Catalonia continues resistance — summary to date

Diarmuid Breatnach

Introduction:

Readers are welcome to skip through the text to a section which is of particular interest to them (see Section Headings).

This account concentrates on the development of recent events in Catalonia and in response to events there; past history from prehistory through medieval times and even the detail of the 1930s war against fascism are omitted here but a 10-minute video included in the LINKS section may prove instructive and useful.

I have written this from a distance, in touch with Catalans at home and abroad, reading news reports and comments, viewing video footage etc. but not physically there on the ground.

What is happening needs to be viewed against the backdrop of history in general and that of the Spanish state in particular, while at the same time allowing for the particular nature of Catalonia and the people there.

A note about Terminology:

The word “independist”, whether as noun, adjective or adverb, does not exist in English, although its correspondent does in a number of other languages, including Castillian (Spanish) and Catalan: independentista. In English, one has to say something like “pro-independence movement, person” etc which grows tiresome after awhile, “independentist” seems too long for easy use so I am using “independist” here throughout and would not be surprised to see it become an accepted word in the English language. “Nationalist” will not do, since not all nationalists are for complete independence and socialists who are for complete independence would reject the description “nationalist”.

The Iberian Peninsula with the exception of Portugal is usually referred to by people abroad as “Spain” and as a “country” too. Although there are a number of ways of understanding the term “country”, such discourse tends to favour the Spanish nationalist conception that the whole territory is Spanish with some merely regional differences, to account for the culture and language of such nations (or parts of nations) under their control as Euskal Herria (the Basque Country), Catalunya and the Països Catalans, Galicia, Asturias etc. In order to get over that problem of description, many among those captive nations refer to the whole territory as “the Spanish state” and I have done likewise.

Nations, parts of nations and regions within the Spanish State (some extend into French State territory but that is not shown on this map). Image source: Internet

However, what to call the State itself then, the executive administrative arm of the Spanish ruling class and its various arms? “Government” will not do, since different parties run the Government at different times but the State remains. I call that also the “Spanish State”, with a capital “S” on the word “State” in this case.

SECTION HEADINGS:

  • Introduction (and Note on Terminology)

  • Geographic and Cultural Background of Catalonia

  • Economy of Catalonia

  • The Independence Movement in General: Introduction; a) Support for Independence; b) Opposition to Independence

  • Support for and Opposition to Catalan independence elsewhere in the Spanish State

  • Attitude of the EU to Catalan Independence and the current crisis

  • Ideology, Strategic Aims and Tactics within the Independist Movement

  • Some Conclusions

    • Critical mass

    • Leadership

    • Ideology and Preparation

  • Appendix A: Political Parties Background

  • Appendix B: Video of Spanish police raids on September 20th and Catalan resistance

Geographic and Cultural Background of Catalonia:

          Located on the north-east and Mediterranean coast of the Spanish state, Catalonia is a region within the Spanish State with a population of a little over 7.56 million. With its own language and culture, Catalonia is also part of the wider Països Catalans (Catalan Countries) which include Perpignan (south-south-east in the French state), Valencia and the Balearic Islands (east of the Spanish state); in all of these the Catalan language or a version of it is spoken (as well as Spanish in most – French in others). Catalan belongs to the Romance group of languages (which include the state languages of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian). Catalonia is considered by some a nation while others consider it only part of the wider Països Catalans nation.

Demonstration for amnesty and release of Catalan political prisoners 1917. (Photo source: Internet)

Catalan republican flags juxtaposed; the one to the right would be categorised as further to the Left poliitically.
(Image from photo D.Breatnach)

Catalonia now has a Govern (government) of limited autonomy but it has a long history of being independent or of striving for independence and has for centuries been suppressed by the Spanish kingdom and the Catalan language restricted; after the Spanish Civil War/ Anti-Fascist War and the defeat of the Catalan forces along with the elected government of the Spanish State, the Franco dictatorship forbade any use of the Catalan language anywhere. The language is widely spoken now, especially within Catalonia where all but a tiny minority of education establishments teach through the medium of Catalan and it is being brought into use in all public services. However it is still forbidden to use it in the Cortes (Spanish Parliament) and some Spanish unionists continue to resist its usage in public services and education within Catalonia.

Traditional Catalan Ensenyera to the left of image and Spanish state flag to the right. All autonomous regions are obliged to fly the Spanish state flags on official buildings. They are permitted to fly their own flag there also but must be flown at a level below that of the Spanish one. (Image sourced: Internet)

Economy of Catalonia

“With 7.45 million people, the region accounts for 16% of Spain’s population. Its €215.6bn (£191bn) economy, larger than that of most countries in the eurozone, generates more than one-fifth of Spanish GDP, while Catalonia’s exports of €65.2bn represent more than one-quarter of the national total. At about €37bn, foreign investment in Catalonia accounts for more than one-quarter of inward investment to Spain.

“Catalonia also has lower unemployment and generally less income inequality than the rest of Spain. At 13.2%, the region’s jobless rate contrasts favourably with the 17.2% for the country as a whole.1 GDP per capita is not Spain’s highest, but it is higher than the national average, while inequality is lower. Catalans are more likely to feel well off than Spaniards as a whole.”2

The Independence Movement in General — Introduction

          For some years the independence movement in Catalonia has been gathering strength and momentum. After a number of initiatives in Catalonia and continuing arguments with the Spanish State (Government and Courts), including questions regarding the powers existing under the Statutes of Autonomy, elections for the ‘autonomous’ regional government in 2012 returned a majority of pro-independence candidates and they formed an independist regional Govern (Government). This Govern passed legislation on a number of issues: universal health care (including for migrants); social welfare housing and domestic fuel; protection from eviction for rent or mortgage arrears; tax increases on high sugar content fluids, big companies and big tourist establishments; abolition of bullfighting; tolerance of cannabis-growing associations; environmental protection.

However Spanish courts ruled that these legislative measures transgressed Spanish state legislation and could not therefore be enacted.

In 2014 a number of forces came together to hold a symbolic, non-binding referendum. Organised mostly from the grassroots and with Spanish Government and Catalan unionist denunciations and threats ringing in their ears, on 9th November 2014 over two million people took part, with the vast majority of them voting in favour.

A decision was taken by the Catalan Government with support from grassroots political and cultural associations to hold an official referendum within Catalonia to determine whether the population wished for independence or not. The Spanish State declared this would be illegal since the Spanish Constitution forbids the separation of any part of the territory except by majority decision of the Spanish Parliament (where the Catalan elected members will always be in a minority).

The independist Government proceeded to organise a referendum. As the date for the referendum approached, Spanish police (Guardia Civil) on 20th September 2017 raided Government and other buildings looking for ballot boxes but found hardly any. Another Spanish police force, the Policía Nacional, besieged the Barcelona offices of the CUP but were held off as its officers demanded a search warrant they were unable to produce. The police offensive brought tens of thousands of Catalans on to the streets to protest and to resist the attack (see Appendix B for film of the whole event).

A few weeks later, on 1st October 2017, as people queued up to vote in the Referendum, many having slept in the schools to be used overnight, the Guardia Civil stormed polling stations, confiscated ballot boxes, batoned voters and demonstrators and fired rubber bullets at them (though the use of these had been banned in Catalonia3).

Spanish police batoning unarmed demonstrators on Referendum day, 1 October 2017. (Image sourced: Internet)

From the ballot boxes that people managed to remove from danger of police confiscation, a majority had voted for independence and, on this basis, the Govern declared independence on 27th October 2017 (though suspending the status almost immediately afterwards). The Spanish State arrested a number of politicians and cultural activists on charges of violent rebellion and misuse (embezzlement) of public funds to fund the referendum and detained them in Madrid without bail. It also sought the arrests of other politicians who had gone into exile in Europe.

In addition, the Spanish Government activated a measure in the Spanish Constitution, Article 155, taking over the powers of the Catalan Government and immobilising it, controlling its finances (actions which some consider not only oppressive but illegal and are preparing to challenge in court). In addition it forced new elections in Catalonia, even though the legal power to call these resides within Catalonia alone but to no avail: the elections, held in December 2017 once again returned an independist majority to Parliament.

Due to the numbers of Catalan politicians in jail or in exile and the Spanish State’s refusal to either allow them to be elected from jail or exile, or even to authorise a proxy, the independists in the Parlament were hindered in forming a parliamentary council and Government Cabinet or in electing a parliamentary Speaker and Government President. The independists put up alternative candidates — although one of the independist parties disagreed with that measure — and they were elected.

The two independist parties JuntsXCat and ERC, with 34 and 32 seats respectively, form the Catalan Government, with the CUP and their four seats in ‘confidence and supply’ support (see Background Political Parties in Appendix A). This gives the independist Government a majority of one vote over the opposition’s total of 65 votes in the 135-seat Parlament but, with CUP’s four votes in support-and-supply of the Government, the independists have a majority of five.

Poster showing features of Catalan political prisoners and exiles. (Source: Designed by a Catalan for With Catalonia/ Leis an Chatalóin poster for solidarity picket June 2018)

Spanish control of the Catalan Government is now lifted and civil servant posts emptied by the Spanish State have been filled again. The Catalan Parlament and Govern is functioning and legations abroad are at work. The arrested activists were expected to go to trial in September; currently they continue in detention but finally being moved from Madrid to Catalonia4 and, as this article was being completed, were stripped of their elected Deputy status by Llarena, the judge overseeing the trial (but their representation by temporary proxies is permitted).

The Spanish State continues to seek the extradition of exiled activists. The Spanish Supreme Court Judge Llarena has confirmed they will be tried on charges of Rebellion and has sought permission to try them in absentia – penalty up to 35 years in jail — and has reinterpreted what Rebellion means from organising and participating in an armed uprising to holding a referendum not approved by the Spanish state. In addition he blamed the police violence on October 1st on the independists. The Judge has also confirmed that they will be tried for “embezzlement”, viz. allegedly diverting 1.1 million euro from Catalan public funds to help run the referendum but nobody knows from where comes this figure (though it turns out to be one euro for every referendum vote recorded for independence). Llarena has also decreed on 28th June that each of the 14 accused of embezzlement must deposit their share of 1.1 million euro into a reserve in case of judgement given against them. Furthermore, each was given two days to do this with a potential penalty of seizing their personal assets (e.g homes) if they did not meet the deadline.

a) Support for Independence within Catalonia

          The support for independence within Catalonia is difficult to quantify exactly but the referendum ballots counted in favour were 2,044,038 (92.01% of the total of 43.3% voting — however numbers and percentages are problematic since the Opposition called for a boycott of the referendum and the Guardia Civil seized a number of ballot boxes, closed polling stations and otherwise disrupted voting). In addition, in the December elections, this time with an undisputed 79.9% turnout, the total votes for the independists amounted to 47.50 % of those cast and they elected 70 out of 135 of the Parlament Deputies. Reasons for voting for independence are likely to be considered and deeply-held, given that they are votes against the status quo; however the emotional element, for example of injured national pride, cannot be discounted.

Unlike the opposition, a substantial part of the independence support is grassroots and active, as with the cultural organisations Omnium and in particular the ANC (Catalan National Assembly) and the political coalition of social activists which is the CUP. The ANC was the single most active body in organising the 2014 non-binding referendum and, along with Omnium, in organising the giant Diada (Catalan National Day) demonstration on September 11th 2017, which gave a huge push to the Referendum on October 1st. In fact, the ANC has been generally pushing the independence cart along, a point made by its new PresidentElisenda Paluzie, in a July 2017 interview with El Nacional.5

Huge demonstration Barcelona on the Diada, Catalonian national day 11th September 2017, organised from the grassroots (and wearing green) to show support for Catalan self-determination. (Photo source: Internet)

The workers’ movement is more difficult to analyse and evaluate. The two main trade unions in Catalonia are also the two major ones in the Spanish State: UGT and Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), probably accounting for 85% of trade union members in Catalonia. The leaderships of these two unions are generally social-democratic and Spanish unionist in outlook, UGT in particular being linked to the PSOE.

The Intersindical CSC is an independist and class union6 (i.e does not recruit members of State forces for control and repression) and in an April 2018 article in the conservative Spanish daily El Mundo, it claimed to have recruited an additional 520 members since October first, 40% of whom said they had left their respective unions because of the unions’ lack of support for the Catalan people. Intersindical is very small and at the time of interview claimed only 3,100 members but not only is it gaining members but spreading into new working areas. Intersindical and the student SEPC (Sindicat d’Estudiants dels Paisos Catalans) seem to be the only unions working in the independist movement, at the grassroots with mass organisations like the ANC.

Spokespersons for the two big Spanish unions admitted that they were losing some members because they were not supporting the independist movement but claimed they were also losing some who claimed their union was being too soft on nationalism. Both spokespersons claimed the losses were negligible in number and so they may be, in the context of the membership rolls for the Spanish state as a whole (and their declining membership generally throughout the state) but UGT was concerned enough to write to disgruntled members individually.7

While it is difficult to imagine what cause any member might have to accuse CCOO and UGT of being ‘soft’ on Catalan independism, the accusation might arise from the fact that the Catalan branches of both unions supported the October 3rd General Strike in protest against the Spanish police violence on October 1st, some workplaces only for a one-hour walkout to join the demonstration, although the unions’ headquarters had advised them not to do so. Independent unions had called the strike (ostensibly over economic causes as ‘political strikes’ are outlawed) and such was the level of public outrage at the actions of the Spanish police that even unionist-controlled unions in Catalonia felt obliged to join in.

Firefighter workers also participated prominently in demonstrations around the referendum on October 1st, acting as stewards and forming a barrier between the crowd and the Guardia Civil (and facing the latter), preventing or discouraging the Guardia from batoning or shooting rubber bullets at the demonstrators. Dockers too got involved, refusing to assist Guardia launches to dock and blowing car horns all night so as to render the police sleepless. How much the workers’ organisations in Catalonia may become part of the independist movement as a force remains to be seen.

The one-day general strike of October 3rd was a huge success (that appears to have been quickly forgotten, especially outside Catalonia) and showed the potential of the workers and mass of people in action. Hundreds of thousands participated in the action; major ports closed, major roads and motorways were blocked, bus and subways systems mostly stopped by 9.30 am, shops and stores closed, university classes were cancelled, major tourist facilities closed and the much-loved Barcelona football team joined the action. Demonstrators also went to stations of the Policia Nacional and denounced them, also congregated outside hotels accommodating the Guardia Civil and demanded they leave (some hotel managers did end up asking the police to leave).

Section of General Strike demonstration, Barcelona 3 Oct. 2017. (Image sourced: Internet)

The important failures were in not closing the airport and large industry, a reflection of control there by trade unions whose leadership are Spanish unionists. But that control slipped in many areas and those same trade unions in the cities found themselves obliged to support the strike and demonstrations, against the advice of their unions’ headquarters in Madrid, as noted earlier. The other hugely significant factor was that the strike was organised and planned in the first instance by independist trade unions of very small numbers, actively supported by the grassroots independist movement. And it moved quickly – just two days after the police attack on people voting in the Referendum.

Its effect on the Spanish State was also very noticeable: the Spanish Government declaring it illegal, the Minister of the Interior convening an emergency meeting and the King expressing his disapproval in a rare statewide speech – and yet no consequent arrests, clearly for fear of exacerbating the situation.

The fact that the November 8th General Strike was much less effective, despite its significant impact, and that the Mossos d’Escuadra (Catalan Police) in some places felt emboldened to remove protesters blocking roads (which they had not even attempted in October) only shows that the Catalan workers’ movement needs to develop further, to increase the authority of its voice. And it was also significant that the Catalan High Court (TSJ) dismissed a petition by the Foment del Treball Nacional employers’ group to have the strike deemed illegal (as a ‘political strike’).

Politically, the Independists are represented in the Parlament by three distinct parties: ERC, acronym for Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Catalan Republican Left), JuntsxCat (Together for Catalonia) and the CUP (Candidatures d’Unitat Popular — Popular United Candidacies). It is thus an alliance across class lines, across Right and Left. The core of the JuntsxCat platform is PdeCat, a conservative and neo-liberal nationalist part at core but with many independist independents fronting it; ERC is currently an independist coalition with social-democratic leanings; CUP is also an independist coalition, a network of social and political activists of varied ideologies who until recently only intervened in municipal elections but with great effect. (for further information see Appendix A Political Parties Background)

Naturally there are some tensions between these different parties but they managed to cooperate in bringing the Referendum to fruition, after which the CUP began to criticise the Govern about the delay in implementing the decision for a Republic, also in yielding to Spain’s diktats and electing an alternative to Carles Puigdemont as President (even though he is not of their party). The ERC and JxCat had some difficulties in this period with one another (and even on one occasion some leading politicians of their own party) but they seem to agree with one another more often than they do with the CUP.

Currently the CUP is not part of the Government though they have a confidence-and-supply arrangement with it (i.e they will help to keep it in government against the attempts of the unionists [see next section]). One of their spokespersons in June 2017 accused the Cabinet of being “autonomist and autonomous”, i.e for autonomy rather than independence and also that they are autonomous from the popular movement, i.e not under its control. After much behind-scenes discussion on wording and content, on 5th July 2018, ERC and JxCat voted for the CUP motion calling for the Catalan Government’s social, environmental and financial legislation that was suspended by action of the Spanish State8 to be proceeded with and implemented, the motion passing by majority.

b) Opposition to Independence within Catalonia

          The opposition to independence within Catalonia is also difficult to quantify exactly but the referendum ballots counted against were 177,547 (7.99%); however the opposition had called for a boycott by their supporters of the referendum. But in the December 2017 elections with an undisputed 79.9% turnout. the total undisputed votes for the unionists amounted to 43.45% of those cast and they elected 65 of the 135 Parlament Deputies. Reasons for voting for the unionists may range from genuine antipathy to Catalonian independence through apprehension about the unknown (or about the reaction of the Spanish State) to party loyalty.

In addition, there was 8.58% of votes cast for the En Comú-Podem platform, which because of their varied positions and equivocation, cannot be properly assigned to being in favour of either unionism or independism (but see further below and also Appendix A)

Unlike much of their opposition, most of the unionist bloc (i.e politicians wanting Catalonia to remain in union with the Spanish state) is not known for grassroots activism.

Politically, the unionists are represented in the Parlament by three distinct parties: Ciudadanos (Citizens), Partido Popular, PSC (Catalan version of the PSOE). In addition Comú – Podem, also known as “Comuns” (Catalan version of Podemos in coalition with some alternative Left) most frequently opposes the independist bloc (see Appendix A Political Parties Background for further information).

Like the independist one, the unionist bloc crosses the right-left political divide, i.e from the extremely right-wing Ciudadanos to some of the moderate left “Comuns” and what unites them is opposing Catalan independence. In fact there are those who say that Ciudadanos itself has little to offer apart from that opposition, while the “Comuns” on the other hand have a social program. But on the implementation of the progressive social, economic and environmental legislation which the CUP proposed, the Comuns voted only for a report by December, abstaining with the unionist bloc on the actual implementation vote.

Support for and opposition to Catalan independence elsewhere in the Spanish State

          From the southern Basque Country there is strong support for Catalan independence since many there too want their own nation to be independent from the Spanish and French states. The Basque Country was the only region or nation that brought out a majority against the 1978 Constitution. Despite (or because of) the banning of the Euskera language and political representation, the nation carried out strong resistance to Franco’s rule. After the 1978 Constitution and the setting up of two partly-autonomous regions in the southern Basque Country, nationalist unity suffered somewhat of a blow but a significant section carried on cultural, political, social, industrial and armed resistance to Spanish rule. However the armed group has now surrendered its arms and dissolved and popular resistance is at a low ebb there at the moment.

There is support to be found for Catalan independence to various degrees of strength – but not at the moment by a majority – in the rest of the Països Catalans, the Canary Islands and the Celtic nations of Galicia and Asturias.

However, many fear that poor regions of the Spanish state — like Andalucia in the south, for example or Extremadura in the west — will suffer disproportionately if the Spanish state loses the revenue from Catalonia (and from the Basque Country). People agitating against Catalan independence often claim that the independists are motivated solely or mainly by Catalan greed to keep their own revenues. As part of this propaganda, the Catalan independence movement is portrayed in some quarters as led by bourgeois right-wing elements, ignoring all other aspects including the huge popular movement.

Attitude of the EU to Catalan Independence and the current crisis

          In the early days of the wave of Spanish state repression from October 2017 onwards, many commentators in Catalonia and their supporters outside called for the EU to intervene to restrain the Spanish state and even seemed to expect it to do so. Very quickly in this situation, without once condemning the undemocratic acts and violence of the Spanish state against an unarmed people demonstrating peacefully, the President of the EU Junker made his position very clear when he stated a breakaway Catalonia might give others similar ideas and that he did not wish to see “an EU of 99 states”.

The EU is a bloc essentially run by the most powerful states. Leaving Spain out of the equation for a moment and now that the UK is exiting, two of those powerful (and large) EU states are France and Italy. Italy is vulnerable to secession or independist movements in Sicily and Sardinia, while France is vulnerable also to independist movement by the Bretons, the northern Basque Country, Pau in the Occitania region and Perpignan, part of the Països Catalans as well as in Corsica.

Although the Catalonian struggle will probably find support to one level or another from a number of parties with small representation in the EU, along with small EU alliances, and an occasional Eastern European state, one can hardly imagine a situation that would find the EU as a body or with its leadership condemning the Spanish State, let alone trying to force it to let the Catalans go peacefully.

Ideology, Strategic Aims and Tactics within the Independist Movement

          The Independist movement is publicly united on the strategic aim of rupture with the Spanish state but as with such independist movements elsewhere historically it may be that some elements are more deeply committed to that aim than are others. Nevertheless, at the moment all parts of the movement seem to be moving resolutely enough in that direction.

The declared aim being an independent republic, the question arises, as with many movements in the past, of what kind of a republic? JuntsxCat is basically a Catalan neo-liberal capitalist party and has no intention of overthrowing capitalism and setting up a socialist state. The ERC is a republican party and despite its ‘Left” appellation and social-democratic approach is certain to compromise with Catalan capitalism and foreign imperialism. The CUP has consistently pushed for social programs and, though it may contain a variety of social and political attitudes because of its varied composition, is undoubtedly the most left-wing in its policy formulations and its practice. Accusations of lack of political realism of the CUP fail to take account of its growth in municipal elections and grass-roots campaigns and its decision to support JuntsxCat in the Catalonia for Yes Government while nevertheless obtaining the removal of its leader, Artur Mas, who had presided over Catalan police attacks on strikers and demonstrators.

Spokespersons of both JunstxCat and ERC (along with grass-roots organisation ANC) constantly emphasise their intention to employ, both currently and in future, exclusively peaceful methods and legal means. While a degree of this verbalisation could be attributed to tactical maneouvering the impression one gets is that it is more than that – that they truly believe that they will be permitted eventually to gain independence by relying exclusively on those means right to the end.

However, their beliefs are completely contradicted not only by the general historical experience of national liberation movements and of the working class but also by the specific history of the Spanish state. Imperialist and colonialist states do not lightly give up their possessions, nor do capitalist states contemplate the breakup of their territories with resignation. On the contrary, they resist such outcomes with armed force, not only because of the impact of the particular case of losing the breakaway nation but also because of the encouragement it gives to others under their control to do likewise (as well as to other capitalist states to take advantage of their perceived weakness).

In the case of the Spanish State, it is vulnerable to the breakaway in the first instance of Catalonia, followed quickly by the southern Basque Country provinces. The Països Catalans might follow soon and possibly also Asturias and Galicia. And perhaps the Canary Islands. In other words the Spanish state stands to lose quite quickly most of its northern lands including almost its entire border with the French state, followed by lands to the north-east including much of its Mediterranean coast, much of its Atlantic seaboard to the west  and territories far out to the south, in the Atlantic. The total area potentially lost comprises nearly half of the current territory of the State. No Spanish ruling class could contemplate such an outcome without preparing a last-ditch defence against it, which in this case would necessitate a serious legal and military attack on the Catalan independist movement.

In the unlikely event that the Spanish ruling class should be prepared to risk such a political outcome as outlined above from the departure of Catalonia, there is the direct economic impact on the Spanish economy of Catalonian departure alone: Catalonia currently accounts for more than one-quarter of the Spanish state’s exports, more than one-fifth of its GDP and 6% of taxation income (it actually pays 20% and then receives 14% back for public expenses). More than one-quarter of foreign investment to the Spanish state goes into Catalonia. In fact, outside of Madrid, the two most economically productive parts of the whole Spanish State are precisely Catalonia and the southern Basque Country.

Now, to the specific composition and history of the Spanish ruling class. From a long history of imperial conquest starting in medieval times, the aristocratic and monarchical ruling class in the Spanish state suppressed regional and national uprisings ferociously and, even after a late incorporation of some capitalist elements, overthrew two democratically-elected republican governments. The most recent occasion was the 1936 military uprising led by four generals of the Spanish Army against the democratically-elected Popular Unity Government. At the conclusion of its victory (with considerable Nazi and Fascist assistance) over the popular forces, a fascist dictatorship followed from 1939 to 1978, characterised by fundamentalist Christian, Spanish nationalist and fascist ideology, with any democratic opposition of parties or trade unions and use of all languages other than Castillian banned and severe punishments for transgression.

L-R: Juan Carlos de Borbón and his mentor, fascist dictator General Franco. Juan Carlos was crowned King of Spain two days after Franco’s death in 1975. He abdicated in 2014, his son being crowned in his place and at time of writing is King of Spain. (Photo source: Internet)

Martyr-homage with images of the five resistance fighters executed by the Franco state on 27 September 1975, three of FRAP and two of ETA, the flags of the Spanish Republic of 1936 and the Basque Ikurrina beneath them. (Photo sourced: Internet)

It is important to note that unlike most of Europe, no part of this fascist ruling class was overthrown and, in fact, as a result of its appropriation of every section of the territory and state, it appropriated riches, industry, legal, media and educational institutions in addition to its political power. Many of those prominent in those fields today owe their positions to their fascist antecedents. The unbanning and incorporation of the PSOE and PCE parties, along with their respective trade unions into this cabal did little to change things for the regime and in fact the biggest change was the heavy contamination of the newcomers themselves.

Claiming that the only way to win is through peaceful resistance needs an explanation that is not forthcoming. Granted that the Spanish State will use violent resistance to its own violence as a justification for further attack but it has already attacked and continues to do so, classsifying peaceful resistance as “rebellion” and blaming the people for the violence of the police.

On the other hand, what can be the supposed benefit of an always peaceful resistance? That the Spanish state will cease out of feelings of guilt? That the police will be so ashamed they will stop beating and shooting at people? This is clearly not a belief justified by experience. What then? That the big powers in the EU will be so shocked that they will intervene? The Catalans have already had their reply on EU intervention and it is unreasonable to expect that to change.

The emphasis on peaceful and legal means and their trumpeted exclusivity in use is not only ahistorical and wrong with regard to the Catalan struggle (past and future) but lends itself to claims of Catalan exceptionalism and even to implicit criticism of the struggles of other nations (particularly within the Spanish state)9. This separation would not be to the advantage of the Catalan struggle, even in the mid-term.

SOME CONCLUSIONS

Critical mass

          The independist movement in Catalonia has achieved a majority: of numbers, of activists and of parliamentary deputies; however it cannot be said that the size of the majority is a comfortable one. Nevertheless, the unionist parties in Catalonia are vulnerable to loss of supporters if the independists can give them cause enough to cross over to their side, or at least remain in a position of friendly neutrality.

If in trying to win friends among the Catalan unionists the independists offer them concessions on independence or on what kind of a Catalan Republic they are going for, as some may well be tempted to do, they would certainly cut the ground (and grassroots) from under their own feet. What the independists can do instead is to improve social conditions for the working and lower middle classes, or at least to show that they seriously intend to do so. In that situation, many of the voting base of the unionist parties and in particular of Ciudadanos, will desert them, either to enjoy the relief they are being offered from unemployment, precarious work, high rents and evictions – or in rage at those who wish to prevent them availing of these benefits.

And of course the existing majority supporters among the independists will stand even more firmly with them, having evidence that they fight not only for principles and promises but for better social conditions for themselves and, in particular, for their children.

Leadership

          As noted earlier, the overtly political leadership of the independist movement is shared between two bourgeois political parties which are themselves coalitions. They are being urged on by a much smaller left-wing activist party which is also a coalition. The possibilities of fragmentation, of serious divisions about how to act in various situations must be considered high, particularly should the general situation become much more dangerous for the participants, as with a high level of Spanish police or army occupation (and the Guardia Civil are a militarised police force) of parts of Catalonia to exercise repression and State control.

The grassroots organisations of ANC and Omnium, though having lost their original leaders, have replaced them and certainly ANC is keeping the pressure on.

In the late 19th / early 20th Century James Connolly10 remarked that “only the working class remains as the true inheritors of Irish freedom.” He wrote this after pointing out that all other social classes in Ireland had something to gain from reaching an accommodation with British imperialism but that the working class, being a majority and not in a position to exploit anyone, had no interest or even possibility of gaining from selling out to imperialism (as the native Irish capitalist class did in his time and, arguably, has done since). Connolly’s statement is surely transferrable to Catalonia.

Monument to James Connolly in Dublin, the design of the Irish Citizen Army’s flag behind him. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The organised workers of Catalonia therefore are not only a potentially strong force in the struggle for Catalonian independence, as evidenced by the October general strike’s success and its effect on the Spanish State – they are also the possible future leaders of the struggle, should they produce their own required leadership and organisational forms.

In such a situation, the independist movement will be in a much stronger position to call for support from workers elsewhere, whether in the Spanish state or beyond.

Other elements throughout the Spanish state may decide to a greater or lesser degree to join with Catalonian independence forces against the State — or at least to take advantage of the Spanish State being preoccupied with Catalonia — in order to advance their own issues, whether those be of nation, class or general disaffection.

Ideology & Preparation

          There is no possibility of the Spanish state agreeing to self-determination for Catalonia but it may be prepared to make some concessions on for example taxation levels, degree of autonomy, etc. Those kinds of offers may be attractive to some elements in the Catalan independist camp and they may reach out for them, at which point the possibility of serious fracture may occur. The greatest safeguard against this is the augmentation of the Left11 and the working class influence within the movement.

The spectre of fascism may be raised in order to intimidate independists against pressing their demands and, indeed, fascists have been seen at work already. They never went away in the Spanish state and the system readily creates new ones. Again, resolute defence and militant action by the working and lower middle classes are the greatest defence here. But in any case, the Spanish state is a very different one from that which it was in the 1930s. Raising mass Christian and fascist movements cannot so easily be achieved in this time.

Given the nature and history of the Spanish ruling class and what it stands to lose, hard repression is its most likely reaction. If we accept that this is so, then it would seem obvious that the independist movement should prepare itself, mentally and physically, for this kind of offensive. The problem is that such preparations could be used by the State to accelerate its offensive while at the same time frightening the less resolute leaders of the movement into distancing themselves from the firmer elements or even denouncing them. I cannot say at this point how this conundrum may be resolved, only that I feel that preparation is necessary. At the very least, the Catalan movement would benefit from studying anew its own history and that of other nations in similar situations.12

The emphasis on legality in resistance needs to end if the movement is to face up to the struggle ahead. Legality is a transient thing and what is legal one day can be illegal the next (and vice versa). In addition the Spanish State has demonstrated not only that it writes the laws but also that it is quite capable of breaking them, of perverting them and of giving them bizarre interpretations. The concept of legality needs to be totally replaced by that of justification and in that, the need of the Catalan people to manage their own affairs, along with their decisions and mobilisations are more than justification enough.

Likewise the constant reiteration that the resistance is pacific in nature and must remain so needs to cease and also the statements that by depending on this tactic alone, somehow, mysteriously, the cause will be won. In saying this I do not mean that the moment has arrived when aggressive force needs to be met with defensive force, only that it will arrive and that when it does, the movement needs to be as ready for it as can be and open to as little confusion and division as possible.

Mass mobilisation remains of great importance. There is a need to continue the work of the independist movement in the Parlament and in foreign relations with parties outside Catalonia. But it is not there that victory in essence lies and therefore care must be taken that what happens in that area does not overshadow or hold up the mobilisations of the mass of supporters of independence. Mass demonstrations, local pickets and rallies, festivals and general strikes remain of key importance now and in the phases of the struggle to come. It is in those forms that the people truly feel their strength, rather than in votes and Parlament motions, or even in laws passed, no matter how important all those may be. It is also in action and in reflection on action, that the people learn the most and the fastest the lessons of struggle that they need to learn in order to take power – and to retain it.

Barcelona barricade 1936 (Photo sourced: Internet)

 

 

End.

APPENDIX A: POLITICAL PARTIES BACKGROUND13

The Independists

JuntsxCat, on a popular vote share of 21.66%, returned 34 Deputies from the December 2017 elections. As noted earlier, it is an electoral platform, composed of people from civil society gathered around Carles Puigdemont but the core remains PDeCat (Partit Demòcrata Català), a right-wing neo-liberal party with a record of attacking workers and popular demonstrations. In addition, in CDC (Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya), PDeCat’s previous incarnation, its leader Pujol, was implicated in a corruption scandal, which was one of the reasons for the new name.

ERC gained 32 seats in the December 2017 elections for the Catalan Parlament out of 21.38% of the popular votes cast. A party with a long history, it recently formed a coalition with Catalonia Sí and other smaller groups and independents in order to stand in general elections and in 2012 it won 21 seats in the Catalan Parlament. In addition it has nine Deputies in the Spanish Parliament, the Cortes. A central part of the ERC’s aim is the independence of the Països Catalans from the Spanish and French states and it has representation in the Occitan Left party in Aragon.

CUP formed themselves from a network of social and environmental campaigners into a political platform to stand in General Elections only recently, in order to have a voice in Parlament. At their first General Election outing, in 2012, they gained three Deputies and in the 2015 elections, ten. Although in December 2017 their total fell to 4.46% of the popular vote and four Deputies in the Parlament, an opinion poll of some weeks ago predicted their trebling their number in the next elections. In 2015 the CUP were in a position to refuse to unite with PdeCat in the Parlament for independence under the Presidency of Artur Mas (who had been in office when Catalan police batoned left-wing demonstrators and fired rubber bullets at them, causing a number to lose an eye)14. They agreed to vote for his replacement, Carles Puigdemont, Mayor of Girona.

Both ERC and JuntsxCat have senior figures of their parties in jail and in exile while as yet, the CUP has none (but two are charged).

The Unionists

With 25.35% of the popular vote in the Catalan parliamentary elections of December 2017, Ciudadanos gained 36 Deputies, which makes it the largest single party in the Catalonian Parlament but without an overall majority. It is also the strongest voice against the Independists and claims to represent the “silent majority” of Catalans, many who are, according to Ciudadanos, descended from migrants and are happy to remain within the Spanish state. It is however, despite its unionist allies, outvoted by the total independist bloc.

Ciudadanos is a ten-year-old party which is often described as centre-right but in reality is much more right than centre and is moving further right in the Spanish state to overtake the PP, the largest right-wing party in the state. Though it describes itself as “post-nationalist” it is in fact a Spanish unionist party, makes its public speeches mostly in Spanish and upholds the Spanish state system, laws, symbols etc. In political declarations it tends to be populist.

The PSC, with 17 Deputies in the Catalan Parlament and 13.86% of the popular vote in the December 2017 elections, is the Catalan version of the PSOE, a social-democratic political party which was illegal under Franco, as was the affiliated UGT, one of the two main general trade unions in the Spanish state today. The legalisation of the PSOE and the UGT, along with the Communist Party (PCE) and its then associated trade union, Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) were hugely important steps in the Transición (from Franco to alleged democracy); they accepted — and exhorted their followers to accept – the 1978 Constitution and the imposed Monarchy.

The PSOE was in Government when it was heavily implicated in the running of kidnapping, torture, bombing and assassination squads (GAL and BVE) against the Basque independence movement in the 1980s. The PSOE is, at the time of writing, governing again in the Spanish state, having ousted the PP Government of Rajoy on a June 1st no-confidence motion with the supporting votes of Podemos, Catalan and Basque Deputies.

En Comú – Podem (Catalan version of Podemos but containing various alternative Left elements), took 7.46% of the vote in the December 2017 elections and has 8 Deputies in the Catalan Parlament. Podemos, a Spanish social-democratic party created only in 2014 during a wave of popular revulsion throughout the Spanish state at official corruption, political compliance, bank bailouts and rise in unemployment and household evictions, is the third largest political party in the Spanish Parliament but simultaneously very weak in large areas of the Spanish state; in Catalonia they had no Deputy elected from Girona or Lleida, one in Tarragona and the other seven in Barcelona. Although by its constitution and statements of its leader Pedro Iglesias the party upholds the right to self-determination of nations within the Spanish State, it always argues against it being enacted, proposing instead a Spanish Republic with autonomous regions and nations. For the Spanish Parliament the party has formed an alliance with the CP-trotskyist Izquierda Unida and the green environmentalist coalition of Equo. Although the Catalan party cannot be called “unionist” without qualification, it is generally found in opposition to the independist bloc.

The Partido Popular in Catalonia has fallen from 19 Deputies in 2012 to its lowest ever, with 4.24% of the popular vote and 4 Deputies in December 2017 (and only one Town Mayor in the whole of Catalonia); nevertheless it has been very outspoken against independence and against the measures taken by the independists. For the first time in its history, the party has insufficient Deputies to form its own group within the Parlament.

The Catalan PP is the local version of the Partido Popular, a very right-wing Spanish party organised by Franco supporters after the Dictator’s death. The PP has alternated in power in the Spanish State with the social-democratic PSOE (it was however journalists of the PP-orientated El Mundo daily newspaper which began the exposure of the GAL murder and assassination squads run by the PSOE). There is speculation that the PP will in future be overtaken by Ciudadanos as the main party of the governing Right in the Spanish state, or that Ciudadanos will become part of a right-wing coalition to do so.

APPENDIX B

Video with English subtitles on the 20th September 2017 Spanish police raids on Catalan Government buildings and attempted raid on the CUP’s headquarters in Barcelona, including rapid numerous and militant popular mobilisations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=do5KQV5Qgow&feature=youtu.be

Video of History of Catalonia in 10 minutes with English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5lDYDPg2IA

 

Reference Links

Catalan economy statistics: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/02/catalonia-important-spain-economy-greater-role-size

Rubber bullets used under the Artur Mas JuntxCat Government and then banned under the same Government: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/30/catalonia-police-banned-rubber-bullets (includes video with testimonies of victims)

Catalan National Assemply (ANC) President Alisenda Paluzie interview: https://www.elnacional.cat/en/politics/paluzie-interview-catalan-republic_285975_102.html?utm_campaign=16f3fbb5ad-

Catalan Indpendence Referendum October 2017: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_independence_referendum,_2017

Catalan Govern (“Regional”) elections Dec.2017 and Composition of Catalan Parliament: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_regional_election,_2017

CUP seeking enaction of laws passed by Parlament but barred by Spanish court: https://www.elnacional.cat/en/politics/cup-parliament-rupture-laws_281886_102.html

Catalan Trade unions and Independist industrial action:

3rd October 2017 General Strike: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Catalan_general_strike

8th November 2017 General Strike: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/catalonia-general-strike-catalan-roads-pro-independence-supporters-schools-traffic-jams-a8043596.html

Strains on Spanish unions by Catalan independism: http://progressivespain.com/2018/04/16/catalan-nationalism-divides-spains-labour-movement/#sthash.N9ilrYzU.dpbs

Spanish unionist unions losing members to Catalan independist union: http://www.elmundo.es/cataluna/2018/04/14/5ad0eaa6e5fdea1d088b45c2.html

Spanish unionist unions generally:

Major Spanish trade unions lose over half a million members 2009-2015: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/articles/industrial-relations/spain-huge-decline-in-trade-union-membership-post-crisis

Unemployment statistics for Andalucia: https://countryeconomy.com/labour-force-survey/spain-autonomous-communities/andalusia

Unemployment rate for Extremadura: https://countryeconomy.com/labour-force-survey/spain-autonomous-communities/extremaduraj

 

FOOTNOTES:

1That figure of 17.2% is achieved by putting the figures for the whole state together, areas of high and low before dividing to find the average. Were the unemployment statistics of the better-performing areas such as Catalonia, the southern Basque Country and Madrid removed, the average for the rest of the state would soar. For example, the average for Andalucia, in the south of the state, is given as 24.7%, reaching almost a quarter of the working-age population; for Extremadura, bordering Portugal in the south-west, it is even higher at 25.9% (see Links).

4Sanchez, for the Spanish Government, was quite clear that in moving them he was complying with the law that states that unconvicted prisoners must be detained near their family, friends and legal assistance. In making that announcement, he was attempting to head off expected denunciation from the Right that he was being soft on the Catalan prisoners; that criticism came anyway from Ciudadanos and PP, parties that state ad nauseum the importance of complying with Spanish law. Apart from the revealed fact that the previous Government of the PP was breaking the law in keeping the detainees in Madrid, the overall issue is that as they are unconvicted and surrendered themselves to the Spanish authorities, therefore there is no legally justifiable reason for refusing them bail. And of course they were wrongfully charged as criminals as criminals in the first place for pursuing self-determination, a course for which they had been authorised by a majority of the Catalonian electorate.

6The Basque Country has a number of these of which the main one is LAB, accounting for perhaps 15% of union membership in the southern Basque Country. When joined to the other main Basque but not class union, ELA, their members outnumber the combined membership there of the Spanish unions,UGT and CCOO. Galicia also has a leftwing independist union, the Confederación Sindical Gallega, outnumbering the combined Spanish unions in Galicia in membership and workplace representation.

8 Included measures were: emergency housing and household energy relief; protection against eviction from home; effective gender equality; climate change; universal health care coverage (i.e to include migrants); taxes on large commercial establishments, on stays in tourist establishments, sugared drinks and carbon dioxide emissions; liberalisation regarding cannabis associations.

9This was expressed in a letter proposed in anger by some ANC supporters to Der Spiegel, a German newspaper that had compared the Catalans to the Basques and also in an interview given by Clara Ponseti, of the ANC, Catalan ex-Minister for Education whose extradition is being sought currently by the Spanish State.

10James Connolly (1868-1916), born and raised in the Irish diaspora community of Edinburgh; he became a revolutionary socialist, founder of the Irish Socialist Republican Party and of the Irish Labour Party, trade union organiser, historian, journalist, writer and one of the leaders of the Irish Citizen Army (“the first workers’ army” according to one historian). He led the ICA into insurrection alongside the Irish Volunteers and the Republican women’s and youth organisations and was shot by British firing squad along with the other six Signatories of the Proclamation of Independence.

11Not that the Left is itself immune to fragmentation, by any means!

12 In the latter regard, I’d very much advocate a study of the Irish independence movement from say 1845 to 1923.

13 Most details in this section are taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_independence_referendum,_2017 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalan_regional_election,_2017) but discussed with Catalan independists, who corrected a number of statements on Wikipedia.

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DANGEROUS ILLUSIONS IN A CATALAN INDEPENDIST PART

Diarmuid Breatnach

             Very recently, the pro-Catalan independence on-line periodical VilaWeb interviewed Marta Vilalta, the spokesperson for the ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) party, an important component of the pro-independence majority in the Catalan Parlament. Her replies and statements presumably reflect the thinking in the leadership of the ERC party or, if it should not be unanimous, at least the thinking of the dominant section of the party’s leadership.

Marta Vilalta photographed during interview (Photo by online Catalan newspaper VilaWeb)

ERC has 32 Deputies in the Catalan Parlament (and two Members of the European Parliament). The other components of the Catalan independist majority at the time of writing (June 2018) are JuntsxCat (Together for Catalonia – 34 seats) and CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular — 4 seats). The latter is taking the ‘confidence and supply position’ (i.e they will not vote with the Opposition and will vote to keep the Government in power if necessary).

ERC’s President, Oriol Junqueras, has been in a Madrid jail since the October Referendum, awaiting trial on charges of “Rebellion”. The party’s General Secretary, Marta Rovira, went into exile to avoid a similar fate.

The party, along with JuntsxCat, whose President Carles Puigdemont is also in exile, has faced repression by the Spanish State, as has also the cultural organisation ANC (Asamblea Nacional Catalana), whose President, Jordi Sànchez i Picanyol, is also in the Madrid jail.

The independist parties are to be commended for continuing their stance for independence and for facing up to Spanish State repression. In this, they enjoy the support of the majority of the Catalan population, as evidenced by votes in the December elections and the mobilisations and votes cast in the October Referendum, albeit disrupted by Spanish police raids to confiscate ballot boxes and assault voters and demonstrators.

But how prepared are they for the struggle ahead? How critically do they evaluate their past performance and expectations? How willing to learn from mistakes? The signs are not encouraging.

ILLUSIONS ABOUT THE SPANISH STATE

           “The Spanish State has been capable of everything …. to defeat independence and the Republic project”, Vilalta says in the course of the interview, with what seems to be an air of surprise, meaning one presumes that there was no lengths to which they were not prepared to go to suppress Catalonian independence. If the Spanish state has been capable of everything, one must assume that it will also be “capable of everything” in future, at least in the absence of some limiting factors, which were not mentioned by Vilalta (except perhaps in the context of reactions outside the Spanish state, which we can look at under the heading of “Illusions about other states”).

So this admission of Vilalta should imbue us with confidence that ERC is taking that into tactical and strategic consideration. However, this appears to be far from the reality, based on the insistence of Vilalta that their struggle will be based exclusively on both “peaceful and democratic” means; nor is this only an iteration of Vilalta’s but it has been stated repeatedly by leading figures of the ERC and of the JunstxCat, i.e of the parties with by far the most numerous deputies in the Parlament. We’ll look at this more carefully under the section dealing with Pacificism but for the moment we can reflect that history in general (and the history of the Spanish state in particular) demonstrates that the combatant that relies principally on moral and or legal means must be defeated by the aggressor who relies on force and its tactical application.

“I suppose the Spanish State understands and agrees with the International treaties that it has signed and which are included in the Constitution,” says Vilalta, in reference to the right to self-determination recognised by the Charter of Human Rights of the United Nations. Why does Vilalta suppose that the Spanish State “agrees” with this right? On the contrary, all its actions with regard to the nations incorporated within its state territory show that it fundamentally disagrees with them, at least where applied to itself. In fact, its own Constitution forbids the secession of any part of the State without a majority vote in favour in the Spanish Parliament and further underlines that the Armed Forces are the guarantors of the Constitution!

Of course, it is possible that Vilalta is being somewhat ironic here, or making a statement for its propaganda value. Maybe she only means that the Spanish State should uphold the right to self-determination in the international treaties which it has signed. Let us hope so. But surely it would be more useful to point out that the Spanish State has a record of fundamentally violating most of the human rights to which it has signed up, including some actually stated within its own Constitution? Such an exposure would help in any project of isolating the Spanish state internationally, undermine its propaganda and, crucially, help to prepare the Catalan people and their allies for what the Spanish State may bring against them.

The Spanish State has repeatedly violated not only the human rights to life (for example in running assassination squads against the Basque movement for independence); the right to serve one’s prison sentence in a prison near one’s relatives, children and friends (by deliberately dispersing its political prisoners as far from their homes as possible); the right for terminally and seriously ill prisoners to be released on parole to continue their sentences at home or in hospital (routinely violated in the cases of political prisoners); the right to freedom from torture (routinely used until very recently against political detainees and against some migrant minorities); and the right to upholding one’s language (by originally outlawing the use of Iberian languages other than Castillian and currently banning them from the Spanish Parliament).

Furthermore the Spanish State has a lively record of violating the civil rights of political activity, of assemply, of speech, of publishing, of broadcasting: it has banned Basque demonstrations, cultural and political organisations, radio stations, newspapers and even seized the financial and property assets of organisations; it has jailed Basque and Catalan (and some Spanish) political and cultural activists; jailed and fined rappers and cartoonists and social media posters elsewhere in the Spanish State. It is illegal to “insult” the Spanish King publicly in speech, writing, or other means. Fairly recently the Spanish State created a law which makes it illegal to film police misbehaviour in public, to insult them (i.e denounce what they are doing) or to hold demonstrations in the vecinity of certain state buildings, including Ministries and the Parliament, with very high fines and/ or prison sentences for transgression of any of these prohibitions.

Marta Vilalta, representing Esquerra Republicana, major party of the Catalan independist majority. (Image source: Internet)

PACIFISM

For pacifists, of course, pacifism is a principle. For others, peaceful methods and civil disobedience are tactics, i.e responses to specific issues at a particular time and place, not principles to uphold in all situations on every occasion.

It is a fact that no class has freed itself from domination by peaceful means alone and that similarly, no nation has liberated itself from colonial or imperialist domination without resorting to the use of force. This is not, in a sense, a choice for oppressed people – it is the oppressor itself which uses force and obliges the oppressed, in self-defence, to use force too.

Some recent examples will hopefully suffice to convince the doubtful. The first public actions against the division of Vietnam and the grooming by the French and USA of a puppet regime in the southern part of the nation were largely pacific. Demonstrations were suppressed and activists arrested by the puppet regime. Monks immolated themselves in public. Monks too were suppressed. Anti-imperialist forces within the southern part united in armed action with the Vietnamese state set up in the northern part of the country, which was supported by the People’s Republic of China (the Chinese communist state). Decades of terrible war followed but today the country of Vietnam is united and largely independent of imperialism.

In fact we can observe that all of the states of Europe which were formerly under the domination of another have had to rely on armed force to free themselves from their armed dominators: e.g Austria, Belgium, France (from Nazi Germany), Denmark, Holland (from Spain, France, Nazi Germany), Hungary, Italy (from France and Austria), Norway, Poland (from Russia, Nazi Germany), Switzerland (from the Austro-Hungarian Empire), and indeed the Spanish state itself (from France).

If that were not enough and though it should be, the history of the Spanish State itself shows its reliance on armed force, from the medieval period right up to the 20th Century. The Kingdom of Spain was created firstly by the joint kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, picking up other allies, driving out the Arab kingdoms (and incidentally driving out also Jews, the origin of the Sephardics, along with the Arabs, even their own allies who would not convert to Christianity. The Spanish kingdom became an imperial force outside its own state territory and conquered and plundered territories from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean, the South American sub-continent, Central America and parts of what are now the southern USA. It did the same to parts of Northern Africa and the Philippines. In no circumstance did it refrain from the use of armed force.

In the struggles within the State itself, the ruling class suppressed by armed force the uprisings of the Communeros and many others regionally-based and, crucially, both the First and Second Republics, which had come into being through popular elections. To take the most recent, the ruling class instigated an uprising among its military against the elected Spanish Government, which led to what some call the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), with enormous loss of life and destruction, and the instalation by the victors of a fascist military dictatorship and a monarchy.

Unlike the other fascist states of Europe (with the exception of Portugal and even they had their Carnation Uprising), no purges of former fascist rulers took place within the Spanish State; on the contrary, the heirs of the fascist military leaders, politicians and industrialists continued in the footsteps of their parents and in the luxury of their appropriations.

Under some external and internal pressure, a veneer of democracy was drawn over the State after the death of the dictator Franco and the social-democratic PSOE and the Communist Party of Spain were drawn into an alliance with the existing fascist ruling class1 in what is often called the Transition (i.e to “democracy”). Far from this addition adulterating the fascism of the ruling class, the reverse happened and both political parties colluded in the suppression of movements of resistance both national and of class; the PSOE in government actually ran assassination squads against the Basque independence movement in the 1980s.

Hopefully this short review of Spanish State history has been sufficient to illustrate the readiness of the State to resort to violence against opposition, whether peaceful or not. What then are the prospects of a resistance which will confine itself to peaceful means alone? Its leadership will be killed or imprisoned, as will the cadres of the popular movement, repression will be the order of the day. The militants will be driven underground, dispersed and the movement will lose the initiative, which is fatal for a revolution.

As to the prospects of a comparatively small nation like Catalonia2 in insurrection against a major power and its military resources, we shall address near the end of this article.

INADEQUATE SELF-CRITICISM

With regard to the issue of preparedness for the actions of the Spanish State, Vilalta responds to a question by saying that ERC have carried out self-criticism of their inability to defend the Catalan referendum against Spanish State attack. Such an admission should not shame them nor demoralise their followers and allies (though it sometimes does so, sadly) – on the contrary, an organisation that does not admit its mistakes is unlikely to learn from them and in any case is not going to be honest with its membership and followers.

It is however worrying that a party pursuing an independist and Republican path in the teeth of the historical and well-known opposition of the quasi-fascist and monarchical state, should have been unprepared for the response of that State. Nevertheless, one could draw reassurance from the fact that ERC acknowledge their error and carried out self-criticism. Or at least, that would have been the case were it not for the fact that Vilalta states that “it is very easy to look back with perspective and think that it could have been done in a different way. I do not dare to say what we should have done differently. The decisions taken at that time, in a specific context and with the information that was had, seemed the best.”

Huge Barcelona Demonstration (in green) for self-determination on Catalonian day, Diada 11 Sep2017, three weeks before the Referendum. (Image sourced: Internet)

Whether that can be called “self-criticism” is debatable but it certainly does not qualify as adequate. It amounts to saying “we were wrong but could not have come to any other conclusion and even now I can’t think of what we could have done differently.” Which is almost to say “We are likely to be as mistaken and to prepare as insufficiently in future.”

As discussed earlier, both the history of national struggles in general and the history of the Spanish State in particular should have informed the independist forces of the full range of possible responses of the Spanish State. Those who were unable to anticipate the actions of the Spanish State need to ask themselves a vital question: “Why, despite that accumulation of historical practice, were we unable to count on a police invasion as one of the possible measures of our opponent?” A truthful reply to that question would tell them and us a lot about their limitations but their refusal to even consider the question is more worrying than whatever their current conceptual limitations might be.

ILLUSIONS ABOUT OTHER STATES

In the course of her interview, Vilata commented that “the international situation is key.” She said that in the context of forcing an unwillingtonegotiate Spanish State to, in fact, negotiate. How she sees this happening is not very clear. In this context she also said the following:

The Charter of the United Nations recognizes the right of self-determination of peoples. The Spanish government has had and has the opportunity to discuss and negotiate how other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Scotland, have done. They have opted for repression to the limit and always say no. It is they who have pursued political leaders and freedom of expression. We will continue to defend dialogue and negotiation by asserting that Spain has subscribed to the right of self-determination and confronting violence and repression.”

Leaving aside the fact that Scotland is not truly independent, somehow Vilalta envisages using the treaties referred to above to force the Spanish State to negotiate or to have “it is forced from the outside. This mandate to make it possible to negotiate can come from international spheres.” What does she mean by “international spheres”? She is not specific but in this context mentions the reversals for Spanish extradition warrants, the Catalan Members of the European Parliament (and presumably other friendly MEPs) and the Catalan politicians in exile in European countries, presumably all coordinated by the Council for the Republic, which also gets a mention.

But even in a best case scenario, how is the Spanish state to be “forced”? Economic sanctions? They can only be imposed by individual states or by groups of states, for example the EU. The European Parliament has not seen fit even to condemn in words the repressive actions of the Spanish state and, in fact, the EU President, Junkers, commented that they don’t wish to see “an EU of 99 states”, a clear indication that the independence of Catalonia and other states breaking away is not something the EU would welcome.

And in fact, even without Junker’s comments, that attitude could easily have been predicted. In the case of a successfully independent Catalonia, not only would the Spanish state be vulnerable to similar bids by other nations within its state territory but so would the French and Italian states also. It seems that Vilalta expects the EU to act against the interests of not only its Spanish member state but the interests of two other major European states as well. But why would it do that or, more to the point, why does Vilalta think they will or even might?

Possibly Vilalta envisages some kind of external moral pressure or perhaps “good neighbour advice”. With regard to moral pressure, the Spanish state, both during and after Franco, has shown itself impervious to that. Its practice of torture and impunity for torturers has been criticised regularly by relevant committees of the United Nations and the EU and every year by Amnesty International. None of that has brought about any change.

The European Court of Human Rights has found against the Spanish State on a number of occasions (failure to investigate torture allegations, illegal extension of sentences by retrospective legislation but never on actual torture, which is “difficult to prove”); the Spanish State sometimes appeals the judgement (and loses) but eventually pays the fine, releases the prisoners at their release dates and …. carries on as before.

The major European state response to the PSOE Government’s undercover campaign of terrorism in the northern Basque Country (i.e within the French State) has been to facilitate the extradition of Basque refugees to the Spanish state (sometimes without even bothering with a court appearance).

No doubt the Spanish State has been given “good neighbour” advice from time to time from European states and even by the USA, advised to appear nicer, to be more democratic etc and even advised that it was in the long-term interests of its own ruling class to do. Perhaps the Spanish State responded, with well-known Spanish fascist arrogance, that it knows its own busisness best or perhaps they replied that only an iron grip can keep Spain “Una, Grande y Libre” (United, Great and Free”, i.e non-communist). In either case, neither good neighbour nor critical state has shown an interest in taking any kind of coercive action against the Spanish State and there is no reason to believe that they will do so now.

European states may not wish to soil their hands doing Spain’s dirty work for them by extraditing refugees to Spain on dodgy European Arrest Warrants but that is a long, long was from being willing to act in a coercive way against a major European partner.

It seems almost certain that Vilalta, in discussing “international force” against the Spanish state was referring to action by other European states and traditionally when “the international community” has been invoked in discussions of ‘peace processes’ and sanctions that is generally what is meant. But there is another way of looking at international pressure.

To examine that possibility, we need to ask ourselves: What are the circumstances in which the Spanish State would be unable to send armed forces to suppress Catalan independence or, if it did, that they would be neutralised?

Such a situation could only be envisaged occurring when the State faced insurrections and similar crises in many other parts of the State at the same time as its crisis in Catalonia. And in fact the Spanish state, of all those in the EU, is probably the most vulnerable to such a scenario. Along with Catalonia and the Catalan Countries, there are the nations of Asturias and Galicia (both of Celtic culture) and the four southern Basque provinces.

Within those areas and in all others of the Spanish state, there is a major disaffection with the dominant order. Never have the institutions of banking and politicians been so widely exposed in corruption, never has the Royal Family been so condemned, nor repression by police so exposed. Unemployment is high as is work on short-term or casual contracts, the housing crisis is serious and numerous victims of eviction have publicly comitted taken their lives over the years. Both political parties of the traditional bi-party system (PP and PSOE) have lost prestige and electoral support, so that now each can only govern as a minority party and their decline has allowed the emergence of a two more sizeable parties, Podemos of the Left and Ciudadanos of the Right (without however much hope of a fundamental change from either). Huge demonstrations have taken place across the state and in particular in Madrid. The collusive trade unions of the Comisiones Obreras and the Unión General de Trabajadores have been found wanting and many independent unions have sprung up.

In other words, the prestige of the State has been slipping and its enemies multiplying. But to tap into these currents of disaffection with the Spanish State, the independist forces would need to do more than threaten the State with the independence of Catalonia. It would need to develop a social-economic program that would not only benefit the majority of Catalons but would also serve as an illuminated example to the rest of what is currently the Spanish territory.

Vilalta does talk a little about a socio-economic program emanating from the Catalan Government and local authorities but says next to nothing about its content. Last week a man about to be evicted in Catalonia killed himself and there are many others facing eviction through inability to pay their rents or their mortgage instalments. A solution to that problem would not only bring many doubters in Catalonia over to the side of the Republic but serve also as an example of what could be done elsewhere in the Spanish State. Support for a Spanish military intervention would be severly undermined in such a scenario, both externally and from within the armed forces and the breaking out of many fires across the state would leave the firefighters stretched too thinly to carry out their task.

This scenario could also affect the French state should it consider a military intervention of its own and the Bretons, northern Basques, northern Catalans and Occitans might seize that opportunity to advance their own claims for independence or autonomy.

The problem for ERC with instituting deep socio-economic changes in Catalonia and in appealing to wide national and class disaffection is that, notwithstanding the “Left” in its title, it is a bourgeois or capitalist party and can hardly be expected to cut off its own head just because it will make its legs firmer. And the JuntsXCat is even more so, at its core a liberal capitalist party.

All of which might serve to remind us of the quotation from James Connolly, a revolutionary socialist who also fought for the independence of a small nation – Ireland. Recognising that only the working class was unable to gain some advantage through a compromise with the imperialist and coloniser, he wrote: “Only the Irish working class remain as the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom in Ireland”. If the words “Irish” were to be replaced by “Catalan” and “Ireland” by “Catalonia”, leaving the rest of the statement intact, would it also be true?

End.

FOOTNOTES

1This was necessary for the Spanish fascist ruling class not mainly as partners in the production of the farce of ‘democracy’ but chiefly for their control of the two main non-fascist trade unions then (and still): the Comisiones Obreras of the CPE and the Unión General de Trabajadores of the PSOE, both illegal until that point but also powerful and with a potential for creating industrial and political instability.

2For the sake of convenience, Catalonia is being described here as a nation, although for many, including the ERC party, at least in the past, it is the Paises Catalans (Catalan Countries) which is the Catalan Nation, a territory extending from Pau in the French state through Catalonia to Tarragon, Valencia and the Balearic Islands.

 

APPENDIX

Link for original interview in Catalan:

https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/marta-vilalta-voluntat-de-fer-autonomisme-ni-una-voluntat-de-fer-republica-tota/

My full translation to English of introduction and interview:

Marta Vilalta (Torregrossa, 1984) is the spokeswoman for Esquerra Republicana since March. A journalist by profession and Parliamentary representative since 2015, Vilalta has been a member of the ERC since 2004 and, after handling several responsibilities, has now taken a step forward as a result of the repression suffered by the party, with President Oriol Junqueras in prison, Secretary General, Marta Rovira, exiled and members of the Executive persecuted and prosecuted by Spain for having collaborated in the organization of the 1st October Referendum.

We talked with Vilalta about theCatalan political situation, the Republic, autonomism, the new Government of the Generalitat, the effects of repression and the new road map that ERC must approve in its national conference at the end of June . Young, energetic and smiling, Vilalta takes this new stage as a personal challenge, but with the bitter aftertaste of having had to go through the situation of repression against the party and independence.

– Is it true that you do press conferences prepared not to answer questions? Will you respond to this interview?

– [Laughs] I did not say that! It was a joke in relation to this and Sergi Sabrià [the previous spokesman], speaking to the journalist, said laughingly that he had advised me not to answer the questions. We laughed, but it was included in the interview. I am a journalist and I am empathizing with you, it is about responding well.

-Good! Now that there is ‘effective government’, how is the Republic to be brought about?

-Firstly, getting the Government back has been an important and indispensable step towards achieving the objective, which is the Republic. We advocate that to make the Republic real and to complete it we must be strong at all levels and have all the possible tools. Therefore, this also means recovering the Government and the institutions, being connected with the social mobilization and citizenship, being strong in the international bodies, the city councils and the Parliament. We have to be stronger and stronger, to increase and have an amazingly hegemonic social majority that will allow us to bring into existence the Republic we have decided to have, but unfortunately we have not yet been able to make it effective. But it will happen, we’re sure.

-Let’s talk about the ERC strategy paper, the new roadmap to be approved. A fear has been expressed because a section of the grassroots, such as the Mayor of Montblanc, Josep Andreu, believes that the unilateral path is not given enough importance.

-I think that the debate or the controversy about the strategic presentation has been magnified, I do not know if deliberately or not. It analyzes the situation based on the lessons of recent months. It places us where we are and helps us to define what we do and with what instruments to do it in order to bring about the Republic. That’s why it is called ‘Let Us Create the Republic’. We do not rule out any path, providing it is peaceful and democratic, to arrive there. Yes, it is true that it emphasises the need to be stronger and stronger, to expand support in many sectors that share the anti-repressive struggle but yet do not see the need for the Republic. And it defines the multilateral framework of play because it is a process where many political, judicial, economic, and social agencies intervene … We need to know how to move in all this multiplicity of agencies and to maximize opportunities.

– And the unilateral path?

-The paper does not rule out the unilateral path, we understand it as part of the multilateral framework. Perhaps part of the membership thinks that we have not been explicit enough. We are in the process of making amendments so that all the membership can participate and improve the text. We debate with a wish to reach a consensus and for everyone to feel represented. We are very pleased with the level of participation, with 1,400 amendments. Some 1,100 have been incorporated to be negotiated. This shows a vital strength in the organization and the very participative health of the membership of ERC. One must shine the lights ahead to see the medium term to bring about the Republic and to see what we need to do to achieve it.

-Andreu regretted, however, that there was little participation in the territories (? Trans), and he made a public appeal.

-Yes, the call to participation should be done by all. But I insist, there has been a huge volume of amendments. In 2013, some 300 amendments were presented and now there are 1,400! There have been assemblies in the territories. We hope that on June 30 and July 1 there will also be a lot of participation because the moment requires it. The more participation, the more endorsement of the final paper.

-The CUP accuses the Government of being autonomist.

-We have heard them say this several times, but I do not agree. Whenever we have had the chance to rule, we have done it with a republican call and overtaking autonomy. Interest in autonomy is minimal. Willingness to create a republic, total. This is what the Government of the Generalitat is doing at the moment. The examples of recent days show that there is no intention to go for autonomy nor to drag out the process.

-What examples?

-We need to recover the institutions because we believe that makes us stronger. This is not autonomism, it is to put them into the hands of the citizens and in the service of the country to be able to move forward. With the first government actions alone, both symbolic and effective, it was shown that it was essential to recover the Government. Unlock the money that social agencies had to receive, more than 300 million euros, the reactivation of delegations abroad, the money to recover the quality of TV3 and Catalunya Ràdio, 250 million for social rental … Damn it, they are essential policies! And since they are destined to improve the country, we are sure that they will help us to add more people (to our support — Trans).

-The people who have doubts about independence understand this?

-This is one of the main ideas. From government action and being able to respond to people’s needs and make policies with Republican logic, we can show that with good governance and caring for the citizenship we are able to respond to needs and to improve well-being. We are convinced that this will lead us to make more people see that this is the only way to defend the social, civil and political rights of citizens. This will surely result in an increase of the people who will see that the republican project is the only alternative to guarantee well-being, social justice and equal opportunities. There is no other project that guarantees us all this. It has become clear that in Spain these fundamental rights are not guaranteed and that they have been violated. We have to be capable and must strive to explain all this.

– Will this legislature be a constituent process?

-The intention is that it will be. I cannot say when. We see it as a great space for debate about how we want the country in all its aspects. It also has to serve to reach many people who feel called to participate. In fact, the project of the Catalan Republic is the only one which will ask this of the citizens. The Spanish state will not enact any constituent process. It is only with that that many people can see the opportunity that there is an opportunity for real change and everything that implies. To think and rethink how we want to organize ourselves and how we want our society to be. This will happen, soon; we must ensure maximum participation of the convinced people and of those who feel called to participate. It will help us to add to our numbers and open the project to accumulate forces. It must be a consensual process, with territorial capillary (reach? – Trans) that allows us to know what we want and what goals to have as a country. The constituent process can be one of the tools at our disposal to exceed the limits of the Republican project.

-The conclusions of the citizens’ debate within the territory will be taken to Parliament?

-I do not know the methodology nor what the phases are. To be successful, we will have to agree with all the political, social and economic actors that can participate. Therefore, we will see what steps must be taken. It is obvious that everything that comes out of the constituent process must be channeled institutionally so that it has the effects that we want and so that it does not remain only in a debate.

-Your party has carried out self-criticism of the October events?

-Yes, it’s been done. In any case, it is very easy to look back with perspective and think that it could have been done in a different way. I do not dare to say what we should have done differently. The decisions taken at that time, in a specific context and with the information that was had, seemed the best. Everything was done with the intention of making effective the 1-O (Referendum – Trans) and to be able to vote, after facing the repression and proclaiming and bringing about the Republic. Unfortunately, we could not defend it. Maybe over time we will have more information. In any case, I really appreciate that everything that was done was because at that time it was believed that it was the best way to reach the goal that we all wanted. From now on, I think the most important thing is to learn from lessons. One of the most important is that Spain is willing to anything. We thought they ‘would not be able’, that ‘could not be allowed’, but they were.

-The Spanish state has been capable of everything.

-To defeat independence and the Republic project, it has been capable of dispensing with the rule of law and democracy. This is a very important lesson, because we moved in an ambit of democracy and defence of rights and freedoms, and we continue there. But we have seen the axis upon which Spain moves. We have to be stronger and stronger because it is the only way to face this repressive and strong State. We must continue defending all democratic channels with allies at all levels. Surely we will have a new opportunity. If we keep alive and resisting, we’ll be able to win.

– Do you have any expectation of the new Spanish government? On Thursday, Grande-Marlaska disclaimed the responsibility for bringing the political prisoners closer to home and then Llarena reminded him that this depended on the Ministry of the Interior (of which Grande-Marlaska is Minister — Trans).

– Different things. First of all, to go back a little. We supported the motion of censure (against the PP Government of Rajoy – Trans) because we believe that it was the responsible action to remove the PP and bring down Rajoy. That Government that had repressed us, the leader of repression and corruption …

-The PSOE too.

-Yes, yes. I say that was the responsible action at that time to make that government fall. Not to support the PSOE. That said, obviously, a new scenario opens, but we do not have much expectation of it. We will observe the following steps. On the concrete question of the prisoners, it is shameful what happened on Thursday. The Minister and the Judge passed the ball about the prisoners to one another. It is an aberration, an arbitrariness, that they are detained as hostages, as revenge. And we demand, it is not contradictory, that they bring them to Catalonia. It is a correct action, the law says, that they be as close as possible to families and children. If the Spanish Government had wanted to, it could have already made the decision.

-The other day you commented that any negotiation should start from the first of October. What does this mean?

-We continue defending dialogue and negotiation. If we want a sincere and effective dialogue, we must be able to speak of everything, without renunciations or initial conditions. We should not only talk about concrete demands of economic, social and sectoral policies that have been dragging on for many years, but also about the situation in Catalonia and how we exercise the right of self-determination and make the Catalan Republic real. When we say that we must start from the first of October, let’s talk about it. Conflict must be resolved through the political path, negotiation and dialogue. The 1-O is the founding moment of the Catalan Republic, marks a point of departure in our most recent history.

– Can this be negotiated with Spain?

-I suppose the Spanish State understands and agrees with the International treaties that it has signed and which are included in the Constitution. The Charter of the United Nations recognizes the right of self-determination of peoples. The Spanish government has had and has the opportunity to discuss and negotiate how other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Scotland, have done. They have opted for repression to the limit and always say no. It is they who have pursued political leaders and freedom of expression. We will continue to defend dialogue and negotiation by asserting that Spain has subscribed to the right of self-determination and confronting violence and repression.

– If we want to open a negotiation, the international field will be important. Until now, Spain has refused to accept any mediation offer. Does the Council for the Republic have any role in this regard?

– The international situation is key. When we talk about negotiating with the State, we know that it will not negotiate because it has not given any evidence (of such willingness — Trans). We must force the State to negotiate, or force it so that it is forced from the outside. This mandate to make it possible to negotiate can come from international spheres. The judicial battles of the exiles must also be taken into account. Spain has suffered the first judicial reversals because no European justice recognizes non-existent crimes that are and invented to punish and silence the people of Catalonia. International action must be organized and coordinated. It is clear that the Council for the Republic can be an instrument that helps us to make heard this voice of the demands of Catalonia everywhere and that can help us denounce the violations of rights and repression. We will help the voice that we have in the European Parliament, the exiles, the government delegations that will be reopened … With all these tools we must be able to win.

– Will Marta Rovira be part of the Council for the Republic?

-We will have see how it will be composed. Much has been said about it, but it must be ascertained how the Council is composed by the Republic. Marta Rovira was forced to leave because of this brutal persecution by Spain and will surely play a relevant and important role in the international arena in defense of individual and collective rights and freedoms. We’ll see what role everyone has.

– Does she participate in the internal life of the party?

– She is the General Secretary of Esquerra Republicana and that continues to be the case. She participates in internal meetings and we hope that in the future she will have a more public role. It continues on a daily basis in the way that new technologies permit her.

– In this situation of abnormality and repression, ERC has recovered from having the General Secretary in exile and the President in prison?

-Our organisation has suffered a brutal persecution. They have tried to behead us to weaken, frighten us and make us disappear. In addition to Marta Rovira in exile and Oriol Junqueras in prison, we have many members of the Executives accused and activists persecuted for having done everything possible so that Catalans could vote on 1-O. It was a tough blow, but luckily we are a broad, strong and cohesive organisation. Other people who have been able to take up the duties and responsibilities to continue resisting and persisting, despite the cruelty of the moment.

-The municipal elections will be a good test to measure if the base has been expanded?

-Once polling has taken place we will count and validate the majority in favor of independence and the Republic. Democracy does not frighten us. That is why we know that the Republic will end up winning. The democratic and peaceful way is ours and what we have to use to reach the Republic. In addition to revalidating the majority, we must increase it to show that we are many and that we are multiplying. The independentist movement has grown in recent years, although we still have on the margins many people who have not taken the step but that are in favor of democracy, rights and freedoms.

– Will more than 50% of the votes in the municipal councils involve some change in the political landscape?

-For a start, it places us in a new scenario. Let’s see how the correlation of forces turns out. Surpassing 50% is to pass over one of the important thresholds to validate and certify the majority in favor of independence. We will have to evaluate new steps because we will be stronger and stronger, which is what we want. I cannot specify what will happen, but it would be a very important step to advance, materialize and consolidate the Republic.

– Is it decisive if independentism wins in Barcelona?

– It is very important. But also in other important cities and other capitals, such as Lleida and Tarragona.

-The usual debate has been begun. United lists, separate lists.

-We must be able to compare the projects with everyone in all the elections, whether they are municipal or parliamentary. Confronting all ideas and projects makes us maximize results for all. The elections on December 21 were a test, distinct from September 27. When we present all together as one, it is difficult to widen the base, we are small. When we each present separately, each trying to maximize their results with their project, is when we truly achieve the maximum widening of our perimeter. With the results achieved there will be a need to agree, join and have unity of action to going ahead with the town councils and the policies that are decided. The municipalities must serve so that there are as many republican and independentist city councils as possible. We can make a qualitative leap in many areas, especially in the metropolitan area and the capitals.

-Do you think that you can govern Barcelona without a pro-independence list being the most voted? The last published survey gave a draw between Barcelona in Comú and Citizens.

-If the votes independentist lists are compiled and achieve a majority, we can govern. The Council will end up being controlled by those that who can unite and that are able to agree. So, obviously, yes.

-Will ERC agree with the communes (Catalan version of Podemos – Trans.) and the PSC (Catalan version of the PSOE – Trans.)?

– We do not rule out any option with the objective of being able to guarantee republican, independentist city councils and allowing us to develop the policies to advance. In each case we will have to look at how that turns out. Right now we do not rule it out. But our logic and the priority is to have as many republican city councils as possible for the better. We know that ERC can often be this binding agent, this project that from the centrality of the independentism can unite the most.

-Oriol Junqueras was your teacher. You have a very personal relationship with him. Did you watch the videos from inside Estremera prison?

-I did not want to see them. I have seen some images, but nothing else.

-What did you hear?

-From the little I have seen and what I know, the dignity of these people is clear. The images have been stolen and that is undignified. But their dignity, even though the State holds them as hostages in prison … They are good people. Oriol is one of the best people we know and is kidnapped because he is able to lead, bring together and unite like no one else. With an open mindedness and caring, to be in the company of people and to listen. He and the rest of prisoners are seen as a threat to the State, and that is the reason they are kidnapped.

-Well there is a government in Catalonia, change of Executive in Spain, is there a risk of normalizing the situation of political prisoners?

-We must do everything possible so that it is not normalized. This country will not be normal until all judicialization is ended, until all imprisoned people are on the street or until all exiled people return home. We know that all acts to remember reprisals, lunches and yellow dinners, actions to raise money and report the situation help to ensure it is not normalised. The prisoners tell us not to cry but rather to demand their freedom.

-The situation of the party has led you personally to have to take a step forward. How have you found it?

-It’s a contradictory and bittersweet feeling. Any new responsibility is always accompanied by enthusiasm, but at the same time I have the bitter and sad feeling of having to do it in this context. In addition, it coincided with the second round of imprisonments of Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull. And when Marta Rovira went to exile. Therefore, in a very tough context. But absolutely convinced that we all have to fight and each one contributes the grain of sand and plays the role that falls to us in the anti-repression struggle and which at the same time advances the Republic. This we do, not only myself, but many colleagues, each with the desire to be of use for the project.

END

 

BENETTON SENDS ARMED POLICE IN VIOLENT OPERATION AGAINST MAPUCHE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

Translation by Diarmuid Breatnach
https://www.pagina12.com.ar/93239-en-cushamen-siguen-los-atropellos

Abuses against indigenous people continue in the Cushamen region.

Six months after the repression that led to the death of Santiago Maldonado, members of the (Argentine) Gendarmerie entered the Mapuche community this morning. They tied up several of their members and seized the horses, which were then taken to a van owned by businessman Luciano Benetton. They (the victims – translator) said that the operation was illegal and do not rule out that “planting evidence” was the purpose.

Members of the Mapuche Pu Lof community in Resistencia Cushamen, in Esquel (in Argentina – trans.), denounced that this morning Gendarmerie officers carried out a new raid ordered by Judge Graciela Rodríguez and prosecutor Díaz Meyer after a complaint from the Leleque ranch, owned by Italian magnate Luciano Benetton. According to the members of the community, the occupants were cuffed with plastic ties during the operation and their horses seized, these being taken to a van belonging to the Tierras del Sud (Southern Lands – trans.) company, owned by Benetton. A woman was injured and had to be taken to hospital. Yesterday was six months since the disappearance and death of Santiago Maldonado, victim of the police repression of that same community.


The reports of community members were disseminated through the Communities in Conflict Support Network, reporting that the troops arrived in the community at the first hour of the morning and “kept the members of the community under guard without even letting them go to the bathroom.” They reported that the officers took the horses that they had in the community, which they loaded on to a truck of the company Tierras del Sud, owned by Benetton. After the operation, a woman named Vanesa Millañanco had to be transferred to the hospital in Maitén and the community maintained that her health status is unknown.

“We denounce this new outrage at Pu Lof Resistance Cushamen as totally illegal because it was not supervised by witnesses, that is to say that the repressive forces did what they wanted during the time when they could incriminate members of the community through planting false evidence,” the community statement declared. The community also targetd the Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich, as responsible for a “hunt against the Mapuche people and a truly unscrupulous media defamation campaign.”

Another source: http://www.laizquierdadiario.com/Por-orden-de-Benetton-la-Policia-de-Chubut-volvio-a-invadir-la-Pu-Lof-de-Cushamen?utm_content=bufferb8e48&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

GOVERNMENT OF ARGENTINA CREATES FAKE TERROR ORGANISATION TO ATTACK POPULAR RESISTANCE

Diarmuid Breatnach

Let us suppose that the Minister of Justice of an Irish Government held a conference with representatives of the Gardaí, the Army and the judiciary. As a result of the conference the Government created a strike force and issued a 180-page report in which the main tendency was the need to eliminate an organisation called the Irish Resistance Movement.

The mass media hails this Report and highlights the danger of the IRM.

However, Left and alternative political activists have never heard of this IRM before but we find that a Traveller activist is named as the spokesperson, Irish socialist and republican organizations are listed as belonging to it, in addition to campaigns against homelessness, the Water Charge and some smaller ones for political prisoners, human rights, civil rights etc. Some of the names of independent political activists also appear on the list.

As proof of the existence of the IRM and who belongs to it, the report shows a crowd demanding the exoneration of the Jobstown defendants, which includes a person whom a large force of police later killed in an attack on himself and a few comrades. A number of ongoing trials still not concluded are also added for good measure.

Then, the Report also claims that the “IRM” contains internationalist solidarity organisations in solidarity with the Kurds fighting ISIS and with the Palestinians and is receiving arms training from ETA.

And the “IRM” is linked to a number of demonstrations which have shut down the centre of Dublin in protest against austerity measures, protest occupations of buildings, etc.

L-R: Minister of Security Patricia Bulrich and Mapuche historian and activist Moira Millán (photos: Internet)

What would we think?

We would probably conclude that the Government was preparing the ground for a massive attack on our organisations of resistance and on the right to protest.

If in addition to the publication of the Report, the Traveller’s spokesperson, which the Minister of Justice claims to be a spokesperson for “IRM”, two months ago had a the body of a mutilated vixen left on her doorstep, we might also think that the Government might be setting her up to be killed.

Demonstration in Argentina in protest at arrest and subsequent disappearance of Mapuche solidarity activist Santiago Maldonado on 1st August 2017. (Photo source: Latin American Media)

The preceding is an approximation of what is currently going on in Argentina. On December 29th 2017 Patricia Bulrich, Minister for Security of the Nation of the Cambiemos coalition Government of Argentina held such a conference with provincial security executives and issued a 180-page report on the danger of “RAM” (“Ancestral Mapuche Resistance”). This organisation has never before been heard of but Bulrich claimed in the Report and in a televised press conference that it is coordinating the activity of a huge number of organisations and is creating a great terrorist threat to the State.

“Resistance is not Terrorism! Freedom for all the Mapuche political prisoners”! (Photo of poster from Anarkismo.net)

Linked to “RAM” she gave a long list of organisations including those of original people and resistance in the areas of trade union, community, socialist and anarchist activity. Support for the Kurds was listed as evidence against some anarchist organisations and other organisations were alleged to be funding and publicising “RAM” while the Colombian FARC was alleged to be giving them military training.

Mapuche demonstration Patagonia January 2017 (Photo: Latin America Media)

The “RAM” may be a fake organisation but the State terror threatened is real.

The Minister publicly named Moira Millan, a Native People activist of the Mapuche, as the spokesperson of this “RAM”. This in the context of the recent killing of one Mapuche activist and the disappearance of Mapuche solidarity activist Santiago Maldonado in August 2017, which events led to demonstrations of Mapuche protest.  Santiago was later found dead.

Millán lives in Patagonia, is a mother and in fact a member of two Mapuche organisations: The March of Native Women for Holistic Living and the Pillan Mahuiza Community. She writes and lectures on the history of the Mapuche, organises meetings in particular of Native women, gives traditional cooking classes, and speaks publicly on the rights of the Mapuche people. Millán has never been charged with any illegal let alone armed activity but last October, the mutilated body of a vixen was left on her doorstep. The message is both an insult — vixen in Spanish is “zorra” and is used as a moral and gender insult, particularly by the Right against female Left activists – as well as a death threat, i.e that her body will be next.

Millán’s reaction to the release of the Report and Bulrich’s press conference was quick and scathing:

“Yesterday, while I thanked the children who voted that the library of School No. 8 Luis Bernet of Parque Chacabuco should bear my name, the Minister of Security, Mrs. Patricia Bullrich, mentions me in her absurd and ridiculous report as the main spokesperson for RAM”, she said, adding that “the lady Minister – Bullrich — continues with her delirium tremens, inventing terrorists where there are none”.

“In her fevered dreams she sees herself, hooded, like the Ku Klux Klan, hunting Mapuches, assisted by the insipid and mediocre Governors of the South,” said Millán.

“Lie, lie but something will remain … ‘The lie has short legs’, says the popular saying: Are you coming for me, Mrs. Bullrich? Why are you afraid of us so much?” asked the Mapuche campaigner.

“Here I am, holding my truth as a weapon, and the wisdom of the Mapu as a shield; they have initiated ‘the hunger games’ and you believe that your government will win; make no mistake, we belong to a people that has been invaded, but never defeated”, concluded Millán.

(See further down for a way to take a few minutes to help)

End.

Links:

Video compilation of Bulrich, Millan, oppression, resistance: https://youtu.be/BIgJVa3d1iA

Original article quoting (in Spanish) Millán’s reaction to Bulrich’s statement and report: http://www.infonews.com/nota/312623/persecucion-a-los-mapuche-moira-millan

Guardian report on disappearance of Maldonado: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/06/santiago-maldonado-argentina-election-missing-backpacker

TeleSur video about finding of Maldonado’s body:

YOU WANT TO HELP?

Those who wish to express their concern at this demonisation of resistance, the killing of Santiago Maldonado and to lift the threat of incarceration or death on Moira Millan may wish to write to their local Argentinian Embassy, which is obliged to relate information back from their host countries on attitudes to Argentina.

Embassy of Argentina Dublin: 5 Ailesbury Drive Ballsbridge Dublin 4 Ireland

Phone Numbers in Dublin:
Telephone: (01) 269.1546 – Telephone (Int): +353.1.269.1546

Fax Numbers in Dublin:
Fax: (01) 260.0404 – Fax (Int):: +353.1.260.0404

Email Addresses:

General Email address: eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Consular Section: secon_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Administrative Section: adm_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Commercial Section: comercial_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

Cultural Section: cultural_eirla@mrecic.gov.ar

And Argentinian Ministries:

Minister of Security of the Nation of Argentina is currently blocked (for some reason). The Minister of Justice may be accessed through the Department’s page (see link), then use their email contact system:
http://www.jus.gob.ar/contacto.aspx

Minister of the Interior: info@mininterior.gov.ar

Chief of Ministries: mpena@jefatura.gob.ar

It may also help to outline concerns to the Amnesty International and Frontline Defenders organisations.

 

CATALUNYA AND THE SPANISH STATE — BASIC QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Diarmuid Breatnach

IS CATALUNYA A SEPARATE NATION TO SPAIN?

Yes, it has its own language (Catalan), its own national anthem and its own national cultural customs. Furthermore it has been independent a number of times in its history, as a Republic. And its official autonomous status in the Spanish state even includes the word “national”. Catalan is an official language in Catalunya (along with Castillian — Spanish) and most people there speak Catalan daily.

The Esteladas flying in a Catalan demonstration for Independence.
(Photo source: Internet)

DO NATIONS HAVE THE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION?

Yes, according to most legal authorities and most people’s sense of right and wrong. It is recognised in the UN Charter of Human Rights.

 

IS THERE A LIMIT ON THE RIGHT OF A NATION TO SELF-DETERMINATION – i.e CASES IN WHICH THE RIGHT DOES NOT EXIST OR CAN JUSTIFIABLY BE OVERRULED?

Perhaps. For example, if a nation were somehow to determine to wipe out an ethnic minority, the right to decide to do so and to carry it out can be overidden by the more basic right of the targeted ethnic minority to exist. If one considered South Africa as a nation, it had minority racial government ruling over a majority disenfranchised black population and one could not endorse their right to continue in that way since they were negating the rights of the majority of their state’s population to self-determination.

 

CAN CATALUNYA’S CASE BE ONE OF THE JUSTIFIABLE EXCEPTIONS THAT WOULD NOT ENTITLE IT TO SELF-DETERMINATION?

Not at all. The only claim against her right to self-determination (other than the Spanish state’s claim that it violates the Spanish state’s constitution) is that it is one of the richest regions of the Spanish state and a large one. If that were considered a viable argument against Catalunya’s right, it would mean that no nation which has good natural resources or a successful economy has the right to self-determination and must stay within a union to benefit its invader and coloniser state.

 

HAS CATALUNYA’S RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION BEEN VIOLATED BY THE SPANISH STATE?

Cartoon comment on October 1st referendum by DB

Unquestionably Yes. She has been prevented a number of times by Spanish court legal judgements and by threats of the use of force from carrying out a referendum on the question of independence as a republic. Her attempt to carry out the referendum in spite of all threats was met this month with actual violence (nearly 900 injured people), police invasion of Catalan Government offices and polling booths, seizure of ballot boxes and ballot papers and in a number of areas, aggression against and disrespect for Catalans and their culture.

Furthermore many measures sought by the Catalan Parlament on grounds of increasing rights of migrants, protecting the environment and animal rights, restriction of the legal rights of the banks, have been declared illegal by the Spanish national courts, thereby violating the rights of Catalans to determine for themselves how they shall manage these matters.

 

WAS THE OCTOBER 2017 CATALAN INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM ILLEGAL?

Here we have to ask – by whose law? The Catalan Parlament approved the holding of the referendum by majority. The Government approved and organised it.

According to the constitution of the Spanish State, no part of the State’s territory is permitted to enact independence without the permission of the Spanish Parliament. The Catalans will always be outnumbered in the Spanish Parliament (a similar situation to members elected in Ireland to the Westminster Parliament in Britain from 1801 to 1921; or Scottish MPs from 1707 to the present; Wales was annexed by England 1535 – 1542). They can never expect to gain a majority vote in their favour at Westminster.

By the Constitution a declaration of independence (though not perhaps a referendum on a wish) is illegal.  But when has an occupying state given the right of secession to nations and peoples it occupies?

 

WAS THE SPANISH CONSTITUTION OF 1977 (WHICH THE SPANISH STATE CLAIMS MAKES CATALUNYA REFERENDUM ILLEGAL) APPROVED BY MAJORITY?

In most of the Spanish state, it was.

  • But does that mean that it overrules the right to self-determination of a nation currently within the Spanish state? No, clearly that cannot be.
  • Also, that Constitution was rejected in the Basque region of Euskadi but the Spanish state nevertheless refused it too the right to referendum on the question of Basque independence.
  • In addition, the Constitution was proposed three years after the death of a dictator who had crushed Catalan (and Basque) resistance in 1939, repressed the Catalan (and Basque) language and civil rights for 36 years, with fascists still in power managing the transition to the new form of the State and with the collusion of the leaderships of some crucial former resistance organisations of the people, i.e the Communist Party and the social-democratic Socialist Workers Party, along with their respective trade unions.
  • Self-determination must mean the right to enter into a union or to remain outside it but it must also mean the right to leave a union, nullifying any previous agreements.
  • The Constitution is constructed so that it places many hurdles in the way of any nation seeking to leave the union even in the unlikely event of getting a majority to vote with it in the Spanish Parliament. “Title X of the Constitution establishes that the approval of a new constitution or the approval of any constitutional amendment affecting the Preliminary Title, or Section I of Chapter II of Title I (on Fundamental Rights and Public Liberties) or Title II (on the Crown), the so-called “protected provisions”, are subject to a special process that requires (1) that two-thirds of each House approve the amendment, (2) that elections are called immediately thereafter, (3) that two-thirds of each new House approves the amendment, and (4) that the amendment is approved by the people (i.e the people of the whole Spanish state – DB) in a referendum.” (Wikipedia)

WAS THE RECENT CATALAN REFERENDUM A FAULTLESS TEST OF THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE OF CATALUNYA?

Clearly not – not because participation was limited to 48% of the Catalan population but because the Spanish Government had declared in advance that it would not respect the decision and would prevent the referendum taking place. Also because voters were prevented by Spanish police from entering a number of polling stations and because Spanish police seized many ballots and ballot boxes.

But should the Spanish state be permitted therefore to claim therefore that the votes which were registered and counted are of no avail? Are we to endorse a view that an occupying or colonising state can nullify any nation’s vote for self-determination simply by banning the election or referendum and by disrupting the process? Clearly not.

The Irish uprising in 1798 and in 1803 was not the result of a referendum, nor was that of 1916 nor the War of Independence 1919-1921. Clearly, if we are to uphold the right to self-determination of nations we must support the right of the occupied or colonised nations and to decide their own means of breaking away.

 

ARE THERE CATALANS WHO WANT TO REMAIN WITHIN THE SPANISH STATE?

Clearly there are. As many as there are who wish to break with it? The evidence suggests not. Very recently the media claimed a hundred thousand rallied in Catalunya against independence. But around a million gathered there last month to support the right to hold the referendum, with most of them clearly for independence. Clearly, even if everyone attending a rally against Catalan independence were actual Catalans and had not been bussed in, they are outvoted by those Catalan residents who demonstrated despite threats and who voted despite police violent repression. And if the Spanish state thought the vote would go in favour of remaining in the union, why did they forbid the referendum and disrupt the process?

 

REFERENCES:

Right to Self-Determination: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination

http://opil.ouplaw.com/view/10.1093/law:epil/9780199231690/law-9780199231690-e873

Spanish Constitution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Constitution_of_1978

 

 

 

THE “IRISH SHEEPLE”

Diarmuid Breatnach

When the Irish financial bubble, expanded far beyond capacity, finally burst and the private banks that had caused the crisis were bailed out with public money, the Irish people did not immediately rise up. The big trade unions made some noises, called hundreds of thousands to march, then collapsed. The smaller unions, for the most part, caved in afterwards.

It was not long before the Irish people began to be jeered and insulted – and for the most part, by some people who were themselves Irish. They seemed unaware of a thousand years of militant resistance to foreign occupation and many workers’ battles over decades. The frustration, if that was the cause of their insults (not to say contempt), was understandable. Less so, I pointed out at the time, was their dismissal of the only force that could possibly save us – the Irish people.

“The people?” they jeered. “You mean the SHEEPLE!”

They pointed to massive demonstrations and riots in Greece and in France and to none in Ireland. I commented that all their insults could possibly achieve would be to discourage the Irish people further. The limitations under which the Irish people laboured needed to be understood. There was no large revolutionary party in Ireland to provide leadership. There was not even a militant radical social-democratic party or reformist Communist Party. There were no militant trade unions to provide organisation.  These things existed in Greece and in France.

Our trade unions had twenty years of “social partnership” – i.e they had during that time negotiated agreements nearly always without industrial action in joint committees where the unions, the employers and the State each had representatives. Their fighting muscle had atrophied to the extent it no longer existed. Notwithstanding all their faults, the Greek and French unions had not similarly wasted away their muscle. Our trade union leaderships had settled for a comfortable life, highly paid, building up their memberships and safeguarding their officers and structures, or trying to, neglecting the purpose for which those unions had been created. They were captains of ships in dry dock, shining and varnished, but riddled with worm holes and sails safely furled – they would never take to sea and be tested in any storm.

As time went by, we saw no significant reforms in the French situation as austerity bit there. There was much excitement in Left social-democratic and Trotskyist quarters as the Greeks elected a social-democratic party with a radical program of resistance to austerity measures. The Greeks had been driven to a much worse economic situation than had the Irish – during the winter, many schools had to close as heating could not be supplied. But then the radical Greek party and new Government collapsed under pressure from the EU’s financial commissars.

The people in the Spanish state were marching in their hundreds of thousands under a new party that was not really a party, they said. But it turned out if one did some digging, that it was not such a new party/ non-party after all, as its leadership came from the old reformist Communist Party-Trotskyist alliance, Izquierda Unida. But still …. huge marches and then huge electoral gains (for what was now without question a political party – Podemos).

But the Spanish ruling class, although unable to receive a governing mandate for a single political party, carried on with its austerity program. Evictions continued as did a great many suicides of those evicted or about to be evicted.

IRELAND (THE 26 COUNTIES)

Meanwhile, what about the “Irish Sheeple”? What were they doing?

They too began to march, in small numbers at first, then larger until they choked the capital city’s centre. The media under-reported them, lied about numbers, stopped doing aerial photos that would show the full extent of the masses in protest.

First in line of the resistance movement was the Household Charge. The campaign slogan proposed by independent protesters and small parties and political organisations was “Don’t register, don’t pay.” Despite that tactic, the most effective to defeat the Charge, not being supported by the alternative party with the highest number of elected representatives in the Dáil (Irish Parliament), i.e Sinn Féin and despite no trade union mobilising against it, the ruling class had to concede defeat. But they changed the tax to the Household Charge and made it collectable from people’s salaries at source, changing the law in order to do so.

A section of a Water Charge protest march on the south quays of the Liffey while another section marches on the north quays in August 2015 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Water Charge was next. The people already paid for water supply maintenance through ordinary taxation and, it later emerged, through the diversion of Motor Tax to pay for the water! Nevertheless, a new charge was levied and again, the campaigners asked the people: “Don’t register, don’t pay!” Again, this tactic was not supported by the same alternative political party or the unions, although they all declared that they were, of course, against the Water Charge.

Despite police harassment, violence and arrests, people in local areas began to block the work-gangs installing the water meters. Some arrested activists refused to obey a court injunction intended to paralyse their activities and were sent to jail. A large protest demonstration marched to their jail and they were released. Many trials collapsed and activists, though hampered by many court attendances, walked free. Some others paid their fines and continued their resistance.

March against the Water Charge finishing for rally at Dublin’s Stephens Green in September 2016 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Police attacks on water charge and anti-austerity protesters multiplied and pickets, particularly of women, protested outside Garda stations.

Hundreds of people began to march, then thousands. As the numbers grew, the reformists of political party and trade union climbed on board and the numbers continued to rise to hundreds of thousands. The media were exposed as they grossly underplayed the numbers.

MOORE STREET

Meanwhile, another struggle had been shaping up, between heritage conservationists campaigning to save a valuable piece of the City Centre of huge historical importance from property speculators. Firstly the State was obliged to declare four houses in Moore Street as of historical preservation status (while however the Planning Department of the local authority gave planning permission for a huge “shopping mall” of a number of acres around those houses). Subsequently campaigners prevented the Planning Department from carrying out a land-swap of Council land to facilitate the Speculator.

Then the State had to buy four houses in the historic terrace; at the same time their plans to demolish three other houses in the same terrace were prevented by their occupation by protesters for five days and a subsequent blockade of demolition workers of almost six weeks.

The blockade ended when a case taken by a concerned individual to the High Court resulted in a judgement that the whole quarter is a historical 1916 monument (against which judgement the Minister of Heritage is currently appealing, scheduled for hearing December 2017).

Moore St. historical conservation campaigners in the street itself celebrate High Court judgement shortly after receiving the news on March 18th 2016 after which they ceased the blockade.
(Photo: J.Betson)

During the 1916 State commemorations, the Minister of Heritage’s hypocritical laying of a wreath in Moore Street was met with vociferous denunciation by campaigners on the spot, without any of the protesters being arrested.

JOBSTOWN

Two years before that Moore Street event, a mass protest for had prevented two hours the Minister for Social Protection’s car from leaving a working class area where she had gone to attend a ceremony.

Some supporters of those charged for protesting in Jobstown in show of solidarity outside the Court where they were being tried in March this year.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

“Enough!” cried the ruling class and they argued about what to do, their more revanchist section winning the argument. They were going for maximum legal attack, to teach those protesters a lesson and frighten all others in future.

The offensive against the resistance was planned. Early morning raids, to increase disruption and fear. Mass arrests, including of a juvenile. This latter might have looked like a mistake, as it was obvious he’d attract sympathy — but actually it was cleverly thought out. They put his trial on first – in the Juvenile Court where the judge can get away with more, where access to media was restricted to one representative each of print and audio media and where no members of the public were permitted entry. And they found him guilty, of course they did. They avoided much of sympathy outcry by giving the youth a non-custodial sentence but – and this was the crucial thing – they had found him guilty of “false imprisonment”. They now had a precedent for the eighteen or so awaiting trial in the adult court.

The media mostly colluded, of course in their news coverage of events, trial and in comment.

The trial process began with an attempt to eliminate from the jury those who disagreed with the Water Charge (i.e most ordinary people) and people from the area where the incident had taken place. Then the Minister herself, in the witness box for four days, regularly failing to answer the questions of the Defence lawyers but using the opportunity instead to attack the defendants, without attempt by the Judge to direct her to answer the question and confine herself to doing so. After all, it’s the Prosecution lawyers’ job to draw out the unfavourable comments.

That was followed by two similar days with the Minister’s secretary, who had been in the car with her at Jobstown.

Then police officers, lying through their teeth. This is of course a regular occurrence in the courts but unfortunately for them, they were contradicted by video and audio recording. Somehow, not only one but several Gardaí heard one of the defendants say something which the recording showed he had not.

Finally, all were found not guilty. The next group were to be tried similarly on charges of false imprisonment but also with use of violence. But how could the State find them guilty of kidnapping on the same evidence that a jury had rejected in the case of the first group? Would even the violence charges stick? The ruling class took a decision to cut their losses, avoid a possible second defeat and decided to drop the charges against them too and against another group scheduled for later still.

POLICE CORRUPTION AND COVER-UPS

Meanwhile, independently of all but perhaps distantly affected by the people’s resistance and the anger at the behaviour of the police, two whistle-blowers emerged from among the Gardaí to accuse them of allowing powerful people to escape drunk-driving charges. Then it emerged that people charged with driving offences had been automatically convicted without the option to defend themselves in court. That was followed by revelations that the Gardaí had claimed to have stopped hundreds of drivers for drink-driving tests which they had not in fact done – and the false numbers grew to thousands. And then Gardaí senior officers tried to discredit one of the whistle-blowers by implying he was a paedophile and even enlisting the involvement of a child-protection agency.

Before the conclusion of the Jobstown trials, general elections had been held. The ruling class in the Irish State has not managed to have an overall majority for a single one of its political parties since 1981 — and this election was no exception. However, one of the parties of the ruling class (its favourite actually, since shortly after the creation of the State) now felt the pressure of the people and made non-implementation of the Water Charge a condition of not bringing the minority Government down, to which the parties in governing coalition were obliged to agree.

THREE FORCED TO RESIGN: Alan Shatter, then Minister for Justice, congratulating Nóirín O’Sullivan on her appointment as Deputy Garda Commissioner while Commissioner Martin Callinan looks on. As a result of exposure of alleged attempts to silence Garda whistleblowers and alleged covering up Garda corruption and misdeeds, Shatter and Callinan had to resign in 2014 and O’Sullivan recently. (PIC: MAXWELLS NO REPRO FEE)

As a result of all this (and a number of other less-highly publicised corruption and wrongdoing by Gardaí cases), eventually Allan Shatter, Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the highest-ranking officer in the Gardaí had to resign. Less than three years later, the new Commissioner, similarly implicated but now also in a scandal regarding officers’ financial corruption, had to resign as well.

 

SHEEPLE?

In this period, during which Irish people had been compared to sheep, cursed and denounced by some from the “Left” and compared unfavourably with protesters in Greece, France and Spain (despite the people of those three states having failed to succeed to any significant degree), the Irish people have

  • Totally defeated the Household Tax and obliged the ruling class to change the law and substitute another Tax collectable from income

  • Paralysed the Water Tax (Charge)

  • Exposed the mass media

  • Halted the Government and Dublin City Council’s Planning Department plans to give a historical memory area in the City Centre, prime “development” land, to speculators

  • Prevented the Government demolition of historic buildings in that area by campaigning, occupation of buildings and a blockade, without a single protester being arrested

  • Helped obtain a historic judgement from the High Court that the whole quarter is a historical 1916 Monument

  • Vociferously denounced the Minister of Heritage while she was laying a 1916 wreath at Easter in Moore Street, without a single protester being arrested or prevented from the denunciation

  • Held up the Minister of Social Protection’s car in mass protest for two hours

  • Exposed the police in violence and in corruption

  • Defeated plans to deal a major blow to the right to protest by conviction on kidnapping charges

  • Caused the resignation of a Minister of Justice and two Garda Commissioners inside a period of three years

And all this was achieved by the Irish people without the organisation or leadership of a mass revolutionary or radical political party or a mass militant trade union.

THREE CHEERS FOR THE IRISH SHEEPLE!

JORDAN’S MICHAEL COLLINS FILM CRITICISED

Rebel Breeze introduction to critical videos:

This is an interesting criticism of the Michael Collins historical biopic 1996. Written and directed by Neil Jordan, the film begins with the end of the Irish 1916 Rising, has the longest part focused on the War of Independence (1919-1921) and ends not long after the start of the Civil War (1922-1923). The film starred Liam Neeson as Michael Collins and included others such as Aidan Quinn playing Harry Boland, Alan Rickman as Eamon De Valera, Stephen Rea as Ned Broy, Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan, Gerald Mc Sorley as Cathal Brugha and Brendan Gleeson as Liam Tobin.

The video from Foras Teamhrach presents its criticism using clips from the film while commenting and also comparative clips from other films, which is a useful way of presenting a challenging view. Unfortunately neither the name of the author of the commentary nor of the commentator (possibly the one and same) appeared on the Youtube link, only the company name and the comments function was disabled (perhaps understandably).

Most of the points are well made but there are some omissions which might usefully be added to the criticism.

The GPO surrender scene

The video criticism points out that showing only the GPO makes the Rising look much smaller than it actually was; despite the countermanding order which reduced the forces in Dublin by perhaps as much as two-thirds, the Rising was fought by four major garrisons on the southern and three on the northern side of the Liffey, with other smaller outposts and individual actions. However, the narrator says nothing regarding the historical inaccuracy of portraying the surrender as occurring at the GPO.

In fact, the GPO had been abandoned on the Friday and the Surrender took place on the Saturday, following a decision made in the 1916 Terrace in Moore Street and around 350 insurgents there were the first to surrender following the order. This matters not just from a point of historical accuracy but because there is a struggle (now approaching two decades) to save this area from property speculators and State and Dublin Council Planning Department collusion.

Portrayal of De Valera

One does not have to be a supporter of De Valera’s philosophy and actions to rapidly come to the conclusion that his portrayal in Jordan’s film is so inaccurate as to seem to be someone else. Every person who took up arms in 1916 to fight the British Empire showed courage and those who continued to actively oppose the British occupation during the intense years of the War of Independence showed even more courage in doing so.

Collins, of a much more ebulient character than De Valera, according to witnesses, was more inclined to exhibitions of temper and shouting than was De Valera, whose manner was generally in accordance with his studious appearance – contrary to his behaviour in the Treaty discussion scene of the film. As to another aspect, when we review the record of his actions in preparation for the Rising through to the War of Independence and on through the Civil War and the early years under the Free State, De Valera cannot reasonably be accused of lacking courage. The shivering wreck as which he is portrayed during the Civil War in Jordan’s film runs counter to the historical record.

There is testimony from one or two participants that at a period during his command of Boland’s Mill, De Valera had something of a breakdown. This, if it occurred, could have been as a result of fear or instead of lack of sleep, or of being overwhelmed by responsibility or a number of causes and if this alleged episode is what inspired Jordan’s depiction it was certainly unfair to use it to characterise De Valera at other times. There are many criticisms that can fairly be thrown at De Valera but lack of courage is not one of them.

Portrayal of Cathal Brugha

And likewise with the portrayal of Cathal Brugha. Some of Brugha’s military and political history may help in evaluating the portrayal of this man in Jordan’s film.

One of fourteen children empoverished by the death of their Protestant father, Brugha joined the Gaelic League in 1899 and quickly became fluent, soon changing his name from Charles Burgess to Cathal Brugha. He and Kathleen Kingston, also an Irish language enthusiast, married in 1912 and had six children. Brugha joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in 1913, the year they were formed, he became a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers and led a group of Volunteers to land the arms smuggled into Howth by the Asgard in 1914.

In the Easter Rising of 1916 Brugha was second-in-command at the South Dublin Union under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Rising. Overlooked in the evacuation on Thursday of Easter Week and, being badly wounded, he was unable to leave. Bleeding from 25 wounds (some of which had penetrated arteries) he continued to fire upon the enemy and when Eamonn Ceannt led a group to investigate who was still firing he discovered Brugha singing “God Save Ireland” surrounded by his own blood and with his pistol still in his hands.

Brugha was not expected to survive which may have saved him from the execution parties and he was discharged from hospital in August 1916 as “incurable”. However he recovered in 1917 though left suffering pain and with a permanent limp and preferred to cycle than walk.

Already in 1917 from his hospital bed, Brugha began to seek out Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army people who were willing to join the new armed resistance group and it seems that he, more than any other, should receive the main credit for the initial formation of that which became the IRA.

Brugha was so respected in the movement that he was elected speaker of Dáil Éireann at its first meeting on 21 January 1919 and it was he who read out the Declaration of Independence in Irish, which ratified ‘the establishment of the Irish Republic’. He was also appointed temporary President, a position in which he remained until de Valera tok his place.

Far from being a bloodthirsty zealot as he is portrayed in the film, Brugha reduced Collins’ ‘Bloody Sunday’ assassination list considerably since in his opinion, there was insufficient evidence against a number of people named on the list. Then again, at the outbreak of the Civil War, a reluctant Brugha only joined the fighting on the Republican (Anti-Treaty) side in order to relieve the pressure on the Four Courts garrison. Cathal Brugha led a detachment in occupying a number of buildings in O’Connell Street and later, having got his men safely away or surrendered, was shot and mortally wounded in debated circumstances by Free State troops (which were under the overall command of Collins).

Brugha had, according to some opinions, alienated a section of waverers at the Dáil debates on the Treaty, by a personal attack on Collins and the way his persona had been elevated (a common problem, the deification of leaders). This was no doubt a tactical mistake but there had been ongoing conflict between both men for some time. Although both had been members, Brugha had left the IRB after 1916 in the belief that their conflict with the Volunteer leadership had damaged the Rising. Collins’ rank in the organisation was supreme in Ireland and it seems that Collins used this at times to circumvent or undermine decisions of the Dáil, where Brugha outranked Collins and which the former believed to be the repository of democratic decision-making.

Collins as a guerrilla war leader

All Collins’ many talents and contributions to the War of Independence aside, his representation in the film as not only directing the whole armed struggle but also as teaching rural people how to wage a guerrilla war is a complete distortion of history that could only be undertaken by a propagandist for Collins.

It was Brugha who began to pull the scattered elements of the armed struggle together and laid the foundations for what became the IRA. It was Robinson, Breen, Tracey and Hogan who began the armed resistance of the War of Independence in Tipperary on 21 January 1919 in which two paramilitary policemen were killed. And they did so without permission from GHQ in Dublin.

As to rural guerrilla tactics, these were such as had been used for centuries or developed in the struggle and were certainly not taught by Dublin. What was taught by instructors sent by Dublin was weapon use and maintenance and personnel disposition for ambushes, moving in extended order through countryside and securing a line of retreat. One of the chief instructors in this kind of instruction was Ernie O’Malley and, in West Cork, the young Tom Barry used his British Army experience and other learning to do the same. The order to create Flying Columns might have come from Dublin but had been advocated already by fighters in Cork, Kerry and Tipperary and it was they and others who developed them in the field.

Collins’ special contribution was in organising intelligence, counter-intelligence and the assassination squad (which turned out to be a double-edged sword) and also, to an extent, supply of weapons. His contribution was notable but it did not lie in initial organising of guerrilla war, much less in rural guerrilla instruction.

The role of women in the struggle

Women are underrepresented in this narrative, as is usual in Irish history and Republican and nationalist narrative. Where women are shown, apart from the brief appearance of Markievicz at the non-existent GPO surrender (when instead she was at the College of Surgeons!), they are objects of romance (Kittie Kiernan) or auxilliaries working for Collins’ intelligence department.

There was a great opportunity lost there to show the women in action during the Rising in the many roles they undertook, including firing weapons, or in keeping the flame lit after the Rising and in particular in commemorating the Rising a year later, organising demonstrations, pickets, and funerals.

The Croke Park Bloody Sunday massacre scene

The film shows the ‘Tans or Auxies shooting down people with machine-gun on the GAA ground. As far as we have been able to establish it was the RIC who did it, although of course the other two were auxilliary forces of the RIC. Thankfully they did not fire with a machine-gun (the Army had one outside the grounds and an armoured car, it seems but did not open fire) or the carnage would have been a lot worse. When one examines the casualty list of those shot, just like more modern British massacres in Derry and Belfast, it is clear that the shooting was mostly disciplined, i.e hitting males of military age. Showing that kind of scenario would in the last analysis not only be more historically accurate but also more telling of the intent and cold-bloodedness.

And what of the three tortured and murdered in the Castle that day, Peadar Clancy, Dick McKee and Conor Clune? Yes, we know, one can’t show everything.

Go raibh maith agat to the individual who sent the video links to this blog.

LINKS:

The critique video, Parts 1 & 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zor3VvE9vD8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbGWEZehuFI

Another view, not quite so critical: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/michael-collins-review-nowhere-near-as-historically-inaccurate-as-we-once-supposed-1.2576150