The Power Struggle in Catalonia, or the Staging of a Tragicomedy

Once again, although with certain peculiarities, we are faced with the historical problem posed by Vicens Vives when emphasizing the historical contradictions between center and periphery in the culturally and politically diverse Spanish state.1 This problematic, in the current period, has taken the form of a struggle between two heterogeneous powers. One, a consolidated power, is the Spanish state. The other, an emerging power, drives the project to create a state of its own, a project promoted by nationalists and pro-independence currents. These include a fraction of the divided system (PdeCat, erc and cup2) and some social organizations (the Catalan National Assembly, Omnium Cultural and some trade unions3)—with the support of an important part of society. Their proposal—the so-called “process”—is orchestrated from above and is populist, and has little or nothing has to do with what would be a critical revolt against power or one that questions an essential aspect of vibrant capitalism.

The Sui Generis Democracy of the Spanish State

To break down the basic ingredients of this mess, we will refer, initially, to one of the characteristic features of one of the contenders, the Spanish state. In this regard, already before the repression by the state police on October 1st, 2017,4 we knew that this state was an authoritarian democracy, or a pseudo-dictatorship. Arguments to support this claim are many. First, the form adopted by the transition5—reform without any rupture, agreed upon by the entire spectrum of the party system, from the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party of Spain (psoe) to the Union of the Democratic Center and Convergence6—which led, in one way or another, to the perpetuation of many of the structures of the dictatorship, a continuity strengthened by the Constitution of 1978: these structures include the army, the police system, the Bourbon monarchy, and the Court of Public Order, renamed the “National Court.”

After Cambodia, Spain is the country with the most “disappeared” since the coup d’etat of 1936 and a long etcetera.

More recently, in the area of social control, we could cite the “Organic Law” of 2015 (popularly known as the “Gag Law”7), or migration policy; and, in economic terms, successive labor reforms, approval by decree to limit the public deficit to 3 percent, acceptance without prior debate of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (ceta), the Canada-eu Treaty or the austerity policies sponsored by the Troika, as well as those of the European Commission (ec), the European Central Bank (ecb) and the International Monetary Fund (imf).

With regard to Catalonia, we see a lack of interest and incompetence in managing the complex heterogeneity of this region, except by resort to the legal-political path, motivated in part by the dependence of the judiciary on politicians, as in the usa. Although the state could, in principle, have authorized a referendum, as was done with the Statute of 2006—approved by the Cortes Generales (Parliament) and backed up by the referendum convened that same year or, could at least have tolerated something along the lines of the “Consultation” of November 2014 (a non-binding referendum).

However, in this case, the approach, despite its inconsistencies, was much more elaborate and would have required a desire for dialogue difficult to imagine, as well as a reform of the Constitution. On this issue, we should also say, from the legal point of view, except for a small group of states (Lichtenstein, Ethiopia, etc.), constitutions generally (usa, Italy, France, Germany, Norway, et. al.) consider the territorial state as an indivisible unit.

On the other hand, the authoritarianism of this democracy, forged in the management of the contradictions and limits of capitalism itself, is congruent with the evolution that the forms of government have resulted from the economic and political restructuring of the ’70s and ’80s. This is the authoritarianism of democracies that we have found in the same way in different states: antiterrorist laws; authorization for “indefinite detention” and approval of the “Patriot Act” in 2001, in the United States; the Socialist government declared the state of emergency in 2010, in Spain, to end the strike of the air-traffic controllers; the proclamation in Belgium of the state of exception between 2015 and 2017; the state of emergency in France from 2015 till 2017. In the opinion of Giorgio Agamben, the state of exception (emergency, war), in addition to being included in all democratic constitutions, implies that at any given moment, basic constitutional guarantees can be suspended and this “tends to present itself as the paradigm of dominant government in contemporary times.”

Neoliberal Capitalism in Catalonia

With respect to Catalonia and the independence parties, it is never irrelevant to cite some historical precedents. First of all, many of those who were, after 1978, Convergencia mayors, i.e., from the party of Puigdemont,8 had previously been mayors under Franco. In addition, we cannot fail to mention that prominent members of the Convergencia party, such as Roca Junyent, participated in the elaboration of the so-called 1978 Constitution, which includes Article 155.9 Further, we cannot overlook that one of the “virtues” of the Generalitat10—especially in the periods of Convergéncia government (1980–2003 and 2010–15) and of the Convergéncia/PDeCAT–erc alliance plus the votes of the cup—has been its ability to be an apt pupil in the application of neoliberal policies: the privatization of health care; subsidies to private education, in large part to schools of the Catholic Church; deepening the regressive nature of taxation (a tax rate reduction, fit for a fiscal paradise, applied to the casinos and the Formula 1 circuit, from 55 percent to 10 percent11); job insecurity in private companies and in public institutions; unconditional support for the privatization of transport and infrastructure; multiple evictions and almost no public housing policies; there is, further, hardly any environmental policy. An outstanding aspect of this spoliation would be the long list of cases of corruption, should be highlighted. With regard to repression, with Arturo Mas12 as president, the Generalitat government led the charge against some of the members of the “Aturem el Parlament” (Let’s stop the Parliament) campaign, and the “movement of the outraged,” for which the prosecution requested 5 years in prison. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that, long before October 1, we had experienced the harsh repression by the “mossos d’esquadra” (police of the Catalan government): Esther Quintana lost one eye; there were various deaths from bullets or other causes, as happened with Benitez del Raval (in the city center) and with mental patients; there was the brutal eviction of the March 15th camp from Plaza Catalunya13; there were extrajudicial executions following the attack of August 17, 2017, in Barcelona; repression of May Day demonstrations; and evictions.

The Process

Regarding sovereignty, there is no doubt that in this country there have always been sectors involved with Catalanism and with aspirations for self-government, although it is also true that until recently, despite increases for several reasons (economic crisis, repression by the state police, the application of Article 155), nationalism and independence have always been very minority currents.

However, in recent years, in a context characterized by a lack of responses to cuts in public policies and to the effects of the resumption of the capital accumulation process, after the recession crisis of 2007–09, the “convergence summit,” led by Arturo Mas, in 2010, in the wake of the Constitutional Court ruling on the Statute of 2006, accelerated the turn towards independence. Patriotic revitalization was strengthened with the massive turnout on September 11, 2012, the commemoration of the alleged struggle of Catalonia against the Bourbon invasion (when in reality it was part of an international conflict between monarchies, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs and their respective allies), giving rise to the belief, among nationalists and pro-independence forces, that the time had come to focus strategy on sovereignty and to set aside minor issues such as the “fiscal pact.” This would make it possible, by the bye, to pass over in silence the problems of corruption as well as the illegal financing of the system and its political parties, and would ensure the continuity in power of Convergéncia. This was a qualitative leap that ended, starting in 2015, with the neo-conservative governance of Junts pel Si (PdeCat, erc plus the votes of the cup), and the participation, for a social dimension, of the anc,14 the Omnium and the farce of the “Municipalities for Independence” (self-defined by independence, when in fact they represent a plurality of political positions).

In addition, a fundamental aspect of this political shift lies in the proposals for the “right to decide” and for the referendum which subsequently led to the events of October 1, the simulated referendum with an alleged participation of 2,286,217 (the total electoral body is 5,510,713 voters), not validated by any independent institution, and to Parliament’s subsequent approval of the declaration of independence in the form of a Catalan, virtual Republic, on October 27, 2017. This was an enigmatic culmination—Catalan Republic? Yes? No?—of “the process”; and the making explicit of an alleged mandate, based on the events of October 1, that had to lead to separation. This was a real or symbolic break that was preceded by the Laws on Referendums and Transition of September 6 and 7—the first stone of the new state—approved by a parliamentary majority (Junts pel Si, the alliance PdeCat, erc, and cup), but not by votes of the electoral lists, thanks to the d’Hondt Law.15 These are laws typical of a banana republic, as in the Law on Referendums, where declaring independence only requires that there be more affirmative than negative votes.

Finally, an element essential to clarify is that we are not facing a new version of autonomy between politics and economics, but rather dealing with political (political-economic, political-cultural) divergences that reflect different readings of “territorial place.” This is a problem that manifests itself as a contradiction between fractions of the political and institutional sphere: the pro-independence option and the Spanish state. This is an argument that makes it possible to highlight the close link (the subordinate relationship, but not the autonomy, that exists between politics and economics, and the instrumental dependence on the forms of government and state regarding the economy) that lies in the governance established in the European Union and by the international treaties, which move from the super-state to the municipality. Further, in the case before us, there is no rejection of the function of the forms of government as guarantors of the conditions of reproduction of the capital relation. This has not prevented it from causing collateral damage in the economic situation as a result of the climate of crises, legal uncertainty and politics. Still, we must not underestimate the enormous value added, for capital and for the state, of the very serious social-implosive fracture—and of the retrograde influence of the content of the sovereignty debate as an antidote to the recurring episodes of social and political confrontation.

Words and Things

Magritte’s picture, “This is not a pipe,” in its apparent simplicity, contains an enormous complexity, the distinction between words and things; a differentiation to which we could add more elements: meaning, sense, and discourse. If we apply these considerations to “the process,” we will see that, in it, certain language games, the relationship between words and things (manipulation, lies and propaganda) have prevailed over in-depth reflection about the pro-independence process and its consequences. In the hard core of this debate, this would be, in effect, the handling of notions such as “nation,” “people,” or “independence.” The “process” uses some terms whose meaning it emphasizes immediately, without omitting the existence of different versions of the thematic (currents linked to the Enlightenment, such as bourgeois revolutionary discourse, romantic vision, the notion of the “Volkgeist,” Stalinist interpretation), which deals with the synthesis of cultural and historical features, an ideological construct—“false consciousness”—unitary, transcendent, in which they dilute and erase the relationships of power, valuation, and the underlying class contradictions.

These are systemic notions and discourses that convey judgments deemed indisputable, with a powerful emotional charge and blind faith in the leadership to achieve an idyllic community: the citizens of the republic. It constructs a narrative with features of a sect—full of explicit and implicit ingredients—supremacist prejudices (genomization of differences, presumption of superiority of the native, the “foreign” as a parasite, racism). This is a story that also includes a proposal for a state, similar to the states in our environment; conceptions broadcast repeatedly over years through various channels (media, public-funded political and cultural organizations). This is a state project, more specifically a neoliberal and capitalist state, that includes, not without reason, a critical, harsh, state centralism, but which then reproduces in its “interior” multiple centers and peripheries.

In another order of things, where the republican model is concerned, it is indispensable to emphasize that, in this case, there is no conception, really, despite the seemingly discordant verbiage, of any other possibility than the foundation of a bourgeois republic. If we do not look too closely at historical events, we forget the anti-social and anti-worker character of the Second Republic (repression of the miners of Figols, Barcelona, in 1932; massacre of Casas Viejas, Cádiz, in 1933, repression by a colonial army of the Asturian miners in 1934). In the Catalonia of the Second Republic, we recall the comment of Lluis Companys of the erc, president of the Catalan goverment, referring to the Raval, a working-class district with an important presence of revolutionaries: Companys said that if he could, he would have destroyed it with “cannon fire.” And, with regard to the concept of “independence,” there is no doubt that, in the colonial framework and from anti-imperialist positions, it is a key, indisputable part; but this is not the case of Catalonia; here, to be exact, we would have to talk about the colonization of the Iberian Peninsula, Europe, etc., by large multinational corporations.

On the other hand, we could also apply this disquisition about words and things to the proposals of the “right to decide” and to the referendum, in which it has always been assumed that the public and autonomous institutions were going to promote the decision-making power of society and that the question to be elucidated was only independence. However, we can ask ourselves: do we really decide, or is it just a mirage? Why not consider other issues as priorities: austerity policies, laws on social control, public policies or international agreements? There is no doubt that, unlike, for example, in Greece, no other alternative was contemplated here; the debate and political management have been monopolized by “sovereignty.” In any case, we do not have to magnify the terms we use. Concepts such as “referendum,” “democracy,” “assembly,” and “demonstration,” like any other word or expression, are polysemic, and admit multiple meanings—one thing and the opposite. As Benedetti claimed: “when they say peace, they mean war.” Without going any further on the term “referendum,” even Hitler organized one, in 1938, in Germany, and newly annexed Austria voted for the new makeup of the Reichstag with 99 percent participation.

Finally, in this endless dynamic of subterfuge, one of the great fallacies has been that “the process” would be free of difficulties, something almost festive; a naive image in which two million people believed. The most palpable evidence that this was not going to be the case has been given to us by two of the pillars of this social formation based on the market economy. One is the lack of support from international institutions of importance (the states of the eu, usa, ec, ecb,16 imf). The second pillar would be the economy itself: the decline in the Ibex 35 quotations17; Standard & Poor’s warning that Catalonia could enter recession; more than 3,000 companies have moved their headquarters outside Catalonia and 1,000 have moved their tax offices; two of the largest Catalan banks (CaixaBank and Sabadell) have changed their headquarters and tax offices. Another factor to take into account is the distorted view that has been given of historical processes that were supposed to be points of reference for “the process,” one of which has been called the “Slovenian way.” In this regard, we cannot ignore that the independence of Slovenia, in 1991, was not a peaceful event. There was a war, which, fortunately for that country, was short, although not for the rest of Yugoslavia (Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia), which was involved in prolonged bloody wars and conflicts.

The Fetishism of the Polls

It is also significant, however, that the word “democracy,” turned into a fetish, an almost magical artifact, has been one of the most recurrent terms. In this sense, when referring to the concept of “democracy,” or in reality to “representative democracy” at the center of this vortex, one should remember what historical experience has shown us, time and time again, namely that democracy based on the system of representation, as a political-ideological mechanism essential for capitalist governance, has been a fraud. While, on the one hand, it fed the spectacle of participation and the belief in the commitment to link the party with the social system; on the other hand, programs were diluted, but, above all, the objectives, projects and decisions were designed elsewhere, above the social formations, while counting on the collaboration, in one way or another, of the party system, converted into an indispensable, functional mechanism of this dichotomy. This is a fetishized revival of commodified democracy and the control that dazzles us, periodically, with the presumed benefits of the ballot box and the vote. This is a simulation that erodes or dismantles practices and critical social subjectivities, the ability to question delegated, neoliberal democracy, and the critique of politics. This distortion, the synthesis of a link of power and domination, was printed on a small poster scattered around the city, saying: “Vote and you will be free,” which brings to memory, for its familiarity, the slogan “Work will make you free,” inscribed over the gate at Auschwitz.

Emerging from a fiction, not at all fortuitous, which points, in its most recent stage, to the defeat of the critical sector of March 15th and other positions, and to the emergence, as a relay, of “another way of doing politics,” are the informal and flexible democrats, the new snake charmers (Podemos, En Comú Podem18), who aspire to replace the discredited traditional party system and take part in the distribution of the pie of political power by becoming efficient co-administrators of the interests of big capital and small local lobbies (commerce, hospitality). These are modifications that refer to a long process of reconfiguration of democratic and state forms, where the disarticulation of the potentially critical, subversive social and political forces acquire a special form; a redefinition of the political, legal and economic framework, in which the individual state has its powers cut off, where the classic nation-state has been relegated to the trunk of memories, and turned into an irreplaceable piece of a macro-system, a supra-state, that surpasses its own contours, into which the real nuclei of strategic power are inserted (lobbies, multinational corporations, investment funds, ec, bce, fmi, bm…) of a global and local capitalism. There is the functioning of the European Commission, which imposes political and legislative changes on the member states (the long shore law, gmos, laws on competitiveness). It appoints prime ministers, as was the case, in 2011, of the prime ministers of Italy (Monti, ex–Goldman Sachs) and of Greece (Papadomus, ex-bce), perfectly exemplifying the uniqueness of the new scenario.

In this situation, the independence movement, which has never had the majority, which has not been troubled in always maintaining its opposition, until that became an axiom, and now affirms that the mock referendum of October 1 was a legitimate mandate of unilateral rupture with the state: this is at the least an act of pure and simple prevarication. Indeed, if we stick to the data: in the illegal consultation of November 9, 2014, more than 33 percent participated and 80.7 percent voted yes; in the autonomy vote of 2015, considered as a plebiscite by the pro-independence movement, 77.4 percent of the electorate participated and “independence” obtained 36.5 percent of the votes (abstention is not only legitimate, but legal, and therefore it must also be counted); and, the “referendum” of October 1, 2017, in which more than one third of the electorate participated, and not even the international observers considered it valid.

However it may be, in the background, what all this reveals, besides the undoubted weight of the ideological factor and the economist opportunism, is the belief that an independent state can bring about an improvement in the economic situation, is the deep and generalized ignorance, premeditated or not, of what characterizes, in an essential way, the really existing world: the world of the market, of the state and of supra-state powers; this is ignorance, and—why not—self-deception, in relation to those elite powers, which have used their privileged position in the autonomous administration of the state to favor the market and the control of the social.

A Gregarious Movement and a Smoke Screen

At this point, it is striking, on the other hand, that, although within the scope of the state, there have been, to a greater or lesser extent, mobilizations with a protest component (struggles in defense of public health in Madrid and elsewhere, strikes in factories such as Coca Cola, neighborhoods such as Gamonal and universities); in the case of Catalonia this has been different, especially since 2011; the Panrico strike and the neighborhood mobilizations against tourism and urban speculation in Barcelona have been more the exception than the rule. There has been less conflict, but rather nationalism and independence, led by those who have dominated the socio-economic and political plunder (Convergéncia/PDeCAT-erc with the collaboration, with retouches, of the cup); these have managed to mobilize a large mass of the population and provoke a serious state crisis, showing, once again, the failure of the political and culturally diverse state project, which in turn has been used as a smokescreen to hide the “internal contradictions.” In this way, we can ask ourselves what has happened that allows this gigantic pyramidal mobilization to take place, as well as the demonstrations of “September 11th,” organized by a predatory power; a sort of collective, gregarious catharsis, which, globally, cannot be qualified in any other way than reactionary.

What happened in Catalonia broadly shows great similarity to the Brexit and Trump votes of the white workers; this is an expression of discontent, in this case mainly of middle layers and for different reasons (degradation of socioeconomic status, end of the “social elevator”), one of whose elements lies in their seemingly anti-establishment appearances, but which, in fact, is pro-establishment. Finally, it is worth mentioning that, since the reform without rupture of 1978 and the economic restructuring of the ’70s and ’80s, there has been a progressive, effective weakening of those of social struggles and organizations that constitute their support, which was consolidated with the crisis-recession of 2007–09.

In all this, however, there are two other factors that have led to the outbreak. On the one hand, in Catalonia the parliamentary left has had the habit, in an uncritical way, of acting as a “fellow traveler” of nationalism; and, on the other, the extra-parliamentary left, which generally has not considered nationalism and independence to be priority issues; although there have also been some, who, for some time now, have joined the independence cadre, thinking, naively or opportunistically, that after the rupture with the Spanish state, in the shadow of the new state (which would be, undoubtedly, neoliberal and authoritarian, but smaller—such as Andorra, Luxembourg or Guatemala)—they were going to be able to build their own happy Arcadia.

After the Elections of December 21

Finally, under the protection of Article 155, applied after the beginning of the process with the independence movement’s break with the Constitution, entailing the temporary suspension of self-government in Catalonia, the state called for autonomous elections on December 2119 with the purpose of relaxing political tension and facilitating the return to the constitutional order. In spite of everything, after the elections, the scenario that is emerging does not seem to indicate that the problems that led to this mess have been solved. To begin with, what the results of the elections show us regarding secession is a repetition of the division in two large blocks: roughly, 2 million votes in favor of independence and 3.5 million that do not support it. However, at the same time there have been some changes. In the first place, it is still surprising, in terms of the loyalty of those who sympathize with the project of the Catalan Republic, which despite the fact that things have happened to us (much less than their promoters predicted), the secessionist vote has not been seen severely eroded, but rather the opposite. Secondly, it has been verified that the party that has obtained more votes (1,102,099), has been a conservative party, Citizens, similar to the one that governs the state, the Popular Party (pp). The pp, even in the years of crisis and recession, pushed an economic policy (austerity plans, regressive taxation) that impoverished the majority of society while favoring the enrichment of the economic elite of the Ibex 35. What is significant, moreover, is that the conservative vote has not only occurred in high-income areas, but mainly in the working-class districts of Barcelona and Tarragona, where most of the working-class population of Catalonia is concentrated. Probably this has had to do, not only with the weight of the dominant ideology or with the disenchantment with the complicity or absence of confrontational initiatives by the traditional left (parties, trade unions), but also because the agenda of those who have hegemonized the centrality of “sovereignty” did not include any hint of change in the established neo-conservative model. All this highlights that not only do we have a country split over sovereignty, but one also listing to the right, since the two options with the largest number of votes, the pro-independence forces and Citizens,20 have an element in common: namely neither one proposes anything but the continuity of austerity policies and a political-economic approach or a model of society in no way different from neoliberalism.

As far as the electoral results are concerned, once again, one of the postulates of the pro-independence forces has been negated, i.e., that the vast majority of Catalans support secession. Similarly, there is no coherence among those who, until now, have shown their total opposition to the Spanish Constitution, and who, instead of proposing a boycott, submitted to an election called by the central government under the umbrella of Article 155.

In any case, a more detailed examination of the results of these elections, allows us to observe some interesting details. First, it confirms the existing division between the different political options, i.e., the independence candidates, who ran separately this time (Junts per Catalunya, JxCat, the new denomination grouping members of the PdeCat and independents, erc and cup), got 2,063,361 votes; 3,447,352 votes did not support independence (Citizens, psc, Cec Podem, pp, blank ballots, abstention). These figures give a result that, if we take as a reference the total number of the electoral census (5,510,713), only 37.44 percent represent pro-independence votes. Regarding seats, the distribution in the Parliament is the following: the independence block JxCat (34), erc-CatSí (32) and cup (4); for the anti-independence bloc. Citizens (36). psc (17), CeCPodem (8) and pp (4). Now, checking the number of votes and seats confirms that there is no proportional relationship between them. Indeed, as already indicated, the electoral regulations themselves—the Organic Law of the General Electoral System (based on the Ley d’Hondt)—produces a non-correspondence between votes and seats, giving greater representation to less populated areas, more inclined to vote conservative, to the detriment of the large urban concentrations; this system historically has harmed the left but in these elections, it favored nationalists and independentistas, while a significant part of the urban vote went to the new right of Citizens.

Putting figures to these concepts will allow us to understand the reason for this disproportion of votes and seats. Thus, for example, to obtain a seat according to locality the following number of votes is needed: Barcelona, 38,496; Girona, 23,963; Lleida, 16,008. Thus, even though they have a smaller number of votes, the separatists have obtained more seats and can form a parliamentary majority.

However, behind the controversy of votes/seats and the relative victory of the independence movement, there are certain elements that can contribute to weaken that bloc.

On the one hand, on January 15 the sentence in the “cas Palau”21 (part of the “3 percent case”) will be made public, which will surely hurt the PdeCat and, of course, Artur Más. On the other hand, a summary of the alleged illegalities committed in the exercise of government—with accusations of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement of public funds—in which for now the list could reach 40, including former President Puigdemont, who is in Belgium as a fugitive; it is not possible to omit, also, that the intense political and media activity displayed by the former president has had the support of the Flemish conservative nationalists of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (n-va), the first party of Flanders with links to the neo-Nazi extreme right.

Unpredictable Horizon and Lost Causes

One way or another, a priori, the rise of political conservatism, with a few exceptions (micro-conflicts), mainly in the subaltern sphere (wage earners, precarious workers, unemployed) is worrisome. However this is not a rarity. We have seen it repeated, in recent years, in different places: from the electoral victories of Trump, Merkel, May and Macron, to mention some extremely relevant cases, the transformation of the “red belts” of Paris and Marseille into “black belts” with the vote for the National Front of Le Pen, the advance of the extreme right-wing Party for the Freedom of Holland or the expansion of the Hungarian Movement for a Better Hungary. This is a turn whose roots would have to be sought, preferably, apart from the effects of nationalist and pro-independence ideological bombardment, in the continuation of the dismantling by capital of the institutions of governance.

In this sense, another of the foreseeable consequences of this scenario is that a significant portion of society, much of it ascribed to the subaltern sectors, with the focus on sovereignty, the conservatism of Citizens or with another type of decoys (psc, Podemos), avoids confronting the deep contradictions, the problems that really concern them (increase of socioeconomic inequalities, social and labor precarization, privatization of public services, regressive taxation, urban speculation, environmental degradation) as they gradually take away social rights.

Anyway, everything points to this stage representing just another chapter of this pathetic saga. A chapter in which, in the weeks before December 21 and with the application of Article 155, it seemed that there was going to be some important rectification in the road map of the independence movement, as is clear from the statements of some of the champions of this tragicomedy: “not being sufficiently prepared (for the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, dui) is a mistake” (Ponsati); “the government was not prepared to develop the Catalan Republic” (erc). On the other hand, after the elections, something that had already been latent was evident, and that is that the independentistas do not form a uniform, monolithic bloc. There are deep divergences that materialize in different positions, linked to the question of who and how to take the reins of power and with a central theme: independence; among them, these stand out: the “tv-preacher” way that proposes a telematic link with Catalonia (Puigdemont and followers), to avoid the possible arrest (activation of the Euro-order); those who insist on the project of the Catalan Republic and rule out retaking the Autonomic System (cup); and those who opt to accept as inevitable acting within the constitutional framework, without renouncing the achievement of independence in the future (Mas). On this, there is no doubt that the legal problems arising in this adventure, coupled with the fact that the expectations of this delirious project (support of international institutions, attracting investors, number of voters) have not been met. This allows us to foresee that, in the future, things will not happen exactly in the same way as before. Thus, in this area, although some can abide by constitutional legality, others, however, can provoke the repetition of some of the ingredients of that absurd loop that in the past allowed the independence movement to obtain political dividends by exploiting the matrix of victim action/repression, in order to increase its still very insufficient social and institutional support, both in Catalonia and internationally.

This is an unpredictable horizon in which, certainly, some or many of the most negative features of the past will persist. These include the social fracture and disorientation caused by the state and by “dogmatic sovereignty,” with deep repercussions on sociality and social subjectivity, which means that it will take a long time to reverse the situation; the recomposition of bonds of critical social and political cooperation forming an anti-capitalist counter-power.

Finally, it is necessary to point out, at the same time, the existence of another reality—the invisible ones—that would encompass those who do not agree with the state or with capital, since we think that the state, whatever the size or color, constitutes in essence a structure of domination and oppression. As Nietzsche said in Thus Spoke Zarathustra: “The state is called the coldest of all cold monsters. It is cold even when it lies…. I, the State, am the people.” This perspective also entails a very different, antagonistic concept of independence, if we compare it with that advocated by the institutions or the “new democrats”; a conception that understands independence as a capacity for self-determination and self-valorization of the social with respect to the prevailing power. In short, a deconstructive vision of sovereignty and the mercantilized and police cosmos, which emphasizes the need to de-sacralize practices and concepts, for which a first step could be, here and now, to mention, with irony, Leopold Bloom, the character of Joyce’s Ulysses, who defined the nation as “the same people, who live in the same place.”

  1. Vicens Vives was one of the most influential Catalan historians of the twentieth century.

  2. The PdeCat is the political party created by the pro-independence Junts per Si; the erc is the Republican Left Party; the cup is the Candidatura d’UnitatPopular, a far-left anti-capitalist pro-independence party.

  3. The Catalan National Assembly was founded in 2011, Catalanist and pro-independence. Omnium Cultura was created in 1961 to promote the Catalan language and culture; also pro-independence.

  4. October 1, 2017, was the day of the referendum on Catalan independence, declared illegal by the Spanish government, in which about 40 percent of the eligible population voted overwhelmingly for independence. The referendum had no binding effect. The Spanish police attacked a number of polling stations to prevent the vote, with little success.

  5. The transition in question is the transition in the Spanish state after the death of Franco.

  6. The Union of the Democratic Center and Convergencia are the two main right-wing parties in Catalonia.

  7. A law, as the popular name makes clear, greatly restricting advocacy of independence.

  8. Carles Puigdemont, from the largest and most right-wing pro-independence party, was the head of the Catalan Parliament, was charged after the October 1 referendum with breaking various laws, and fled to Belgium, where he remains.

  9. Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the basis for the state of emergency allowing the central government to assume direct control of Catalonia.

  10. The Generalitat is the Catalan parliament.

  11. Creation of a tax haven.

  12. Arturo Mas is a right-wing Catalan politician.

  13. An occupation of the main square in downtown Barcelona.

  14. Again, the Assemblea Nacional de Catalunya.

  15. A method of assigning seats to the Generalitat based on election results, skewed toward rural areas.

  16. The eu is the European Union, the ec is the European Commission and the ecb is the European Central Bank.

  17. The Catalan stock exchange.

  18. New left-wing formations moving into the vacuum created by the decline of the Communist Party and the psoe (Socialist Party of Spain).

  19. The elections of December 2017 returned a majority of pro-independence seats for the Generalitat but also showed a significant anti-independence majority of votes.

  20. The largest right-wing anti-independence party.

  21. Major corruption and looting scandal involving the two major right-wing parties.

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