The best result for Catalunya: the bet on the social politics of independence

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By Pilar Fernández-Pazos, translated from Galician by Paul T. Kavanagh
[Click here to read this article in the original Galician

Out of all the possible options in the elections for the Catalan Parliament this result was, from my point of view, the best to be expected, not only for the sovereignty project but also for the defence of social politics.

We should say in the first place that the entire Spanish and international press have highlighted the high turnout, which is truly worth mentioning given the high level of abstention which has been a constant in all elections in the Spanish state.

Had the CiU achieved an absolute majority, after today we would have had a scene of “theatrical fight-picking”, not that the possibilty of a referendum would have faded (although the question could be left subject to manoeuvering from the CiU to attain some improved autonomy, which it would evidently sell as some great victory); but rather for the citizenry of Catalonia this theoretical majority would signify the continuation of the tonic of more terrible cuts, more privatisation of public services, more unemployment, more social discontent.    

Fortunately the presence of the ERC, which has seen its representation double in the Parliament, is the most important factor to highlight.  The success of the ERC signifies that it has been able to emerge from the obscurity of the previous tripartite Catalan government of which it formed a part (with the PSOE and the ICV-EUiA), and which in great measure caused them to drift some years ago.  Besides, it assures that the independence process and debate will not fall into a dead end, and finally, I hope, it implies an iron opposition against the economic policies of the CiU, together with other groups like ICV-EUiA and CUP.

The pro-unionist groups want to sell Mas’s defeat as a great victory for the “United Spain” or the “Better together” that they represent.  The discourse of “Spain is broken” is already historic, it was the basis of their campaign, and in their campaigns they scarcely spoke of any alternatives to the cuts programme of the CiU.  And when they did, as what happened during the last elections to the Spanish Parliament, the PP candidates made like they were the heirs of socialists and trade unionists defending the workers and the people of the capitalist powers.  (They are completely the contrary.)

Sra. Cospedal of the Partido Popular seemed delighted yesterday when she asserted they would not form a pact with the CiU on account of their being “radicalised”.  The ultraconservatives of the PP love the words “radical” and “antidemocratic” (for which read: anything which they are opposed to or which would cause them to change their policies, or anything which defends constitutional rights).  But they know very well that their own election result has been very far from a victory, the arithmetic – in this case more than ever – is very clear.   

The PSOE and its surprising return to its federalist principles, defended during the independence debate as a middle path in the face of the centralism of the PP, was not able to convince and continues in free-fall.  The little credibility they have in the matter of social policies and their internal problems are the fundamental reasons which prevent them being an alternative to the government.  The crisis of the PSOE throughout Spain has little solution if they do not manage to renew the party leadership completely and return to common sense.  A difficult task because the term “socialist” has been getting too big and heavy for them for far too long already.  

Anyway, it would be wise to wait a few months to see how this new scenario pans out, namely until the summer of 2013 since leaders of the campaign acknowledge this as the timescale within which to negotiate the budget.  And knowing the history of the CiU, and knowing the pressure they are exerting on the Spanish and European Parliaments, and with the cuts, I’d be well alert to possible unexpected changes of direction, in which the winners turn out to be the losers.  Proceed with caution.

I personally would like to see the success of the referendum in Catalonia, and a new state (within the EU or not, it doesn’t seem logical and reasonable to have that debate right now, even less considering the changes that may happen soon), but the Catalan people have without any doubt the right to obtain recognition as a sovereign country; and if to this they add being a defender of social policies without cuts, so much the better.  I hope they succeed, but in the meantime I prefer to call for prudence.