Repression is no solution

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The Spanish state and the capitalist ruling class are facing the most serious political and constitutional crisis since the restoration of capitalist democracy in 1977. The capitalist class is horrified by the events that are unfolding in Catalonia. If the Catalan parliament and government decide to go ahead and announce independence, the crisis will intensify.

The Spanish ruling class has two choices: to either respect the aspirations and demands of Catalan population and seek a negotiated settlement or resort to repression and go back to the dark days of Franco’s dictatorship. The ruling class is clueless and confused about how to avert this crisis that is getting out of hand.

Repression at the hands of the Spanish state and the Rajoy-led government in Madrid has provoked a mass movement on the streets. Spain is heading towards chaos, political instability and uncertainty. If the Spanish ruling class fails to solve this political crisis peacefully through political means and satisfy the democratic aspirations of millions of Catalans, serious trouble lies ahead.

Catalonia wants separation from Madrid. The Catalan parliament and regional government decided to hold a referendum on October 1 to determine whether the majority of the population wants independence or prefers to stay with Madrid. This move was met with fierce resistance and opposition from Madrid. The central government declared this referendum illegal and the constitutional court ruled against it. But the Catalan government, under pressure from the people, decided to go ahead with the proposed referendum.

The right-wing Rajoy government decided to use force to prevent the referendum from taking place. The police and civil guards used excessive force and attacked peaceful voters to stop them from voting. The determined youth and workers faced off with them. Around 900 people were injured during this police action.

If the purpose of the state repression and police brutality that took place on October 1 was to tame and repress workers, youth, children and their parents, the right-wing government of PM Rajoy failed to achieve that. The people in Barcelona and other cities of Catalonia refused to bow down before repression and police brutality. The repression provoked a general strike and the mass mobilisation on streets of Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia on October 3. The justification that the People’s Party and its government are only applying the law cannot hide the fact that the law is unfair, undemocratic and goes directly against the aspirations of millions of Catalans who the government are trying to muzzle.

The people of Catalonia have once again sought to achieve their right to self-determination. The mass movement unleashed in Catalonia in favour of national and democratic rights has placed the debate at an essential point. The denial of the fact that Catalonia is a nation has been reiterated by the centralist bourgeoisie and the right-wing and enacted through repression or a simple military conquest. This has been combined with widespread frustration at the terrible consequences of the capitalist crisis of 2008, mass unemployment, evictions, job precariousness, low wages and the lack of a future for the youth. The struggles against national oppression and class oppression have intertwined just as they did during other periods in Spain (1909, 1931, 1934, 1936 and 1977).

The mood for independence as a solution to the problems of austerity, cuts and lack of democracy inevitably grew. The continued attacks on living standards, welfare benefits and social reforms from the central government brewed separatist sentiments among the people to avoid such attacks. The percentage of those supporting independence went up from between 10 percent and 15 percent to more than 50 percent. The move towards convening a referendum on self-determination comes after years in which the Spanish state and the right-wing government of Rajoy have blocked all attempts by Catalonia to decide on its own future.

The images of the Franco regime have returned with all their force in the guise of Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy and his government. The heirs of the dictatorship have tried teaching a lesson to the people of Catalonia. But what they are going to harvest is complete failure. The rage, indignation and fury of millions of young people and workers will grow. The anger and frustration against Madrid will grow. And repression will not solve anything but the already provoked anger and determination.

Today, along with the still open wounds of the civil war (1934-1937) and the repression, two other shadows of the dictatorship hang over Spain: corruption and regional division. Franco’s rigid centralism and its brutal application to the Basque Country and Catalonia has resulted in the most powerful nationalist movements in these regions that have ever existed in the country before 1936.

The Spanish regime that exists today goes back to the constitution of 1978. At that time, in order to prevent the growing revolutionary movement of workers and the youth against Franco’s dictatorship from gaining traction, the old regime reached an agreement with the leaders of the Communist Party and Socialist Party. This pact, which is known as the Transition, was a betrayal of the genuine aspirations of the workers for democracy and social revolution. It provided impunity for the crimes of the Franco regime whose state apparatus was preserved, the imposition of the monarchy and the Spanish flag and the denial of the right to self-determination for the oppressed nationalities.

For the right-wing Spanish ruling class – which was never able to achieve the full unification of the nation on progressive grounds but resorted to brutal and naked repression – the exercise of the right of self-determination is seen, correctly, as a threat to the whole edifice of the 1978 regime. This explains the reaction of the Spanish state towards the Catalan referendum.

Article first appeared in on 06-October-2017