Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 2 October 2019

Catalonia independence movement two years on

The verdict of 12 Catalan nationalist leaders on charges arising from the failed independence struggle in 2017 is expected soon. Nine have been charged with rebellion, which can result in 25 years in prison. These charges are designed to warn and intimidate the Catalan masses against further action for self-determination.
Tony Saunois, secretary of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), draws out the vital lessons of this struggle.
Catalonia's general strike in defence on the independence vote, 3.10.17, photo Robert Bonet/CC

Catalonia's general strike in defence on the independence vote, 3.10.17, photo Robert Bonet/CC   (Click to enlarge)

1 October 2019 marked the second anniversary of the independence referendum called by the Catalan government. The referendum followed an upsurge in the demand for independence for Catalonia fuelled by the repressive, neoliberal Partido Popular (PP) government of Rajoy.

The PP government adopted brutal repression, reminiscent of the Franco era dictatorship, to try and intimidate and crush this movement.

The struggle saw a mass movement of millions, including powerful revolutionary elements. Mass protests of workers and the middle class; strikes, and the building of local community committees of struggle, (Committees for the Defence of the Republic) and splits within the state apparatus took place.

On Catalonia national day - Diada - 11 September, an estimated 1.8 million took to the streets in Barcelona in support of independence. Thousands were injured as the Spanish state machine deployed brutally repressive forces, shut down the internet and seized ballot boxes.

On 27 October the Catalan parliament declared independence. The Spanish state dismissed Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and the parliament, imposed direct rule, and arrested some Catalan nationalist political leaders on charges of sedition and rebellion. Puigdemont and some other leaders went into self-imposed exile.


Despite the determination and willingness to struggle by the Catalan masses, the movement suffered a defeat. The capitalist nationalist leaders like Puigdemont were incapable of leading the struggle for independence to a successful conclusion.

To secure a victory for an independent Catalonia it would have been necessary to link up the struggle with a programme for a socialist Republic.

This could have appealed to those sections of workers and immigrants in Catalonia who opposed the independence movement and had suffered the austerity and cuts which the capitalist Catalan nationalist leaders like Puigdemont and his party, PdeCat (Catalan European Democratic Party), had carried out. These capitalist leaders could not conduct a struggle against the capitalist class in the rest of the Spanish state which would never accept an independent Catalonia.

An independent socialist Catalonia, would guarantee all language and cultural rights for those from other parts of the Spanish state and other countries who live in Catalonia.

A struggle for a socialist Catalonia could have united the working class of Catalonia and appealed to the working class throughout the rest of the Spanish state to join together in a fight against the reactionary PP government.

It could have appealed to the workers in the rest of the Spanish state, Portugal and throughout the European Union to join together to form a voluntary, democratic socialist confederation.

The independence movement was also betrayed by the social-democratic Psoe, (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party) and the 'anti-establishment' left party Podemos ('We can'), led by Pablo Iglesias, which also opposed the struggle for independence.

Since the defeat of this movement the determination of the Spanish ruling class to refuse to accept an independent Catalonia has been demonstrated by continued repression. This is despite a change of government - now a minority government led by Pedro Sanchez of Psoe.

For example, in the run up to sentencing the Catalan nationalist leaders, on 10 October, the police have 'discovered' a 'terrorist group' which was allegedly planning attacks in Barcelona.

All of those arrested are members of the Committee for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) which has previously defended and organised peaceful civil protest actions.

Very conveniently this terrorist plot has been discovered as sentencing is about to be passed. For the charge of "rebellion" to be proven, links to violent or terrorist activity is necessary.

Current perspectives

The defeat of the movement in Catalonia has opened up new divisions within the nationalist movement. There is widespread criticism of PdeCat, now led by Catalan President Joaquim Torra, The leaders of the ERC (Republican Left of Catalonia) and JxCat ('Together for Catalonia') pour cold water on the movement, arguing that the independence struggle cannot be won yet and sowing the illusion that it is possible to negotiate an agreement with Psoe.

Pedro Sanchez and his ministers have made clear their pro-capitalist policies despite some cosmetic window dressing. They will accept the demands of the EU for further cuts of 15 billion in the next two years and a 'reform' of the public pensions system.

Sanchez has not made clear he will repeal the attacks made by the PP on labour rights or education. The cosmetic presentation of a 'new', 'modern' government with a majority of women and for the first time in Spain a gay Minister, did not mean policies and a programme that will challenge capitalism and defend the interests of the working class.

In the April election the right-wing were massively defeated in Catalonia. The main beneficiaries were the ERC, a party of the urban middle class, which has now won some support among the working class.

Yet this party has propped up previous pro-capitalist Catalan governments which have carried through cuts and attacks on the working class. The ERC offers no alternative for the working class.

Illustrating how far Podemos and Pablo Iglesias have moved to the right, they proposed a coalition with Psoe and demanded to enter the government with ministerial positions.

Sanchez rejected this proposal. Not because he or Spanish capitalism fear Iglesias but because this coalition may arouse expectations in the working class to demand reforms and concessions from the government.

Fresh elections have now been called for November. The horse-trading between the parties in Spain and inability to form a government reflect, as in other European countries, the polarisation and need for a bold socialist alternative which Podemos has failed to offer.

Today, there is a certain ebb in the movement demanding Catalan independence following the defeat of the independence referendum campaign. This was reflected in the much smaller attendance at the Diada in 2019 of approximately half a million.

However, this can change rapidly especially if harsh sentences are dished out to the nationalist leaders.

It is necessary to draw the lessons of this movement in Catalonia and the struggles of the working class and youth throughout the Spanish state - ie the need to build a party of the working class in Catalonia and throughout the Spanish state that will fight to break with capitalism.

Such a party's programme would include: the release of all political prisoners and dropping of all charges; for the right of self- determination for the Catalan, Basque and all peoples; for an independent socialist Catalonia; no to austerity programmes; repeal all anti-labour laws; for the unity of the working class of the whole Spanish state in a struggle against capitalism for a socialist alternative.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 2 October 2019:

What we think

Capitalist elite split - fight for a government in the interests of the working class

40 years on: Mandatory reselection more vital for Labour than ever


Is a workers' Brexit deal possible?

Fresher's fairs

Freshers fairs 2019: Students impatient for change and determined to fight


Battered Boris must go... and all the Tories with him!

Nationalisation only way to safeguard jobs and skills at Wrightbus

Labour's mass social housing pledge


Workplace news

Royal Mail dispute: Workers determined to fight bosses' injustices

PCS general secretary election - Support Marion Lloyd

Bromley libraries strikers proved right

Hull: Construction workers' walkout forces employer to back down

Crown Paints dispute - union senior steward speaks out

End low pay - support Salford Royal security workers' action

Karro Foods victory Hull

International socialist news and analysis

Catalonia independence movement two years on

Egypt: Street protests challenge Trump's favourite dictator

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Socialism 2019: An unmissable event

Now is the moment to join the Socialist Party

Financing socialist struggle

Reader's opinion

The Socialist inbox

Active and strong member of Socialist Party reaches 80


Home   |   The Socialist 2 October 2019   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleCatalonia: Draconian prison sentences of independence leaders provokes mass protests and strikes

triangleCatalonia: Mass protests against punitive political jailings

triangleSpanish elections - new upheavals underline need for a revolutionary socialist alternative

triangleSpanish state: social polarisation and budget defeat force snap election

triangleFor a Catalan republic of workers and the people


triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: Is Wales heading for independence?

triangleSwansea Socialist Party: Should socialists support Welsh independence?

triangleSouthern region Socialist Party: Scottish independence and the struggle for socialism

triangleTories sinking in Wales but no enthusiasm for Welsh Labour


triangle"We need a leadership that comes from the movement"

triangleBelarus: Mass opposition continues to defy repression by Lukashenko's regime

triangleEast London Socialist Party: TUC 2020 - The state of the unions


triangleNigeria protests shake regime

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Spanish state:

triangleSpanish state: Historic 8 March action


triangleCatalonia: 'Diada' 2018 an immense show of strength for republic

European Union:

triangleLib Dems: little bosses' party elects eager pro-austerity leader


triangleFood and a capitalist Brexit: No trust in Tory Deals!


triangleMembers of Democratic Socialist Movement in Nigeria (a sister organisation of the Socialist Party in England/Wales) on the streets in Abuja during the current protests


triangleOver one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education





Nigeria protests shake regime



Bolivia elections: Crushing defeat for the right as MAS secures landslide victory



"We need a leadership that comes from the movement"



US presidential election



Greek workers and socialists celebrate convictions of Golden Dawn fascists



Nigeria: Mass protests force government to disband killer cop unit



'Frozen conflict' reignites in Nagorno-Karabakh enclave



Germany: "Heroes" strike to demand a pay rise



Trump's failure over western US wildfires



US: Police escape justice over Breonna Taylor killing


South Africa

South Africa: Working class unity to stop violence against women



Still crawling at 60: Capitalism has failed Nigeria



Thailand: Youth rising against hated junta



Egypt: Support for al-Sisi dwindles as his regime increases repression



Nigerian police repress peaceful anti-government protest

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020