Catalonia Calling #14 is called Cupullos and Diabolical Maths, which is a play on the Spanish swearword 'Capullo', which literally means 'Dickhead' and is often used in the sense of 'Bastard'. Diabolical Maths is the way Antonio Baños described the result of the tied vote that the party held last Sunday December 27th.
The main subject of the episode is the three months of frustration that the CUP have put the independence process through. I realise that many people will be insulted by my use of the word Cupullo, but to be perfectly honest, compared to the Cup's selfish behaviour and the fact that the party could well have dashed the Catalonia's hopes for independence if not permanently, then at least quite possibly in the immediate future, then a verbal insult is not very much to put up with at all.
As the saying goes sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me.
Back on September 27th, Catalonia held elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, which, given the fact that the Spanish Parliament and Government had blocked every attempt to hold a legal referendum on whether or not Catalonia should become independent from Spain, were billed as plebiscitary elections. This meant that the result would be used as if a referendum had been held and if the pro-independence parties, Junts pel Sí, the Together for Yes coalition of Convergència, Esquerra Republicana and independents and the far left Candidatura d'Unitat Popular or CUP, won the elections, they would begin the process of democratic disconnection from Spain.
As an unashamed supporter of independence for Catalonia, I gave my support to both Junts pel Sí and the CUP but actively campaigned for the CUP and attended their final rally in Badalona just two days before election day. My feeling was that if we are to build a new country, it is important that issues such as social equality, the minimum wage, corruption and gender, sexual orientation and race equality along with many others should central to the debate and I had been very impressed by the performance of the three CUP deputies, who had been in the previous parliament.
I didn't really agree with, or actually believe, their claim that they wouldn't help to make conservative Convergència leader Artur Mas President of the Generalitat government but realised that in my stamping ground of working class Sant Andreu and Nou Barris, there was a lot of anti-Artur Mas feeling so it made a lot of sense electorally.
Anyway, when the results came in, the pro-independence parties duly won the elections by winning 72 out of the 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament. This was an absolute majority of deputies although they had also won 48% of the votes, which was just short of an absolute majority of votes so everybody felt we had a democratic mandate to start the independence process.
Unfortunately, though, Junts pel Sí won 62 seats and the CUP won 10 seats whilst all the anti-independence parties together totalled 63 seats. This meant that if the CUP kept their promise and abstained, Artur Mas wouldn't have enough votes to be instated as President.
Immediately after the election, the CUP said they wouldn't initially help to instate Mas as President and began negotiations with Junts pel Sí. These culminated in the drafting of the Declaration of the Start of the Independence Process, which was a radical document outlining how Catalonia would go about breaking away from Spain.
The date for the debate was set for the morning of Monday November 9th, the anniversary of the proxy referendum held in 2014, and in the afternoon the investiture debate for the presidency would begin. On the Friday before the debate, Junts pel Sí and the CUP presented an annex to the declaration comprising more articles dealing with social policy, which seemed to satisfy all the CUP's political demands.
The Declaration and Annex were duly passed by the Parliament of Catalonia by 72 votes to 63 and the Investiture debate began. In the vote, the following day, the CUP didn't only refuse to give the necessary votes in favour of Mas but they didn't even abstain. All 10 CUP deputies voted against him so the vote was 73 against Mas and 62 in favour.
The debate was repeated two days later and the CUP voted against Mas again although their leader in Parliament, Antonio Baños, announced that rather than it being an aggressive No, it was a 'No tranquilo' or a calm No.
The party then announced that the would be holding an Assembly to discuss the matter on November 29th. This really felt like they were taking the piss. The Parliament of Catalonia had just passed the most radical document in centuries and everybody had to wait around for a left wing party to decide whether the country would have a new President and government to put the policies into practice.
However, Junts pel Sí kept negotiations going and the response of most people was to treat the CUP with a certain degree of respect and not be too critical. After all, we wanted an agreement so the independence process could move forward and it made no sense alienating them at such a tender moment.
However, over the coming weeks, we began to learn a little about the mysteries of the CUP. Although many members belong to no tendency in particular, there are two main tendencies, Poble Lliure and Endavant, both of which have an influence on policy. Poble Lliure tended to put a priority on independence and so favour investing Artur Mas whilst Endavant were radical left and were unwilling to compromise on the investiture. Quite a few Poble Lliure CUP members made statements in favour of the investiture and soon we were able to put names and faces to people who were against Artur Mas at all costs.
From left to right in the picture, you see Anna Gabriel, Josep Manel Busqueta, Antonio Baños and Eulàlia Reguant and, although there are other CUP MPs that I've come to dislike over the past few months, these are the some of the most visible.
Anna Gabriel is a member of the Endavant tendency and seems a very powerful force against reaching any agreement. Josep Maria Busqueta is apparently an independent and not a member of any group in particular. He's the economist of the CUP and is influenced by the Venezuelan regime. Next is Antonio Baños, who was number one in the electoral list and at the time seemed eloquent and interesting, but now it seems as if the role is too much for him and he doesn't have the the personality or intelligence to deal with it. Last is Eulàlia Reguant, who is always present at the announcements with her insane grin and her fist raised.
To be perfectly honest, I think there's something completely pathetic about all this revolutionary zeal. They raise their fists at every announcement and their rhetoric is full of clichés about the popular classes and social change. They come across as a kind of pastiche of far left wing groups, a bit like the revolutionaries in Life of Brian.
If you don't speak a Latin-based language you'll find this hard to understand but they use the feminine rather than the masculine as the neutral form when referring to groups of people because all of them, males and females, are feminists. So they say 'totes' rather than 'tots'. As a linguist this sounds completely pathetic to me. More paying revolutionary lip service rather than doing anything practical.
Finally, their support for the Venezuelan Chaves-Maduro regime not only seems juvenile but also dangerously misguided. The left wing Venezualan government has seriously totalitarian overtones and fails very badly in terms of democracy. It doesn't allow the opposition to express itself freely, for example.
Similarly, even though the regime may have done something (very little, in my opinion) to improve the plight of the Venezuelan poor, you can't apply the dubious successes of a Latin American regime that needs to improve the plight of impoverished and illiterate peasants with 21st century Europe. Talking about the Bolivarian revolution reminds of people who had Che Guevara posters, hammer and sickle T-shirts and read Chairman Mao's Little Red Book. It's sloganeering and being into revolutionary fashion rather than thinking seriously and critically about the ideas.
Suffice to say, after weeks of waiting around the CUP finally held their Assembly and voted against investing Mas and then announced that they'd be having another Assembly to take a final decision on December 27th. So we had to wait around for another month.
This struck me as pure attention-seeking behaviour. They realised they'd got a little power and could make a whole country wait around until they came to a decision.
So we waited around for another month, in which time the Spanish General Elections were held on December 20th. Nobody won and there's no Spanish government at the moment so now would be a perfect time to get on with the truly radical proposition of trying to build an independent Republic.
When the big day came, they had four votes and most of us followed the CUP Assembly all day and in the final vote at about 8 o'clock in the evening there was a draw with 1515 delegates in favour of investing Artur Mas and 1515 against. This was announced at a press conference where questions weren't allowed - not very democratic.
Nobody really believes that this result is possible so now we're forced to wait around for yet another week. The whole circus is a bit of a joke.
I still think that investing Mas is the best thing for independence because after three months of waiting around, the CUP have managed to squeeze all the enthusiasm out of the independence process. The problem is, though, that they're such a motley crew that nobody believes that they're capable of offering stable government throughout the independence process.
There's a part of me that's starting to think that it might be worth taking the risk and going for a second set of elections in March. Current levels of enthusiasm are very low, though, and it seems quite possible that the Podemos franchise here in Catalonia, En Comú Podem, would poach a lot of votes from the pro-independence parties. Who knows?
Anyway, here we are waiting for tomorrow's meeting of the CUP executive. Let's hope they make a final decision one way or the other.