People all over Catalonia are celebrating the long-awaited declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament on 27 October.
Catalan MPs in Barcelona voted to declare independence unilaterally after the Spanish senate in Madrid voted to dissolve the Catalan government.
Parliamentary speaker Carme Forcadell read aloud a declaration of independence first written two weeks ago but “suspended” by Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.
Demonstrators outside erupted in cheers.
Right wing Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy refused to recognise the declaration, vowing that “the state will restore legality to Catalonia”.
It also comes after several weeks of vacillations, right until yesterday, by the right wing of Catalan nationalism.
In the end these vacillations were overcome by a combination of the refusal of Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party (PP) to make any concessions at all, and the brilliant response from below.
When Puigdemont attempted to cancel everything and call elections on Thursday, a massive student demonstration was already marching through Barcelona.
Politicians had a deal that looked fine to them in their offices—but when it came out onto the streets it became clear it was just unacceptable.
The battle is far from over. Only civil disobedience on a massive scale can resist Rajoy’s repression—and prevent more betrayals by Catalan politicians.
It has taken strikes, occupations and mass demonstrations to get this far. More will be needed, and solidarity will be essential.
Many people hearing the declaration of independence cried. Some have been fighting for this for decades.
People have gone to prison. In 1992 before the Olympic Games in Barcelona, the authorities put hundreds of independence supporters in prison without trial to get them out of the way.
Even now, the Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the leaders of the two main independence campaigns are in prison awaiting trial for “sedition”.
The victory today is also a product of decades of social struggles in Catalonia. The anti-capitalist movement of the early 2000s, the massive demonstrations against Iraq war in 2003 and the fight against fascism have all shaped it.
There was a mass demonstration in February for welcoming refugees. Then after the terrorist attacks in August came a demonstration that saw a call against the arm trade, against racism and islamophobia and for peaceful coexistence in a diverse Society.
The Catalan society that has achieved this victory as a diverse society, and this became a key factor in the debates in parliament.
The PP speaker tried to use a narrow definition of Spanish and Catalan people to defend his opposition to independence. The left—from the anticapitalist CUP to the reformist Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras—clearly defended a more inclusive version.
This vision of Catalonia includes immigrants from other parts of the Spanish state and from around the world, as part of a diverse society that collectively will work towards building a Catalan Republic.
Activists in Catalonia still have a lot of work to do to build that Republic—and to fight repression from Spain.
But the declaration of independence is a huge step forward and could be the beginning of a change that is positive for people all around the world.
People power in Catalonia has defeated police violence and politicians’ attempts to sell out. It sends the message that people power can work in other places as well.
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