Catalonia: Coup against the Catalan people

Defeat reaction through mass mobilisation and a general strike!


This article, here translated into English, was written and published before the dramatic events of the last 48 hours, with the Catalan parliament voting to declare independence from the Spanish state, as well as the successful mass student general strike organised by the Sindicato de Estudiantes on 25 and 26 October. Further material and analysis will follow 

Saturday 21 October will go down in the history of Spanish “democracy”. On that day, a government of corrupt reactionaries, backed up by a state machine inherited from Francoism, and with the firm support of Ciudadanos and the PSOE leadership, carries out a coup d’etat against democracy, eliminating Catalan autonomy.

These measures, implementing the famous article 155 of the constitution, are a fitting answer to all those who have been so desperately pleading for dialogue and deals with a government which only understands the language of repression. The attitude of Pedro Sanchez, PSOE leader, lining up with the defenders of Spanish nationalism to crush the right of the Catalan people to decide, is one of the most infamous acts of Spanish social democracy, comparable to when PSOE collaborated with the Primo de Rivera dictatorship in the 1930s.

The catalan and Spanish bourgeoisie, the media, and all parties of the regime of 1978, the justice system, security forces, and monarchy have united to crush the will of millions of workers and youth in Catalonia. And they do so in the way the Spanish ruling class has always done when the stability of its economic and political power is threatened: through state violence and coercion to secure the established order.

Let us be clear. The measures adopted in the Council of Ministers last Saturday, with the backing of all the aforementioned forces, has converted Mariano Rajoy into the Viceroy of Catalonia. He has been handed the power to decide about all political issues affecting the Catalan people, eliminating in one fell swoop the ability of the Catalan government to rule itself, suppressing bourgeois democratic institutions like the Catalan parliament and Ministries, and threatening those who do not accept their “legality” with prison. The political prisons who currently enjoy the Spanish “democracy’s” prison regime could see many more join them in coming weeks if we look at the judicial processes which are being prepared by the state prosecutor. The threat to illegalise formations which “challenge constitutional order” has been heard far and wide, showing the extent to which the reactionaries and their accomplices are willing to go with this authoritarian coup.

History is repeating itself: Rajoy emulates Lerroux, Gil Robles and the CEDA when they suppressed Catalan autonomy and imprisoned Companys (then Catalan president) after the proclamation of the Catalan Republic on 6 October 1934. The difference is that back then, Companys was joined in prison by many PSOE leaders who put themselves on the line in prison for participating in an uprising against fascism. Today, PSOE’s leaders are on the side of the disciples of Gil Robles, applauding them.

Article 155: a clear coup d’etat

For many days we have listened to PSOE leaders publicly state they would only support a “limited” article 155 which only allowed the calling of new Catalan elections. All this manipulation was for nothing. In the decisive moment, they shamefully capitulated, and were dragged behind the right wing, giving them a “left” cover for what is a brutal right wing coup. We insist on this because without the support of Pedro Sanchez, who recently spoke of “pluri-national Spain” and that “No [to the PP] means no”, Rajoy could not have carried out an attack of these dimensions. But he was given unconditional support to do so, in many cases enthusiastically by the PSOE leaders who in this way have ensured they will share the destiny of the forces of Spanish reaction – confronting the Catalan people with ruthless authoritarianism.

Rajoy and his allies insist that article 155 does not suppress Catalan autonomy, and that they have only intervened to gurarantee “constitutional order”. This is just bad propaganda, which ony discredits the system, inherited from Francoism and the parties who defend this regime.

Concretely the decision to apply article 155 means the following:

1. The Spanish government removes the leaders of the Generalitat (Catalan government), including President Puigdemont. Puidgemont’s powers will be assumed by Rajoy who wil 8% of the votes of Catalans in the last election will now govern Catalonia with unlimited powers. The Catalan Ministers will be replaced by Spanish government Ministers from Madrid. How can they still claim that Catalonia’s autonomy has not been eliminated?

2. The functions of the Catalan parliament are severly limited. In practice, it can not debate any law or measure which the Viceroy Rajoy considers to be “contrary to the constitution or law”. The parliament is also banned from electing a new President.

3. The Spanish government, with the support of PSOE, puts in place immediate measures to take control of the Catalan police (Mossos) who will be directly led by national police chiefs.

4. The Spanish government takes control of Catalan public spending. It has also announced it will take control of the Catalan public TV station, TV3 in order to guarantee the spreading of truthful information which “respects the principles and contents of the constitution”. And the PSOE leaders support this! It sounds like a bad joke, but is not funny as it is reminiscent of the bloody censorship of the Franco regime. The party of corruption, which has turned the Spanish national TV station (TVE) into a mouthpiece for Spanish nationalist propaganda is intervening to guarantee “truthfulness” in the Catalan media!

5. If Puigdemont or any other member of the Catalan government, or even administrative government workers disobey these conditions they are liable to be criminally prosecuted. If Puigdemont proposed that parliament declare independence in response to this agression, the government has already ordered that charges of “Rebellion” be prepared against him, punishable by up to 30 years in prison!

6. If all goes according to plan, the government will propose holding new Catalan elections in 6 months. But this timescale is conditional. Leading voices in the PP, like national spokesperson, Pablo Casado, and PP leader in Catalonia, Xavier García Albiol have spoke about the illegalisation of parties who do not accept the repressive measures.

What are all these measures if not a coup d’etat against democratic rights and freedoms? Today it is being used against the people of Catalonia but tomorrow they will be used against the workers and youth of any part of the Spanish state when the capitalists feel that their order, privileges and class interests are under threat.

“Equidistance” on the Left. A falsification of Marxism.

The fury of Spanish nationalism, the Catalan bourgeosie which is subordinated to it, of the state and all parties and capitalist media, is not accidental. The political crisis in catalonia, provoked by a mass movement which has fought bravely for democratic and national aspirations, and exercised its right to self determination, voting by a big majority for a Catalan Republic on 1 October, is a huge blow to the oligarchic regime of 1978. The Catalan masses through their direct action have provoked a revolutionary crisis which has been met with a tough response by the forces of counter revolution.

In this sense, the Catalan capitalists have understood much better than the reformist leaders of the Left the revolutionary meaning of what is taking place. The former demand an immediate retreat and have come out against proclaiming a Catalan Republic, spread fear and moving 1,000 company headquarters outside Catalonia. As they have done many times throughout history they link their destiny to the Spanish bourgeoisie, wrap themselves in the Spanish flag and confront the mass movement which could threaten their economic and political power.

In a situation like this, all organisations are tested. Nobody can escape the reality of events by rhetorical tricks. This is why the political role of so many leaders who formally stand to the Left of social democracy but bend to the pressure of the campaign of reaction.

These leaders, like Alberto Garzon, coordinator or United Left, have made attacks on the movement for Catalan independence, comparing a possible unilateral declaration of independence with the application of article 155 by the PP and state! They refuse to support the democratic national aspirations of millions of Catalans, and denigrate a mass movement which has faced up to the PP and state with bravery inspiring the oppressed throughout the world. They dismiss the movement because of the role that PdeCAT (right wing nationalist party in Catalonia) plays, thus refusing to intervene in this mass mobilisation and placing themselves in an “equidistant” position, between reaction and millions of workers and youth who suffer oppression. What is worse is that they try to justify it by referring to great Marxist thinkers. The position of Garzon and other leaders who use the same rhetoric, is not only a gross falsification of Marxism but puts them close to the camp of Spanish nationalist reaction.

Garzon ha written a book in which he claims to be Marxist and Communist. But it is not enough to claim it. We must defend the programme and methods of Marxism, especially when the social and political crisis underway opens up an exceptional opportunity to advance class and revolutionary consciouness among the masses.

Garzon claims to be a Marxist but the principle of Marxist dialectics is thet the truth is concrete. It was not Puigdeont or PdeCAT which put the regime of 1978 in crisis but the mass revolutionary movement of the Catalan masses. In fact, the different political formations of the catalan bourgeoisie have been pillars of capitalist stability for decades, supporting the governments of Felipe Gonzalez and Aznar, and defending the interests of the oligarchy.
It is true that the turn of PdeCAT towards a pro-independence position was, at the time, a political manoeuvre to distract attention from their cuts policies and neutralise the mass opposition to them on the streets of Catalonia. It is also clear that the position of the CUP and ERC of providing parliamentary support to PdeCAT to implement its neoliberal agenda in exchange for support for independence, is a complete mistake.

However, it is equally if not more mistaken to refuse to support a mass movement, calling it reactionary, and implore Puigdemont and Rajoy to sit down and negotiate, precisely at a time when PdeCAT is being totally surpassed by the mass movement which has bbrought about a revolutionary crisis. With who exactly should the movement negotiate? How can we demand an “agreed and legal” referendum from those who respond with police brutality and coup methods against the catalan people.

Garzon has said repeatedly that “Rajoy and Puigdemont sitting down to talk would solve part of the problem already”. What does this have to do with the position of Marx and Lenin on national oppression and revolution? Nothing, but it has a lot to do with the position of Santiago Carrillo [Communist Party leader] in 1976-78 when the CP – then a mass working class party – called for dialogue and consensus with the Spanish ruling class and inheritors of the dictatorship, in order to abort a revolutionary situation which was escaping their control.

Carrillo and the CP, together with Gonzalez and PSOE were the main architects of the regime of 1978. The CP was the main party of the working class. Today, despite the dignity and commitment to socialism of many of its members, it is not a shadow of what it once was. Does its collapse have nothing to do with its policy during the Transition? The CP leadership then were enthusiastic supporters of the Spanish flag, King, and Francoist amnesty law which left the dictatorship in impunity following its crimes. The CP leadership sacrificed the heroic struggle of its membership in order to “consolidate democracy”, which in reality meant allowing the capitalists to regain control of the situation. The CP leadership opposed the right of self-determination of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, and as a result became politically insignificant in these territories. Why does Garzon draw no conclusions from this?

The participation of over 2 milllion people in the voting on the 1 October referendum was a huge triumph of popular will, especially since it took place in a context of police occupation. Does Garzon say that this is not valid, because it did not have the legal recognition of the PP government? We have rarely seen such a massive exercise of direct democracy, which delivered a crushing result in favour of a Catalan republic.

Following the referendum on 1 October, there was the general strike on 3 October. There is only one precedent for such a massive mobilisation: when the masses of workers and peasants rose up on 18 and 19 July 1936 against the fascist coup and disarmed the forces of reaction. What does Garzon say about this? As a “Marxist” and “Communist” is he indifferent to this? Were these mass mobilisations just “adding fuel to the fire” instead of the necessary consensus and dialogue?

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.

More than 100 years ago Lenin wrote a magnificent text – the right of nations to self-determination, establishing the position of revolutionary Marxists. Lenin was not nationalist, nor was Marx or Engels. They were internationalists but understood that the defence of self-determination of oppressed nations, like Catalonia today, was a priority in the fight for socialism. Fighting against national oppression is just as important as fighting class oppression. Of course, in a national liberation movement, Marxists never subordinate ourselves to the capitalist class of the oppressed nation, in this case the Catalan bourgeoisie, or their political representatives (PdeCAT). On the contrary, at the same time as we fight for the right to self determination – which of course includes the right to independence – we link it to the fight for a revolutionary programme and the socialist transformation of society.

The current crisis in Catalonia, as in other historical epochs, has opened up the possibility of winning a Catalan Republic through revolutionary means, based on the direct action of the people, youth and workers. This is what terrorises the Catalan bourgeoisie which has made an ultimatum to the masses: abandon your revolutionary pretensions or we will unleash economic chaos and plunge you into misery. The same as the Greek bourgeoisie did to the Greek people!

Do these facts not make comrade Garzon reflect? What conclusion should we draw from the alliance between the Catalan and Spanish bourgeoisie to avoid a Catalan Republic? What is Garzon, or other IU and Podemos leaders to this alliance? That the alternative is to sit down and talk to Rajoy and ask for a legal referendum? Negotiate with who?

Garzon and others say they are Marxists and Leninists. But when and where did Lenin support an agreement with the Russian bourgeoisie or the Tsarist regime to win the self determination of the Ukraine, Poland, Finland or Baltic countries? Lenin and the Bolsheviks united the masses oppressed by Tsarism with the working class of the oppressor nation – Russia – by inscribing the right of self-determination on their banner together with the overthrow of capitalism and fight for socialism.

What does this revolutionary communist policy have to do with demobilising the Catalan people, asking them to return home leaving the capitalist politicians in peace to agree a “consensus solution”? That would be the position of a scab, not a revolutionary marxist.

Garzon and other leaders of IU and Podemos call for a “constituent process”, sometimes for a “Federal Republic”. But they do not clarify the class, capitalist or socialist character of these proposals. Also, how do they plan on initiating this process or this Republic? Via an agreement with the Francoist state and PP? Via a consensus with the Spanish bourgeoisie?

The proclamation of the Spanish Republic on 14 April 1931 was the result of the revolutionary action of the masses, of the city and country, who brought down the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, and with general strikes and mass mobilisations in 1930 and 1931 forces King Alfonso XIII into exile. The proclamation of the Republic was accepted by the capitalists as a lesser evil, as they could not contain the movement of workers, peasants and youth towards a socialist revolution.

This historical analogy is important. A Catalan Republic won through revolutionary action would mean necessarily a fight against the PdeCAT and Puigdemont, against the political and economic elite which has ruled Catalonia with the same neoliberal policies as the PP. The battle against capitalist oppression would be the key to mass action. It could open the door to a government of the Left which would have to immediately end the cuts and confront the dictatorship of big business in Spain and Catalonia, nationalising the banks and big companies.

The Catalan, Spanish, French and European capitalists know it well, which is why they try with all their might to crush the movement.

Defeat reaction and article 155 through mass mobilisation and a general strike. For a Socialist Catalan Republic!

The balance of forces in Catalonia is still favourable to the working class who have resisted police repression.

The imprisonment without bail of the leaders of pro-independence movements, ANC and Ominum, Jordi Sànchez y Jordi Cuixart, was a qualitative step in the repressive offensive. But now, the decision to suspend Catalan autonomy is an attempt to bring the Catalan people to their knees. The response of the movement has been immediate, with a demonstration of half a million on 21 October in Barcelona. But demonstrations alone are not enough. We need a strategy and programme to win.

The sabotage of the Catalan capitalists, as well as article 155, or the cold water which Puigdemont threw on the movement on 10 October by suspending the declaration of a Catalan Republic, shows that we cannot leave the struggle against repression or the task of achieving a Catalan Republic in the hands of PdeCAT and Puigdemont. They are experienced politicians who represent decisive sectors of the Catalan bourgeoisie. They have been pushed by the mass movement further than they wanted to go, to call the referendum. When the Catalan bourgeoisie saw how the movement defeated repression and opened up a revolutionary crisis, they started a campaign of sabotage and blackmail, and demanded that the PdeCAT retreat, which they are doing through all sorts of manoeuvres. 

Many right wing Catalan politicians want to put the resuts of the referendum on the shelf, and put a “temporary” break on the proclamation of a Republic, speaking of the necessity of “international moderators” – i.e. European bourgeois figures to appeal to the PP government and allow them a margin of manoeuvre. But the capitalist EU, which PdeCAT presents as a panacea of democracy, has already lined up with Rajoy.

While article 155 might push Puigdemont to confront the Spanish government, it would be a terrible mistake to leave the initiative in his hands and subordinate the movement to the PdeCAT and Catalan capitalists. Only organisation and mobilisation from below, as we did on 1 and 3 October, can defeat the PP and the state.

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 their coat tails can only result in more frustration and prepare new defeats.

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. 

The task of the movement is clear. We have to respond to article 155 by paralysing Catalonia. 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 leaders of Unidos Podemos and of the Trade Unions have an enormous responsibility. How long will they continue to insist on “negotiations” with Rajoy as an alternative, while Rajoy and company show consistently they have no interest in talking about anything? How long will the leaders of CCOO and UGT maintain a passive or equidistant position?

The only way to clarify the situation, end the confusion and neutralise the campaign of Spanish nationalism is to unite the working class of the rest of the Spanish state with their brothers and sisters in Catalonia, in mass mobilisations against the PP. This is the task of the entire Left, and of all activists. It is also the responsibility of the leaders of Unidos Podemos, of Pablo Iglesias, Ada Colau, etc who must pass from words to deedds and directly address the working class and youth of Catalonia, especially the base of CCOO and UGT, with a clear message of struggle.

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. These same repressive measures will be used tomorrow in the rest of the state against anything which threatens their system. Anyone who struggles for real political and economic change must get organised against this brutal offensive, and defend the rights of the Catalan people in order to defend the working class and youth of the entire state.

The Spanish and Catalan ruling classes look with terror on the proclamation of a Catalan Republic. This is not only because it would ruin their nationalist idea of a great, united Spain. They know that this would be the prelude to an even more intense and deep struggle in the interests of the oppresed, against capitalist domination, against the established social order and for a socialist Republic in Catalonia, and a Federal Socialist Republic throughout the state, based on the free and voluntary unity of peoples and nations. This struggle is already winning the active solidarity of the oppressed masses of Europe and the world.

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October 2017