand their surrender, in fact). But also the dominant discourse among the independentism maintains that Spain is the only one that has an obligation (democratic!) to yield. Without willingness to compromise, the appeal to dialogue is misleading. A manifesto that wants to embrace far beyond independence should explain the will to yield, not just to claim.
Finally, in the final sentence of the manifesto ambiguously appeals to a referendum: “A political solution to the conflict giving voice to the whole of citizens.” This also does not respond to 80%, but to 50% convinced that October 1, 2017 is a founding date. The independentism that ask for dialogue continues without taking into account the sensitivity of a part of Catalan citizens (around 30%) that neither applauds unilaterality, nor is it in favor of resolving political conflicts with judges and police. These Catalans want to see Jordis and his companions outside the prison. They want the dialogue; and they want, finally, a positive exit for Catalonia. But they are not independentists: since the process began, repeated votes have made it very clear.
The part that would allow going from 50% to 80% distrusts the strategy of a referendum (that is, a binary solution in a society as complex as the Catalan one). It has been proven that a referendum is divisive and polarizing, favors the anti-Catalanist reaction in the interior of Catalonia and has turned the Catalan language into a workhorse. No, there is no 80% favorable to the referendum. There has never been: it would have been expressed electorally. In a plural manifesto claiming a solution for prisoners, there should be no reference to the referendum.
There are many of us who, like me, sympathize with the misfortune of the two Jordis and all those imprisoned. The impossible must be done to get them out of jail without having to give up their ideals. But, at the same time, I believe that the self-criticism of independence movement and its availability to yield in a hypothetical dialogue is essential.
If the independence movement really wants allies to fight for shared goals, they must win them by giving in. If you want to pave a common ground with others, you will have to leave the ideological comfort zone.
The long prison of the Jordis and the other condemned moves me and challenges me. But it doesn’t stop me from observing Catalan reality as my eyes see it. The country needed a more frank approach to internal plurality. When the independence movement threw itself without thinking, this plurality was torn. And this pain must also be cured.