By Dave Sewell
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Catalan movement needs to stay on streets to beat right

This article is over 6 years, 8 months old
Issue 2575
A mass demonstration in Barcelona demands Catalan independence
A mass demonstration in Barcelona demands Catalan independence (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was widely expected to declare independence from the Spanish state after Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday

Pro-independence groups called for mass demonstrations outside the Catalan parliament where Puigdemont was set to speak.

They want to counter threats from the Spanish government—and make sure Puigdemont doesn’t back down.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has sworn to stop independence—if necessary by invoking Article 155 of the Spanish constitution to shut down the Catalan government.

The Spanish state’s top court banned a session of the Catalan parliament planned for Monday night, meaning MPs would have risked arrest if they attended.


Pablo Casado, a senior spokesperson for Rajoy’s Tory PP party, made a still grislier threat on Monday.

He said, “Perhaps the person who makes the declaration will end up like the person who made the declaration 83 years ago.”

That person—former Catalan first minister Lluis Companys—ended up being tortured and executed.

The threat followed a week of counter-attacks from the opponents of independence.

The head of the Catalan police was summoned to court accused of “sedition” for not repressing the independence referendum on 1 October hard enough.

The Spanish nationalist right held mass demonstrations in Barcelona and other cities on Sunday. Fascist groups openly took part.

And major firms including Catalonia’s two top banks moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia—helped by a decree from Rajoy’s government. So far the moves are symbolic.


But it sent a clear warning that Catalan big business would take Spanish rule over independence even with Puigdemont’s pro-business government.

They cannot be relied on as allies in the struggle for independence.

The rich fear “instability”—and especially mass mobilisations such as last week’s Catalan general strike against the repression of the referendum.

Puigdemont’s calls for international mediation have been ignored or rejected.

The French government said on Monday that it would not recognise a declaration of independence.

But the movement that defended the referendum and then mobilised the general strike hasn’t gone away.

Some of the smaller unions that initiated the general strike gave legal notice for new strike days this week and next.

These could turn into real strike calls after Tuesday. The independence movement can only survive—let alone win—by radicalising and building on the power of working class people.

Struggle is more than spat over who controls state

Unelected courts and cops are at the heart of any state. Behind the war of words between Catalan and Spanish authorities is a tussle over who controls them.

Thousands of Spain’s paramilitary Guardia Civil are currently in Catalonia.

This is partly because the Spanish authorities don’t trust the Catalan cops, known as the Mossos d’Esquadra. The head of the high court in Catalonia asked the Guardia Civil to take over security duties at the court rather than risk the Mossos removing him.

Mossos chief Josep Lluis Trapero is in court for allegedly “preventing the application of laws” during the referendum.

The Mossos did shut down some polling stations—but not those occupied by protesters.

Catalan cops during the general strike

Catalan cops during the general strike (Pic: Guy Smallman)

There’s also a row about who gets the guns.

The Spanish government has spent a year blocking the Catalan government’s order of almost 1,000 machine guns and rifles.

It said it was because Catalan ministers refused to say what the weapons are for. It’s far more than a regional police force would ask for—more like the number needed to set up a national police force.

These questions are fundamental to an attempt to create a new state.

But the Mossos are as guilty as any other cops of repressing strikes and protests and harassing black people.

They are as much the enemy of Catalan workers as Spanish cops.

Spanish left is divided

Socialists around the world have been inspired by the fight for Catalan independence, but the Spanish and Catalan left is far more divided.

The Labour-type Socialist Party stands firmly against it. The party’s Catalan wing was behind the court challenge that banned Monday’s session of the Catalan parliament.

But Socialist council leaders in several Catalan towns let the referendum go ahead.

General strike in Catalonia exploits the tensions at the top of the Spanish state
General strike in Catalonia exploits the tensions at the top of the Spanish state
  Read More

Radical left party Podemos slammed Rajoy’s bullying, but also it hopes to “keep Spain together”.

Catalonia has a large pro-independence left, from the centre left ERC to the anti-capitalist CUP.


But even there figures as popular as Barcelona mayor Ada Colau take a position similar to Podemos.

Some activists are rightly suspicious of Catalan nationalists with a grubby past.

Others buy into the myth that unity between workers comes through the unity of the state.

For Podemos there’s a more fundamental reason. It seeks to win elections across Spain, then use its control of the state to enact reforms. Catalan independence could deter some voters. More importantly it would weaken that state.

But for socialists who look to workers’ struggles against the state, that’s part of the reason to support independence.

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