In these hours, Europe and the world are looking to Catalonia with very mixed feelings.
First of all, we are deeply concerned about the escalation of situation by the Spanish government.
Police repression and violence are never a solution for a political conflict, no matter how we assess the legal situation. This makes the conflict something more than just “an internal matter for Spain,” as President Juncker has reiterated several times.
We think instead that this issue is about Europe and the European Union as a whole.
Not only because in recent years the European institutions, with the notorious Troika action imposing austerity policies on national level, have shown quite another attitude to brutally intervene in the “internal affairs” of individual member countries, as we have seen in the social nightmare of the Greek crisis.
And not only because a political initiative of the European Union — be it together with other, more neutral negotiators — could play a positive mediation role at this moment, favoring a reopening of dialogue between the various actors involved and seeking a negotiated solution to the crisis.
There is more.
Recent developments of the “Catalan crisis,” despite the historical specificities of this affair, are symptom of a deeper disease in Europe: The crisis of democracy in an established state forms as we have known it so far.
Pictures of last Sunday, with tens of thousands of people — women and men, young and old — actively committed to disobey the imposition of force, to guarantee the right to express, the “right to decide,” to vote on their own future, are talking exactly about this: a strong demand for democracy and self-determination, that goes far beyond the classic issue of “national independence.”
Faced with the uprooting violence of economic globalization processes, with the disastrous proportions of ecological crisis, and with the exponential growth of social inequalities, over the last two decades the classic nation-states’ politics have shown their inadequacy to address the major challenges of our time.
Ten years of economic crisis exacerbated all this. Plus, if the national space — and the exercise of representative democracy within national borders — was not capable by itself of counteracting the flows of financial capitalism, it seems to us unlikely or unrealistic that a smaller-scale replication of the nation, i.e a multiplication of “Kleinen Vaterländer”, will do it.
We think that in the “Catalan crisis” it would be wrong to be forced to choose between the authoritarian defense of the centralized Spanish state and the unilateral proclamation of the independence of a “State of Catalonia.”
But at the same time we think that the population of those territories must be in a position to freely decide their destiny in a democratic way and in respect of the majority of its people.
From a strategic point of view, we need a third option, a radically different approach: to consider the principle of “proximity,” and thus to bring the place of political decision-making as close as possible to the people and their communities, starting from a principle of “self-government” that rises from cities, bottom-up.
We have to think and imagine that such autonomous territories can be federated on a wider scale, beyond the traditional nation-state limits and nationalistic chauvinism, in a renewed pact of coexistence and sharing.
The “Catalan crisis” should therefore be an opportunity to finally open a transnational debate about democracy in Europe, about the kind of Europe we want in the present and in the future, about the need for a constituent process that meets the challenges and the risks that we are facing.
But in order to do this, it is crucial to follow right now the road pointed out with clarity and courage by the municipal platforms, the confluences and the left in Spain and Catalonia. With Ada Colau and Pablo Iglesias, with Manuela Carmena and Alberto Garzon, this is the time to stop repression and unilateral acts, it is time to restore politics against the use of force, it is time to set up dialogue for coexistence.
It is always the time for a peaceful solution. It is now the time for a wide European mobilization in support of the spirit and letter of the Zaragoza Declaration.
We are available to do our part. Together with many others.
Because today, in Spain and Catalonia, the present and future of democracy in Europe and the republican values and citizen rights of the European Union are at stake.
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