In modern Europe there is no democratic movement of the scope, force and radicality of the Catalan movement for independence. Four years ago, the Spanish courts modified the Statute of autonomy approved in a referendum of the people of Catalonia, which was also signed by the Catalan and Spanish parliaments. This was a unique and extraordinary case, a veritable judicial coup d’état that crushed the pact between the Catalan and Spanish democratic forces at the end of Francoism. Since Jose Maria Aznar’s arrival in power, the Partido Popular, the ideological and biological heir of Francoism, has degraded democracy to simply unbearable extremes; not only in Catalonia, but especially in Catalonia.
The clearest sign of this is precisely its prohibition of the referendum on independence called for by the Catalan political forces. The Parliament of Catalonia approved a law on popular consultations with 106 votes in favour and only 28 against which was to enable the independence vote of 9-November to be held in a situation of normality. Before this, the Catalan parliament had officially asked the Spanish parliament either to organise a referendum in Catalonia or, as happened in Scotland, to give Catalonia the chance to organise one. The request to the Spanish parliament was answered with a firm No by the PP and the PSOE parties and the consultation law was repealed by the Constitutional Court under the orders of the government. When the Catalan government finally chose to turn the consultation into a participative process as a way to overcome the obstacles, the State prohibited it once more.
Spain simply says No to everything and thinks that this will make us give in. It says that the Spanish constitution does not allow independence and in an exercise of cynicism difficult to surpass, challenges the Catalans to change it. But the present autonomous community of Catalonia accounts for 16% of the population of the Spanish state, and even though 100% of Catalans wanted to change it, it would be impossible.
Maybe in some other place the people would have given in, but not the Catalans. The Catalans have risen and for the last four years we have led a true political epic. The whole world has seen us holding hands and demonstrating on the streets of Barcelona. The Catalan flag today is instantly recognised by any reader of the world’s newspapers. We have put our country on the map of information and also on the political map. Governments from all around the world are paying special attention to what is happening here.
But what is difficult to see from outside is the daily work that this democratic revolution involves. In all of the towns, districts and cities, thousands and thousands of volunteers spend hours and hours driving the movement on. Men and women of all social orders, of all origins and of all ideologies for four years have worked with a smile on their faces, vowing to create a new country.
And it is precisely this extraordinary work that the social movement for sovereignty is doing that is drawing out a different future for this country. We have learnt to talk and overcome our differences. We have learnt to mercilessly criticise ourselves but always for the better. We have analysed the finest details of each of our faults and we have strived to improve. We have created a new culture where the people order the politicians and where the politicians work to find legal outlets for the people’s demands.
Europe is battling through a terrible decade and it would do well to ask itself how it is that in Catalonia the people in the street are smiling. We smile because we know we are building a better country with our democratic and radically free fight. We always defend plurality from a position of inclusion and discussion, therefore the whole of the campaign of those supporting the Yes vote always includes a cry to vote in freedom, to consider whether it might be best to vote No. Therefore on 9-N the vote will also be for the immigrants, with whom we joyfully share our country and therefore from Christian democracy to left wing anti-capitalism, the Catalan parties are capable of agreeing and moving forward together, giving a lesson of democratic dignity and loyalty to our country.
When George Orwell wrote his ‘Homage to Catalonia’, he did so under the impact of a Catalan Revolution which was different from any other event of his time. Europe has to know today that the Catalans are back; we are back to create a much more democratic country than the one we have today. We are back to place the citizens at the centre of political life and to make ourselves the owners of our own future. We are back to remind the world of something obvious which we are not willing to ignore: that rights and freedoms cannot be threatened and much less denied forever.
Today’s combat, this effort that will soon take us to independence, is the homage that we Catalans are making to a tradition of centuries of fighting for personal and collective decency. In some way, therefore, you might think that in itself it is a homage to ourselves; to our eternal passion for freedom.