By Andy Durgan
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Catalonia marches towards independence

This article is over 9 years, 2 months old
En lluita, Barcelona
Issue 395

On 11 September, Catalan National Day, 1.8 million people gathered in the centre of Barcelona to form a gigantic “V” symbolising their desire to vote on independence.

This was the third year running of massive protests, each bigger than the previous ones. The constitutional set-up of 1978, based on a pact with elements of the former Franco dictatorship, is now in danger of crashing down.

The Catalan government, headed by the conservative nationalist CiU, has scheduled 9 November as the day for the independence referendum.

Aware that a Yes vote would win, the right wing Partido Popular (PP) government in Madrid will certainly respond by prohibiting the referendum as “unconstitutional”.

As CiU refuses to contemplate a campaign of civil disobedience, as advocated by the left, new elections will probably be the Catalan government’s answer to Madrid.

Historically Catalonia’s subordination to the Spanish state, especially during the 40 years of Franco’s rabidly centralist dictatorship, has meant that the defence of national rights has always enjoyed widespread support.

When, in 2010, the then Socialist Party government blocked attempts to widen autonomy, sections of the CiU’s base swung behind demands for independence.

The CiU leadership saw this shift as a chance to strengthen its hand in the Catalan parliament and to divert attention from its austerity measures, blaming the cuts on “Spain”.

But, as in Scotland, this is a not a purely “nationalist” movement. Opposition to austerity is behind support for separation having doubled in recent years.

Over 50 percent of the population now favour independence, support being strongest among the Catalan-speaking middle and working classes, especially the youth — 70 percent of those favouring independence describe themselves as left wing.

It is highly unlikely that “normal” parliamentary procedures alone will break the intransigence of the Spanish government.

Only mobilisation and direct action on a vast scale could do that. A major political crisis is clearly on the cards.

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