A translation of brief critique of the current situation in Catalonia, sent by email
“…it was good that we interrupted the triumphant flavor of the day and showed everyone that “the people” is by no means a consensus construction. …But basically, yesterday was a pretty frightening and effective attempt by the bourgeoisie to appropriate the tool of the general strike.”
– here (on the 3/10/17 General Strike)
It seems to me of prime importance to follow what is happening in Catalonia. Not necessarily to understand every detail of this political process, but because the nationalist aspect is fundamental to understanding the current interpretations, and the return of nationalisms with the pretension of being more or less “neutral”, leftist, progressive, and so on.
Whatever happens in the future in Catalonia, it is clear that this will contribute to strong polarizations around the concept of the Catalan nation, and that this vision risks spreading in a non-negligible way to the rest of Europe. Especially since Kurdistan (amongst other places) has already achieved quasi-unanimity amongst “radicals”.
In the present decomposition, everything that can constitute a unit, however fictitious, circumstantial or reactionary it may be, is quickly validated by the various anti-authoritarian currents in search of a revolutionary subject or practice.
In the case of Spain, there are several factors to be taken into account in order to understand what is happening at present, in particular:
– the importance of regional pseudo-identities, more generally, localism (whether cultural or political);
– the disintegration of the revolutionary movements and the evolution towards the ideology of citizenship (already observable with the 15-M), which led to the triumph of Podemos almost everywhere, but also to that of the Catalan right;
-the fact that Catalonia is the richest region in Spain, an essential stake in the struggle between bourgeois factions for ages; the current situation is nothing new, the Catalanists have always played on the pressure on the national state to ensure local control. It has never worked so well.
In the case of the Spanish Revolution, the Catalanists who did not support Franco very quickly opposed armed proletarians and were directly involved in their repression (notably through the “escamots”, an action group of the Estat Catala party) . The old CNTists (no matter what one thinks of their limitations) would surely have been horrified to see that in 2017 the CNT publicly pronounced itself (on its website) in favour of the “self-determination of the Catalan people”, its “right” to choose , etc.
There have never been so few struggles in Spain since the advent of Podemos. And in recent years, Catalan Social-Democracy has managed to integrate a “popular” yet massive movement almost at the speed of light.
Whilst Spain has been hit hard by the crisis, Barcelona has continued to consolidate itself economically, with the influx of tourists, the development of many sectors (including technology, services, etc.), the expatriation of dynamic young professionals, etc. Very explicitly, the fact that the poor have been pushed ever farther into the suburbs far removed from the old neighbourhoods, which had always been centers of revolt.
It was the current powers in Catalonia that finally led to the triumph of the process of gentrification, which was begun more than a hundred years ago by the local bourgeoisie, already obsessed with containing rebellious proletarians and their homes to Barceloneta, and the old districts of the center.
There is still much to be said about the inability of squats, despite their spectacular image of being subversive places, to stem this dynamic.
Anyway, to be continued. This is a return to nationalism that is particularly important to grasp, and which is not explained by the “crisis”….this famous “Continuing Appeal of Nationalism”, as Perlman called it…
Tomas Ibanez wrote a rather limited critique (but he took a position on the subject), supported by a letter from Miquel Amoros (here), not bad despite the limits of the guy. Unfortunately, he does not criticize regional chauvinism in Spain, the ideology of “communities” and of the local community (of course – he often defends them). He also insists on the irrational aspect of what is happening now, with people, often young, ready to adhere to the slightest populist slogan.
But the analogy he makes with the beginnings of German fascism (by advising people to read the writing of people like Wilhelm Reich) does not seem pertinent to me. For decades, Catalans are known to have been fully aware of the characteristics of the project they are defending. There’s nothing irrational about it – it’s simply reactionary.
1) We condemn unreservedly the brutal police actions ordered by the central government with the support of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Ciudadanos, and which only serves the electoral interests of the PP and Junts pel Sí
2) We completely refuse to support a ‘Process’ inititated and directed by a political caste that is as corrupt and repressive as the government in Madrid and the parties that support it.
3) As a part of the libertarian movement we reaffirm that the objective of anarchism is a world without classes or borders, based on direct democracy and equality.
What is happening in Catalonia is entirely contrary to this: it is cross class and in support of a neoliberal government that is instrumentalising social unrest for its own interests, in the name of an illusory common good and the creation of a new state that would be in the hands of those who previously supported the ‘Regime of ’78’. The demise of neoliberal globalisation has paved the way for protectionism of an identitarian character.
Amor y Rabia considers it fundamental to struggle against capitalism and to concentrate our forces on fighting class society, focusing our activity on the social question rather than the ‘national question’, which turns us into pawns in the internal struggles of rival oligarchies.
‘Changing bosses is not the same as freeing yourself from them’
…All four dismiss the independence movement as a distraction from more pressing social issues, claiming it has proved a useful smokescreen for the Catalan government’s spending cuts. “What’s happening now is that everyone has been told that Spain is the origin of our problems,” says Salas. “They are being fed a version of Catalan history that has nothing to do with reality and this has radicalised young people around independence.” “There’s been a sort of mantra, that Spain is robbing us, and there’s a lot of confusion, as though the Spanish government and the Spanish people were one and the same,”…“All of us here are immigrants but we’re all Catalans, too,” says Martínez, who is dismissive of the case for Catalan independence. “It’s about class. I don’t have a problem with the person standing next to me, it’s the one above me who’s the problem.”
For a critique of the ideology of self-determination in a very different context, and with a very different history, see this.