Youth and workers in Catalonia marching against Francoist repression, photo Rob MacDonald

Youth and workers in Catalonia marching against Francoist repression, photo Rob MacDonald   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The arrest of exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has reignited the Catalan independence struggle.

His arrest in Germany was on charges of ‘sedition and rebellion’ under a warrant issued by the Spanish state at the behest of right-wing People’s Party (PP) prime minister, Mariano Rajoy.

This provoked renewed mass protests on the streets of Barcelona, which were subjected to police attacks.

Puigdemont’s arrest – along with the detentions of other former Catalan officials in exile elsewhere in Europe, together with those jailed former ministers – shows the continuing repression by the Spanish state of those in Catalonia seeking self-determination.

This repression was evident before and since the 1 October 2017 referendum and subsequent Catalonia elections on 21 December 2017, both of which returned majorities for independence.

The Socialist Party’s sister section in the Spanish state stands four-square for a socialist independent Catalonia and against the reactionary Francoist constitution of 1978 which denies national self-determination.

Below are excerpts from a statement issued by Esquerra Revolucionària (CWI in Catalonia) on the latest developments.

  • Free the political prisoners!
  • For a Catalan republic of the workers and youth!

The authoritarian ‘regime of 1978’ (term used to describe the post-General Franco ‘democratic’ regime in Spain), its state apparatus and the parties which support it (the PP, Ciudadanos, and the Psoe leadership) have carried out a new coup against democratic rights and freedoms in Catalonia.

They have unleashed a repressive avalanche against the Catalan independence movement, reminiscent of that which the Franco dictatorship carried out against the “Republic and communism”.

They have eliminated Catalan autonomy, arrested Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and are charging 25 pro-independence leaders, many who have already been jailed without trial or bail.

There is no doubt that the monarchist, Spanish nationalist bloc in power refuses to accept the results of the Catalan elections of 21 December and is willing to crush, at any cost, the pro-republic aspirations of the Catalan people. Catalonia is living under a Francoist state of emergency.

In response, a general strike must be called by the trade union movement and political left now to demand the immediate freedom of the political prisoners, the end of article 155 (suspending Catalan autonomy) and for a Catalan republic.

The workers and youth in the rest of the Spanish state also have a duty to support the Catalan people, uniting all our forces to bring down the Rajoy government.


The youth and working class of Catalonia have reacted with great energy to the provocations of the state and Judge Llarena (who is presiding over the case against the Catalan government leaders).

Immediately after the news of the imprisonment of Jodri Turull (the latest candidate proposed for the presidency of Catalonia) and others, hundreds of thousands of people went onto the streets following the call of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic (CDRs).

Despite the violence of the Mossos (Catalan police) who indiscriminately attacked the crowds, the demonstrators acted in an exemplary manner.

The slogans “free political prisoners!” and “general strike now!” rang out with irresistible passion.

It is clear that the PP government and state apparatus have decided to plough ahead with repressive measures, trying to definitively muzzle an entire people.

Rajoy, under intense pressure from the mass protests in defence of pensions and the massive feminist strike on 8 March, is struggling more and more to control the discontent which threatens to turn into a new social explosion.

Moreover, with opinion polls predicting the worst possible outcome for the PP, he is prepared to resist at any cost the pressure from the PP’s conservative rival Ciudadanos and its president, Albert Rivera.

His way of trying to avoid this pressure and recover electoral support is to deal new blows to the Catalan people, and play the Spanish-nationalist card to the full. However, this strategy can blow up in his face.

This judicial repression began with the state attorney general filing a complaint on 30 October. This characterised the 1 October referendum and the general strike which paralysed Catalonia on 3 October as a “violent uprising”, in order to justify bringing charges of “sedition and rebellion”. In one fell swoop, the popular sovereignty of the Catalan people was supressed.

Who was it that used arms and exercised violence in Catalonia? We all know the answer: the regime of 1978, its government and state, which sent over 10,000 police and military police to savagely beat the millions of people who peacefully exercised the right to vote.

This offensive is not only directed against Catalonia. The attacks on democratic rights and freedom of speech have also been extended to the rest of the Spanish state.

Meanwhile, fascist violence, violence against women – which has murdered hundreds, and the corruption of the PP and other establishment parties – has gone unpunished.

The leaders of CCOO and UGT (the two major trade unions) in Catalonia and throughout the Spanish state, by refusing to organise mobilisations to stop this authoritarian offensive, have given precious oxygen to the PP government and in practice endorsed the application of article 155.

Among the Catalan working class and in the rest of the state, there is a healthy and correct instinct that nothing good can come from the hand of the PP.

However, the current Spanish-nationalist campaign has managed to generate confusion. First of all because the leaders of Psoe have participated in it, without exception, as well as many who in the past called themselves “communists”.

They include Paco Frutos the former general secretary of the Communist Party who has now become a pathetic Spanish-nationalist agitator.

The leadership of Izquierda Unida (IU – United Left) and Podemos (left populist party) have also defended a wrong position, which has fed the confusion and given space to the right wing.

Alberto Garzon (IU leader) has scandalously refused to recognise the existence of political prisoners, and referred to the mass movement as a “manoeuvre” by economic elites, precisely at the time when the Catalan capitalist class had joined hands with the Spanish bourgeoisie to crush the movement. Garzon’s has been the antithesis of a revolutionary Marxist position.

Pablo Iglesias (Podemos leader) also refused to lead the movement for self-determination and the Catalan republic.

He blamed the Catalan people and their struggle for “waking up the spirit of fascism” and keeps insisting that there must be a deal with the state and PP to agree a “referendum”.

Does Iglesias not realise that the current offensive by the state in itself represents a clear refusal to dialogue?

The leadership of Unidos Podemos (electoral alliance between Podemos and IU) must make a 180 degree turn and end the policy of abstaining in this battle.

Inviting aggression

It’s no accident that these attacks take place following months when the leaders of the ERC and Junts per Catalunya (main pro-independence political groups) have suspended the struggle in the streets and focused on ‘building bridges’ with the PP and Spanish state.

After they defeated the reactionary bloc in the 21 December elections, millions of people hoped they would present a clear plan to take Catalonia towards a republic, based on social mobilisation.

Instead, the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois politicians who lead these parties merely insisted that the proclamation of the Catalan republic was only “symbolic”, that they accepted article 155, and that they should not provoke the state – all in the name of “recuperating the institutions”.

In the class struggle, weakness always invites aggression. The Spanish and Catalan ruling classes are very conscious that what has taken place in Catalonia is a real revolutionary crisis.

So they tried to shut it down via courts and jailings, as well as calling the December elections to try to win a majority.

But the will and determination of the Catalan people are frustrating their plans. Instead they now turn back towards more brutal repression against the leaders of the independence movement.

They are going all out to crush the movement and send a message to the workers and youth of the rest of the Spanish state. But they have gone too far.

On the evening of 25 March, after hearing hundreds of thousands shouting for a general strike on the streets, the president of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent, called for the formation of a united front in defence of democracy.

He announced plans to speak with all the pro-independence parties, the left parties and the unions to plan a strong united response.

It is clear that, beyond his words, the call of Torrent, as well as the statements by the ERC leaders, have the objective of forming a new Catalan government to ‘stabilise’ the situation and end the struggle in the streets.

It is time for the motor of the movement for the national liberation of Catalonia – the masses in struggle, the youth and most advanced sections of the workers’ movement – to take the leadership of the movement.

Of course we must build a united front in the CDRs, the CUP, the militant base of the ANC and Omnium (mass pro-independence campaigns), Catalunya en Comú (Catalan alliance of Podemos, IU and others) and of the entire fighting trade union movement, left organisations and social movements, to immediately call a 24-hour general strike in Catalonia, accompanied by mass mobilisations.

This general strike should unite all those in struggle against the PP government, from the movements of the feminists and pensioners to that of the students.

It should demand the freedom of the political prisoners, the ending of all court proceedings and article 155, and the fall of the Rajoy government.

A general strike should demand that CCOO and UGT, and Unidos Podemos support it in all parts of the Spanish state, organising mobilisations in support of the Catalan people and against the anti-democratic shift we are seeing in general.

Obviously, a general strike will be a decisive step. But afterwards the struggle will have to be extended, broadened and continued with new strikes and mobilisations until repression is defeated, the prisoners are freed, and all democratic rights of Catalonia are restored, including the implementation of the democratic decision of the Catalan people in favour of a republic.

Working class

Izquierda Revolucionaria also insists that the national liberation movement has a duty to win over the powerful Catalan working class as a whole, including those Spanish-speaking workers from outside of Catalonia.

The immense majority of these workers reject the corruption and cuts of the PP, and thousands joined the mobilisations on 1 and 3 October against repression.

However, many of them still look upon the independence ‘process’ with distrust because of the role played by the bourgeois leaders of PDeCat (right-wing nationalists) and the policies of cuts and privatisation which both they and ERC implemented in the Catalan government.

These sections of the Catalan working class can be won to the cause of a Catalan republic and play a decisive role in the struggle against the right and article 155.

However, for this to take place, they must see that this is a fight for a workers’ republic, not one of bosses and the Catalan oligarchy.

If the struggle for a republic is combined with a programme of demands which gives a response to the concrete problems millions of us suffer every day and which breaks with the logic of capitalism and ensures labour and social rights and the future of youth, then we can neutralise Spanish-nationalist demagogy and defeat the fear campaign. This is the path to victory.