Against the Francoist Assault:
Defend the Right to
and Independence for Catalonia
Thousands went into the streets in Barcelona on September 20 to protest against the invasion by the Guardia Civil and National Police (above) searching offices of the Generalitat, the government of the Catalan autonomous region.
Translated from Revolución Permanente, the newspaper of the Grupo Internacionalista, Mexican section of the League for the Fourth International.
to Prevent the October 1 Referendum!
Forward to a Workers General Strike in All of Spain!
Federation of Workers Republics in the Iberian Peninsula,
Part of a Socialist United States of Europe!
BARCELONA/MEXICO CITY, September 29 – The countdown is coming to its end. Less than 48 hours before the beginning of the October 1st referendum (known in Spain as “1-O”), activists and parents have been mobilizing all around Catalonia to protect the schools which have been selected as polling places where people will respond “yes” or “no” to a single question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” Carles Puigdemont, president of the Generalitat, the government of the autonomous region of Catalonia, announced today that the preparations for voting are ready. But the central government of the Spanish state led by Mariano Rajoy, a political heir of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, is threatening a massive police operation to prevent the carrying out of the independence referendum.
As the hours pass, tension is mounting. Over the last three weeks, the Madrid government, the Constitutional Court and the National Police have set in motion a large-scale repressive operation. Only hours after the Generalitat issued the decree calling the referendum – in a fast-track parliamentary procedure lasting a single day and ending close to midnight on September 6 – the Constitutional Court issued a ruling prohibiting the vote from being carried out. The Rajoy government then immediately resorted to censorship of the media, confiscation of printed material for the referendum and blocking the bank accounts of the Generalitat, a veiled way of cancelling the already threadbare Catalan autonomy.1 Then, in an explosion of repression, on September 20 Madrid authorities proceeded to arrest 14 officials of the Catalan government, carry out searches of a dozen of its offices, cordon off the headquarters of the pro-independence party CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy) and send 7,000 members of the National Police to Catalonia, all with the mission of preventing the 1-O referendum from taking place.
In addition, in a crudely choreographed media op, Civil Guards and National Police from Huelva, Santander, Cádiz and Granada heading to Catalonia were given a send-off by small groups of rightists shouting, “Go after them!” But the government may have ended up shooting itself in the foot, given the sparse attendance and markedly fascistic tone of these events. Given the determination of the Catalan govern (the regional government) and of independence backers to go ahead with the referendum, the effort by the neo-Francoist Spanish government to maintain the “sacred unity” of Spain at all costs could backfire. Add to this the drama around the Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, which Rajoy is trying to place under the orders of a colonel of the Guardia Civil (who is No. 3 in the Interior Ministry). The commander of the Mossos, Josep Lluis Trapero, temporarily refused to follow the repressive orders, saying this would damage the “prestige” of his force. But finally, out of respect for “the law,” Trapero ended by promising to evict people from the schools early on Sunday, although saying it would be done “without violence.”
In the international press, and particularly in social media, the impression is given that support for independence is practically unanimous in Catalonia, or at least among the “popular classes.” A correspondent for Revolución Permanente was in Barcelona for a week and we can state that this is far from the case. The population of the autonomous region (in which less than one-third speak Catalan as their first language) is deeply divided. Even the detailed opinion surveys carried out by the Generalitat show that only a minority – around 40% – of those interviewed want to have an independent state, separated from Spain. The nationalist movement is dominated by the Catalan bourgeoisie. In addition, its main leaders (not only Puigdemont but also his predecessors Artur Mas and Jordi Pujol) are rightists who are profoundly hostile to the workers. Meanwhile, the opposition to the independence movement is particularly notable in areas of Catalonia that are home to Spanish-speaking workers and immigrants.
The president of the Generalitat, the rightist Carles Puigdemont, together with Josep Lluis Trapero, commander of the Mossos d’Esquadra, inspects police of the autonomous Catalan region in dress uniform during the diada (march celebrating Catalonia’s national day), 11 September 2017.
What is true is that currently the independentistas are the most mobilized. However, and particularly given the authoritarian blows struck by Rajoy (whom the Catalan president aptly described as a “guardian of Franco’s tomb”) and his Popular Party (PP) – backed up by the Socialist Party of austerity and repression, led by Pedro Sánchez and the furiously españolista (Spanish centralist) Susana Díaz – the vast majority of the Catalans, more than 80%, insist on their right to decide. Thus the current showdown is focused on resistance to the attack by the Spanish-centralist government against the population of Catalonia as a whole. And Marxists say that this task falls not only to the Catalans but also is incumbent on the working people and defenders of democratic rights throughout Spain, and around the world.
In the face of this ominous situation, revolutionaries and class-conscious workers must take a side. Against the police assault by Rajoy and his accomplices it is necessary to mobilize to defend the right of self-determination and independence for Catalonia. Moreover, it’s necessary to support the holding of a binding referendum on the question and resist any attempt by the Spanish government to prevent it. Against any attempt to unleash massive repression in Catalonia, the working class in the whole of Spain must mobilize with strikes and occupations, including an open-ended, active general strike. Some minority union federations have called for a “general strike” on October 3, which in actuality appears to be more like what in Latin America is called a “paro cívico” (civic work stoppage) in a popular front with pro-independence sectors of the bourgeoisie. Proletarian militants should agitate to turn the fight against repression into a class-struggle action by the entire Spanish workers movement.
The workers struggle cannot be limited to defending Catalonia’s right to self-determination. The bourgeois politicians of the Barcelona govern are just as “neo-liberal” as those of the government in the Moncloa Palace in Madrid. They have voted for the capitalist austerity laws put forward by Rajoy, and in the Catalan Generalitat they have imposed the same policies. They are just as much or even more submissive to the dictates of the European central bankers who have condemned the working people of Greece to poverty. (The slogan of the bourgeois pro-independence movement is to make Catalonia “a new state of Europe.”) Puigdemont, Mas, Pujol and the likes are enemies of the working class. In order to beat back the attacks of the repressive apparatus of the Spanish state, what’s needed is a mobilization of the power of the working class, including with occupations of factories and industrial zones, on the basis of class independence in order to politically fight those who aspire to become the new masters of Catalonia.
All this points to a socialist revolution extending throughout the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of the continent, to sweep away once and for all the European Union, that imperialist, anti-working-class and anti-immigrant cartel which sees itself as a Fortress Europe. The key to making this a reality is building a revolutionary leadership of the working class, a genuine Leninist-Trotskyist party fighting for a red Europe of workers councils.
The October 1 Referendum
On September 6, the Catalan parliament approved at breakneck speed a Law for the Binding Self-Determination Referendum for the Independence of Catalonia and an accompanying Law for the Legal Transfer of Powers. They stipulate that independence shall be declared two days after the victory of a “Yes” vote in the 1-O referendum. The two laws were approved with the 72 votes of the parties that make up the Junts pel Sí (JxSí, Together for Yes) coalition – whose main components are the traditional representatives of the Catalan bourgeoisie, namely the liberal2 Catalan Democratic Party of Europe (PDeCAT, formerly Convergència i Unió) and Esquerra Republicana (ERC, Republican Left) along with their petty-bourgeois partners of the CUP. The 11 consellers (members of the Catalan parliament) of the CSQEP (Catalunya Sí Que Es Pot, Catalonia Is Possible, linked to the populist Spanish party Podemos), the Greens and Izquierda Unida (the United Left) abstained, while the 52 consellers of the Catalan branches of the Spanish-centralist parties – the Francoist PP, the ultra-rightist Citizens party (C’s), and the Catalan Socialist Party – boycotted the session, calling it illegal.
From that moment on, the entire judicial, police and military apparatus inherited from the Francoist dictatorship went into action. On September 7, the Constitutional Court suspended the laws approved in Barcelona the night before, declaring them unconstitutional for “breaking the unity of Spain.” At the same time, the Court warned Catalan mayors that they were prohibited from participating in organizing the October 1 referendum, and hauled into court 712 of them who had stated their intent to participate. Meanwhile, the national prosecutor in Madrid initiated a legal action against the Generalitat as a whole. The initial response of the population to these threats was the march on September 11, the Catalan national day commemorating the disappearance of the Principality of Catalonia due to defeat in 1714 in the War of the Spanish Succession. In this Diada pel Sí (national day for a “yes” to independence), up to a million people filled the streets of Barcelona. The next day, the repressive measures were intensified.
Enter the Guardia Civil, which carried out so many massacres before, during and after the Civil War of 1936-39; which during the following three and a half decades of the Francoist dictatorship enforced the prohibition of the Catalan language; and which after the so-called “transition” of 1975-78 has continued to sow terror in Euskadi (the Basque Country) and against immigrants in Ceuta (a Spanish-held enclave in Morocco). Police patrols barged into printing plants looking for propaganda and ballots for the referendum, confiscating millions of pieces of paper. The Catalan public television channel, TV3, was banned from even mentioning the October 1 vote. Some people pasting up posters for the referendum were arrested. In Valencia, Madrid and throughout the country public meetings in support of the Catalan referendum were banned. On September 15, police evicted a meeting that was underway in Gasteiz/Victoria, the capital of the Basque region. Taken together with the measures preventing the Generalitat from paying public employees, obviously we are barely a step away from applying Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which would suspend any remnant of regional autonomy for Catalonia.
During our stay in Barcelona, on September 20 the day broke with the characteristic sound of police helicopters hovering overhead to keep watch on the streets. News spread of the arrest of 14 mid-level functionaries of the Generalitat, including one of the main collaborators of its vice president, Oriol Junqueras of the ERC. On the pretext of searching for proof of the “diversion” of public resources in order to organize the referendum, National Police occupied several offices of the Generalitat. Early on, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Economics Ministry on the main avenue of Rambla Catalunya, where a search operation was underway. The crowd kept growing to the point where, as night fell, the media reported the presence of some 40,000 people. When the Generalitat reported the “tumultuous” nature of the crowd, the Rajoy government pounced in this to justify ordering the dispatch of another 3,000 police, to support the 4,000 that had been brought in earlier.3 Now Madrid is complaining that their cops were trapped for hours.
Some 40,000 people gathered in the center of Barcelona to protest the Guardia Civil’s raids, filling Plaza Catalunya until well into the night.
On the streets there were hundreds of Catalan independence flags (the estelada, whose design is similar to the Cuban and Puerto Rican independence flags) flying. The crowd chanted over and over, “Votarem! Votarem!” (we’re going to vote). You could also hear “Catalunya antifeixista” (Catalonia is anti-fascist) and “Occupation troops get out!” They were noticeably concerned to keep an appearance of respectability. A young man was berated for carrying a flag of the POUM (Workers Party of Marxist Unification) from Civil War days because it had a hammer and sickle. In contrast, along with the Catalan nationalist estaladas there were flags of the European Union. In the afternoon people began gathering outside the nearby headquarters of the CUP, where masked police agents were waiting for a judicial warrant in order to proceed with a search. Although the crowd outside the CUP offices was smaller, it seemed more inclined to resist. “This occurred under Franco,” they shouted. But CUP leaders labeled anyone suggesting that the vastly outnumbered cops should be driven out a provocateur.
In front of the Economic Department on Rambla Catalunya, the Catalan independence flag known as the estalada, flies under the banner of the European Union. Bourgeois Catalan nationalists want to be “a new state in Europe”.
The intensification of the repression from Madrid brought into the streets many people who defend the democratic right of the Catalans to hold a referendum of self-determination – el dret a decider (the right to decide) – but wouldn’t necessarily vote for independence. This is a crucial distinction, which at a distance may seem a very fine point, but one which in Catalonia is very clear to all. According to the Baròmetre d’Opinió Política published by the Generalitat, in its most recent survey (the second in 2017) only a minority of 41% of those surveyed are for Catalonia becoming an independent state, and only 39% said they would vote for independence in a referendum, whereas 49% are against declaring independence. Given more options, only 34% favored independence – barely one-third of the population – while 31% were in favor of an autonomous community within Spain, and another 22% would like a state in a federal Spain.
Doubtless, some of those who reject independence do so because they are nostalgic for Francoism. But within the population of Catalonia, the division over independence coincides in large part with a class difference. Rejection of the independence movement is particularly widespread in the industrial region of Baix Llobregat, with its huge concentration of Spanish-speaking workers, where only 29% support independence while 58% oppose it. Many city governments in the region, as well as in Lleida, Tarragona, Mataró and other cities, are controlled by the PSC, which is hostile to independence. In fact, a very large part of the working class of Catalonia comes from Andalucía and other regions of Spain, or from North Africa, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries. Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO.), the largest labor federation, reports that in a survey only 40% of its members in Catalonia want an independent state, while 43% want a state in a federal Spain, and 13% prefer it to be an autonomous community.
What is the explanation for this? The relative lack of support for independence among these sectors doesn’t reflect disdain for Catalans, and much less support to the neo-Francoist españolistas. To be clear, Catalonia is a nation with its own language, culture, economy, history and territory, and like any nation it has the right to form an independent state. However, the Catalan region of the Spanish state is by no means a homogenous nation. A linguistic survey by the Generalitat reports that Catalan is the first language of only 30% of the population – less than a third – while Castillian Spanish is for 55%. Add to this more than a million immigrants, representing 15% of the total population, only a tiny portion of whom speak Catalan. Many workers who speak Spanish, Arabic or Romanian feel that their rights could be limited if, for example, Catalan is made the only language for public affairs. And that is precisely what the pro-independence parties call for.
When our correspondent was in the industrial town of El Prat de Llobregat, speaking with union members of the CC.OO., one of them remarked that for him (born in Catalonia) and for his father (from Andalucía), Catalan is the “language of the bosses.” In reality, that is true for many. This worker told us that when he visited an office of the autonomous regional government for some matters relating to his pension, the official only spoke Catalan to him, refusing to speak in Spanish, making it hard for him to understand. This corresponds to the law for “linguistic normalization,” which seeks to force everyone to speak Catalan. Also, according to Law 1 of 1998, the “language of instruction and learning” must be Catalan only. However, the reality is quite different because many parents want their children to learn Spanish, Catalan and English. The census mentioned above reports that among youth, almost all are trilingual. But Catalan nationalists continue to seek to impose Catalan as the sole language of instruction in education.
The impulse for independence comes above all from powerful sectors of the well-to-do Catalan bourgeoisie. It’s not like some national liberation movement in a semi-colonial country. The main complaint of the Catalan bourgeoisie, repeated by the independence movement, is the so-called “espoli fiscal” (fiscal plundering) of Catalonia by the Spanish state. “ESPANYA ENS ROBA!” (Spain is robbing us) they scream. But, what does this “theft” and “fiscal plundering” consist of? It is the difference between the amount of money paid by Catalonia into the national treasury and the money received from Madrid. If it wasn’t for this deficit, they argue, “We could be one of the richest states in Europe.” The “deficit” is due in large part to the investments and official expenses in the more impoverished regions of the Spanish state, from Galicia to Andalucía. Thus the Catalan bourgeoisie is seeking independence in order not to have to pay for the Southern poor. This is not that different from the Lega Nord (Northern League) in Italy, which with slogans like “ROMA LADRONA” (Rome the Thief) seeks to free itself from subsidizing the southern regions (and which strongly supports independence for Catalonia).
Obviously not all backers of independence for Catalonia support this bourgeois program. However, this is a nationalist movement led by the richest bourgeoisie in Spain. Far from being a colony, if Catalonia achieves independence it will be a second-tier imperialist country. Of the three biggest Spanish banks, the two largest are of Basque capital (Banco Santander and BBVA) and the third is Catalan (CaixaBank), as is the fifth-largest (Banc Sabadell). The first two have a very strong position in Latin America. Santander and the BBVA, as good imperialist banks, are also heavily involved in military industry, as are CaixaBank and Banc Sabadell. And the Generalitat itself has subsidized a number of the 35 companies in Catalonia that make weapons. One of those subsidized is Expal, of the Maxam group, whose Turkish subsidiary manufactured explosives to be used by the “rebels” armed and financed by the imperialists in Syria, as Vice News (14 March 2016) reported.
As revolutionary Marxists, we judge democratic questions from the class standpoint of the proletariat. Concerning the question posed in the 1-O referendum, yes or no to the independence of Catalonia, we would be in favor of going to the polls, but to cast a blank ballot. Still, massive repression by Rajoy and his PP in order to prevent the holding of the referendum could radically change matters. By denying the elemental right of the population of Catalonia to decide their own fate, these crazed “ex” Francoists could provoke a clash in which there are only two sides. In that case, and particularly if it comes to a physical confrontation, the duty of revolutionaries is to stand with those fighting for the rights of the Catalans and for independence, but at the same time seeking to mobilize the working class in the struggle for power against the big bourgeoisie both of the Spanish state and of Catalonia.
Forge a Leninist-Trotskyist Workers Party!
The key is in fighting for the complete class independence of the proletariat from the Iberian bourgeoisie and its various national sectors. This depends above all on the working class having its own revolutionary workers party, based on defending the internationalist program of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, who led the October Revolution of 1917. That heritage was later betrayed by the usurpers of the nationalist bureaucracy headed by Stalin, who in rejecting the program of international socialist revolution sought to ally with sectors of the bourgeoisie. The Stalinist program of class collaboration prepared the road for the capitalist counterrevolution, which under the blows of imperialism finally destroyed the Soviet Union, the first workers state in history, during 1989-92. The same policy guided the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) during the 1930s Civil War, strangling proletarian revolution in what was the biggest class struggle of the decade in Europe.
Spain is a country in whose history the Socialist and Communist parties have played a prominent, and fateful, role. After the founding of the Second Republic in 1931, a revolutionary period opened in which the working class at various points was in a situation where it could contend for power. On 18 July 1936, the coup d’état headed by Francisco Franco took place against the government of the Popular Front, a coalition in which the leaders of the reformist workers parties – the PSOE and PCE – chained the workers to capitalist politicians (whom Trotsky referred to as “the shadow of the bourgeoisie”) such as the Catalan Lluis Companys. The initial failure of the coup in the face of workers mobilization opened a revolutionary situation as the workers in the major cities, above all in Barcelona, organized workers militias and imposed workers control in various branches of industry in order to the resist Franco’s bonapartist assault.
The policy of the popular front subordinated the tremendous power of a mobilized working class to the capitalist policies of Companys, Manuel Azaña and other leaders of the bourgeois Republic. By blocking socialist revolution, they opened the way for the victory of Franco. The responsibility for this defeat falls on the Socialists led by Largo Caballero and particularly on the Stalinists, who with their Republican Guards dissolved the workers militias (as you can see in the magnificent film by Ken Loach, Land and Freedom) and drowned the insurrectionary proletariat in blood in the May Days (Els Fets de Maig) in Barcelona in 1937. But responsibility also falls in particular on the anarchists of the CNT, who participated in the Popular Front government and played a terrible role in demobilizing the workers uprising in Barcelona, and on the centrists of the POUM, who signed the Popular Front pact in the 1936 elections and whose leader Andreu Nin entered the Generalitat government of Catalonia as minister of justice.
Workers uprising during the Barcelona May Days, 1937.
The Spanish left today are the heirs of the popular-frontists who preserved bourgeois domination in the 1930s, and who did so again following the death of Franco when large-scale workers mobilizations opened new opportunities for socialist revolution throughout the Spanish state. In the elections to the Cortes (parliament) in 1978, the workers parties – the Unified Socialist Party of Catalunya (PSUC) and the PSC – together won an overwhelming 80% of the votes in Catalonia. In order to dissipate the working-class militancy, which was expressed in common actions by the multinational and multiethnic proletariat, the Eurocommunists of the PCE and their Catalan branch, the PSUC, supported nationalist policies in Catalonia. From subordination to the bourgeois Republic in the 1930s they now passed over to defense of a monarchy in which the regional autonomy statutes served to embellish the regime of reformed Francoism.
So once again, the reformists betrayed the working class. And as in the 1930s, they were aided by the new centrists, pseudo-Trotskyist organizations (like the Liga Comunista Revolucionaria and the Liga Comunista de España) who only sought to reestablish a Generalitat “in the service of the working people,” just as Nin and the POUM sought to do 40 years earlier.
The working class in Catalonia continues to form an integral part of the working class of the Spanish state. This is shown over and over in the common actions that its different components have waged with the other regions of Spain. An important recent case is that of the struggles of education workers against Rajoy’s anti-education law (the Lomce), which slashed as much as 30% of the budget in this sector. Also extremely important is the constant struggle of longshore workers throughout the peninsula, resisting anti-union policies imposed jointly by Rajoy and Puigdemont in the service of the European Union. In fact, the Barcelona dock workers gave an example of what can be done to defeat the onslaught by Rajoy by last week refusing to load or unload the cruise ships housing thousands of police.
Actions such as this should be extended and deepened. The working class should mobilize its enormous power throughout the Spanish state in order to defeat the repressive assault which is a threat to all. This could put on the agenda the issue of which class shall rule. The struggle in Catalonia against the neo-Francoist regime could make bourgeois Europe shake, but only on the condition that it is converted from a bourgeois nationalist movement into a struggle of the working class against capitalism. And that requires forging a revolutionary, Leninist and Trotskyist workers party in the heat of the battle. This is the indispensible instrument in order to turn into reality what was prevented by the Popular Front in the 1930s: a socialist revolution that crosses the Pyrenees to shake the entire Old Continent, and the world. For an Iberian federation of workers republics, as part of a socialist united states of Europe! ■
The Left in Catalonia and Independence
Today, as in the 1930s and ’70s, the left groups in Catalonia that falsely claim to be socialist capitulate before one or another bourgeois formation.
A case in point is that of the group Lliuta Internacionalista (LI, Internationalist Struggle), the section of the International Unity of Workers (UIT) tendency, one wing of the followers of the late Argentine pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno. Its slogan is “1-O, sí o sí” (October 1, One Way or Another”), and on that basis they justify voting in favor of independence under the Generalitat headed by the right-wing capitalist politician Carles Puigdemont. According to these opportunists, a victory for a “Yes” vote would make it possible to establish a “Republic of the Working People” (República dels i de les treballadores). A “Republic of the working people” is a formula with a history. Can it be an accident that LI is repeating here the self-description of the Second Spanish Republic, whose 1931 Constitution defined it as a “Republic of the working people of all classes”? In any case, the slogan of Lliuta Internacionalista is not a revolutionary call to overthrow capitalist rule, but instead a call for a bourgeois republic in Catalonia, in the image of and similar to that which came about following the fall of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship in 1931.
This is further demonstrated by the fact that Lliuta Internacionalist (LI) is part of the Popular Unity Coalition (CUP, the petty-bourgeois leftist pro-independence coalition), as is the section of the main Morenoite organization, the International Workers League (LIT), Corrent Roig (Red Tendency). In the Spanish-centralist media, the CUP is often presented as an “anti-system” and even “socialist” force, and supposedly the one truly responsible for the independence process. Despite certain “socialist” rhetoric, there is nothing revolutionary about the CUP. It is not opposed to capitalism, but to “crony capitalism,” as former CUP parliamentary deputy David Fernàndez put it. According to Quim Arrufat, a member of the National Secretariat of the CUP, its imagined republic would be based on diversity, on the right to decide; it would be feminist, built on “sovereign solidarity.” “And in a society devastated by voracious markets, which know no limit or brake,” it would be “the republic of the people and their welfare.”4 In other words, a capitalist Catalunya with a few touches of a (now impossible) welfare state.
In this sense, the Popular Unity Candidacy bears remarkable similarities to SYRIZA in Greece at the beginning of this decade: a populist coalition of the petty-bourgeois left which proposes to modify the anti-working-class austerity policies (but which doesn’t question the system of bourgeois property), and which includes in its ranks organizations which falsely proclaim themselves socialists. We already know the outcome. Within a few years, SYRIZA turned into a bourgeois party, and finally (with the aid of the pseudo-socialists) it became the instrument for imposing the dictates of the Frankfurt bankers and the Brussels bureaucrats. Already the CUP has been the indispensable partner in the bosses’ co-government of the PDeCAT (Catalan Democratic Party of Europe) and the ERC (Catalan Republican Left) in the Junts pel Sí (JxSí, Together for Yes) coalition, playing the role of a loyal stooge covering its left flank. This is how its supposedly socialist components have been integrated into the mechanisms of bourgeois politics.
Another group which calls itself Marxist is Izquierda Revolucionaria (IR, the Revolutionary Left), which after breaking with the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) led by Alan Woods recently affiliated with Peter Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers International (CWI). In a leaflet distributed during the occupation of the main building of the University of Barcelona on September 23, its Catalan group, Esquerra Revolucionaria, called for “the right to self-determination, for a socialist Catalonia.” However, at the same time it calls for a vote in federal elections for the bourgeois populists of Podemos, and in Catalonia for its local branch, Podem, which today controls the Barcelona city government in the person of the mayor Ada Colau. IR/ER is pressuring the CUP to “put a stop to the policy of class collaboration,” ignoring the fact that it is precisely its support to the government of Puigdemont’s PDeCAT which gives the CUP political relevance.
Particularly illustrative is IR/ER’s conception of a “socialist republic.” According to them, such a republic “would inscribe in its constitution the nationalization of the banks and big monopolies under the democratic control of the working people, while guaranteeing the creation of millions of jobs with decent wages, with high-quality education and public health care, with the right to housing for all, through a system of accessible public housing” – all without overthrowing the capitalist state. This social-democratic pipedream reflects their origins in the Militant tendency led by Woods and Taaffe in the Labour Party in Britain. Another legacy is the illusion that police are “workers in uniform,” when in reality they are the armed fist of the bourgeoisie. This anti-Marxist conception is particularly dangerous in Catalonia today, where the Mossos d’Esquadra (the police of the Catalan autonomous region) and their chief, Major Trapero, are praised as heroes by Catalan nationalists.
A particular trait of the heirs of the Militant tendency is to give a labourite tone to their class-collaborationist politics. The group of Woods’ IMT in Spain, Lucha de Clases (Class Struggle), published a declaration today (September 29) calling on workers to participate massively in the “general strike” called for October 3, without mentioning its “civic,” multiclass character of support to Puigdemont’s capitalist government. They also call to “Extend the Committees for the Defense of the Referendum,” which are led by Òmnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly, the extraparliamentary support groups of the PDeCAT. What they don’t do is call for a struggle for workers revolution which would expropriate the capitalists, overthrow the capitalist state (including in Catalonia) and install a federation of workers republics of the Iberian Peninsula on the road to socialist revolution throughout Europe.
To complete this panorama of the main groups in Catalonia and the Spanish State who call themselves Trotskyist, Viento Sur, the magazine of the Anticapitalistas – the current organizational incarnation of those coming out of the tendency of the late Ernest Mandel (whose heirs call themselves the International Committee of the Fourth International) – published on September 28 a dossier dedicated to the October 1 referendum. As always enthusing over anything that moves, the Anticapitalistas are trying to find a way to join the procès independentista, both in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain. The article “Class, Hegemony and the Catalan Independence Movement” recognizes that “we are in the presence of a multiclass movement, in which there are workers, small property owners, government officials, politicians, professionals, small and mid-size entrepreneurs, etc., but whose relationship with the independence movement is not determined by the economic position they occupy but rather by their adherence to the popular-national project of an independent Catalonia.”
Oof! A lot of words to explain, although they don’t say so clearly, that this is a bourgeois nationalist movement. As a result, they correctly note that “these evident limitations prevent us from speaking of the independence movement as a socially revolutionary movement, since it doesn’t question the material foundations of capitalism.” But why should it? The leaders of this movement are the leaders of the traditional parties of the Catalan bourgeoisie! Despite this, the Anticapitalistas pose the need to join the movement (as they did with the Indignados in 20115, in order to bring in “the world of labor and social movements” to “produce a ‘constituent’ force.” So the Catalan procès should lead to a constituent assembly in Catalonia, and in the other regions of the Spanish state, “which would contest the neoliberal ‘constituent’ agenda of the Junts pel Sí.” In other words, “our” constituent assembly versus theirs. As clear as a barrel of (unrefined) oil.
Finally there is the local group of the Fracción Trotskista (FT, Trotskyist Faction), the Corriente Revolucionaria de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras (CRT, Revolutionary Workers Tendency), today present only as Izquierda Diario on the Internet, which published an article “Five Reasons Why Workers Should Support Catalonia’s Right to Decide” (29 September), explaining that it was necessary to fight for a “generous democracy.” Might that be the same as the “loving republic” called for by Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico together with his mega-capitalist buddy Carlos Slim, which was also supported by the FT?6 They sum up by calling to “impose by means of mobilizations, strikes, self-organization and struggle, constituent processes … which would take power out of the hands of the entrepreneurs of the IBEX35” – i.e., only from Spain’s top 35 companies, not capitalism – “with the perspective of governments of the working people.” What a gratifying “perspective”! As in the case of the Mandelites, these neo-Morenoites who call for constituent assemblies here, there and everywhere seek to disguise with a lot of verbiage their social-democratic brand of stagist policies.
In the rest of the world, virtually the whole of the opportunist left is trying to hop aboard the train of the independentista movement, including the International Communist League (Spartacist tendency), which in its own terminal process has fervently embraced a bourgeois nationalist perspective toward Catalonia, Quebec and in multinational countries (France, Belgium) in general. But that particular and peculiar story requires separate treatment. ■
- 1. Under the 1978 constitution (which proclaims the “indivisibility” of the Spanish state), the country is divided into 17 “regions and nationalities” which have a limited degree of autonomy and self-government, although considerably less than a state in the United States.
- 2. In Europe, “liberal” parties are generally hard right-wing proponents of “free market” capitalism.
- 3. By October 1 over 10,000 police from these paramilitary units had been brought into Catalonia to stop the vote.
- 4. “The Potentialities of a New Republic” [in Catalan], in the collection of articles, Referèndum 2017: La clau que obre el pany [Referendum 2017: The Key That Opens the Lock].
- 5. See “Rebellion of the Outraged,” The Internationalist No. 33, Summer 2011.
- 6. See “Defeat the Union-Busting Attack on Mexican Teachers,” The Internationalist, August 2015. The Mexican FT section is the MTS (Socialist Workers Movement).