Lucha de Clases (section of the International Marxist Tendency in the Spanish state) opposes the arrest of Carles Puigdemont in Germany and demands his immediate release. We also demand the release of five Catalan independence leaders arrested on Friday, including the last candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat, Jordi Turull; along with all Catalan political prisoners. Original statement in Spanish here.
Our support and sympathy lies entirely with the tens-of-thousands of young people, workers and citizens who bravely took to the streets of Catalonia last weekend and, above all, on Sunday. They were demanding the release of all Catalan political prisoners, and standing up in defence of the national-democratic rights of the Catalan people, beginning with the right of the Parliament of Catalonia to elect the President of the Generalitat [Catalan Government], without interference by the Spanish State.
Their struggle is an inspiration to all workers, young people, women, pensioners and unemployed citizens in the rest of the state suffering the repressive and antisocial policies of the Spanish right, and its reactionary state apparatus.
Yesterday, there were demonstrations, roadblocks and clashes with the [Catalan Police] Mossos d'Esquadra, leaving 100 injured and resulting in several detainees. As in previous mobilizations, the Committees for the Defense of the Republic have played the most active role in the protests. Significantly, there were also demonstrations and protests in Euskadi and Pamplona.
The arrest of Puigdemont comes just after the arrest on Friday of Turull, former Catalan consellers [Ministers] Josep Rull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa; and Carme Forcadell, former president of the Catalan Parliament. It seems clear that the reactionary Supreme Court judge, Pablo Llarena, reactivated the international detention order against Puigdemont and the other exiled independence leaders. He did this as Puigdemont traveled from Belgium to Finland, knowing that on his way back he would pass through countries with more repressive penal codes. In Germany, there is no sensitivity to the national question (unlike in Belgium), and the country recognises a crime similar to rebellion in its penal code.
Above all, the Spanish regime trusts in the close relationship that exists between the German and Spanish bourgeoisie and their respective state apparatuses, and are assured the request for extradition will be met. Certainly, there must be pressure at the highest level for this to happen.
The trampling of democratic rights in Catalonia and its parliament, elected by the Catalan people, is scandalous. Puigdemont, Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Turull were democratically elected as deputies of the parliament, and were within their political rights to be elected presidents of the Generalitat. Llarena and the Constitutional Court, encouraged by the regime, have trampled all these rights by twisting bourgeois law to prevent the investiture of these three candidates, and other hypothetical candidates who have also been indicted (and are also elected members of the Parliament), including Rull and Romeva.
The Spanish State thus intensifies its siege on the Catalan independence movement, wanting to humiliate it and exact revenge, so that its challenge does not go unpunished and serves as a lesson for all those dare to challenge the regime. As the president of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, correctly stated last night:
"The state is attacking the heart of democracy, making a general cause against its political adversaries and acting fiercely against Catalonia, turning it into a test case of measures which will be used to pursue dissent everywhere.”
There is another element in the situation that explains this new repressive onslaught. After months of reactionary Spanish nationalist poison, the atmosphere in the Spanish state has undergone a sudden change, with the irruption of the social protest of millions of pensioners, women and workers, who have flooded the streets of the country this March. There is a clear reactivation of the trade union struggle, the latest example of which has been the magnificent 48-hour strike of Amazon workers in Madrid.
Just a few days ago, the General Secretary of the UGT, Pepe Álvarez, spoke for the first time, after years of silence from the union leaders, about the possibility of calling a general strike. While we are skeptical about the real will of these leaders to carry this out immediately, it is very significant that they begin to mention a general strike in words, feeling the pressure from below.
There is fury over working conditions and against rents that hundreds-of-thousands of working families find impossible to pay due to real estate speculation. The PP government has lost all its credibility, tainted by corruption and the shamelessness of its representatives. It only stays in power through the active support of Ciudadanos and the passive support of the PSOE leadership.
The latest ‘affair’ concerning the fake Masters Degree obtained by the Madrid region president, Cristina Cifuentes, has been the last straw. They need to divert the attention of working class families away from their crippling problems. Just as, in the recent past, the Basque national question and ETA were used to distract from social problems, the Catalan national question is now being used to divert the struggle that millions have undertaken and to form a false front of ‘national unity’ against the democratic-national rights of Catalonia.
The Spanish left can not stand idly by in this situation. It must go public and denounce, loudly and clearly, the repression of democratic rights in Catalonia. And, consequently, it must take to the streets and mobilise. It is necessary to follow the example of United Left - Madrid that has clearly demanded the freedom of the Catalan political prisoners, and of United Left MEP Marina Albiol, who has publicly called for mobilizations.
The leaders of Unidos Podemos must abandon their pusillanimity and stop calculating about their interests and the impact on their electoral chances in 2019. It is false that the defense of Catalonia's right to self-determination diverts attention from social conflicts, as they argue. It is exactly the other way around. With the excuse of "fighting Catalan separatism" the Spanish and Catalan bourgeoisie seek to silence and numb social and labor demands. They say:
"Do not demand an increase in pensions, do not demand work and decent wages, do not demand equal wages for men and women, do not demand social and affordable rents for working-class families. Everything must stop, because our main enemy is Catalan separatism. Let's all unite, Spaniards, do not you see we're in the same boat? To hell with your social and labor demands. Your wages, pensions and social rights have to wait, because Spain comes first."
Yes, the fabulous benefits of the big businessmen and bankers, their corruption and their unbridled exploitation against the working class come first: for them! It is here that Marx's phrase finds its fullest expression: "A people that oppresses another can not be free".
Supporting the actions of the state, or letting them pass with impunity, strengthens that repressive apparatus and its moral authority to attack the democratic rights of all. They have installed a repressive state that allows them to imprison Twitter users and rap artists. They use ‘hate crimes’ to indict all those who shout their indignation to the powerful, while corrupt politicians and business people; and the monarch's relatives, laugh at us all. All the while, they remain free and unpunished.
Supporting or belittling the repression of the State against the majority of the Catalan people disunites, divides and increases the distance between the Spanish working class and the Catalan workers. What unites us are collective struggles and mobilizations, like those of March 8 and those of the pensioners. And to this we add: support for the exercise of the democratic rights of the Catalan people, starting with the right to self-determination, as in the referendum of 1 October.
What has become clear is that any possibility of exercising the right of self-determination through bourgeois-democratic channels has been obliterated by the Spanish State. Catalan autonomy has been removed, the parliament was dissolved from Madrid, those who promoted the referendum have been detained or exiled, dozens more face charges of rebellion, sedition and so on. Clearly, only by revolutionary means can this right be put into practice effectively.
Undoubtedly, most of the Catalan youth and a significant part of the working class ardently desire a Catalan Republic: they expressed it in the referendum of 1 October and are now defending it in the streets. They want to establish a truly democratic regime, free themselves from an oppressive state that imprisons those who express themselves in social networks or through artistic expressions, and that humiliates the Catalan national sentiment. They despise a state apparatus (judiciary and police) full of Franco supporters and reactionaries, and see how an unelected Head of State, whose legitimacy goes back to the Franco regime, dodges all accountability to the population and puts itself at the forefront of repression against the people. They want to free themselves from a parasitic oligarchy of bankers and big businessmen who amass fortunes from the sweat of the workers. All these aspirations are democratic and have a clear revolutionary content, and deserve our support and sympathy.
The Catalan bourgeoisie has shown its true face and has aligned itself completely with Madrid, blackmailing the workers with the closure of companies if progress is made towards independence. This means that a consistent struggle for the Catalan Republic can only be an anti-capitalist struggle.
[Catalan nationalist parties] ERC and JxCat have bet everything on institutional measures, and have accepted all the impositions of the Spanish state in the investiture of the President of the Generalitat: not investing Puigdemont, not investing Sanchez, not investing Turull and so on. They are satisfied with having simply proclaimed a symbolic republic without real content, and trust that this is the legal basis for getting prisoners out of jail. They do not propose a real solution.
From our point of view, the [anti-capitalist, pro-independence] CUP, the CDRs [Committees for the Defence of the Republic], the confederate republicans like Albano Dante and others, who all represent the left wing of the movement, must deepen their position of linking the struggle for the Catalan Republic with socialism, shaking off the ERC and JxCat, and fighting to conquer the leadership of the movement.
Of course, we agree with the initiatives proclaimed in Catalonia to form a united front against the repression of the state, to which ERC, JxCat, the CUP and the Commons have committed themselves, although this has not yet gone beyond the parliamentary level. The President of the Parliament, Torrent, has declared that he will try to join forces with sovereignty, social and trade union organisations to give a strong response to the repression.
In the streets of Catalonia protesters shouted "General Strike" and for the right of parliament to elect the President of the Generalitat. We agree with all that and we support it. However, we do not support that the objective of this parliamentary front, as the leaders of the ERC, of the Commons and of a sector of JxCat argue, is to ensure an "effective" Government of the Generalitat within the framework of article 155 intervention, accepting the anti-democratic limitations imposed by the state. We agree that Puigdemont (or any other prosecuted leader) can be invested, if that is the desire and the will of the majority of the parliament, and that this be defended in the streets through popular mobilization.
We have already made clear our criticism of the leadership of Unidos Podemos for not calling to actively mobilize against repression. But in spite of that, the pro-independence left must take the initiative and make an appeal to Unidos Podemos and the Spanish working class, beginning with its most advanced layer. It must make every effort to interest them in the struggle and create points of support in their ranks, making them see that the struggle for the Catalan Republic is part of the fight against the monarchical 1978 regime and against the capitalist system in the Spanish state as a whole.
Moreover, this would be the best way to find a favorable echo in that sector of the anti-independence, Catalan working class. They must be convinced that their incorporation into the struggle will serve to extend the movement among their class brothers and sisters in the rest of the state. If the Spanish bourgeoisie draws its strength from the false ‘national unity’ between the classes: it is the task of the revolutionary socialists to try to break this falsehood, incorporating demands that unite all exploited layers and show the irreconcilable interests between the bourgeoisie and the working class.
We must combine the spirit of solidarity born within the Catalan independence movement with (for example) the struggle by residents of Murcia, who are fighting for the high-speed AVE train to be taken underground, and who have been brutally repressed by the police.
Without renouncing their own objectives and program, the Catalan pro-independence left, the Spanish left, and all the progressives and democrats across the state, must organize a united front of struggle against repression and in defense of the democratic rights on the basis of the following points:
- Immediate withdrawal of article 155 intervention in Catalonia.
- Freedom for political prisoners, Catalan and others. Withdrawal of all charges and indictments against activists and members of the CDRs accumulated throughout these months of struggle.
- That the Parliament of Catalonia freely chooses the President of the Generalitat desired by the majority. Down with the intervention of the judicial apparatus in the Catalan institutions!
- Down with the gag law and the other reactionary laws of the Spanish penal code.
- Down with the 1978 regime! A republic for Catalonia and Spain!
- Mobilizations throughout the state in defense of democratic rights!
This should be complemented with the social and labor demands felt most strongly by the working class:
- Repeal of the labor counter-reform.
- No to the pension reform. For pensions should be indexed to match the rising cost of living.
- Equal wage for equal work.
- Minimum wage of 1,000 euros a month.
- For a general strike!
- Down with the government of PP-Citizens!
In the course of the struggle, without imposing on the movement, and appealing to it respectfully, we submit the proposal of setting up Committees of Defense of the Republic throughout the state: in the districts, towns, universities and, where it is possible, in workplaces, as bodies that can organize the fight against the 1978 regime and its monarchy.
For a Republican Anti-Repression Front in Catalonia and the Spanish state! Down with the PP-Citizens government! Down with the monarchical regime of 1978 and its state apparatus! General strike!