Catalonia: This is what Democracy looks like

The Spanish ambassador in Britain explains bourgeois democracy


A Commentary by Almedina Gunić, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 23 September 2017,




Note of the Editorial Board: The following comment refers to a letter of the Spanish ambassador in Britain on the planned referendum in Catalonia on the issue of independence. This letter can be read here:




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A referendum on the question of independence is planned for October 1 in Catalonia which led to a massive mobilization of all forces by the Spanish government including its police and the civil guard. Since the Catalan parliament decided to organize the referendum the furious imperialist regime in Spain tries to threaten the supporters of independence with prosecution. The repression apparatus of Spain arrested even 14 officials of Catalonia but was forced to release them after nationwide protests took place.


However, the Spanish ambassador of Britain, Carlos Bastarreche, wrote a letter to the British newspaper "The Guardian" defending the Spanish state's oppressive behavior as an authentic, and therefore legitimate, part of bourgeois democracy. The letter is of interest for us as class-conscious workers as it is a perfect example for the hypocrisy of the so-called democracy in Europe. It therefore makes sense to read it carefully and to learn from it.


Carlos Bastarreche defended the massive violations of democratic rights by the repression apparatus with the de facto argument that a bourgeois democracy has the right to mobilize its police against the will of the people. "It was a judge in Barcelona who ordered the police operation," he explains and adds “More over the judge has the backing of the constitutional court.


What a perfect example for the logic of the capitalist class! There exists the formal division between legislative and executive forces and therefore it is perfectly fine to aim the smashing of a democratic movement of millions of people!


Further, Bastarreche explains that the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) is a natural part of the Spanish police and rejects the characterization of them as paramilitary forces. Any link to the military is not mentioned so that the reader should believe that the civil guard is really just regular police force as he claims. In reality and by its own definition the Guardia Civil is indeed a military force with police duties. Here is how the FIEP (Association of European and Mediterranean gendarmeries and police forces with military status) describe the character of the Guardia Civil: “On the other hand, and under the authority of the Ministry of Defence, it conducts missions of military nature abroad and, as civilian police force, it also takes part in other missions carried out abroad by international bodies. Apart from that, they have deployed attachés and liaison officers in different embassies all over the world.”


Imagine poor Bastarreche trying to find excuses and explanations with so little success, that he needs to make up lies about the simplest true every child in Spain knows! If this statement were not so foolishly stupid, one could almost have pity on him.


What a dialogue means for the Spanish state


“The government has attempted and is still offering dialogue”, the Spanish ambassador claims further. This assertion is quite interesting as the Spanish government claimed in September that they had not received an open letter by the Catalan government. The latter explained that they had indeed send the letter including the invitation for “political dialogue, based on the legitimacy we all have, to make possible something that in a democracy is never a problem and even less a crime: listening to the voice of the people”. We are not talking here about a greeting card on Christmas that may get lost! We are rather talking about a highly official document circulating between the Catalan government and the Spanish regime.


Whatever the truth is about the “lost” letter, it was the Spanish MP Mariano Rajoy who made clear in 2015 (and ever since): "I am ready to listen and to talk, but not in any way to liquidate the law (...) I am not going to talk about either the unity of Spain, or sovereignty.” Well, than what was Rajoy thinking the discussion will be about? What kind of dialogue one has to ask Bastarreche, is offered by the Spanish state? Maybe it is an invitation to a kid’s tea party but obviously not a serious dialogue about the demands of the independence movement.


Furthermore it is hard to believe that any real dialogue is possible given the extreme repressive behaviour of the Spanish state. Just two weeks ago, Rajoy said clearly: “There won’t be a self-determination referendum. I will do whatever is needed, without relinquishing anything, to prevent it.” As long as the law is a law of the oppressors it is implemented by the repression apparatus by all means including full force of violence against our class and all oppressed. The capitalist politicians are only “pacifist” if they are in a weak position but not if they have the full power to implement their interests.


No wonder that the capitalist government of Catalonia plays the role of appeasing the independence movement in order to prevent sharper clashes between the Catalan workers and oppressed and the Spanish state as it has a weaker position in the conflict. They want to utilize the just cause of the Catalan workers and oppressed but without heading towards a revolutionary situation which may cut off their heads as well. As the prime minister of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont wrote: “In spite of provocations, overactions, rumors, false slogans ... we are calm and peaceful always. It is our great asset.”


The working class has showed one of its greatest assets: the Dockers in Barcelona and Tarragona voted to refuse service for those ships which accommodate more than 4000 members of the Guardia Civil sent by the central government in Madrid. The Dockers did so despite the fact that these two ports are under national, not regional, control. In addition the Catalan government who has the control over the port of Palamos claimed that the port’s services were committed. Rumors of a planned general strike action in order to make the referendum possible are looming since weeks.


It is therefore somehow funny that Bastarrache wrote in his letter to the Guardian: “Puigdemont says “all we want is to carry out the greatest expression of free democracy”, but his projected referendum – that will not take place – is rather the result of a process that repeals constitutional democracy and their own charter of self-government.” It is up to the workers and oppressed in Catalonia supported by all workers and oppressed in Spain to shatter all lies on the referendum not taking place. In the interest of the working class of Catalonia it has to consequently fight for a Workers Republic of Catalonia. Bastarrache on the other hand should keep writing letters. We need a good laugh once in a while.