The dialogue table between the Catalan and Spanish governments remains at the center of the debate in Catalonia and continues to generate accusations in the State. But how will it end? Surely nothing. The table is an outdated strategy of parties that continue to understand the Catalan conflict from a pre-2017 conflictual logic out of date, blocked, without path and disconnected from current Catalan society, within which the national conflict is mutating towards new forms of expression. Disconnected from reality, the table will end up dying without any effects. Meanwhile, the accumulation generated in the yes of the new conflictual logic in expansion in Catalan society, may end up giving rise, in the medium term, to a new cycle of acceleration of political and social times that ends in another democratic clash. Let’s see what I’m referring to.
The mutation of the Catalan conflict
From 2010 to 2017, the process manifested itself in the form of a concentrated national conflict and ascending linear time. It was characterized by having a central contradiction expressed in the polarization into two opposites (Catalonia and Spain) whose struggle was perceived as an ascending march towards a final destination of “emancipation” (independence) where one party prevails over the other, eliminating the contradiction. . As of 2017, this logic collapses. A catastrophic tie situation arises in which neither party can prevail over the other. The repression and intervention of autonomy by art. 155 CE shows the incapacity of the independence movement to achieve its objective. At the same time that the, since then, uninterrupted independence victories in each election, highlights for the State the impossibility of a stable accommodation of Catalonia within Spain without a reform of the autonomous framework. This stalemate scenario has given rise to a break in the political temporal continuum, where unlike the physical and social time that continues to advance, the political-institutional time is blocked. The conflict is trapped in a detained and unsolvable present time with no possible advance or retreat.
But despite this political-institutional blockade, in Catalonia there has not been an emptying of the fighting spirit and social temperament in a large part of the population mobilized during this time. Faced with the impossibility of channeling their aspirations of rupture through a concentrated national conflict and blocked linear time and without further travel possible, this part of the citizens now moves and finds in other sectoral mobilizations (response to episodes of repression, opposition to the expansion of the airport, etc.) the escape valve and new playgrounds where they can express their discomfort. Before 2017, the concentrated national conflict of linear time was the engulfing force capable of absorbing and expressing through it the rest of the sectoral demands present in Catalan society, redirecting and channeling them in the form of a simple dialectic national confrontation. Now, it is the other way around, the new and multiple sectoral struggles emerge and will emerge as the only escape valve through which the social energy from the constitutive, structural and central conflict blocked in the Catalan reality can be expressed. Consequently, the national conflict in Catalonia does not disappear but mutates, ceasing to adopt the form of a concentrated national conflict whose focus was a future time to come, to express itself through multiple dispersed sectoral conflicts whose focus is the present.
The dialogue table, a residue of pre-2017 logic
At the same time that the table between governments is still active, the courts maintain the political persecution against the independence movement. In any comparative negotiation process, it would be unthinkable for the two parties to remain seated while the repression continues. However, both ERC and the PSOE persist in their commitment to the table while this happens. Why? Well, because, unlike how it is presented, the table is not thought by its actors as an instrument for the agreed solution of the problem, but as a continuity of the simple pre-2017 dialectical conflict by other means. Unaware of the social reconfiguration of the conflict, ERC and PSOE remain anchored in the pre-2017 logic of concentrated national conflict and linear time, perceiving the table as an instrument to continue taking steps within themselves, as if it were not blocked.
On the one hand, ERC knows that it does not have any exchange political good valued enough to move the PSOE from its position against the referendum, however, it believes that the table is useful: in the first place, to keep the process open. Although each of the table meetings alone are a mere dramatization that does not generate any results, Republicans believe that the accumulation of images of meetings linked sequentially allows them to create a narrative effect that suggests movement. As in a comic in which each of the separate pictograms are static but their successive chaining generates movement, the objective of periodically bringing the table together is not to objectively produce results or impossible political agreements, but to create a visual language that allows subjectively to jump out. of the inert and static time that has been entered and generate a sensation of movement while preparing the supposed conditions for a new assault. And, secondly, to ultimately extract from the Spanish government some kind of agreement to be put to a vote and that, regardless of the question asked, can be socially resignified to a plebiscitary logic capable of showing a majority of votes in favor. of independence in the framework of a referendum with full legitimacy.
On the other hand, the PSOE knows that the Republicans’ strategy involves a problem of origin and one that is difficult to manage. At its origin is the fact that the abandonment of the social conflict and bet on being a guarantee of the stability of the Spanish government when there has not yet been an emptying of the fighting spirit in an important part of Catalan society, generates a contradiction between partisan strategy and social temperament difficult to cope with for ERC. And to this, the problem that has arisen is added, consisting of the fact that with the objective of pulling the defrauded sovereign vote, Junts unchecks himself from the table and leaves the Republicans alone. Aware of these contradictions, Pedro Sánchez tries to increase them, on the one hand, maintaining the repression as a way to warm up a social temperament that is, within the independence movement, a cause of society-party and party-party tensions. And on the other hand, lengthening a table without results in time until such tensions generate the alteration of the electoral balances, a rupture between the partners of the Catalan government and a reconfiguration of the government coalition that takes the PSC to the Generalitat.
Consequently, both parties have an instrumentalist conception of the table. They do not perceive this as a potential producer of consensus but as a new open field of struggle from which to organize the social movement towards that direction that allows them to continue taking steps within a concentrated national conflict of linear time, which they still believe passable and not blocked. However, as it is really blocked, neither the movement that ERC believes to generate with the table is real nor the possibility of starting a referendum that would resignify the PSOE as possible. Nor does the PSOE’s belief that it will dissolve the Catalan problem without the need to negotiate any feasible referendum. The table does not lead to anything, neither for some nor for others. The table is an inherited product of an outdated dispute logic that, as it is no longer in tune with the reconfiguration of the conflict that is taking place in Catalan society, is not capable of producing effects on it or generating credibility.
A new cycle off the table?
In the context of the mutation of the Catalan conflict, it is not in the politicians’ table of obsolete and blocked conflictual logic but in the superposition of the new and multiple sectoral social conflicts that arise and will arise, where it is possible to build a new accumulation that, at In the medium term, it ends up generating an acceleration of social and political times and opening new contexts of democratic shock that will unite the independence movement again. It is not the strategic agreement between parties and social actors that generates moments of unity, but the supervening advent of disruptive moments and events that create a common time and act as a unifying moment. If this new episode of the conflict were to occur, the table will have already disappeared without results. For now, while the table remains a dead inherited residue of a past conflictual logic without the ability to generate anything, the immobility of the Spanish government and maintenance of repression leads to the Catalan conflict being socially reconfigured outside the table and can open the door to new outbreaks in the medium term.