Ramon Alberch

Interviewed October 19, 2017 for Catalunya Barcelona docuseries.

If you could start explaining the referendum from the 1stof October for people from outside Spain?

The referendum of the 1stof October is a bit hard to explain for those who weren’t, let’s say, in the Catalan context.

What’s the issue? A bit, to the outside what’s been explained is that it is an illegal referendum because it hasn’t been approved by the state government and does not comply with the proper constitutional rules.

When this is explained to someone from outside, they usually agree, that it isn’t an agreed upon referendum and then should have no validity.

But then, if we explain a bit why it has happened like this, maybe it can be better understood.

Quickly [explained].

There was an autonomy statute in Catalonia that was voted for in 2005 by the Catalans as a majority.

It went through some parliamentary procedures where it was significantly cut and in August 2006 they approved a statute of autonomy that wasn’t, at all, the one voted by the people of Catalonia.

From here on, there’s a political movement that shifts from autonomism to independentism.

This is, people who were in an autonomy mindset and understanding each other, and agreeing and sharing thinks that there’s no solution, that the demands in Catalonia are never listened to from Madrid, or rather from the state government.

They’ve cut back as much as they can the competences and that’s when a process begins where, repeatedly, especially the 11thof September, Catalonia’s National Day, millions of people go out to the streets demanding a change in the relationship with the state.

Since the state, in this case governed first by the PSOE and then by the People’s Party – but two parties that despite being left and right in the Catalan national issue I think the way they see it doesn’t change much – people see that there’s really no room to reach an agreement.

That a decision that ought to be political and talking about it is tackled from a purely legal point of view, the Spanish constitutions forbids it because it consecrates the unity of Spain and it can’t be discussed.

Since here many think that everything can be discussed and talked about, what happens is that they make a 9N, a sort of very provisional referendum, but after the one of the 1stof October of 2017 it is laid out in a more serious way.

Despite there being no approval from the state’s government, in Catalonia they make some laws that believe give them the ability to carry it out.

This has ended up in a serious conflict between Catalan law and 2.300.000 people who went to vote and are, mostly, in favour of independence, they think it is legitimate.

And the government of the state with the support of PP – People’s Party -, Ciudadanos and PSOE who think that this is illegal and should be stopped by any means. This is now a rather serious conflict.

Why do you think that people with a certain economic status is usually more pro-independence than people from a lower social class?

I think that there are to phenomenon that can explain this.

Partly it is due to people with a certain economic status is sometimes people with a certain cultural level too.

Generally, it is due to two elements: first, usually, people with many years of roots in Catalonia, which means a very rooted Catalan feeling, strong roots in Catalonia and who have the culture, language and Catalan identity and personality rooted deep.

Maybe it’s also related to the cultural factor in the sense that someone who has a cultural and sometimes economic status has the capacity to maybe grasp the subtleties of a debate of this sort.

I understand that there are many simple people, and all the same deserving respect, but very simple who make a very quick and simple analysis and, therefore, quickly lean to one side or the other.

The problem with the Catalan issue I think is that it’s an issue that admits a great range of greys, it’s not black nor white, it some analysis skills, some rationality, to understand it.

And I can perfectly understand that there are people who have a hard time with it.

But it is possible that this phenomenon takes place, probably comes from a sociologic study according to which, with a greater economic level maybe there’s more rooting to the country, it’s easier to understand the situation and maybe be more pro-independence.

This doesn’t fool if we check how people voted on the 1stof October in the areas of Girona, Vic…

Areas where there’s a mostly Catalan population deeply rooted for a long time, and the yes is… and the levels of participation are much higher. However, in areas around Barcelona – Sant Boi, Santa Coloma, Cornellà, etc – the levels of participation are much lower because there’s a gathering of people who haven’t been as long in Catalonia or maybe they just don’t care o don’t fully understand it and they’ve just stayed home because they feel Spanish and aren’t concerned with it or they just thought they weren’t supposed to go vote.

This does happen, there’s people who talk about fracture. I wouldn’t talk about fracture, I’d talk that there are two Catalonias which, due to their origins see this issue quite differently.

Now, I think that despite all, there’s still social peace, there’s still harmony. I have friends who are unionists and some who are independentists.

There are arguments, but all this that is sometimes explained about families breaking up, I haven’t seen it.

Someone might get pissed, but I think that it is dealt with a lot of intelligence and much tolerance, this issue.

How could the current situation with the catalanism of the XX century?

There are parallelisms.

The current situation, which is it?

Today, I think, is the 19thof October.

19th. 19thof October.

It is clear, it seems, that soon the government of the people’s party will decide that they suspend Catalan autonomy and it seems that the Catalan govern will declare independence.

So, we need to make futurism because we still need 48 hours for it to happen, but I think that it will happen along these lines.

How can this be explained?

If we look back, there are two historic facts that are quite similar.

One was the proclamation of the Republic, on the 12thof April 1931, when surprisingly ‘Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya’, because Esquerra Republicana was a party that had been founded a few months ago, win overwhelmingly the local elections.

This will soon bring a victory in the general elecions of the left parties and ends up with the fall of Alfonso XIII’s monarchy, the exile of the royal family which will not come back until the comeback, during the 70s, of the king Juan Carlos.

Back then, the 12thof April of the 31, Francesc Macià declares the Catalan republic.

After a few hours they negotiate with Madrid, it was a Catalan Republic withing an Iberian Federation which included even Portugal.

After a few hours he has to take it back and has to let it go. They negotiate with Madrid and decide that they’ll make a statute of autonomy, so make a statute of autonomy.

Which is also called the statute of Núria, because it was carried out in the shrine of Nuria. It will end up too, being approved by plebiscite in Catalonia and in the year 32 it will be approved but also heavily cut back in Madrid.

I mean that these has some similitudes with the one in 2005-6, in the end it was approved in 2006 the last one, it has a similitude.

The second historic fact that also teaches us a lot is that the 6thof October of the 34, which also takes place in a context of great political tension, a country politically polarized, Catalonia and Spain.

Spain as well, with the right wing policies, the CEDA, the left wing parties, the law of agrarian reform, in Catalonia there’s the law of tilling agreements which affected elements that the well-being bourgeoise and the landowners considered sacred.

With this level of conflict, an anarcho-syndicalism, the CNT and the FAI, parties that back then are very radical in the synodical world, it happens that Lluis Companys finally declares the Catalan Republic inside the Spanish Federal Republic and has similarities with the current threats.

Lluis Companys goes to prison, being condemned him and all the Catalan government to thirty years of prison.

But on the 36, the people’s front wins and there’s a freeing of prisoners. They free Companys, who is received here with great multitudes and is again chosen as president of the generality from February 36’ until, the 40’, when he is shot by a firing squad by the Francoism in Montjuic.

I’m saying this because during this period between the 34 and the 36 there’s a suspension of the Catalan autonomy, which what now is being tried to achieve by the People’s Party, Ciudadanos, and PSOE, and during that period there’s a government from Madrid.

That is there’s a… Portela Valladares, there are several representatives of the government, presidents in the shadow, who try to manage the Catalan autonomy without much success either.

It’s a sort of administrative management, not political.

I’m saying it because if we compare the 6thof October 34, 70 something years ago now, there are many parallelisms.

It ended up with a victory of the left and they had to reinstate the government of the generality.

Now I don’t know if it will go down this path, but history shows that both Francesc Macià with the proclamation of the republic on the 31, and later the 34 Companys, maybe it will be the third time that there’s a conflict of this sort.

The first one is resolved with Macià in a diplomatic way, the second with prison. This has a tendency to seem that it will be a conflict solved in a non-peaceful way, at least in a legal way and with imprisonments and people who won’t be able to occupy public service position, we’ll need to see how it goes.

About this, next week, all will be clearer.

But well, I think this will sort of be how it will be.

In some interviews we’ve spoken with people who consider themselves anti-independence because they consider themselves libertarian and would prefer a world with less states. Could you tell us a bit about this and why libertarianism is so popular here in Catalonia?

Here there’s an anarchist tradition, therefore libertarian, that is very strong.

During the 30s, the CNT is an anarchist party and so is the FAI.

The difference is that the CNT is much more peaceful trade union in the way they work, and FAI during the war is a violent group, to say it in a moderate way.

There’s a very strong anarchist tradition in Catalonia from the beginning of the XX century.

I would say that after the Spanish civil war, maybe because of the atrocities that FAI commits, anarchism has lost some strength.

But there’s still many people who are of anarchist thought, even people with names that are clearly from the anarchist world, they choose geographical names or names that refer to the anarchist world.

It’s an ideal that has never caught on anywhere.

States, whether we like them or not, are elements of government and order and stability and rationality.

There are no known countries without a state. I understand it as an almost utopian dream.

You can be against independence, but being against independence you’re not soling the situation either.

That is, you’re still in a state and maybe a state that oppresses you more than a state that could come.

I find it highly respectable, but I think that it drinks from the source of this traditional anarchism, pacifist on its origins, always pacifist. I insist that the FAI is an exception to anarchism, which isn’t at all violent in its approaches. It considers an idyllic world out of a certain dream of absolute equality, that there’s no need for governments because people will rule themselves by common sense, they will know how to make things properly.

Unfortunately, I think that society is heading for the opposite, it is heading to an increasing need of governments, small or big, that establish order, criteria, rules, government…

So, it is respectable, bt I think it is an impossible utopia.

What actions did the central government take the 20thof September?

The 20thof September of this year, you mean?

Let’s see, what the central goerment does when there’s…

What the central government does from the first moment is to publicly manifest that the referendum is illegal, it can’t take place, and they guarantee that there will be no ballot boxes, no signs, there will be no chance to vote.

For this, it looks for allies in Europe who will state that all that can be talked about needs to be talked about inside the Spanish constitution which consecrates this principle of the unbreakable unity of Spain.

What the People’s Pary do, days before the 1stof October, is to consolidate and spread this legal principle.

This is, there’s a constitution voted by the Spaniards on the 78, forgetting that it was voted 39 years ago and that 60 something percent of the Spanish people haven’t voted for it.

It was voted by those of us who are over 50, almost over 40. No, rather over 50 because you had to be 18, you need to be 50 and a lot in order to have voted for it.

Then, this means that part of the population hasn’t voted for it, but yet the People’s Party defend this idea of the unity of Spain as a dogma.

It’s an issue that can’t be argued, it’s a dogmatic issue.

This exists a lot in religion, absolute truths.

For them it’s a dogma and then, any action that is planned then is legitimate because the others are committing an illegality.

With this simplifying mechanism is where the whole process has been articulated afterwards of the police repression, the prosecution of the ballots, the sending of ships with national police and Guardia Civil forces to Barcelona…

They have made a military siege so to speak, for now without the army, to stop those who think it is something illegal and it should be punished.

Since there’s been no political dialogue, the current situation derives from those agreements that we can call unanimous. Besdies Podemos, it should be said that PSOE, People’s Party and Ciudadanos are all in agreement that repression is the only way to dialogue with the Generalitat of Catalonia.

What do you think brought the Generalitat to carry out the referendum despite it being illegal?

Let’s see, the Generalitat of Catalonia had repeated in many occasions while they kept making some laws. There was a moment when they considered that Catalan law was above Spanish law, that they didn’t recognise the constitutional court and other state bodies for open hostility against Catalonia.

From here they build a legal structure, which can be argued about, but they build it.

From Madrid, this all is being appealed and declaring illegal, but here they consider that they are in another phase, that is that Catalonia is in a condition, the independentist forces are a majority in the parlament, they vote all this laws of transience, all the elements that make the 1stof October possible and from here on they clearly begin a path towards the 1stof October.

I think that here the state government made a mistake, to underestimate the government’s shrewdness as well as the conviction of the citizenry and the great compromise there is by a part of the people.

Sometimes they talk of a silent majority, maybe there is, but in Catalonia there’s a very active majority.

The proof is that we went to vote, bringing the ballot boxes, bringing the ballots, putting it all together, was a true display of imagination and, despite the great pressure there was, a 43% went to vote.

There’s people who say well, a 43 isn’t 50, it’s not enough.

I would say that, in the conditions it was carried out, it shows that there was behind a lot of much more serious planning and that here maybe, the government, like underestimated the 9N first, when it was carried out president Mas saying that it was a barbecue and a party, I think this time they were sure they had managed to avoid the voting and they trust too much in a purely police action without considering the capacity of the civil society through Unió Cultural, the Assamble Nacional, to get organized.

When I went to vote, there was such an amount of people surrounding the electoral college, which made it really hard for 20 police officers to go inside when there were 500 people in front of the door.

Here there was an excess. These declarations of Soraya Sanchez de Santamaría saying “We’ll win 9-0”, that triumphalism thinking they won’t be able to vote. I think they thought that people wouldn’t dare, that the presence of cops would scare them away and it wouldn’t be carried out.

The Catalan government, they sure have proven that, that the commitment they took in a certain moment, in the famous plenary session when it was decided, they carried it out to the end.

They do have coherence, another thing is whether or not they are right, which can be discussed.

But you can’t deny them a coherence with their principles, there’s no doubt they had it.

Sometimes, it is said that all this attempts from the central government and Rajoy, this strong opposition to independence, are purely political movements so that they can get more votes in the next elections. Do you think that is true?

I think that the PP has a source in Spain that they know they have and the PSOE too, which is the simple anticatalanism, the prejudice which is not only from the Madrilian to the Catalan, sometimes it is from the Catalan to the Andalusian too.

Spain is a country with deeply rooted prejudices.

The fame of the Andalusian the they’re lazy and happy-go-lucky, that they’re very nice but don’t work. That the Madrilian is also very nice but spends all day taking coffee breaks, it’s a country – all of it I mean, I’m also making self-criticism – where we all have many prejudices rooted.

But the prejudice against catalanonia has been very enhanced from Madrid because they’ve seen it is a source of votes, they’ve seen that they got a lot of votes acting against Catalonia, the Catalan language…

Using, sometimes, elements clearly of ignorance.

There are still elected representatives in Madrid who say that kids here don’t study Spanish, when the average grades prove that Catalan kids here have better grades than those in Madrid, a 0.4 more. 7.47 and them 7.10.

So, it completely breaks with the idea that Catalan isn’t taught or isn’t taught right.

But these are rooted deeply and people keep on repeating them, people still think it true that Spanish is respected here, that it is a language that nobody takes seriously…

I, sometimes, explain it saying that 7 and a half millions of Catalans all can speak Spanish, but only 4.5 can speak Catalan.

There’s no egalitarianism.

I think that, where do I think they went wrong?

They already have the anticatalan votes, I don’t think they will increase them with this issue. Specially, when the PSOE, which could be the vote frontier, has already gotten in the same wagon.

I think that in a certain moment, they – and this is pure speculation – didn’t think that we’d dare go so far, that Catalonia wouldn’t go so far, that the government wouldn’t go so far, that people wouldn’t be so brave, and now they’re a bit surprised that they took a legal course of action which was what would bring peace to it and now they are in a tough spot.

Because the application of article 155… on Saturday they will gather, apply it, but everyone knows that you’re opening a box and you have no idea what you’ll find inside, what consequences it will have.

They say, no, some undersecretaries from Madrid that will govern Catalonia…

It’s very difficult. And will people just stay home and say “oh well”?

I think that anticatalanist oppression, like all anti- oppressions, are oppressions that short term earn you many votes, but on the long run are bad business.

So, I doubt that this brings them success further from achieving a suspension of autonomy, which they can do since they have the military and police power, and an absolute majority in the parliament of Madrid, so maybe it will go like this.

Do you think that the same can be happening with Puigdemont? That he’s only doing politics to get votes?

I know Puigdemont, he’s been the mayor of Girona for many years and we all know each other.

Puigdemont has extra credibility due to two things.

First, he was already an independentist when very few people were, so he has a history, he hasn’t jumped in at the last moment, which is the accusation that could be made to Artur Mas or some people around him, saying “these people have joined just to cover up their corruptions and shames”, it was easy to make that discourse before.

Not with him, he is been for independence for many years, when it wasn’t reasonable to be so. Well, it’s always been reasonable, what I mean is that it wasn’t common, it was a minority of people who defended it and many of us thought that an agreement with Spain would be unavoidable.

The other is that he’s someone who, besides shrewd, keeps to his principles, that is, if someone thought he’d change his mind suddenly, I doubt so.

He’s also proven that he doesn’t have any political ambition. He’s stated many times that he doesn’t want to continue, that he’ll carry out this period and then will go back home or to maybe prison, poor guy, but he won’t continue.

Then, I doubt that in his case, the case of president Puigdemont and his group, I doubt there’s a scheme, I think there’s a high dosage of patriotism. I think he really is of the many of us who think that Catalonia as an independent country could be freer, more prosperous, better manages, more cultural…

And well, he’s been trying to apply that.

Another matter is whether or not he’ll manage it.

What was the importance of the speech of Puigdemont in front of the parliament the 10thof October?

I think that Puigdemont, the speech of Puigdemont, has the…

When he gave the speech, there were people who said “he’s taken a step back” or “he’s betrayed us” when he says yes, but suspended.

I think that Puigdemont made a very realist analysis of the situation.

He said, let’s see, we’ve won a 43% but it could be much more because there were 170 close electoral colleges, all the police belligerence and, then, a rather clear result, the 90% showed no mistake.

So he says here we have a fortress we need to manage but I’m sure he also got calls from Europe.

Europe, during all this, what have they been doing? I think that what they’ve done is saying not to make unilateral acts because Europe won’t accept them.

The interlocutor state is Spain, the Spanish State, don’t carry out this act of breaking because Europe won’t have many answers if you do.

Despite one day, the president Claude Juncker slipped, well, if they end up being independents we’ll have to accept it.

There’s also a North-American secretary of external relations who ended up saying the same.

Deep down, everyone knows that it’s not like Albania or Kosovo, it’s not like the Baltic countries where it was violent, here it is a peaceful movement.

Or Latvia and Lithuania with the fall of Russia, which were cases where it was practically fact already, and Europa, despite having said no, had to deal with it.

In this case, Europe has been prepared, they’ve been saying watch out that Europe won’t be able to accept an unilateral act.

He made a move that I think was smart, saying I declare the independence, because it is an order, but I suspend it temporarily waiting for when the government of the Spanish state wants to talk.

I’m convinced that he thinks that the Spanish government doesn’t want to talk, he knows they don’t. The PP won’t now say let’s negotiate independence, I’m sure of it.

But, regarding Europe, it was a way of saying see that there’s a will to reach an agreement, we want to reach the target and feel we have support but don’t want to make it radically, breaking.

Another thing is that Europe still isn’t moving, there doesn’t seem to be anyone willing to mediate besides the Belgian government and some other government.

It might be that some of the hopes were that someone in Europe would say well, this people have done it democratically with lots of difficulties and wish to negotiate, let’s be the intermediary.

Europe has taken the side of it being an internal affair of Spain and Spain should fix it.

So, he did what he had to do, but probably he doesn’t know, like me, what will happen in two days and decisions are taken as the other one takes them.

If Catalonia became independent, do you think there’d be or there is some worry about the unity of Catalans in the sense that there are so many different points of view?

Let’s see, that will probably be one of the big challenges.

Now, let’s assume that Catalonia ends up becoming independent.

There’s a part of the people who are very active, they were the 43 but it could easily be the 50 something who are fine with it.

There’s always a 25-30 who never votes.

When they say, there’s a 50 percent who says that no, let’s see, being honest in the votes where there’s a higher voter turnout, it’s a 70 something.

There’s always, in Catalonia and Spain, a 20 something percent of people who don’t care about anything, it doesn’t matter to them.

I’m saying this because sometimes they bring up that there’s a 50% that is against it. Not, there’s a 50% a part of which is sure against and a part doesn’t care about independence or unity, they never go to vote.

For whatever reasons, because they are apolitical, because they care more about day to day life or the day to day worries them more than politics.

There could be a 25-30% that could be belligerent, a part of who I think that if they saw that things are done logically, properly, with respect to this society that is perfectly bilingual and that the economy holds up, I think that after a time there’d be a Pax Romana, I think there’d be tranquillity.

But, there will need to be gestures for those who feel very Spanish and see this as a state of aggression and think that this goes against their ideas and their feelings.

Some people even say, I have relatives in Andalusia. Well, you don’t have to abandon your relatives in Andalusia, people sometimes bring it to an emotional level.

I have family outside, my parents were from here or there, well, listen…

There are emotions too, and that’s difficult to manage.

There’s also the issue of the mother tongue, those who feel truly that Spanish is their mother tongue.

I think that in this case there should be a lot of sensitivity and stay far from radicalisms, from “we’ve won, now we impose”.

I think that what’s being said of two coofficial languages, I think all of this is smart and what should be carried out to be again what we were: a tranquil country, peaceful.

I still think that we’re not warlike at all, historically we’ve been so more than now. I think that the new generations are markedly pacifist.

I think that, despite everything, if the independence happened in short time civil peace should be reestablished and coexistence should be easy.

Could you explain us what’s the Partit Democrata Europeu Català?

The Partit Democrata Europeu Català?

The PDeCat.

Oh, right, sorry, it’s always called PDeCat so when you said, we can start over.

The PDeCat is a transformation of Convergencia i Unió, so it comes from long ago.

In the year 80, Jordi Pujol creates Convergència and shortly after it merges with a minority party but with a long history, that was Unió Democràtica, which was then leaded by a very important politician, Miquel Coll i Alentorn.

When they make the pact that results in Convergència i Unió, Convergència already knows that Unió is very small, but also knows that it comes from the 30s, that one of their most important leaders, Carrasco Formiguera, was shot by the Francoism in Burgos the year 38. Despite being a very religious man, he was also very catalanist. He was catholic and catalanist, but being catholic didn’t help him much, they shot him all the same.

They know that they were joining a part of history, despite them being minoritary.

For a time, they created a coalition of interests that worked.

Unió ended up winning because despite being few, they had an important public role. It also suits Convergència because they had avoided a party that was very much like them and gave them this historic track of a party with 50 or 60 years on their back.

What happens? The moment that the Pujol affair bursts open and the contradictions begin to weigh, two phenomenon happen at the same time.

First, Unió Democràtica, leaded by Duran i Lleida begins to drift apart of the independentist movement, first timidly and then ends up doing so in a radical way.

Which brings about a fracture between them and proof that Unió was a minority party, that all thse 20 or 30 something percent of posts they had was merely because of the pact between them for the history they had lived together.

But later they have no representation in the parliament at all. There also appears the phenomenon, that still isn’t very clear, of the money in Switzerland of Jordi Pujol, and what was already publicly known of the not very edifying life of some of Jordi Pujol’s children.

This brings the PDeCat, the democratic European party to create it. They have whitewashed themselves, it was an autonomist party, they had behind them a certain corruption that could be proven and they make this change of the party, it becomes a more self-government party, with a new image, trying to change the posts with younger people, and that’s what they’re up to now.

History will tell if this movement has been a proper strategy or if it made them lose. I think that the moderate voter that could be with them has already been lost, those who aren’t pro-independence are lost.

That’s why in polls Esquerra Republicana now appears much higher than the PDeCat, that when they were Convergència had been a majority party.

So it’s not so much that they’ve changed the name but rather that by changing their doctrine they have lost voters who were very autonomists, very catalanists, but not independentists.

So, time will tell. It seems now that the strategy is being successful, although not much, we’ll see in some open elections if they don’t go together with Esquerra Republicana.

Time will tell if they’ve done well.

The reasons seem quite clear, the reasons why it’s gone this way.

Could you tell us what’s the CUP and what was their reaction to the speech of Puigdemont?

CUP is a party that appears on a local level. I remember when they appeared, at first on small towns and it grew.

It’s a movement that hasn’t rushed.

I remember when they got the first councillors in Girona, it was quite the surprise.

It was a Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, they were very leftists and pro-independence.

It’s a product of this historic context, and I say that in the good sense.

During the first rule, they have a brilliant trio: David Fernandez, Quim Arrufat and Isabel Vallet.

They do it so well, so balanced, tough when they have to be but with smarts, pragmatical, with a good public discourse, that they manage the miracle of having ten representatives and being the balance.

Junts pel Sí has needed the CUP during all this period to approve everything, because with them they make the absolute majority.

What role… teir reaction.

The reaction they have is… Of all the reactions the CUP could have had I think they had one, unlike what most people think, that has been reasonable, smart, sensible.

I think that with their track record, that Puigdemont said independence but then said suspended, maybe in another occasion they would have torn it all down and made the government fall.

I think that in this case, they have criticised, they’ve been tough, still ask that of no step back, declaration of independence now, but I think that they’ve done a lesson of political pragmatism.

They’ve said, let’s wait and see how it happens. This will fall under its own weight, but they haven’t taken steps with no way back to make it fall.

So, I think that, despite what some say, it’s been tough. Yes, but knowing where they come from – young, revolutionary, radical independentists, for them the government of Madrid has no value and no credibility, shouldn’t listen to it – I think they’ve been patriotist enough and seen that if they let the government fall and started a different battle on the streets, with different demonstrations, they would create a very serious problem.

Then, I think they’ve been sensible, that they’ve done the role they should have.

What is Junts pel Sí?

Junts pel Sí is a coalition, in a certain moment, of political interests, in the good sense. In it, when they are heading for elections with a sense of a plebiscite, that is, let’s see who is in favour and who is against it.

When they make this reasonment, Esquerra Republicana, not as strong as it is now, and Convergència i Unió, but now without Unió, get together in a big coalition to go to the voting.

They are Junts per Sí because it’s a yes to independence, a yes to self-government.

Then, it’s the result of a political context where the maths was that they’d get more votes together than apart.

However, calculated later they didn’t win, apparently, as much as they thought, but it does clear up the path that Catalan politics are taking.

Those who are in favour of the right to decide, inicially it isn’t so much independence but rather the right to choose. Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a historic party of the year 31, and Convergència get together, so the CUP is left out because they are ideologically very diferent, but they make up a narrow parliament majority.

I think it’s a coalition that in its moment it worked, it’s carried out a great role, it was a smart move. But I also think that from now on it’s difficult that it happens again, but they had a key role in the moment. Some other day we’ll be able to see the history in perspective.

I think that another day we’ll value if this was a mistake or a success, I think it was a wise move.

But in the future we’ll see what happens.

Could you tell us about the Article 155 of the constitution?

The Article 155 is very simple, of course we’ve all read it lately.

It says that in the case that an autonomy disobeys and breaks the law, the state can suspend that autonomy, no, it doesn’t even say suspen, it can take mesures against.

It’s an article made out of just three lines.

That’s the issue with the article 155, that it needs behind a brutal development. It’d not clear at all, it’s not for this, this, and this there’s that and that. No, it just says that if an autonomy for whichever reason reaches a level of disobedience, of not following the state’s normative, the state has a right to take appropriate measures and decisions.

I don’t even know where suspension came from.

That’s the great challenge for Saturday, he says he’ll gather the senate if I remember right, first the congress and then the senate.

Which is what they’ll do. What does that mean? Is it rubber that you can keep pulling or is it something that you need to be careful how you use it?

What is obvious is that the wording leaves a wide gap that ranges from everything to almost nothing.

It allows for contingency measures, some say that it will only intervene economy more, the ministry of internal affairs will take charge of the Mossos d’Esquadra and they will disqualify the president of the Generalitat and put a delegate of the government there… There’s plenty of speculation.

What is true is that it’s a risky attempt. And truly, when you heard Martínez Maillo and Casado from the PP you get goosebumps by the level of radicality, they want to ban pro-independence parties, they would set everything on fire.

I know that there are many smart people in the People’s Party who wouldn’t have liked to reach this situation, but when the King appears on tv and leaves the door wide open to apply the article 155… An actuation that, for me, is a historic mistake that with time will be assessed.

The PSEO, without holding back, Pedro Sanchez weakened by the barons – Felipe Gonzàlez, Guerra, Bono, all these are a group that are rather right winged on this issue – has also taken Rajoy’s side.

Of course, there’s some unanimity. Ciudadanos would almost ask for the most radical, sometimes with positions of the far right.

There sure is unanimity to apply it.

Another issue are the measures that will be applied. But the fact of applying it implies an important risk and a very tough answer from the citizenry. Then, difficult days are coming however they apply it.

Because to begin with, they will need to distribute competences. The moment that they take away competences from the Generalitat, if they take away economy and public order, they are taking away one of the two great competences.

If, furthermore, they dismantle the government or part of it, it really opens up an unforeseeable scenario.

This, right now… I’d like to be alive in twenty years, if possible, to make a historic study.

Right now it’s difficult to see where we’re headed.

Now, is it a risky move? That’s for sure.

Why was there a candle-light vigil the 18thof October.

The 18thof October takes place a demonstration in many places of Catalonia, most notable the Diagonal of Barcelona, with candles and symbolism, which is in protest for the detention and imprisonment of Jordi Cuixart and of Jordi Sànchez.

The leaders of Òmnium Cultural and the Assamblea Nacional de Catalunya.

Of course, this detention shows how deeply this issue is poisonad. The People’s Party have, despite not wanting to admit it, placed people very much in league with them in the most important posts of the Spanish Law. A part of the law system has taken this role with great radicality.

I’ve heard from well-informed people that the imprisonment of the two Jordis, as it is called now, and the demand for liberty, nobody in the PP would have signed because they don’t like it, they think it is to put too much fuel in a fire.

Of course, this judge has decided that he’s going to do it that way because they’ve been given so much power, saying it’s not a political issue, but rather an issue of public order, a legal issue, a constitutional issue, you get to take the decisions and we respect your attitude.

It’s representative the answer of Pedro Sanchez, who says, no, I have no opinion on that matter, they’ve applied justice and we need to respect justice.

That is, always bringing, which I think is the core of the issue, to bring an eminently politic issue to a strictly legal ambit.

The 18this a demonstration in protest, because two people who have been peaceful, they’ve managed a number of demonstrations with 2 million or 2 million and a half of people without any incident.

Now it turns out that there’s a siege and that according to the police they couldn’t leave because there’s a host outside. They are taken straight away to prison, with a rather radical interpretation and, from what I’ve read these days by experts, with a very bent interpretation of the law, even making up the concept of riotous peaceful demonstration.

It’s a legal concept that doesn’t exists, and is one used by the judge.

It says that they are punished for a riotous peaceful demonstration, because they have to admit it is peaceful, there was no aggression of any sort.

Of course, the words peaceful and riotous are a bit hard to pair up. The idea is that the PP is now paying having left the issue only in the hands of law, where there’s people who are very close to the People’s Party, so they have a very unionist look on Spain, the decisions that should have been political.

What today at 10 in the morning?

Today I’ve heard that he had appeared on TV and he said he’d apply the article 155 and from this moment on…

The idea is that, since president Puigdemont hasn’t made clear to me if independence had been declared or not, his answer wasn’t good enough, saying I’ve declared it but left it suspended hoping to talk with you, they’ve considered it an implicit declaration that they have declared it, so it doesn’t avoid the application of article 155.

Then, now we’ll have to see how it is articulated.

What’s behind all this is that they said, if you call for elections nothing will happen because deep down is that Ciudadanos keeps asking for all day, elections.

There may be a short term suspension of the Catalan government and a call for elections on the month of December.

When, again, we’ll see what happens.

Because they o this, to the implicit manifestation from president Rajoy of let’s apply the 155 and we’ll see how we apply it I think there’s tied the topic of elections. Why?

I think that if they call for open elections like now, it would go worse for them. I the independentist parties would, and it’s a personal opinion, be stronger.

People are very pissed off, so they would go and say, we reassert and what will you do now if the independentists get an absolute majority?

Then, they have, as Catalans say, a rock in their sash, they have something hidden.

Probably there will also be an attempt to declare illegal pro-independence parties or the pro-independence ideology because it goes against the unity of Spain and then they will hope that in the elections would only go PSOE, which we should see if it would still be in Catalonia, it would be PP, Ciudadanos and PSOE, knowing that they can get an absolute majority in Catalonia, but they’d have to see the abstention levels.

If they achieve that with only a 25% of the votes, I don’t know if they will be able to govern.

So, it’s also a risky play.

But surely behind article 155, which I doubt will be applied, and I’m making futurism, with an idea to keep it for a long time because they know that it’s a strong economy and a strong government to be kept with administrators, administrative consultants.

I think that behind there will be, quickly, a call for elections like Ciudadanos has asked for and, since it has the help from PP to reach the majority, maybe they will achieve it.

The other issue is in what conditions will it take place, which will maybe even bring up more questions, more problems and more conflict.

How did Barcelona earn the nickname ‘la Rosa de Foc’?

Of course, Barcelona earned the nickname Rosa de Foc based on there is… in the historic moment, especially the beginning of the century until the 30s, in Catalonia there’s a very important hegemonic force which is what sometimes has been called anarcho-syndicalism.

The strength of anarchism as a breaking movement that wants to change the situation in a moment where there are great open conflicts in the fields and the industry.

Then, this bloody fight in Barcelona, which becomes much more obvious in 1909 with the tragic week, the burning of convents, with the repression against the, so to say, most popular society which is what, seen from Europe, is seen as a referent and sort of a myth.

The fight of some syndicalists, some anarchists, for the improvement of the social situation when there are, certainly, some important social inequalities. There’s brutal exploitation in the fabric industry, there are brutal inequalities in the agrarian world.

If it is now looked at subjectively it is like that, but back then the bravery of bringing it up and generate this important movement that will reach until the year 39 without any sort of problem.

In 1939, when the war ends, many have to leave for exile so this anarchist feeling is lost because many, most of them, have to leave Catalonia towards exile.

What was the role of Lerroux in the tragic week and who were the young barbarians?

Lerroux has a very important role.

The lerrouxist movement, in the dictionary it has stuck the saying someone is a lerrouxist.

Lerroux is a person of non-Catalan origins who comes to do politics to Catalonia and who, with grandiloquence and an important speech capacity, manages to bring towards his party an important part of the working class electorate.

But his speech is clearly anticatalanist, he’s a man who, regarding the topic of Catalan language and culture, believes it’s something of the ruling classes, the bourgeoisie and the middle class, and that Spanish is the language of the working class.

So, in that sense, lerrouxism and those around him, these youths, believe that the fight against bourgeoisie has to be a fight of conflict, of conflict. There’s a long amount of time, around the 20-25 before the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, where Lerrouxism goes through a very important time of expansions and later it will even be a very influential party in Madrid, when he moves his interests a bit.

He was a man, really, who moved well in popular atmospheres. They called him the emperor of Paral·lel, which back then was the area of the people’s bars and theatres.

It was the place where there a cradle for the most radical people and those who moved on those atmospheres.

He represents this part of society that hasn’t adapted to Catalonia, that doesn’t understand how things work here and who think that his discourse, brandished against the bourgeoisie as a system, is the way to solve conflicts.

With time, Lerroux will end up dealing with right wing people, he will become more right winged because I think he has a problem, like now has Ciudadanos, despite the many paralelisms, that they are born with a strong anticatalanism and that the cohesion or the form might be different, but deep down it’s an inadaptation to a reality and a fight against a country’s reality that, deep down, they don’t want to contemplate and respect.

And the young barbarians?

I’ve heard about them and I think they were a group who went with him, but I’d rather not mess up.

What role did the wife of Claudi Lopez Bru have to set off the tragic week?

I couldn’t tell you just now, it’s very specific. If I had known, I would have readied it.

How did the tragic week pass from an anti-militarist uprising to an anti-clerical one?

It’s true that the tragic week of 1909 is, originally, an anti-militarist movement.

It’s related too with the open conflict between the Catalan army and part of the citizenry, especially from the left wing.

The fact that there’s this change from a clerical conflict to a military one is related then with the conjunction of class interests which will happen again in the republic time with the CEDA and the ‘Front d’ordre’ i el ‘Front Popular’.

There are some economic, social and religious interests that get together. In historic moments, the army, the church, the aristocracy, landowners, high bourgeoisie, have some interests in common against the most progressive, leftist sectors, which are usually secular, revolutionary and willing to carry out reforms.

This happened in 1909 and happens again later during the Republic.

It’s what has been sometimes said about the two Spains, what an extraordinary writer said [Lorca], one out of two Spains will freeze your heart.

This, still persists the conservative, religious, traditional point of view with the progressist, secular, leftist point of view. This has been difficult to pair because maybe the church wouldn’t be so unanimous but in that moment, the church, army, aristocracy, landowners, high bourgeoisie take all part of the same model.

What do people do? Since with the army it was difficult, maybe, to manifest aggressivity because it was an armed force so they burn convents, churches, because it’s an answer in radicality, because they see in them the allies of a state of things that they don’t like at all.

So I think it’s all symbolism deep down, we will go attack those who are part of the oppression.

In this sense, the famous fires of 1909 and the verses of Joan Maragall are all part of this historic process of ideological fracture on a state level.

Was the Sagrada Família sacked during the tragic week?

Well, the Sagrada Família back then was a very budding work, very emerging, I haven’t heard that it was sacked but maybe it was.

I know that back then, the works on the Sagrada Família have been going on for the last 25 years. It was an emerging structure, so I doubt that there was anything to sack, but I’m not that sure.

During another interview, they’ve told us about the tragic week: “La setmana tràgica, doncs mira que va ser una animalada montada des de la dirección general de seguridad i que en allí van haver-hi quatre passarells que van picar. Però allò va ser una tragèdia orquestrada des de Madrid per afablir el catalanisme, per enfrontrar classe obrera amb catalanisme etc” Could you…?

I don’t know if it’s the right interpretation. There have always been an interest in…

There have been interests about Catalan working classes get involved in the issue of catalanism. That is true, there has always been a sort of politicism, as the CNT said, or anticatalanism.

There are some, Salvador Seguí “El Noi del Sucre”, some trade union political leaders who have a very Catalan look and very Catalan leaning, but they are a minority.

I’m not saying it can’t be that way, I think that more than catalanism the set off of the tragic week is the product of a class conflict and that, I don’t mean that someone from Madrid didn’t say that it was in their favour and there was some… phenomenon that went towards here.

But I still think that, for a long time, working class movements haven’t been very in line with the world of catalanism, proof being that catalanist has always been a phenomenon of center, right wing.

There are leftist catalansit movements, but they haven’t been a majority until the arrival of Esquerra Republicana the 31.

So, while I respect the opinion, I still think that it is a social conflict that explodes into the conflict I explained before with the conjointment of oppressive forces. A symbol is the church, let’s burn churches.

I don’t see as many reasons of the Catalan culture and language, anticatalanism kind. I don’t think it’s around that.

Who was Francesc Ferrer i Guardia and why was he executed after the tragic week?

Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia is a very important figure, he is the visible leader of the rationalist school which back then was very threatening.

That is, Ferrer i Guàrdia has the smartness and ability to bolster what is called the modern school and the rationalist school, the word says it all.

We need to teach the youths without the religious and classist dependencies of the past.

Religion is an element that often distorts people.

The bourgeoisie gives a very specific education.

The education of children comes heavily determined by the state and is classically conservative, traditional, religious. We need to stop it.

What he does is take advantage of international vanguard currents to say no, we need to go to the modern school – or rationalist school – and what we need to do is educate the children of the workers, it’s all very focused on the low classes, rationalist, cartesian, of reflecting, intelligence principles, far from the shadows of the past, myths, symbols, religious, classists.

That’s really scary back then. There begins to appear an important, vertebrate movement based on ateneus, through many elements that begin to educate the working classes, not only the children but also the workers themselves, in completely secular principles.

And that was a…

In the context, the tragic week is the chance to uproot the movement of the rationalist school and execute their most important representative, Ferrer i Guàrdia.

What do is say, now’s the perfect chance. Looking back, it seems obvious that he has no sort of influence, he isn’t at all an instigator of the movement. But they think that the burning of convents, the aggressivity, etc, it takes place by a cushion of education, that has made people lose the fear of divine punishments, lose all the history of the past full of prejudices, fears and the goal is then very clear.

That is, watch out, this has happened because a certain anarchist feeling, a rationalist feeling, a very cartesian feeling, not at all keen to the church and social classes, has started to take root.

Then, it is the perfect chance to remove the leader of the movement, Ferrer i Guàrdia, and indeed when they shot Ferrer i Guàrdia and some of the collaborators around him they really manage to slow down a lot the movement of the rationalist school.