The Spanish state faced a regional revolt in 2017, with an unsanctioned referendum on Catalan independence called by the local administration against the wishes of the Madrid government. Following on from the referendum, senior officials in the Catalan government are now on trial for “rebellion” and “misuse of public funds”.

The ‘Socialist’ (PSOE) government in Madrid has again proved to be anything but socialist. They are continuing the Francoist traditions of the Spanish state in their persecutions against those who orchestrated the ballot. The purpose of this trial is not to exercise ‘justice’ but to send a message to all workers and youth, both inside and outside of Catalonia, that opposition will be met with repression.

In spite of its image as a safeguard of democracy, the EU has held fast in its defence of the suppression of the referendum. With over 900 injured as a result of police brutality, the response of the EU was to dismiss the situation as an “internal” matter and describe the referendum as a “coup against Europe”. They will intervene only to safeguard the interests of their capitalist system.

Only the workers’ movement can defeat repression

The repressive measures of the Spanish state cannot go unchallenged. If the trial is left solely to be fought in the courtroom, the state will win. The battle must be fought in the streets, in the workplaces and at the ballot box. The trade union leaders should, in a serious way, build for a general strike in defence of democratic rights, mobilising the power of the working class and grinding the system to a halt.

Such a mobilisation must be armed with a socialist programme, linking the legitimate democratic demands of the Catalan people to a programme of opposition to austerity and neo-liberalism. Such demands can unite all sections of the working class against the Madrid government and the capitalist system that it upholds. This is how the repression can be defeated.

PDeCAT offers no way forward

The right-wing Catalan nationalists of the PDeCAT can show no way out. For years, they have presided over Catalonia, carrying out neoliberal policies and attacking the conditions of workers. Today, they issue radical calls in defence of democratic rights while in practice attempting to prevent a movement on the ground from developing. Their ideological support of capitalism and commitment to building a Catalonia of neoliberalism and the status quo cannot address the problems facing Catalan workers. In particular, they have no appeal for Spanish-speaking workers some of whom currently oppose independence.

Socialists respect and fight to ensure the democratic rights of all peoples within the Spanish state. We stand for an independent, socialist Catalonia. We stand for a free and voluntary socialist federation of the Iberian peninsula and a socialist Europe.

by Seán Burns