Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Catalan Socialist Party doesn't know it yet, but it's going pro-independence

by Vicent Partal. Originally published on 28 February 2013

It was a few weeks ago that I told a leading member of the PSC (Catalan Socialist Party): "You don't know it yet, but you're going pro-independence" It was probably a comment with too much hubris, but the answer I got was a sly smile that I clearly understood as confirmation. I have said it many times, but I'll say it again today: we're doing great, and we're moving quickly. We can't afford to forget it.

When I made that comment, the vote on the Declaration of Sovereignty had already taken place and the PSC had already divided—negatively and traumatically—the Catalan Parliament. I hardly expected that just a few weeks later the referendum would cause the PSC to cast their first votes different from their Spanish socialist brethren (PSOE) in the Spanish Congress, the marginalization of José Zaragoza and removing him from the Parliamentary group leadership, and the appearance of a slew of voices calling for the breakup of PSC and PSOE—well, the imposition of PSOE over PSC.

The best-read Spanish socialists know that this is a huge deal, especially for their own party. Because without the Catalan socialists, there is no possibility of a socialist government in Spain. In fact, without Catalonia, there is no possibility of a socialist government in Spain. The numbers don't add up, and therefore, clearly for that reason alone, they don't dare split up. Yet.

And they are so sure about it because these Spanish socialists foresee that if PSOE runs in Catalonia instead of PSC—which is what that old dinosaur Guerra proposes—it would be a monumental disaster that would leave them much more exposed than even now, that it would undermine any pretensions they have of being a "national" party and that it would keep them from going back to what they have been up until this week.

The cold calculations, therefore, look to keeping the conflict beyond the horizon, but I have no doubt that politics will lead them inexorably on. Because for PSC, the first step will be the hardest, and then they will be on their way. The vote the other day in Madrid for the Catalan socialists was like the demonstration on September 11th for the rest of the country: the day that they stepped over the line and that you can't ever come back from.

PSOE wants a meek and docile PSC. That's what they mean by "pact". But docility disappeared with the vote of those 13 MPs and the subsequently unleashed suspicions. And now, any discrepancy, no matter how small, will take on an enormous relevance. Historic. And the division will inevitably grow ever wider, exactly the way it has happened in the rest of society. No matter what they do, no matter what they say, the division will grow because the paradigm has changed. When you stop thinking about the other guy and start thinking about yourself, liberation is immediate. And it's really hard to go back to how you were.

Now, finally, the most recalcitrant socialists, the ones who are most loyal to the party, will feel for themselves what many of us have felt for years: the need to respond with dignity when we are scorned, to respond with self-affirmation when we are suppressed. Zaragosa—who would've thought?—did so yesterday. And there will be plenty of opportunities to consciously embrace that which they now unknowingly think.

It's not going to happen tomorrow, for sure. But it will happen, and this step forward for PSC will be a milestone in the process toward independence. Probably the last step.

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