Statement from Esquerra Revolucionaria (CWI in Catalunya)
On 1 October, Catalonia looked like a territory under military occupation. Thousands of police and civil guards – sent by the government of the Partido Popular (People’s Party/PP) and the State Attorney’s Office – used savage repression to prevent voting in the referendum and undertook a vicious crackdown against tens of thousands of peaceful citizens, families, children and the elderly. They smashed the glass panes of schools and stole ballot boxes as if they were trophies. This indiscriminate violence prevented voting taking place in 400 schools. But the riot police, the PP government and the State did not count on the massive resistance of the Catalan people. They exercised their right to vote with determination and courage in thousands of electoral polling stations and undoubtedly defeated a repressive offensive, unprecedented in over forty years.
According to the official data of the Generalitat, 844 people were injured by the police and the civil guard, two of whom are in a serious condition in two hospitals in Barcelona. Images of thousands of police force deploying all their violent repression to prevent the Catalan population from expressing themselves democratically went around the world. The international media compares these actions of the repressive forces of the State with the Franco dictatorship. And it is impossible to deny this comparison.
The images of the Franco regime have returned and this time enforced by Prime Minister Rajoy and his government of thieves, reactionaries and right wing Spanish nationalist chauvinists. Hoping to teach the population of Catalonia a lesson, the heirs of the dictatorship reaped a whirl wind. The rage, indignation and fury of millions of young people and workers are a wall against which the right and its repressive state crashed.
The political lessons of what happened on ‘1-O’ in Catalonia will be recorded in the consciousness of millions of people, both from Catalonia and the rest of the state and internationally. The justification that the PP and its government are merely applying the law, cannot mask that the law is unfair, undemocratic and goes directly against the aspirations of millions of Catalans who they are trying to muzzle. These facts make even more shameful the capitulation of the leadership of PSOE [Partido Socialista Obrero Español – social-democratic party], which preferred to make an alliance with the heirs of Franco rather than recognise the right of the people of Catalonia to decide their future.
The political bankruptcy of PSOE leadership
After the triumph of Pedro Sanchez in the first of the PSOE leadership elections, and the defeat of those leaders who made possible the investiture of Rajoy as president of the right wing PP government, there was much hope that something was beginning to change with social democracy, that there was a possibility of a turn to the left. All these hopes have, once again, been disappointed by the unspeakable behaviour of Pedro Sánchez and the current PSOE leadership on the Catalan national question.
The complicity of the leaders of the PSOE with the PP in attempting to muzzle the people of Catalonia and prevent them from voting on 1 October will go down in the history of social democracy as one of its most infamous pages. The intervention of Pedro Sánchez, on the same day that tens of thousands of people were subjected to excessive police violence, crying crocodile tears over “police charges” while not daring to call things by their right name, and then reaffirming his unwavering support for the “rule of law, the institutions, the Constitution and territorial integrity”, that is, the government of the PP and “one Spain large and free”, demonstrate PSOE’s complete political bankruptcy.
The leaders of PSOE revealed during these weeks the dire consequences of embracing for years Spanish nationalism and merging with the ruling class, in all essential matters. They have not only abandoned a socialist position on the national question – which has always defended the right to self-determination of the oppressed nations – but they try to hide their responsibility by rhetorically calling for “negotiation” and “dialogue”. In fact they have placed themselves alongside the Francoists who resort to State violence and repression.
The argument that the 1-O referendum was a “coup d’état” or an “anti-democratic” imposition on a sector of the Catalan population, is one of the biggest lies that the media try to sell at the service of the bourgeoisie Spanish. And an absurd lie! If the State, the PP, Citizens or the current PSOE leadership are so sure that the ‘independentistas’ are a minority, why not accept the polls? Why try to stop people voting? Why in Venezuela is a vote fine but not in Catalonia?
In a democratic vote on self-determination, anyone who not does not support independence has the clear choice to vote No. The parties that defend the 1978 constitution have a great amount of resources and influence to campaign in favour of their arguments and against independence. The real reason that explains the attitude of the right and the state is not that they defend democracy, but rather the opposite: they deny that the people of Catalonia have the right to decide and that Catalonia is a nation. Their position is simply the continuation of a course that has historically been expressed by the Spanish bourgeoisie and its centralist state, frequently quashing by military means the national-democratic aspirations of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. That is what happened under Franco’s dictatorship. Since the ‘Transition’ any progress in winning these rights has always been the result of mass mobilization.
The 1978 Constitution
The mobilization of millions of young people, workers and citizens of Catalonia has questioned the authoritarian and oligarchic character of the capitalist regime enacted in 1978. In order to abort a revolutionary situation – in which the working class and youth of all the territories of the State put the Spanish dictatorship and capitalism on the ropes – the Spanish bourgeoisie and the leaders of the organizations of the left (PCE [Spanish Communist Party] and PSOE) agreed to reform the dictatorship in exchange for legally recognizing the democratic freedoms that had already been conquered by the mobilisation of the masses. In this way, the socialist transformation of society was prevented, and the bourgeoisie maintained control of the situation through a monarchical and parliamentary regime that included significant authoritarian elements.
The 1978 Constitution enacted many things: a law that allowed impunity for the crimes of Francoism, the state apparatus was never purged; the judiciary, police and military remained in the hands of the same reactionaries. Of course, the “free market” economy and the unquestioned power of the capitalists were guaranteed, and the right to self-determination refused to Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia denied, inscribed in the Constitution with the language of the Franco dictatorship: ‘Spain, large and free’.
The mass movement unleashed in Catalonia in favour of national-democratic rights has placed the debate at an essential point. The denial that Catalonia is a nation has been reiterated by the centralist bourgeoisie and the right wing and enacted through repression or simple military conquest. This has been combined with widespread frustration at the terrible consequences of capitalist crisis; mass unemployment, evictions, job precariousness and low wages, and the lack of a future for the youth. The struggle against national oppression and class oppression have intertwined, as in other times in Spain (1909, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1977 …) generating a revolutionary potential that has defied the forms of political domination of the Spanish capitalist regime.
The working class and the youth of the whole State must understand that the cause of the people of Catalonia is also ours. “A people who oppress another can never be free,” said Karl Marx. That is why the labour movement throughout its history always inscribed on its flag the struggle for national liberation, for the self-determination of oppressed nations, as part of the struggle for the socialist transformation of society. Today in Catalonia we are fighting for the democratic freedoms that cost so to be won in the 1970s. If today the government act against the people of Catalonia, what will happen tomorrow? The answer is not difficult to work out. Tomorrow they will intensify the repression against all those who rise up against injustice and call into question their oppression and their rule. They will approve new gagging laws, more exceptional measures of repression, more Francoist impunity.
The Spanish ruling class prepares new attacks against Catalonia
On 1 October, there was a turning point in the class struggle not only in Catalonia, but in the whole Spanish state. The government of the PP has shown by its repressive action, that is an extreme weak government and its absolute lack of legitimacy. Attempts to mobilise its social base in the days before the referendum were reduced to a small pathetic minority on demonstrations, dominated by fascist elements that sang their anthem “Facing the sun” and raised their arms in the fascist salute.
As in all great events of history, it has been the direct action of the masses, their revolutionary intervention, which has changed the whole scenario. The crisis of the Spanish political regime, of the forms of domination of the bourgeoisie maintained during four decades, is being shaken. The decision of the Generalitat [Catalan government], after a day of historical mass mobilisations, to present the results of the referendum before the Parliament (about 2,100,000 votes in favour – 90% of those who voted), and possibly proceed to declare a Catalan Republic, has set off all the alarms bells amongst the Spanish ruling class.
The challenge is of such a magnitude resulted in the PP government openly speaking now of a coup against the Catalan institutions, dissolving the Catalan government and ending autonomy. The El Mundo newspaper editorial said: “Faced with this flagrant insurrection against legitimate order, and in a revolutionary context that includes the call for a general strike, the government cannot delay in taking the measures necessary to cut short plans for separatism, including the immediate application of Article 155 of the Public Safety Act, in order to preserve legality and place the Mossos under state control”(‘Not a moment to lose against independentismo, October 2, 2017).
Other sections of the media, such as El País, cheering on the PP for weeks and applauding every one of the repressive measures adopted in the days before the referendum, now see after what happened on 1 October an increasingly more complicated situation which requires negotiation between the central government and the Generalitat. But the PP and the state apparatus are tied to the position of denial of the right to self-determination for Catalonia.
It is very difficult to establish a fixed perspective for the events that will develop in the next days. But the confrontation, that is to say, the class struggle, is going to see a great escalation. The PP has already threatened the leadership of PSOE with new general elections if it does not give its unwavering support to defend the current constitutional position. That is, support for new repressive and authoritarian measures.
The question is very specific. The population mobilized in Catalonia feels strong after the political triumph against the repression of 1 October. Consciousness has taken a giant step forward. Now is the time to take advantage of this situation, to achieve the immediate resignation of Rajoy, defeat this repressive onslaught and win, in a revolutionary way, the Catalan republic, which would represent a brutal blow against the Spanish capitalist regime and its centralist state. This would become a powerful tool in the fight against the policies of austerity and open up the way to the socialist transformation of society.
Respond with massive mobilization. For a Catalan socialist republic
All conditions are maturing to achieve these goals. The call for the general strike on 3 October, which finally the union federations, the CCOO and UGT de Catalonia have been dragged into supporting, is a reflection of the enormous pressure of the masses and the critical point that has been reached in the crisis. The strike will be a success without doubt, but it is necessary to go further.
It is necessary that the CUP [Popular Unity Candidacy], Podemos and Catalunya in Comú and ERC [Republican Left of Catalonia] establish a clear and left front that defends a working class, internationalist and revolutionary socialist alternative that is not subordinate to the Catalan nationalist bourgeoisie. We cannot forget that even though they now suffer the reactionary onslaught of the PP, these political leaders have applied savage social cuts that have caused immense suffering and defend their own privileges and class interests of the economic elite. We cannot rule out that these bourgeois leaders, as they have done in the past, so many times, again betray the aspirations of the people and try to agree to a beneficial outcome for them with the State and the PP government.
The fighting left, the labour movement and unions in Catalonia today have the enormous responsibility to offer a way out of this revolutionary crisis, and that is to deepen and extend the struggle, preparing an indefinite general strike in the workplaces to resist any repressive action by the state, to win a Catalan republic with a left government at the forefront. Such a government could carry out a programme that will meet the needs of the majority of the population and oppose the Spanish and Catalan capitalist oligarchy.
A left government should immediately end cuts, ensuring quality public education and health, create millions of jobs with living wages and rights, and end evictions by establishing a public housing scheme with social, really affordable rents. This government could end the dictatorship of the elite by nationalising banking and the large corporations, to place wealth at the service of the needs of the majority of society.
A Catalan republic gained by the revolutionary action of the masses would necessarily imply the struggle against PDeCAT [Catalan European Democratic Party] and Puigdemont [Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalan Generalitat] against all the political and economic oligarchy that has governed Catalonia applying the same neo-liberal recipes as the PP. It would open the door to the struggle for a socialist republic in Catalonia and a federal socialist republic in the Spanish state, based on a free and voluntary union of peoples and nations that make up the Spanish state, and to win over the active solidarity of the oppressed masses of Europe and the whole world.
It is necessary to stop defending utopian ideas that are a dead-end. Right-wing reactionaries will never grant the right to self-determination to the people of Catalonia because they know that doing so not only represents a defeat of all their policies, but also encourages all workers and youth, in all territories, to settle accounts with the government and the system, as a whole.
It is time for Unidos Podemos and its leader Pablo Iglesias to go from words to deeds. We must organize the active solidarity of the population of the rest of the State with the struggle of the Catalan people. His triumph will be our triumph, and achieving this will not be done with motions on censorship nor by imploring PSOE leader, Pedro Sánchez, to abandon his support for the PP. They need to follow the example of the youth, workers and citizens of Catalonia during these last few weeks: with direct action, with mass mobilization, with the courage that makes possible the defeat of an adversary that only counts on repression.
Esquerra Revolucionària (Revolutionary Left) want to build a strong left-wing alternative that will promote the unity of the workers and the youth of Catalonia with their class brothers across the Spanish state, in a common struggle for socialism and to end the national oppression of Catalonia, Euskal Herria [Basque Country] and Galicia. This can only become a reality in this era of imperialist decay if it is firmly rooted in the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and for the socialist transformation of society.