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In Dublin on Friday, prominent Catalan journalist Vicent Partal departed from the advertised subject of his Irish tour to talk specifically about the struggle for Catalan1 independence and to propound a new tactical departure for the nation in conflict with the Spanish state. In three-night speaking tour organised by ANC Ireland, Partal spoke also in Belfast and Cork, in which venues he stuck reportedly more closely to the advertised subject.
ANC Ireland is an Irish-based iteration of Asamblea Nacional de Catalonia, a mass grassroots pro-independence Catalan organisation which has been primarily responsible for the massive demonstrations on the Diada, the Catalan national Day and for the organisation and promotion of the Referendum on 1st October 2017, when scenes of Spanish police attacking voters shocked many around the world. The President of the ANC at the time, Jordi Sanchez, was later jailed by a Spanish court along with Jordi Cuixart, the President of another Catalan grassroots organisation, Omnium Cultural2.
Vicent Partal, who began his tour in Queen’s University in Belfast on the 9th continuing on to Cork University on the 10th, spoke in Dublin on the 11th in the Teachers’ Club in the City centre. Partal has been a journalist since the early 1980s, in which career he has covered the Balkan War, the Demolition of the Berlin Wall, the Beijing Students’ Protests and other events of international prominence. His publishing ventures in Catalonia progressed to the founding in 1995 of the electronic newspaper Infopista catalana that later became VilaWeb, publishing mainly in Catalan but from time to time in English also. In 2007 VilaWeb TV opened as a web TV initiative and nowadays is available as a YouTube channel and on iTunes. Partal is also Chairperson of the European Journalism Centre.
THE NEW TACTIC
In Dublin, Carles Pujol, of ANC Ireland, introduced Vicent Partal to the 50 or so of mostly Catalans in attendance at the talk on Friday in the Teachers’ Club.
Partal came out from behind the speakers’ table covered in Esteladas, independentist flags, and leaning informally against it behind him, faced his audience. Instead of covering the advertised subject of “minoritised languages” and their promotion through the Internet, he addressed recent features of the struggle for independence of the Catalan nation and proposed tactics which he believed would lead to success. His audience was no doubt surprised but seemed engaged and no-one objected. Partal remarked that he had a somewhat blunt habit of stating what he believed but wished to encourage debate. He stated that the “monster” that is “the real Spain” needed to be exposed to the Catalan people and, now that has been done, needs to be exposed to the EU. Catalonia had the credit of having exposed the Spanish State as none else had done, he maintained and had stood up to the regime as none else after the fake Transition from the fascist dictatorship of General Franco.
In essence, Partal stated, a further exposure would come when the exiled Catalan Members of the European Parliament returned to Catalonia and were arrested by the Spanish State. This violation of their immunity as MEPs under the laws of the EU would be condemned by the European Court of Justice which would order their release. The exposure of the true fascist nature of the Spanish State, in addition to mobilisations on the streets would bring about irresistible pressures for the independence of Catalonia.
After the applause for his presentation had died down, Carles Pujol called for questions or statements and approximately ten members of the audience obliged, with Partal replying to each. The first question related to censorship and pressures against publication which Partal may have faced, to which he replied that pressures only work if one gives in to them. With regard to State threats he had disobeyed an instruction to the media from the Spanish State and time would tell what would be the outcome in that regard.
Another question was whether it would not be better to keep building up the numbers of votes for pro-independence parties, currently represented by 52%, in order to win independence? Partal replied that once the Spanish State had attacked a Referendum, the question of numbers for validation ceased to exist – “after that, even 5,000 people on the street for independence would be enough!” Besides, the Catalans need to return to the position they had when Puigdemont declared a Republic on 10th October (but suspended it) and to follow it through.
A scenario of increasing repression and no advance towards independence was what another person saw and Vicent replied that freedom was not without cost and that the repression needed to be faced and defeated. The Catalan journalist also denied there was anything to be gained by participation in talks with the Spanish state when independence was ruled out in advance.
Another member of the audience disagreed with the statement that Catalonia was the first to stand up in rupture from the Spanish State since the Transition, pointing out that the only region to reject the monarchist and unitary state Constitution forced on to the people in Spanish State after the death of Franco had been the Basques3, to which Partal conceded. The man also asked whether with the two main trade unions in Catalonia4 being being in favour of union with the Spanish State, effective general strikes could be organised in Catalonia. Vicent replied that he did not see the traditional approach favouring trade union organisation and action in popular protests as useful any longer. The youth in the Battle of Urquinaona5 had proved that they were able to drive the Spanish Police out and they had done so without trade union organisation, perhaps even without ever having employment to become union members.
An Irishman asked how Partal would define or describe democracy. The Catalan journalist said that there are a number of ways of looking at that question but his most basic one would be that no-one lived in fear.
To the question of what the Catalan journalist saw as an effective organisational political approach to take the struggle for independence forward, he said that all three pro-independence parties6 are now in a position of not struggling for independence and a new formation is necessary. At a recent conference, the pro-independence party with most elected members of the Catalan Government was talking about progressing to independence in 40 years! It was unclear whether the new approach should be just a platform for independence or a new fourth party but he did not at present support the latter option. It was clear that the independence movement needs to be in opposition to the Catalan Government, Partal said.
The meeting ended with thanks to the campaigning Catalan journalist and to the meeting’s participants, along with some notifications and a request for people to get involved in Catalan solidarity work. However discussions continued informally for hours afterwards in the bar area.
1Catalonia is usually understood to comprise the territory of the autonomous region of that name (Catalunya in their own language) within the Spanish state. However the region of Pau within the French state territory is often included and the term Paisos Catalans (Catalan Countries) includes not only Paul but also the autonomous region of Valencia and the Balearic Islands.
2Tried after two years in jail without bail, they were convicted of the crime of sedition and in October 2019 sentenced to nine years in jail, arising out of their efforts to manage peacefully a large spontaneous protest at Spanish police invasion of Catalan Government offices. They were pardoned in June 2021 and released.
3He might also have mentioned the decades of struggle of the southern Basque Country on military and political levels, with a huge number of Basques as political prisoners.
4Comisiones Obreras formed by the Communist Party during the Franco dictatorship but no longer under the party’s control and UGT, very much allied to the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero, by far the main trade unions in the Spanish state. Far behind in membership in Catalonia but growing is Intersindical CSC, a class trade union.
6Esquerra Republicana (Republican Left), Junts per Cat (Together for Cat(alonia) and CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy); the first two made up the pro-independence majority in the Catalan parliament, with CUP in opposition but supporting them with their delegates votes in clashes with the Spanish unionist parties.
FURTHER INFORMATION & REFERENCES
Wiki on Partal (but “Spanish journalist”!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicent_Partal
ANC in Ireland: https://www.facebook.com/IrlandaPerLaIndependenciaDeCatalunya/
Other Irish-Catalan people solidarity groups: https://www.facebook.com/WithCataloniaIreland
Vila Web: https://www.vilaweb.cat/
and in English: https://english.vilaweb.cat/