Over the last few weeks, the Spanish “socialist” government and the “left-wing” party Podemos have launched a coordinated blackmail campaign against the Catalan government and pro-independence parties in order to approve the 2019 Spanish General State Budget. With the help of their regional brands, both the Catalan “Socialist” Party (PSC) and Catalunya en Comú Podem (CeC) are openly demanding independentism to support the Spanish Budget for nothing in exchange. According to them, the approval of the budget is necessary for the dignity and the welfare of the people. Consequently, it would also allow the government to increase the minimum wage from €736 to €900 a month. This would significantly improve the quality of life of Spaniards and Catalans.
While it is true that an increase in the minimum wage would benefit both the Spaniards and the Catalans, it doesn’t require the approval of the budget. In fact, previous increases in the minimum wage have been done in such a manner. Not even the Spanish parliament has to vote. Article 27 of the Worker’s Statute gives the government the power to set the minimum annual wage. This contradicts the despicable and miserable blackmail campaign launched by the current Spanish government and Podemos who, for electoral reasons, are demanding the approval of the budget by the pro-independence parties ERC and PDeCAT, linking it with an increase of the minimum wage and warning independentists that they will bear responsibility for a stagnation of the minimum wage if the budget is not approved.
Regardless of this despicable blackmail campaign, pro-independence parties have shown their willingness to support the budget if the Spanish government takes clear steps to solve the Catalan conflict on self-determination and release the Catalan political prisoners. More precisely, ERC and PDeCAT are demanding the Spanish government to order the Prosecutor’s Office to withdraw all the charges against the Catalan political prisoners. This is a comprehensible pre-condition to any negotiation of any kind given that the Catalan political prisoners didn’t commit any crime, and much less, rebellion or sedition as the judiciary from numerous European countries, including Germany, have already ruled. This measure, which wouldn’t affect the separation of powers of the Spanish State would really show a willingness from the Spanish government to dejudicialize and solve the ongoing political conflict between Catalonia and Spain.
Whether the Spanish government will attempt to remove the Catalan conflict from the judicial process remains to be seen. However, the current blackmail campaign carried out by the Spanish government, Podemos, Catalunya en Comú Podem (CeC), and the Catalan “Socialist” Party (PSC) against independentists is unacceptable, despicable, and miserable. They are behaving exactly like the PP did during the previous legislature and are whitewashing the repression against the Catalans. Perhaps they should ask themselves how they would react if their leaders were unjustly imprisoned for over a year, and with each of them facing up to 30 years in prison. Surely, they wouldn’t negotiate the Spanish State General Budget until their leaders are released. They would also likely react stronger than Catalan pro-independence parties have done so far. In addition, the Spanish government can’t pretend that the pro-independence parties would approve the budget without conditions. Where has this been seen before? In which country? All pacts have conditions in any democratic country.
This despicable attitude from the Spanish government, Podemos and their regional brands the PSC and CeC is likely to backfire on them in upcoming local, possibly, general elections in Catalonia and Spain. Their bases, who oppose the repugnant attitude from their leaders towards independentism, are likely to make them lose social support, municipalities, regional governments, and the presidency. This is, at the same time, a big opportunity for independentists to attract them to their cause.
Independentists must acknowledge facts: social support for independence has grown most with unilateralism, clarity, and honesty. In my opinion, it is time for independentists to say enough is enough. Time to reject the Spanish budget, to bring down the Spanish government, to unite again, and prepare for the unilateral implementation of the republic in the upcoming months. In order to achieve the final victory, pro-independence parties must be more honest and clear to the Catalans than ever in saying what is already obvious. The Spanish government will never negotiate an agreed self-determination referendum unless it’s forced to do so. Additionally, the only possible way to force it is via unilateralism and mass permanent mobilizations across Catalonia. Surely, it won’t be an easy path, but with unity and determination, no one will be able to stop the Catalans. At least they will have a chance to get the victory and their desired republic.