Gabriel Rufián: ‘In Madrid, we will explain our vision of the Catalan republic’

  • Interview with the head of the party list for Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya in the upcoming 20 December elections in Spain

16.12.2015 - 13:52
Actualització: 01.07.2016 - 10:47

Gabriel Rufián, the Catalan independence movement’s new kid on the block, leads ERC’s party list in the upcoming general elections, alongside Joan Tardà. Born in 1982 into a family of Andalusian migrants to Catalonia, Rufián belongs to a new breed of independence supporters, politically conscious from a young age and with a sharply leftist worldview. He hails from Barcelona’s metropolitan area and his message is regarded as potentially able to reach the Spanish-speaking sectors where independence has had the hardest time making inroads. ‘Speaking out in favour of independence in Spanish is, in my case, a political position’, says Rufián.

—Some people wonder why we have to deal with Madrid at all.
—I understand their position. In a normal situation, in a country under a democracy, we wouldn’t have to, because we would have held a vote and we would have won. In Scotland, Cameron brought out the ballot boxes, campaigned for a ‘no’ vote and won. But this was not a possibility here: we had to take advantage of the modes of action, timelines, and elections allowed by Spain, which took the form of regional elections. We held a plebiscite and won by two million votes. But this popular mandate has been called a challenge, a red-button issue, a coup. Therefore, whether we like it or not, we must occupy this political space in order to tell those who do not recognize their defeat that they have lost.

—But you do not want to broker independence with them.
—The question is whom would we broker it with? According to the polls, the PP is set to win the elections again. And the great alternative is the PSOE. Or worse yet, Citizens, which stands for the right-wing politics formerly represented by Fraga, Aznar, and Rajoy. The question is who do we negotiate with; they are so extremist in their position that they refuse to negotiate at all. We must defend the people’s vote, the Catalan Republic, and tell those who do not respect the people’s mandate and democracy that they must change their ways.

—How do you plan to do this in Madrid?

—By explaining our vision of the Republic. One of our goals in parliament is to occupy a media space that until now had been closed off to us. We must counter the hegemonic discourse that maintains that everything is business as usual, that nothing significant has happened. And when we say we will not partake in the current parliamentary politics, it is because we will not engage in politics as usual; we will not join certain legislative committees in order to try to get a few million more euros. With all humility, we will try to act as a kind of Catalan public diplomatic delegation.

—How will you do that?
—By giving our support to any party in parliament that is engaged in efforts to dignify the lives of the people of Spain. We will always support legislative initiatives whose aim is, for example, to prevent evictions or combat energy poverty. But we will do so while defending what has taken place here in Catalonia, while defending the self-determination process. This involves doing and saying something that has never been done and has not been said, which is that we are an independent country.

—Has ERC chosen you to head the party list in an attempt to reach metropolitan voters who did not cast a vote in support of independence in the 27 September regional elections?
—Well, I can understand some would think that, but it was a rather logical choice. Joan [Tardà] is from Cornellà; I was born in Santa Coloma, have lived in Badalona, and now live in Sabadell. It’s in our DNA, those are our neighbourhoods, our people. It’s nothing extraordinary. My work with Súmate has been to try to reach these places that until recently had not been targeted and talk to people with whom we had not previously interacted very much. There’s nothing exceptional in this: it is our home. But it’s true that there is still much work to be done in the metropolitan area.

—Were things not done correctly in this area?
—There’s a certain patronizing speech regarding the metropolitan area. I am asked about people’s positions in Santa Coloma, in Badalona, ​​in L’Hospitalet, in Cornellà … Well, they are similar to those of the people of the Barcelona neighbourhoods of Les Corts or L’Eixample. Namely, concern about pensions, questions regarding what the Catalan Republic will be like—questions of all kinds. These are geographic areas with a marked progressive sensibility. There are people who arrived in Catalonia many years ago and who remember the nation that has been stolen from them. It has been harder for us to make progress in uptown neighbourhoods of Barcelona than in L’Hospitalet.

—The results of the 27 September election clearly show that in suburbs such as Terrassa, Sabadell, and Santa Coloma, or in Barcelona neighbourhoods such as Nou Barris, Citizens has made more inroads than the independence factions.
—The truth is that Citizens occupies the political space previously occupied by the PSOE and PP, Spain’s two previously hegemonic parties that have now become minority parties in these areas. Citizens, with its deceptive ambiguity regarding where it falls on the left-right political spectrum, has taken up the political space of the two parties that have retreated. It’s true that Citizens won in Nou Barris, but Together for Yes came in a close second.

—In this interview you have gone back and forth between speaking in Catalan and in Spanish. Do you always do that?
—In my case, this is what I have always experienced. As the son and grandson of Andalusian migrants, I come from a Spanish-speaking background. But I love Catalan and speak it with my son. This is my experience. At home we speak both languages ​​interchangeably, as well as in my neighbourhood, with my neighbours in Sabadell. The independence movement, it should be understood, has won because it has overcome any ‘anti’ tropes that might have plagued it in the past, most especially the anti-Spanish sentiment. It has overcome them. And, in contrast, reactionary unionists have lost because they cannot see beyond their anti-Catalan sentiment, in terms of the language, the culture, and so forth. I have given interviews to Spanish media outlets and the fact that I speak in Spanish seems to ruffle feathers because it reflects their defeat.

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