What's Up Barcelona? #02

The CUP and Artur Mas 10/10/2015

What's Up Barcelona? #2 looks at the two extremes of Catalanism with far-left anti-capitalist CUP and centre-right president-in-waiting Artur Mas's Convergència about to take an important decision. Will the CUP make Mas President? And if they do, at what cost?

Actually, this week has been strangely quiet and a bit of an anti-climax. We spent months waiting for the elections on September 27th and everybody said that the important day would be 28th, when some kind of declaration would be made and absolutely nothing has happened.

Anyway, the idea behind this week's episode is to try and give a view on what's happening regarding CUP's and CDC's different positions on the kind of Catalan society we want. The upshot of these two positions has led to the difficulty of investing Artur Mas as President of the Generalitat, but other things have happened so I'm reasonably optimistic that an agreement will be reached sooner or later.


Why I Like the CUP

To put it simply, the CUP are the conscience of the people. The party has been around since 1986 but active since 2003, when they first stood for municipal elections, and is basically an umbrella group of various far-left pro-independence groups, such as Endavant and the Moviment per la Defensa de la Terra.

Without much noise, the CUP has been growing ever since. It was basically 'municipalista' and is strongly in the Catalan 'associacionisme' tradition, plugging in to local arts and community groups, such as Esplais, Caus, Associacions de Veïns and AMPAs.

Following the first big pro-independence demonstration on September 11th 2012, the CUP decided to stand for the first time for the elections to the Parliament of Catalonia, which Artur Mas brought forward to November 25th.

The presence of the three CUP deputies has brought a breath of fresh air to the Parliament of Catalonia with David Fernàndez's 'See you later, gangster' to Rodrigo Rato being a high point of the legislature.

Why I Like Artur Mas

The Junts pel Sí-CDC media campaign about Artur Mas is right. He has a proven track record in politics and he's a poliglot with excellent English and French. He's also seen internationally as the spokesman for the process, and as far as most Catalans are concerned, ie. 1.6 million people that voted for Junts pel Sí, he's a safe bet as president. Furthermore, he's hated in Madrid, and with legal proceedings taken against him for organising 9-N, he draws a lot of moral support from the people.

Despite all the accusations of corruption against Convergència, I'm convinced that he's honest and I also think he's completely sincere about his, admittedly conservative, capitalism. He may not come from the same Catalonia as many people but it's a very important part nonetheless.

He has been quoted as being inspired by Winston Churchil, and I see what he means. He has all the personal characteristics needed to win independence, but I'd prefer someone more left-wing to run the new country's first independent government. His other inspiration is Enric Prat de la Riba, who was conservative President of the Mancomunitat, which in 1914 was Catalonia's first attempt at some kind autonomous government.

If you look back to that period in history, like now, both Catalanist tendencies were present. Prat de la Riba and the Lliga Regionalista represented conservative Catalanism like Artur Mas and Convergència do now, whilst on the streets Salvador Segui and the CNT occupied a similar position to CUP.

Quiet Week

As far as other news is concerned, this has been a quiet week. King Felipe VI was in Strasbourg talking to European politicians about how united Spain was. Without mentioning Catalonia"Spain has been built on the will to add and not subtract, to unite and not divide, to know how to share and show solidarity"

There was more news from the Tribunal Constitucional, which decided to suspend two Catalan laws. The Llei de Pobresa Energètica, guarantees that poor people won't be without heating and lighting throughout the winter, and the Codi de Consum not only controls shop opening times but also stops banks from foreclosing on properties when their owners can't pay their mortgage.

Perhaps the CUP should bear in mind that these are two progressive measures brought in by Artur Mas's government that have been blocked by central government. 

Thursday - The CUP Meeting

Whole week leading up to the CUP's statement of intent on Thursday evening, which was held at the Ciutadella campus of the UPF under the title 'Per governar-nos, lluitem per la república'.

The proposals weren't so radical and centred on rupture with state, radical social policies and a constituent process for the new republic. This means disobeying the Tribunal Constitucional and the Llei Wert, toughening up social policy and renationalising recently privatised companies, amongst other things. They didn't specifically mention Artur Mas or more radical policies, such as pulling out of the EU and the Euro, so all this is within easy reach of ERC and many independents eg. Raul Romeva, Lluis Llach, and even CDC can accept 99% of it.

Artur Mas remains a stumbling block because a lot of it seemed like a direct call to the more Spanish-oriented left-wing groups that make up CSQEP, who definitely don't want to have anything to do with Convergència. The call to broaden support for the independence process to parties that don't specifically support it is important.

It reminds me of my two main arguments during the campaign. When I was in working-class Sant Andreu I'd say "Vote CUP because they're our people, they'll defend our rights and won't get into bed with the bourgeoisie" and when I met more right-wing people from Unió, PSC, PP or Ciudadanos I'd say "Vote JxSí because if not we'll all being ruled by these loony lefties."

CUP might even be useful to a JxSí government led by Mas because they might be seen as a scapegoat for some of the radical measures that will have to be taken.

I Think ...

I think that disobeying the Tribunal Constitucional from next week is absolutely no problem. The process of becoming independent is going to involve disobedience sooner or later so immediate opportunity disobeying Llei de Pobresa Energètica, the Housing rules and the Llei Wert should be taken. Next week Artur Mas and ministers Rigau and Ortega have to appear before the TSJC so it's a perfect opportunity to have some noisy demonstrations, annoy the Spanish right-wing press and rally round the president.

I think for this 18-month constituent government Artur Mas should be president and deal with foreign governments, EU and Spain but it should be clear that executive power will be more evenly shared. For example, the offices of Conseller en Cap and President del Parlament could be given specific extra powers and be occupied by Romeva and Junqueras, who would deal more with domestic politics.

Sabotage on the AVE

The week closed with the cutting of fibreglass cables on the high-speed AVE line on Thursday. Instead of asking serious questions and trying to find out the culprits, the Spanish government took the opportunity to blame the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra and make statements how Catalonia would be unprotected without the Spanish police.

In fact, the incident didn't look like a robbery but rather sabotage, so I wouldn't be surprised if some extreme Spanish nationalist were behind it, and I'm not making any accusations, but I wonder where they get their funding from. I've always said that Catalonia has less to fear from the Spanish military than from the Spanish secret services.

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