One week in the life of Barcelona

Last Monday’s sentencing of Catalan political and civic leaders to years in jail led to a week of protests and riots in Barcelona and other Catalan cities. The week started with the sentences, at around 0930 on Monday. At 1300, I headed down to Plaça Catalunya with two colleagues, to see take part in a demonstration organized by the new, online blockchain-powered protest movement Tsunami Democràtic. Before long we learned that the action itself wasn’t to be a simple demo in Plaça Catalunya, but an occupation of the airport.

“Tots a l’aeroport!”

So we headed up to Gran Via and joined the hundreds of people there, already making their way down towards Plaça Espanya and beyond. We continued to walk down Gran Via as it turned into a motorway – it’s always a strange feeling to walk along the motorway – particularly as part of a spontaneous demonstration. It took about 3 1/2 hours to walk from Plaça Espanya to the airport’s main terminal, by which time we were thousands of protesters. We walked up the closest ramp to the departures area, but stayed back from the heart of the protest, where demonstrators were facing off with a thin line of Mossos attempting to limit the movement of the crowd. While we looked on, this police cordon broke, resulting in a surge of protesters from the left of our field of view, to the right. 

This was followed by the first of several baton charges that we witnessed, and the arrival of more police vans. Around this time, I saw and heard police firing what were probably ‘foam’ pellets, a type of non-lethal crowd suppressant. They can still cause serious injuries.

It was the first time I’ve ever seen protesters fired on, in more than 20 years of participation in demonstrations.

Occupying Barcelona airport

As heavy rain set in, my colleagues and I decided to head back to Terminal 2 and try to get a train back into the city. It was another long walk, this time something of a trudge, with our clothes and shoes wet through. Thousands more protesters were arriving as we left, and some called out to us to stay a bit longer. “You’re the evening shift: we’ve already done our bit”, we called back, and this was met warmly. While many had used cars and the metro to get close to the airport, we had actually walked all the way, and deserved a rest.

Also, we were all a lot older than many of the protesters arriving. The average age can’t have been much more than 18 or 19, and many were basically kids: teenagers of 14, 15. There was a sense of excitement, of exaltation rather than trepidation. After an uproarious response to a brief police maneuver, some lads next to me nudged each other and grinning called out “Come on, let’s get down there!”, before running out into the fray. This, coupled with knowledge of the violent and often far-right BRIMO, meant I was not surprised when more trouble broke out later.

There is a lot of frustration out there. I mean, old fogeys like me are frustrated so imagine how bad it must be for teenagers who’ve grown up in constant economic and political crisis, the only remedy being police sanctioned clubs where marijuana can be more or less legally consumed.

I got home at about 2100, having walked 25 km. The number of protesters at the airport swelled, and finally the police moved to retake the space, triggering some disturbances. The demonstration was officially called off at maybe 2200 or 2300, and I think it took a few more hours to clear the space in front of the airport. In all, 155 flights were cancelled.

Policing context

Monday saw the start of riots and disturbances in Barcelona and throughout Catalonia and Spain. What started as simple protests against the prison sentences became demonstrations against police violence and in support of the right to peaceful assembly, and these then turned into violent confrontations, which have left hundreds injured (including police officers). 4 protesters have lost eyes thanks to police use of rubber ball ammunition. Sunday was the first night in a week without violent altercations.

Actually, the style of policing was presaged by a few events prior to the sentences. Firstly, we had the arrests of 9 CDR activists accused of terrorism by the state. This was another step in the campaign to demonize the CDRs and the whole independence movement as violent or at least potentially violent. Another aim might well be to split the independence movement but I’d say that it has responded pretty much unanimously by rejecting the arrests in disbelief. If there is a split, currently, it lies between the people on the streets and the main political parties (ERC and JxCAT). More on that later.

The next, and perhaps most important foreshadowing of last week’s police violence came from the head of the Guardia Civil in Catalonia, Pedro Garrido. In an almost unthinkable breach of protocol, one of Spain’s most senior security officials plunged head first into politics, giving an openly political speech and warning Catalan independentists that his force would “Do it again”, a macabre echo of Jordi Cuixart’s words about the October 1 2017 referendum. Cuixart had referred to voting. Garrido, presumably to beating the shit out of peaceful protesters.

Last week

In the end, it was the Mossos and the Policía Nacional who handled the brutal repression this week. Much of the time, they appeared to be running amock, completely out of control.

You can view some videos of the week’s violence here:

Friday, we observed a general strike. As an aside, I recently became a union member for the first time, and it’s a great feeling to be part of an organized labor organization. More on that later, too.

I joined one of six ‘marches for liberty’ which converged on Barcelona, and ending with another large demonstration in the city center. Another 15 km walked, in the name of democracy.

As we marched into the city, some neighbors cheered us on from their balconies.

Catalonia’s October, 2 years on

Two years ago this morning, I got up at about 5:00 am and made my way to the Institut Banús, 15 minutes walk from our house in Cerdanyola del Vallès. By the time I arrived, there were several dozen people milling around outside the school. I spotted our downstairs neighbor, Isabel, who had been there all night. She told me that there were more people inside the school. Everything was ready.

Voters queue outside Institut Banús in Cerdanyola during the Catalan referendum on 1 October 2017

Those of us who waited outside the school were there with a single shared purpose: to protect our local polling station. Protect it from violent attacks. Protect it from the people who wanted to stop that day from happening. Never in my life have I experienced such a sense of solidarity. That magical, empowering feeling of joining together with friends, neighbors and strangers alike to make a shared dream reality.

It was October 1st, 2017 and we were determined that Catalonia’s referendum on independence would go ahead, despite it having been declared illegal by the Spanish government and courts. I wrote more about that day in one of my last posts, a few weeks after the referendum happened.

So what has happened since then? Too much to say, really. A declaration of independence, immediately suspended and later reactivated, and all the while, the Spanish flag flew over the Palau. And Spanish police helicopters hovered over Barcelona.

Our legitimate government, unable to carry out its promise of an independent republic was deposed under article 155 of the Spanish constitution, and then locked up in jail or forced into exile. Leaders of civic organizations and the speaker of the Catalan parliament were locked up too (the latter for allowing a debate to take place, which is sort of what parliaments are for). Spain established direct rule in Catalonia for the first time since the 1970s. Elections were called, strikes were held, a pro-independence majority was returned in the Catalan parliament… but the “beheading” of the political movement, as Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría described it, had tangible effects. The new president supports independence. That’s about the only good thing I can say about him.

This is a profoundly difficult and painful moment for the entire independence movement. Instead of working to implement the republic, we spend our time discussing the next Spanish national elections – should people vote? Who should they vote for? It’s almost ironic that at this nadir, the most unifying event that could happen was the sudden dawn raids and arrests of 9 activists in the Committees for Defense of the Republic (CDRs).

The arrests, in Mollet, Sabadell, Santa Perpètua and Cerdanyola, have suddenly galvanized the movement. Because no-one believes that our fellow activists would turn down the path to violence, an idea which is completely anathema to the modern Catalan independence movement.

Edit on October 24, 2019: it was confirmed today that none of the CDR activists were in possession of any explosives. The whole thing looks like it was a media show.

There’s a real sense that things are a lot closer to home now: it used to be people we’d seen on TV and maybe voted for, who were getting locked up. Then it was innocent activists like Tamara Carrasco, not allowed to leave her hometown under court order for a year, before the charges against her were quietly dropped. Now it’s friends of friends who are getting arrested, people we’ve stood near to in demonstrations. People we know.

But the feeling of solidarity lives on, despite party divisions and political maneuvers. When the sentences for our political leaders are announced, we will respond with more civil disobedience, more solidarity and more certainty than ever that we have the right to build our republic.

Independence or death

[Personal note: in an email, a friend mentioned that he was surprised that I hadn’t written more about the current situation in Catalonia. I’ll admit that I too am slightly bemused by this. I can only say that the decline in the blog as a format (not just mine, but in general), which started years and years ago but has now more or less reached its culmination, has coincided more recently with personal events – our daughter is three months old now. So I’ve gone from being one of the few English language bloggers to discuss Catalan independence as an actual possibility worth discussing, to being one of the only political bloggers not to have talked about recent events. In this post, I will try to rectify that.]

How many turning points has this independence movement had? They’re uncountable, I suppose. It began with the Estatut. Or with Arenys de Munt. Or maybe in 1977 when they let Tarradellas back. The 9N ‘consulta’ which definitely wouldn’t happen, then didn’t happen, and if it did it had no consequences. The CUP forcing Mas out and paving the way for a truly committed pro-independence president of Catalonia. Year after year of peaceful mass demonstrations, the biggest series of protests in European history. Intervention in the Generalitat’s finances. The imposition of 16,000 police. A por ellos.

October 1st – #CatalanReferendum

Like many others, I was guarding the local polling station before 6 am. How many times, living in a democracy, do you get to say that? Some of my neighbours had been there all night. The mood was one of tense hope and anticipation. We heard rumours that the Policia Nacional and Guardia Civil were leaving their cruise ships in the port of Barcelona. Would they be coming for us?

Two Mossos arrived and greeted us with a cheerful “Bon dia”. “Bon dia!” they received in cheerful response. Could they go in and have a look around? The ballot boxes hadn’t yet arrived, so they were allowed in for a minute or so. After they left the school, they took up post a short distance from the school gates, watching.

Then a murmur of activity. The ballot boxes! With the two Mossos stationed outside the front gate, the school’s back door was used to smuggle the ballot boxes in. We helped shield one of the guys who brought them as he left through the front entrance with a spare box for another polling station in his hands. A huge round of applause and cheering broke out. The Mossos stayed back.

At 11 am, I went home to make lunch for my family and saw horrendous scenes on the news. We started to receive messages from friends and loved ones, asking if we were OK. One of the schools attacked by the police was in Sabadell, a neighbouring town. In the end, they didn’t come for us. After lunch, I was back at the polling station until it closed. My neighbours marched on the town hall and the mayor lowered the Spanish flag.

The police brutality on October 1st was, I think, one of a series of critical errors on the part of the Spanish government. But I think I can understand why it happened. A state can sometimes calculate that it’s better to have everyone talking about what it succeeded at (breaking heads and fingers), rather than what it failed at.

Intelligence failures

October 1st was, unquestionably, a day of failures for Spain’s security and intelligence services. Most significantly, the Spanish state had previously identified the ballot boxes as its primary target, and yet it failed to capture a single box before it started its raids on the polling stations. What this means is that hundreds of people were involved in a clandestine operation to bring the ballot boxes from storage in Elne, France, to each of the hundreds of polling stations across Catalan territory, and that the Spanish intelligence and security services almost certainly failed to infiltrate this operation. The operation was carefully planned, involved failsafes, need to know data restrictions and even lookouts watching border crossings and major highways.

It’s probably fair to say that this intelligence failure indicates a generalised failure by the Spanish authorities to successfully infiltrate the Catalan independence movement’s core, and those of us who support independence should take some pride in that. There is an outside chance that the operation was infiltrated but that a strategic decision was taken to avoid revealing this fact for some future gain, and so the ballot boxes were left alone. I find it very difficult indeed to accept this hypothesis given that the politically expedient thing would have been to prevent the ballot boxes arriving altogether.

Similarly, the Spanish government seemed to have no prior knowledge of the online Universal Census system set up in the days before the referendum, and designed to allow people to vote in alternative polling stations if theirs was closed by police action.

The king’s speech

One of the founding myths of the Spanish transition is how the current king’s father Juan Carlos saved the fledgling democracy by speaking out against 1981’s Guardia Civil/Army coup attempt. I don’t think many people expected his son to be able to repeat this mythical feat, in the age of the internet, but few predicted that he would do so badly. Felipe’s speech had two main ingredients: an attempt to placate his critics on the right, and carte blanche for the PP government to push forward with draconian measures under the protection of the constitution. He failed to speak to Catalans’ (or other Spaniards’) concerns for the state’s lurch to repressive tactics. The king’s speech signaled the failure of the transition and its pact for autonomy for Spain’s regions and nationalities.

Article 155

Much has been written about the dreaded Article 155 and the powers it might concede to a government that attempts to use it. The thing about Article 155, though, is that it’s a bit like the atomic bomb. Even using it once is a highly risky operation which will have far-reaching and unknowable consequences. Much of the hot air surrounding the PP’s intentions with Article 155 is just that: hot air. The Spanish government knows that actually applying any of the measures they have floated in the press would be next to impossible. It’s a tactic to try to force elections, and insofar as it has convinced committed 3rd-wayers like Santi Vila, it has worked.

But make no mistake: if Catalonia fails to become independent, the constitution will be abused by the PP-PSOE-Ciudadanos coalition in order to make Catalonia pay. Albert Rivera has already called on the central government only to call Catalan parliamentary elections (a power he doesn’t have, but will claim under 155) “when they can guarantee the result”, i.e. when they can be sure that pro-independence parties won’t win again, which they certainly would. The education system, which works very well and categorically does not indoctrinate Catalan children beyond trying to give them the same sense of civic responsibility kids all around Spain are brought up with, will be destroyed. The same goes for TV3 and Catalunya Radio, well-loved and well-balanced broadcasters. This is what awaits Catalonia if 155 is applied. And the PP has already threatened Castilla La Mancha, the Basque Country and Navarra with similar treatment.

Republic (or elections)

No one knows exactly what will happen this evening and tomorrow morning in the Catalan parliament. The assumption is that sometime tomorrow morning, the parliament will vote to approve the lifting of the suspension of the declaration of independence, and that this will be followed by the proclamation of the Catalan Republic. After that, who knows? Elections to form a constituent assembly with the job of drafting the Catalan Constitution are likely, but will they be immediate?

And will there be any international recognition? Israel? Slovenia? The USA? Kurdistan? Kosovo? I’ve always had the feeling that Spain’s true level of international support is weaker than it appears in the media. Its main strength is that it is a state. Catalonia is not. And until it controls its territory, infrastructure and finances, it won’t be. The Catalan Republic might be born on Friday October 27th, but the story won’t end there. That said, we’ve come this far. To pull back now would be far more disastrous.

*Update: And this shows why I don’t like to make predictions. Now, it looks like elections are to be held on December 20th.

*Update 2: I spoke to soon. Here’s my thread covering the events of the day:

Catalonia: the Moral Imperative Spain Can’t Answer

The latest trend in El País/the internet/Twitter is to publish innumerable articles ‘debunking’ the ‘myths’ of the independence referendum campaign in Catalonia. And every time one of these is published, there’s a temptation to try to debunk the debunking. Answer it with more facts.

The truth is that these articles are a distraction. It doesn’t matter whether Catalonia has ever been an independent state. It probably was in 1641 but who cares? It’s a red herring. This is a moral question and opponents of the referendum have made no effort to engage with the moral question because they have no arguments.

What’s really important is that it is right and fair that Catalans can vote to decide their political future. None of the opposition arguments, with their revisionism and legalese, their focus on process and judicial decisions, their twisted interpretation of the meaning of democracy, engages with the moral imperative at the heart of this question.

Spain’s strict spending controls give the lie to Catalan autonomy

One of the most widely repeated myths in the debate about Catalan independence is that ‘Catalonia already enjoys more devolved powers than almost any other region in the world’. We’re frequently told that US states, German landers and other autonomous regions have nowhere near the autonomous powers that Catalonia enjoys. This is less accurate than it immediately seems.

While it’s true that Catalonia and the other autonomous communities in Spain have broad powers and areas of responsibility under the constitution and the statutes of autonomy, they really cannot be compared with, for example, German landers or American states. Vitally, Catalonia has strictly-limited powers over what taxes it collects and when it can levy new taxes. Most attempts to create new taxes have been challenged by the Spanish government, or have been subsequently ‘trumped’ by the government establishing an identical tax at state level, thus making the Catalan tax obsolete.

But it’s the Spanish government’s latest announcement threatening suspension of payments under the Autonomous Liquidity Fund (FLA) which really gives the lie to this claim. The fund itself was already problematic, because rather than helping Spain’s autonomous communities operate in financial markets, it establishes the Spanish state as the source of liquidity loans, which must be repaid with interest. The FLA system establishes almost total state control over autonomous finances and spending, even governing payment priorities, expenditure controls and the final decision over which bills are paid and when. If that sounds like ‘autonomy’ to you, we have a very different understanding of the word.

Now, the Spanish government is taking things a step further by forcing the Generalitat to provide detailed accounting on a weekly basis to ensure that ‘not 1€ is spent on an illegal referendum’. The Spanish government has clearly decided that to use the normal tactic of taking the Generalitat to court post factum in the event of any spending with which it disagrees, won’t work with a referendum that will likely lead to a unilateral declaration of independence. So the decision has been taken to directly intervene (even more than previously), and establish even stricter controls on Generalitat spending with the threat of suspending FLA payments. If that sounds like ‘autonomy’ to you, we have a very different understanding of the word.

It looks like the Spanish government feels that it has played its best hand with this move: not using force or even the courts to defeat the Catalan ‘challenge’, but something that hurts even more: cash. But once again, the bigger picture is being ignored. By removing even the pretence of fiscal autonomy from the Catalan government, the Spanish state is admitting that the whole thing is a façade whose supposed constitutional protections are meaningless in the face of a state hellbent on recentralization. Autonomy for Catalonia is not protected: it’s “by the grace of Madrid, and don’t you forget it”. To win the point, Spain has to lose the moral argument.

Resignation and good humor: Vilaweb’s interview with de Carreras

What with all the movement of the last few weeks in the Catalan independence process, there are a hell of a lot of articles being published which are worth reading. And there’s a lot to think about. Like: was what happened with Santi Vila a colossal fuck up, or a cunningly executed maneuver? Or a bit of both?

One of the better things I’ve read recently is Vilaweb’s interview with one of the founding members of Ciutadans, Francesc de Carreras. The scion of one of those families that did very well during the dictatorship, he’s a former left-winger who has drifted into the political space that was his birthright. And that’s not necessarily a criticism… Spain and Catalonia are full of people who joined the PSOE, the PCE, the PSUC essentially in protest against the dictatorship. Most of them were never convinced by left wing ideology and were more properly English-style liberals looking for an outlet.

But I digress. The interview makes for good reading because de Carreras is typically pretty candid and can be quite amusing. He talks about his wives, and his father, and his political career. He maintains that the referendum should have been held in 2012 and readily admits that the reason one can’t be held now is that Spain would lose. But he also says that a referendum won’t be held: that the state will use all the force it has in law to prevent it from happening.

And here he touches on the key topic of the day: what can the Spanish state do to prevent a referendum and/or Catalan independence? They talk about closing schools to stop a referendum from taking place, but what if elections are called the same day? There’s talk of intervening in Catalonia’s autonomy, replacing the president. But how will an imposed viceroy hope to govern? De Carreras mentions a state of emergency or ‘siege’, which could see troops on the streets. But how could that not trigger a revolution? He has faith that the Catalans will simply obey like the Basques did when Batasuna was made illegal. But the situations are fundamentally different: one involved the banning of a party most people accepted was linked to an armed separatist group, the other involves deposing a democratically elected president and government peacefully carrying out their election manifesto.

Meanwhile, in Barcelona, on this peaceful and warm March afternoon, preparations continue for the progress through parliament of the Llei de transitorietat jurídica.

El País – from liberal leader to voice of the establishment

If El País is “co-author of the transición”, what does the state of this newspaper tell us about the state of Spanish democracy? That is has retreated into an increasingly authoritarian, illiberal and limiting structure no longer aimed at liberating a nation but at preserving the status quo, above all else.

When I first moved to Barcelona nearly 15 years ago, El País was still read in progressive Catalan households. Even though it had practically always been close to the sort of ‘Socialismo’ represented by Felipe Gonzalez, El País seemed to stand up to the conservative, even post-Francoist caspa of the Aznar government. Throughout that era, as its readership shared in the boom of the 2000’s, El País seemed to represent a progressive, hopeful agenda for Spain. After 2004’s 11M bombings, El País offered clear analysis and avoided the unforgivable conspiracy theories of El Mundo and other parts of Spain’s conservative press. Zapatero, the most progressive Spanish prime minister to date, helped encapsulate a sense that a certain ‘can do’ Spanish liberalism was dominating, and despite the launch of Público, El País was still there as the leading liberal voice.

The dawning of the crisis meant bad times for Spain, and bad times for El País and its proprietor Grupo Prisa. Despite layoffs, the newspaper struggled with huge debts, many with the banks it was supposed to be investigating. The ones that helped trigger the crisis itself. Now the government proposed critical labor reforms and I, in retrospect late to the game, saw that El País wasn’t in the business of opposing central economic policy. As unions planned first one and then a second general strike, El País published hatchet jobs on their leaders and did its best to undermine turnout. When the Socialist government used Franco-era measures to forcibly militarize all air traffic controllers in the country, El País published lie after lie about the industrial dispute they were involved in. And as Catalonia, without its promised Estatut – which the newspaper had backed, started to look towards self-determination, El País retreated into the sort of dogmatic legalism which still informs its position today.

Grupo Prisa’s CEO, Juan Luis Cebrián, was interviewed the other day in El Mundo by Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo y Peralta-Ramos, the 13th marquise of Casa Fuerte and hotshot at José Maria Aznar’s right-wing Spanish nationalist FAES think tank (she who allegedly broke the law the other day at the trial of Mas et al, but who will doubtless face no penalty). Asked about the Catalan question, Cebrián laid out his position frankly and clearly: “If the king’s brother in law can go to jail, why can’t Artur Mas?” [a curious comparison, given that Iñaki Urdangarin, has been jailed for corruption and embezzlement, while Artur Mas is on trial for permitting a non-binding popular consultation to be held] and “Someone mentions sending in the Guardia Civil. People say ‘no, not the Guardia Civil’, but I say: yes, why not? That’s what the Guardia Civil is for” and “[The government should act so that] the debate isn’t about when they get their independence, but about when they get their autonomy back”.

The interview is fascinating because it helps to explain the decline of El País as a leading liberal voice, the decline of the PSOE as the party of reform, and the end of the Transition Pact, the end of nearly 40 years during which the Catalan bourgeoisie represented by Convergència i Unió could be relied on to maintain the governability of Spain as a whole. The new pact which has replaced the old one is opposed to constitutional reform, which is why it maneuvered to prevent a PSOE-Podemos coalition in the last two elections, and preferred to gift Rajoy reelection than see Pedro Sánchez in charge.

The new pact can be defined by 4 particular policy lines on which its members agree: opposition to reform other than further liberalization of the labor market; the reduction of the concept of democracy to “the rule of law” and not much more; a strict and un-nuanced reading of the constitution; the rejection of the right to self-determination.

Regarding this last point, last month Alfred de Zayas, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, wrote to the Spanish government to raise concerns about its treatment of the Catalan question – the so-called ‘Operación Cataluña’, which involves criminal trials for elected officials, along with other, even murkier tactics. He reminded Spain about the right to self-determination. And he noted that a referendum is a very good way of resolving questions like that currently concerning Catalonia.

El País, once the leading liberal voice in the Spanish language, chose not to report this letter.

2017: the key year for Catalan indpendence

Happy new year, everybody!

Based on an analysis of recent polls by pro-independence Vilaweb, there would likely be a 63% turnout in a unilateral independence referendum (i.e. one held without the Spanish government’s permission). The result from such a referendum would be 79% in support of independence.

That would clearly be enough to justify a declaration of independence, to be followed by a process to agree a new constitution for the Catalan republic, and fresh elections. While many Catalans may not have noticed, detailed and serious plans for future independence have been underway for some time. Among other things, the Catalan government has been quietly creating a diplomatic corps from within its staff. Unofficially, the hobbyists working on things like a Catalan constitution, and the changes needed for independence to happen, are being taken much more seriously. I’ve attended some interesting debates.

Meanwhile, while we have seen the Spanish state using some of the tools at its disposal to try to derail the independence process (constitutional court rulings, probably funding groups like SCC*, the Pujol accusations, banning judges, diplomatic pressure, criminal cases brought against elected officials, and now formal accusations of incitement to sedition), we have yet to see the state bring out its big guns. Those include: banning political parties (Anna Gabriel thinks there’s a chance of this happening to the CUP); jailing elected officials (Mas/Forcadell); and intervening directly in Catalonia’s autonomy (appointing Josep Enric Millo as caretaker president).

I think it’s fair to say that things must come to a head in 2017. Failing to at least announce a referendum this year (and really, it needs to be held this year), will cause confidence in the process to decline. So all eyes are now on the llei de transitorietat jurídica, the law which will establish legal and judicial continuity should Catalans vote to become independent. This law is, in essence, a de facto declaration of independence and the moment it is approved by the Catalan parliament will likely be the ‘train crash’ moment we’ve been predicting for the last few years.


* Is it just me, or is Societat Civil Catalana on its last legs? They’ve changed leader, again, and their former supporters are now involved in a competing gravy train think tank. If I’m right, we’ll see SCC lose this year’s court case and wind up its activities sometime next year.