Workers Tribune No. 1
National Liberation Struggle at an Impasse
For a Workers Republic of Catalonia!
Free Catalan Independentistes Now!
The article reprinted below was first published in a January supplement by our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México. On June 1, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy was ousted in a non-confidence vote. His successor is Pedro Sánchez, whose Spanish Socialist Workers Party has fully backed Rajoy’s neo-Francoist crackdown on Catalan independence.
On March 25, the German government, acting on the basis of a European Union-wide arrest warrant, imprisoned the exiled Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont. The Spanish state has charged Puigdemont and 12 other Catalan independence leaders with rebellion, demanding their extradition. No longer in jail, Puigdemont remains in Germany where he faces an intensified drive for his extradition to Spain. Madrid has also barred him from assuming his place as Catalonia’s president.
The International Communist League and our German section have denounced Puigdemont’s arrest. We demand that all the charges against him and all Catalan independence activists be dropped and those in jail be freed. Workers in Canada, where capitalist class rule is based on the national oppression of Quebec, have a special duty to champion the cause of Catalan independence. The ruling Liberals have staunchly supported a unified Spain. Meanwhile the English Canadian media eagerly advised the Spanish government on how best to deny the Catalans their right to self-determination and chided Madrid for using too much force. Touting the fiction of Canada as a bastion of democracy, they intentionally mask this country’s brutal history of forcibly retaining the oppressed nation of Quebec in a unitary Canadian state. For a Workers Republic of Catalonia! For a Workers Republic of Quebec!
“The desire of a ruling nation to maintain the status quo frequently dresses up as a superiority to ‘nationalism,’ just as the desire of a victorious nation to hang on to its booty easily takes the form of pacifism.”
— Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution (1932)
The chauvinists who rule from Madrid and their hacks spare no ink condemning Catalan nationalism as “anachronistic,” “reactionary” and “xenophobic.” At the same time, they humiliate the oppressed Catalan nation and stomp on its rights in the name of the unity of Spain—that is, the supremacy of Castile in its small prison house of peoples.
Since the end of last October the central Spanish government, applying Article 155 of the Constitution through an occupation force of thousands of police, has taken control of Catalonia, dissolved the Generalitat (the Catalan legislature and executive council), and ordered that elections be held in Catalonia (which took place on December 21). The government also imprisoned several Catalan officials—including Vice President Oriol Junqueras and other pro-independence deputies and activists (some for the “crime” of “hatred”...of the police!). One Guardia Civil unit—led by a colonel who is a convicted torturer of Basque nationalists, pardoned by then-president José María Aznar at the end of the 1990s—is still searching “door-to-door” for Catalans who might have “assaulted” Spanish police on October 1 [the day of the Catalan independence referendum]. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who has an arrest warrant hanging over him, had to go into exile in Belgium. Spanish [Castilian] has, in practice, been reimposed as the only official language of the local government. Francisco Franco must be smiling from hell.
In this offensive, the ruling Popular Party (PP) had the support not only of its appendage Ciudadanos [right-wing Citizens party], but also the social democrats of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC). This coup was the Spanish rulers’ response to the independence referendum last October 1 and the subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the Catalan Generalitat. The Spanish nationalist onslaught also sends a message to Basques and Galicians of what they can expect if they fight for their liberation.
As irreconcilable opponents of all forms of exploitation and oppression and as fighters for workers power, we Spartacists are for the independence of Catalonia and Euskal Herria (the Basque Country), nations that extend to the north of the Pyrenees and are oppressed by Spain as well as France. We are for the right of independence for Galicia and against the continuation of the artificial and monarchist Spanish state: For class struggle against the Spanish prison house of peoples! Down with the monarchy! For workers republics! We call for the immediate release of all independentistes and for dropping all charges against them, as well as for freedom for all the Basque nationalists locked up in the dungeons of Spain and France. We are also for the unconditional withdrawal of Spain from its enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, relics of the now very distant colonial “glory” of Spain.
For a Class-Struggle Road to Independence!
Through these elections, Rajoy and his henchmen hoped to rid themselves of the independentistes and impose a Spanish-nationalist government in Catalonia. The elections backfired on them: the Catalan pro-independence parties got more than 47 percent of the vote and again achieved an absolute majority in the Parlament. The PP got little more than 4 percent and three deputies. But, as we recently explained, the Spanish state repression has made it clear that there is no hope of making Catalan independence a reality in the near future (see “Spain Strangles Catalonia,” Workers Vanguard No. 1121, 3 November). Independence won’t come from parliamentary agreements among the bourgeois independentistes. Madrid is using every judicial and other means to prevent even the formation of an autonomous government within the Spanish framework that isn’t made up of openly Spanish-nationalist parties. Catalonia has nothing resembling its own state, most of all armed forces that can resist the Castilian onslaught. The Catalan bourgeoisie has more than demonstrated its powerlessness, and now seeks a pact with Madrid to return to some version of the status quo.
Madrid won’t hold back on the use of brute force to prevent the independence of Catalonia, which would furthermore give a great impulse to the fight for national liberation in Euskal Herria and Galicia. And the Spanish rulers have the firm support of France as well as the imperialist European Union (EU), given that the dismemberment of Spain would threaten the implosion of this conglomerate. One of the principal functions of the EU is precisely to trample the national sovereignty of the poorest European countries for the benefit of the imperialists, mainly Germany and France.
There is a force capable of making national liberation a reality, defeating all these enemies of Catalonia’s freedom: it is the working class, through the mobilization of its enormous social power. However, the Catalan proletariat has not shown meaningful signs of independent struggle, and is instead divided between the [Spanish] chauvinists and the [Catalan] bourgeois nationalists.
Ciutadans: Neo-Francoist Spare Tire
Although the antiquated heirs of El Generalíssimo suffered a sound electoral defeat, their apprentices [Ciudadanos], known in Catalonia as Ciutadans (C’s), received the most votes, getting 25 percent, mainly from Barcelona and its working-class suburbs, formerly dominated by the PSC. The fact that a significant part of the Catalan working class supports the bourgeois-chauvinist C’s is testimony to the betrayals of the PSOE-PSC, pillars of the Spanish capitalist order and loyal subjects of the king (on the throne thanks to the work and grace of Franco).
The working-class vote for C’s does not change in the slightest our position for independence of Catalonia. On the one hand, this vote reflects the fear, propagated by Madrid, that independence would bring with it massive closings of companies in Catalonia. On the other hand, it reflects that a good part of the Catalan working class has historically been formed by immigrants from other parts of Spain, where—in large part thanks to decades of efforts by the treacherous social democrats and Stalinists—anti-Catalan chauvinism is very entrenched in the proletariat.
Lenin forged the Bolshevik Party in the struggle against Great Russian chauvinism and for national liberation struggles in the tsarist prison house of peoples as motor forces for socialist revolution. In Ukraine, the cities—where the working class was concentrated—were majority Russian-speaking, small islands in a Ukrainian sea. After the October Revolution, in the midst of the Civil War, many Russian-speaking workers and even Bolsheviks were opposed to independence for Soviet Ukraine. Lenin wrote:
“We Great-Russian Communists must repress with the utmost severity the slightest manifestation in our midst of Great-Russian nationalism, for such manifestations, which are a betrayal of communism in general, cause the gravest harm by dividing us from our Ukrainian comrades and thus playing into the hands of [counterrevolutionary general] Denikin and his regime.”
— “Letter to the Workers and Peasants of the Ukraine Apropos of the Victories Over Denikin,” December 1919
What C’s rise in Catalonia underlines is the need for an uncompromising struggle against the oppression of national minorities in the entire Spanish state, an oppression that keeps the proletariat divided. Castilian chauvinism acts as an ideological glue to bind the working class to its capitalist rulers: it’s in the interest of the proletariat of all of Spain to fight for the independence of Catalonia and Euskal Herria and for the right of self-determination for Galicia, as an integral part of the struggle for its own social emancipation.
No Support to the Catalan Bourgeoisie!
Our revolutionary program is based on the political independence of the workers movement. We were for a “yes” vote in the October 1 referendum, an elementary application of our line for Catalan independence, but we didn’t support any of the competing forces in the recent elections. The PSOE and the PSC—bourgeois workers parties based on the working class but whose program and leadership are pro-bourgeois—are united with both neo-Francoist variants [PP and C’s] in their anti-Catalan chauvinism, including in regard to the application of Article 155. Voting for the social democrats would have been a betrayal of the working class and of the fight for the emancipation of the Catalan nation. On the other hand, as genuine Marxists we never give an iota of political support to non-proletarian forces, as a matter of principle. The pro-independence parties like Puigdemont’s rightist Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT) and Junqueras’ Esquerra Republicana belong to the bourgeoisie, i.e., the class enemy. Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) is also a bourgeois formation in the tow of its older brothers, committed to maintaining capitalism (despite its deceptive “anticapitalist” nickname).
The bourgeois populists of Catalunya en Comú-Podem (which includes Podemos’ Catalan coalition [Podem]) are vulgar Spanish chauvinists with pro-democracy rhetoric: Podemos recently equated the independence referendum and the application of Article 155 as equally anti-democratic; at the same time that they denounce any unilateral declaration of independence as “illegitimate.”
In counterposition to all these forces, we Spartacists fight to forge Leninist-Trotskyist parties, tribunes of the people. Such parties would instill in the working class irreconcilable hostility to all the capitalist exploiters, and the consciousness of its historic mission at the head of all the oppressed.
Pseudo-Trotskyists Cross the Class Line
The self-proclaimed Trotskyists of Izquierda Revolucionaria (IR), section of the Committee for a Workers’ International, based in Great Britain, called to “defeat PP, Ciudadanos and PSC-PSOE” in the elections. This is a call to vote for any of the other forces, which are all capitalist (izquierdarevolucionaria.net, 30 November). IR crosses the class line with the greatest of ease; what it finds more difficult is leaving behind its chauvinism. Up until a few months ago, it denounced the fight for independence for Catalonia and Euskal Herria as counterposed to “socialism,” which would be achieved through the good services of Podemos (see “For Class Struggle Against Spanish Prison House of Peoples!” WV No. 1112, 19 May 2017). Pressured by the Catalan masses in the streets, it wasn’t until literally the eve of the October 1 referendum that IR finally called for a “yes” vote, a call that was simply lip service.
The maximum program of IR is expressed in the slogan for a Spanish “federal socialist republic,” in which, a priori, they would like to keep Catalans, Basques and Galicians penned; and their supposed “socialist republic” will come from the hand of bourgeois chauvinists: IR still promotes “a united front of the left that fights against the regime of ’78” in Spain, in which they include Podem; in France they’re buried in the party of the anti-Catalan Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Similarly—with one foot in each camp and no adherence to Marxist principles—there is the Corriente Revolucionaria de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras (CRT), section of the Trotskyist Fraction-Fourth International based in Argentina. The CRT called for abstention in the October referendum, clarifying that “we are neither independentistas nor do we share the republican and constitutional process proposed by Junts pel Sí [former ruling coalition between PDeCAT and Esquerra] and the CUP” (izquierdadiario.es, September 2017). But none of this, not even the bourgeois class character of the CUP, stopped the CRT three months later from calling for a vote...for the very same CUP! (izquierdadiario.es, December 2017).
The CRT’s response to the CUP’s capitalist “republican project and constitutional process” is: “The struggle for the republic can’t be separated from the struggle for its social content, that is, which class holds political power. For that, we fight for a truly free and sovereign constitutional process” (December 2017). Old poison in a new bottle: the slogan for a constituent assembly is a call for a capitalist government. The working class won’t hold political power through the institutions of bourgeois democracy, but rather through socialist revolution led by a revolutionary workers party. Such a revolution would destroy the entire capitalist state apparatus as well as the democratic institutions for the rich, replacing them with workers soviets. We genuine Trotskyists work towards the realization of this perspective.