The conflict between the factions defending the existing Spanish state and those seeking a separate Catalonian state continues to accelerate. Whatever the outcome or the detailed twists and turns it is clear that class-conscious workers need to be equally independent from those arguing for either a separate Catalan state or the preservation of the existing state order – both represent the façade behind which the bosses’ class exercise their control.

Nationalist Manoeuvring

The latest stage in the ratcheting up of the competing nationalist projects began at the beginning of September when the Catalan parliament approved a motion calling for a referendum on independence to be held on 1 October. The Spanish government declared the decision unconstitutional, based on the Spanish Constitution of 1978 which upholds ‘the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation’ – a settlement that aimed at firmly controlling any echoes of local separatism that appeared during the Civil War in the 1930s. However, the Catalan Government decided to press on with their proposal hoping to cash in on years of fostering Catalan separatism.

On 20 September the Spanish state launched Operation Anubis – an attempt to prevent the referendum from taking place which included the raiding of Catalan government offices, arresting officials and confiscating ballot papers. This culminated in open state violence by the Spanish State forces around the day that the referendum was held. Protests against this violence took place in Catalonia but at this stage we have no information of any major protests elsewhere in Spain. Instead we have seen massive demonstrations of Spanish nationalism in Madrid and elsewhere – an obvious illustration of nationalism cutting across working class unity.

The events of 1 October galvanised nationalist tendencies on both sides. According to the Catalan regional authorities, 91.96% voted yes to an independent Catalan republic, but overall turnout was low at 42.58%. The day of the vote was marred by turmoil, as the Policia Nacional and the Guardia Civil attempted to close down polling stations. 893 injured civilians revealed the violence inherent within the democratic state – some commentators, among them, ironically, Nicolás Maduro, drew comparisons between the actions of Mariano Rajoy’s government and Francoist Spain. Afterwards, the European Commission declared that ‘under the Spanish Constitution, the 1 October vote in Catalonia was not legal’ and that they trust ‘the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process’. [1]

Following the September crackdown by the Spanish state, the CGT, followed by the CNT and other small unions, seized the opportunity and called a general strike for 3 October. After the events of 1 October, Spain’s biggest unions, the UGT and CCOO, as well as the Catalan independence association (ANC) instead announced what may be best described as a citizen’s walkout – their statement read: ’We call on all of society, on employers’ organisations, business owners, unions, workers, self-employed workers, institutions and all the citizens of Catalonia to stop the ‘country’ on Tuesday, October 3’. The strike on 3 October hit public transport, two major ports, and the agrarian sector. [2] Whether as part of the citizen’s walkout or the general strike call-out, whether motivated by nationalism or anger at the police, workers reacted to the events. It remains unclear how far the reports of local assemblies reflect sparks of working class self-organisation or whether they were creations of the local bourgeois establishment to act as a “stage army” favouring the separatists’ agenda.

Since the beginning of the October both the state machines based in Madrid and Barcelona have justified their own positions claiming that their respective constitutional positions outweigh the others. It would be a fatal mistake if workers in Catalonia or the rest of Spain are dragooned behind either of the competing arguments. Behind the lawyers’ debates about “angels on pinheads” lies the reality of ruling class factions seeking to extend their own ability to exploit the working class – totally irrespective of accidents of birth, nationality or heritage.

The Internationalist Response

The events in Catalonia have to be understood within the context of capitalism’s long term economic crisis which culminated in a financial crash in 2007 from which there has been no real recovery. This has increasingly led local sections of the capitalist class to think they could manage the economy better than the central state. This in turn has produced a global shift towards nationalism and populism. In an economy which still has not recovered ten years after the bubble of speculation burst, the ruling class is running out of ideas and is divided on how to get out of it. The attempt to shift the blame onto the central Spanish government by the Catalan government, to rally workers behind the separatist programme, is supposed to conceal the fact that certain sections of the Catalan ruling class (which is also split on the issue) has been just as responsible for enacting austerity measures as the government in Madrid.

As we have said many times, national liberation does nothing but divide the working class and leaves workers at the mercy of their own national bourgeoisie. Where the various national factions have spread nationalist delusions we argue for the local working class to stand against both sides of the argument around these projects. The examples of this are countless (including recent ones like Ukraine [3], Scotland [4] or Kurdistan [5]). Even as we write, the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan is being used to prepare the next chapter of death and suffering around struggle for resources in the Turkey/Syria/Iraq cauldron.

As internationalists, we argue that the only alternative to the social and environmental devastation offered by capitalism is that workers unite across borders for a common goal: a world without classes and states, where ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’. For this we need an international organisation, a party, which can effectively intervene in events such as the strike in Catalonia – to push the struggle beyond the control of unions and institutional parties, and declare independence from all strata of the ruling class, whatever their nationality.

If and when there are movements towards neighbourhood or workplace assemblies then the arguments must be made to separate them totally from factions of the state, Spanish or Catalan, and from the participation of local employers. Binding decisions must come from the mass meetings with delegates being accountable and recallable. The spreading and networking of such working-class organisations is the alternative to the bloody cul-de-sac of competing nationalisms that the bourgeoisie is preparing. In the absence of an existing effective internationalist organisation we offer our solidarity and assistance to communist nuclei and individuals struggling for this necessary proletarian response.


6 October 2017-10-07


[1] Statement on the events in Catalonia

[2] Catalonia stages general strike following Spanish police’s ‘brutal’ response to independence referendum

[3] Ukraine – A Nationalist Dead End

[4] The Scottish Independence Referendum: The Great Diversion

[5] In Rojava: People’s War is not Class War

AWSM note: This article is being reposted from the following source (