We had been saying it for weeks. For months. We were waiting, looking at the imminent collision of two famous high-speed trains racing towards each other, and in the end, there was indeed a crash. The time to consider and evaluate pros and cons of Catalonian independence is over, or better said, this time was never properly established: the national and regional governments of Spain did not set the conditions for a democratic debate, putting the two options on the table, to confront what it is really at stake, without manipulation, without empty slogans, without the fake protection of national flags of one kind or the other.
Today is the 2 October and the Spanish government has lost all legitimacy, not only in Catalonia but in Spain and in the rest of the world. This referendum has been covered exclusively from a nationalist perspective, in a manifold and equivocal way, pitching ‘them’ against ‘us’, without recognising the rise of a popular movement that has been mobilising and organising against the oppression and repression of a Central government unable to act, not only now, but for seven years. The repression of a government that will never accept the independence of Catalonia, because in order to this, it would first need to resign. The independence movement has managed to challenge Mariano Rajoy’s government, and that is very important in a country that is sometimes seen as one with no rise of the extreme right, with no rise of nationalism, at least compared with the rest of the continent.
But the recent days have proved something very different; we have witnessed that there is indeed fear to challenge the idea of ‘unity’ in the Spanish region, there is fear to vote in a country where its citizens for decades never felt that voting was a revolutionary action, and now, there is an ‘exceptional’ situation where voting has become a radical action, a radical challenge to the national government. As a Spanish woman, I’m tired of hearing those in power claiming and defending “the unity of Spain”, a fake and distorted idea, direct heritage from the Transition to keep people quiet, even though such unity does not exist, and I doubt it ever has.
When citizens cannot express themselves peacefully, it is bad news for democracy. When citizens are afraid of leaving their houses to vote, it is bad news for democracy. When hundreds of citizens are wounded for claiming their basic rights, it is time to question the government that carries the responsibility for stopping this. When the streets are filled with people, and in front of them there is a State incapable of self-criticism or any form of democratic action – just violence and repression – anything can happen. And yet the situation remains completely open.
The Spanish central government needs to resign now. National elections need to happen with a democratic debate in which progressive voices can express how, for example, it is useless to fight for democratic values through the creation a new nation-state, or how it is more interesting to think and work to develop stronger networks of municipalities, regions and cities that can work beyond the nation state against neoliberalism, patriarchalism and nationalism. As progressives we need to bring back the debate to our terrain, we need shift the discourse away from anger, violence, and flags. 1 October 2017 in Spain and in Catalonia should not an end but the beginning of dialogue, the beginning of a real debate that Catalonia and Spain need for themselves and for the rest of Europe.
Lead image: Edinburgh in solidarity with Catalonia 1 October. Alister. Flickr