The independence movement and Cuixart's departure
Jordi Cuixart's announcement, with which he ends his presidency at the head of Òmnium is an quite explicit gesture about the need to renew the political leadership of the independence movement. In fact, Cuixart himself had already hinted months ago, in an interview in this newspaper, that it was high time to think seriously about name changes. In the end it has been he who decided to step aside and thus set an example. It is never easy to accept that oneself is not indispensable. And even more so in the case of a president who has made the entity grow spectacularly in number of members (when he took office there were 55,000; now there are 190,000) and who, in the midst of the post-referendum defeat of 2017, has managed to preserve it in a field of constructive neutrality within the serious fracture that weighs down sovereigntism, which is incapable of reformulating a shared strategy for the future.
In fact, if anyone has tried, discretely, to rebuild broad consensus it has been Òmnium Cultural. It is clear, however, that it has not succeeded. The distance between the different leaders, both strategically and personally, remains almost unchangeable. And, despite the coalition Government between ERC and JxCat, the belligerence between parties is often transferred starkly to social media through their followers. In political terms it is evident thanks to a negotiating table with the State from which half of the Government is absent and explicitly against it. This is, unfortunately, the playing field of today, a real battlefield where, instead of fellow travellers from diverse ideological and strategic positions, there are enemies, traitors and sell-outs.
But with his farewell, Cuixart, rather than throwing in the towel – something that does not fit at all with his character – seems to want to launch a wake-up call that serves as a catalyst. At the same time, by proposing philosopher Xavier Antich as his successor at the presidency of Òmnium, he makes it clear that the entity will maintain its course in search of an understanding between diverse ideological families, and that it will do so from an idea of an inclusive country, with doors open to all sensibilities –beyond the pro-independence perimeter– willing to join efforts for a Catalonia that can decide its future in freedom, that assumes Catalan language as a collective heritage and that has an ambitious project of an open and inclusive society.
Cuixart, who took office on December 19, 2015, was locked up on October 16, 2017 and was finally released from prison on June 23, 2021, after being pardoned: he will have spent, therefore, more than half of his presidency in prison. This experience that has accentuated his Gandhism, a way of acting that is surely the most important legacy he leaves behind, always deliberately distanced from partisan squabbles, always willing to bring civil society in to the great debates of the country. Now it remains to be seen if parties and organisations read this legacy and respond to the gesture of the outgoing Òmnium president.