The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 3rd November 2017

Catalonia at the cross-roads

THE CRISIS in Catalonia deepened this week with the imposition of direct rule by the Spanish government and the branding of its leaders as traitors who now face charges of rebellion, sedition and fraud for daring to declare independence for the ‘autonomous’ region after winning a referendum on independence on 1st October.

Whether these ‘rebels’ will be allowed to stand in the new Catalonian elections the Spanish government has set for 21st December is another matter. The Spanish government is clearly hoping that the mobilisation of Spanish ‘unionists’ in Catalonia, along with the clear lack of any support from the movers and shakers in the rest of the European Union, will lead to a decisive defeat of the Catalan nationalist parties.

But that outcome remains in the balance. The brutal attempt of the Spanish People’s Party government to suppress the referendum vote by seizing ballot boxes and beating up voters has clearly inflamed Catalan opinion.

The hard-line stance of the People’s Party, the direct heirs of General Franco’s fascist regime, and King Felipe VI has ruled out any possibility of compromise with the Catalan nationalists to end the crisis.

Many who were prepared to give ‘unity’ the benefit of the doubt have swung over to the independence camp after being given a taste of what the Basques have had to put up after their own autonomous government was suppressed in 1937 by the fascists during the Spanish civil war. Others believe that independence is a way out from the austerity regime that Franco-German imperialism has imposed throughout the European Union.

The Spanish social democrats have closed ranks with the ruling People’s Party on Catalonia. They claim that the major nationalist parties only represent the narrow interests of the Catalan bourgeoisie who want to detach the wealthiest region in the country so that they can more easily exploit it for their own use.

Whether that is true or false is irrelevant. The Catalans have a clear case for self-determination regardless of who their leaders are or what they represent. Catalonia, once the heart of the old kingdom of Aragon, has its own distinct language and culture. It is the richest region in Spain. Catalans may only be some 16 per cent of the total Spanish population but their economy is larger than most of the members of the Eurozone. Catalonia generates more than 20 per cent of the Spanish GDP (gross domestic product) and its exports amount to over 25 per cent of Spain’s national total. An independent Catalonia is clearly viable. Whether the people want it remains to be seen.

Independence is clearly on the working class agenda in Catalonia today. Catalan communists will clearly be taking part in the discussions on the street in the run-up to the December poll. The Spanish communist movement is divided on the question of independence, with the Communist Party of the People’s of Spain (PCPE) against whereas supporters of the smaller Communist Workers Party (PCOE) are in support.

At the end of the day this is a matter that only the Catalans can rightly decide. For British communists our duty is to support whatever is the wish of the Catalan people.