Catalonia: What Un País en Comú stands for

By Dick NicholsMay 7, 2017 
–– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal –– This appendix to the article “New Catalan political space: one hurdle cleared on the road to left unity” tries to summarise the essential content of the first draft of Un País en Comú.

1. For a new economic and environmental model based on the common good

This features a strong public sector controlling basic services and infrastructure and committed to a 100% renewable energy program as driver of a new cycle of investment for sustainability. Also advocated is a public bank, a large social and cooperative sector, reduction of dependence on tourism, and prioritisation of local, small-scale and sustainable production. Worker and union rights, a decent minimum wage and workplace democracy are entrenched. An all-round program against climate change features: a campaign for energy efficiency; reduction in the power of the private energy oligopoly by diversification into multiple renewable sources; greater public transport options; and an end to “energy poverty” (poor households being cut off the network because of non-payment of bills). Other important points are: a sustainable water policy based on the remunicipalisation of the water supply; a sustainable cities plan; and an approach to rural and coastal recovery driven by controlling tourism, economic revival of declining inland regions and diversification in agriculture.

2. For a new model of social provision

The keystone of social policy is a guaranteed minimum income ensuring that no household lives in poverty, financed by increased taxation of wealth and environmental pollution and a war on tax fraud; the pension would be brought up to the level of the minimum wage and financial support for young people seeking permanent work lifted above bare subsistence. The present model of social services – featuring private provision by casualised, poorly paid woman workers – increasingly becomes a public, professional service focused on the most vulnerable parts of the population. In housing, public and cooperative provision becomes the norm, the power of the banks to keep housing empty gets curtailed, rent ceilings are imposed and access to energy and water is guaranteed. In education, a system of free public provision (including at the tertiary level) prioritises: overcoming disadvantage in poorer neighbourhoods; early childhood and lifetime learning; improved educator training; an all-round program of modernisation, including class-size reduction, free text books and the development of computer-based learning. Over time public spending on education increases from 2.8% to 7% of GDP (EU average presently 4.9%). In health, the mixed public-private Catalan system becomes totally public, available to all residents, more committed to prevention and health in the workplace, based on community health centres offering the full range of health services (including mental health); the overworked health system staff recovers the income and conditions of work lost because of the crisis.

3. For a country that is fraternal and sovereign in all spheres

From the starting point that the post-dictatorship pact enshrined in the Spanish Constitution of 1978 is now dead and that 80% of Catalans support having a Scottish-style referendum on the country’s future, the text commits Un País en Comú to “the creation in Catalonia of a social, democratic and environmentally just Republic as the highest expression and realisation of its national sovereignty”. This republic would seek to share decision-making powers with a Spanish state “of a fully plurinational character”. Any referendum on Catalonia’s future has to be “effective, engage all Catalan society across the plurality of its opinions, with international recognition and democratic guarantees.” “Municipalism” is a key theme. Action on issues affecting local communities “is a key space for the empowerment of people”, as demonstrated in practice by the advances of Barcelona and other rebel municipalities in Catalonia and the Spanish state: here “the road to the liberation of the working classes begins”. Networks of rebel councils operating from the Catalan to European scale can begin to stand up against the austerity policies of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (the “Troika”). Under a sub-heading “deciding by building” the text expresses the core strategy of Un País en Comú:
In the face of the hijacking of powers of self-government globally and on a European scale, our commitment is to building alternatives from below and as networks, inside and outside the institutions. We need to show with facts on the ground that things can be done differently, repeating and upscaling successful models from around the world; this is the only way to overcome present economic and institutional systems. In this sense local and regional government comes before states.
Examples are the thousands of municipalities and regions that have declared themselves TTIP-free[1], the networks of cities for refugees and the commitment of local governments around the world to carbon emission reduction targets much more demanding than those of the states.
Economic sovereignty is to be advanced by allowing public debt restructuring and cancellation, supporting the creation of a Catalan financial system, setting up a public bank and demanding the democratisation of European and international financial institutions. “If these institutions do not change in character, it would be necessary to consider their replacement by new institutions following a democratic, internationalist mandate.” Technological sovereignty is advanced by attacking the private monopoly on essential data, expansion of publicly provided digital networks, creation of public free access software and platforms, and greater public control of telecommunications bandwidths.

4. For a democratic and feminist revolution

The text declares that, “our main political weapon is democracy as a revolutionary instrument in the face of the elites that have expropriated our sovereignty. Commitment to real democracy is an end in itself.” At the same time the further extension of democratic rights is inconceivable without politics being pervaded by feminist values: “When all is said and done our commitment is to a new way of doing politics, one that deepens democracy and is based on the values and principles defended in the struggles of feminism.” The radical generalisation of democracy to all spheres of decision-making involves: implanting participatory democracy at all levels of decision-making; greater use of referenda and citizens’ legal initiatives; “coproduction” of public policy between government and citizenry; and the elimination of social barriers to participation, especially those facing women. Entrenching democratic rights requires a citizen’s right to accurate information and the curtailing of the powers of the private media monopolies as well as expansion of public, community and not-for-profit media. Reformed public administration will rest on the commitment to guaranteed working conditions, social justice and the defence of environmental sustainability. It requires a process of debureaucratisation that replaces a top-down public sector culture with networking methods that make full use of the social capital of public sector workers, thus acting as a culture medium for public policy innovation. Democracy also entails full recovery of the historical memory of Catalonia’s previous phases of democratic rule and a root-and-branch overhaul of the justice, police and prison systems — with a special focus on entrenching of the independence of a judiciary still very vulnerable to political manipulation. Democratic values would also apply in the Catalan Republic’s international relations —reflected in a commitment to non-violent resolution of conflicts and a non-paternalistic aid and cooperation policy.

5. For an inclusive country where everyone fits in

The text affirms the principle of equality and non-discrimination among races and sexualities, defining as Catalans “all people living in Catalonia, without distinction as to nationality or origin” and Catalonia — a country with a long history of immigration — “as a single people shaped from its cultural diversity. We understand diversity of origin, language, gender and sexual orientation as a strength that enriches us.” The glue that holds such differences together is the Catalan language, repressed under the Franco dictatorship, successfully revived as language of public life and instruction since 1980, and today co-official language with Castilian (Spanish). Where the use of Catalan is still the exception (mainly in courts of law), its use is to be expanded; as the ninth most-spoken language in Europe it should be made an official language of the EU. At the same time, Catalonia’s linguistic diversity (with over 300 languages spoken) is to be protected and promoted. The heart of creating an inclusive country lies in entrenching the values of a feminism that goes “beyond equality”:
Historically, we women have embodied values linked to the preservation of life, beginning with motherhood and the care of children, the sick and the old and continuing with food preparation and household tasks. In spheres dominated by the force, violence and aggression of masculine culture as it presently exists, we women have developed a sense of protection, understanding, empathy and compassion. That’s why we want to make politics feminist and to depatriarchalise it.
As a result, the document not only contains demands related to a women’s right to choose and to equality in work, education and public life, but asserts the need for a positive discrimination in order to overcome the feminisation of poverty and the structural subordination of women. With regard to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans- and inter-sexual (LGBTI) rights, the text builds on Catalonia’s role as a world leader in their legal recognition by proposing campaigns, financing of services and education to really entrench them in attitudes and behaviour. A similar situation holds for people of diverse functionality. The special needs of young and old people are treated in a section called “life cycles”, which stresses the need to “stop conceiving infancy and youth as pre-citizenship and old age as post-citizenship”. Concrete proposals go in the direction of increased self- management, increased home- and community-centred services and reduced institutionalisation. The approach to migrant and refugee communities commits to creating a model of full citizenship and empowerment and to uprooting racism and xenophobia.

6. A project for the country decided from its regions

To overcome Catalonia’s present situation of often marked regional inequalities (within cities and between city and countryside), the end-result of years of pork-barrelling and vote-buying, the text proposes an approach of compensating the poorer regions for their shortfall in infrastructure and services. This bottom-up approach to eliminating regional inequality would be based on increasing the powers of local councils, allowing them to voluntarily share services and creating networks of regional cooperation and coordination. This process would go with the elimination of some levels of indirectly elected administration whose main purpose has been to provide jobs for the faithful of the major parties. Common themes in the proposals coming from the seven mainly rural of Catalonia’s eight regions are the need for proper public transport; preservation of river systems; development of alternative agriculture; and defence of the coastline against the impact of “industrial tourism”. Notes [1] Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, being negotiated between the EU and the USA, and the subject of a wave of protest in Europe.