Socialist Worker

Catalan movement rocks the Spanish state to its core

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2573

Huge protests have given inspiration to workers and students to strike and occupy

Huge protests have given inspiration to workers and students to strike and occupy (Pic: Rob Shenk)


The Spanish government is facing a deep political crisis as people in Catalonia defy its attempts to crush a referendum on independence.

The referendum is due to take place on Sunday. Tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations last Sunday. Activists started distributing ballot papers, handing out one million in a day.

The Tory government of the Spanish state, headed by prime minister Mariano Rajoy, is gambling that its hard line against allowing a referendum will play well in other parts of Spain.

It was Rajoy’s party that in 2010 blocked in court a deal agreed by the parliaments in Madrid and Barcelona to implement further autonomy.

Last week the paramilitary Civil Guard seized ten million ballot papers, and around 1.5 million pro-referendum leaflets, posters and printing materials.

The Spanish ministry of finance blocked all bank accounts held by the Catalan government.

The Constitutional Court has announced that 24 referendum organisers will be fined up to £10,700 a day until they abandon preparations for the vote.

Independence

Police have also tried to raid the offices of the anti-capitalist, pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party.

But the response has been huge.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona against the state crackdown and for the right to vote. Thousands of people stopped police occupying the CUP offices and forced riot police to retreat.

Maria Dantas, an activist taking part in the movement, told Socialist Worker, “The pace of the resistance is tremendous. Every day we go out on the streets to paste posters and hand out flyers.”

Dockers in Barcelona decided at a mass meeting not to work on ships brought in to house officers and vehicles from the Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard.

Dockers in Tarragona have also said they will not work on police ships.

The Catalan CGT, a trade union grouping of some tens of thousands, released a statement. “After discussions with other unions, we have submitted the call for a general strike starting on 3 October,” it said.

It’s right to fight for democratic rights. And doing it through mass protests and strikes can flow over into a wider struggle against the minority government and its austerity programme.

Other, bigger, union groups are also considering action. Students occupied Barcelona university last Saturday.

Jordi Vives, a spokesperson, said, “We are showing that as students we have a part to play.”

Last week Rajoy seemed ready to implement Article 155 of the constitution to suspend Catalan home rule.

But at the beginning of this week he had not done so, perhaps wary of defeat. Rajoy and his allies do not have a majority in parliament. But the Labour-type Socialist Party agreed after the last elections not to bring them down. This is what lets Rajoy attack Catalan democratic rights.

The Socialist Party now demands the referendum is called off.

It’s right to fight for democratic rights. And doing it through mass protests and strikes can flow over into a wider struggle against the minority government and its austerity programme.

Quim Arrufat from the CUP spoke by phone to a 100-strong meeting in solidarity with Catalonia held in London last week.

“We will vote on 1 October and by voting we will say no to Rajoy’s regime,” he said. “This is about people’s power. We want to take control from the regime, the banks and the army.”

Join the London protest: STOP Repression! LET Catalans VOTE! - Protest Wednesday 27 September, 6pm-8.30pm, 39 Chesham Place, Belgravia, London SW1X 8SB. Hosted by CUP Exterior. For details go to www.facebook.com/events/100488074036769

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