Confrontations in Catalonia: Democracy and the Nation are the reactionary past, the proletariat is the future

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On the first of October the masses who had been led by the Catalan separatists to the farce of the referendum were brutally beaten by the police dispatched by the Spanish government. Both Madrid and the Catalan authorities covered themselves in the mantel of democracy in order to justify both the vote and the repression. The Catalan separatists have presented themselves as the victims of repression in order to advance their call for independence. The Rajoy government has justified its repression in the name of defending the Constitution and the democratic rights of all Spaniards. The “neutrals” (Podemos, the Party of Ada Colau[1] etc.) have declared that democracy is the means for containing Rajoy and “finding a solution” to the Catalan conflict.

We denounce this trap set by the struggles between factions of capital: on the one hand, the deception of the rigged referendum; on the other, the brutal repression of the Spanish government. The working class and the oppressed are the victims of both.

All of them present democracy as the Supreme Good. However, they want us to forget that behind the democratic mask hides the totalitarian state. Like the military regimes and one-party states, the democratic state is also a dictatorship of capital that imposes its own interests and designs in the name of the popular vote, and against the real interests of all the exploited and oppressed.

In the First World War with its 20 million dead, all the contending gangs justified their barbarism in the name of democracy. In the Second World War, whilst the defeated Nazi regime was based on openly reactionary ideologies such as the “supremacy of the Aryan race”, the victors - which included not only the democratic powers but also the tyrannical regime in the USSR- dressed themselves in democratic robes in order to justify their participation in the massacre of 60 million human beings, which included the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It was in the name of democracy that the Spanish Republic managed to enrol the workers and peasants in the terrible slaughter that was the Civil War of 1936-9; a war between factions of the bourgeoisie -Republicans and Francoists - that cost a million dead.

In the name of democracy, the modernized Francoists and the self-proclaimed democrats, through the regime set up by the 1979 Constitution, have imposed the non-stop degradation of our living and working conditions. This has led to the present situation where permanent work has been replaced by generalized job insecurity. The Catalan separatists and Spanish nationalists have collaborated in this degradation. We cannot forget that it was the government of Artur Mas which in 2011-12 pioneered the cuts in health, education, unemployment payments etc, which have been generalized throughout Spain by the Rajoy government!

The hands of both the Spanish nationalists and Catalan separatists are stained with blood from the repression of workers’ struggles. Democracy began in post-Franco Spain with the death of 5 workers in the 1976 mass strike in Victoria. During the Felipe Gonzalez government, 3 workers were killed in the struggles in Gijón, Bilboa and Reinosa, The Catalan separatist government of Artur Más unleashed a brutal repression against the assemblies of the 15 May, leaving 100 injured. Before, in 1934, the current partners of the ERC organised a militia – Los Escamots - which specialised in the torture of militant workers.

They all flout their own “democratic” rules which they claim to be their Ideal. We have seen this with the separatists who have organized the parliamentary stupidity of the “Process” towards independence,  with its “pregnant” ballot boxes, filled to the brim with Yes votes.

In the name of Democracy a war to the death is being unleashed around that other pillar of capitalist domination: the Nation. The nation is not a “fraternal” amalgamation of all the inhabitants of the same land, but the private estate of all the capitalists of a country, who through the state organise the exploitation and the oppression of the great majority.

The Catalan separatists, who are aspiring for a new estate of their own, present themselves as victims of the barbarity of their rivals, claiming that “Madrid robs us”, in order to mobilize their cannon fodder in the name of “true democracy”.

This “true democracy” of the separatists is based on the exclusion of those who do not share their aims. The harassment of those who did not vote; posters and public displays aimed at shaming those who don’t agree; the moral blackmail of those who simply want to maintain a critical attitude. In all areas the “civil” associations have imposed their dictatorship, with the weapons of insults, lies, ostracism, harassment, control, trying to “homogenise” the population around “Catalonia”. This is even more marked with the Catalan separatist groups that use Nazi methods and theorise about the “purity” of the “Catalan race”.

The Spanish nationalist democrats are likewise not holding back. The stirring of hatred against Catalans; the manoeuvres to get large companies to move away from Catalonia; “spontaneous” demonstrations in favor of  urging on the  repressive forces with the barbaric slogan "give it to them", recalling the Basque nationalist cry of "ETA kill them"; the call to put Spanish flags in windows: all this reminds us of the way the Franco regime unleashed the nationalist beast in order to impose a reign of terror.

What both sides share is exclusion and xenophobia; they all agree on hatred of immigrants, contempt for Arab, Latin American and Asian workers, under the repugnant slogans of “they take it away from us”, “they steal our jobs”, “they increase waiting times for health care” etc, when it is the crisis of capitalism and the bankruptcy of its states, whether the Spanish or the Catalan Autonomous government, which generates attacks on everyone’s conditions and pushes thousands of young people into a wave of migration that recalls the ones in the 50s and 60s.

Meanwhile the “neutrals” of Podemos and the followers of Ada Colau try to make us believe that democracy with its “right to decide” will be the balm that allows negotiation and a “civilized solution”. From within this medley of illusions has appeared “Hablemos/Parlem” -Let us Talk-, which wants to put the Spanish and Catalan flags to one side and raise the “white flag” of dialogue and democracy.

The proletariat and with it all the exploited cannot have such illusions. The conflict that has irrupted in Catalonia is of the same ilk as the populist conflicts that led to Brexit or the enthroning of an irresponsible neurotic at the head of the world’s main power: Trump. It the expression of the degeneration and decomposition of the capitalist system which has provoked not only an economic crisis but also a political one in different capitalist states.

Capitalism at the present gives the appearance that “all is well”, that “we are getting out of the crisis”, that there is “technological progress” and dynamism on a world scale. But behind this superficially dazzling facade the violent contradictions of capitalism are growing in strength. Imperialist war, the destruction of the environment, moral barbarity, centrifugal tendencies of each for themselves are feeding the ideology and actions of xenophobia, exclusion, pogromism.

This volcano is also bursting out in the Middle East and with the danger of war between North Korea and the USA; and it is also seen in the Catalan conflict, where the apparently civilized and democratic forms, the use of “negotiations” and “truces”, are progressively disintegrating and run the risk of becoming entrenched and insoluble. If until now there have been no deaths, this is an increasingly dangerous prospect. A climate of social dislocation, violent clashes, intimidation, is taking root throughout society, not only in Catalonia, but in the whole of Spain. Growing numbers of people are finding it hard to bear a situation which is affecting  friends, families, children, workmates…

We are getting a glimpse of what Rosa Luxemburg wrote about in such a penetrating and prophetic way in 1915, faced with the horrors of the First World War :“Violated, dishonored, wading in blood, dripping filth – there stands bourgeois society. This is it [in reality]. Not all spic and span and moral, with pretense to culture, philosophy, ethics, order, peace, and the rule of law – but the ravening beast, the witches’ sabbath of anarchy, a plague to culture and humanity. Thus it reveals itself in its true, its naked form.” (The Junius Pamphlet: The Crisis of German Social Democracy).

The danger for the proletariat, and thus for the future of humanity, is that it will be trapped in the suffocating atmosphere that is being spewed forth by the Catalan swamp. The proletariat’s sentiments, aspirations and thinking, are not currently gravitating around what the future holds for humanity, how to respond to job insecurity and miserable wages, how to overcome the general worsening of living conditions. Rather they are polarizing around the choice between Spain or Catalonia, the Constitution, the right to decide, the Nation…that is, the very factors that have contributed to the present situation and threaten to take it to the level of paroxysm.

We are conscious of the situation of weakness that threatens the proletariat today. However, this cannot stop us recognizing that a solution can emerge only from its autonomous struggle as a class. To contribute to this perspective today means opposing the democratic mobilization, the choice between Spain and Catalonia, the national terrain. The struggle of the proletariat and the future of humanity can only be determined outside and against the putrid terrain of so-called Democracy and the Nation.

 

International Communist Current 9th October 2017.

 

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[1]     Ada Colau is the left wing mayor of Barcelona and a leading spokesperson of Barcelona en com, which was neutral about the referendum.