jueves, 19 de octubre de 2017
One of the early results of the Catalan independence process was that many long-term relationships came under severe strain. Friendships, business collaborations and even some marriages have fallen prey to an unevenly spread desire for adventure. It is easy to imagine how this works out. In times of peace and prosperity, being different is often the rock on which a relationship is built. Both sides complement each other’s weaknesses. I myself was a shy boy who used to enjoy the friendship of louder, bolder types, because they got me in places and situations I would otherwise not have encountered. I am not quite sure what I had to offer them, though, but they never seemed to be bothered by my presence. Perhaps I was good at saying yes. Yet when things get serious and people feel their convictions can make the difference between success and failure, opposites no longer attract. Well-meant quibbles quickly turn nasty and you would want to beat your partner’s head in for not seeing things your way.
- How stupid can you get, man! Don’t you realise we’ll all be lost if we don’t push for change now?
- And when has change ever been positive in this country? It’s a hell of a price you’re asking for that dignity of yours.
- Something which you clearly don’t possess. You always used to back off at the first opportunity, come to think of it.
Political parties are no different from private get togethers. The process has come to haunt almost all of them. The first one to suffer was the Partit dels Socialistas de Catalunya, sister party of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, PSOE. Its voter base were the Spanish immigrants who populate the string of industrial towns around Barcelona. They work hard, they speak Spanish and they spend their summers in their “pueblo”, their hometown back in Andalusía or Extremadura. But after two or three generations, many of them feel at home in Catalunya and they at least understood what caused the independence movement, if they were not outright sympathising. So when PSC under pressure of PSOE declared itself not only against independence but against any serious constitutional change, they immediately lost half of their seats in the Catalan parliament and are no longer considered a force to reckon with. Quite a downturn for what not so long ago was Catalunya’s largest party. PSOE itself isn’t doing too well, either. Openly supporting government policies, as PSOE has done, is never good advice for any opposition party, of course.
Then there is, or rather was, Convergència i Unió, Catalunya’s ruling class party which used to support whichever government was in power in Madrid in exchange for certain favours, in the manner in which politics is conducted by all regional parties in Spain. It early on became clear that Convergència was more convinced of the need to go solo than its constituent partner Unió. They managed to keep themselves together as long as hard questions needn't be asked yet, but after the mock referendum of 2014 Unió decided to separate from their old partners, only to completely vanish from the public’s eye when they didn’t manage to get even one seat in parliament. Convergència renamed itself PDeCat and struck up an alliance with old adversary Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, aptly named Junts pel Sí, together for yes, as no other political vision binds these two parties.
While ERC is doing fine for the moment and actually growing in the polls, an old comrade is going through harder times. Iniciativa Catalunya Verds, always a funny mixture of left-wing and green parties in the style of Dutch GroenLinks, thought long and hard about independence, which clearly was supported by a large swath of its base, and finally teamed up with Catalunya Sí que es Pot, Catalunya yes you can, a local offshoot from national newbies Podemos. Although they strongly advertise for serious change in Spanish society, going it alone is a step too far for them. Needless to say that the old faces of ICV are less than visible in CSqeP and pulling out again will always be too late for them.
Dizzy yet from so many names? That's what you get when politics from a pleasant pastime is turned into hard business. The only party other than ERC to have profited from the process is Candidatura d'Unitat Popular, a left-wing grassroots movement with a strong following in Girona, which is pushing hard to keep its coalition partner Junts pel Sí honest. President Puigdemont's decision to put a declaration of independence on hold in order to seek negotiations with Madrid was not exactly received with warm applause from la CUP. While Junts pel Sí keeps hoping foreign mediators will step in to finally force Madrid to the table, CUP threatens to break up the coalition if a Catalan Republic is not proclaimed before Rajoy sends in the troops. This standpoint is very popular among the youths who seem forever lost to the cause of Spanish unity.
So here we are. Whatever the outcome of the current troubles, the political landscape of Catalunya will never be again what it used to be for so many years. By the way, if Rajoy should finally win, most of the parties mentioned above will be declared illegal for having sought independence, leaving the Catalan voters with a choice between parties they in their majority abhor. Long live democracy.