25/02/2021

Conditions for a seemingly impossible negotiation

3 min
CHRIS WARE / GETTY

1. Necessity. The principle of humanism is to recognize man as an end and not as a means. And this is the meaning of democracy: the citizen as an end, bearer of rights and duties, and not as a subject of a power protected by a superior theological, identitarian or ideological belief. That is why, in democracy, we aspire to resolve conflicts through dialogue and negotiation and not through violent confrontation (with or without a legal alibi).

After three years of big words, threats of rupture, deployment of the repressive mechanisms of the State, and despite the fact that in the campaign some people have revived the music of unilateralism and rupture, once the elections have been held, agreed solutions and firm commitments to possible governance have come to the fore. Once again it has been confirmed that the days are going by, the problems are running aground, frustrations are growing, but independentism continues to have more votes than anyone else, even if it is with a very significant drop in the abstention vote. It makes no sense for Madrid to continue denying reality. It is in everyone's interest to channel the problem politically. There has been more than enough time for citizens to become aware of the impossibility of unilateral rupture, which was already evident on October 2017. Blaming everything on Madrid is no longer useful, because people want solutions and not excuses, and this means having sufficient capacity for dialogue with the powers that overfly the State. Has anything been done, both by the public and private Catalan powers, to have a strong position in front of European funds, for example? Negotiations and pacts, there is no other way out, because the alternative is a losing collision, as the last three years have shown.

2. Opportunity. But what are the conditions for this path to become a possibility, and for the dialogue to result in something more than useless meetings? The first is that both parties see the need for it. And here there is a problem, because in Catalonia it is already widely accepted (and the proof is that the speech of those who oppose it sounds more and more like pure rhetoric) and in Spain there are many powerful people who are reluctant to accept it. How can this be done so that they end up convincing themselves that we will all lose out if the problem becomes chronic?

Two prior steps are necessary. The first is mutual recognition, which in this case involves an unpostponable event: the release of the prisoners, either by pardon or amnesty. In any case, by the shortest route. The second is to assume that the other can also have reasons, that is, that it is not a matter of submitting or winning, but of reaching an agreement, and therefore, that one cannot act by pretending that the rules of only one party are imposed. If this double attitude falls within the space of what is possible, the path of agreements will open up.

For experience to be constructive, a formal framework for discussion will be needed - shared rules of the game - and a certain capacity to put oneself in the other's perspective. All of this is surely asking a lot. However, there is only one way: by starting at the beginning. And interlocutors capable of thinking big, and not just about petty personal and group power interests, which are the decay that destroys institutions and causes politics to degenerate.

There is a way to get started: by tackling the urgent and concrete problems of economic and social recovery, of the reconstruction of societies weighed down by the heavy burden of an acceleration that does not cease and a pandemic that stops everything and that is leading citizens to fatigue and disorientation. An efficient and concrete dialogue as a first step towards détente. But is there anyone on either side with the necessary greatness to face it without thinking of the personal risks it may entail? Surely the citizenry would be grateful, because the alternative is to continue feeding the paralysing hangover of the last three years. Will the Catalan left dare to take the step in the face of the pressure from the rupturist nucleus? Will the Spanish left dare now that the right is in disarray? Good politics is having the courage to seize the opportunity.

Josep Ramoneda is a philosopher

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