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The Internationalist
October 2019

For Workers Mobilization Throughout Spain Against
Neo-Francoist Repression in Catalonia

Catalonia: Unconditional Freedom
for Independentista Prisoners!

Defend the Right to Self-Determination

More than 750,000 people marched on October 18 during a general strike in Barcelona denouncing the draconian sentences handed down to independentista leaders by the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid.  (Photo: EFE)

On October 14, the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid pronounced draconian sentences against the nine Catalan independence leaders who were declared guilty in the so-called “trial against the procés” (the independence movement). The angry response to this frame-up came that same night in Barcelona as thousands of protesters besieged the airport in order to shut it down. The next day tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against the verdict and the rigged trial. At nightfall as they dispersed, the National Police and the Mossos d'Esquadra (police under the command of the Catalan government) viciously set upon the protesters, leading to a pitched battle with flaming barricades, a scenario that was repeated in the following days.

The horrendous verdict of the Spanish judges was hardest against Oriol Junqueras, former vice president of the Generalitat, the Catalan autonomous self-government, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for the crimes of “sedition” and embezzlement (paying for the 1 October 2017 independence referendum). Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Dolors Bassa, former members of the executive committee of the Generalitat, were sentenced to 12 years in jail. Carme Forcadell, who was president of the Catalan parlament, was given 11 and a half years behind bars; two other former members of the executive, Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn, were sentenced to 10 years, and the leaders of the Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium (pro-independence associations), Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, to 9 years in jail.

The final session of the frame-up trial of the Catalan pro-independence leaders was broadcast on a giant screen in Barcelona, June 12. Banner at bottom reads: “Democracy on Trial.” (Photo: Lluis Gene/Agence France-Presse)

These vengeful sentences are the culmination of the case begun in October 2017 by the Spanish attorney general’s office against Carles Puigdemont, then head of government of the Generalitat, and 13 other Catalan nationalist leaders who promoted and carried out the October 1 referendum. That day, despite the enormous and violent police mobilization to prevent voting, more than two million Catalans flocked to the polls. The League for the Fourth International proclaimed, “Defend the Right to Self-Determination and Independence for Catalonia,” calling to “Resist Attempts to Prevent the October 1 Referendum!” (The Internationalist No. 49, September-October 2017). In response to the repression, the LFI organized an emergency protest in New York.

The Catalan independentistas didn’t commit any crime. Holding the referendum on independence is an expression of the elementary democratic right of nations to decide whether or not they wish to form their own state. Such votes have been carried out in Quebec and Scotland without incident. But in the state derived from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, with its motto of “Spain, One and Great,” to “proclaim the independence of a part of the national territory” constitutes a crime against the constitution. Defense of the right to self-determination in Catalonia today requires mobilizing the working class and the defenders of democratic rights throughout Spain, under the watchword, “Free them all, now!”

Since Monday when the fateful Supreme Court verdict was issued, day after day there have been massive protests in Barcelona, ​​Tarragona, Lleida and Girona. And night after night there have been clashes in the streets of the Catalan capital between protesters and the forces of “law enforcement.” So far, the Guardia Civil, the National Police and the Mossos have arrested more than 100 people and injured hundreds. Yet the protests continue to grow, leading up to Friday, October 18, when more than three-quarters of a million people filled the center of Barcelona with the five columns of the “marxes per la llibertat” (freedom marches) amid a general strike called by the pro-independence Intersindical-CSC and the Intersindical Alternativa de Catalunya (IAC).

CSC and IAC union federations called the October 18 general strike to fight for rights and civil liberties.  
(Photo:David Parreño Mont / Wikipedia)

The bourgeois press tried to minimize the impact of the general strike, claiming that there was only a 7.5% decrease in electricity consumption. However, the number of subway and rail passengers was cut in half, dozens of flights were canceled at the Barcelona airport, schools and universities were emptied, closures of downtown businesses were widespread and the automaker SEAT shut down its plants in Matorell and the Zona Franca. But the impact of the strike was undermined by the fact that the main union federations, CC.OO. and the UGT, refused to participate. Despite having signed a declaration rejecting the sentence, the union tops clung to “dialogue” with the bosses – that is, to class collaboration – vilely betraying the struggle in defense of democratic rights.

Among the industrial unions, the only one that had the guts to participate in the October 18 general strike was the dock workers, who marched in a column from the port of Barcelona.

The dock workers union of Barcelona voted to join the general strike marched from the port on October 18 calling for dignity and civil rights. (Photo: Manu Mitru / El Periódico)

The baton directing the neo-Francoist repression is now in the hands of Pedro Sánchez and his government of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which is the very incarnation of social-democratic betrayal and “left” españolismo (Spanish chauvinism). The acting president fully supported the hideous sentence as “fitting”, demanding that it must be “carried out in its entirety.” Meanwhile, along with his calls for “proportionality,” Sánchez “is not ruling out any scenario” (El Periódico, 17 October), including applying the National Security Law, to take control of the Catalan police, or to activate Article 155 of the Spanish constitution that would “suspend” the autonomous government and effectively impose a military occupation, as occurred after the October 2017 referendum.

Meanwhile, Pablo Iglesias, spokesman for the bourgeois-populist coalition Unidas Podemos, pledged allegiance to the Spanish monarchist state by declaring: “Everyone will have to respect the law and take responsibility for the sentence.” This is an endorsement of the institutions inherited from Franco’s military dictatorship, including a judicial apparatus that is Francoist from head to toe, and a constitution that defines the right to self-determination as “sedition.” (German courts rejected Puigdemont’s extradition because the crime of “rebellion,” which all the accused Catalan independentistas were charged with, doesn’t even exist in Germany.) Such anti-democratic institutions are essential for Spanish capitalism. Trying to change them through a constituent assembly or some other mechanism within the capitalist framework, as some leftists advocate, is pure illusionism: it will take a socialist revolution.

The Catalan bourgeoisie, meanwhile, is spinning as it tries to maintain control. Feeling pressure from the streets, Quim Torra, the current president, expressed his “empathy” with “peaceful and civic” protest and even with “strong actions like shutting down such an important part of the infrastructure as El Prat Airport.” Meanwhile the Mossos, supposedly under the command of the Generalitat, are attacking protesters to “protect them”! Shortly after, Torra announced in the Parliament that he intends to “end the legislature by validating independence,” that is, proclaiming it before December 2021. This grandstanding met with derision from the entire opposition – including the right-wing sovereigntists of the ERC and those of “left” in the CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular) – and bewilderment from his Junts per Catalunya (JxCat).

Police beat youthful protesters during October 18 general strike. Free all those detained in protests against the infamous Supreme Court sentence!  (Photo: Jesús Diges / EFE)

Currently, there is an orchestrated campaign emanating from La Moncloa (the Spanish prime minister’s offices), propagated by the mainstream media and hammered home by all the capitalist parties, from the Spanish right (Vox, PP, C’s) to the bourgeois catalanists (PDeCAT / JxCat, ERC), demanding that everyone strongly denounce the “violence” of the protesters, especially the youth on the barricades who have opposed the infamous ruling of the Francoist Supreme Court and fought the police violence seeking to impose it. This direct order from capital has been complied with not only by Torra, but also by some groups that call themselves socialist. Esquerra Revolucionaria (19 October), which leads the Sindicat d’Estudiants (Students Union) and is part of the Committee by a Workers International (CWI), writes that the “demonstration of strength” that’s required:

“has nothing to do with the actions of a few hundred hooded youths, who believe that setting containers aflame and facing police repression with stones is the shortest way to win.
“This type of marginal and individual violence is a dead end and does not serve to combat the massive violence of the state apparatus and its police forces. On the contrary, using these means, the hooded protesters, many of them egged on by police infiltrators and provocateurs, play into the criminalization campaign… “

Joining this chorus of denunciation in unison against youths going up against the police, although using less police-like terms (“hooded”, “infiltrated”, “provocateurs”), Lucha de Clases (19 October), of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), lectures:

“It would be a mistake to wear out in endless confrontations with the police, which isolate the youth vanguard from the rest of the movement and those layers of the class that are still reluctant to fight for the Catalan republic.”
Catalan independence flag on the barricades. Street battles with the police are not enough to defeat the repressive apparatus of capital. It’s necessary to mobilize the power of the working class on the road to socialist revolution in all of Spain. (Photo: Quique García / EFE)

Genuine Marxists, in contrast, must explain to the most radicalized sectors that street battles are not enough, that in order to defeat the police terror unleashed in Catalonia, the social power of the working class must be mobilized in forceful action, with a revolutionary leadership. But what we have here, from the extreme right to the opportunist left, is a demand to respect the rules of good behavior of a very bourgeois nationalist movement .

It should be noted that both the CWI and the IMT claim that the police are “workers in uniform” instead of recognizing their real nature as the armed fist of the bourgeoisie. Rereading Lenin’s State and Revolution wouldn’t hurt, along the writings of Lenin and Trotsky on the national question. But for these inveterate opportunists, it’ s not a case of mistaken analysis.

Catalan society is deeply divided over independence. Rejection of the heavy hand of the Madrid government is pervasive. But that by no means necessarily translates into being in favor of independence for Catalonia. Support for independence is particularly weak in the industrial zone of Baix Llobregat and in the capital (Barcelona) itself, due in large part to the fact that many workers are from other regions of Spain, or are immigrants. According to the latest survey of the Center d’Estudis d’Opinió of the Generalitat, only 35 percent of the Catalan population would like for Catalonia to be an independent state rather than a region, autonomous community or state in a federal Spain, the lowest level since 2012. And if the only alternative is independence or not, the pro-independence “yes” is still in a minority position (44 percent) compared to 48 percent for “no” (Baròmetre d’Opinió Politica, July 26).

Internationalistische Gruppe at protest in Berlin against repression in Catalonia, October 19. “Catalonia: Defend the Right of Self-Determination and Independence! For Workers Revolution to Smash the Spanish Monarchy.” (Photo: Permanente Revolution)

The League for the Fourth International, which has always defended the right of Catalonia to decide on independence, including holding the October 2017 referendum, has not called for independence, although this could change if massive and brutal repression results in a sharp change of opinion among Catalans. Today, we call for workers mobilization throughout the Spanish State against neo-Francoist repression and in favor of the democratic right to Catalan self-determination. We appeal to the exploited and oppressed throughout the country to mobilize their class force against the government of austerity and repression in Madrid, as well as against the belt-tightening and repressive policies of the Catalan government in Barcelona.

Starting from the internationalist principles of Lenin and Trotsky, we combat national oppression, and all forms of social oppression, on the basis of class independence. In the upcoming November 10 elections, revolutionary Marxists would oppose all bourgeois parties, including Catalan nationalists, and the putrid PSOE of Pedro Sánchez, which has become the spearhead of the brutal onslaught against Catalonia. Ultimately, the only way out is a revolution that establishes a workers government on the ruins of the unspeakable Bourbon monarchy and the Spain inherited from Franco, and that extends socialist revolution to the rest of Europe. This requires a revolutionary, Leninist and Trotskyist, workers party as a tribune of all the oppressed and world party of the socialist revolution.

For the unconditional and immediate release of all Catalan independentistas and everyone arrested in the fight against the neo-Francoist repression!

Defend the right of self-determination of the Catalan people!

Drop the charges against the exiled nationalists and all those who are facing accusations over the October 2017 referendum!

For a federation of workers republics of the Iberian Peninsula in a socialist United States of Europe!