Pic: CUP activist, Anna Gabriel, speaking in Catalan parliament.
Q. On October 1st, the day of the Independence Referendum in Catalonia, we witnessed terrible scenes as the Spanish police attacked unarmed citizens who had come out peacefully to vote. The Spanish state justified this by saying that the referendum was illegal, that Catalans wanted all the wealth of Catalonia for themselves, that this was a middle class rebellion. Is there any truth in this?
In 2015 the Catalan elections resulted in a pro-independence majority in the Parliament who then passed laws legitimising the Referendum. 72 MPs from the total 135 voted in favour of this procedure. They have acted democratically within the scope of the Catalan Institutions. The Spanish State has consistently rejected the many attempts made by the Catalan parliament to negotiate more autonomy.
This is not just a debate about legalities but about legitimacy. The Moncloa Pact made in 1978, just after the death of Franco, was made between elites to allow them remain in power and to silence crimes committed during the dictatorship. The result was a Constitution that protected the idea of the indivisibility of the Spanish State but didn’t resolve the question of how to deal with different identities within the territory of the Spanish State.
The political system that emerged created differences between communities, divided people with fake boundaries and centralised power.
Nothing will change in the Spanish State if the Constitutional Court (made up of Franco era judges) doesn’t want it to as it is in fascist, reactionary hands. This applies not only to independence movements but to social and progressive movements too. All the laws approved in the Catalan Parliament to create better conditions for the working class on energy poverty, gender equality, LGTBI+ rights, taxes on banks, were considered anti-constitutional and therefore illegal by the Spanish State.
So this is not just a Catalan affair but something that affects all working class and progressive people under the Spanish State.
Q.Why would socialists support Catalan independence?
Independence is a way (maybe the only way) to change this political system and to build a democratic and equal Republic.
It has the potential to create the opportunity to challenge the Spanish State not just in Catalonia but also in the Basque Country and Galicia, in Madrid itself with the huge social movements there, in order to end the fake democratic system that hides the authoritarianism of the State.
We have never believed in the European Union. We consider it a reactionary project that doesn’t allow social progress. A project made by capitalsim to protect the economic interest of the elite.
This process in Catalonia is also a challenge for the EU. The response of the European Institutions has shown people the real face of the EU and its real objectives, aims and interests. If we win, it opens the potential to challenge the idea of strong States as the main actors in the region. We are proposing not just a Catalan Republic but to build the Europe of the People. We are not an isolated case. People in Europe can rise up against the capitalist oppression of the international financial and political institutions.
Since the referendum we have seen huge mobilisations of people including two general strikes, civil society leaders and parliamentarians have been imprisoned, the parliament has been dissolved by the Spanish state and the President Puigdemont fled to Europe. Elections have been called for December 21st. What is the mood like in communities now?
Endorsing elections is a mistake. We are not in a normal situation: half of the legitimate government is in jail, the other half exiled in Brussels. The two main leaders of the civil society movements ( ANC and Omnium) are also in jail. So in that context, we should not accept any kind of elections that are normalising the situation. We should boycott them. But the right wing, centre and unionist Catalan parties accepted the proposed elections and we had no alternative if we want to continue defending the Catalan Republic.
We are afraid that these elections could demobilise people who might wait to see what the new Parliament will be like. But we should trust in the self-organisation of people as they have demonstrated a strong will to defend the Republic. People are all we have and are the backbone of this political project.
Q.What do you think are the possible outcomes of the election and the likely reaction of Spain and the EU to those outcomes?
We don’t think the make up of the current Parliament will change much. We already have an independence majority. The risk is that some political forces could use the liberation of the political prisoners as leverage to negotiate a better budget for the region rather than independence. CUP will be defending the Catalan Republic. We don’t want to go back – the era of autonomy is over. Now we need to push forward for independence.
The response of the Spanish State in the case that the independence forces continue to defend the Republic is clear: they will proceed with the implementation of Article 155 (criminalising the independence movement) and repression. The response of EU? To back the Spanish State. We really don’t expect either of these actors to change their position.