For a Catalan socialist workers’ republic! Free the political prisoners!
The elections on 21 December have been called by the reactionary monarchist bloc as an attempt to back up its repressive offensive. All those who consider ourselves as Left wing and who defend democratic rights should mobilise on that day to defeat the PP, Ciudadanos and PSOE (PSC in Catalonia). No votes for the defenders of article 155, for those who have suppressed Catalan self-government and imprisoned the Jordis (pro-independence leaders jailed following the referendum on 1 October) and Catalan government Ministers, for those who refuse the people of Catalonia the right to decide!
On 1 and 3 October, millions of people, workers and youth, showed our will to exercise the right to self-determination and end national oppression by a centralist state inherited directly from the dictatorship. On 1 October, more than 2.2 million people fought against unjust laws, making democracy a reality through mass mobilisation. The percentage participation in the referendum was higher than in the European elections in 2014, and the number of votes in favour of the Catalan Republic was greater than those cast for the Catalan statute of autonomy, which regulates the current relationship between Catalonia and the Spanish state. Two days later, millions went to the streets in the biggest general strike for decades to clearly reject the brutal repression we were subjected to. The participation of millions of people in this challenge was the decisive factor which opened a genuinely revolutionary crisis in Catalonia, exposing the reactionary nature of the regime of 1978 as never before.
Events in Catalonia and the furious reaction of the bourgeoisie and state show that democracy is more and more incompatible with this capitalist system. Democratic rights are an obstacle to the maintenance of the privileges of the minority, who rule society with an iron fist, and their political representatives. The legislation used today to lock up the Jordis and Ministers or to remove the democratically elected Catalan government, are based on the 1978 constitution. However, in the last years the repressive escalation to criminalise social mobilisations has been of such a magnitude – with trials against tweeters, trade unionists, youth and Left militants in struggle against cuts, evictions, corruption or Francoist impunity – that it brings us back to the memory of the dictatorship.
The ruling class, which has a wide historical experience of a monopoly on power, knows that the winning of a Catalan Republic through mass mobilisation, in open confrontation with the established order and francoist laws, would be such a triumph that it would extend the class struggle to the rest of the state, putting the PP government and monarchy in an even more difficult situation. A Catalan Republic won through revolutionary action of the people, as was the case in April 1931, could not be led for any length of time by a government which continues with cuts and austerity policies, as has been the case with Puigdemont and PDeCAT in the last years. On the contrary, in the context of radicalisation and a turn to the Left of the youth and of important sectors of the middle layers and with a working class prepared to struggle against the reaction and Catalan oligarchy, the situation would threaten to overflow. The Spanish, Catalan and European bourgeoisie have understood this risk much better than the reformist leaders of the Left.
The ruling class wants to close the revolutionary crisis opened up by these events, erasing the idea of a radical change in the interests of the oppressed, from the minds of the masses. This is why the regime of 1978, the centralist Spanish state and the parties which support them are applying unprecedented anti-democratic measures and at the same time presenting the elections as a way to stop the struggle for a Catalan Republic. In any case, the calling of elections has only hardened the intimidation, fear campaign and lies of the media and economic sabotage of Catalan big business.
From the “Jewish-mason conspiracy” of Franco to the “Russian intervention” of Rajoy and El Pais
Showing that they do not have full confidence going into the elections, the Rajoy government, Ciudadanos and PSOE are building a narrative which will go down in history for its absurdity. The Catalan crisis has apparently been provoked by Putin and Maduro and their media on the internet. This is what the front pages of El Pais and the Spanish public TV spout day after day. Basing themselves on information drawn up by US German and NATO far-right think tanks they try to convince us that were are facing a Kremlin intervention to destabilise the West via Catalonia. It is impossible not to compare these delirious accusations with the propaganda campaigns of the Franco regime about the international “jewish-masonic plot” financed by Russia as the direct cause of the social revolts and strikes against the dictatorship.
Blaming the “external enemy” for the sharpest political crisis of the regime of 1978 shows desperation. It is an attempt to prepare to question the results of the elections if they ae not favourable to the reactionary monarchist block. The discourse is already being developed along the lines of statements made by Rajoy, Albiol, and other PP leaders, threatening to prolong the implementation of article 155 if the government following the elections does not renounce the right to decide, or the Republic.
Were we “not ready” for the Catalan Republic yet?
The reactionary offensive has also exposed the enormous inconsistencies and vacillations of the political actors which have held the leadership of the movement in Catalonia. We refer here to Puigdemons and PDeCAT, but also to many leaders of the ERC, who have been surprised and overcome by the power of the movement and its nature of pushing for break with the established order.
To understand the manoeuvres of these experienced politicians, one has to start from the fundamental fact: when the Catalan ruling class understood that a revolutionary crisis had begun, it positioned itself firmly on the side of the Spanish state and capitalists, and demanded that Puigdemont and co retreat, renounce the proclamation of the Republic and reach an agreement with the PP.. In other words, betray the movement.
The attempts of Puigdemont and PDeCAT to follow this route are clear. The first declaration of independence, which was suspended 8 seconds after its announcement, revealed that they were prepared to sacrifice the popular mandate of the people expressed on 1 October to try and open a path of dialogue with Rajoy. In their last attempt to reach an agreement, Puigdemont and PDeCAT were on the verge of calling elections but the problem was that the PP and state would only contemplate a humiliating capitulation and offered no guarantee that this betrayal would avert the application of article 155 or the trials and jailings. In these conditions a deal was impossible, but many leaders of PDeCAT and the ERC acted in a paralysed way, offering no resistance to this planned attack against the autonomy of Catalonia and its institutions.
We now know because of the statements of Marta Rovira (ERC) in the paper, Ara, that in the face of the threats of the state “the Catalan government considered stopping the referendum”. Against the desire of the rank and file of the ERC, ANC and Omnium (mass social movements in favour of independence), many of their leaders justified their passivity saying “we are not ready”, “we are not strong enough”, and other lamentations.
This is typical of bourgeois and petit bourgeois politicians who always distrust the power of the struggle of the people and who see with fear the continuity of a process which could go much further than they desire. The PDeCAT leaders have administered the Catalan government in opposition to the interests of the majority, passing tough cuts to social spending, health and education, and carrying out police repression against social protest. They have governed in their own interests – making fortunes from naked corruption – and those of the minority of super rich exploiters who have filled their pockets through privatisation and precariousness. As if to clarify what side they are on, they now defend the capitalist EU as a model for the Catalan Republic, and their allies in ERC have not questioned any of this. Now they try to blame the mass movement for their own weaknesses, preparing the ground for bigger betrayals after the elections.
Revolutionary Marxists support the struggle for a Catalan Republic but from a totally different class standpoint to PDeCAT. We defend a Republic of the people, the workers and youth which ends with the social injustices and opens the way for socialist transformation in Catalonia, breaking with the power of the political and economic oligarchy which has ruled for decades.
The Social Democracy, Unidos Podemos and events in Catalonia
The events in Catalonia have tested all so-called Left organisations, provoking bitter debates crises and even splits. Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE, the Catalan PSC, the bureaucratic leaders of CCOO and UGT have been dragged behind Rajoy supporting article 155. The leaders of CCOO and UGT in Catalonia, who were forced from below to support the general strike on 3 October, opposed the general strike of 8 November and are using all sorts of excuses to not fight against article 155.
By dismissing the struggle of the Catalan people against national oppression and for the Republic the leaderships of PSOE, CCOO and UGT have widened the abyss separating them from the more advanced sections of the working class and the vast majority of youth and the impoverished middle classes. Their conservatism and material interests pushes them to merge with the capitalist state, convinced that their destiny is linked to the stability of the system.
At the same time, forces that call themselves Republican and transformative like Podemos and Izquierda Unida, instead of defending the legitimacy of the referendum, explaining to the workers of the rest of the Spanish state what is at stake and organising in the streets against repression, have defended the strategy of a “legal and guaranteed referendum” agreed with the same state and parties who vicously repress the movement.
Of course, there are differences. Alberto Garzon, leader of IU, is the one who has gone the farthest, refusing to recognise that there are political prisoners, even saying that Puigdemont and other “knew what they were getting into” (in reference to ending up in jail). This is no position for any so-called Marxist or communist. As Che Guevara said, the first duty of any revolutionary is to combat repression wherever it arises.
Presenting the struggle for the Catalan Republic as a movement merely of the Catalan elite has already been exposed as bankrupt. The leaders of PDeCAT and the Catalan bourgeoisie have been totally overwhelmed by the masses. The proclamation of the Republic is seen by hundreds of thousands as a decisive step to break with the regime of 1978, end the cuts and achieve both national and social liberation. To say that this great popular movement threatens the interests of the working class and that communists cannot support it, as Garzon says, is a mockery of the ideas of Marxism which has always the defended the right of self-determination and rejected all sorts of attempts to keep a nation within certain borders against its will. Moreover, the positions of Garzon are being used by the ruling class to sow confusion and Spanish nationalist prejudices inside and outside Catalonia.
Pablo Iglesias has rejected the repression much more clearly than Garzon and has denounced the existence of political prisoners. However this is not enough if he does not mobilise on the streets against repression and explain the revolutionary meaning of the struggle for the Catalan Republic. Especially if he considers the results of the referendum on 1 October “illegitimate” or carries out a purge in Podemos in Catalonia, pushing the former leader, Alberto Dante Fachin, who defended a position much truer to Podemos’ original principles, outside of the organisation.
Putting respect for “legality” and the state inherited from Francoism, above the will of the mobilised masses, represents a renunciation of the principles which allowed Podemos to advance as an alternative to the Social Democracy. If the Spanish leadership of Podemos linked the fight for a Catalan Republic with the struggle to bring down the corrupt PP government, end the cuts and open the way for a workers’ Republic in the rest of the Spanish state, they could have effectively countered the campaign of Spanish nationalism both inside and outside of Catalonia. It would also strengthen the link between the millions of workers and youth who have been at the centre of this mass movement, and the sectors of the Catalan working class who reject the PP but look with distrust upon the role of Puigdemont and the PDeCAT and have doubts about whether the Catalan Republic is a viable alternative useful to their interests. The task of the Left is precisely to take the leadership of the national liberation movement away from these bourgeois politicians and link it to the struggle to transform society and end the oppression of the Catalan and Spanish capitalists.
For a united front of the fighting Left. For a workers’ Republic of Catalonia
The depth of the revolutionary crisis opened up in Catalonia, the impressive reserves of energy of the masses and the impulse which was again seen in the strike of 8 November and protest of over 1 million people on 11 November is beginning to be reflected within the organisations of the movement. ERC, under the pressure of its rank and file has refused to join an electoral coalition with PDeCAT, though some of their leaders still talk about a coalition government with them, to prevent pressure towards a possible government of the CUP and En Comu-Podem (candidature backed by Podemos in Catalonia).
Among the members of En Comu, and even among tens of thousands of its voters, there is a dissatisfaction with the position which most of its leaders have put forward. This discontent has been expressed in the changes in position by Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, and the decision of the rank and file of that organisation to break its municipal coalition with the Catalan Socialist Party in Barcelona. According to various polls, more than one third of En Comu voters support independence at this time.
The assembly of the CUP on 12 November, also reflected the criticism among its membership of the leadership’s policy of lending support to PDeCAT over the last years. This tactic, in our opinion, has been a total error and has allowed PDeCAT to remain at the head of the process acting as a brake on it at decisive moments, and preventing the incorporation of social demands, making it more difficult to win over significant sectors of the Catalan working class.
Now more than ever, it is necessary to lay out a strategy to stop the attempts of the reactionary block to obstruct the will of the people and keep imposing the Spanish monarchy and capitalist regime of 1978 on the Catalan people. Esquerra Revolucionaria (CWI in Catalonia) calls for the defeat of the parties who support the repression of the Catalan people and for CUP, Podemos, En Comu, Som Alternativa etc, to establish a united front of the Left in struggle against the regime of 1978. A united front based on the organisation and extension of the Committees in Defence of the Republic (CDR) to organise a generalised, continuous and powerful movement on the streets until we achieve a workers’ Republic of Catalonia.
Join Esquerra Revolucionaria to fight for a Socialist Republic to defend:
• Down with article 155! Freedom for all political prisoners! Withdraw the Spanish national and military police from Catalonia!
• Repeal all reactionary labour reforms and pension reforms! Retirement at 60 with 100% salary and equal conditions for young workers!
• A minimum wage of €1,100 and a 35-hour working week with no loss of pay
• Ban evictions! Expropriate empty homes held by the banks to create social housing!
• Re-nationalise all privatised public services, maintaining and increasing the workforce and respecting workers’ rights.
• Repeal the reactionary education laws! Public, quality, free and universal education from infancy to university!
• For the right to public, free and universal healthcare!
• Solidarity with refugees! Repeal the racist migration laws and close down the prison camps for migrants!
• For democratic rights to speech, meetings and organisation! Repeal the repressive laws!
• Nationalise the banks and strategic industries to bail out working class people and guarantee decent living standards.