Free the political prisoners! For a Catalan Republic of the workers and youth!
The authoritarian “regime of 1978” (term used to describe the post-Franco “democratic” regime in Spain), its state apparatus and the parties which support it (the PP, Ciudadanos, and the PSOE leadership) have carried out a new coup against democratic rights and freedoms in Catalonia. They have unleashed a repressive avalanche against the Catalan independence movement, reminiscent of that which the Franco dictatorship carried out against the “Republic and Communism”. They have eliminated Catalan autonomy, arrested Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and are charging 25 pro-independence leaders, many of whom have already been jailed without trial or bail.
There is no doubt that the monarchist, Spanish nationalist bloc in power refuses to accept the results of the Catalan elections on 21 December and is willing to crush, at any cost, the pro-Republic aspirations of the Catalan people. Catalonia is living under a Francoist state of emergency.
In these decisive moments, all of the trade union and political Left which is not committed to this authoritarian regime should launch the strongest and most united mobilisations possible. No one can just look away. Declarations and statements are not enough, and much less calls for “dialogue” with this government that wants to drag us back to the dictatorship. A general strike must be called now to demand the immediate freedom of the political prisoners, the end of article 155 (suspending Catalan autonomy) and for a Catalan Republic. The workers and youth in the rest of the Spanish state also have a duty to support the Catalan people, uniting all our forces to bring down the Rajoy government once and for all.
Catalonia living under a semi-dictatorship
The youth and working class of Catalonia has reacted with great energy to the provocations of the state and Judge Llarena (who is presiding over the case against the Catalan government leaders). Immediately after the news of the imprisonment of Jodri Turull – the latest candidate proposed for the Presidency of Catalonia – and Carme Forcadell, and of the exile of Marta Rovira and the arrest of Carles Puigdemont in Germany, hundreds of thousands of people went onto the streets following the call of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDR). Despite the violence of the Mossos (Catalan police) who indiscriminately attacked the multitude, the demonstrators acted in an exemplary manner. The slogans – “free political prisoners!” and “General strike now!” rang out with irresistible passion.
It is clear that the PP government and state apparatus have decided to plough ahead with repressive measures, trying to definitively muzzle an entire people. Rajoy, under intense pressure from the mass protests in defence of pensions and the massive feminist strike on 8 March, is struggling more and more to control the discontent which threatens to turn into a new social explosion. Moreover, with opinion polls predicting the worst possible outcome for the PP, he is prepared to resist at any cost the pressure from Albert Rivera and Ciudadanos. His way of trying to avoid this pressure and recover electoral support is to deal new blows to the Catalan people, and play the Spanish nationalist card to the full. However, this strategy can blow up in his face.
The judicial farce against the Catalan government and movement, designed by the state apparatus and the PP , is being used to crush the will of the people expressed in the referendum on 1 October (with over 2.1 million votes for a Catalan Republic, more than voted for the Catalan autonomous statute in the 2006 referendum) and nullify the results of the 21 December Catalan elections which were a new defeat for the PP, giving pro-independence parties an overall majority.
This judicial repression began with the state Attorney General filing a complaint on 30 October which characterised the democratic mobilisation on 1 October and the general strike which paralysed Catalonia on 3 October as a “violent uprising”, in order to justify bringing charges of “sedition and rebellion”. The Attorney General, then the judge Lamela, and now the judge Llarena, even went to extreme of comparing the mass movement of the Catalan people with the fascist coup which stormed the Spanish parliament on 23 February 1981, and with terrorist attacks and mafia murders. This was the legal basis for the imprisoning of the ‘Jordis’ (Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuitxart), of the Catalan government Ministers including Puigdemont, and the denial of the right of elected MPs to attend parliamentary sessions or be proposed as President. In one fell swoop, the popular sovereignty of the Catalan people was supressed.
The arguments of the judge Llarena to order the imprisonments were so scandalous that even organisations like the UN Human Rights Committee and Amnesty International have had to denounce them. Who was it that used arms and exercised violence in Catalonia? We all know the answer: the regime of 1978, its government and state, which sent over 10,000 police and military police to savagely beat the hundreds of thousands of people who pacifically exercised our right to vote.
This offensive is not only directed against Catalonia. The attacks on democratic rights and the freedom of speech have also been extended to the rest of the Spanish state. We have seen the imprisonment of rappers, artists, and tweeters for criticising the King, the confiscation and censorship of works of art, books and magazines, the vicious repression against protestors in Murcia who demanded that the high speed rail AVE be routed underground, the charges against dozens of activists, even on the pretext of “hate crime” laws. Meanwhile, fascist violence, violence against women which has murdered hundreds, and the PP and other establishment parties’ corruption has gone unpunished.
The responsibility of the leaders of IU, Podemos and the unions
The leaders of CCOO and UGT (the two major trade unions) in Catalonia and throughout the Spanish state, by refusing to organise mobilisations to stop this authoritarian offensive, have given precious oxygen to the PP government and in practice endorsed the application of article 155.
Among the Catalan working class and in the rest of the state, there is a healthy and correct instinct that nothing good can come from the hand of the PP. However, the current Spanish nationalist campaign has managed to generate confusion, first of all because the leaders of PSOE have participated in it without exception, as well as many who in the past called themselves “Communists”, like Paco Frutos the former General Secretary of the Communist Party who has now become a pathetic Spanish nationalist agitator. The responsibility of them all in facilitating the repression of the state is immense.
The leadership of Izquierda Unida and Podemos have also defended a wrong position, which has fed the confusion and given space to the right wing. Alberto Garzon (IU leader) has compared the state and article 155 with the mass movement in favour of democratic rights and a Catalan republic. He scandalously refused to recognise the existence of political prisoners, and referring to the mass movement as a “manoeuvre” by economic elites, precisely at the time when the Catalan capitalist class had joined hands with the Spanish bourgeoisie to crush the movement. Garzon’s has been the antithesis of a revolutionary Marxist position.
Pablo Iglesias also refused to lead the movement for self-determination and the Catalan republic. He blamed the Catalan people and their struggle for “waking up the spirit of fascism” and keeps insisting that there must be a deal with the state and PP to agree a “referendum”. Does Iglesias not realise that the current offensive by the state in itself represents a clear refusal to dialogue? His continuous pleading for PSOE to break its ties with the reactionary block has been responded to with contempt by Pedro Sanchez (PSOE leader) and his colleagues, tied to and humiliated by the PP.
The leadership of Unidos Podemos (electoral alliance between Podemos and IU) must make a 180 degree turn and end the policy of abstaining in this battle. They have an obligation not to abandon the people of Catalonia, the workers and youth who have been in the front line of the struggle against the PP. they must explain that the same pretext used today by the judge Llarena, the reactionary block and media to justify repression in Catalonia can serve tomorrow to accuse pension protestors, strikes like on 8 March, and local protest movements like the recent movement in Lavapies against racism and police violence, of “rebellion and sedition”.
Stop the Francoist coup! General strike now!
It is no accident that these attacks take place following months when the leaders of the ERC and Junts per Catalunya (main pro-independence parties) have suspended the struggle in the streets and focussed on “building bridges” with the PP and Spanish state. After they defeated the reactionary bloc in the 21 December elections, millions of people hoped for them to present a clear plan to take Catalonia towards a Republic, based on social mobilisation. Instead, the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois politicians who lead these parties merely insisted that the proclamation of the Catalan Republic was only “symbolic” and that they accepted article 155 and that they should not provoke the state, all in the name of “recuperating the institutions”.
In the class struggle, weakness always invites aggression. The Spanish and Catalan ruling classes are very conscious that what has taken place in Catalonia is a real revolutionary crisis and tried to shut it down via courts and jailings, as well as calling the December elections to try to win a majority. But the will and determination of the Catalan people are frustrating their plans. They now turn back towards more brutal repression against the leaders of the independence movement. They are going all out to crush the movement and send a message to the workers and youth of the rest of the Spanish state. But they have gone too far.
On the evening of 25 March, after hearing hundreds of thousands shouting for a general strike on the streets, the President of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, called for the formation of a united front in defence of democracy and announced plans to speak with all the pro-independence parties, the Left parties and the unions to plan a strong united response.
It is clear that, beyond his words, the call of Torrent, as well as the statements by the ERC leaders, have the objective of forming a new Catalan government to “stabilise” the situation and end the struggle in the streets. We cannot subordinate ourselves politically to those who have shown complete passivity for months, wishing to re-establish their pacts with establishment parties, at the cost of sacrificing the struggle for a Catalan Republic. It is time for the motor of the movement for the national liberation of Catalonia, the masses in struggle, the youth and most advanced sections of the workers’ movement, to take the leadership of the movement.
Of course we must build a united front in the CDRs, the CUP, the militant base of the ANC and Omnium (mass pro-independence campaigns), Catalunya en Comú (Catalan alliance of Podemos, IU and others) and of the entire fighting trade union movement, Left organisations and social movements to immediately call a 24 hour general strike in Catalonia, accompanied by mass mobilisations. This general strike should unite all those in struggle against the PP government, from the feminist movement and pensions movement to the student movement. It should demand the freedom of the political prisoners, the ending of all court proceedings and article 155, and the fall of the Rajoy government. A general strike which should demand that CCOO and UGT, and Unidos Podemos, support it in all parts of the state, organising mobilisations throughout the state, in support of the Catalan people and against the anti-democratic shift we are seeing in general.
Obviously, a general strike will be a decisive step, but afterwards the struggle will have to be extended, broadened and continued with new strikes and mobilisations until repression is defeated, the prisoners are freed, and all democratic rights of Catalonia are restored, including the implementation of the democratic decision of the Catalan people in favour of a Republic.
From Izquierda Revolucionaria we also insist that the national liberation movement has a duty to win over the powerful Catalan working class as a whole, including those Spanish-speaking workers from outside of Catalonia. The immense majority of these workers reject corruption and cuts of the PP, and thousands joined the mobilisations on 1 and 3 October against repression. However, many of them still look upon the “process” with distrust because of the role played in it by the bourgeois leaders of PDeCAT (right wing nationalists) and the policies of cuts and privatisation which both they and ERC implemented in the Catalan government.
These sections of the Catalan working class can be won to the cause of a Catalan Republic and play a decisive role in the struggle against the right and article 155. However, for this to take place, they must see that this is a fight for a workers’ republic, not one of bosses and the Catalan oligarchy. If the struggle for a Republic is united with a programme of demands which gives a response to the concrete problems which millions of us suffer every day, a programme which breaks with the logic of capitalism and ensures labour and social rights and the future of youth, then we can neutralise Spanish nationalist demagogy and defeat the fear campaign. This is the path to victory.
Now to prepare a general strike!