Statement by Izquierda Revolucionaria
The rebellion of the Catalan people on 1 October forced the Spanish capitalist regime and the right wing Partido Popular (People’s Party/PP) government onto the ropes, opening a revolutionary crisis in Catalonia. The reactionary forces wasted no time in their response: using all methods at their disposal, and with the absolute monopoly in the media and the state apparatus, they have launched a rabid campaign of Spanish nationalism to mobilise their social base.
The demonstration on Sunday 8 October in Barcelona – called by an organisation of right wing credentials, Catalan Civil Society, backed up by the PP, Ciudadanos [‘Citizens’], numerous small fascist groups and to which were added the leaders of PSOE [social democratic party] and the PSC [socialist party Catalonia] – amassed 400,000 people, many of them coming from outside Catalonia. This is a much inferior figure to the historic mobilisations of 1 and 3 October, which brought to the streets millions of youth, workers and Catalan citizens to exercise their democratic right to decide and against police repression.
The class struggle in Catalonia and the Spanish state has entered a decisive phase. The alliance woven from the monarchy, the judiciary, the police and the army, with the PP, Ciudadanos and Pedro Sanchez’s social democracy, has been seen reinforced in recent days by the Catalan bourgeois, which has closed ranks against the aspirations of the Catalan people. The pressure of these days is huge, the noise is deafening, but even so, the Spanish nationalist reaction – which defends the interests of the capitalist oligarchy, the state inherited from Francoism, the most stale and backward elements of Spanish society – has not been capable of winning the majority of the people to their cause, and much less of the working class.
However, there is big confusion at this time. And this is because of the absence of a left leadership that poses a class position to give a way out to this revolutionary crisis in benefit of the majority of the population. The Catalan national question has been converted into a powerful lever for social transformation, not only in Catalonia but also in the rest of the Spanish state. It’s something that the Spanish and Catalan bourgeois understand perfectly and because of this they have united their forces against the proclamation of a Catalan republic. Conversely, the parliamentary left has either openly caved before the right, like is the case with the social democracy, or has called for dialogue and an “agreed and legal” referendum with the same state and the same government that, wrapped in the Spanish flag, plans a new repressive wave.
In these crucial moments it is urgent to raise a left revolutionary alternative to combat the Spanish nationalist reaction and to help the Catalan mases to win the republic.
On 1 October millions of peaceful citizens, entire families and, particularly young people resisted in exemplary fashion the brutal repression of thousands of national police and civil guards sent by the PP government to smash the right to decide of an entire people. Living scenes typical of a dictatorship, the police forces broke through with an extreme violence to close polling stations and steal ballot boxes as trophies. That day will go into the history of so-called Spanish ‘democracy’ as an act of barbaric authoritarianism. But the most important thing about that day was not the police cruelty against almost 1,000 injured people. It was the images of a people without fear, who were determined to struggle until the final consequences and have carried out a revolutionary movement unprecedented for the last 40 years.
The participation of more than two million people in the voting on 1 October represents a triumph of popular will, especially given that it took place in the middle of a police state of emergency. Few times in recent history have we witnessed such a high and widespread exercise of direct democracy as that which happened on 1 October, giving a result overwhelmingly in favour of the Catalan republic.
18 and 19 July 1936
After 1 October followed the great general strike of 3 October and the mobilisation in Catalonia was so massive that there is only one precedent in history of something similar: when the mass of the people and the workers of Catalonia came out on 18 and 19 July 1936 to combat the fascist state coup and succeeded in disarming the reactionary forces after hours of fierce battle. That triumph opened the doors wide to the socialist revolution in republican territory, created organisms of workers power, militias, collectives and threatened the capitalist order across Europe.
The movement of the Catalan mases in defence of their national-democratic rights, for a Catalan republic, against the centralist state repression and the politics of the Spanish-nationalist right, has created a revolutionary crisis in Catalonia. It is a crisis that points to a watershed for the political regime that the Spanish bourgeoisie raised in the 1970s with the collaboration of the left-wing reformist leaders (PCE and PSOE and the trade unions). And it’s necessary to point to what happened at that moment, now that sections of the left talk about the exhaustion of that regime while offering as an alternative white flags, dialogue and conciliation.
From 1976 to 1978 the politicians of the Francoist dictatorship converted into ‘new democrats’, in the style of Martin Villa, Adolfo Suarez and many others. Following the directives of Spanish and international capital, they arrived at an agreement with Felipe Gonzales and Santiago Carrillo to abort a revolutionary situation in which the working class and youth of all territories were set against the forces of the dictatorship and capitalism. This great pact – or this great betrayal from the working class point of view – meant a legal recognition of some of the liberties and democratic rights that had already been won by the popular mobilisation, in exchange for the Spanish bourgeois regaining control of the situation and for accepting the monarchical regime imposed by Franco.
The 1978 regime formally consecrated the ‘parliamentary monarchy’ but it was constructed around a law that guaranteed impunity for the crimes of Francoism, allowing the state apparatus, the judiciary, police and military forces to remain in the hands of the usual reactionaries.
The constitution that gave this legal consistency guaranteed the ‘free market’ economy and the unquestionable power of the capitalists, denying the right of self-determination of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia. The constitutional text had to recognise so-called autonomy, but also consecrated the maxim of the dictatorship: ‘Spain: one, great and free,’ the unity of the ‘Homeland’ through exceptional measures (Article 155) and recourse to the violence of the state. The arguments of the left reformist leaders to accept this ‘agreement’ were those which they always use in a revolutionary situation to justify defeatism: the “noise of sabres”, the threat of a coup and an unfavourable “correlation of forces”.
After these decisive days, it can only be concluded that PSOE’s leadership has moved with weapons and baggage into the field of reaction. Pedro Sanchez has crawled behind Rajoy, backing up all his methods and, although appealing for dialogue, in practice contributing to the continued spread of Spanish chauvinism. Within PSOE, the sections that fought Pedro Sanchez in the primaries are clamouring loudly, as they have with Alfonso Guerra, Felipe González, Rodríguez Ibarra, and many more. But those who have tried to moderate their position, like the leaders of the PSC, have in practice also passed to the other side of the barricade: not only have they appealed to the constitution to suspend the session of the Catalan parliament to stop the proclamation of a Catalan republic, but they have called for participation in the Spanish nationalist demonstration in Barcelona.
By their deeds they will be known. Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE has thwarted any hope of a turn to the left after his triumph in the primaries. How can anyone pretend to be the left opposition, and at the same time participate without any shame in a demonstration in Barcelona together with the right and the far right, brandishing the symbols of reaction and propping up their arguments? The image of Josep Borrell – who became the star of the final rally of the 8 October demonstration, which claimed to defend the ‘rule of law’ while Xavier Albiol, Albert Rivera and Ines Arrimadas broke their hands applauding him – is wrapped with the banner of Spanish nationalism and the symbols of the dictatorship.
In these days we have also witnessed the political wreck of leaders who are formally positioned to the left of social democracy, but who accuse the protesters of a reactionary campaign. These leaders, like Alberto Garzon, coordinator of Izquierda Unida [United Left], have issued a speech in favour of ‘dialogue’ ‘agreement’ and for a referendum which is ‘legal and agreed’ with the Spanish state and its government – the same one that wields the police baton and exceptional anti-democratic measures against the people of Catalonia.
It was a short time ago that Alberto Garzon wrote a book where he claimed to be Communist and Marxist. But it is not enough to vindicate oneself, we must defend the programme and methods of Marxism in everyday life, and especially when a political and social crisis opens up an exceptional opportunity for the advancement of class and revolutionary consciousness of the masses. With his speech, Alberto Garzon not only does not defend the programme of Marxism but he offers arguments to strengthen the campaign of reaction.
Garzon says that he is Marxist. But in the crisis of Catalonia he gives equivalence between the PP government and its actions, and the mass movement of the Catalan people in favour of their democratic rights.
The principle of the Marxist dialectic is clear: truth is always concrete. It has not been Puigdemont [Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalan Generalitat] or PDeCAT [Catalan European Democratic Party] that has put the regime of 1978 in check, but the revolutionary movement of the Catalan mases. In fact, the different political formations of the Catalan bourgeoisie have been pillars of capitalist stability, successively supporting the governments of Felipe González and Aznar, clearly defending the interests of the Catalan oligarchy.
It is certain that the turn towards independence of Mas, Puigdemont, PDeCAT and the Catalan parliament represented, at the time, a political manoeuvre to divert attention from their policies of cuts, and to neutralise the great social response that had been unleashed against them in the streets of Catalonia.
It’s also absolutely clear that the position of the CUP [Popular Unity Candidacy], and ERC [Republican Left of Catalonia] , giving parliamentary support to PDeCAT to apply its neoliberal agenda in exchange for being kept in the independence bloc, is a complete error.
But equally wrong, or more wrong considering what is at stake, is that when Puigdemont and PDeCAT are completely surpassed by a movement of the masses that has opened a revolutionary crisis that threatened the regime of 78, Garzon and many others fail to support this movement with accusations that it is reactionary and implore Rajoy and Puigdemont to settle the problem by sitting down to negotiate.
Alberto Garzon again reiterated his position on the same day as the Spanish nationalist demonstration of 8 October in Barcelona, assuring that “only Rajoy and Puigdemont sitting down for dialogue will some of the tension by solved” in Catalonia, which he described as “very dangerous, because of the lack of dialogue, which is even provoking economic tensions.” Honestly, what does this have to do with the position of Marx and Lenin towards national oppression and revolution? Nothing, it has nothing to do with it, but a lot to do with Carrillo’s position in 1976-1978 when the leadership of the PCE – then the working class mass party – called for dialogue and consensus with the Spanish bourgeoisie and the heirs of the dictatorship to abort a revolutionary situation that was out of hand.
The revolutionary crisis in Catalonia has been driven by two major political factors: the national oppression of the Spanish bourgeoisie and its centralist state, which refuses to recognise that Catalonia is a nation and in repressive ways rejects the exercise of the right to self-determination; and the frustration generated by the capitalist crisis, the unemployment of the masses, evictions, precariousness and low salaries, the lack of a future for young people. The struggle against national oppression and class oppression have combined, like at other times (1909, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1977…), generating a revolutionary potential that has challenged the forms of political domination of the Spanish capitalist regime.
More than 100 years ago Lenin wrote a magnificent text – ‘The right of nations to self-determination’ – setting out the position of revolutionary Marxists on this issue. The struggle for the right to self-determination of oppressed nations, like is the case in Catalonia, is a priority for Marxists; but in this fight we do not subordinate ourselves to the bourgeois of the oppressed nation, in this case the Catalan bourgeois, nor to their political representatives of the moment, the PDeCAT, rather at the same time as we advocate this right – which obviously includes the right to independence – we link it to the defence of a revolutionary programme for the socialist transformation of society.
The current crisis in Catalonia, like in other periods of history, has opened the possibility of winning a Catalan republic, through revolutionary methods based on the direct action of the people, the youth and workers. This is what terrorises the Catalan bourgeois, which has quickly given an ultimatum to the masses: abandon your revolutionary pretensions or we will unleash economic chaos and plunge you into misery.
This is exactly the same as the Greek and European bourgeois against the Greek people. And in order to carry out their threats they have obtained the rapid assistance of the PP government, which has not taken 24 hours to approve a law to facilitate the transfer of the headquarters of companies out of Catalonia. Such is bourgeois legality. To recognise the right to decide of the Catalan people, the law is impossible to change and police violence is used to enforce it at will. To satisfy the Catalan, Spanish or European capitalists, the law changes in the blink of an eye.
Don’t all of these acts make you reflect ‘comrade’ Garzon? What conclusion can be drawn from the alliance between the Catalan and Spanish bourgeoisie to avoid the proclamation of the Catalan Republic? What is the alternative of self-declared communist Garzon, the leadership of the IU or Poedemos before this alliance? That Rajoy and Puigdemont sit down to talk? That the Catholic Church acts as a mediator?
Garzon and others who defend his position say that they are Marxists and even Leninists. But where and when did Lenin advocate an agreement with the Russian bourgeoisie or with the tsarist regime to conquer the right of self-determination of Ukraine, Finland, or the Baltic countries? Lenin and the Bolsheviks united the masses of the nations oppressed under tsarism and the workers of the oppressor nation, ‘Great Russia’, inscribing in their flag the right to self-determination – including independence – together with the struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist order, for socialism.
What does this position have to do with calling for the people of Catalonia to demobilise, abandon the street and return to their homes, leaving calm bourgeois politicians to resolve the conflict? This is the position of a scab, not that of a revolutionary Marxist.
Garzón and other leaders of the IU and Podemos advocate a “constitutional process,” even by the “federal republic.” They do not clarify what class orientation, capitalist or socialist, the constitutional process or federal republic should have. But beyond that, how do you intend to impose that process or that republic? By the agreement with the Francoist state and the PP or reaching consensus with the Spanish bourgeoisie?
The proclamation of the republic on 14 April 1931 was the result of the revolutionary action of the masses in the cities and the countryside, which brought down the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, and with strikes and mass mobilisations throughout 1930 and 1931 sent Alfonso XIII on his way to exile. The proclamation of the republic, which was accepted by the capitalists and the bourgeoisie as a lesser evil, could not contain the workers’ movement, the landless peasants and the youth from moving towards socialist revolution.
This historical analogy has its importance, for a Catalan republic won through revolutionary action would necessarily involve a frontal struggle against the PDeCAT and Puigdemont, against all the political and economic oligarchy that has governed Catalonia with the same neoliberal policies as the PP, turning the battle directly against capitalist oppression through mass action. It would open the door to a government of the left that should immediately end cuts and confront the dictatorship of the Catalan and Spanish economic powers, nationalising the banking and the big companies.
The Catalan, Spanish, French and European capitalists know this perfectly well and this why they try to crush the movement with all the means at their disposal.
Correlation of forces
The correlation of forces in Catalonia continues to be favourable to the people, workers and the youth who have shown their determination to reach the end in the struggle against political repression and for a Catalan republic. It is completely necessary to respond to the state and the PP government with the same audacity as 1 and 3 October, increasing the mobilisation and winning all those sections of the Catalan working class which still hesitate but also reject the reactionary offensive. And this is only possible with a programme that links the proclamation of the Catalan republic to socialist measures for the benefit of the population.
Izquierda Revolucionaria calls on the leadership of the CUP, Podemos [“We can”], and Catalunya en Comu[The Commons], ERC, the student movement and their organisations (Sindicat d’Estudiants, SEPC), the workers’ movement and their unions in Catalonia, to establish a left united front. This should be based on the Referendum Defence Committees and on all the bodies that have been emerging these weeks in Catalonia, to organise committees for the republic in workplaces and factories, neighbourhoods and schools and colleges and coordinate them to boost the movement with increasingly bold actions, preparing an indefinite general strike capable of resisting any violent action by the state and winning a Catalan republic with a left government. This left front must break any subordination to the Catalan right, the PDeCAT or Puigdemont, and must call for the active solidarity of the workers’ movement and youth in the rest of the Spanish state.
The leadership of Unidos Podemos should radically change its orientation. It must stop imploring Rajoy to negotiate, the state to concede an agreed referendum or that PSOE puts a new motion of censure against the PP. All these requests have already been rejected, while reaction prepares to increase the repression and put the Catalan people on their knees.
The only way to clarify the situation, to end the confusion, to unite the workers and youth of the rest of the state with their class brothers and sisters in Catalonia is through mass mobilisation against the PP government. This is the task of all of the left and all conscious activists. This is also the responsibility of the leadership of Unidos Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, Ada Colau, who in these critical moments must go to the demonstrations and direct workers and youth, especially at the base of the CCOO and UGT [union federations], with a clear message to fight against reaction.
The Spanish and Catalan ruling class views the proclamation of a Catalan republic with terror and the reason is not only because it would break the idea of ‘Spain: one, great and free’. They know that this victory by the people would be a prelude to an even more intense and broad struggle in favour of the oppressed, against the domination of the Capitalists, against the established social order and for a socialist republic in Catalonia and a socialist republic based on a free and voluntary union of peoples and nationals that currently compose the Spanish state. This is a struggle that is already winning active solidarity from the oppressed masses of Europe and the whole world.