Saturday, March 10, 2012

Presentation of the Catalan National Assembly



About the author of this article for Help Catalonia


Carles Castellanos




The Assembly of Catalonia was founded forty years ago, on November 7, 1971. At a time when a strong unity was needed against the regime, it became an instrumental force which played an important role in hastening the end of the dictatorship. The Assembly of Catalonia fought for Liberty, Amnesty and the Statute of Autonomy—and the latter, “as a step towards the realization of self-determination,” so we can say that this claim is still pending.

After many struggles, and many disappointments, now—forty years later—a very high proportion of the Catalan people wants independence. I shan’t talk here about how we got this far: suffice it to remember all the repression and the censorship we’ve seen all these years. They may explain why it has taken so many years to reach the generalized pro-independence social consciousness that exists today.

What I’d like to emphasize now is that, in a similar way to how it was done forty years ago, the independence movement is currently building an essential tool to achieve independence: a unitary, democratic and participatory structure, organized as a grassroots movement. We are building the Catalan National Assembly.

The Catalan National Assembly will be created on March 10th. It is the result of planning and organization efforts that have lasted more than two years, and has developed alongside the grassroots referendums on independence.

The idea began on 13 September 2009, on the day of the very first local referendum on independence, in the town of Arenys de Munt. Until March of the following year (March 2010), the initial nucleus of about forty people from various tendencies drew up the basic documents: the declaration of principles and a first outline of a roadmap, that is, the steps that would have to be followed to move towards independence. Then, starting in March 2010, the first phase of expansion was undertaken, and the initiative was extended to 200 people representing all sectors of the pro-independence movement. The vast demonstration in Barcelona, on 10 July in 2010, following the Constitutional Court decision on the 2006 Statute of Autonomy gave new momentum to our project and accelerated the processes that were necessary for unity.

Having achieved this first guarantee of the unitary (or across party lines, as they say) character of the project, a National Conference was prepared. Over 1,000 people were to attend it, in a first build-up of forces which would successfully pave the way to the last stage in the process of setting-up the Catalan National Assembly. On April 30, 2011, at the National Conference for our own State, which was attended by nearly 1,200 people, the fundamental documents defining the project were adopted—now with wider and more solid support. Candidates to the newly formed Secretariat and the Permanent Council of the Movement for Independence were also elected.

Thus, the process created its first teams so they could start the process towards the establishment of the Catalan National Assembly, a constitution which, as mentioned, will take place on March 10th. On the Assembly’s website one can find the fundamental documents, including the statutes and the roadmap, that will be adopted in the debates that will take place until the constitution of the association, in two stages: a regional debate (March 3), and afterwards the debate in the General Assembly (March 10).

Parallel work in depth continues at several levels:
- The strengthening of arguments with the reasons to claim our own State. To this end, a paper was published with “175 solid reasons for having our own State ,” a document which can also be found on the same website.
- Work is also progressing to set up and strengthen the local assemblies across the country.

The function of the Catalan National Assembly is very easy to understand. As we have been explaining, it is to give a final push to the process towards independence as a unitary movement organized so we can move forward with more strength and freedom than institutions and political parties have. We assume that electoral dynamics and the political framework in Spain will make it difficult to act with the same freedom of movement necessary to achieve the groundbreaking goals of a process of achieving independence. All the people’s energies, united and organized, are needed in order to speed up this process.

The reason for this new organization is clear: it is meant to organize and strengthen the existing sentiment within important sectors of Catalonia with the aim of achieving a social majority in favour of Independence. I need to clarify that, from an institutional point of view, this means achieving an electoral majority in a referendum. But beforehand and bearing in mind the background situation, we need to get a social majority that gives strength to the different ways in which this majority can be expressed. We start from the belief that it may be a complex decision-making process, for which we need a social majority as a basis.

The roadmap will have to be finalized at the constituent assembly on March 10th, and will obviously have to adapt to changing conditions, but the fundamental features are already defined:
- General mobilizations have been proposed (such as the March for Independence) throughout this year (from June to the following September).
- Systematic work will be undertaken for the international dissemination of our national litigation, making it be known to the world that Catalans want to be free and want to have their own state.
- The line of action of the ANC will not be determined by the electoral process. The ANC goes beyond elections (which are interventions that are considered to belong to political parties).
- We expect to carry out a process of implementing the right to decide—or self-determination:
- By means of the Parliament of Catalonia
- By means of local council statements
- By means of a census of the Catalan nation, etc.

In all cases, we will work towards a referendum (or plebiscite) internationally recognized.

We are aware that the process is difficult. No-one thinks the process will be straightforward, for Spain will do all it can to try and make it fail.

But we have what is most important:
- A united, grassroots organization with 200 local assemblies and 4000 members.
- We base our strategy on dynamic mobilization and advocacy in favor of a new democratic, participatory, and just state.

We are also aware of the great responsibility we are taking on, because we represent (for what we are and what we can be) the hopes of many people.

The Catalan National Assembly and the solution that we are pushing for (independence) are beginning to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people as our only hope to end an unjust situation, typical of the Spanish imperialism—a situation aggravated by the severity of the current crisis.

The Catalan state will, by overcoming the fiscal plundering and by stimulating a participatory democracy, make possible important progress in our daily lives.

- Independence will enable the collective management of the services of Education, Health, Transport, Energy and Communications, that is, the preservation and expansion of the welfare state, and the knowledge and widespread use of Catalan.

- Independence will gives us the freedom to determine our own taxes according to the interests of the majority; to aid job creation, in both public and private companies; to institute the democratic control of finance; and the introduction of universal social measures such as the minimum wage.

The Catalan State will be a democratic, lawful and socially just state. The way to achieve this is by involving ourselves right from the start in the Catalan National Assembly we are presenting today.

All of you are invited to contribute, be your contribution small or large, to help make the dream of so many Catalans throughout our history come true.

So I encourage you, all together, to make this promising future come true.

Thank you.

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