For an independent Workers’ Republic of Catalonia (and the Basque country)!
Statement of the European Bureau of the RCIT, 26.09.2017, www.thecommunists.net
1. La Diada 2017, the celebrations of the Catalonian National Day, turned into an impressively large demonstration with up to one million people taking to the streets of Barcelona to display their desire for independence. It is not the first time that these celebrations, which take place annually on September 11, have been used to protest and demand the right for self-determination and the right to hold a referendum on this issue, like the one now planned for October 1. Five years ago, more than 1.5 million people took to the streets of Barcelona with the slogan “Catalunya, nou estat d’Europa!“ (“Catalonia, new state of Europe!“); a year later, in 2013, more than 350,000 volunteers registered to participate in the event Via Catalana cap a la Independència (Catalonian Way towards Independence) to support and mobilize for the 400 km long human chain which was formed by at least 1.6 million people. The RCIT fully supports the protests of the Catalonian people and their right for self-determination. To their demand for independence we reply: Yes, it is time for an independent Workers’ Republic of Catalonia (and the Basque Country)!
2. The Spanish, imperialist state entirely rejects the aspirations for independence of the Catalonian people and is attempting by all means to suppress the plans to hold the referendum on October 1. This is nothing but the continuation of the long history of national oppression and discrimination of the Catalonian people by the reactionary Spanish state. The Catalonian people have a long tradition of struggle for independence against the Spanish oppressors. In the 8th century, the shires of Barcelona, Girona and others were united by Guifré el Pilós who led the Dynasty of the Earls of Barcelona. About 200 years later the Catalonian shires freed themselves from the seigniory of the West Franconian king. Later on, the Corona de Aragón was formed, a union of Aragonian kings leading the kingdoms of Mallorca, Sicily, Naples well as the duchies of Athens and Neopatras, the shires of Barcelona, the margrave of Provence and many others. During the French-Spanish War, the people of Aragón tried to gain their independence from the Bourbon ruler, Philipp V, without success and on the 11 September 1714 the besieged rebels of Barcelona capitulated. During subsequent years the Catalonians lost their self-governing bodies under the oppressive laws of Philipp V, the Decretos de Nueva Planta. Until today this historic defeat of Barcelona in 1714 is commemorated as the Catalonian National Day. However, Catalonia’s history of struggle for independence was and is still not over.
3. In 1931 the Catalonians got the chance for a provisional autonomy by forming the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 1934, the reigning President of the Generalitat, Lluís Companys i Jover proclaimed the state of Catalonia, which triggered the arrest of the new Catalonian government by the Spanish army. All this happened while the revolutionary general strike in Asturia was going on, an heroic uprising of the workers, mainly miners, against the entrance into the Spanish State Cabinet of three ministers from the fascist Confederación Española de Derechas Autónomas (CEDA). While the proclaimed Catalonian government only lasted for ten hours, the heroic uprising of the Asturian workers persevered for 20 days before it was finally crushed by the Spanish army under the leadership of the future dictator, Francisco Franco. However, in 1936 the imprisoned Catalonian government was released by the popular front. Barcelona was a proletarian stronghold, playing a key role during summer of 1936 uprisings led mainly by the anarchistic forces, the Confederación Nacional de Trabajo (CNT) and the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI). Barcelona was also the site of a spontaneous worker uprising against the popular-front regime in May 1937. This mass protest was only supported by the Trotskyists and the "Friends of Durruti," and was eventually crushed brutally by the Stalinists. With the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, which saw the final defeat of the working class militias by counterrevolutionary forces, the fascist, military dictatorship of Franco ruled Spain until his death in 1975. It was a bitter time, not only for the working class, but for all other segments of the Catalonian people as well. The dictatorship of Franco denied the existence of Catalonian nationality, and outlawed every aspect of Catalonian identity, including its language. It is mainly due to the Catalonian Diaspora that the Catalan language survived and is now spoken by at least 9 million people.
4. Today, Spain as a constitutional monarchy which does not recognize the right of self-determination for the Catalonian or the Basque peoples. Neither do the reactionary former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, who was the chosen successor by the fascist dictator Franco himself, or his son, the reigning King Felipe VI, accept Catalonia’s call for a referendum. Instead, King Felipe VI and the Spanish government are threatening the Catalonian people and have declared that they will prevent the referendum. The Spanish state is planning criminal proceedings against the entire Catalonian government and all volunteers who support the preparations for the referendum. They are even considering mobilizing the Spanish army in the event of further developments towards Catalonian independence. Demonstrating how serious the threat is for the Catalonian people, armed police forces were mobilized to confiscate more than 100,000 leaflets printed for the independence campaign and several newspapers and printers have been threatened. The Catalonian newspaper El Vallenc was searched by police bearing an official search warrant. It has even become illegal for the bourgeois Catalonian press to write positively about the referendum, let alone call for it.
5. Indeed, the independent Catalonia that is being campaigned for by the Together For Yes (JxSí) movement would involve huge troubles for the imperialistic Spanish state, which would be deprived of nearly 20% of its economic output and 16% of its population. Although Catalonia is indeed one of the wealthier parts of Spain, the gap in poverty levels between regions is not all that great. In Catalonia, the poverty rate is 19.2% compared to 22.3% for the rest of Spain. Last year's official unemployment rate was 15.7% for Catalonia and 19.6% for the rest of the country. These figures are not surprising, as the main part of Catalonian economy is not tourism, as is often suggested, but rather industry. At least half of the Catalonian economy is based on industry, including the chemical, automotive, metallurgical and textile sectors as well as the agricultural-food and pharmaceutical industries. Furthermore, the region of Catalonia accounts for 23% of Spanish industry, while covering less than 7% of the Spain’s territory on the Iberian Peninsula. Even historically, Spain's industrial working class was, until the 1950s, almost exclusively concentrated in Catalonia and the Basque country. Catalonia's aspirations towards independence are not comparable to reactionary independence movements, like the Venetian nationalist movement, in which the extreme right-wing Liga Veneta–Lega Nord plays a key role. Quite the opposite is the case, as discrimination of the Catalonian people not only has a long history, but the struggle against it and for independence, now as in the past, also enjoy widespread popularity among the Catalonian working class and youth. This desire has been nurtured by the ongoing capitalist crisis which has brutally hit the working class throughout Spain. In addition, the Spanish state has provoked Catalonian resistance with its attempts in recent years to undermine the province’s existing autonomous rights. This is to say nothing about the current atmosphere of hysteria fomented by the Spanish state in light of the planned referendum. It is most likely that the Catalonians would not prefer cessation from Spain to such an extent as they do, if there were real autonomy for them people within the state. However, the increasing discrimination of the Catalonian people in recent years, as well as attacks on their autonomy by the Spanish state, have changed the sentiments of the Catalonian people, including its working class.
6. The Statue of Autonomy for Catalonia was vastly reduced by the Spanish state in 2010, including the explicit refusal to recognize the people of Catalonia (or any other national minority, like the Basque people) as a nation within Spain. Protests of more than one million people demanding “Som una nació. Nosaltres decidim“ (“We are one nation. We decide.“) have taken place to oppose the resulting imposed limitations. Perhaps more significant consequences followed decisions, like new education legislation passed in 2013, which repealed the previous equality of both languages – Catalan and Spanish, in favor of priority for the latter. After Franco's regime, it became and remains a major project of the Catalonian people to restore their ancestral native tongue, Catalan. The enmity of the Spanish state towards this more than understandable aspiration strengthens the Catalonian wish for independence. As a result, the current situation is extremely tense and it appears that the Spanish state is not even willing to offer various smaller concessions involving increased autonomy for Catalonia. More and more Catalonians have become critical of the Spanish state for its arrogance, including those who actually oppose independence from Spain. Even among the ranks of Catalonians who voted for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, 40% (compared to 82% of all Catalonian voters) are critical of the Spanish state's behavior towards the demand for a referendum, a fact which is strengthening rather than weakening independence forces.
7. The desire for Catalonian independence may even increase more after a comment by the German government's spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, at a press conference in which he stressed that Germany and the European Union have no interest in a divided Spain. Seibert argued that existing law has to be maintained, meaning that Europe’s two major imperialist forces – Germany and the EU – oppose the ratification of the referendum by Catalonia’s local government. This statement came as no surprise, as Germany, one of the two leading countries forming the imperialist EU, has calculated the potential loss of Spain's financial contribution to the union should Catalonia split from Spain. Furthermore, the imperialist project of the European Union, as an important competitor in economic, political, geo-strategic and military matters of the great imperialist powers (the US, Russia and China), is clearly threatened by the symbolism of such a referendum – in particular following the British decision on Brexit. A vote in favor of secession from the Spanish state by the Catalonians may encourage similar movements by the Basque people, the Flemish, the Scots and others. This is a nightmare scenario for the imperialists of the EU. In addition to many other problems that such a development would create, it would lead to increased tensions between the member states of the European Union, making it far more fragile than it already has become.
8. It is the task of authentic Marxist revolutionaries to support the demands of oppressed and discriminated against nations from the depredations of imperialist forces. In the case of the referendum on Brexit, it was and is obvious that both positions – the "remain" position as well as that in support of Brexit – were merely two pro-imperialist camps fighting against one other. No one with a clear mind can argue that Britain is, in any way, oppressed or discriminated against by the European Union. (No wonder, then, that both right-wing chauvinists and Stalinists make such spurious arguments!) However, even in the unlikely scenario of the complete secession of Catalonia from Spain and its transformation into an independent Catalonian state having its own imperialistic character, the issue here is still not comparable to the referendum on Brexit, as the Catalonian people are demonstrably discriminated against by the Spanish state. Furthermore, even if such an unlikely scenario were to develop in the future, and Catalonia would become an independent imperialistic state, it would nonetheless be wrong for Marxist revolutionaries to reject the right to self-determination for the Catalonian people, including their right to secede from Spain at this point in time. As Marxists, it is our task to win the workers and oppressed over to the idea of internationalism and the rejection of all nationalist sentiments. As such, we consistently fight against the influence of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalist forces – including those within the Catalonian movement for independence. However, our struggle is not possible if we merely ruminate on internationalism instead of understand and respect the reasons that bring workers and oppressed of discriminated against nations to, in fact, mobilize under banners making nationalistic demands. Naturally, we prefer a unity of the working class and the oppressed that transcends borders and nations, and reject all separatist tendencies. However, we need to prove that not only do we oppose and truly despise all chauvinistic tendencies and sentiments against the Catalonian people, but that, as revolutionary communists, we will never discriminate against peoples and nations who justifiably seek the right of self determination. Towards this end we must support demands for national independence if they are as authentic and widespread, as they certainly are in the case of Catalonia. Therefore, even if it is far more likely that a majority of Catalonians will prefer unity with the other peoples of Spain and oppose secession, it remains incumbent upon authentic revolutionaries to fight for the right of self-determination for Catalonia, including independence today.
9. The Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) – as is typical of social democrats – is against the holding of the planned referendum and uncategorically opposes the independence of Catalonia, as they attempt to send a message to the current regime about how useful they are for the imperialist Spanish state. Attacking the local government of Catalonia, the leader of the PSC (the Catalonian section of the PSOE) Miquel Iceta ranted:"Saying you want to negotiate while putting on all types of activities to carry out an illegal vote has no credibility.” In addition to the PSOE toadies, there is a joint platform of various forces that are now being accused of collaboration because of their respective positions on the referendum. Catalonia Yes We Can (CSQEP) is a parliamentary platform of Podem Catalunya and the Catalunya en Comú (a former electoral coalition that became a party last year, but now without its Barcelona branch) which has basically been split into three over the three possible options on the vote calling for a referendum: three MPs were in favor while its other eight MPs were divided between opposing the call for a referendum and abstaining from the vote deciding this matter.
10. No less, there are even organizations with obviously conflicting positions within their own ranks. For example, Podem Catalunya favors participation in the referendum, but doesn't see the necessity of making this position binding, while its affiliated all-Spain organization, Podemos, is calling for a day of protest on October 1 and non-participation in the referendum. Leaders of the Izquerda Unida refused to call for participation in the referendum, explaining that the option for a federal solution is missing from the question being posed to the voters, while its Catalonian correspondent, Esquerra Unida i Alternativa, supports the referendum as is, as it, according to them, reflects the will of the clear majority of the Catalonian people. However, the initiative “Communists For The Yes,” including activists from the Poble Lliure, Joventuts d'Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (the youth organisation of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) and members who have resigned from the Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya (PSUC) ‒ as the name of the initiatives makes clear ‒ support the holding of the referendum and a vote for independence. An intense discussion is being conducted among all political forces of the Spanish left to clarify the characterization of the Catalonian nation and its movement for independence. An obvious tendency among the organizations and branches located within Catalonia is to at least support participation in the referendum, which in itself highlights a certain political insensitivity of these same forces outside Catalonia in contending with the notion of the province as a discriminated against nation. Recent developments also reflect an interesting difference between a very large and politically active part of the people of Catalonia who have been mobilizing for independence for years. It appears that one quarter of eligible voters actively participate in protests for independence while another quarter that is in favor of the movement and independence probably stays at home during the protests. The other half of the people of Catalonia would apparently vote against independence, but aside from this passive opposition are not really mobilizing to rally against it. This is in stark contrast to the Scottish independence referendum which witnessed strong mobilization on both sides of the issue. In any event, this broad analysis of political activism in Catalonia over the question of independence indicates an authentic favoring of independence among the politically conscious parts of the Catalonian people. Furthermore, it makes it far more likely that, if the referendum will actually take place, the result will be by far in favor of independence. For this reason, the RCIT not only defends the right of self-determination for the Catalonian people, but also openly supports the demand for an independent state. In our opinion, such a state should be a workers’ republic.
11. The past and the present of the Catalonian people have been characterized by obvious discrimination by the Spanish state. Thus, the position of authentic Marxists should be to unconditionally support the right of self-determination for the Catalonian people (as well as the Basques) including the right to form an independent state. The RCIT maintains that only a Workers’ Republic of Catalonia (and the Basque country) as part of a federation of United Socialist States of Europe will bring the Catalonian and Basque peoples what they demand: Full equal rights, freedom and the end of oppression and discrimination. In the words of the leader of the revolutionary movement in Russia and the revolutionary Soviet Union, V.I. Lenin: “In all their propaganda and agitation—both within parliament and outside it—the Communist parties must consistently expose that constant violation of the equality of nations and of the guaranteed rights of national minorities which is to be seen in all capitalist countries, despite their “democratic” constitutions. It is also necessary, first, constantly to explain that only the Soviet system is capable of ensuring genuine equality of-nations, by uniting first the proletarians and then the whole mass of the working population in the struggle against the bourgeoisie; and, second, that all Communist parties should render direct aid to the revolutionary movements among the dependent and underprivileged nations (for example, Ireland, the American Negroes, etc.) and in the colonies. Without the latter condition, which is particularly important, the struggle against the oppression of dependent nations and colonies, as well as recognition of their right to secede, are but a false signboard, as is evidenced by the parties of the Second International.“ (Collected Works, Vol 31, p.147-148)
12. The oppressive imperialist Spanish regime is threatening the local government of Catalonia, along with activists rallying for the referendum, with legal prosecution. The Spanish state has already mobilized its apparatus to hinder preparations for the referendum and threaten the Catalan people. It is, first and foremost, the duty of all revolutionaries and all authentic democrats to support the demand for independence, to practically participate and to defend both the activists as well as the local Catalonian government (despite its being a capitalist one) against any prosecution by the Spanish state. Instead, it is the absurd and demagogic constitutional monarchy that has to be abolished as it is a remnant of the fascist Franco regime. Real independence for Catalonia from the Spanish state can not be won via bourgeois-democratic means. Furthermore, it is most likely that a newly formed capitalist Catalonian state will drive parts of the working class into poverty and misery, as it will have a weakened and more isolated economy and still be threatened by Spanish hegemony. In addition, we can presume that both the Spanish state and the European Union may very well mobilize their reactionary forces (including the police and military) in an attempt to stop the secession of Catalonia by any means necessary. Such a scenario may make entirely feasible the establishment of a de facto police state / military dictatorship in Catalonia. In the wake of Catalonia, the Basques may also rally for independence and renew the operation of militant, armed groups which would invariably provoke the intervention of Spanish military forces in the Basque country. All such developments would have consequences for the entire Spanish state involving concrete moves towards strengthening and increasing its Bonapartist structure. In any event, it is incumbent to organize the struggle for independence of Catalonia on a proletarian and revolutionary basis.
13. There is an urgent need to form nationwide action and solidarity committees, in order to defend and serve the Catalonian people in their rally for the referendum on October 1. The current repression of the mobilizations for holding the referendum by the Spanish state must be fought against wherever it appears. These action and solidarity committees, backed by the workers and oppressed of Spain, need to prepare for an escalation of the conflict with the Spanish regime. This includes preparing to fight back against all arms of the state’s repression apparatus, including the Spanish army. As history and the example of the Basque people have shown, the willingness to turn such action and solidarity committees into armed militias of the workers and oppressed is crucial. This means the readiness to fight the imperialist Spanish state and its allies of the imperialist European Union by any means. Mass mobilizations, including general strikes in support of the Catalonians, must be organized nationwide. Only the combination of an organized struggle by the Catalonian people supported by the workers and oppressed of Spain, the willingness to organize mass demonstrations culminating in an indefinite general strike, and the readiness to form armed militias can lead to real independence from the oppressive imperialist state of Spain. In order to maintain the goal of real independence and equality, all steps towards the formation of the above mentioned Workers Republic of Catalonia (and Basque country) as part of the United Socialist States of Europe must be taken without delay. This includes armed insurrection and organized socialist revolution not only of the Catalonian and the Spanish workers and oppressed, but of the workers and oppressed of Europe.
14. It is extremely urgent to form of a nationwide Revolutionary Workers’ Party as part of a Revolutionary World Party that is willing to consistently fight for the independence of the Catalonian and Basque peoples as long as they demand independence. Only such a revolutionary workers’ party can successfully lead the struggle by giving it an internationalist orientation.
The RCIT says to all class conscious workers in Spain: Mobilize for the referendum on October 1, participate and vote in favor of independence! Prepare a resistance and solidarity campaign with and for the Catalonian people in order to create joint forces against the reactionary regime of Spain that has mobilized to prosecute the organized supporters of the independence campaign! Fight for the abolition of the constitutional monarchy! Prepare to continue the struggle after the referendum, as the results need to be implemented which in turn will lead to massive confrontations with the Spanish state and almost certainly also with the EU. It is extremely urgent to prepare the formation of a revolutionary workers’ party of Spain as part of an international workers’ party to lead this struggle! Prepare for the possibility of a military coup in the event that Catalonia declares independence! Towards this end, create action committees of the workers and oppressed to organize the struggle and be able to transform them into militias to fight back a counter-revolutionary mobilization against the independence movement! Only with these measures can the way forward towards freedom, sovereignty and the end of all oppression and exploitation - the way towards socialism - be achieved!