By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2573

Protests against Catalan clampdown plunge Spanish state into crisis

This article is over 6 years, 7 months old
Issue 2573


A great movement is on the streets
A great movement is on the streets

The Spanish government is facing a deep political crisis as people in Catalonia defy attempts to crush a referendum on independence. A great movement is on the streets contesting the repression—and its demands are radicalising. 

An opinion poll released this week found that only 28 percent of Catalans support the Spanish state constitution. 

The paramilitary Civil Guard has seized 10 million ballot papers, around 1.5 million pro-referendum leaflets, posters and printing materials. The government has launched an investigation into more than 700 local mayors who have backed the referendum and has ordered them to appear in court.

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

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 chanting against the state crackdown and for the right to vote.

Several thousand people stopped the 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.

“This is happening in all the Catalan cities.”

Thousands of people gathered in front of the High Court of Justice yesterday to demand the release of Catalan officials who are still being detained.

Dockers in Barcelona decided at a mass meeting not to work on the ship Rhapsody. It houses officers and vehicles from the Spanish National Police and the Civil Guard.

They said they had done so “in defence of civil rights.”

And dockers of 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. 

“We do not want labour reforms that enslave our lives, nor the authoritarianism of those who believe that they will destroy our rights.”

Other, bigger, union groups are considering action.

There have been solidarity demonstrations in towns and cities across Catalonia. But they have also taken place in Madrid, seven areas in the north west of the Spanish state, in Malaga, Almeria, the Balearic Islands, Cantabria and many others.

Such mobilisations mean that the security crackdown could rebound on the government.

One popular cartoon shows Civil Guards saying, “’Sir, we have got the ballot papers, the posters and the funding. 

“Any idea what we’re supposed to do with the voters?'”

But Spanish Tory prime minister Mariano Rajoy is pressing on. He said in parliament that “what is happening in Catalonia is an attempt to liquidate the constitution. And now there are people breaking the law, so logically the state has to react.”

There is speculation that the government will start the process to implement Article 155 of the constitution to suspend Catalan home rule.

This would make the confrontation even sharper. But there may not be a majority of MPs to get it through.

Rajoy and his government’s backers in other parties were defeated in parliament on Tuesday. A motion was proposed congratulating the government for its actions so far in Catalonia but it was defeated.

Fighting for democratic rights 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 night. “We will vote on 1 October and by voting we will say no to Rajoy’s regime,” he said. 

“This is not about culture or identity—it 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



Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance