Catalonia: New President appointed amid continued authoritarian wave

Down with repression! Continue with the struggle for a workers’ and young people’s Republic!


On Monday 14 May the Catalan parliament elected Quim Torra as President. After they had undemocratically blocked the election of Puigdemont, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Turull, the PP government and state apparatus initially tolerated Torra’s election. However, they straight away threatened to remove him from office if he engaged in any practical disobedience of the control exercised from Madrid – and they were true to their word. As soon as Torra announced that the new government would include various Catalan Ministers who are in prison or in exile, the PP, Ciudadanos, and the PSOE leadership once again trampled on democratic rights in Catalonia and announced they were prolonging article 155 (the suspension of Catalan autonomy) indefinitely.  

Witch-hunt against the fighting Left 

The PP, which is full of corruption and Francoists, and which only has 4 MPs and 4% of the vote in Catalonia, is governing Catalonia in a semi dictatorial manner with the support of Ciudadanos and PSOE. Rajoy and his allies have not only all but nullified Catalan autonomy against the will of an entire people. A race is underway, to see who the biggest Spanish nationalists are, and who is willing to go the furthest in attacking democratic rights. In this race, Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos leader) remains in the lead, and in reality sets the tone of the strategy and positions of both the PP government and PSOE. 

It is really shameful to see Pedro Sanchez (PSOE leader) bow down before Rajoy and Rivera, jumping on to their right-wing bandwagon. He has demanded changes to the penal code to make the accusation of “rebellion” against Catalan politicians fit better, and to ban all political forces or candidates who do not “accept the constitution” from holding office.  He would make a good candidate for Orwellian “Minister for Thought”. 

We should not forget that these latest threats are part of an overall campaign of criminalisation against the independence movement and all Left wing organisations and individuals, including rappers and tweeters, who defy the regime of 1978. Legal complaints of “indoctrination” and “incitement to hatred” have been made against 500 teachers and 134 schools by the Civil Guard and backed by the Education Minister who sang Francoist hymn “lover of death” during Easter celebrations. This is a symbol of the anti-democratic offensive we are living through.  Attacks on freedom of speech, organisation and protest have been hardened while TV screens are filled with far right commentators hailing the arrests and charges against Left pro-independence party, CUP, CDR (defence committees) and union activists for protesting and striking against article 155. 

How could we not compare this with Franco’s repression and judicial farces? This political persecution is not only aimed against pro-independence ideas. Anyone who struggles against the PP and its allies in their project of “one great Spain” is in the firing line. One example of the agenda of the supporters of article 155 is the statements of the PP MP, Andrea Levy, that teachers should be charged with “indoctrination” of children on the basis of anonymous “tip offs”. They want to build a network of anonymous spies to persecute dissidents, just like in the dictatorship! 

In this situation of a “democratic emergency” as Pablo Iglesias recently called it, it is shocking that the leaders of Unidos Podemos continue to look the other way and remain silent. Or even worse: when they join in with the calumnies of the right wing and Spanish nationalist PSOE leaders, against the masses in struggle for a Republic in Catalonia, equating the state with the victims of its repression, and even calling the activity of the CDR committees “violence”, or accusing the Catalan people of having awoken the ghost of fascism by resisting Rajoy’s reactionary offensive. 

The Catalan right wing will not bring national liberation

However, despite all this, the naming of Quim Torra, a leader associated with the most reactionary and right wing variant of Catalan nationalism has caused much surprise and discontent in the movement, especially those sectors that have been the spinal column of the struggle for the Republic. The hundreds of thousands of workers and youth that have rejected article 155 and resisted repression cannot close our eyes to the attempts by PDeCAT (bourgeois nationalist party) and the ERC (Republican ‘Left) leaders to reach agreements with Rajoy and the state, abandoning the struggle on the streets. The choice of Torra as President is part of this strategy, moreso than any rhetorical declarations.  

Torra made infamous hateful attacks on the 15M (‘Indignados’) movement and has made disgraceful xenophobic comments about Catalan people with family origins outside of Catalonia. He goes against everything that the movement for the Catalan Republic has fought for in the last months. In 2012, when thousands of people were surrounding the Catalan parliament to protest at cuts by the then-PDeCAT government (which was then called Convergencia) led by Artur Mas, Torra wrote: “The events of this morning are intolerable. I immediately thought of Tejero (leader of the fascist coup in 1983 which stormed the Spanish parliament)… I feel the same nausea and cold sweat… This band of idiots from 15M are taking us straight to the 5th world. I’m sorry to be so brutal but today is not a day for nuances”. This is the same insult to the people and youth that the leaders of the PP and Ciudadanos made on 1 and 3 October! How can this man lead the resistance to the Spanish state and take forward the struggle for the Republic?

Of course, the fact that politicians from the far-right, who defend even more reacytionary right wing ideas, like Rivera and Arrimadas from Ciudadanos or Albiol from the PP, accuse Torra of being “exclusionary” or “supremacist” reflects the cynicism and shamelessness of the Spanish ruling class. However, it is precisely the naming of Torra which gives the Spanish nationalist right wing ammunition for their demagogy and makes the task of winning the whole of the Catalan working class and youth to the struggle for the Catalan Republic more difficult. 

Though in his speech upon assuming office, Torra promised to work to make the Republic a “reality”, he did not put forward one concrete measure for how to do it, or make any commitment to end austerity cuts, precariousness, unemployment, and the lack of a future for young people. While he asked the Rajoy government for “unconditional” dialogue, he did not even call for the freedom of the political prisoners and an end to the persecution of the CDRs and Left activists. Later, by naming some imprisoned Ministers, he has tried to recover some legitimacy, but he has no idea of a plan of struggle and mobilisation to respond to the offensive of the Spanish nationalist right wing and state.  

The naming of Torra as President confirms what Esquerra Revolucionaria (CWI in Catalonia) has been saying for a long time: that these bourgeois Catalan politicians must be removed from the leadership of the movement for national liberation, and the movement’s real protagonists – the youth and workers – must take the leadership with a revolutionary strategy capable of uniting all the oppressed against the common enemy: the Spanish and Catalan bourgeoisie and the capitalist system. 

1 and 3 October showed the way

To break with the current dynamic, and stop the reactionary offensive, there is only one alternative: mass mobilisation in the streets, following the example of 1 and 3 October (referendum and general strike). That is what more than 1 million people demanded on the streets of Barcelona on 15 April, calling for the freedom of all political prisoners. There was a clamour on that protest for a general strike. One month later, the leaders of ERC and PDeCAT have still not responded to this demand and are doing all in their power to keep people at home, insisting that the priority is to have an “effective government” to negotiate with Rajoy. The state has already made clear that all they want to discuss are the terms of surrender! 

Within the movement for a Catalan Republic there are 2 opposing tendencies. That which represents the majority of the movement, made up of the youth, workers and big sections of the middle classes who are turning towards the Left, who are dedicated to building a Republic and breaking with the monarchist regime of 1978 because of what it represents: sexism, Francoism, corruption, capitalist attacks which cut our pensions, health and education and which condemn us to precarious work, evictions and unemployment. 

On the other hand, against this majority, there is a right-wing Catalan nationalist wing which has very small forces in the mass movement but with great weight in the official leadership. This bourgeois tendency fears the revolutionary initiative of the people and tries to sow as much demoralisation as possible.  

The really exceptional thing about this situation is that despite the jailings, indiscriminate repression, and the campaign of vociferous Spanish nationalism which dominates the media, millions of people in Catalonia have reached the conclusion that we don’t want to live under this undemocratic, anti-working class, sexist regime. There are also sections of young people and workers who reject corruption, austerity and repression but who do not currently support the Republic because they  distrust the Catalan right and ruling class, from whom they have only received cuts, attacks on their rights and even xenophobic and racist insults.

These sectors can only be won to the cause of the Republic with a programme to drastically improve the living conditions of all the oppressed. We do not want a Republic of the Catalan bourgeoisie, but a Socialist Republic which can realise both national and social liberation, and be the launching pad for socialist transformation in the rest of the Spanish state and Europe.  

We need a strong revolutionary Left

Reflecting the discontent caused by the naming of Torra, the local assemblies of the CUP, in Baix Llobregat, Barcelonés and Camp de Tarragona demanded a debate in the CUP about the possibility of voting against Torra. Arran, the CUP’s youth organisation, published a statement saying that Torra was a “bad option”. The speech in parliament of Carles Riera, current parliamentary leader of the CUP, was very critical, insisting that the CUP would mobilise against the government of PDeCAT and ERC if it renounced the struggle for a Republic or applied measures against the interests of the people. These words must be put into practice, building a united front of the Left in struggle for a Catalan Republic. This struggle must be based on the CDRs, the CUP, the unions which supported the 8 November general strike against repression, the Sindicat d’Estudiants (students union) and SEPC (nationalist student union), and the rank and file of ANC, Omnium, Catalunya en Comu, and the CCOOO and UGT unions, who participated in the 15 April demonstration. To defeat repression a powerful plan of struggle is necessary, beginning with a call for a general strike.  

Together with sustained and massive mobilisations, we must also defend a programme of class independence and socialism in this movement for national liberation. This requires the building of a strong revolutionary Left throughout Catalonia and the Spanish state. Join Esquerra Revolucionària / Izquierda Revolucionaria (CWI in Catalonia / Spanish state) to struggle for a workers’ Republic of Catalonia.  

Down with article 155! Freedom for all political prisoners. Withdrawal of the national police and civil guard from Catalonia! 

Reverse all labour and pension counter-reforms! Retirement at 60 on 100% wages and young workers given replacement contracts

For a minimum wage of €1,100 per month and a 35 hour week with no loss of pay

Ban all evictions. For nationalised housing stock with social rents. Expropriate all empty homes owned by the banks

Re-nationalise all privatised public services, maintaining and widening the workforce and respecting workers’ rights.

Reverse all education counter-reforms! For quality, democratic, secular, free public education from childcare to university.

For the right to free public dignified healthcare.

Solidarity with refugees: no quotas or internment camps! Repeal racist immigration laws.

For full democratic rights of expression, meeting and organisation. Repeal the anti-democratic laws.

Nationalisation of the Banks and strategic sectors of the economy to bail out the people and guarantee the welfare of the majority.

Fort the right of self-determination for Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. For a socialist federation based on the free and voluntary union of the national peoples who make up the Spanish state, if that is their democratically stated wish.

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May 2018