“You cannot govern by ignoring others. Dialogue between the PSOE and PP is essential”

“You cannot govern by ignoring others. Dialogue between the PSOE and PP is essential”
“You cannot govern by ignoring others. Dialogue between the PSOE and PP is essential”

In his book “Un militante de base en (la) Transición” (Catarata), José María Barreda (Ciudad Real, 1953) describes his own ideological evolution during his college years, which occurred at the same time as the PCE and the PSOE did, with the former abandoning Leninism and the latter Marxism. In this personal transformation, influenced by reading the texts of the Second Vatican Council, Barreda joined the PSOE. Now, the former president of Castilla-La Mancha, now retired, reviews the last throes of the dictatorship and the transition to democracy. He emphasises how, at a very turbulent time in Spanish history, the parties were able to reach agreements, leaving aside “their starting principles”. This afternoon he presents his memoirs at the Ateneo de Madrid.

Is there a drive that encourages young people to enter politics as in the transition or does citizen disaffection take its toll?

The context of yesterday and today is very different. Back then we were witnessing the last throes of a dictatorship. Things were very clear, weren’t they? Either you were in favour of democracy and freedom, and therefore you collaborated with the anti-Franco movement, or you were an accomplice to a dictatorial and totalitarian state. It is summed up by the ironic phrase attributed to Vázquez Montalbán, according to which “we lived better under Franco”; it means that the positions were very clear. The division of what had to be done stood out very strongly. There was great altruism, we young people fought for democracy and freedom and we didn’t think about having positions of responsibility. We didn’t fight for personal power or to hold positions. The most we could get was a six-year sentence for being a member of a clandestine party or for having propaganda at home. The motivation was very clean and very noble. Once democracy was achieved, the aspects of political commitment changed.

Now the context is different. Political action had great social prestige and liberal professionals, professors, etc. were incorporated into it. Everything has changed due to many errors in politics itself and by politicians who have misused their power, favouring corruption, damaging the prestige of politics. Now, people who could have been committed to public affairs are not in the least attracted to it.

“We were not fighting for personal power or office. The motivation was pure and noble.”

During the transition period, where your book begins, dialogue was essential, but now it seems that this dialogue has become a policy of concessions.

I vindicate the political work of the leaders who achieved an agreement for a peaceful solution at a dangerous juncture: the end of the dictatorship. The key to the success of what they disparagingly call the generation of 78 is being able to reach consensus on basic agreements that ended up crystallizing in the Constitution. To do so, both sides had to abandon part of their starting principles. When there is a desire to negotiate, this is the process. This is what politics consists of, overcoming disagreements, organizing confrontations in a peaceful manner. There is a definition that says that politics “consists of removing hatred from its eternal character.” That is how it is. Society and politicians were capable of this, after a civil war, there was a capacity to overcome confrontation to achieve a peaceful agreement. Without forgetting the mobilizations that managed to put an end to Francoism. Nicolás Sartorius says something that is true. “Franco died in bed, but Francoism died in the street.”

He calls for dialogue in the transition, and he does so at a time when it seems very difficult to see politicians giving up their maximum policies in order to reach agreements. What do we have to learn from that time?

Dialogue is essential. You cannot govern by ignoring others, and even less so in a complex state like ours, where power is very divided. The PSOE governs Spain but the PP governs most of the communities. And the connection and dialogue between both parties is essential.

You are talking about agreements between the major parties. What do you think of the agreement to renew the CGPJ? Should PSOE and PP be able to reach more agreements?

I think it’s great that an agreement has finally been reached. I think that this agreement could have been reached earlier, but this is not the time for reproaches but for celebration. They should reach more agreements, because in Spain power is very divided. The powers in key matters depend on the communities and when we talk about co-governance, we must talk about an agreement and maintain a permanent dialogue between the two major parties. I think it is absolutely necessary and essential.

“I am a loose verse, but not a renegade. I do not take activism as a religion”

On more than one occasion you have not agreed with the decisions of the PSOE. Do you feel like Felipe González, do you feel deprived of leadership in today’s socialism?

No, let’s see, I am still a member of the PSOE. I have dedicated most of my life to trying to achieve the greatest possible equality in Spain. I believe that the approaches of social democracy are the most effective in achieving this principle. The PSOE continues to have a very important capacity for reform and transformation, regardless of the fact that along the way we encounter difficulties and responses to problems that sometimes, perhaps, are not the most appropriate. But my position is clear, it is not that of a renegade. I do not deny the anti-Franco activity I had in my years at university, nor the years in which I was a leader of the socialist party.

More clearly, do you share the critical attitude of Felipe González or Emiliano García-Page?

It depends on the issues. I have always been a loose cannon. When I was secretary general of the PSOE in Castilla-La Mancha and a member of the federal executive, I did not agree 100% with its positions. I do not see party membership as a religion where one must agree with everything, there are no dogmas of faith. But my agreement always exceeds 50 percent and that is enough for me to maintain my position.

The amnesty was agreed by seven votes, but, given the election results in Catalonia, has it served to improve coexistence in Catalonia?

In the Catalan elections, the PSC clearly won. This is an objective fact that cannot be ignored. Has the policy of appeasement carried out by the Spanish Government with pardons and amnesty had an effect in this regard? I undoubtedly think so, because otherwise the election result would not be explained. The problem we have, which is not a small one, is that the separatists do not want to integrate into the whole of Spain and this leads to disloyal positions. It is very difficult to negotiate and reach agreements with these interlocutors because you are exposed to the possibility that, at any time, once these agreements have been reached, they continue to ask for more and at some point you have to stop this dynamic and put your foot down.

“It is very difficult to reach agreements with ERC and Junts. They are asking for more and we have to put our foot down”

As with the referendum that the separatists are demanding after the amnesty was approved?

No concessions can be made that affect the spirit and the fine print of the Constitution. The referendum is absolutely unacceptable.

Do you think an agreement between the PSOE and ERC is possible or are we headed for a repeat election?

Following the news coming from Junts and Puigdemont’s entourage and taking into account the trajectory of this party and especially of ERC due to the internal division suffered by its leaders, I see the situation as very complicated for there to be a government in Catalonia. Although, until the last moment, everything is possible.

Continuing with Catalonia and the negotiations, is individual financing possible?

It is not acceptable to have exceptional funding. The term “singular” is sometimes used as a euphemism to treat Catalonia in a privileged manner and that would be unacceptable. In the same way, a quota similar to that of the Basque Country or Navarre would be economically unviable. I would like to make a reflection. In Spain there has always been a major controversy surrounding federalism. In fact, the negative weight of federalism in Spain meant that in the 1978 Constitution things were not called by their name, what should have been done is a federal State. Now many constitutionalists say that the state of autonomies is almost federal. What does federalism mean? Solidarity and equality between the parties. Curiously, the greatest enemies of federalism are not the traditional right but the Basque and Catalan separatists who want to have a bilateral relationship between themselves and the Government of Spain and this is a confederation, the opposite of federalism. Funding must be negotiated jointly, not bilaterally. The Government of Spain has to guarantee equality and solidarity between all the territories.

Is it acceptable for the Attorney General to remain in office if he is ultimately charged?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s see what happens.

The government plans to promote a plan for democratic regeneration. How does the idea of ​​limiting public funding for the media sound to you?

I think that anything that hinders press freedom can be counterproductive. But citizens have the right to know who is behind the media they use. Readers must be informed about who finances these media, but the State must not hinder their development. A balance must be found.

Is there a mud machine as Sánchez warns?

It is clear that a climate of tension has been created in Spain that must be avoided and overcome. The only way to do this is not to keep the bow permanently drawn. The arrow must be released at some point. The opposition and the government have the obligation and responsibility to improve coexistence. Words cannot be used like fists, legitimacy cannot be systematically denied, on the contrary. In politics there are no enemies, there are adversaries, the adversary is respected and listened to and you make agreements with the adversary. Generating this climate is fundamental.

“It is very good to claim the dignity of all victims of repression, but if that is good, it is also good to recognize the Transition”

After Sánchez’s letter to the citizens, the seams of Sánchez’s hyper-leadership were visible. Is there life after the socialist leader?

Of course there is life after Sánchez, just as there was after the Suresnes congress, and also after Felipe and Zapatero, and there will be life after Sánchez. The PSOE is much more than these personalities.

Who would you recommend “A grassroots activist in the Transition” to?

Many colleagues from the faculty or sympathisers have written to me saying that I have reminded them of all those moments of the transition. There is a generation that lived through it and possibly sees itself reflected in it. I would recommend it to young people who are living or reading history in a different way. Each generation has the right to have its own point of view on history. Here in Spain we have seen a change of attitude with the generation of the grandparents of those who were the protagonists of the Transition, who have stopped seeing the parents who were able to resolve their differences based on the good use of politics and dialogue and have focused their gaze on the generation of the grandparents who resolved their differences with clean cannon fire. It is very good to claim the dignity of all the victims of repression, but if that is good, it is also good to recognise what what some disparagingly call the regime of 78 was able to do, which has been to make Spain live in peace and freedom; the longest and most fruitful period in its history.

 
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