The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 6th October 2017

Catalonia stands up

SPANISH riot police firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Civil Guardsmen seizing ballot boxes and clubbing people into the ground outside polling stations. Over a thousand civilians injured in clashes with the police in Barcelona and throughout the rest of Catalonia.

If this was in Democratic Korea, Cuba, Venezuela or anywhere else on the imperialist hate-list, the human rights gang would be up in arms calling for sanctions and intervention. If this was Iran or in any other country whose natural resources are coveted by the global capitalist corporations the imperialists would already be sending in guns and cash to those ready to fight for ‘regime change’ a la Libya and Syria.

But it’s in Spain, where the heirs of Franco’s dictatorship and the rest of the bourgeois establishment headed by King Felipe VI are slavish followers of American and Franco-German imperialism. So the European Union (EU) that rejoiced in the break-up of Yugoslavia but wailed at Crimea’s secession from the fascist state of Ukraine tells us that this is an “internal” matter. France, which refuses even to recognise the rights of its own national minorities, is backing Spain all the way, whilst the British government says: “We want to see Spanish law and the Spanish constitution respected and the rule of law upheld. Spain is a close ally and a good friend, whose strength and unity matter to us.”

Catalonia, once part of the old kingdom of Aragon, has its own distinct language and culture. Under the democratic Second Spanish Republic that was established in 1931 the Catalans and Basques enjoyed a high degree of autonomy. But reactionary generals and fascists, backed by the Catholic clergy, plunged the country into a civil war that ended with General Franco’s victory in 1939.

Under Franco any expression of Basque or Catalan identity was crushed. When Franco died in 1975 the monarchy was restored and the pretence of bourgeois democracy imposed on Spain along with a sham ‘autonomy’ for the regions that included the Basques and Catalans. But many Basques and Catalans have continued to fight for self-determination.

On Sunday 1st October the autonomous government of Catalonia held an independence referendum. Over 90 per cent of more than 2.26 million Catalans who managed to get to the polling stations voted ‘Yes’ in a vote that had previously been declared illegal by the central government in Madrid.

Under any other circumstances the 42 per cent turn-out would probably not be seen as the final word on independence. But the brutal attempt to suppress the vote, and the equally brutal response of the Spanish king on Tuesday in dismissing the Catalan regional government’s actions as “unacceptable” and claiming that they had placed themselves outside both democracy and the law, makes some sort of unilateral declaration of independence almost inevitable.

Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont says it will take place in a matter of days. The Spanish king and his reactionary central government will then almost certainly dissolve the Catalonian regional government.

If that happens, says Puigdemont, it would be “an error that changes everything”. The Catalan police remain loyal to the autonomous government. The detachments from the national police and the Civil Guard sent in to try and stop the referendum have not been withdrawn. No one can tell what will happen next.

Catalan communists will clearly be taking part in the discussions on the way forward over the next few days. As for ourselves, the New Communist Party will support whatever is the wish of the Catalan government and people.