Revolution or War n°9

(Biannual - February 2018)

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Catalan Elections of December 21st 2017

We publish below the statement of the group in Spain Nuevo Curso ( after the elections to the Catalan Parliament. Their result has renewed the political configuration that the Madrid government wanted to “decapitate” (in the words of the vice-president of the government) through the dissolution of the former Catalanist Parliament and government. Despite the unprecedented participation, 82%, which was to mobilize those opposed to independence, the “non-Catalans” living for the most part in the main Catalan cities, the “independence” bloc got 47% of the votes and the parliamentary majority. The other landmark of these elections has a national value : it is the electoral success of the Catalan branch of the new party Ciudadanos, rigth-wing and fiercely anti-independence, and the total collapse of the Partido Popular of Mariano Rajoy in power in Madrid, which received only 4% of the vote. The Catalan question reveals blatantly the inadequacy of the political apparatus and even of the Monarchist Constitution stemming from the Franco regime in the face of the new challenges with which the Spanish bourgeoisie, like its European counterparts, is confronted today. And the success of Ciudadanos to the detriment of the PP in Catalonia shows the path that more and more fractions of the Spanish ruling class intend to take and the fact that the political reconfiguration that has affected many European bourgeoisies is now underway in Spain.
Since the Catalan referendum of October 1st and the nationalist strike of the 3rd, the comrades of Nuevo Curso have made various internationalist statements denouncing both nationalisms, the Spanish and Catalan, with which we not only share the position of principle but also largely the analysis of the immediate situation. The same goes for the one we reproduce below.
We want to emphasize and especially support the comrades when they affirm that the fact the proletariat in Catalonia, both Catalan and non-Catalan, did not globally and massively commit behind one side or the other, is one of the factors that explain the inability of the catalanistas as well as the “españolistas” to increase conflict by several degrees as the stalemate continues; that is to say, to the point of confrontations with the Spanish state or between opposed nationalists, in the streets, as could have been feared after the violent repression of October 1st. At least until today. And despite its passivity as a class, “as independent political subject”, and its unprecedented participation in the December 21st elections, which expresses its submission to the ideology of bourgeois democracy. This vision, to say the truth this method of analysis of the situation that puts in the centre the taking into account the relation of forces between the classes, the class struggle and the very dynamic of the working class struggle – including when it is very weak if not seemingly fully absent – is essential to be able to understand the real stakes of the situation; above all when the question of war comes up.
As a result, it is quite secondary to point out that we don’t fully share their vision of Catalan nationalism when they reduce it to the desperate petty bourgeoisie. It is true that the Catalan nationalism is historically strongly impregnated by features peculiar to the petty bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, there is a fraction, or even fractions, of the Catalan bourgeoisie whose interests are mainly identified with Catalonia and less with Spain as a whole ; even to the point of being opposed to the latter. The general crisis of capitalism exacerbates the rivalries also at the national level and Barcelona has seen its rival Madrid clearly taking the lead economically since the 2008 crisis. From this point of view too, it is possible that Ciudadanos, set up in Catalonia, not related to Francoism, and anti-Catalan as is the PP, may represent a bourgeois alternative to regain balance and overcome this antagonism that is destructive for Spanish capitalism as a whole.

The International Group of the Communist Left, December 22nd 2017.

How do we escape the “Groundhog Day” of the Catalan Elections? (Nuevo Curso)

No Parliamentary party is going to defend us from being crushed by exploitation, from more precarious jobs or from social exclusion. It is not a matter of language or country, it is a matter of class. To leave the “groundhog day” in which the Spanish bourgeoisie and the Catalan pro-independence petty bourgeoisie live, we have to abandon any idea of the nation, the ’people’ and ’citizenship’.

1) Catalan elections were held yesterday. The participation rate was unusually high. The independence movement gave its all and won 50,000 more votes. The ’Unionists’ threw themselves into an open grave to mobilise working-class neighbourhoods and managed to drag thousands of normally abstaining workers to the polls. The final balance has been a blow to the Spanish bourgeoisie. Puigdemont, has happily declared from Brussels: “the Spanish state has been defeated”. And it is true: overturning the result using the preventive detention of elected pro-independence candidates would only serve to undermine the legitimacy of the Spanish state still further. Using Article 155 [which suspended the regional government and led to this election – translator] again in three months, as suggested by the Popular Party candidate, Albiol, would be even worse. But the pro-independence petty bourgeoisie does not have the capacity to go beyond its fake independence. To say that its victory will serve ’to make the republic a little more real’, as Rovira, the ERC [Catalan Republican Left] candidate, has done, makes it clear. What his statements demonstrate, alongside those of Albiol and Puigdemont, is the impotence of both parties in either imposing their solution or winning each other over. Neither the Spanish bourgeoisie nor the Catalan petty bourgeoisie know how to get out of the ’groundhog day’ which they have got themselves into.

2) What we are seeing in Catalonia is no different to what happens in many other places, inside and outside of Spain. After ten years of crisis, the bourgeoisie does not know how to satisfy or contain the petty bourgeoisie. This class, which is normally its panegyrist and its ally, is today a force without a compass, reactionary and utopian at the same time, pure poison for the workers and a new centrifugal force for the national bourgeoisie and the state. Everywhere the bourgeoisie has less and less capacity to contain an increasingly reactionary and utopian petty bourgeoisie, venomous for workers and a danger to the state.

3) In the current phase of the class movement, workers do not yet exist as an independent political subject. The whole ’process’ [towards independence] has attempted, at one time or another, to take advantage of that absence, and tried to drag us behind one banner or another. So far without great success. This failure of both parties to impose their patriotic framework has been very important. The only options that the independence movement had in escalating the conflict was to show its ability to set the agenda, and to get an imperialism opposed to the Franco-German axis (Great Britain? USA?), to commit to its cause, thus forcing the Spanish state to accept defeat or start a war. Their model at this point, as they have already said many times, was the Slovenian or the Croatian one. That is, having accepted the framework of one side or the other, we would probably have been led to sacrifice ourselves on the altars of both countries.

4) The mobilisation and pressure to get workers to vote in these elections has been the only notable success of the Spanish bourgeoisie. To achieve this, their political representatives had to break an old taboo that was part of the ’Catalan consensus’, that is to say of the ’social contract’ between the Spanish bourgeoisie and the Catalan petty bourgeoisie: to denounce the cultural and linguistic oppression suffered by the vast majority of workers [who don’t speak Catalan – translator]. It was a risky bet: the coincidence between class and language is too close for it not to be. At the same time the independence movement has not been able to set the agenda as the strike of October 3 seemed to promise it would. The vote by definition demands so little commitment that it is secret and, on the other hand, we have not seen great expressions of real enthusiasm in the streets.

And now?

There is no doubt that many workers voted for Ciutadens [Catalan version of the pro-business party, Ciudadanos – translator] yesterday as a way to show their distaste for the Catalan petty bourgeoisie supporters of independence denial of the existence of the Spanish-speaking workers – who are the great majority in areas of high industrial concentration – a denial that the recent struggle for independence has exacerbated. But in that rabid denial, linguistic and cultural aspects are only the tip of the iceberg. ’National’ or linguistic division, ’identities’ and the ’sense of belonging’ are just attempts to of exclude us and divide us by generating a stupid sense of superiority in that increasingly desperate petty bourgeoisie. At bottom, their continual attack is no different from anything that Ciutadens and all the other parties advocate in their economic programmes and carry out where they are in government. It’s not a question of language or nation, it’s a class issue.

Many workers in Catalonia may realise that now. But things are not going to be easy. The bourgeoisie in all its national forms and flavours wants us to feel defeated, and they will bombard us with defeatism in the coming days, weeks and months. Only one thing could make a difference. The emergence, not only in Catalonia, but throughout Spain, of independent struggles that, however localised or ’small’ they may seem, make it possible for the class to fight under its own banner, and nourish a conversation beyond the bounds of the nation, the ’people’ and being ’citizens’.

Nuevo Curso, 22 December 2017

(We thank the comrades of the CWO-ICT for the translation of the Nuevo Curso text. To read their introdution to this statement :