Defend Catalonia against the Spanish State


05/11/2017 by socialistfight

Image result for Fascists oppose Catalan independence images

These photos show demonstrators against the independence of Catalonia performing the fascist salute under the slogan “For the unity of Spain”.
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All socialists, all workers’ organisations and principled democrats must defend Catalonia against the looming oppression of the Spanish state of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy secured the agreement of the Spanish Senate to implement article 155 on 27 October, imposing their own government, removing Carles Puigdemont as president and calling regional elections for December 21st. Many of thousand demonstrated outside the parliament demanding the release Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly and Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural, who were leaders of the separatist agitations. Rajoy has threatened to arrest the entire national and local leadership of the secessionist movement. his is not only a direct threat to the working class and poor in Catalonia but to workers in the whole of Spain. Obviously, given the heightened tensions caused by the vicious police action during the referendum vote on 1st October, violent confrontations are very possible in this period. The presence of explicit fascist Francoist forces wielding straight arm salutes mobilising in the anti-Catalan independence demonstrations is a dangerous sign of where the movement against Catalonian independence in Spain is going.

Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia are nations with the right to self-determination, although Marxists would fight against separation to maintain the unity of the Spanish working class. But if a majority want it, we must concede it. During the Franco Dictatorship from 1939 until his death in November 1975 all national expression of these culturally oppressed nations, in particular their languages, Catalan, Galician, and Bsque, were banned. Castilian Spanish was the only legal language. Camp Nou, the stadium of Barcelona FC, was one of the few places Catalonians could speak their own language.

The constitution which restored parliamentary democracy in 1978 was a compromise with the old Francoist state, dominated politically by Union of the Democratic Centre (Spanish: Unión de Centro Democrático, UCD, a coalition of rightist forces, many of whom were explicitly far right Francoists. Although the 3 nations were recognised as ‘autonomous nationalities’ all 15 regions in Spain, many of whom had no separate cultural identity, got regional autonomy, thus diluting the cultural autonomy of the nations. However, Catalonia did not some rights, like the right to collect 100 percent of taxes which the Basque Country and Navarre did get.

Disquiet over this lack of rights in Catalonia, the most revolutionary militant centre of the opposition to Franco during the Civil War of 1936-39, festered. In 2006 Catalonia succeeded in getting relatively full autonomic rights passed in the Spanish parliament and by referendum in Catalonia. But the Francoist state, in the form of the successor of the UCD, who had framed the constitution, the Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister now, went to the Constitutional Court to oppose the settlement and it ruled in 2010 that many parts of the Act were unconstitutional, most importantly denying Catalonia the right to raise taxation and decreeing that it could not refer to itself as a nation, which the settlement did.

This sparked the current crisis; for many Catalans the reactionary Francoist judges and state officials were absolutely hostile to Catalonia, denying them cultural rights that they had won in peaceful and democratic struggle. Then began the rank-and-file agitation of Jordi Sanchez of the Catalan National Assembly and Jordi Cuixart of Omnium Cultural. Right wing populists politicians, like Arturo Mas from 2010 and, from 2015, Carles Puigdemont have jumped on the bandwagon, seeing it as a cover for the growing class anger at the continued imposition of austerity on Spain. Spain was hailed as a “one of the brightest spots in the eurozone” by the Guardian on 16 September 2017 but its ‘brightness’ was achieved by Mariano Rajoy ‘reforms’ that abolished workers’ rights, like making it easier to fire workers, so more could be hired at lower wages, said the ‘experts’. Spain’s unemployment rate at 18% is the highest in Europe outside of Greece. 39% percent of young workers are jobless; they fail to see the ‘bright spot’. The Catalonian uprising is also a distorted reflected of that massive discontent.

Catalonia makes up only 6% of the country’s territory and 16% of its population, but it accounts for a fifth of economic output, a quarter of exports and over half of new start-up investment in 2016. On 22nd October there were two Italian referenda, in Veneto, which includes Venice, and Lombardy, which includes Milan were voters cast their ballots for greater autonomy voted by about 95%. Both regions are led by the far-right Northern Leagues and their main complaint is that they are subsidising the poor south of Italy, the Mezzogiorno; Lombardy sends 54 billion euros more in taxes to Rome than it gets back in public spending. Veneto’s net contribution is 15.5 billion euros. Between them they account for almost 30% of Italy’s GDP. They are demanding to half their contributions.

Kurdistan is another case of a historic nation with the right to self-determination. But Trotskyism make all political judgements from the standpoint of the strategy of the world proletariat. In none of the above cases do we positively advocate separation because this will weaken the ability of the Spanish and Italian workers to fight the Spanish and Italian states and in the case of Kurdistan, right now it would give support to the pro-imperialist Masoud Barzani, or his successor, (he resigned on 1 November), a stooge of the USA and Israel, and assist imperialist designs on Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Of course, Catalonian have a right to vote in a referendum on independence. Scotland voted in 2014 (Lost by 44.70% to 55.30%) on this and Quebec voted twice on independence, in 1980 (lost 60% to 40%) and 1995 (Lost 50.6% to 49.4%). Because these referenda were democratically conducted and politically argued through, we did not see the violence we saw in Spain on the run-up to the 1st October ‘illegal’ referendum.

Charges that the ghost of Franco still haunts Spain have substance in the action of Rajoy in getting the Constitutional Court to deny the 2006 settlement and to send in the national police in a violent attempt to physically deny the Catalans their rights to vote.
The answer of Marxists to this is not to call for the separation of Catalonia, Galicia, and the Basque country, and thereby the balkanisation of the Spanish working class, but the rejection of the 1978 constitution, for a Constituent Assembly to draw up a new constitution for a Hispanic Federation of workers’ republics.

11 thoughts on “Defend Catalonia against the Spanish State

  1. Chris Barratt says:

    This argument for “defending Catalonia” is effectively and concretely the same as supporting Catalan independence. Its only argument is democratic fetishism. The movement is petty-bourgeois and not anti-imperialist, and a diversion from the fight for socialist revolution. And what a cop-out to call for “Hispanic federation”. In this global-historic capitalist warmongering crisis, the Madrid government needs overthrowing by all-Spanish socialist revolution. If workers are going to risk police brutality and hefty prison sentences, let it be for that – not waving petty-bourgeois and medieval flags. The Catalan independence movement (NOT cultural rights since the region has had considerable autonomy) is far closer to the near-fascist and mega-selfish Lega Nord in Italy. There is nothing Leninist in supporting Catalan independence – but it is typical and light-minded Trotskyism. Beware of all fake ‘leftism’ screaming about democracy!


    • Viriato says:

      I haven’t read anywhere the SF is supporting “Catalan independance”.
      They are supporting the right of the Catalans to choose their own way if they like so but they are telling the working class they should unite over nationalistic barriers in Spain and abroad.
      Is a principled position not to be confounded with people who are “seeing” there almost a “revolution” and talking non-sens about a “socialist” issue.
      The Puigdemont mouvement of ccourse is petit bourgeois and pro-imperialist, bur to defend the right of catalonians to choose if they want to be spaniards or Catalonians should be respected if they decide so.
      I am against separation because it is reactionnary and divide the spanish working class but if they happend to choose indeependence, then I will support their choise. It is the essence of the autodetermination of peoples principle that marxist-leninist support.
      sorry for the english.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris Barratt says:

        This was NOT Lenin’s view. The rights of nations to self-determination is an abstract principle that always has to be considered in relation to concrete circumstances, Lenin explains.
        This period of capitalist world economic collapse, warmongering and political crisis is producing all manner of petty-bourgeois “nationalist” upsurges, like Trumpism, alt-right in USA, fascist movements in Germany and France, Lega Nord in Italy, Brexit, Kurdish declarations etc – and the Catalan independence movement.
        The question to be asked is: do they bring the working class involved closer to socialist revolution and anti-imperialism or do they SPLIT workers along “national” lines? Are they anti-imperialist movements? Any decision that rests on kowtowing to bourgeois “democracy, freedom, and liberty” and plebiscites is going to be way off base.
        The above commentator, Viriato, says he knows the Catalan independence movement is petty-bourgeois, pro-imperialist and reactionary, and will SPLIT workers in Spain. So why let this understanding be overwhelmed by the fact that a referendum was held and there’s a big movement on the streets of Barcelona? That’s precisely to FALL for the monopoly-capitalist system’s smartest and nastiest weapon of “electoral democracy” and a febrile mood sweeping through the desperate petty-bourgeoisie.
        Instead of this, BRAVELY warn workers in Spain, Catalonia and elsewhere that they should NOT be sucked into such diversionary divisiveness, but should unite against Madrid for socialist revolution.
        There is much more to be said about this (I would give a reference to a website/publication if permitted by this site; edit this remark off if you wish).


  2. Viriato says:

    “So why let this understanding be overwhelmed by the fact that a referendum was held and there’s a big movement on the streets of Barcelona? That’s precisely to FALL for the monopoly-capitalist system’s smartest and nastiest weapon of “electoral democracy” and a febrile mood sweeping through the desperate petty-bourgeoisie.”
    I have some problems with the understanding of the english and perhaps I am not getting the whole message, but the “big mouvement” is mainly petit-bourgeois middle classe nationalists that desire not to pay for the other poors in Spain and the référendum was just attended by less than half of the catalonians. Many “catalonians” workers come from poorer regions in Spain, for instance Andalucia. This is a very selfish mouvement of this petit bourgeois layer that wants mainly “no more taxes”, another imperialist support (an impossible dream) but mainly keep their money for themselves. An stupid illusion not even really supported by theirs capitulard “leaders”.
    But if by some miracle they can unite the catalonian people, found reliable leaders (not the comic bunch of capitulards they show us) and choose independence, as for instance the russian regions in Ukraine have done, we have not the right of denying their will. (Am I clear?).
    If we do not agree on grounds of not permitting the split of the working class, then we should be supporting Rajoy.
    Then it’s up to them. If they want to be “independents ” (I have many doubts about the viability of the thing) go ahead. We will not oppose but we must say to our fellows worker’s comrades, “beware not to split yourselves from the spanish (iberic, world) working class.”
    The other possibility is to support the clown Puigdemont and its clique, who has made more to deflate the independent mouvement than Rajoy himself. I won’t follow such ‘courageous’ leaders… That will be supporting a very coward and selfish bourgeoisie (which never really want independence but was pushed from below) and spliting consciously the spanish working class. Is a blind alley that goes nowhere.
    Not to speak about the ones who are seeing a “socialist issue” comming from a petit bourgeois half mouvement and a preposteruos ‘direction’ that capitulates with not the slightest fight in front of …a paper, the 155 article of the Franco inspired law.
    I have heard these non-sens from some “trotskysts” that wants a new version of socialism in one…region”. Surely the poor man has made four turns in his tomb.
    (Sorry for the poor english.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris Barratt says:

      Marxist dialectics is always above such dilemmas as “either support this, or support that”. It is not a case of supporting the Catalan independence movement or supporting the reactionary Madrid government.
      Since Viriato YOU yourself understand that the Catalan independence push is petty-bourgeois and splitting Spanish workers then KEEP EXPLAINING THIS and argue for socialist revolution against Madrid by Spanish and Catalan workers.
      You certainly DO NOT have to support the “will of the people”, as expressed by a feverish petty-bourgeois movement and a referendum, whatever its level of participation. The demands of the socialist revolution are ALWAYS primary (so any question concerning national movements has to be considered from this standpoint, since Marxism is for workers of the world to UNITE).
      Does Trump’s leadership of the USA have to be accepted as the expressed “will of the people” because he won an election? Or Theresa May’s? Or Hitler’s in his time, who was elected chancellor of Germany?
      Please remember that Lenin had the 1918 Constituent Assembly dissolved – the October Revolution was a far higher form of proletarian democracy than the outmoded parliamentary Constituent Assembly. The Revolution had to go forward with the Bolshevik-led proletarian dictatorship. This is what has to be fought for.
      The Spanish fake ‘left’ movement Podemos pretends that it will fight “austerity” (a silly understatement of world capitalist crisis, collapse and warmongering), but can do NOTHING because it will not go beyond capitalism. When Podemos appeared radical, the polls for Catalan independence went down; now Podemos has shown more of its uselessness there has been renewed petty-bourgeois excitement about Catalan independence.
      Bourgeois electoral “legitimacy” should never be primary in any Marxist analysis of a situation. It is the bourgeoisie’s game. How can anyone frightened by hysteria about “electoral legitimacy” ever fight for a party-led PROLETARIAN DICTATORSHIP?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Viriato says:

    My understandig must be very poor because I don’t get the sens of your last answer or statement. Do you agree or disagree with my position? Please write clearly I am not from english speaking countries.
    It is not that I am against repeating generalties, but this is almost always the way leftists suppose they are doing politics. I have known this for so many time and with so catastrophic results that I am vaccinated against. I can’t even stand a person that will preach me with a lot of generalities without taking account of the reality. It is a plague, a nuissance, a senile disorder that I can not take.
    Recently there was a “general strike” in Barcelona. Worker’s and their main Unions (CGT, CCOO) were not supporting, only some layers of teachers and employees but none of the industrial, transports, port proletarians. Mainly there were shokeepers and the like.
    Is it then clear the class nature of the mass support of the catalonian bourgeoisie.
    If rank and file worker’s see through the manouvers of the bourgeoisie, what is the point of discussiing what is so clear?
    I know, where I live, people who published a non-read paper, full of calls to “a proletarian dictatorship” and talk every day to distraction about “dialectics” (not understanding the first word of the thing) and having what they deserve: worker’s just cross the street when they saw them fearing a boring sesion of generalities with no relation with their real niveau of conciousness and their problems.

    I understand them, oh how much!, these pepole makes me sick with their abstracts words.

    Please, have you not enough with the clear analysis of SF? This is people I have been looking from abroad for some five years or more and every time, on every major political situation, they are right, the rightest of all of them, Something I can’t find in the country I live. This time they are correct again and I learn lots from them.

    That is my humble opinion, and please don’t annoy me with a mass of generalities looking cutties in their heads that are non existent.
    Sorry for the syntaxe and the english but I can’t do better. If you read french or spanish I can answer you better.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Chris Barratt says:

    I will try to keep this very simple so the English is not too difficult for Viriato (and I cannot write in Spanish).
    I am in full AGREEMENT with Viriato’s description of the right-wing middle-class nature of the Catalan independence movement. I do NOT support the reactionary Madrid government. It should be overthrown.
    Where I differ from Viriato and Socialist Fight is that Trotskyist parties are calling for “Defending Catalonia” and defending the “democratic right to self-determination as a nation” for this region – and I think this is a complete diversion from the struggle for an all-Spain revolution and the building of a Leninist movement that fights for proletarian dictatorship.
    It is also a complete diversion from explaining the full horrors of what is going to happen in the world as a result of global capitalist crisis collapse and trade war.
    The world is heading for World War 3, via the US Empire’s endless “war on terror” destroying the Middle East etc, and this needs to be stopped as quickly as possible by the rebuilding of Leninist parties to fight for Bolshevik revolutions.
    This is what I try to explain to workers. They can pass me by on the street and ignore me as much as they like, but more THOUGHTFUL workers have to start to want to talk about revolutionary politics.
    After all, there is mass unemployment in Spain and Podemos is useless.
    In the UK, people are experiencing job cuts, zero-hours contracts, and the contempt of the bankers and the Parliamentary circus.
    ‘Left-wing’ Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be as useless as Podemos, Syriza or the Catalan independence movement in all this.


  5. Viriato says:

    “Where I differ from Viriato and Socialist Fight is that Trotskyist parties are calling for “Defending Catalonia” and defending the “democratic right to self-determination as a nation” for this region – and I think this is a complete diversion from the struggle for an all-Spain revolution and the building of a Leninist movement that fights for proletarian dictatorship.”

    In my opinion, what is the meaning of “Defend Catalonia against the Spanish State”? (SF will talk for itself if they like)
    As developped in the article, is to defend the right of the Catalonians (if they chose it) of beeing independents from Madrid. The right to vote over this question also.
    The same right Lenine gave other peoples in the 20’s.
    There is no “diversion” but a tactical step back. As, for instance, Agrarian Reform is “reactionnary” and contrary to the socialist program, but in certains historical conditions has developped in its contrary the time of a fight; to go back to it’s reactionnary nature some time after.
    On the contrary, the concious layers of catalonian workers will see that marxists acompanied their illusions with a plus, that’s it, telling them not to separate themselves from the other spanish etc. working class and showing them the real truth of the situation. But if they want to make the try, they can do it with our support against the brutal represion of the Bourgeois grand-Spain State. As Lenine said “one step forward, not a mille”
    Leninist fought for many things but not all in a row, otherwise they do not move along a milimeter. These anarchists “politics” essence, so constant and time and energy consumming has been the experience of so many valuable but naif people who thinks that proclaiming abstracts general truths is enough. Very mechanical sort of thinking that cannot see that “a bad thing” (the fight for an independent region, when this is a real issue with real working class support, in a developped capitalist country) can be a “good thing” when you grasp the good tactics.

    In the same way, if exemples can be quoted, some people were outraged that Marxists could defend Gadahfi or Assad. But they were beeing assaulted by imperialists and it was a principled tactical move, an obliged one, to support them as much as they fight imperialism, which they do.
    SF is not giving political support to the preposteruos band of Puigdemont or Gadahfi or Assad, or the leaders of the Russian-Ukranian regions, but I will support them if they fight grand-puissances chauvinism an even more, imperialists.
    It is so clear I don’t understand why you mix things?
    Perhaps you are for a Poncious Pilatus policy? Neither this one nor the other?
    I have seen that also and it always go to an indirect support of the stronger, imperialism and right chauvinists.


    • Chris Barratt says:

      You are missing Lenin’s point by a kilometre, Viriato.
      If a self-determination case is to be supported, it has to be worth supporting for Marxist, proletarian internationalist revolutionary reasons. Otherwise, any support would be capitulating to a petty-bourgeois “nationalist” mood.
      Over and over again, Viriato you explain that the Catalan independence movement is reactionary, middle-class and will SPLIT Spanish workers from each other around the country. So why keep insisting on supporting the “principle” that if enough Catalan people vote for independence it has to be supported?
      Suppose you were at a meeting of dockers and other workers in Barcelona – what would you say? Suppose their mood depended on what you said. Suppose the issue of whether they went on strike for Catalan independence rested on your next speech – what would you say?
      You cannot be wooden, scholastic or non-Marxist now. If the workers act, and Madrid attacks their pickets with riot police – then workers could go to prison for years or die.
      The ONLY correct thing to say is that the Catalan fight for independence is REACTIONARY; it’s a DIVERSION from socialist revolution and not worth spilling blood for.
      Instead, the workers should break from the Socialist Party, Podemos and other fake-“left-wing” movements and start to build a Leninist movement to fight for an all-Spain proletarian dictatorship.
      They need to learn all about the problems inflicted on the class struggle for decades by popular-frontist Moscow revisionism, on the one hand, and Trotskyist anti-Sovietism, on the other.
      Your rant against Leninist theory in one of your previous comments (above), and your wooden clinging to WRONGLY defending the “principle” of the Catalan independence movement while CORRECTLY explaining its wretched, petty-bourgeois and selfish nature on the other show that it is you, Viriato, being mechanistic, not I.


      • stephenrdiamond says:

        In general, self-determination of nations is in the workers’ internationalist interest. You refer to what are exceptional circumstances Lenin mentioned. National self-determination is not an unconditional principle: notably, if a small country’s effort at self-determination would start a world war, Marxists, Lenin said, would have to deny the application of the right to self-determination. Mainly, the point of self-determination is to take the national issue off the agenda. Saying, as you do, that the indendence movement is divisive is not an answer to the right to self-determination. Even where supportable, Marxists must warn of the divisiveness of bourgeois national movements.

        Let me put the most direct question. Why did Lenin’ support the right of the nations oppressed by Russia to secede even under a capitalist government?

        Personally, I’m not sure (I find it hard to form an opinion from afar) that indendence (rather than recognition of the right to independence, which constitutes self-determination) suffices at present. Spain’s violent response and the lack of a mass working class answer suggests that maybe a point of no return has been reached.


  6. Chris Barratt says:

    Lenin supported the right of nations oppressed by the Russian Tsarist empire to secede because that was the relationship – oppressive, colonial and replete with disgusting “great Russian chauvinism”, which the internationalist Lenin despised all his life. Lenin saw that, as in Marx’s view of Ireland, freedom for these oppressed nations would free up Russian workers and peasants too, helping them to break with Tsarism and would actually be a step to HEALING relations between the respective working classes.
    This is simply NOT THE CASE in relations and politics for Catalonia and the rest of Spain. The Catalan independence movement is petty-bourgeois and reactionary and will cause splits and confusion between workers. See the comments above, where both Viriato and myself AGREE about the nature of this backward, selfish movement.
    The reason so many groups and parties who want to claim they are left-wing go along with the Catalan independence movement and shout “Defend Catalonia” even though they know the movement is petty-bourgeois and reactionary and will split workers is because they are RUNNING AWAY from all talk of the fight for proletarian dictatorship – and this is because they are themselves petty-bourgeois in their outlook and essentially nationalist, rather than internationalist, and do not want to see that the battle is for SOCIALIST REVOLUTION.


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