Spain Vs. Catalonia: What Must We Do?

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On September 17, at the rally organized by the Catalan People’s Unity Candidacy (CUP), Basque Marxist intellectual spoke to the crowd about the challenges ahead for  the independentist struggle they are carrying out. In his speech, he analyzed the present and near future of the Catalonian rebellion and drew comparisons with the Basque people’s history of struggle against the Spanish state. This article is an extended transcription of his speech. Since that day, 14 Catalonian independentists have been detained on accounts of their political stand, and the Spanish police has carried out raids and seized documents and propaganda material.

This is Part 1 of a two-part article. The second part will be published next Friday.

By: Iñaki Gil de San Vicente / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / September 23, 2017

Author Iñaki Gil de San Vicente / Photo credit: Insurgente

Comrades, a cascade of threats, prohibitions, searches and violation of rights and freedoms is falling on the people of Catalonia. Last September 11, during the massively-attended day of struggle (Diada) that we celebrated in the Fossar de les Moreres, we said we had to get ready to resist the oppression of the Catalan people, because it was going to get worse. Now, a week after that, this public square is crowded again, and we restate our unconditional support, our solidarity and our commitment to the freedom of the Principat and of the Països Catalans.

Until September 17, the Spanish State had made use of the legal weapon established in Article No. 155 of the monarchic Constitution, but it had done so in a low-intensity mode because you don’t just kneel down with the Spanish ID card in your mouth. The Spanish State has also awaken from their complacent dream the herd of intellectuals that graze in the field of subventions and of the political-cultural industry, and has gotten them to argue at unison against your rights. As we said at the Diada, the State’s steamroller is now being activated to the maximum.

However, for reasons too long to explain right now, many well-meaning people believed that our march towards democracy, sovereignty and hopefully independence, would be fairly easy and without hindrances, and that the Spanish State would finally accept the argument peacefully made by Catalans. And keep in mind that I’m mentioning “democracy” and “sovereignty” in a vague manner, without going in depth about their meaning, about the working people oppressed as a nation, about women submitted to a triple-faceted exploitation, about our youth being impoverished, and so on. Because rest assured that State violence will strike even the most remote places of this working-class Catalunya as the independentist movement develops its socialist content—and they will strike with the decided support of the anti-independentist and reactionary local bourgeoisie.

With this in mind, we can’t pass up this opportunity to publicly reflect on the history lessons that are especially relevant to Catalonia’s present situation. We’ll analyze two Basque processes—which are different but identical, and therefore can shed light on Catalonia’s juncture. We’ll see the repression of the peaceful mass movement that self-organized to recover Basque freedoms in the summer of 1934, under the oppression of the Second Republic, and then we’ll see the so-called Ibarretxe Plan, a sectarian and opportunistic maneuver made in the early 21st century to take partisan advantage of the repressive wave launched by the People’s Party (PP) against Euskal Herria [Basque Country] since 1997.

The Second Republic did nothing to facilitate dialogue with Basque parties and institutions in order to reinstate the rights of the Basque Country—the opposite is true. For example, in 1932 a young man from Donosti was sentenced to 21 years in prison for speaking Euskera during a trial. And in 1934 the Ministry of Finance tried to apply taxes on the Basque Country that were against the regulations of the Basque Economic Agreement. Besides, the Second Republic maintained the temporariness of the Deputies’ Offices, despite the elections that had just been held.

The Basque forces, organizations and parties had learned once again that after three years of Republican Democracy, repression was increasing. There is an unsettling similitude between the coercitive controls that the Second Republic exerted on the Deputies’ Offices and the Economic Agreement, and the Constitutional Article No. 155 that is currently being applied on Catalonia.

Given the increasing violation of rights, 200 municipalities of the Basque provinces of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, representing 823,216 of their 881,000 inhabitants, organized the Interim Commission and on July 5, 1934, decided to celebrate elections on August 12 to solve the two crucial problems: the temporariness imposed by the Spanish State, which annulled the sovereignty of Basque Deputies’ Offices, and defending the Economic Agreement. The Second Republic, in turn, declared the August 12 elections invalid before they were held and used all of its material and cultural repressive capacity. On August 6, the Interim Commission announced they were maintaining their decision to celebrate the elections despite the military occupation of the Basque Country.

The Spanish Armed Forces broke into the Council and detained over 60 Mayors and many Councillors. The people responded by holding the elections on the street, in political headquarters, or any available place. In Bizkaia there were 115 City Councils and they managed to complete 100 electoral memorandi. In a communiqué, Bilbo’s Mayor ridiculed the statements of the Civil Governor of Bizkaia, who had affirmed that elections had been a failure. On August 21, the Interim Commission published the results, which showed an undoubtable victory despite the military occupation. The Commission of Mayors of Nafarroa was unable to meet in the Lizarra City Council because the Civil Guard had occupied it, and hided in the mountains to issue a protest communiqué in which they supported the rights of the Basque people.

The Interim Commission became the Permanent Municipal Commission of Basque Country, in order to achieve the two objectives described above. The Spanish repression became obsessed with stopping the Permanent Commission—which had to act in clandestinity because its members were being detained and sent to jail. The Second Republic could not tolerate Basque municipal democracy. The Permanent Commission proved the efficacy of its methods when it convened an Assembly on September 2, in Zumarraga, to officialize the Commissions that had been elected on August 12.

The Zumarraga Assembly was also forbidden, but the Permanent Commission stated they would carry on anyways. There were some attempts to negotiate with the repressive forces to avoid more trouble, and the State even lured them with concessions in exchange for suspending the event. But meanwhile they had intensified their attack against the Economic Council with twelve laws and decrees, which proved that they were still attacking freedoms. The Second Republic was silently applying Article No. 155 avant la lettre, which infuriated the people even more—they wouldn’t have allowed the Permanent Commission to backpedal and cancel the Zumarraga Assembly.

The city was besieged. Roads, railroads and paths leading to Zumarraga were blocked by the Spanish Armed Forces. People were detained in stations as far as Bilbo. But many people managed to evade controls and the Assembly was held in a climate of tension due to the threatening presence of the repressive forces—nevertheless, they didn’t attack.

Catalunya sent an International Delegation of Solidarity to Zumarraga, which faced the same risks as the Basque people. Repression didn’t cease after the Assembly, but it increased in four distinct ways: 1) multiple prohibitions of events 2) Spain warned that “if there’s an uprising, the Force has the order to shoot against Parliamentarians, not against the people”, 3) detentions of leaders, Mayors and Councillors who were transported in four vans to the Burgos Prison, and 4) the murder of a leader of the Basque Nationalist Party, Manuel de Andrés, by terrorists of the Falange.

In summer of 1924, the Second Republic tightened the tourniquet in terms of tactics, methods and resources, and even changing strategies when necessary to achieve the goal. The Franquista uprising was less than two years away. Conspirators were organizing the imminent massacre with almost no interference by the government, which was beginning to have enough information on their intentions. But Spain was focused on combatting the exploited classes and peoples: it crushed the October 1934 Revolution; in 1933 it had massacre the people of Casas Viejas, Cádiz.

To be continued next Friday.


The flags of Basque Country and Catalonia, side by side during a soccer match / Photo credit: Mundo Deportivo
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