The naivety option
During the years of the Catalan independence many Catalans experienced that the distance between Barcelona and Madrid is much greater than the little more than six hundred kilometres that separate the two cities. The unity of Spain is a cement that transcends ideologies of the right or the left, and the progressive logic that is applied to other issues with democratic, liberal criteria and the defence and protection of diversity is not applied if it affects the Catalan question. Or, rather, the transformative criteria are not applied when talking about the unity of Spain, which is considered a superior good. This has been the case historically, and the onslaught first in the Basque Country and then in Catalonia has led to episodes that have eroded the Spanish democratic system both internally and vis-à-vis its European partners. Episodes of the use of force or state terrorism and the political actions of the courts, in the hands of the most conservative right, have been absorbed by the majority of Spanish public opinion without major contradictions.
Spain is one and homogeneous and this is above other values, whether in the actions of the judiciary, the monarchy or the organic press. As a Spanish right-wing newspaper editor shamelessly said, "the unity of Spain is above journalism". In Catalonia there are also media in which political ideology is above journalistic rigour, but this will be the subject of another day.
Understanding Spanish society and what a state represents should be one of the lessons learned from Catalan politics in recent years. Former Catalan President Jordi Pujol, who ruined his legacy - for the time being and until history can take stock - with family corruption, knew perfectly well what a state is and how it acts. His political capital was to know how to make the most of it until Aznar's absolute majority was no longer needed. In fact, Pujol knew so well the workings of power that if we are to take into account Commissioner Villarejo, the family shared a bank and business with the highest echelons of the state.
Many of the political decisions of the Catalan independence bid can be explained by improvisation and by the atomisation and internal distrust of the sovereigntist parties, but also by their ignorance of the power of a state. If sovereignism someday reorders itself strategically, it will have to put aside its naivety, it will have to have learned its lesson. However, any challenge to the state will only have legitimacy, and therefore possibilities, if it has a comfortable democratic majority, international recognition and is non-violent. It would be a matter of leaving behind the naivety of ignorance, but not the option, perhaps also naive for some, of pacifism and democracy.
This week, with the tenth anniversary of the end of ETA terrorism, a certain fascination with Basque politics has been reproduced. An undeserved fascination. Basque politicians learned before and from the error of terrorism what the boot of a state is and its capacity to respond when its essence is called into question. That is why today the Basques are the most pragmatic of the pragmatists.
It is good to value Arnaldo Otegi's words, to be grateful for them, but the Basque nationalist world does not deserve the fascination with which some look at it. It has merit to be critical within an organisation that can blow your head off, it has merit to lead it from within to dissolution and self-criticism, but there are 853 dead that will never be a mistake but a barbarity. An atrocity committed thanks to the silences of fear, the connivance of society with the barbarities of some and others and the cowardice of many who have not looked the victims in the eye.
The peaceful way does not detract from the firmness of the demands. Any freedom is a long road without shortcuts. It is better to err on the side of naivety than to bear the weight of the gunmen and the complicit silence made of fear.
The Basques maintain a privileged situation within Spain, thanks to the control of their taxation and the lack of solidarity with the rest of the communities. A situation of advantage gained to a large extent from the extortion of violence. The State knows that the Basque privilege cannot be generalised and that the Catalan economy has to fertilise other territories. But it also knows that the current balance is not stable. The response from Madrid, on the part of the right, is involution, uniformity and recentralisation; and, on the part of the centre-left, a transformation without concreteness. The only useful instrument of the "peripheries" is right now to condition the policies of a government that needs to look outside Madrid to stay alive, the only thing that interests the tenant of La Moncloa.