In Barcelona, the separatists between demonstration of strength and helplessness
Proponents of a secession from Catalonia demonstrated, as every September 11, but the speeches were pessimistic vis-à-vis political parties.
It had to be the demonstration that the strength of the Catalan separatists remains intact. A few weeks before the expected verdict in Spain of the trial of nine secessionist leaders accused of "rebellion" for the secessionist attempt in October 2017, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Barcelona, as every September 11, day of Diada, the feast of Catalonia, to ask for independence. However, the slowdown of the movement was noticeable in the decrease of the number of participants compared to the last years - 600 000 against 1 million in 2018, according to the municipal police - and especially to their speeches, disillusioned and critical towards the secessionist parties, or pessimistic about the possibility of one day seeing independence materialize.
On the platform, lack of short-term goals and common strategy, the organizers have been content to call the unity of the movement and redo the history of recent years, from the first small popular referendums 2009 to the declaration of independence of October 2017, as if the time of nostalgia had already come.
"Independence is possible, but I do not know if I'll see it one day," says Javier Gutierrez, a 65-year-old trader. We need time to convince more people. Brexit shows that separation without agreement is not the solution. "Policies do not do much to achieve independence, says Marc Diestre, a 31-year-old veterinarian, who favors a direct confrontation with the state. I hope I will not have to demonstrate twenty more years. "
"The goal we see, the way over too much"
The division between parties and independentist associations is increasingly blatant in Catalonia, between the irredentists and the pragmatists, those who defend a strategy based again on the unilateral way and the confrontation, and those who want to build bridges with the government in order to obtain concessions in terms of infrastructure or funding, the time to increase the social base of independence. According to the latest poll of the Catalan Study Center (CEO), published at the end of July, 44% of Catalans are in favor of independence, against 48% who oppose it.
"There is no way back," says Ferran Griera, a 48-year-old engineer. It's just a matter of time: a day will come when we will be so many that we can not get out the excuse that we are not enough. I hope that the verdict of the trial will open the eyes of other Catalans, so that they see that the current situation is not tenable. "
"The goal is clear, but the road is over," says Salvi H., a 23-year-old engineering student who every Sunday will sing in front of Lledoners Prison in support of pro-independence leaders which are there in prevention.
"We must think of disturbing mobilizations, a non-violent struggle that weakens the tentacles of the state," says the president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Elisenda Paluzie, who defends the unilateral path. "If in the next Catalan elections we get more than 50% of the votes, we will have a mandate to resume the declaration of independence, maintain and resist," she says, convinced that pragmatists will rally to his theses "when they see that there is no possible dialogue with Madrid, and that condemnation will fall. "
The ANC, for a long time both listened to and used by the independence policies that counted on its ability to mobilize the masses, lost its power of influence and is very critical with the political parties, too timid and divided by struggles of power to his taste.
Strong destabilizing power
The two major independence parties have adopted divergent strategies and the only cement that unites them is the defense of "political prisoners and exiles". The party of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which won the municipal elections in Catalonia in May, has abandoned the unilateral path to embody moderation and pragmatism. Together for Catalonia (JxC), the formation of the current Catalan president, the radical independentist Quim Torra, for its part maintains a hard speech, of confrontation, which does not materialize however in the facts. He is thus regularly described as a "traitor" by the most radical separatists. To cries of "no disobedience, no independence", several hundred of them have also demonstrated in front of the Catalan Parliament.
Despite the powerlessness of the separatists to achieve their goals, the Catalan conflict still retains a strong power of destabilization in Spain. One of the reasons for the reluctance of the Socialist Pedro Sanchez to form a coalition government with Podemos is thus his position on the Catalan crisis: the radical left party defends a self-determination referendum and qualifies the incarcerated separatist leaders as "political prisoners" , questioning the functioning of the institutions.
On the other hand, to govern, Pedro Sanchez should also rely on the deputies of ERC, who dropped the previous legislature by refusing to vote the budget and have already explained that the verdict could change their current good disposition to support it .
Coincidence of the calendar, Wednesday, negotiations between Podemos and PSOE were broken. If no agreement is reached next week, the parliament will be automatically dissolved on 23 September and new parliamentary elections will be called on 10 November. The verdict of the trial of the separatist leaders could then fall with a Spanish government in interim.
Sandrine Morel (Barcelona, special correspondent)