Location Spain Spain

Catalonia: “We Are the Republic!”

Barcelona, November 11: 750,000 people demonstrate behind two banners: “Release the Political Prisoners! And, above all: “We Are the Republic!”

It was the Catalan Republic that was in the streets on November 11, against all odds.

Workers, unemployed, retired, youth, small farmers and merchants … they came from all over Catalonia in response to the call of the Committees for the Defense of the Republic. These CDRs first formed as Committees for the Defense of the Referendum to ensure the holding of the referendum on October 1 against the Francoist monarchy, which had announced that it was forbidding the Catalan people to vote.

On November 11, the masses went out into the streets, affirming that the Catalan Republic is indeed standing. This mass action, however, is one that was not supposed to take place – at least not from the standpoint of the powers-that-be.

It was not supposed to take place, of course, from the standpoint of the government of the monarchy. It was Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who declared on October 1: “Today, there was no referendum on self-determination,” thereby denying the very existence of the referendum, and attempting with the unleashing of widespread repression to crush under the iron heel of the Francoist institutions the majority will of the Catalan people to break with the monarchy. But the implementation of Article 155 of the Constitution of the Spanish State, together with the brutal police repression that took place the day of the referendum October 1st, was not able to prevent the Republic from taking to the streets.

The massive November 11 demonstration was not supposed to take place, either, from the standpoint of all those who, from Trump to the European Commission via Macron, support the repressive measures of Rajoy, because they understand that the uprising of the Catalan people against the Spanish monarchy only foreshadows the revolt — from Bucharest to Paris, from Lisbon to Athens – that is brewing against the European Union’s austerity plans and counter-reforms.

“VergUEnza!”

Holding up signs proclaiming “VergUEnza!” (“Shame!” in Castilian, including the acronym of the European Union, UE), the workers of Barcelona expressed the wrath of workers from all over Europe against this undemocratic machine of war rejected throughout the continent. As a young CDR activist rightly pointed out at a public meeting in Paris: “It’s the very same European Union that refuses to hear the voice of the Catalans for a social and democratic Catalan Republic, that promotes State violence, and that in France encourages the French government to impose a Labor Law that 70% of French people have rejected. It is the same authoritarianism that wields batons against the people in Catalonia and that seeks to ‘normalize’ the state of emergency in France.”

The November 11 mass demonstration in Barcelona was condemned in advance by the leaders of the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and their Catalan appendix, the PSC, which have joined forces with the Rajoy government.

Also, just as occurred during the general strike of October 8, the mass demonstration on November 11 was slammed by the leaders of the main union confederations — the UGT and Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) — both of which have continued to condemn the proclamation of the Catalan Republic of October 27. The top union leaders are in favor of the release of the jailed activists and Catalan elected officials, but this is mainly because “it would facilitate the electoral process” of December 21, and “would improve the image of Spain in the world”, said Pepe Alvarez, of the UGT (El Independiente, November 12). For these labor officials, who have been widely disavowed by the rank-and-file union members, it is necessary to save the Francoist institutions of 1977-1978 at all costs.

The Proclamation of the Republic: a “Symbolic Act”?

But it’s from the very summits of the Catalan Republic and its political parties that everything is being done in recent days to attempt to “rein in” the Catalan people.

The former head of the Catalan autonomous government, Carles Puigdemont, having been forced to proclaim the Republic on October 27 under huge popular pressure, and now a refugee in Belgium, has just declared in Le Soir de Bruxelles that he is ready “to reach an agreement” with the authorities in Madrid that would recognize the legitimacy of the December 21 elections convened by the monarchy in the framework of the Spanish State.

Since November 2, eight ministers of the Catalan government have been thrown into prison – and yet, one after the other, the European Democratic Party of Catalonia (PDeCAT) of Puigdemont, the Republican Left (ERC), and Candidacies for Popular Unity (CUP) have announced their intention to participate in the monarchy’s December 21 elections. This, even though their leaders are incarcerated or prosecuted.

Those who, a fortnight ago, had been pushed by the masses to proclaim the Catalan Republic, today are giving pledges that they are willing to retreat. Thus, Forcadell, the president of the Catalan Parliament, who had been threatened with being thrown in prison, was released on bail and announced publicly that the proclamation of the Republic of October 27 had been “a symbolic act”! As for the leader of the ERC, Ponsati, she declared that the Catalan government was not “sufficiently prepared” to proclaim the Republic.

Deliberate Drive to Isolate the Catalan Republic

Are these setbacks and about-faces surprising? As we have already written in this paper, the time when the bourgeoisie was overthrowing monarchs with arms in hand is long gone. The Catalan bourgeoisie, which has closed its Catalan banks and corporate headquarters and relocated elsewhere for fear of this movement of millions of anonymous people from below, is no exception. Just like the King of Spain and the European Commission, the Catalan bourgeoisie is alarmed by the fact that the national and democratic aspirations of these millions of people are closely intertwined with their social aspirations.

And it is precisely for this reason that it should be up to the working class and its organizations to lead the movement for the defense of the Catalan Republic, for republics throughout Spain and their free union.

And this is the tragedy facing the Catalan Republic. All the leaders who claim to be the on “left” are turning their backs on the Catalan Republic and, in fact, are delivering them to the repression by the Francoist institutions. More than ever, what is happening in Catalonia highlights the absence of a genuine workers’ party, fighting for the Republic and democracy, because it fights for socialism.

And Yet, the Republic Is There . . .

And yet . . . despite these betrayals — both at the top of the labor movement and in the “independence” camp — and despite the brutal repression and obstacles of all kinds, the Catalan Republic was there, in the streets, on November 11. The laws of history are stronger than the bureaucratic apparatus.

The referendum of October 1, which hundreds of thousands imposed by protecting the voting stations against the batons of the Guardia Civil, opened a breach. It’s a breach that supporters of the established order have tried to patch for 40 days. . . . But on November 11, against their own leaders, 750,000 workers and youth from throughout Catalonia took to the streets to state: “We Are the Republic!”

by Dominique Ferré

(reprinted from Issue No. 114 of Workers Tribune — November 15, 2017 — the weekly newspaper of the Democratic Independent Workers Party of France / POID)

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