According to the organisers of last year’s September 11 pro-independence march in Barcelona, some 400,000 people turned out on the streets of the capital to celebrate Catalonia’s national day and demand their right to self-determination. That’s a lot of people, although it’s nowhere near the up to 1.5 million who turned out in 2012 for the national day protest that would eventually lead to the unofficial referendum on independence in 2017.
But if you want to look at it another way, you could say that despite the failure of the referendum and the consequent push for independence, and despite the heavy handed response from the Spanish state authorities, and despite the European Union and the international community washing its hands of the issue, and not to mention a global pandemic thrown in for good measure, the fact that the national day protest is still attracting many tens of thousands of people every year is something of an achievement.
At the time of writing, the 2022 September 11 pro-independence march has still not taken place, and while I doubt the number of participants will be any higher than last year, I would not at all be surprised if they were not that far off. Personally, I never shared the optimism of many of those around me who firmly believed that the widespread popular support for independence that we have seen in recent years was going to lead to Catalonia’s secession from Spain. Yet one thing that became very clear was the desire of a great many people in Catalonia to take charge of their national destiny. Witnessing the passion in the people around me convinced me that - independence or not - this desire is deep, heartfelt and not likely to disappear anytime soon.
In Catalan, the push for independence over the past few years is often referred to as ’the process’. Any process is made up of a series of steps and the length of a process depends on how many steps there are and how long each step takes to complete. As a process, achieving the independence of Catalonia is unlikely to be either simple or quick, and what can only be described as a historical process is, by definition, going to take a long time.
So 10 years on from that national day when well over a million people took to the streets of Barcelona to stand up for their national rights, Catalonia is still not independent and the people have still not been able to express their political wishes at the ballot box. But that doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen; rather, perhaps it just means that the process is going to take a lot longer than anyone imagined, that it is an incremental process, and that each September 11 protest is just another step on the long road to self-determination.