Catalonia: Defeat Article 155/Francoist repression with a general strike

Release Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart!

Down the PP government! For a Catalan socialist republic!

After the brutal police repression unleashed on 1 October against the people of Catalonia, the Spanish ruling class and its state apparatus continue their anti-democratic offensive. The imprisonment without bail of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez is being followed by the activation of article 155 by the right wing PP government, PSOE (social democrats) and Cuidadanos (‘Citizens’) and the likely suspension of Catalan autonomy, threats of new arrests and even the possibility of outlawing organizations that do not “respect the unity of Spain”. This has been demanded by PP spokesman, Pablo Casado, and its leader in Catalonia, the right wing extremist, chauvinistic and xenophobic, Xavier García Albiol.

The fury of Spanish nationalism, of the Catalan bourgeoisie which is subordinate to it, and of all parties and media that defend the interests of the privileged and the capitalist order, shows that we are facing a historic opportunity to overcome the oligarchic regime of ‘78, exercise the right of self-determination of Catalonia, and open the path to a possible socialist transformation of society. That is why we must retake the streets, demanding massive mobilization and a general strike.

The regime of 78 and the revolutionary crisis in Catalonia

The participation of more than two million people in the vote on October 1 represented a triumph, without hesitation, of the popular will. Taking into account that it occurred in the middle of a police state of emergency this was even more significant. Seldom have we seen in a recent exercise of direct democracy such a high and widespread support, resulting in an overwhelming result in favour of forming the Catalan Republic in history. A day following the general strike on October 3, the mobilization in Catalonia was so massive that there is only one historical precedent: when the masses of the people and workers of Catalonia launched an uprising on 18 and 19 July 1936 to combat the fascist military coup, and managed to disarm, after hours of a fierce battle, the reactionary forces.

The revolutionary crisis in Catalonia has been driven by two main political factors: the national oppression of the Spanish bourgeoisie and its centralist state, which refuses to recognize that Catalonia is a nation and rejects its right to self-determination through repression; and the frustration generated by the capitalist recession, mass unemployment, evictions, precariousness and low wages, and the lack of future for the youth. The struggle against national oppression and class oppression have intertwined, as on other occasions (1909, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1977), generating an extraordinary revolutionary potential.

The bile against the movement of the masses in Catalonia, common to all sectors of the bourgeoisie, is not accidental. This movement points directly to the top of the ‘78 regime that the Spanish bourgeoisie created with the collaboration of the reformist leftist leaders (PCE (communist party), PSOE and unions). That is why it is necessary to talk about what happened at that time and respond to those sectors of the left that, recognizing the exhaustion of that regime, offer as an alternative conciliation and dialogue with the same powers that support the 1978 regime.

Between 1976 and 1978 the politicians of the Franco dictatorship era converted into “new democrats” (Martín Villa, Adolfo Suárez and many others), following the guidelines of big Spanish and international capital. They reached an agreement with Felipe González and Santiago Carrillo to abort a revolutionary situation, in which the working class and youth of all territories put on the ropes the dictatorship and capitalism. This great pact, or great betrayal, according to the class point of view that we adopt, was supposed to legally recognize some of democratic freedoms and rights that had already conquered by popular mass mobilization. In exchange, the Spanish bourgeoisie was allowed to regain control of the situation and Juan Carlos I was crowned King following the Franco dictator’s wishes.

The regime of ’78 consecrated a “parliamentary monarchy” on a legal final point that sanctioned the impunity of the crimes of the Franco regime. It allowed the state apparatus, the judiciary, police and military forces to remain in the hands of the usual reactionaries. The constitution gave a legal legitimisation which ensured the economy of the “free market” and the unquestioned power of the capitalists, denying the right of self-determination to Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. The constitutional text had to recognize the so-called state of autonomy, but consecrated the maximum of the dictatorship, “Spain – one, large and free”, by means of exceptional measures (Article 155) and under the guardianship of the army. The arguments of the reformist leadership of the left to accept that “agreement” were those used in a revolutionary situation to justify defeat: “saber-rattling”, the threat of a coup and an unfavourable “correlation of forces”.

The role of the Catalan bourgeoisie and retreat of Puigdemont

The institutions of the ’78 regime, the PP, Cuidadanos,  PSOE, and the capitalist media, advocate “democracy” and the “rule of law”, but they show it in a very striking way: encouraging the savage repression of the police and civil guard against people trying to exercise their right to vote peacefully. They applaud the Catalan capitalists who are blackmailing the people with the threat of chaos and economic ruin. By applying article 155 and completely closing the road to dialogue, that both preach they are looking the other way when the fascist bands fervently attack people. This reactionary front, which plays to the most hysterical Spanish chauvinism, which manipulates and lies with total impunity, seeks to bring to their knees the people of Catalonia who dared to demand their right to decide and pronounce for the republic.

In this sense, the Catalan capitalists have understood far better than the reformist leaders of the left the revolutionary significance of the events that are being lived through. They are threatening and trying to blackmail people and demanding the reversing immediately of the proclamation of the republic. They try to frighten people by accelerating the transfer of the head offices of more than 700 companies, in just 15 days, out of Catalonia. The oligarchy, bankers, large industrialists of Catalonia, just as they have always done throughout history, are linking their fate to the Spanish bourgeoisie that is wrapped in the flag rojigualda (the Spanish flag) against a movement that can undermine their economic and political power.

The role of the state, as an instrument of domination for the capitalists, has also become clearer than ever. That the population wants to vote in a referendum contradicts the laws, and that cannot be changed! But if Caixa Bank and other big companies want to move out of Catalonia, the law is changed within 24 hours, sowing threats of of economic collapse.

They demonstrate their true class interests and the dread of the revolutionary mobilization of the masses. Many Catalan businessmen, considered friends of self-declared “sovereigntists”, have also announced their departure. Families owning the business groups, Grifols and Idilia Foods (Colacao, Nocilla), or Angels Vallvé,  businesswoman and wife of the President of the Barcelona Stock Exchange and vice president of Omnium’s sister, Joan Vallvé are some examples.

This offensive of the Catalan bourgeoisie against the proclamation of the republic cannot be fought by denying it is taking place. The only way to confront it is to build the strength of a mass movement, arguing that the Catalan Republic must be at the service and needs of the working class, youth and the people, that is, raising strong socialist measures to allow the republic to control the main economic levers of power to prevent the economic sabotage of the capitalists. The nationalization of banking and large corporations under the democratic control of the working class and the people would allow the wealth generated by the workers in Catalonia to meet social needs.

Experience is demonstrating very clearly that the Catalan Republic cannot be conquered without wresting power from the same oligarchy that has oppressed the Catalan people over the last four decades by forming alliances with the centralist state, with the parties that have sustained the 78 regime, and whose political representation throughout this time has been Convergencia i Unio, and now the PDeCAT.

Both the sabotage of the Catalan capitalists, as occurred on October 10th,  when Catalaon prime minister Puigdemont threw a bucket of cold water over the movement by suspending the proclamation of the results of the referendum, shows that you cannot leave even the fight against repression, nor the task of proclaiming and realizing the Catalan Republic, in the hands of PDeCAT.

Puigdemont and the rest are experienced politicians representing key sectors of the Catalan bourgeoisie. Driven by the impressive mobilization of the masses they had to go further than they wanted and call the referendum. When the Catalan bourgeoisie has found that the movement defeated repression and opened a revolutionary crisis, it has responded with an intolerable blackmail and demanded the leaders of PDeCAT back away, which they are doing by manoeuvres of all kinds.

Many of these politicians of the Catalan right defend putting the results of the referendum of 1 October in the freezer, and to curb “temporarily” the proclamation of the republic, appealing for the need for “international mediators” with powers. They mean, they want European bourgeois representatives to intercede with the PP government and allow them to win some leeway. But the main European bourgeoisie and the rest of the world have already made it clear that, although the images of savage police repression may be annoying to them, what causes them panic and what they are not willing to tolerate is the revolutionary example Catalonia represents. Millions of workers and exploited in many countries will have watched the scenes on TV, of direct mass action and state violence of the State and a determination by workers to see it through to the end. The Europe of capital, which the PDeCAT EU presents as a “democratic” panacea, closed ranks with Rajoy.

Although the refusal of the PP and its allies to negotiate anything other than the conditions of surrender could push Puigdemont to confront the central government again, it would be a serious mistake to leave the initiative in their hands and be subject to the demands of PDeCAT and the Catalan bourgeoisie. Only mass organization and mobilization from below, as we did on 1 and 3 October, can defeat the PP and its allies, and make effective the right to decide.

Analysing what has happened in recent weeks, when all organizations and their policies were tested, is important. Revolutionary Marxists have repeatedly stressed to those in the CUP: the Catalan bourgeoisie and its political representatives, PDeCAT, betray the cause of Catalonia, the freedom of the people and the Catalan republic. Despite demagoguery, which they have used over the years, Puigdemont defends the interests of the oligarchy. It is therefore essential that the CUP break, once and for all, with the PDeCAT and the Catalan bourgeoisie. Hanging on to the former car can only result in more frustration and prepare new defeats.

It is time to make a 180 degree turn: end the policy of conciliation and “dialogue” with reaction, and end the subordination to PDeCAT. It is time to build a strong left front in Catalonia, with a class programme, revolutionary and anti-capitalist, to fight for the Catalan republic and the socialist transformation of society.

Organize the general strike; expand, extend and unify Committees in Defence of the Referendum!

Build a Left Front for the Socialist Republic and against repression!

The decision to put in jail, without bail, the ANC (Catalan Assembly) leaders, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart, is characteristic of dictatorial regimes. It represents a qualitative leap in the escalation of repression. Sanchez and Cuixart  have been charged with “sedition” for their participation in a spontaneous mass mobilization on 20 September, in which they protested against police repression and arrests carried out under the dictates of the PP government to prevent the referendum October 1st. Applying the law in this way, means tomorrow they could imprison, for the same “crime”, any local, union or student leader from anywhere that participates in social movements, like 15M, against evictions or in defense of public education and health.

To paraphrase Lenin, revolution sometimes needs the whip of counter-revolution. And the forces of Spanish counter-revolution have struck hard, without any reaction from PDeCAT and Puigdemont government for days. The arrests of the “Jordis” are acting as a spur to retake the initiative from below and to promote mass mobilization of the population. Only then will we be able to defend democratic rights and only then will the popular will expressed on the 1 October referendum become effective. We need to regain the strength the movement showed 1st and 3rd October but on a higher level. A general strike of students, which Sindicat d’Estudiants called for Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th October, represents a major step in this direction.

With equal force, we must respond to 155 and the threat of suspension of autonomy. Demonstrations are not enough. Catalonia must be paralysed again. From Izquierda Revolucionaria we call upon the CUP, Podemos, Catalunya in Comú, ERC, and all working class unions, and the educational institutions and its organizations, to organise, immediately, a mighty and indefinite general strike to defeat state repression and to win a Catalan republic. And in this process it is absolutely essential to address the Catalan working class, turn to the most important factories and work places.

The working class must be a key player in the fight against repression and for the Catalan Republic. We must link this cause to the fight against cuts and austerity, for employment and living wages, against precariousness and evictions, for health and quality public education. This is a strategic aspect. The enormous strength of the Catalan working class is a decisive factor in against the offensive of the State and of the government, and to win our demands. Without mass working class conscious participation, it will be impossible to achieve victory. It is also necessary to make every effort to extend and coordinate the Referendum Defense Committees (CDRs), and to create them in all neighbourhoods, centres of study and work, to make them democratic and representative bodies of all people in struggle.

The responsibility of the left in the Spanish State

Following the imprisonment of the leaders of ANC and Omnium and the application of Article 155 and other attacks on democratic rights that may follow, the leaders of Unidos-PODEMOS and the trade unions have an enormous responsibility.

Yet leaders like Alberto Garzón continue to propose that the solution is to sit down with the government, the government of Rajoy, when they and their allies have clearly shown that they are unwilling to discuss anything. How long will the leaders of the union federations, CCOO and UGT, continue to maintain a passive or abstentionist position between the masses, fighting for their democratic rights to be respected, and this corrupt government, which denies the Catalan people their aspirations with clubs, hammers, rubber bullets or jail?

The leaders of Unidos Podemos and CCOO, UGT and the CGT must expose clearly what the repression of the PP and the application of measures, such as imprisonment for sedition or article 155, means for the working class. They must abandon their passive position and organize the mobilization of the working class and youth throughout the state, including a general strike, for the immediate release of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez, against the activation of Article 155 and for respect for the right of the people of Catalonia to decide their future. If they refuse, the task of all grassroots activists, all activists of left organizations that struggle, and the social movements, is to promote the mobilisation of the masses and go over the heads of those leaders who become an obstacle to defeat this repressive offensive.

We live in decisive moments! The Spanish bourgeoisie, PP, Cuidadanos and the PSOE leadership, are prepared to eliminate fundamental democratic rights and implement measures of the Franco dictatorship in order to prevent the revolutionary movement of the masses in Catalonia from victories, which would arouse other peoples and the whole working class of the Spanish State. Everyone who fights for real political and economic change must organize to respond to this brutal offensive, linking the struggle for national liberation of Catalonia to the socialist transformation of society.

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October 2017