1936 – anything remotely close to 2017?
“…the independence movement … 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”
The text below is translated from the French (“Au sujet de la Catalogne”) by Sam Fanto, with the help of the author.
(“BENEATH THE BEACH , THE PAVING STONES”)
We have been observing for several years that, from the historical bases of revolutionary critique, not much has been won. However, in 2017, the debate about the validity of the independence of Catalonia, the richest region in Spain, or the self-determination of the Catalan people, is especially disturbing.
Many of us have been tempted to believe that nationalism, after the few ravages they caused in the twentieth century, is far behind us. But reality too often reminds us that this is not the case, and that, in its leftist or progressive versions, the nationalist scourge still has a bright future. It has never ceased to be an active force of the first order, and has attracted populations and many individuals, including those wishing to live completely differently.
And so “revolutionaries” today support the so-called self-determination of the so-called Catalan people, and call on us to join the Catalan movement on autonomous bases that somehow could avoid playing the game of the politicians who direct it. As if such a thing were possible! As if, joining the crowds mobilized behind patriotism and chauvinism, all intoxicated by the symbolism of their flags, it was possible to make a minority and discordant voice heard, carrying the project to end all states. As if this were not the exact opposite, a complete and definitive opposition to the idea of autonomy.
We shall not return to the critique of the concept of nation, which can only constitute a basic principle of anti-authoritarian criticism. It is rather on the Catalan question that we propose here some arguments, which seem to us to be useful in the present situation.
A specific Catalan history?
Like any idea of a nation, that of a Catalan nation has enough to raise a few eyebrows.
In a civilized southern Europe, which has been hierarchized for more than two thousand years, which has known the notorious influence of the Roman Empire (so you see, “our” conception of law in Catalonia is almost the same, ho ho), then the Catholic Church or various Maghrebian civilizations i, Catalonia emerged as an important power from the Middle Ages onwards.
The First Catalan State was born in 1162, with the unification of several counties previously under the control of local lords. Its court then adopted Catalan as the official language.
Later, the region was integrated into the Kingdom of Spain, retaining certain institutional privileges, the fueros, negotiated by its elites for themselves, and not for the beautiful eyes of the miserable, the exploitation of whom they lived off, not without some conspicuous luxury on the part of Lerida, Girona, & co..
This is what we are referring to when we speak of a Catalan nation. It is from this mythical past that the Catalans of today derive their origins.
Some “libertarians” fantasize about an ancient autonomy, which obviously does not include those subjects who expressed their anger. There has in fact never been any popular autonomy in the history of Catalonia, if we were to judge the result – the achievements of an opposition to its elites, any more than there’s been anything similar in neighboring Provence or Occitania ii.
Everywhere, the historical struggles of the peasants or craftsmen have been confronted with the various fractions of power: those of the monarchy, the Church or the commercial and merchant nobility, which have never ceased to claim and negotiate local privileges as against the central power, against their loyalty towards it.
The transcendence of these hierarchical relations, which were early structures of the societies of Southern Europe, was the main limit encountered by the insurrectionary movements of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, whether they took on a religious form or not.
Catalonia did not escape the rule. In the fifteenth century, the revolt of the Catalan peasants against their status as serfs (the Remences), even found the support of King Ferdinand II of Aragon against the noble Catalans!
Even in movements in which antagonism towards the rich was more assertive, like that of the peasants of 1640 iii, who found an echo in the towns of Catalonia, shouted during their battles “Long live the King!” or “Long live the Blessed Mother, the Church !”.
Language, like social organization, is largely derived from the hierarchical relationships of societies in “our” region of the world. There are, of course, certain peculiarities, social practices which may oppose certain forms of power, or power itself, which are especially forged in struggles.
But this part of southern Europe is not a region of “peoples” who have preserved a way of life and “autonomous” logic vis-a-vis the external power, as existed in regions of the world where populations of tribal people lived who had not known civilization.
It is a territory whose borders have moved, a region of cathedrals and castles, the land of crusades against the Cathars, the City of the Popes, the Inquisition and trade, of colonization.
Catalonia, in its history, has nothing to distinguish it clearly from the rest of the region: it has had the influence of the same civilizations, that of the Catholic Church, then feudalism, the expulsion of Moors and Jews, participation in the Conquest of Latin America, and the gradual transition to modern capitalism.
The Catalan elite, once integrated into the Kingdom of Aragon, took part, contrary to what certain Catalan philosophers would have us believe, in colonization. Although the region had been in economic decline during this period, the Catalan navy chartered many ships for the Americas. Christopher Columbus named one of the islands of the West Indies Montserrat, in reference to Catalonia. On his second expedition, he chose the Catalan Pedro de Margarit as his military leader. Several Catalans were named “Vice-Kings of Peru,” like Navarra y Rocafull or Manuel D’Amat i de Junyent. And if among the famous Catalan conquistadores, there are certainly not as many Catalans as Basques iv, history still recalls sympathetic characters such as Joan Orpí i del Pou, last conqueror of Venezuela, Gaspar de Portolá in Mexico , etc.
During the following centuries, Catalonia placed itself on the side of the Hapsburgs against the Bourbons in the war of Spanish succession of 1719, which made it lose its prerogatives to the triumph of the latter.
From the nineteenth century, when Spain was a miserable region of Europe, ravaged by the greed of its elites, who superexploited peasants for centuries, the Catalan bourgeois, having sometimes “trained” in the colonies, was the first to develop industrially. The region experienced a real economic boom, which began in the textile industry, thanks to the steam engine and the water, which flows abundantly from the springs of the Pyrenees.
This period became that of the splendor of Catalan industrialists, some of whom built empires. We also refer to the culture that accompanied it under the term Renaixença (“Renaissance”).
This bourgeoisie had a paternalistic logic, the cult of Progress, and emphasized the cultural development of its region. Catalonia saw the development of modernism in architecture, financed directly by the donations of rich Catalans, of whom Gaudi became the most famous representative.
In parallel, and in opposition, there developed a militant labor movement, which largely contributed to laying the foundations of collectivist and then libertarian-communist theories in the last quarter of the 19th century. The working class of Catalonia quickly became a major revolutionary force, and Barcelona was, at the end of the 19th century, one of the main revolutionary centres of Europe. It was called the jib rosa, the “rose of fire”, as uprisings were frequent there.
The anarchists were virtually hegemonic, and all the references of the Catalan proletariat are linked to this trend, from the Montjuich trials of 1896-1897 to the Blood Week of 1910, from the uprising of 1917 to the insurrection of 1932 in Haut-Llobregat , until the revolution of 1936.
It would be a mistake to simplify history to the limit by avoiding its ambiguities: the ranks of the Catalan CNT, which became the quasi-hegemonic revolutionary force from the 1920s, and which welcomed its members on a class basis, adhered to autonomist demands, and even adhered to Catalan parties. But the organization never supported the independence or autonomy of Catalonia, contrary to what some very self-interested ideologues were able to write after the coup v.
It is above all true that amongst some Catalan anarchists, there may have existed the idea that what distinguishes Catalans from other Spaniards is their culture, their progressive conception of customs or social relations, and their civility. This identification with the values of the bourgeoisie is essential to the nationalist feeling, widely popular, in Catalonia.
There are several accounts of these prejudices. They surprised, for example, the internationalist Kaminski, who, in his work on the Spanish Revolution Lesux de Barcelona (of 1937), recounted the highly chauvinistic and reactionary diatribe of the infamous Federica Montseny, an anarchist who had become a Minister, and who then held nine official mandates:
“Here we are not in Andalusia […] In Catalonia, the woman has always been the center of the family. We have never known that feudal order in which women occupied the lowest rank … “
“The sense of maternity is so strong among Catalan women that they renounce the joy of being mothers only in very serious cases.” (so much for abortion, by the way, which is credited with having been legalized during its zealous passage through ministerial offices!).[SamFanto note: in fact, abortion was legalised for the brief period of the pre-Franco republic – the first place in Europe, and possibly the “civilised” world, to legalise it – but against Montseny’s personal misgivings about it]
Even Catalan anarchists who were opposed to any idea of independence, such as José Peirats (who was heavily criticized in 1977, when the CNT was re-built, for openly opposing it), sometimes express their contempt for the backward Spanish. Thus one can read in Figuras del movimiento obrero espanol, a collection of portraits of anarchists of its time, that the CNT had managed to win “the battle to enroll into its ranks this flood of underdeveloped Andalusians and Murcians” vi.
Felipe Alaiz, a talented writer about Spanish anarchism, wrote in 1945 in the somewhat old-fashioned Hacia una Federación de Autonomías Ibéricas some still very pertinent passages on the question of Catalan nationalist sentiment. They prove that the question never ceased to agitate people’s brains, despite its much weaker influence at the time:
“Catalonia counted men resolutely convinced that submission to the typical centralism of Madrid is a degrading submission … But there were also many, Catalan or not, who found submission of their individual point of view degrading, and not specifically Catalan. How can we make out that only Catalonians are seriously dissident towards the center? That would be exclusive. “
“What does it matter to the millions of Castilians without a homeland, to those whose homeland hurts and bleeds, that a Catalan complains bitterly that at the Palais de Justice, at the Customs, or in the newspapers of Spanish patriotism , their country is denied to them? “
“Spanishism is so crude that one can not fight it with whining. Let us therefore disengage ourselves from our country, and move on to other things! “
“Be separatists from injustice! Affirm the integral right to the indisputable autonomy that begins in you, not in an office, or at the feet of the virgin of Núria. vii“
There is a strong enough logic in Spain to claim alleged local identities, and nationalisms rely on these localisms or regionalisms. It is in Catalonia and the Basque Country, the two regions where historical industrial development is strongest, that these demands have developed and become real nationalisms.
The Basque Country has experienced all the historical episodes that we have mentioned, but unlike Catalan, the Basque language is profoundly unique, and its origins foreign to the Iberian Peninsula. [see note about this in comments box below]
In Catalonia, Catalan nationalistic sentiment and ideology have this specificity that they claim a glorious past, that they’re modern, as opposed to the underdevelopment of the rest of the country. The Catalan bourgeoisie put revolutionaries and immigrants from other parts of Spain in the same category, and used the despicable term of Murcians to designate them.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, this feeling was still a kind of regional chauvinism, which had little to do with consequences: the revolutionary project united a large part of the Spanish proletariat beyond identities; internal migrations to urban centers and to Barcelona in the first place were important, and the experiences of revolt and insurrection culminated in the 1936 revolution.
Previously, some had tried to make connections with the Catalanists, such as the future Minister of the CNT García Oliver with Francesc Macià, leader of the Estat Català Party viii: he had left the congress of Marseilles in 1926 to the disapproval of his organization.
Catalan political currents developed somewhat from the 1920s onwards, and several political formations were formed which evolved over time. First there was the Regionalist League, on the right and conservative, then later the left-wing, democratic organizations, with most of those who said they were Marxists in Spain.
The Republican Left Republic of Catalonia (ERC) was particularly successful in the 1930s. During the Second Republic, the ERC and Estat Català became part of the Catalan government. The escamots, paramilitary groups of Estat Català, were used to break strikes and assassinate the anarcho-syndicalists. Police chief Miguel Badia of Estat Català became enemy number one for the anarchists of the action groups, who eventually killed him in 1936 along with his brother, another notorious reactionary.
Estat Català and other Catalanists of all tendencies proclaimed the formation of a Catalan State in the Spanish Republic in ‘34. Their first step was to attack the offices of Solidaridad Obrera [SF note: CNT newspaper]. The central government shattered the movement, whose most active leaders found refuge abroad, in fascist Italy, for example.
Among them, Josep Dencàs, who defined himself as a “National Socialist”, or Daniel Cardona, leader of Nosaltres sols (“We alone”), the fascist wing of Estat Català, which never ceased to have links with fascist Italy.
These ideologues developed a racist ideology inspired by Gobineau, and advocated racial war on Spanish soil. Their theories were part of the continuity of scientific racism, which developed very early in Catalonia. Enric Prat de la Riba had published The Catalan Question in 1898, funded by the French Jules Guérin of the Antisemitic League. Then there was a large number of works that developed the concept of a biologically specific Catalan breed, such as those of Pompeu Gener (close to the journal Joventut, the mouthpiece of an influential cultural current – Gener was an acquaintance of Picasso ), then others, which had a non-negligible influence on the Catalan political leaders.
In July 1936, the Catalanists who did not support Franco (like the Regionalist League) entered the government and gradually gained influence in their connections with the Democrats or the Stalinists. They all opposed the current social revolution, whether it be the ERC, left-wing Republicans, the small political parties in the countryside, or the PSUC ix, a firm supporter of the Catalan middle class against collectivization, and whose sworn enemy was the Marxist group the POUM x, which dared to criticize the USSR. The PSUC accused its members of being Franco’s agents and did everything to get rid of them.
Finally, Estat Català, which had left the ERC before July, and whose leader was still Dencàs, brought together several Catalan groups, participated in all the plots against the CNT and the revolutionaries, and found itself on the barricades in May ‘37 on the side of the Stalinists. Some of its members fomented a coup d’etat to proclaim the Independence of Catalonia, which did not succeed. Later, they tried to negotiate the surrender of the region with Mussolini, discussing a protection granted by the Fascist International, whose troops were fighting revolutionaries in Spain xi.
“Autonomy” and “independence”
It was especially after Franco, which banned the Catalan language, that the autonomist and then independence project in Catalonia re-emerged with greater vigor than before. It served the local elite above all in order to polarize the intense class struggle which then took place everywhere, especially in the factories, on the question of identity, and to negotiate with the central State the status of a specific political “autonomy”.
Catalonia obtained its parliament, its ministers, the recognition of Catalan as an official language in 1978 through agreements signed after the 1977 Moncloa Pact, which sanctified the “democratic transition”. The majority of anarchists and rebels were logically opposed to this agreement between the bourgeoisie and the State, including those in Catalonia. The Catalan CNT organized a demonstration in October, with the UGT and the Labor Commissions of the region, to oppose it; it brought together 400,000 people on the streets of Barcelona.
One cannot understand the recent explosion of Catalan independence without taking into account the important pacification that followed the movements of revolt of the 1960s and 1970s and then the decline in the general intensity of the class struggle in Europe.
But it would be a mistake to limit oneself to it, for sporadic struggles have continued to agitate Spain, and it is only recently that the model of the Spanish citizen has triumphed, favored by the crisis.
The largely reformist movement of the 15-M of 2001 led to a powerful logic of assemblyism [SF note: see this, which deals partly with assemblies in Spain in the immediate aftermath of Franco’s death] in the districts of Barcelona, the flagship city of the squats (okupas) movement. It is these dynamics, which struggled to find a radical content, which have led to a broad support of the political formations of citizenship like the Podemos or the Catalanists coalitions.
Podemos, thanks to its policy of local alliances, benefited from this support and triumphed in the regional and general elections of 2015 on the promise of a general reform of the Spanish political system. This was nothing but classical reformism, which succeeded in thriving on the naivete, confusion and aspirations of young people hoping to become middle class, in an epoch which deprives them of such opportunities.
In Barcelona, Ada Colau, a left-wing anti-globalization activist, who frequented some of Barcelona’s alternative squats opposed to gentrification, was elected mayor of the city.
Carlos Puigdemont, the current President of the Generalitat (the Catalan government), represents the Catalan independence leader, who took the initiative to push for independence up until the episodes of recent weeks. The parties of the pro-independence left obviously rallied to this project which they had been the first to defend.
Beyond what seems to differentiate all these political formations, the phenomenon that is observed is that of a strong polarization around citizenship and the formations of politicians, which in the political swamp do not exclude but echo each other: democracy creates the possibility of passing from one to the other in the same way one changes clothes. Following the political game of alliances, especially concerning questions about water management, turns out to be very revealing – depending on different periods of time they are constantly made and then broken! [SF note: e.g Catalan independentists have made alliances with Castillian Leftist anti-independentists at certain times, over water management]
This polarization is confirmed if we observe the considerable decline in struggles in the different regions of Spain since 2011, and even more since the triumph of Podemos in 2015.
The context is also that of a Catalonia which has not emerged weakened from the recent “crisis”: its economy is doing rather well (in 2016, its GDP exceeded those of the best years before the crisis), Barcelona attracts foreign investment, tourists and young dynamic executives from around the world, and even the process of gentrification has recently reached its apogee xii.
It is known that “crises” are also periods of readjustment for capital, enabling it to liquidate what is hindering its growth, while ensuring that those who pay for it are taken care of. This has worked, since it is largely the political discourse on the management of the crisis that has attracted many Catalans to the formations so popular today, and reinforced the sense of identity at the same time.
The discourse of politicians has emphasized the idea that the rest of Spain was responsible for the “crisis”, which it had not been able to prevent and manage, and the Catalanists pushed the argument, blared out in the media, that Catalonia pays too much tax for the other regions of Spain.
It is with the success of this populist propaganda that one can measure the extent to which economic realism performs wonders: it makes us forget that we are all subject to the imperatives of capitalism and to the control of the State, and to swallow the idea that Catalonia and Spain live in separate economic spheres!
Another facet of this populism is the victimistic discourse of the Catalan independentists, which plays on the more emotional register of centralist oppression, with a reminder of the prohibition of Catalan during Francoism as a negation of Catalan culture by the “Castilian” state .
But for those who want to remain serious, the oppression of the Catalans by centralised Spanish power is a joke. In the industrialized and nuclear world of today, how can we believe for a single moment that the mechanisms of exploitation, oppression and control to which all the inhabitants of Spain are subjected are not substantially the same?
If it was pushed further the situation of the Rohingyas of Burma or the Indians of Brazil and the “Catalans” would all be placed on the same level!
However, reality speaks for itself: Catalonia is the richest region in Spain, and is even one of the European heavyweights!
Moreover, the regions of central Spain (in particular Castile and Aragon), which the Catalanists criticize for their alleged support of the centralism of Madrid, were among the most ravaged by the rural exodus of the 1950s, which made Spain, in just a few years, a very largely urban country.
Even the question of the Catalan language is a false debate. It must have been even worse for the Catalans to live under Franco’s oppression without the possibility of speaking the language they practiced [SF note: they obviously did, but never in public]. But oppression is never confined to the mere prohibition of a language. And the problem has long since been settled by law and institutions.
Catalan, moreover, like Occitane, undergoes the process of homogenization necessary for the consolidation of all political projects. Peirats, whose mother tongue was Catalan, already pointed out in 1974, well before the signing of the most important decree – that of 1983:
“Political micro-nationalist philologists were forced to impose unity by decree (Castilian fashion, like the disgusting centralizing academy), thus making, with modern Catalan, a sort of Esperanto that the people do not know how to speak and that they hardly understand.” xiii
In the meantime, people fortunately do not only speak Catalan in Catalonia. The region has always been a land of immigration. Many Catalan proletarians are Filipinos, Colombians, Ecuadorians or Moroccans, who do not care much about whether they’re eaten in Catalan or Spanish sauce, that of national or peripheral centralism, through the ideology of a Spain one and indivisible or that of the apostles of self-determination for themselves.
The events of the last few days have shown the ability of the powers-that-be in Catalonia to mobilize a large part of the active sectors of social movements behind its initiatives, against any autonomy of struggle.
The follow-up of allegedly radical broad sectors reached its peak in the general strike of October 3, called by the CNT and small unions out of pure opportunism. Feigning to act autonomously, they understood well that it would be a movement directly promoted by the Political Power and some bosses, from which they could capitalize.[SF note: according to this “The public sector workers of the Generalitat who took part in the so-called “national strike” held on October 3 in protest at the police charges of October 1st, will have to make up for the hours lost during which they did not go to work.”]
And this is what the movement has been: the companies closed down in support of the referendum project launched by Puigdemont threatened by the Spanish government. This is not surprising: the CUP, the independence party of the “radical left”, had largely announced that the strike in question was meant to push towards Independence, and the right did not oppose it.
There is, however, enough reason to be horrified when one reads the following excerpt, drawn from the general strike call of 3rd October, signed by various groups and libertarian organizations: “We will always defend the right to self-determination of peoples – beginning with ours.” xiv
The old CNTists must be turning in their graves in the face of such obvious opportunism, and the abandonment of all the most basic principles of autonomy.
In the current European situation, where identity issues are at the centre of political maneuvers, and thus a real stake in the struggle for power, the risk is that this dynamic will deepen and that it will come to increasingly and more sustainably threaten the old social question, already in tatters faced with State control, its intermediaries (like the trade unions) and the dominant ideology.
It is therefore of prime importance to follow what is happening in Catalonia. Not necessarily to grasp the tiniest details of this political and reactionary process, but because its nationalist character is fundamental to understanding the current perspectives and world views and the return of more or less “neutral”, leftist and “progressive” nationalisms in current discourse.
This movement also follows a certain enthusiasm for the Kurdish nationalist movement in Syrian Rojava. Despite the fact that the latter has all the manifest symptoms of a classical struggle for Power, echoing decades of similar processes, it has somewhat improved the image of “left” xv nationalism internationally.
Whatever happens in Catalonia in times to come, it is obvious that this will help to promote nationalist and identity-based conceptions to the detriment of an anti-authoritarian critique of all forms of power.
The events in Catalonia have already led to large mobilisations of support, notably in the neighboring Valencian region, or provoked reactions by masses of individuals in favour of Spanish unity, in massive rallies where the Spanish flag fluttered like never before. And there have even been gatherings of undecided partisans of a dialogue between all sides, as if such a dialogue had ever been broken!
The small manoeuvres of Catalonian Power over the last few days show clearly its own hesitation in the face of its “project” of Independence, and its desire to enter into negotiations with the central State.
Catalonia, which pretends to form a State, obviously does not aim to dispense with economic and political ties with what it aspires to imitate on a smaller scale.
Questions about the economic viability of an independent Catalonia are an absurdity that legitimizes the economy as a specialized discipline.
What we know full well, we who are neither political scientists nor economists, is that the present exploitation and the system, which is perfectly viable from the point of view of the economy, is not for us at all.
It is obvious that the economy is perfectly capable of functioning in Catalonia, and that, whatever status it may obtain in the future, exploitation will continue to be what it is today.
The “grab what we can” rapid departure of some companies faced with the current process, or the question of debt, may well “scare” some representatives of the bourgeoisie … but they can above all serve to disclose the absurdity of such a project. For the bourgeoisie, the current Catalan economy is doing well, it is viable.
The independence of Catalonia is a false question. What the Catalan politicians are pursuing is the strengthening of their base, which can only make it easier for them to implement measures that will lead to an improvement and deepening of their exploitative function.
Of course, Puigdemont’s current moderation in the face of his own independence project (ratified in parliament but not applied) can be politically costly and, in the eyes of many, make its contradictions manifest.
But behind it, a whole mass political, legalist and citizenist movement is ready to take advantage of it, and can surf the wave of identity and nationalism (from the center or periphery) to orient it in the direction that suits it.
The gradual abandonment of what constitutes the foundations of a revolutionary critique of Capitalism and of the State is what leads movements to opportunistically find themselves on the ground of reformist politicians and leads them in the long run into a logic from which it is increasingly difficult to get out of.
Revolutionary movements and groups in recent years are responsible for the limitations they have set themselves, and for the opening of their discourses to the defense of concepts as ambiguous as “peoples”, “cultures” (a term derived from the social sciences, excellent marketing tool for the development of territories) or “communities”. It is therefore natural that they end up finding themselves openly in the camp of nationalism and the bourgeoisie, whilst claiming to criticize the latter.
Nationalism and identities disgust us: there is nothing worse, more petty than this forced attachment to what is supposed to belong to us, than this injunction to conform to what exists.
For it is indeed all relations – social reality in its totality – that we want to transform.
Identities, and the other limitations we place in the relationships between individuals are prisons, chains, hindrances to the construction of the totally different life that we aspire to live.
There will be no liberation from that which oppresses us if we do not now get over this narrow view of interest which binds us tightly to a homeland or a nation which claims to assimilate us with those with whom we are supposed to share an identity (with whom we are therefore supposed to be identical).
It is on the basis of the uniqueness of individuals that we wish to build our social relations (which does not imply the separation favoured by individualistic liberal conceptions), and not on identification with a place of birth or values of the entity embracing it.
There will be no liberation if we do not choose to recognize ourselves in those who revolt, who struggle in a quest for coherence to exercise full control over their lives. They are the ones who share our values and speak our language.
Solidarity with the internationalists of Catalonia who in the current turmoil make the choice to resist!
Beneath the beach the paving stones
October 15, 2017
i These Moorish, or quasi-Moorish, civilizations, which are credited with the development of agriculture in Spain (always this vision of Progress as the engine of history), were nevertheless hierarchized, and Spain did not become, as if by a miracle, in just a few years, a paradise on Arab-Hispano-Jewish land. This fable, constantly transmitted, ignores the social reality of the time – that of a class society permeated with conflicts, where rivalries between “communities” were far from being non-existent.
ii Contrary to that which the followers of a cultural reading of history seek to make us believe. See books like Universal History of Marseille, where everything is always more beautiful in Marseille, even in the feudal world and under capitalism.
iii Antoni Simon Tarrés, Catalunya en el siglo XVII, la revuelta campesina y popular de 1640.
iv Some historians estimate that, in proportion to the Spanish population of the time, it was from the Basque Country that most of the conquistadors began to subdue the savages of the Americas and plunder their lands! Beyond speculation about the figures, it is particularly worth recalling that the development of the Basque merchant class was rather early, and that it was not the only one to benefit from free land overseas: it needed many men, and it was, for some poor people, a way of accessing property without having to steal from the rather bloodthirsty lords who reigned over Euskal Herria. The houses built by the new rich in the villages of the Basque Country, even in the most isolated regions, bear witness to this, as are the Basque names borne by many towns and villages in Latin America. Talk of an oppressed people!
v The CNT has never adopted Congress resolutions along these lines.
vi Ediciones Picazo, page 90. Translated from Spanish by the author of this text.
vii Ediciones of the Fundación Anselmo Lorenzo. Translated from Spanish by the author of this text. The Virgin of Núria is in the sanctuary of the same name, where the first statute of autonomy for Catalonia was written in 1931. Since 1983 she is the patron saint of Catalan skiers!
viii In exile at the time, he aimed at an insurrection, and set up a plan to assassinate the King of Spain.
ix The article by Antonio Gascón and Agustín Guillamón Antonio Martín, “The Durruti de la Cerdanya”, reveals this situation with clarity (in spite of the Marxist dogmas that Guillamón defends).
x The ideologues of the POUM were not clear on the question of nations. The leaders of this party, the result of the alliance of several fractions all ambiguous on the question of political power, had for the most part passed through the ranks of Catalan groupings. They came to consider that independence was insufficient. This did not prevent Audreu Nin (who became Minister of Justice of Catalonia for the POUM in 1936) to recognize Catalonia’s right to self-determination, in the political logic of stages towards emancipation, as he wrote in The Movements of National Independence (1935).
xi The Italian air force also intervened and bombed the town of Alcañiz, in Aragon, on 3 March 1938, a few months after Guernica.
xii Removing the proletarian rabble from the old quarters of the Center, like the Raval and the Barrio Gótico, had been at the center of the projects of the Catalan bourgeoisie for over a hundred years.
xiii In Frente Libertario’s article 40, Macro y micronacionalismos, compiled by CEDALL, 2016. Translated from Spanish by the author of this text.
xiv For the translation, thanks to the Coordination of the Anarchist Groups (which fortunately coordinates only itself, which is already a lot).
xv This is evidenced by the popularity which it enjoys in almost all the “social movements” and the so-called radical sectors.
…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.”
And this, from the comments section of the same article:
In 2011 the town and city squares in Spain were taken over by young people protesting against unemployment, lack of affordable housing and corrupt politicians. This movement was particularly strong in Barcelona and the repression there was the worse in the whole of Spain. Young people were viciously attacked by the heavilly militarised and notoriously homophobic and anti-immigrant local police force. These young people were the heirs of the people mentioned in Burgen’s article.
During those protests young people surrounded the Catalan Parliament and were then attacked by riot police. Many were arrested and roughed up. Eight people served three years in prison for “disrupting democracy”, ie protesting.
Now we have pictutres of those local police being contrasted against the National police and being portrayed as gentle heroes. The same gentle heroes who fired a rubber bullet into the face of Ester Quintana (causing her to lose an eye) on 14th November 2012 and then as a force tried to deny and cover up their actions.
And those politicians who were jeered are now being portrayed as heroes, despite having the same anti-poor / pro rich policies as the PP (despite supporting the same party in various governments for over 30 years).
Yes, condemn the police violence but don’t fall in the trap being set by both groups of corrupt politicians.
There were no arrests by the Guardia Civil on Sunday because they had no jurisdiction to do so (this in law is the jurisdiction of the of the local militarised police). The National Police only had their batons and bodies to carry out Rajoy’s orders ( I hate to say it of such thugs – but they had been put in a vulnerable position). They did not have the luxury of beating somebody up and then having the courts put somebody in prison for three years, for “disrupting democracy”. A beating is one thing – three years in prison is another (and so is a rubber bullet in your face)
For a critique of the ideology of self-determination in a very different context, and with a very different history, see this.