How to Free Catalunya, and How Not To
Catalunya has declared independence from the Spanish state, raising once again the specter of proletarian revolution in this country. This takes place as the world situation, characterized by capitalism’s existential crisis of falling profits, seeks to download its crisis on weaker nations and the proletariat everywhere. As the imperialist powers compete to increase their hold over the finite resources of the world, the national bourgeoisies scramble to share in the booty. The Catalan bourgeoisie cannot win this fight against the Spanish imperialist state, but the workers and other oppressed can. Here we argue for a Leninist/Trotskyist party and program to guide workers to fight against imperialist oppression, and to organize and mobilize councils/soviets and militias to take power and transform the struggle for national self-determination into an international federation of socialist republics. Failing to follow this course, leaving the fate of the movement to the various parties, whether bourgeois or ostensibly “workers,” will result in another in a century long string of failures (think of the 1917 Catalan general strike against the Moroccan war and the draft as our starting point of historical convenience.)
In dialectics we employ affirmations, negations and negations of negations, both positive and negative. Mention dialectics, never mind performing their investigations and mental exercises, and you’ll throw the anti-program and anti-party fake left into rages and anti-democratic maneuvers. As workers the world over begin in uneven ways to radicalize again, the fake left gets more desperate to keep consideration of the revolutionary program of the working class and what its organizational requirements are out of discussion and out of view.
Still other forces, nominal champions of the workers, seeing the radicalization such as has mushroomed again in Catalunya, prescribe programs revealing how little they understand revolutionary dynamics and how little heed they have paid our heroes, the most essential leaders of the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin and Trotsky. And we have met such fakers telling workers dialectics is hocus-pocus you will never understand. We will explain ourselves right now!
Recently a leading light of the Lambertists in the U.S., i.e. Socialist Organizer (their minimalism is the definition of objectivism itself; for them the class is not subjectively revolutionary so the minimal program reigns in the mass movement until the consciousness develops), castigated an opponent as coming from “the bizarro world of dialectics.” Even that bunch would not argue with Engels that dialectics exist in nature, irrespective of human agency or approval. But we will argue that human agency is necessary to stop human destruction of nature! If nature is not to have the last laugh on humankind, the revolutionary program and party are the necessity the dialectic calls for. At their World Congress this fall the Lambertists greeted the Catalan Republic as a fact resulting from mass consciousness. Thus we get the following reassuring brilliance from these erstwhile Trotskyists…,
“We are confident of the fact that the result of 1 October, which affirmed the reality of the Republic in Catalonia, will – regardless of events – continue to represent a first step that will be followed by others.
We are confident of the capacity of the workers and youth, in Catalonia and in every region of Spain, to find the path to organising, which will allow them to assert their rights.”
The Spain of the Bourbons and what’s left of their empire, the Spain of the Castilian language, Francoism and fascists past and present, the Spain of a multinational capitalist bourgeoisie and their political parties, their 1978 Constitution and their Social-Democratic and Eurocommunist conciliators, this Spain is negating Catalunya’s national-democratic right to self-determination. This is a right that is a component part of the bourgeois revolution, such as other, richer nations carried out in centuries past, before the imperialist epoch.
The Catalonian masses are again rising to attempt to throw off the Madrid yoke. But so far their chances are no better than in past risings. Their dilemma of dilemmas is the question of which class can successfully lead them across the finish line. At the moment their regional parliament, the Generalidad, has been suspended by order of the Cortes and direct rule imposed under Article 155 of the 1978 Constitution, after Barcelona declared independence. Eight Ministers of the Generalidad are in jail and President Puigdemont is in Brussels, having been placed under arrest while attempting to win support for the national project from European Union suits who have already made plain they are not in favor. Not incidentally, neither are either the ins or the outs of the U.S. ruling class regime. U.S. liberals tell us that Putin supports Catalan independence (Kurdish, Texan and Californian independence too.) This just tells us Putin’s mob is not making any money in Catalunya. We demand the immediate release of ALL Catalan political prisoners, irrespective of party. Madrid is jailing people for their ideas! We must not let this pass. After the election of 12/21 we find the situation almost exactly as before: the independence coalition of parties has 70 of the 135 seats and King Felipe VI is rejecting anything but unity and rejecting the indicated Puigdemont’s call for talks. The ministers are still in jail.
Breaking Away From Failure Mode
Trotsky’s Transitional Program of 1938 includes organs of workers democracy across working class society and lays out the revolutionary tasks of each type of committee of the workers councils (Soviets.) None of these are mentioned by our opponents! Workers democracy was the beacon of the Paris Commune and is what we celebrate. The Petrograd Soviet, with all its proletarian committees embracing the life of the whole class is what we celebrate. And the 1917 Military Revolutionary Committee delivered All Power to the Congress of Soviets, not to any multi-class obstacle of bourgeois democracy. We marked that centenary in November. We are not calling for power to Puigdemont, who can’t have it and wouldn’t keep it if he got it, another lesson of 1917.
Instead of the fight for class-political, workers’ independent organs we got a Constituent Assembly (hereafter CA) demand from the ardent “Jacobins”, the un-reconstructed “ex”-Morenoites of the FLTI— before the repression or the plebiscite vote! This is not Trotskyism or Leninism but Mao/Stalin “revolution,” revolution that ties the proletarians to the national bourgeoisie. When what are called for are the independent organizations of class-political self-expression of the working class as a whole, these “Jacobins” offer another multiclass ‘democratic’ barricade in the revolution’s path.
If your intention is to fall into Puigdemont’s PdeCAT trap the CA is the place, but communists task is to clarify class lines–that is done on the streets and barricades and by building soviets. Let the petty bourgeois call for a CA as a halfway house, but let them expose themselves when like in 1917 the fakers always try to steer the masses into the CA. To activate the transitional demands we have to call for workers independent soviets/councils, workers militias, and for all power to these organs as the foundation for a workers state. So far, the masses have not been demobilized by the Civil Guard repression and direct rule and so it is still incorrect to call for a CA, and so is the other “dialog” trap proposed by bourgeois reformism. In a situation where the masses take the streets demanding the release of all political prisoners, we see more confrontation than consciousness. Here a revolutionary party might have contested Rajoy’s December elections, depending on the tempo of struggle and psychology of the masses, but in the party’s absence an abstention campaign that popularizes the program of such a party is what is called for. The misapplication of the CA demand by the FLTI is a Morenoist style error. As many times as Moreno invoked a CA as a cure-all, the RCIT error is now worse, on the order of methodological in their recent Manifesto for the Revolutionary Liberation of Black Africa, where they call for Constituent Assemblies in every country!
We see the RCIT (Revolutionary Communist Internationalist Tendency) making the same error: consider in Catalunya…,
“The mass movement must control its leaders so that they implement the will of the people and that they not betray or undermine the liberation struggle! The leaders of ERC, CUP, ANC, Omnium Cultural (footnote) and other mass organizations should be pushed to organize the popular resistance which must focus not on parliamentary games but on the resistance on the streets and the workplaces.”
“In our opinion, the strategic goal of the struggle should be to prepare for a popular uprising to defeat the Article 155 regime and to drive out the occupation forces of the Spanish state! For a revolutionary Assemblea Constituent (Constituent Assembly) to elaborate the constitution for the República Catalana! The RCIT is convinced that the perspective of the independence struggle should be the formation of a República Obrera Catalana (Catalan Workers Republic) as well as the creation of an Iberian Socialist Federation and the United Socialist States of Europe!”
AND… This class agnosticism is what they call a socialist program!…
“The RCIT calls all authentic revolutionaries to join us in the struggle for a Catalan Workers Republic and a socialist program!
Larga vida a la República Catalana! Long live the Catalan Republic!
Build the CDR as popular councils of action! For a congress of delegates of all mass organizations to coordinate the resistance!
Build self-defense units against the Guardia Civil thugs!
Organize a general strike!
Prepare for a popular uprising against the threat of foreign occupation by the Spanish state!
For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly!
For a República Obrera Catalana (Catalan Workers Republic) For a Socialist Iberian Federation! For the United Socialist States of Europe!”
Here we see the RCIT at their typical game. They call for the revolutionary party in passing, but their real obsession is the convocation of a CA. Now a CA can be a good thing to convene when the mass movement must make a retreat under repression: it can make a great stand for democratic rights in the court of world opinion. But it is not an item on any mandatory equipment list of the socialist revolution irrespective of the state of the struggle!
If this were not bad enough, look at the above citations and see what they would have militants do! Are they calling for a fight for dual power, self-organized workers’ revolutionary organs? Apart for the call for arming the Committees for the Defense of the Referendum, what is it the RCIT wants to come out of the General strike movement? To fight Article 155 by putting pressure on semi-social democratic nationalist electoral parties and cultural organizations!!!? This is a class agnostic approach!!! What does the Transitional Program of 1938 say is the urgent task? Not to pressure the rotten, legalist and Castilian chauvinist leaders of the CO and UGT union federations, but to recall them, replacing them with ever more militant layers of young workers!!! The task is to organize the entire working class to seize power, including the layers that inevitably escape representation by trade unions, into workers councils, not to pressure popular mass organizations whose leaders sometimes emit independence sentiments!
Another Hydra head gets this wrong– no surprise!
Getting Permanent Revolution wrong, the ICL (the Spartacists) quote from Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution. What they use is applicable to an underdeveloped country such as Russia was in 1917, and shows they don’t really know which class’ revolution they want this to be.
“In order to achieve liberation and a cultural lift, the oppressed nationalities were compelled to link their fate with that of the working class. And for this they had to free themselves from the leadership of their own bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties—they had to make a long spurt forward, that is, on the road of historic development.”
—The History of the Russian Revolution (1932)
It is the working class who are oppressed. Catalunya has a mass working class majority. Cultural development of the workers or any other Catalan social class is not the problem. Seizing the industries is! The ICL provides no programmatic guidance whatsoever. Where is the propaganda for sit-down strikes? Where is the call for soviets and all their component committees? For armed pickets and their training and centralization as workers defense guards? To write that your tendency upholds Leninist-Trotskyist tradition and forget to suggest what workers need to do is dilettantism! To call for national self-determination and the socialist revolution without the bridge of transitional demands is to embrace the failed social-democratic min/max methodology (see WV nos. 1119 and 1121). There never would have been a history of the Russian revolution without a transitional program, popularized among the masses by Bolsheviks.
The mis-named Spartacists, long known for dismissing national liberation as an especial task of the revolutionary movement, have lately staged a “Back to Robertson!” shakeup on the question of their orientation to the right of nations to self-determination. So far we are still supremely suspicious of what this will mean in practice from those who could get this question so wrong on so many continents and in their own imperialist backyard too.
Lenin and Trotsky understood the national question contains a basic contradiction it is up to the workers’ international revolutionary party to solve. On the one hand the workers of the oppressor nations, Spain in the first place, but also France and all of the E.U. countries, have to come to realize that their own class interests are tied up indissolubly–by the modern world market–with the working masses of Catalunya. And this means the solidarity of the oppressor nations’ workers with the Catalans’ is required for success of their own struggles. Then in the course of the national struggle the Catalan workers, assured of this internationalist solidarity, will come to see the bigger picture, the necessity for the world socialist revolution and their important, if subordinate part in it. This may seem to be “ABC” to Marxist intellectuals conversant with writings of Lenin and Trotsky, but tendencies who have worker members on the continent need to show us they are making the effort to make this consciousness replicate itself in our social class. We don’t see or hear of it yet. This is a question that qualifies or disqualifies revolutionaries!
Lenin says in What Is To Be Done that the Social Democrats fight the “possibilists,” not cave in to their notion of what is practicable but raise the masses’ demands irrespective of practicability in the immediate present. Here we see LCT (Argentina) being schematic, taking the opposition to nationalism out to lunch and opposing raising the demand for independence at all. They say “No To Independence!”
Dialectics again: Not bizarro but natural…
No national bourgeoisie can do otherwise than negate national liberation in the epoch of imperialism. The Catalan national bourgeoisie themselves, through their parliamentary parties and political agents will negatively negate Catalan national liberation, itself the negation of Madrid’s negation of Catalunya’s right to self-determination. They lead the masses– into the arms of the police, of Madrid, Maastricht, and NATO. They have already begun to do so, even as Madrid jails their leaders momentarily. Thus, militant workers do not see their false colors yet and are mostly not helped by the national chauvinism of their class sisters and brothers elsewhere in Iberia or Europe.
We are in favor of a complete break with the bourgeois nationalists because they are already helpless and will leave the working class vulnerable to the fascists. What’s more, any possible “independence” strategy of the capitalists will now already require the support of either a far more powerful capitalist country (as Puigdemont sought from Brussels) or that of a major imperialist power who will expect never-ending returns on investment. AND in the imperialist epoch that began with World War One there is ZERO CHANCE of a peaceful separation a la Norway’s separation from Sweden in 1903. That is the historical record, not a theoretical abstraction. The historical record shows the total validity of our theory, Permanent Revolution. As matters stand, without the working class armed and organized in its own historic interests, the Catalan bourgeoisie stands ready to shed the workers’ blood to get their income taxes reduced or more favorable contacts to spend them. For the average worker, that’s no deal at all.
The traditional mass parties of the workers movement in Iberia, the PSOE and PCE, i.e. the social democrats and Eurocommunists, are no help at all, showing no sign of support for the indisputably mass movement. What law attaches them to their shameful adherence to the Constitution they supported alongside the Franco Falangistas in 1978? Twenty-first century Kautskyism does nothing and will do nothing to achieve socialism, while the ex-Stalinists’ reversion to Menshevik politics tells the Catalans that the time is not yet ripe and/or now is not the time. Not time they say for Catalan independence, not time for workers republics anywhere and not even time for the fall of the monarchy, forgetting what they said in 1931 when “Narisota” (Alfonso XIII) was driven into exile! With Trotsky, speaking of our epoch and referring to the entire planet we say the time and the conditions are ripe and even overripe! So says the Transitional Program.
If Catalans would be so fortunate as to achieve a mere juridical independence from the Bourbons of Madrid, a prospect at all times unlikely! without mass working class independent political struggle against all your bosses, you will find that this legislative independence declaration by the politicians of your local/national bourgeoisie puts nothing in your pay envelope. You will find you are still fighting the same bosses whether Catalan or Castilian. You will be fighting the demands of French and German banks who do not wish your independence project well. The EU prefers the armed might of Madrid do the dirty work of compelling/acquiring and channeling, from the relative wealth of the Catalan recovery, funds to cover the debts created by the 2008 world recession. Since Madrid has been coming up with its bailout payments to the banks, they will expect the same from an independent capitalist Catalonia. If you leave the task of national self-determination in the hands of the Catalan bourgeoisie you will be counting the days before Madrid employs the fascists to destroy all your gains and organs of struggle. Only worker’s self-management in planning the economy and fighting for international socialism will provide an escape from this trap.
The ruling class remembers (100 years on) that national self-determination in the age of imperialism is posed on the streets as a class question; which, in order to resolve the contradictions which gave it rise– how they tried to negate the national program before it became internationalist and socialist, replacing the legislative, parliament and constituent assembly dodges with the dictatorship of the democratic workers assemblies, which wield both legislative and executive power executed by the workers organs themselves. The memory of October 1917 still haunts the ruling class. They fear the Catalan masses because they know consciousness is mutable and that today’s unfulfillable dream of economic salvation via capitalist self-determination can quickly turn into revolutionary proletarian political socialist consciousness–and they know that type of consciousness spreads with action across national boundaries, negating the capitalist’s states.
We think Podemos’ position of ‘neither independence nor article 155’ is ridiculous.…The question history has always asked of Podemos was whether they were going to learn the lesson of the Greek experience and solve the problem of how to lead the masses to power. PODEMOS was supposed to be the expression of the “Indignados”, the Iberian oppressed. Podemos is now displaying for all the world to see how little they understand the condition of the oppressed masses or how to get out from under it…they proffer a dare nothing program when class political independence is the only way out….They have become the Spanish state’s imperialist left. They bury the class contradiction the moment history calls on them to illuminate it! They maintain the illusion that it is somehow desirable to enter halfway house traps short of the socialist revolution.
We are not nationalists and we champion a free association of Iberian Socialist Republics. We know there are only ten roads through the Pyrenees to Europe. So when the right to independence for Catalunya has been truly realized then the Socialist federation of Iberian republics will be able to work in a qualitatively greater collaboration than at any moment in the history of the Brussels Europe. The Federation can carry out the plan to achieve democratic equality, supersede it and meet the Marxist goal From Each According to their Ability, to Each According to their Needs in ways the bourgeois leaders never dare dream of.
Now they are facing a pre-revolutionary situation the moment the workers set out on the class independent path and however it manifests itself at the beginning. This government in Madrid will try in every way to smash the working class. This is the content of the deal Poder Popular and the Monarchy, with the acquiescence of the PCE and PSOE, struck in 1978 to recognize the 1939 victory of the fascists. They are old hands at imperialist leftism.
The Catalans know the fascists are still there as a political force aimed at themselves, the Basques and Galicians and every state in the western NATO bloc has come out against Catalan independence. Liberalism in the USA as represented by MSNBC has fixated on Putin’s support for Catalan independence as part of a plan for the disintegration of the US bloc (they say this about his support for Brexit, for an independent Kurdistan, etc., with never a thought to the validity of ANY national grievance!)….but Catalans don’t have to think about this just because people in Washington (out of power) have the Trump-Putin ‘Bromance’ on their minds, and for the moment the US leaders are preoccupied with their own anti- DPRK hysteria, so this issue will be left to Brussels and Madrid so long as they can use the small relative uptick of the Spanish economy for collection purposes on the bailout funds the IMF Eurogroup extended to Madrid in 2012.
Just like the PSOE and the Eurocommunists, Podemos is committed to making the payments and we think the Catalan National bourgeoisie will go on making the payments too, and these will come out of the workers pockets.
We say Podemos has turned out worse than and is even a laughable new left fun house mirror version of SYRIZA, but the anarchist CGT leadership in Catalunya is hardly any better. They support one day general strikes they do not organize (they’ve called for them before), and they tell their members to search their own consciences as to whether to walk out, after receiving the legal blessing of the Spanish Superior Court in Catalonia. They have expressed themselves as against nationalism, which is well enough, but anyone can see they will not break with their Madrid fellow bureaucrats of the CO and UGT. The CNT leadership, likewise gives off militant rhetoric but did not condone the Nov. 8th strike. They left it up to their affiliates. These are not unions controlled by the rank-and-file, and this control is the battleground before our social class, i.e., to remove and replace the “labor lieutenants of Capital,” to use the apt phrase of De Leon.
Madrid has suspended the Generalidad. Workers are you going to miss the Catalan Parliament? Composed as it was of the representatives of the Catalan capitalist ruling class which itself is not an oppressed class. Indeed it is the exploiter class of the Catalan workers and migrants from the rest of Iberia and plays hand in hand with the bankers of Paris, Brussels and Berlin(?) Now you are back where you were last summer!
Madrid is wrong in shutting down the Catalan Parliament, but as nominal ‘democrats’ they’re wrong attacking the right of nations to self-determination too. What we have to ask the workers is what has this parliament ever done for you? We say the workers should constitute their own mass assemblies that put their own stamp on the struggle for national liberation. To win, the workers must make the revolution permanent. The national revolution can only be completed by the workers revolution which itself negates national borders as proletarian internationalism and worker’s control spreads internationally, i.e., a pan-Iberian revolution as part of a revolution for a socialist united states of Europe!.
- Free all arrested protesters and voters.
- Down with Madrid’s Repression in Catalonia!
- Defend the right to self-determination of Euzkadi and Galicia!
- Smash the 1978 deal! Down with the Monarchy!
- Defend immigrant rights! No human is illegal!
- Defeat Article 155 in the factories, the ports, airports and streets!
- Build a new international revolutionary party of the workers and oppressed to fight for world socialism, the last, best and only hope for humanity!
- Build the factory committees!
- Build the workers assemblies and workers defense guards!
- Prepare the revolutionary general strike!
- Cancel the debt!
- 30 hours work for 40 hours pay!
- Free tuition and open admission to all educational institutions!
- Free dental care as part of socialized medicine
- For a sliding scale of wages and and prices
- Fight for Pan Iberian working class united actions, for a pan-Iberian revolution!
- Nationalize without compensation and put under workers control the commanding heights of the economy: industrial and finance capital, arms, metallurgica, autos, trains…, all large enterprises regardless of ‘ownership’!
- Abrogate secret Spanish treaties, publish them and quit NATO now!
- For a revolutionary workers government based on a workers militia and workers councils! For a socialist United States of Europe!