An astonishing 2 million people filled the streets of Barcelona on Tuesday 11 September in Catalunya’s biggest ever pro-independence march on the “Diada” Catalan national holiday. This demonstration, and the massive upsurge in nationalist, anti-Madrid sentiments which it represents, comes as yet another body-blow to the Rajoy government – another spanner in the works of its attempts to force through brutal austerity policies and stabilise the vulture markets. Only a day before the march, Rajoy made dismissive comments about growing national aspirations in Catalunya which were widely circulated and surely strengthened the resolve of the multitude of demonstrators.
This year’s demonstration was heavily promoted by the CIU (right-wing nationalist) government. They have been using the nationalist card to broker deals with the PP central government in Madrid, while at the same time applying brutal austerity measures, even going beyond those of the central government at times. But it would be wrong to analyse this demonstration as pro-CIU. This was far from the case. In fact, the support of ordinary Catalans for independent is based on and mixed with an opposition to the economic policies of austerity pushed by PP and CIU alike. In any case, the CIU leaders are not in favour of independence, and only use it as a threat if their demands – to get a bigger piece of the cake for the catalan ruling class – are not met.
The demonstration was of a broad character with all sections of society taking part. In some areas, there were different demonstrations, including those organised by some left wing organisations which wanted to disassociate themselves from the main demo and its association with the government. The demonstration was of a contradictory nature, but was a glimpse of many of the processes taking places inside Catalan society.
CIU’s arguments, that “the Spanish state steals from us” is only a divisionary tactic aimed at storing up their social base and cynically capitalising on the genuine national aspirations of many Catalans. This has now backfired on them, as nationalist aspirations – with a demo based around the explicit demand for independence – has gone further then they are comfortable with.
The massive movement against the cuts is given a certain expression within the nationalist movement. In this way, the outpouring of nationalist sentiments presents great opportunities for the development of a workers’ movement. It shows a deep discontent within Catalonia for the structures of the Spanish state but also of capitalism. However, it also presents dangers, of fragmentation of the struggle along national lines and illusions in independence in itself as a way to solve the fundamental problems facing Catalan workers and youth. There is no solution to the crisis on the basis of a capitalist independent state. The solution to the crises lies in the unity of the Catalan working class with that of the other regions and nationalities of the Spanish state and beyond in Europe in general. In this respect, the linking of the struggle for self-determination to the battle against the cuts and capitalism is key, and is clearly not possible under the control of the CiU or Catalan capitalists.
The growth of pro-independence feeling is undeniable, and has its roots in historic problems which remain unresolved, but has come back onto the surface in the stormy waters of the world capitalist crisis. We defend the democratic rights of Catalunya including the right to self determination and independence, along with the democratic rights of minority populations. The way forward lies in a united struggle of Catalan, Spanish and all workers in the state, with the aim of a socialist Catalunya, as part of a federation democratic socialist countries throughout the Spanish state and Europe as a whole.