The general secretary of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Marta Rovira, is at the centre of a controversy over statements she made about Catalonia's 1-O, the 1st October referendum, that have caused outrage in some sectors of the independence movement. But what exactly did Marta Rovira say? In an interview with the Catalunya Ràdio programme El Suplement on Saturday on the fifth anniversary of the day in 2018 when she left Catalonia for exile in Switzerland, the former MP looked back on the events of October 2017 and the evolution of the independence movement in these five years which she has experienced from exile. The senior ERC official affirmed that the 1-O did not achieve its goal. "Has anyone put the October 1st mandate into application?" she asked. In her opinion, the independence movement did not know how to "overcome the offensive of the Spanish state, nor connect with a large part of the [Catalan] citizenry" and in the end, she assessed that the referendum "did not have enough internal legitimacy". She also underlined that the 1st October vote and the proclamation of the Catalan Republic, on 27th October, lacked international recognition.
Nevertheless, Rovira stated that she did not regret having organized the 1-O and that she would do it again because the goal of independence "must not be abandoned". However, she admitted that the country "is not ready" to hold a new unilateral referendum and that the priority is to "overcome political repression", because the Spanish state, speaking of its democratic aspects, "has very little". These statements led to an avalanche of criticism landing on the Republican politician since they diverge greatly from her position in 2017, when she assured that the referendum was totally binding and that the "yes" majority turned Catalonia into an independent state.
"Who or what is makes you change your mind now?" asked the spokesperson for the Demòcrates de Catalunya party, Antoni Castellà, recalling that Rovira herself had affirmed in October 2017 that the 1-O "made it legitimate to demand the declaration of independence". The president of Together for Catalonia (Junts), Laura Borràs, also criticized Rovira and accused ERC of trying to "rewrite" the events of October 2017. "Even if some say it was symbolic and without internal or external legitimacy, we know that it was for real," she said.
Rovira accused the critics of "denying reality" and settling into "self-indulgent simplification". "Denying reality does not help [obtain] the final victory. Reality has to be faced square on, to make a rigorous and brave diagnosis that allows us to undertake a new attack with prospects of success," the ERC leader said in a tweet. In this regard, she raised two hypotheses about why some "factions of the independence movement" deny reality. In her opinion, if they do so because they believe that there is another reality, this means that "they have never again acted in consequence since the night of 1st October itself and have carried on like that for 5 years". Another possibility, in Rovira's eyes, is that it is a question of "partisanship and sterile electoral tactics". In this way, the former MP defended her position and insisted that "to win, you need honest strategic reflections". Thus, she affirmed that success lies in "complicity between the people, the street and the institutions" and that, for this reason, it is necessary "to add more people to the project in Catalonia, and to explain it more and better in the international arena".
For ERC, "an act of sovereignty and mass disobedience"
This Monday, ERC spokesperson Marta Vilalta, took the opportunity to show her support for her party colleague Marta Rovira and rail against those who "criticize reflections that have been made with perspective. With the criticism against ERC that we are seeing from some sectors of the independence movement, we will certainly not move forward".
She then gave ERC's own assessment of the events of October 2017 in Catalonia, made from the perspective of five and a half years having gone by. For ERC, the referendum was an act of sovereignty and mass disobedience, and "one of the most important events ever in our country". "It was held and won, but the desired result could not be implemented, because otherwise we would be a republic." She said that, faced with this reality, there are two options: to remain anchored in the past and not make any kind of self-criticism, or to learn from what has been experienced in this time. "Nothing that Rovira said is new, we have been reflecting on it for years at ERC", stressed the party spokesperson.