Now that the Catalan Republic is getting closer

It’s been more than two years since I last wrote on this blog. After the November 2012 elections the process was in the hands of the politicians, President Mas won the elections with the promise of holding a referendum and the international media increased interest on the subject. Mission accomplished. I limited my contribution through CataloniaDirect to the occasional tweet when anything worth mentioning happened (which was not very often).

Still, now that we are getting close to the birth of the Catalan Republic I feel like writing about it again. Even if just occasionally.

The last couple of years I often refrained from writing because it would have involved invariably criticising Catalan politicians, the very people who would have to eventually leave their differences aside if this was to suceed. They drove me insane at times, other times I lost hope. Glad that is mostly in the past now.

However, from the last 3 years three days are worth mentioning.

Day 1 – September 11th 2013, the 400km Via Catalana (Catalan Way). 2 million people holding hands across the country on . I was lucky enough to be there taking pictures. I will never forget that afternoon.

Day 2 – September 11th 2014 The Big V (for Vote) demonstration in Barcelona. Involving again about 2 million people. I had my doubts, it was so ambitious that I was afraid people would be tired of doing these mass demonstrations. I was mistaken.

Day 3 – The November 9th 2014 Referendum

We all knew Spain would never agree to a referendum. Rajoy kept saying everyone stay calm, no referendum would take place in Catalonia. That was my biggest hope, if Rajoy said it wouldn’t happen that had to mean one way or another it would. Mas astutely manouvered, challenged Spain and went ahead and hosted the promised referendum on November 9th 2014 anyway. Catalonia’s was to take place shortly after Scotland’s. The comparison between the UK and Spain was stark. Threats, insults, legal prosecution but nothing we weren’t used to. Mas also managed to irate the other Catalan parties who wanted a more confrontational attitude but I guess when you make decisions you can’t make everyone happy.

Using the Generalitat’s civil servants was not a possibility because Spain threatened them with losing their jobs. So the week before the referendum the Generalitat publicly requested for 20000 volunteers. I immediately registered. All positions were filled within a few hours. My job would be to check the amount of votes cast in each of the 8 tables and call the central at the end of the day with the final results.

So I flew back from Germany, were I live at the moment, and spent a lovely weekend in Barcelona. On the day of the voting I woke up at 6am and checked the news just in case the Spanish Government had carried out their threats to send the Guardia Civil to close down the voting points. I know this may sound ridiculous, but read the Spanish news that week if you don’t believe me. In the end everything was quiet, only threats. Pictures of the Spanish police taking away ballot boxes would have looked really bad on the international press.

I got to the voting school in a part of the city I don’t know well. There was a couple of Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police, at the corner. They weren’t supposed to be inside the voting point because it was not a normal referendum but the Generalitat sent them anyway in case violent groups attempted to carry out the threats to disrupt the voting. I was relieved to see the Mossos there.

It was a glorious day. Thousands of people voting as if making a birthday wish, hoping for a better future with big smiles on their faces. At times it got hectic, crowds of people eager to vote and we had to make them wait in line for their turn to vote.

Since the referendum had not been agreed with Spain it was not legally binding. 2.3 million people voted in spite of the threats, the good weather and it not being binding. Almost two million voted Yes/Yes (yeah it was a double question, us Catalans are complicated like that). But nevertheless we know at least 2 million Catalans want independence, which out of about 5 million voters is a huge chunk. It also felt good to do a little disobedience against Spain.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the fact that every person in the organisation was a die hard pro independence activist, but also understandable since normally you’d think of better things to do on a sunny sunday than spend 14 hours at a voting point hosting a referendum under threat of a hostile State. But above being independentists we are democrats and the counting of the votes was meticulous and thorough.

In order to spare the volunteers from the wrath of Spain all names and records were deleted after the voting. In the end the only victims have been President Mas and Vicepresident Ortega and Education Minister Rigau who now face a criminal lawsuit for prevarication, disobedience and misuse of public funds. Yeah Spain was still Spain, someone had to be punished for voting.

25A, the consolidation of Catalan independentism

25A Calella

The numbers are overwhelming for a little country of 7 million people. An unprecedented case in the world. Catalans have organised themselves acting as a State to organise a radical democratic display. 60000 volunteers (the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games gathered 30000 volunteers and was considered exceptional), 500000 million votes cast, 4 rounds of referendums and more than 400 towns and villages, including two of the Catalan capitals, Girona and Lleida. Yesterday the hashtag used to tweet about the referendum, #consultes, was at the top 4 trending topics in Spain during the whole day. An incredible effort that shows that in Catalonia the political option with the greatest support is independentism.

The Spanish media and the unionist Catalan media have tried to use the 20,8% turnout in this round to qualify them as a failure but they intentionally attempt to hide the real meaning behind the numbers. The smaller percentages are partly because the last two rounds have also involved bigger towns and cities and therefore organisation is much more difficult, especially with the official institutions not only ignoring it but in many cases actively blocking the organisers. Just a note, all criticism has targeted the turnout, nobody has attempted to question the methodology or validity of the referendums.

Considering that the traditional Catalan media (including TV3, the catalan TV, influenced by the unionist party PSC) have intentionally ignored them, that official votings require millions in expenses and that these referendums won’t have any immediate political consequences a 20,8% turnout means a huge success. Anyone who insists in denying its strength or claiming that the remainder 79% would vote against independence is making a big mistake or has deeper and darker reasons to despise a popular exercise of democracy like this. And anyway, if they believe the NO will win so overwhelmingly why are the Spanish so scared of them that they don’t want us to organise one?

The first round back in December was seen as a defiance to Spain so it was easier for it to achieve a 30% turnout, the newness. However, I completely agree with my colleague Manel Bargalló (link in catalan). Voting this time was an act of political activism. Having this amount of independence activists means that the independence choice has effectively no ceiling in Catalonia and means that Catalans of all ages, social backgrounds and political ideas agree that Catalonia needs its own State.

But above all these referendums have served a bigger purpose, to create an extremely active transversal network bringing together the underlying independentist movements and associations from where the leaders who are leading the way towards independence are emerging.

There will be another round in June, involving only a few dozen towns. After that everyone will be watching Barcelona, where the referendum will take place on April the 10th, 2011.

I have no doubt that if a binding referendum was organised tomorrow the YES would overwhelmingly win.