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Commentary. The major limitation of CUP’s thesis is linked to a self-referential gaze that sometimes borders sectarianism, ignoring the left’s platform.

An independent Catalonia risks sectarianism

Here in Italy, we know little about the Catalan independence movement and even less about the left. When we read articles about Catalan independence, they often seem to talk about Italy at the time of Lega North Secessionism: native folklore and social selfishness.

A rich and cultured region, tired of paying its taxes, the failed development of poor regions. The situation in Catalonia is different, both because it is a region with a specific history (and language), and not an artificial invention, due to the significant presence of a radical left-wing independent (and non-nationalist) component. The arguments of the CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular) in support of independence can hardly be accused of having a nationalist tone.

What does the referendum represent in the political strategy of the Independent Left? The event is capable, by its symbolic value, of opening an irreversible crisis, a “destituent process” as defined in the Spanish political system governed by the 1978 Constitution.

The crisis of legitimacy caused by the desire for self-determination by the Catalan people gives rise to a “Constituent Process” capable of establishing “a Republic that guarantees social rights, that is feminist, that welcomes immigrants, and that gives priority to people and not money.” The underlying argument is the conviction that in Catalonia, due to the presence of a strong independent leftist movement, it is possible to carry out the radical change in the political and economic framework that appears impossible at the Spanish national level.

After the referendum, a participatory stage is expected, with a Constituent Social Forum as the decision making body, composed of representatives of organized civil society and political parties. At this first stage of participatory democracy, a Constitutional Assembly would be elected to redirect a new Magna Carta project and finally, a popular referendum to ratify the new constitution by phases, to allow voters to evaluate the content of the different sections.

This process, designed even in its details, seems to me it is innovative and takes into account the most interesting reflections that have emerged in recent years in social forums and in discussions about common assets.

However, a problem remains: The strengths that favor the start of a constituent process characterized by social, political and democratic change, capable of preventing the right of self-determination being reduced to a transition from autonomy to republic while keeping the power of the ruling classes intact, seem to rely more on an act of faith than on articulated analysis. The affirmation of the hegemonic capacity of the popular and progressive sectors in Catalan society becomes almost tautological.

In these words re-echo a strong, and quite damaging, myth of the conflicting movements in recent years, that of “we are the 99 percent,” which often hides the harsh reality of class divisions and opposing interests. The major limitation of CUP’s thesis is linked to a self-referential gaze that sometimes borders sectarianism.

Then there are the things that CUP seems not to consider. Podemos, the party that most questioned the so-called ‘78 regime against which CUP has rallied. The same applies to its senior executives, including the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who with the coalition Barcelona en Comú in 2015 won the administrative elections in the capital of Catalonia. The reason for these omissions is twofold.

First, Podemos’s electoral results and those of the platforms that have conquered the administrations of the main Spanish cities seem to be interpreted as a “danger” to that independent strategy which considers it impossible to change the ‘78 regime at the national level and finds in Catalonia the weak link in the neo-liberal capitalist domain.

The second reason for these absences is, in my opinion, even more serious. Both Podemos and Colau defend the principle of self-determination, and Podemos is the only significant national party in favor of a Catalan referendum based on the Scottish model. For CUP to seek mediation to reach a referendum legally recognized by the international community and the Spanish state is considered “an unmistakable ambiguity,” and its proponents are closer “to a regime than to a democracy.” We are accused of fraternizing with the enemy.

I share the left’s perplexity about the referendum, but I understand the fears of sine die postponement. The Catalan issue with respect for the principle of self-determination of a people, the possibility of starting a constituent process capable of overcoming the now unacceptable constraints of the 1978 Constitution, may be a fundamental step in trying to radically change the unbearable state of affairs. The hope is that soon in Catalonia, and throughout Spain, someone can once again tell us what’s it’s like to live in a happy republic.

Independent Catalonia: The Reasons for a Battle, with an introduction by Marco Grispigni, was released this week in the Manifestolibri bookstore.

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