Among its many problems, Spain’s right wing government faces a mass revolt for Catalan independence.
Every year on 11 September thousands demonstrate for national rights. This is Catalan national day.
But this year over a million people turned out in the Catalan capital Barcelona calling for full independence.
For years opinion polls showed that a little over 20 percent favoured separation. During the last two years this has risen to 51 percent.
This now has more in common with the Basque Country, where calls for breaking with the Spanish state have enjoyed mass support for decades.
So what has changed? There is a growing frustration with the Spanish state’s opposition to more self-government for Catalonia. In 2010 the then Socialist Party government rejected demands for more autonomy, despite locally organised referendums favouring self-determination.
The crisis and the cuts underscore this movement. In Spain, regional governments partially control public spending in areas such as education and health.
The Catalan government is headed by the right wing nationalist CiU (Convergencia i Unio) party. It has been at the forefront of pushing through a massive cuts package. This included sacking 15,000 teachers.
The CiU government is now demanding a £4 billion bailout from the Spanish state. The Catalan right says cuts are needed because of taxes paid to central government.
The CiU’s new-found enthusiasm for independence is a crude attempt to divert attention from its own role in imposing drastic cuts. Last week the Catalan president, Artur Mas, met with his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy to negotiate financial concessions for Catalonia.
Mas thought the growing calls for independence would help him. But he returned empty handed.
It is now very likely that CiU will call elections in Catalonia. CiU wants voting to centre on its supposed defence of national rights—but it will also be about austerity.
The situation, both locally and internationally, is so unstable that CiU’s attempt to play the independence card could easily backfire.
It is clear that many people believe that independence could alleviate the effects of the crisis. Yet this is highly unlikely. Opinion polls show that 70 percent of Catalans who favour separation describe themselves as left wing.
The CiU will probably win the next election. Yet it’s likely that it will quickly face massive problems. Firstly, the Spanish state will block separation by all means at its disposal. And secondly workers in Catalonia will oppose CiU’s economic policies and austerity.
The anti-capitalist left in Catalonia must fight against the idea that “Spain” is to blame for the crisis. That involves building links with the working class in the rest of the state.
We must also demand the right of self-determination for Catalans to freely decide their own destiny. This means intensifying the anti-cuts mobilisations in the streets and workplaces that we have seen over the last year.