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Millions on streets for Catalan independence
Rob MacDonald, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI Spain)
On 11 September an estimated 1.8 million people took to the streets of Barcelona in the annual demonstration for Catalan independence. The mobilisation, stretching at least 11km, formed a massive 'V' down Barcelona's two main roads, symbolising the right to vote on the question of independence from Spain - 80% want such a vote.
A cross-section of society took part in the sea of red and yellow - the colours of Catalonia. Despite the official leaders of the protest attempting to confine the demonstration to strictly national demands, many people wore anti-cuts t-shirts. Socialismo Revolutionario intervened with 'La Brexta', a Catalan language version of our paper.
The Catalan government has announced a referendum for 9 November. But it is likely that the governing right wing PP party and the Constitutional Court will block it by legal challenges. The Rajoy government have one eye on the referendum in Scotland and will do anything to avoid such a vote taking place in Catalonia.
The CIU, the governing capitalist party in Catalonia, appears split on the question. All seem to agree that the "rule of law" cannot be broken, which is preparing the ground for accepting the Court ruling banning the referendum.
The ERC (Republican Left, a social democratic, pro-independence party which is leading in the polls) are calling for an illegal vote. But while calling abstractly for "civil disobedience", the ERC gives no clear indication of how this would be organised or what it would look like. They have ruled out mobilising the working class in a meaningful way.
The truth is that while demands from workers for a referendum increase, the ability of the Catalan capitalist parties to deliver is being reduced. It is critical that the leadership of the independence movement is not left in the hands of these people.
Only the mobilisation of the working class and people of Catalonia can force the hand of the Spanish state and allow a genuine referendum to take place. For example, a united call for a general strike in Catalonia in defiance of the ruling of the Constitutional Court would get a tremendous response.
Such a movement also requires unity to be forged with the working class in struggle throughout the Spanish state, also suffering the impact of the PP's austerity policies.
Whether or not the referendum takes place, legal or not, the question of what type of Catalonia the people want should be at the top of the agenda.
A Catalonia led by the CIU/ERC will not be much different from one led by PP or the pro-capitalist social democrats PSOE. The struggle for independence must be linked with the struggle to end austerity, to end capitalism and to radically improve the living conditions of all Catalans and peoples across Europe.
Across the Spanish state, the working class is drawing radical conclusion as to the nature of the capitalist crises. The growth of IU (United Left), CUP (left nationalists in Catalonia) and Podemos (new party which evolved out of the 2011 Indignados movement) is a sign of this.
In Barcelona, it is likely there will be some sort of united left electoral challenge called "Guanyem" ('we win'), based around Ada Colau, the leader of the anti-evictions movement. This is a positive development.
We need a programme that argues for non-payment of the public debt to the financiers, the ending of all austerity measures, for investment in public services based on needs, for the right of self-determination, and the nationalisation of the banks and key sectors of the economy, under workers' control and management.
With a programme such as this, working people in a socialist Catalonia can voluntarily link up with workers across the Spanish state in a socialist confederation, and also with workers in countries like Greece and Portugal, fighting for an alternative socialist Europe for the mass of people and not the capitalist elite.
This is the best way to win independence and avoid the division of the workers of Europe and Spain.
In The Socialist 24 September 2014:
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