Catalonia: From Anti-Referendum Repression To Social Unrest?

With clubs and rubber bullets, repression hit the independence referendum organised on October 1st in Catalonia. 844 people were injured, two of them seriously. The Spanish government deployed 10,000 police officers and civilian guards to close the polling stations and seize election materials. This is how Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government opposed ballot papers.

To vote means going “against democracy”?

“The rule of law”, “respect of the constitution”, and now clubs, these are the arguments of the Prime Minister against the will of a fraction of the Catalan people to vote for independence. Never mind that Rajoy is caught up in corruption cases, he wants to enforce the law. And the demonstrations in favour of unity organised in Madrid during the weekend, with the government blessings, evoked the old Franco dictatorship.

No surprise that, faced with repression from Madrid, a large part of the Catalan population waved the Catalan flag even more fiercely. And that 40% of the people went to vote for independence, despite the ban. This results directly from the policy of Madrid’s government.

Puigdemont, not a better democrat than Rajoy…

The regional leaders of Catalonia, who defend independence and rode the Catalan anger wave, are not the greatest democrats either. They use repression no less than Madrid’s government. That was demonstrated during the general strike of 14 November 2012 against austerity, when the Catalan police, under orders from a regional nationalist government, shot rubber bullets that caused one demonstrator to lose an eye.

…but as much anti-worker

This regional government is partly responsible for the increase in poverty and unemployment. Rajoy’s clubs do not change the fact that Carles Puigdemont behaves like our Macron, against Catalonia’s workers and youths. Catalonia certainly is one of the richest areas of Spain, and its rich people say they don’t want to pay for the poor in other areas… But they don’t want to pay for Catalonia’s poor either. Unemployment there is 13%, social budgets have had cuts, and there is a lodging crisis. Puigdemont simply explains that the misery of the area’s working class is caused singlehandedly by Madrid’s central government. His only programme is to wave the Catalan’s flag… this won’t provide jobs or bread!

Indeed, the anti-austerity movement The Indignados had denounced him back in 2011. The government politicians at that time quickly tried to divert social anger into supporting their concept of independence. Puigdemont is doing the same thing now by accusing Madrid.

On October 3rd, the Catalan people are called to a day of general strike by the Catalan unions and by the local government. As revolutionary workers, we can only hope that anger is expressed in the streets to give Rajoy a taste of his own medicine. And that even Puigdemont becomes scared!

But if the Catalan workers really want to defend their own interests, they should make their own democratic demands, not just the right to vote in a referendum desired (or opposed) by the top, but above all their right to a decent job and a decent wage. Like workers and youths from all over Spain. They would be more powerful if they could have such an alliance, which could even grow all over Europe. This would give them better prospects than waving a flag, which isolates them and leaves them alone against their Catalan bosses!