Socialist Worker

Half a million demonstrate in Barcelona against Spanish state’s crackdown

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2577

A section of Saturdays demonstration

A section of Saturday's demonstration (Pic: CUP-Crida per Girona)


Around half a million people demonstrated in Barcelona on Saturday after the Spanish state moved to impose direct rule in Catalonia.

The protest was originally called to demand the release of jailed Catalan political leaders Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart. But it became a focus for the bitterness and resentment over the latest crackdown by the Spanish state.

Activists pledged that “walls of people” would prevent the Spanish state from occupying Catalan institutions.

Student organisations called a two-day strike on Wednesday and Thursday of this week under the slogan, “You can’t jail a whole people.”

Mar Ampurdanes, spokesperson for Arran, a youth group linked to the anti-capitalist, pro-independence CUP party, has called for "massive non-violent disobedience".

Earlier in the day Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy had said that he will sack the entire Catalan government, and call new elections in Catalonia within six months. He is in the process of shutting down the Catalan government.

The Catalan parliament was set to meet this Thursday to discuss a response—which could mean declaring independence.

After an emergency cabinet meeting, Rajoy confirmed he will ask the Senate on Friday to invoke Article 155 of the constitution.

Rajoy’s party has a majority in the Senate, the state’s upper house, so he is expected to get his way.

This will mean:

  • Catalan president Carles Puigdemont’s government would be stripped of its powers and its functions would be assumed by the relevant ministries in Madrid.
  • The Spanish state assumes veto powers over Catalonia’s finances, including budgets and taxes.
  • Catalonia’s police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, would come under direct Spanish state control. Members of the Catalan force can also “be replaced by state security forces”, Rajoy’s plan now is to force fresh elections in Catalonia and hope they will return a majority against independence. At present pro-independence parties have 72 of the parliament’s 135 seats.

Any vote at the moment would be held in a situation where large parts of the media have been taken over by the Spanish state—although unions at these broadcasters are protesting against the use of Article 155.

But the most powerful way of squeezing the independence forces is economic sabotage. Some 1,300 banks and other have moved their headquarters out of Catalonia in the last month.

The best response to the threat of Article 155 would be strikes plusmass demonstrations—and a declaration of independence linked to a vision of a society that puts people before profit.

There are discussions about a coordinated strike involving at least three major union federations.

Powerful

But the danger is that Rajoy’s decisive and powerful moves are met by hesitation and calls for “moderation” from Puigdemont. He has said he will schedule a session of the Catalan parliament to discuss a response to Rajoy.

He may call again for intervention by the European Union. But this is a complete dead end. The EU summit of heads of state last week did not formally disucss the Catalonian crisis but warmly received Rajoy’s report on the situation. 

Theresa May has also pledged her backing for Rajoy.

The only effective measures now would be to radicalise the movement with protests and strikes and to rely on working class organisation and the left in Catalonia, across Spain, and internationally.

Rajoy is gambling. He is not so strong as he poses to be.

On 1 October almost 20,000 Guardia Civil and other Spanish state forces were unable to prevent people voting in an independence referendum.

Despite vicious police attacks that saw over 800 people hospitalised, 92 percent of voters backed independence on a 43 percent turnout.

The Catalan struggle needs the support and solidarity of everyone fighting to defend democratic rights.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.