An introductory article about the situation of Catalonia and the position of some Catalan anarchists.
If some of our Spanish comrades cannot understand the complexity of our position neither can the worldwide fellas. I’m writing this article with my very best English to try to explain the position of a lot of anticapitalist Catalans who support the Catalan Republic.
I’m a member of Embat, a political organization centered on Catalonia who works for social anarchism, so my position comes from this point of view. Some details will not be shared by other positions, such as other anarchists or the left independentist movement (Arran, Endavant, CUP…), but, for what I’ve seen and heard, there are a lot of similarities.
For what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of ignorance about the participation of the social movements in the Catalan process and every argument is reduced either to nationalists causes or parliamentary actions. First, I’ll try to explain the political history of Spain and Catalonia, and then, give you my point of view of what have happened this days and our opinion of this.
As you should know, Spain has been ruled, for 40 years of democracy, mainly by two parties. The first is Partido Popular (or PP) that represents a wide spectrum of the right and its fundators were members of Franco’s government. The other party is Partido Socialista Obrero Español (or PSOE) that represents a left-center position after abandoning the Marxist ideology.
For more than 30 years, nothing have really changed in an deep way in the Spanish state and a popular claim in the Left is that these parties represent the ’78 Regime, in reference of the Constitution of 1978 that is still active.
In 2011, after three years of financial crisis, the Occupy movement (called in Spain 15-M movement) appeared and it was an opportunity for different parties to grow, mainly Ciudadanos (a liberal political party) and Podemos (a left-wing party). With Podemos, a lot of smaller left-wing parties joined them into coalitions to win the municipal elections of 2015. After winning on Barcelona and Madrid, Podemos and the other political parties tried to do the same in the general elections of 2016. Unfortunately, this coalition didn’t work, PP won the elections and Podemos got the third position (the second one was for PSOE, of course).
The main social movement in Spain these days is Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (or PAH), a housing rights movement very close to Podemos. They’ve done a great work stopping evictions and drove an initiative for housing rights but it was dismissed by the PP government.
So, for now, the only alternative in Spain is represented by Podemos and a possibility of a left coalition in the general elections on 2020. Nevertheless, in the main polls, Podemos is losing votes and PP keeps growing.
In Catalonia, the ’78 Regime have its own two-party system protagonists: Convergència i Unió (or Ciu) the wide right-wing party and Partit Socialista de Catalunya or PSC, which is the Catalan federation of PSOE.
In 2011, the Catalan people also joined the 15-M movement and Ciudadanos and Podemos also appeared in the Catalan political spectrum but with less influence. Also, Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (or CUP) appeared as the left independentists party with a clear anticapitalist and feminist approach. The independentists movement started to grow with the creation of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (or ANC) and the growth in popularity of Òmnium Cultural and the huge protests during the national Catalan day on the 11th of September. These two organizations have national-independentists ideals and are very close to the main independentists coalition Junts Pel Sí. This candidacy rules now the Catalan government have members of the civil society but also from other independentists parties such as Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (or ERC) and CiU.
So, before the referendum, the only great alternative in Catalonia against the ’78 Regime was represented by this independentist movement which have no social content.
At that moment, we understood that we couldn’t fight the nationalist ideals neither create an anticapitalist alternative. Nevertheless, we supported the idea that a fracture in the structures of the ’78 Regime in Spain could be an opportunity for the anticapitalists collectives to grow, as people will get closer to radical ideals and practices. So, we supported the referendum and the independence without many enthusiasm.
The defense of the Referendum
With the PP government trying to ban the referendum and the possibility of a large scale repression, things changed drastically. On the 20th of September, the Spanish police tried to enter into the CUP headquarters and arrested some official workers from the Catalan government. Also, some Spanish unionists protests started to happen, with the participation of many fascist groups.
In many villages and neighborhoods, the left indendentist movement started the creation of Comitès de Defensa del Referèndum (or CDRs) which are local popular comittees to defend the neighborhoods and electoral colleges from the Spanish police and fascists.
We understood that this independentist movement had become something more than a nationalist or parliamentary movement. It had become a social movement, diverse and with a lot of potential. As anarchists, we thought that, it would be better for our movement to participate in these comittees, so we should have and opportunity to propose our practices and ideas and relate with people that normally see us as freaks. In our neighborhoods and villages we also started or joined the CDRs.
For example, in the neighborhood of Vallcarca (Barcelona), the anarchists were one of the firsts to propose the creation of a local comittee. The main squatted social center became the headquarters of the comitee and the reunions were made in assembly, taking turns and being as horizontal as possible.
Also, the alternative worker unions (mostly CGT, COS and IAC) started to talk about a general strike in the 3rd of October in order to answer in case of a big repression.
On the day of the referendum, the Spanish police attacked with brutal violence some of the election colleges, causing nearly a thousand injured in Catalonia, but the comitees answered with direct action methods. Trucks and vehicles from the rural areas blocked the way for the police, people hid the urns, change it for fake ones, made human walls, organized the communication and the care for the injured, etc. There was an universal census for the referendum (we could vote in wherever college we wanted) so there was a great coordination within the comittees to redirect the voters to other closer colleges. At the end, the participation for the referendum was on the 42% and only the 14% of electoral colleges were closed although nearly 20000 Spanish policemen were deployed in the Catalan territory.
The general strike started two days later with ANC, Òmnium Cultural and some employer organizations joining. In front of the cameras, the strike had none labour content, but it had been driven by the alternative unions. Neither CCOO and UGT, the main Spanish unions, were part of the strike.
On the next days we saw the rising of the fascists in many protests that ended up with some people injured in Barcelona, Valencia and Mallorca with the total complicity of the Spanish police and government. On the other hand, the CDRs have started to grow and increase, becoming a local defense spot for the declaration of independence. However, ANC and Òmnium Cultural still have an important influence over the movement that we must dispute.
Our position for now on
What we’ve seen these days is the polarization of the Spanish and Catalan society into more radical positions, a political fracture that is nowadays represented by the declaration of the Catalan Republic and the suspension of the Catalan autonomy with the 155th article of the Spanish Constitution. We have a great portion of the independentists movement turning to the left and some worker organizations trying to maintain this pulse with the right wing parties.
We have also a rising of the fascism, mostly in the Spanish territory and there’s no movement capable of confronting it. Podemos is trying to have a kind profile in order to win the next elections (they are confronting both the declaration of independence and the Spanish government repression).
In Catalonia, we must keep pushing for the defense of the Republic from the CDRs. In order to create a great left pole, we must start talking about the constituent process that follows the declaration of independence. This could mean the empowering of the anticapitalist organizations and the regaining of rights for the workers, the women and the environment. Maybe we have an opportunity of having something more that another liberal European state.
We also understand that this fracture can be an expansive wave into other movements to grow in Spain and Europe, so we think that defending the Catalan Republic from a left-wing point of view in Europe could mean in the growing of the popular movements around the continent. I think that’s the reason the Kurdish movement is supporting us.
So I wrote this to explain our position, but also to ask for solidarity in a political level. Please, spread the word with other anticapitalists, feminists, ecologists, anarchists and other radical leftist and keep fighting.
Aitor Tarradella, November 2017.
Embat Website: http://www.embat.info