Revolutionär Sozialistische Organisation

On opposing Rajoy’s repressive politics, supported by Paris, Berlin and Washington, without aligning on Catalan nationalism.

Sonnabend 11. November 2017

Der folgende Artikel erschien ursprünglich auf französisch in Heft 115 (November 2017) der Convergences Révolutionnaires.

After the brutal repression orchestrated against the voters of the 1 October referendum, after the imprisonment on rebellion charges of two pro-independence leaders, the Spanish prime minister has obtained from the Senate the imposition of direct rule on the Catalan administration.

Rajoy called for snap elections on 21 December to renew the Catalan parliament … That’s for the takeover longed for by Spanish reactionary politician and European leaders, including Macron.

One thing at least is certain: Rajoy and Puigdemont belong to the same world. Many signs indicate that their war might well be just a petty fight. Indeed, Madrid gave up on controlling Catalan television and even suggests Puigdemont could run for the next elections… Puigdemont and his ministers in effect accepted being deposed, and all political parties- including the pro-independent – acclaim the fresh elections which pave the way for future bargaining between Madrid and Barcelona.

However, the charges for rebellion and sedition still face the sacked Catalan government and MPs of the dissolved parliament.

Don’t Catalan workers have any other choice than aligning behind rival national flags therefore aligning behind their class opponents? They do: it is time for the workers of all nationalities to unite for the common struggle against capitalism, for which exploitation of the working class does not recognize any borders. Catalan nationalism dates back a long way; in today’s crisis it tries to take benefit from popular resentment – we shall discuss this further down. But Catalonia’s worker’s movement tradition too has a large impact, so much so that the working class is very well and able to challenge Rajoy, Macron … and Puigdemont.

« Els treballadors no tenen patria », « los trabajadores no tienen patria ». May it be in Catalan or Castilian, we can equally declare that workers have no fatherland and that they can unite beyond borders!

For an independent class politic

Mariano Rajoy’s repressive political action continues to go forward with the use of article 155 of the Constitution which suspends Catalan regional autonomy. Members of the Government of Catalonia have been sacked. New charges and imprisonments should soon follow, adding up to those already aimed at the two main figures of pro-independence political associations, Jordi Sánchez (ANC) and Jordi Cuixart (Òmnium cultural).

Five years after the Catalan right wing shift towards independence, the process accelerated with the taking place of the 1 October referendum. For five years Catalan nationalists waited for an opportunity to discuss the question with the Spanish government. The only answer they got was that, under the Spanish law and constitution, it would be impossible and illegal to seek the opinion of the population on independence.

In the end, the referendum did take place. Despite all Mariano Rajoy’s efforts the weeks before to stop it from happening. Despite the brutal and violent police interventions that day. And it led to a large victory in support of independence (90% of votes), but with a low turn-over (around 40%). This shows that a significant proportion of the population wishes to be independent and is ready to get mobilized for that. But it also demonstrates that this prospect is far from being unanimously shared. Obviously, we cannot exclude that future events might convert new parts of the population to independentism. For that matter, the most effective recruiter today is surely Mariano Rajoy and his politics of repression.

The worrying return of Spanish nationalism

Sprouting in Catalonia and elsewhere, the mass demonstrations for Spanish unity illustrated the possibility of a different political evolution which would be fraught with danger. The right wing extremists won’t miss the opportunity to express its profound hate of peripheral nationalisms and the risk of seeing a part of the working class adhering to this rhetoric is real.

Naturally, we express our solidarity towards those who demonstrated against the police repression that took place during the referendum. The revolutionaries in Catalonia had a duty to participate in the general strike of the 3 October, to attempt to convince the working class to stand up against Rajoy’s anti-democratic policies. And across the rest of the country, to be part of all the actions denouncing Rajoy’s show of force, demonstrating its continuity with his politics imposed on the Spanish population and declaring the right of people to self-determination, including the right of the Catalan population to leave if it so wishes.

But should we nevertheless accept the mindset of the independentist movement? The political stage is complex and the independentist movement is varied. Above all it is necessary for the working class to express an autonomous voice, separate from the nationalists all aligned behind the bourgeois Catalan government, and from the supporters of Spanish unity all aligned behind the equally bourgeois central government.

Puigdemont isn’t any more democrat than Rajoy. Just look at how he takes major political decisions, like suspending his declaration of independence, without putting his head together with his CUP allies in Parliament. Not to speak of his refusal to consider the people. He did organize the referendum, but it was for the sole purpose of doing a demonstration of force in his confrontation with Madrid.

As for the migrants working in Catalonia, nobody seems to bother about their opinion; neither, unsurprisingly, the PDeCAT nor the CUP. Yet, these workers make for a large part of the population, working, living in Catalonia … and surely have a thing or two to say about independence.

Catalan nationalism is still nationalism

The success of independentism surely reflects a large diversity of feelings across the Catalan society. It has as a background an old national sentiment on top of which a recent past of repression by Francoism aimed at its supporters, culture and language. But just like most nationalist movements, Catalan nationalism comes with a whole range of clichés; one of which is the idea, put forward by certain independentists, that the Catalan people have to support at their expense the rest of Spain and its poorer regions. Naturally, one cannot reduce the independentists success to the catchy “We’re being robbed by the Spanish!” moto. Nor is it possible to undermine the fact that the left is clearly opposed to such ideas. Nevertheless, in this national Catalan unity, ranging from the right wing liberals to some far left organizations, not to forget some worker’s unions and employer’s associations, thus bringing together all classes of society, exploited and exploiters together… the most well-off of the lot seem to set the tone.

Above any other reason, the success of independentism, dating back to 2012, can be explained by the crisis and its social consequences. Catalan independence seems for many to be an easy solution to mass unemployment, budget cuts, rising poverty, low wages, housing crisis … It is without doubt that an independent Catalonia wouldn’t be any wealthier than today – and even if it were to be wealthier, the many would have to pay the price for the few. It is absolutely certain that a Barcelona government wouldn’t be any more popular as a State than that of Madrid.

A popular mobilization?

Yes, there is a worker’s mobilization towards independence. But let’s not over estimate its importance; the agitation is essentially aligned to the government – Arthur Mas followed by Carles Puigdemont – and its official supporters – the ANC and Òmnium. Petty bourgeois, student youth and the middle class account for a large chunk of the independentist mobilization. Thus the independentist cause is not a struggle which is necessary and recognized as such to the Catalan working class … or Spanish for that matter. If the workers of Spain, as a class, could unite around an autonomous class party, it would be a formidable weapon to fight against the illusionary solution of independence…

During the 3 October general strike, following the police brutality that toke place two days before, there was a mass protestation against police repression. However, the largest factories were barely affected by the strike, which was itself far from being a general strike despite the unanimous and justified call from all the working class organizations. If the country was at a stand-still, it was only due to the regional authorities deciding to close schools and universities, and employers closing down many businesses (including the Catalan Bon Preu supermarket chain, a “family business” of 160 shops and 4 500 employees). The working class did not, that day, set the tone. One could see numerous independentist flags, but so few trade-union, red or anarchist ones. The very evening, the supporters of the Puigdemont government called for an end to the mobilization – and they were meekly obeyed. Therefore, it has to be said that during this process towards independence the political parties and bourgeois associations lead the way.

Impossible bargains at the top?

After the unilateral declaration of independence and the imposition of direct rule on Catalonia, the situation remains very uncertain. Puigdemont only accepts to mobilize the people when he knows he can keep them under control and use them as a welcomed support in his balance of power against Madrid. So far, he does not fear being overwhelmed and is willing to keep it so.

Conciliation attempts were made before the declaration of independence, for instance under the mediation of certain business leaders and the autonomous Basque government. It was thought at that time that Puigdemont would concede to give up declaring independence in exchange for the withdrawal of Madrid’s direct rule. That didn’t happen.

In choosing repression, Madrid wants to dissuade other regions in asking for more autonomy. But also to demonstrate once and for all that challenging the state is useless and leads nowhere. Furthermore, this choice enables the PP to strengthen its own camp by pointing at an inside enemy, thus creating a distraction from their rotten politics and corruption scandals.

It is about time for the workers to burst on stage, push forward their own claims and proclaim their total political independence towards the bourgeoisie.

The much needed independence of the working class

The working class of Catalonia is similar to that of Europe: diverse, with roots lying in many regions and many countries. Some come from Catalonia, others from Andalusia, Morocco, Latin America. They could all unite against Rajoy, against Puigdemont, against the bourgeoisie of Catalonia, Spain or elsewhere. That is what we ought to defend.

The gaining popularity of Catalan and Spanish nationalisms does the opposite, reviving past divisions and breaking up the unity of the workers. And even worse, it makes “Catalan” workers align obediently behind organizations, organizations of the bourgeoisie, which do not dispute capitalism.

The rise of independentism has nothing progressive to it. It leads the Catalan people straight to a dead-end, as they will gain nothing in getting isolated from their fellow workers in Spain and the rest of Europe.

CUP anticapitalists and pro-independence, who like saying that “everything can change”, put the independence of Catalonia forward as a first, necessary step towards the exit of capitalism, towards an ecological, migrant friendly etc. society. Meanwhile, they see no contradiction in supporting Puigdemont’s government and merely throwing at it from time to time a few hastily forgotten protestations.

Yes, « everything can change”. But literally everything. And it won’t be thanks to the independence of a region which, in doing so, eliminates the differences between social classes. This perspective can only lead to a bourgeois republic, just as anti-labour and anti-democratic than all the other European regimes.

To those who wish to “change everything”, some of which are today independentists, others not, we present clearly and unambiguously our standing point: the overthrow of capitalism by the mobilization of labour, by the unity of the working class of Catalonia with that of Spain, Europe and the world. Rather than the support to the nationalist dead end of independentism, it is the world unity of the workers which ought to be put forward.

October 29, 2017, Sabine BELTRAND

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