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.
French version available on this site or the site “SOUS LA PLAGE, LES PAVÉS”
(“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.
Catalan revolutionaries ready to proclaim libertarian communism
“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
Link to original version of HOMAGE TO CATATONIA (4th Oct 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.
Translated from 2 emails in French:
“The Basque Country has experienced all the historical episodes we have mentioned, but unlike Catalan, the Basque language is profoundly unique, and its origins foreign to the Iberian Peninsula.”
I admit that I was taken aback, like other friends and close friends of libertarian persuasion, by this passage which gives pride to the founding myths of Basque nationalism, reconstructions a posteriori of the real history of the region to justify the draft constitution of the Basque nation state.
Such myths have long been denounced not only by the famous text of the late 1970s, “Against the racketeering abertzale or the anti-patriotic insolence of a meteor”, but also in the communiques of the “Anti-Capitalist Autonomous Commandos” of the Basque Country “. “Against the racket abertzale” is now available online: https://vosstanie.blogspot.fr/2012/08/contre-le-racket-abertzale-par-gaizki.html. On the myth relating to the uniqueness and origin of the so-called Basque language, see in particular the well-known passages on the founders of the PNB, the xenophobic, racist and clerical ideologue, Sabino Arana Goiri, who, of course, formulated and laid the foundations of a unified Basque country at the end of the nineteenth century: creation of grammar, multiple neologisms, such as the famous term “Abertzale”, etc.
The incomparable uniqueness and superiority of the “Basque race” in Europe was supposed to be proved by linguistic studies showing that Basque was not related to the group, defined at the time of the domination of Aryanist linguistics, of the Indo-European languages. Subsequently, the Basque linguists, successors of Arana Goiri, including ETA, tried to re-connect Basque by the founding father to the group of Finno-Ugric languages. This did not find unanimous approval on the part of the nationalists because many of them, truly racist, held, and still hold, to their alleged linguistic superiority.
Since then, as modernity obliges, biology has taken over, first through the analysis of blood groups, then through that of genes. For example, in the Basque population of “pure extraction” – I use the term used by ETA – it is the blood group 0, Rh -, which predominates. The only thing it reveals is the importance of consanguinity in the mountain populations of the region, obviously not the superiority of the “Basque blood”. Yet it is enormities of this kind that are discussed even in meetings held in the nationalist bookstore recycled by the Bayonne modernist, “Zabal” and spread out on its shelves.”
“I speak here of the Basque languages because the official Basque language, that which is taught in the ikastolak from the formatting done in the 1960s, is neither more nor less “ancestral” than the current version of Hebrew, the official language of the state of Israel, than Mandarin, the official language of the Maoist State, etc. Obviously, these unique languages, created by states or founders of proto-states, do not come from nowhere, but in no way constitute a mere continuation of the spoken or even written languages that existed in the territories that make up the states or proto-States in question.
On the other hand, in linguistics, there are languages that do not have any relation to groups and families of known languages. Or connections that have not been discovered yet. In this area, linguistics speaks of isolated languages. Until proven otherwise, this is the case of Basque languages in Europe. The current linguistic, which is more complex than that which existed at the time of Arana Goiri and much less Eurocentrist, recognizes the impossibility, for the moment at least, of knowing the genealogy of the Basque languages, of Basque to simplify it, rejects de facto the myth of the predominant origin being Caucasian, the most important notion of the Abertzale. Especially since Basque has included, for a long time, terms whose origins are Berber, Roman, etc. Moreover, contrary to what the Basque nationalists claim, isolated languages are numerous in modern linguistics, on a global scale, starting with Japanese!”
It doesn’t give “pride to the founding myths of Basque nationalism”. It mistakenly re-states a myth, which the above email demythologises. But there’s nothing at all in the text that “gives pride to the founding myths of Basque nationalism”. And even if it’s wrong, the fact that a language might be unique is hardly the basis for supporting a nationalist attitude towards the region which might have something unique to it. Every country has something unique to it, but that’s absolutely no reason to support a nation state around its apparent uniqueness. And the text in no way does this.
Something I wrote in French (translated here into English) in an email in additional response to the 2 emails translated above:
Also, if we prove, with evidence, that the Basque language is not unique to a Basque nationalist who believes that it is, and he accepts your evidence, do you really think that it would destroy his nationalism? It is just a pretext – and they will find another, since one of the main bases of nationalism is not especially the uniqueness of the language (whose uniqueness can be maintained without adherence to nationalism) but the identification with a form of hierarchical separation, the false “community” of the hierarchical nation competing with other false communities in the absence of true communities of struggle. That you know well. The Catalans obviously do not claim that Catalan is a unique language in Europe, which does not prevent those who are nationalists from such identification.
The proletariat is virtually hegemonic, and all the references to the Catalan anarchists are linked to this fact….
The “active sectors” that the author refers to are about as active as the Mothers’ Union or any national union for that matter.
The following was sent by email a while ago from Spain:
“Tomorrow Catalonian nationalists will perform their referendum for
independence. The ballot as such has no value at all, because as the
referendum is not legal, the people who do not follow the
nationalist political forces won’t vote, and the Spanish government is
going to do as much as possible to reduce the number of votes and stop
the referendum. This attitude and repression of the Spanish government
has given to the radical left outside Catalonia a good reason to
support the referendum in the name of freedom of speech and democracy.
However, nobody knows what will happen after Sunday. And the
political situation probably will get worse and worse. The power of
the nationalist forces lies in the strange alliance between the old
right wing party of the Catalonian bourgeoisie, the rank and file
radical left nationalist party CUP and the rest of the radical left,
which in general supports (more or less openly) the nationalist
movements of Catalonia, Basque Country, etc.
In general, the students and the public sector workers of Catalonia support
the nationalist project. But we cannot say the same about the working
class of Catalonia, which in the 20th Century was formed mostly by
workers of other regions of Spain and since 2000 has received more
than 1 million migrants (from abroad).
The lefty “anarcho-syndicalist” unions have called a general strike in
Catalonia on 3rd October (CNT, CGT, COS, IAC, Intersindical CSC). CGT
and CNT try to cover the aims of the strike with some social general
demands. But of course this strike, politically, is nothing but an
attempt to throw the workers into the streets as shock forces. In the CGT,
it looks like this political support for the nationalists has caused
internal problems inside the organization in Catalonia, and probably
also in the rest of Spain.
The radical left of Spain (including of course squatters, anarchists,
antifa, etc.), which ideologically perhaps don’t agree completely with
nationalism but sentimentally they feel quite close to the lefty
nationalist parties and organizations of Catalonia, Basque Country,
etc., hopes that this unstable political situation could lead to some
favourable developments. The fact that this process calls into question
the political regime and framework of Spanish democracy (the 78
regime, they call it), is a good reason for them to get into the
battle and support the independence process. If Catalonia becomes a
Republic, it could be something like a Social Republic, or at least the
Spanish political regime would explode.
I am quite sceptical about these thoughts. I think that when the working
class has not reached a certain level of organization and political
clarity, the attempts to throw the workers into the political
battlefield delays the development of their own autonomy and use to
make it more difficult for the working class to find its own political
The lefty perspective, pushed to the limit, leads to civil war,
workers killing each other defending other classes’ interests and
ideologies. I think that this won’t be the case, because by now the
Catalonian nationalist forces are not strong enough facing the Spanish
state, regarding not political arguments or propaganda, but material
strength. At the moment, it looks like they have no open international
support or recognition at all.
But it is true that the situation could get worse. Any incidents, any
victims or casualties could trigger awful developments, which could
contaminate the political environment with nationalism during decades.
However, this nationalist turn and atmosphere is quite useful for the
bourgeoisie of Catalonia and the rest of Spain, when the material
conditions for the re-making, or recomposition, or resurgence of the
working class is ripening day by day.”
“Here you can read the statement of the dockers, in which they refuse
to operate the police ships in Barcelona port (cruises that host
policeman and women who have been sent to BCN), and you can compare
“In view of the political situation in Catalonia, the port dockers’
assembly in Barcelona has decided that there will be no operation of
vessels which, according to the Ports Act, can work with the means of
the State security forces. This decision has been taken exceptionally
and as long as the political conflict is not resolved by peaceful and
The dockers are more than 1,000 dockworkers of all ideologies, and we
insist on our commitment to dialogue and consensus, calling on the
Spanish and Catalan governments to reopen all necessary dialogue
forums until the conflict can be civilized and without generating
greater tension in society.
As workers, we reiterate our will to defend the labor rights of our
members, as well as our vocation to work for the brotherhood of all
stevedores, regardless of the port or country in which they are.”
It is true that this refusal to operate these ships has been seen as an
act of support to Catalonian nationalists. Probably many dockers are
nationalist and they think so, too. But indeed this action does not
take sides for any party, and I think that it is an act of wise
neutrality on the part of the workers.”
“Yesterday evening, after the events and repression, the big unions
UGT and CCOO joined the call for tomorrow’s general strike. The left
is trying to join forces somehow, and kick out Mariano Rajoy and PP
from the government.
And this is an article worth reading in The Guardian:
“Finally, yesterday evening CCOO and UGT said they don’t support
today’s general strike, but they will support protest and
mobilizations. They say workers should not be the ones who pay
(striking) more in this struggle, and the cost should be shared.
Indeed, this is already happening. More than a general strike, it is a
lock-out. Many employers are throwing the workers into the streets and
in some cases they even pay the day. And of course, the “striike” has
the support of the Catalonian goverment, the biggest employer of the
“As you probably know, yesterday evening the Catalonian president
announced the Catalonian Republic and immediatelly suspended it,
demanding negotiations. The radical left nationalist (CUP) are not
happy with this statement, of course. They want the republic right
now, and they say they will leave the parliament. However, after the
speech, CUP and right wing nationalist members of the Catalonian
parliament signed a document in which the independence is expresssed in
a much clearer way.
The central government, obviously, cannot accept this situation, the
shy independence announcement and negotiate with Catalonian
politicians as if they were already an independent state. PP, PSOE and
Citizens party agree on this, and probably in the next days the
government will take some measures, dissolve the regional government and
call for elections in Catalonia.
So I think that everything depends again on what kind of reaction will
trigger the measures and repression of the Spanish goverment. A lot of
journalists and people think that with this shy announcement the
Catalonian goverment has really taken back its positions and is open
for negotiations. These are also the ideas of Podemos. For the rest of
the radical left around Podemos, there was no independence
announcement, the right wing nationalists betrayed the republican
project, and probably they are ready to return to the streets over the next
I think that the right wing nationalists of Catalonia were wise,
however, with this ambiguous position. Their demand for negotiations
allows them to keep playing the role of victims in case of repression
of the central government, and to keep conserving the support of the
radical left in the streets, if this happens.
In the radical left (including CNT, internal opposition within
Podemos, anarchists, etc.), the fashionable word is “overflowing”,
which means to take part in the events, trying to introduce some
general social demands, with the aims of spreading out the conflict to
other regions and turn it from a pure nationalist struggle to a social
one, inserting the Catalonian regional conflict in a wider national
struggle againts the “78 regime”, its parties (PP, PSOE and C’s) and
institutions (monarchy, etc.). The outcome, in the best case, however,
would be something like a corporate democracy in the tradition of
So let’s see the developments over the next weeks.”
Yesterday the central government announced the cancellation of the
regional nationalist government of Catalonia in the next weeks, and
elections in the region for January probably.”
SamFanto note: In fact, elections are to be held on the winter solstice, December 21st
Here are a few emails between me and S.Artesian after I sent him a link to this article, which shows what a creepy dishonest politico he is:
He wrote, in response to the main article:
Really? That’s all we come up with? The pro forma denunciations of
nationalism? That’s it? No linkage to austerity; to attacks on
workers? No proposals for mobilizing workers in Spain against the
Spanish state’s activation of article 155? against its police
invasion of Catalonia? against the violence it practiced against those
attempting to vote in the referendum? Just the everyday “false
Yeah, well, kind of proves what I said, except not about Marxism and
historical materialism– either we can locate this in the relation of
classes, and locate its significance to class struggle, or we have
nothing to say.
As usual you don’t bother to read properly (eg you obviously didn’t look
at the PS).
Oh yeah, I read it. Loved the touch about the national police being put in such a difficult position. That part was priceless.
The entire article is a deflection, a misdirection– as in “I don’t really know what’s going on, but I know what I don’t like.”
Well in line with the usual lines from the usual sources– boring, mundane, irrelevant, trivial, self-serving– all that usual junk that so defines the usual left.
The best part really is the “PS”– that you think a lame PS amounts to an actual analysis, an actual explication of class forces at work.
Why you waste your time and mine with these sneering tirades only you
know; please don’t bother me again.
He finally responded:
Typical politico – take something out of context and parody it (eg ” Loved the touch about the national police being put in such a difficult position. ” when the bit that says “they had been put in a vulnerable position” is immediately preceded by calling them “thugs” and followed by “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)”.
As for putting down “The pro forma denunciations of nationalism?” – his text is about the same – https://anticapital0.wordpress.com/dont-cry-for-me-catalonia/
“No linkage to austerity”? Of course there is – but banging on about the obvious is not the point of the article. Besides, Catalonia is apparently, in relation to its population size, the richest part of Europe – austerity there is a lot less debilitating than in most other parts of Europe – and the complaints of those Catalans who occlude the misery of the poor in other parts of Spain obviously contributes to preventing any mass opposition to austerity, as the workers quoted in the PS (and the beginning now ) make clear.
And the absurd complaint – typical Trot mentality this – that there’s “No proposals for mobilizing workers in Spain”. I’m sure the workers of Spain were just waiting for this site to give them some suggestions and then act on them. Unlike those who aspire to some leadership role (and from far away, safe from any of the practical risks that might arise) I and my friends have no desire to make proposals that have no possibility of being taken up; we try to do things with people we know or in the area we live, but we’re not Lenin seeking to propose things all over the world before the practical conditions arise where what you propose might mean something. In 2016, if I remember correctly, S.Artesian on his “wolf report” site proposed workers councils or something similar for the workers of France during the movement of spring to summer, without even wanting to find out much of what was happening – or else he would have discovered that the 24 hour strikes were hardly followed and that conservative daily life was hardly disrupted for the vast majority of people in France during this movement.
And he calls the article “Fucking disgraceful”!!!??? Don’t know what horrors must have have happened to him to screw his brain up so much that he ends up losing all sense of proportion.
I should add that if he sends stuff onto this site again it will be rejected. Probably initially there’ll be an automatic “approval” as it seems that once someone is approved s/he automatically gets their comments accepted, as far as I can see. So it might remain for a bit before being taken off.
It´s a pity that our beloved wolf seems to be suffering from severe frost-bite. Or maybe premature pseudocritique-of-political-economy-induced senility? That text he put up really is dreadful shit worthy of any old two-bit Trotskyist hack, not the adroit and passionate wit we all know and love. What worker´s opposition does he expect to be mobilised? The last time I took a plane in Barcelona the guardia civil had occupied the airport to break a strike by insecurity workers — not a whisper of opposition to this emerged as far as I can tell. Who is supposed to be making ´all efforts´at his behest? What cloud is this man living on? I think he would have done better to have finished at ´nothing to say´, as do I.
An email from SK, who lives in Catalonia, says:
“I could not remain aloof to developments here even if I wanted to. How could I when my bosses abandoned work halfway through the day to light fireworks and pour us a round of cava in celebration of the independence declaration! On the contrary, all these Spanish castles in the skies of Catalunya loom aloof to my concerns. Like the fireworks of independence day, some prefer to stop and stare, and some do not. I am one of those who choose to pass them by, mindfull of the falling rubble likely to tumble onto the heads of spectators. Like Charles Mingus, I find myself in a position´beneath the underdog´.
It is true that revolutionists around here fully support independence and the right to self-determination, whatever that means to them. I´m not sure how many do relative to those who don´t (according to one report ´Anarchists hadn’t thought about what to do in relation to this movement until the referendum was approaching and the Spanish state began to crack down on civil liberties. Faced with the censorship imposed by the state, a large number of anarchist groups…decided to give support to the local independentista movements.´), but at least the people in the housing co-op I´m living with, who are an eclectic bunch but all very leftist, and more or less anti-capitalist & anti-authoritarian, all seem very supportive. There is the mother who wants to go to Chiapas and enroll her child in a Zapatista school, the father who talks about political contradictions within the Catalan nationalist party, and justifies support with the argument that such debates can only develop after independence, ´because you first have to be something before you can decide anything´, the guy who calls Thomas Sankara a ´nice dictator´ and watches documentaries about anarchist bank-robbers and counterfieters, they sell beer made by an anarchist brewery in Barcelona called Rosa de Foc (by the way you have a typo when you say ´jib foc´ means rose of fire)… I don´t think any nationality is a necessary preliminary in order to decide what side of the class barrier you are on. Any disinterested observer can see this argument is a cop-out. A slave has no country, and is by definition nothing (though maybe with a will to be all), the same is true of the runaway and the maroon.
There are other reasons anti-authoritarians play partisan in the false oppositions of the current circus. Three reports of anarchists in the region discuss some of them: ´What anarchist can stay indoors while police threaten and beat people who desire to have more of a say in their lives? It is tempting to want to break up the Spanish state or, if not to destroy it, at least to debilitate it through a popular struggle. And when people are in the streets, this presents the possibility that things might overflow, exceeding their limits… although at the moment, this is difficult since it is politicians who hold the initiative.´ I am neither an anarchist, nor does my work lead me to spend nearly as much time indoors as most anarchists, and perhaps that is the point. Though some revolutionists may not recognise it, is more to the world outside the window than streets filled with national flags and police. There is nothing at all tempting to me in breaking or debilitating one state in order to strengthen or create another one. People take to the streets for all sorts of reasons, and as the above anarchist admits some reasons almost totally discount the possibility of things ´exceeding their limits´ in any significant way. Even if it´s true that local assemblies organised the defence of the referrendum often outside of political control, sometimes resorting to physical confrontations with the police, I have yet to hear a single convincing argument that this represents even half a step in a global movement towards total self-management…
If I were a long time resident of the region, maybe these banalities, the need to repeat them, would annoy me enough to say something about the matter, as was the case with Mandealer´s eulogies. But this is not the case. As far as it stands now, and also perhaps given my greater familiarity with what Amoros calls ´philistine anarchism´, I couldn´t be bothered.
As far as the text goes, the bits about ancient history are mildly interesting as far as that sort of thing goes but the handling of current events remains at the same level of generalities as the previous one. Nothing specific is said about the process through which the explosion of dissatisfaction brought about by the crises was chanelled into doomed social-democratic aspirations, and then how dissatisfaction with the failure of these was further channeled into nationalism. The riots and occupations of 2011 were most intense in Catalunya; the newly elected mayor of the Barcelona, swept to power on this tide of anger, was recently denounced by the very anti-eviction organisation (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca) through whom she gained her popularity as a founding member and spokesperson, for failing to implement laws that would expropriate empty buildings from banks and freeze further evictions, of which 300 000 were documented in Spain from 2013 to 2015, AFTER similar laws were passed in most regions of the country. A friend who was first politicised by the repression of 2011 tells how at that time she noticed a definate shift in tenor of the streets in her neighbourhood, with things like ´puta Corviran´ predominating rather than the familiar ´puta Espana´, and how shortly afterwards was sickened at the image of the incoming Catalan president, who reintroduced the independentist agenda, sailing with arms outstretched among a sea of flags, like Rose at the head of the Titanic. These are the kind of concrete details that would make something worth reading, rather than simply reproducing correct but pedantic formulations that could be repeated about dozens of other situations throughout the last hundred years.
For this reason, I am far more inclined towards the attitude of Miguel Amoros on the developments here (https://crimethinc.com/2017/10/10/catalunya-facing-two-bad-options-choose-the-third-on-the-showdown-between-spain-and-catalunya#distended-appendix-two-critical-voices) than the attitude of your friend´s text with its continued claim that ´it is of prime importance to follow what is happening in Catalonia´, which remains as baseless as ever in my eyes. On the contrary, the problem is precisely that far too many people, including those wishing to live completely differently, are FOLLOWING what is happening in Catalonia (an autonomous movement of non-events enveloped in an aura of mass hysteria) and getting lost in the wake of the catatonic leviathan they´ve decided to trail behind, rather than forging on ahead as much as they can with their own path, independently, against the current or (if it seems too strong to oppose without getting swept along) beneath it. “
Obviously when the author of the text said that ´it is of prime importance to follow what is happening in Catalonia´ he was talking as someone who doesn’t live there. For you it’s not a question of following events. Besides, it’s pedantic to pick up on the word “follow” when he meant keeping abreast of reality (which is all we can do outside of any direct ability to effect the situation). At the same time, you seem to want to remain detached from it all – as if the end of alienation doesn’t follow the straight and narrow path of alienation itself. And please don’t jump on the word “follow” in this previous sentence here – it obviously doesn’t mean trailing behind but struggling to get ahead and oppose the situation. Which means refusing to remain aloof or remain “beneath it”, which implies that it’s all too much to have to deal with all the shit – as if one can voluntaristically forge on ahead with your own path, independently without openly choosing the first of your 2 options – going against the current.
Also you say the text avoids details such as the history of the mayor from 2011 onwards; whilst it doesn’t go into details about it, it certainly mentions it.
I agree, though, that Amoros’ contribution – “Letter from Miquel Amorós in response to Tomás Ibáñez” ( https://crimethinc.com/2017/10/10/catalunya-facing-two-bad-options-choose-the-third-on-the-showdown-between-spain-and-catalunya#distended-appendix-two-critical-voices ) is good, but the author of the above was primarily concerned with undercutting the falsification of Catalan history and nationality and language, which I found more than “mildly interesting”, as you rather dismissively put it . The parts about Catalan history and nationalism is interesting because it covers things that others have not said. Which is not to say it couldn’t be developed.
I should point out what the author of the main text above said about Amoros’ letter: “…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.” I don’t entirely agree with all of this, but I’ll leave it for now.
You can only say it´s pedantic to pick up on the different meanings of the word follow if they do not apply to the present situation, which is not the case. For many revolutionists and other good intentioned people, their participation in movements like this is indeed as followers or at least fellow travellers, which practically amounts to the same thing.
Of course it´s necessary to keep abreast with reality, but some verities are more veritable than others. Some situations involve contradictory tendencies, some of which could move in a libertory way, and then following events and even participating in them could at least possibly be fruitful. In this particular situation, I agree with Ibanez that the libertory potential is precisely null. For the same reason, I do not see the prime importance in tracking the convolutions of nationalistic activities in Kashmir, Palestine, etc — as you yourself say when declining to put such things in the news of opposition page.
In these cases it seems far better to emulate the exemplary attitude of the telefonica worker who, cut the line between the President of Catalunya and the President of Spain in 1936 with the words ´We have more interesting things to do than listen to your stupid conversations.’
If the summary of ancient Catalan history really advances your understanding of the present situation, then good for you, I´d be happy to hear how. For me, it adds little. Catalan history, culture and language is no more or less falsified than that of any other; such are the nature of nations. Does that mean we should concern ourselves with dispelling every such falsification? I think not. If you find this dissmissive, feel free; personally I think everybody is entitled to take as much or little interest in a particular topic as they like. Certain falsifications, such as that concerning the struggles that led to the fall of official apartheid, need to be combatted only and inasmuch as they conceal real contradictions involving (possibly) libertory moments and tendencies which are covered up or conflated with those which had to do with maintaining/modernising the reign of misery. In a world produced and improved by falsification at every level, it is impossible to get anywhere trying to say something about every lie one encounters under the assumption that ´truth is always revolutionary´– an abstract imperative at the foundations of both journalistic and scientific ideology. Some situations are just too full of shit, and too void of chaos, to warrant opposition by those who are aware of the need to pick their battles. I should add that being ´fully aware of the project they are defending´ does not preclude irrationality at the basis of the very project itself; just because a fascist is fully aware of what they are doing does not make fascism any less irrational. I also doubt the accuracy of statements which lump together heterogenous masses with very different interests, such as ´Catalans´. The whole point of Amoros is that CERTAIN Catalans, namely the local fraction of the ruling class, are fully aware of the project they are defending, whereas those who take to the street and the voting booth under the flag of a vague nationalist project (with vague slogans such as ´a republic for all´, in the name ofvague abstractions such as democracy and self-determination) are in fact unwittingly manipulated by this class into persuing interests that can in fact benefit only the elite.
This excellent report from a participant of the 2011 rebellions shows very well how all the populist manipulation, demagogic deception, false-oppositions, and co-optation of the genuine dissatisfaction, aspirations, and initiative of ordinary people was already present in the specialised structures of social organisation, including direct-democracy, that dominated social movements from then until the present fiasco where two competing governments confront one another — each in the name of democracy! It is full of exactly the kind of details the present text lacks, and takes us more or less right up until the present — the first part dealing with the popular movements of the past, the second with the ossification of the present. It is no coincidence that the first sentences of the secont part should read as follows: ´Fall 2015. Junts pel Sí, the pro-independence coalition that combines the major right-wing and left-wing political parties in Catalunya, has won the regional elections. Together with the CUP—a grassroots activist platform that makes decisions in assemblies, and which emerged from the social movements to seize over 10% of the vote—they have a majority in the Catalan parliament, and they have announced that they will make a unilateral declaration of independence, turning the parliament into a constituent assembly for a new constitution, breaking away from Spain.´ (https://crimethinc.com/2016/04/05/feature-from-15m-to-podemos-the-regeneration-of-spanish-democracy-and-the-maligned-promise-of-chaos)
Translated from an email in French:
“…although the role of Catalonia remains important, there is no reason to exaggerate its growth or complexity, like the Catalanists do, who argue as if Spain had not been profoundly modified in recent decades by its integration, not only into Europe, but also and more generally into the world. As an important example: … Spain’s current position given the decisive role of maritime trade in the world economy. Thus, for more than ten years, in Spain, it has been Algeciras, at the crossroads between Europe and North Africa, between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, in correspondence with Asia via Suez, which has taken the lion’s share as the hub of the world’s maritime trade to the detriment of the old historic ports of Spain on the Atlantic and Mediterranean, which are being reduced to the role of terminals of regional importance. As a result, Algeciras became the sixth hub in Europe, behind heavyweights like Rotterdam but far ahead of Barcelona, Bilbao, Marseille, etc….via Madrid, Europe has refused to give money to Catalonia, the Basque Country, etc. to modernize their commercial ports by reserving the essentials for Andalusia. Worth reflecting on.”
As a last observation, I can say that the leftist activists where I live all admit that the question of independence or no will have no effect on their everyday lives no matter which way it is decided. Another reminder of how, if we are to avoid the tendency those involved in politics have of accepting vast separations between the terrain of own daily activity and that of the struggles they try to influence, it is necessary to refuse all participation in merely political opposition altogether… When there are political developments that directly affect us, there is certainly no way of forging on ahead with our heads in the sand, but when the politics remains in the realm of circus tricks, I prefer to commit my time and energy on other things
This seems like an apolitical attitude rather than an anti-political one. And it seems like you’ve chosen this argument conveniently – since your own past attitudes were very different. I’m sure that the death of Mandela didn’t directly effect your daily life any more than this horrendous political circus in Spain does, but you still felt the need to comment on it. And surely, even if only on the level of conversations, it effects your daily life. I guess that it will also effect the class struggle in Spain.
I lived in Barcelona in the late 70s, and was there when Barca, the football team, won the European cup. It badly effected my daily life for 4 or 5 days and nights, as there was virtual non-stop hooting of cars all over town in celebration of this wonderful Catalan nationalist victory – I hardly slept. I suspect there’ll also be some sleepless nights ahead as this political circus unfolds if there’s virtually no opposition to it.
SK responded to the above with this (by email):
“I don´t see the need to add further comment, other than refer back to what I´ve already said:
´If I were a long time resident of the region, maybe these banalities, the need to repeat them, would annoy me enough to say something about the matter, as was the case with Mandealer´s eulogies. But this is not the case. As far as it stands now, and also perhaps given my greater familiarity with what Amoros calls ´philistine anarchism´, I couldn´t be bothered.´ “
I said: ” I guess that it will also effect the class struggle in Spain.” The facts of 8th November confirm this fairly obvious statement:
“Although the strike was originally to demand an increase in minimal wage levels in the region, it was quickly adopted by pro-independence associations and parties to protest against the imposition of direct rule and the incarceration of various former top nationalist ministers” – from here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/catalonia-general-strike-catalan-roads-pro-independence-supporters-schools-traffic-jams-a8043596.html#gallery
Another email from Catalonia (though this is insufficiently critical of the independentist manipulators:
“Here you can read the last statement of CNT-Barcelona regarding the
general-strike peformed the past Wednesday 8th november. Just a small
nationalist union Intersindical CSC called on the strike. This time
CNT and CGT didn’t support it officially. As you can guess, the strike
had not much support between the workers. It seems that just the
teachers followed it. However the “strike” had certain effects,
because the activist managed to block roads and some train stations.
Since September, or even before, there is a network of territorial
comitees named CDR, first Comitees for the Defense of Referendum and
now CD of the Republic. They are composed of activist of all kind of
tendencies, anarchist, trotskist, maoists, stalinnist, left
nationalist, Podemos, ANC (National Assembly of Catalonia), Ommium
(nationalist cultural association), etc. This is the rank and file
organization which performed the blockade.
“From CNT Barcelona we have decided not to support the General strike
convened this Wednesday, October 8. The reasons that led us to make
this decision, after a deep reflection at the internal level, are the
First of all, we can NOT talk about GENERAL STRIKE and, in our
opinion, the political use of this tool discredits the real meaning
that it has in the current context. The working class has had to use
this tool to stop the productive system in order to vindicate the
improvement of the rights of the workers and thus demonstrating our
union against the employer and the capital. In any case, we could talk
about a day of struggle or a stoppage at the level of Catalonia, since
the reasons that some unions have led to declaring the strike have
been political reasons, as a result of the arrests of the members of
the Catalan government. However, the immediacy of events has made it
impossible for our affiliation to discuss it correctly. Clearly, all
the sections and affiliates of the CNT are free to second the call if
they so decide.
Secondly, we do not want anyone to believe that the CNT is not aware
of the political and repressive situation that we are suffering in our
jobs, in the neighborhoods and in the streets of Barcelona. From
anarcho-syndicalism we know firsthand what is to suffer the
consequences of a fascist state that has acted thanks to the
complicity of the Catalan bourgeoisie over all these years. Now, the
same elites are the ones who see how they are paid with the same
currency, and this hasn’t happened since the dictatorship. It is clear
that the drift of the heirs of the Franco regime follow the way of
their parents. Nor are we in favor of the imprisonment of the members
of the government, nor of anybody, since we have been never in favor
that people are deprived of individual freedom because of their ideas.
And for the third and last point, and this really leads to a state of
great concern and worry, we want to denounce the rise of fascism in
the streets of Barcelona. The message of immobility from the Catalan
institutions and entities is giving an unprecedented “carte blanche”
in Catalonia. Aggressions, insults, ill-treatment that in many cases
end up in the hospital are not having the right answer to the
seriousness of the situation. We are witnessing, on a daily basis, how
impunity they are allowed to act without any consequence. From the CNT
and the libertarian movements, we have been warning for the past few
weeks about what is happening, that it is rising and that it will not
stop if you do not fight it with all the necessary means.
For all these reasons on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 we will fight
against the exploitation and authoritarianism of the Spanish State, we
will jump in our streets to assert that the workers of Barcelona are
not prepared to lose our rights and freedoms. Stay tuned for the next
Long live the struggle of the working class! THEY WILL NOT PASS!”
BLOOD AND SOIL (BLUT UND BODEN)
Article quoting leading Catalan politicians on their “race” and “blood” compared with others in Spain (here: http://www.libertaddigital.com/espana/politica/2015-07-26/oriol-junqueras-los-catalanes-tienen-mas-proximidad-genetica-con-los-franceses-que-con-los-espanoles-1276553647/ ):
(rough Google translation)
Oriol Junqueras: ” Catalans have more genetic proximity with the French than with the Spanish”
The ERC leader wrote an article in 2008 in which he was convinced that the Catalan “race” had more to do with Switzerland than with Spain.
Pujol wrote in 1976: “The Andalusian man is not a coherent man, he is an anarchic man, he is a destroyed man, he is generally a man who is underdeveloped, a man who lives in a state of cultural, mental and spiritual ignorance”. It was one of the many examples of nationalist ethnicism, in the purest tradition of Valentí Almirall, Pompeius Gener Prat de la Riba and Francesc Pujols – who argued that Catalans should have everything paid for being so – and so many others.
To be no less than the historical leader of ERC, Heribert Barrera -who left to posterity phrases such as “I do not intend that a country should have a pure race, but there is a genetic distribution in the Catalan population that statistically is different from that of the sub-Saharan population, for example “-, Oriol Junqueras joined the chariot of ethnicism shortly after being elected president of ERC.
The newspaper Digital Economy recalls in an article by its director, Manel Manchón, another article by Junqueras published in 2008 in the newspaper Avuí in which the republican leader took advantage of a study of a hospital in Rotterdam to write: “There are three states- only three! -, where it has been impossible to group the entire population into a single genetic group: in Italy, in Germany, following the old linguistic border between maritime and continental German, and in Spain, between Spaniards and Catalans ” .
He continued: “In particular, the Catalans have more genetic proximity with the French than with the Spaniards, more with the Italians than with the Portuguese, and a little with the Swiss, whilst the Spaniards have more proximity with the Portuguese than with the Catalans and very little with the French … Curious … “
“In 2016, if I remember correctly, S.Artesian on his “wolf report” site proposed workers councils or something similar for the workers of France during the movement of spring to summer, without even wanting to find out much of what was happening – or else he would have discovered that the 24 hour strikes were hardly followed and that conservative daily life was hardly disrupted for the vast majority of people in France during this movement.”
Well, historical accuracy being of some minor importance, I went back and checked and in 2016, I wrote one article on events in France, this– https://thewolfatthedoor.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-class-struggle-in-france-2016.html and here’s what I wound up advocating:
“The origins of the struggle are not the slightest reason in the world to hesitate or “be cautious.” It’s all the more reason to develop the demands, the organizations, the institutions, that break the domination of the archaic clusters of power– including the CGT bureaucracy, the new left coalitions– and clearly this movement contains exactly that potential– particularly with the almost universal acceptance of the demand to “open the borders”– to erase the distinction between documented and undocumented workers. The key is how quickly, clearly, and class consciously the French workers and students can link up with those in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, Germany with a program that opposes the EU’s vision of “capitalism without borders” with a program of revolution; a program not limited to “utilizing” banks or corporations for the “public good,” but one of abolishing banks and corporations; a program for the emancipation of labor everywhere from pettiness of production for value.
To its credit, and to the honor of class struggle everywhere, the French youth, students, and workers have raised, discussed and reiterated the demand to open the borders to all. While the Europe Union everywhere recoils in horror from those driven from their areas of origin by the economic and military conflicts which the European Union itself has aided, abetted, utilized to atomize living conditions, and labor power, in southwest Asia, Africa, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, the French workers, youth, students have demanded open borders, elimination of any fractionalization of workers into “documented” and “undocumented.” Eliminating that boundary is the key to breaking the confinement of the struggle to the theater of the CGT and the Nuit Debout. That boundary will be eliminated not in Paris, but of Paris, when the students and workers link up with those in the banlieue, and to those risking death at sea to escape from the destruction imposed by capitalism.”
Nothing about workers councils, nothing that I think is even close to workers councils– not that I don’t look forward to the day when workers councils are an immediate reality rather than an expressed desire.
Go ahead Sam, purge away.
I won’t “purge” the above, since it’s not delirious, even if a little forgetful (“economic with the truth”?) because, if you look at the comments section below the above article by him, where I wrote:
“You say “The origins of the struggle are not the slightest reason in the world to hesitate or “be cautious.” It’s all the more reason to develop the demands, the organizations, the institutions, that break the domination of the archaic clusters of power “. Whilst I agree with the first sentence, the second one is strange to me. What kind of “demands.. organizations… institutions” do you envisage that “break the domination of the archaic clusters of power “? What historical or current examples do you think are applicable?”…..you can see he replies:
“No shortage of examples, really– reaching back to the Paris Commune, or the insurgent commune of St. Louis in the US. Of course, the soviets of 1917 are the “iconic” representation. There were the cordones in Chile in 1973, the FEJUVE in El Alto during the water struggle; on the “combat side” in Honduras in response to the coup against Zelaya, there were defense guards being organized, primarily in the unions.”
I should have replied to this, of course, but didn’t (for a variety of reasons, not least of which was trying to get to grips with aspects of the struggle in the area I lived). His “call” to the working class of France implied a level of autonomous struggle which no way existed outside of the high schools and some other sectors, which did not include the working section of the working class, which was and is very much submissive to the phoney opposition of the unions.
Going to work now, but I’ll develop this later – probably Monday or Tuesday (20th or 21st November).
Would be interested to see how you do develop this. I must say though, the way you put it was quite misleading — ‘In 2016, if I remember correctly, S.Artesian on his “wolf report” site proposed workers councils or something similar for the workers of France during the movement of spring to summer, without even wanting to find out much of what was happening’. Listing examples (however inappropriate) in response to comments is not quite the same as advancing proposals. At least he was referring to demands, like opening the borders, do go far beyond leftist recuperation — unlike his Catalonia text where he advocates, in an almost deliriously out of touch way, ‘all efforts’ on behalf of a worker’s opposition which is nowhere in appearance. BTW, is it just me or is that CNT communique seriously contradictory — they start out saying “we have decided not to support the General strike” on 8 November and end by saying “For all these reasons on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 we will fight
against the exploitation and authoritarianism of the Spanish State, we
will jump in our streets to assert that the workers of Barcelona are
not prepared to lose our rights and freedoms.”????
You’re partly right. As I said, “if I remember correctly” – well my memory was more in relation to his response to my comments but I forgot that. Still, I find it absurd to advocate things from afar that you are in no way capable of participating in yourself. It implies a vanguardist role. One can point out limitations, point out examples from other periods or other situations, but to suggest workers in France adopt ” a program that opposes the EU’s vision of “capitalism without borders” with a program of revolution; a program not limited to “utilizing” banks or corporations for the “public good,” but one of abolishing banks and corporations; a program for the emancipation of labor everywhere from pettiness of production for value.” was absurd, given especially the situation here (the appallingly low level of autonomy on the part of the working section of the working class), which shows how unfamiliar he is/was with what was going on here and just seemed like a typical vanguardist mentality – as if some kind of Marat was sitting in his bath in Australia issuing proclamations to the French revolutionaries. Nothing wrong with discussing practical possibilities with people you know, of course, even if you don’t live in the country/area where they might have some effect but to launch positive suggestions on a website seems like gesture politics – it reminds me of student unions back in the early 70s when they’d vote to support the NLF in Vietnam in their struggle against US imperialism. Which meant nothing other than making those who voted for it pretend to themselves that they were connected internationally. Artesian was not just out of touch with the reality of the situation (admittedly within the context of an absurd long-distance cheerleading on the part of various anarchists etc abroad, talking of “insurrectionary France”) but expressed an attitude rather like a General directing his troops from a long distance. At least General de Gaulle, when he issued his famous appeal from the UK in 1940 was fairly aware of the situation in France. But then Artesian believes in the Red Army, so such an attitude is second nature to him.
Hip long-haired Podemos bureaucrat shows his true face:
[…] homage to catatonia (october 2017) […]
Just putting this here for reference. I certainly do not agree with it in any way – it’s an ideology of an actually existing method of recuperation of struggles in Barcelona, positively pumped up through Bookchinist municipalism :