Spain Vs. Catalonia: What Must We Do? Part 2

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Photo: Resumen Latinoamericano

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Read the first part here.

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

Since 1997, repression increased again through the process of illegalization of the abertzale [independentist] left. In 2003 Spain began to attack our electoral organizations, which were collectively called Herri Batasuna [Unity of the People], and had to mutate its form many times to be able to continue to make politics within the institutional system. It was in this context of destruction of rights—which began explicitly with the foreclosure of the EGIN newspaper in 1998 and the Euskaldunon Egunkaria newspaper in 2003, under Baltasar Garzón’s of making everything independentist equal to ETA, and therefore terrorist—when the dominant fraction of the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ) and the President of the Basque Government, Juan José Ibarretxe, intended to pass a reform of the Statute of Autonomy of the Autonomous Basque Community, which consisted of three points:

Firstly, the EAJ thought the independentist left was fading away after so many years of persecution, and that they had a chance of appealing to the vote of the disillusioned if they dangled a new, more substantial Statute in front of them.

Secondly, they intended to adapt the Statute to the new needs of a relatively-industrialized economy with a moderate amount of technology and a moderate productivity of labor, in the context of a state capitalism that had chosen to neglect value-creating industries and instead focus on tourism, construction and services, informal and illegal economy, corruption, and so on.

And lastly, they wanted to forever bury the hope and the consciousness of ample sectors of the population who believed that independence was the only solution, that it was a necessity. They wanted them to forget that “dated” notion and deny the very possibility of a referendum by making the consolidation of a relative autonomy the permanent solution.

In the 2001 elections, the PNV-EA alliance obtained 604,222 votes, the pro-Spain alliance obtained 508,128 and the independentist left only obtained 143,139. The bourgeoisie thought that by forcing the promises of the Statute they would bleed out the abertzale left for good, and attract sectors of the youth who were torn between the Basque Statute and the Monarchic Constitution. That’s what the election results suggested. The PNV didn’t lose time and the Ibarretxe plan was announced in Parliament in September that year, it was presented in October 2003 and passed with absolute majority in December 2004. They squeezed the fruit slowly in order to extract more juice.

In January 2005, the Plan was taken to the Spanish Parliament, which rejected it with 323 votes against (including the United Left), 29 in favor and two abstentions of the Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV). The arguments made by those who buried the Basque project for a Parliament were precursors of the arguments that are currently being used to deny the democratic legitimacy of the Catalan Referendum to be held on October 1: “it will ruin the economy”, “it will tear Spain apart”, “it is radical”, “it is unilateral because it doesn’t respect the Spain’s democracy, which is higher in rank”, “it divides society and annuls the right of the majority which isn’t independentist”, “it will tear the Spanish Union apart”, and so on.

The Ibarretxe plan was abandoned without second thoughts by the autonomist bourgeoisie—but the abertzale left didn’t falter. The Spanish State not only buried the plan but warned that it would impose strong economic and political punishments if the PNV didn’t back down. They even threatened, in 2006, to prosecute Ibarretxe and two members of the PSOE (López and Ares) for their meetings with members of the abertzale left. The relative victory achieved by conservatives was that the independentist vindication was definitively erased from the consciousness of most of the party’s grassroots, although not of the grassroots of the abertzale left.

There was a bitter internal struggle in the PNV that reflected the changes in the Basque bourgeoisie, which in turn reflected the finantiarization of world capitalism and the permanent rigidness of Spanish nationalism. For some years, and as a part of the rise of financial capital, a new faction had been rising within the highest ranks of the PNV. It was a more opportunistic and cynical faction, which was more agreeable with neoliberalism. Its representative was Josu Jon Imaz, who reached the presidency in January 2004, expelled Ibarretxe and sent former figurehead Xabier Arzallus to the altar of useless idols. By then, more and more sectors of the small and middle bourgeoisie who had voted for the social-democratic Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) party were thinking about going back to the PNV, as election after election showed.

When the bourgeoisie abandoned the Ibarretxe Plan, they begged for Spain’s protection and to maintain the economic services that the State gave them. In turn, they protected Spain from the Basque union movement, because they were gaining popularity among workers, due to the unstoppable debilitation of reformist, pro-Spain unionism. Aside from the electoral ups and downs, and overcoming many brutal acts of repression, the working people, that is, the proletarian class with national consciousness and a will for independence, were resisting the strategy of de-industrialization by the elimination of the iron industry that had been their oxygen since the late XIX century.

I won’t go into detail now about the systematic destruction of the objective and subjective pillars of the working class in the second and third phases of the industrial revolution, and its effects on the national class struggle, including the strategic transformation of a part of the abertzale left. The dismantlement of industries that began in the late 70s, following orders of imperialism, hadn’t been able to completely destroy the consciousness of the people by early 20th century. For over a century, the Basque elite regarded themselves as Spaniards, while many of the mid-level bourgeoisie and most of the petit bourgeoisie understood that abandoning the Ibarretxe plan was in their best interest.

You know the state of the class struggle in Catalonia better than I do, the struggles of women, of the precariat, of the workers who still have stable jobs, of informal workers, of the youth who have no future, of the unemployed, of the elderly, etc. Why and how the late CiU was dissolved, why the autonomist sector of the Convergence and Union Party (CiU) couldn’t contain Carles Puigdemont’s sector. Why this sector formed by the middle and especially the petit bourgeoisie hasn’t adhered to Spain as the majority of these classes did in Euskal Herria, who abandoned the EA to go back to the PNV. Or, in other words, why Puigdemont is able to lead a force that maintains dignity and consciousness while the PNV keeps hiding behind the Spanish state, and even became a part of some of its bureaucratic structures.

The answer lies in the differences between Basque Country and Catalonia in terms of their capitalist system, the history of their class struggle and, consequently the distinct tactics that the Spanish State applies against each one. I recall for example that Spain aired a small part of the corruption of the CiU, only limited to the Pujol clan, and until now they are remaining silent about all of the corruption of the part that dominates Euskal Herria, the PP and UPN in [the Basque province of] Nafarroa, and about the PNV and the PSOE in the CAV. What are they waiting for? They are keeping these and other cards under their sleeve until they need to play them.

However, differences disappear when we reach the bottom of the problem: the benefits the Spanish State extracts from the oppression of nations explain the fact that in 1934, 2005 and 2017 they applied essentially the same repressive measures, which go beyond Article No. 155, as reformists want us to believe in order to keep their image clean. One of them is the denial of Catalonia and Euskal Herria as political subjects endowed with an unalienable right to self-govern, denying that we’re nations with the ability to govern ourselves. To deny our identity is infantilizing, they try to make us dependent of a higher, foreign, unaccessible power, which governs our present and our future, dictates our history, protects us and punishes us with “fatherly love”. The speeches given by Felipe VI are an example of this.

I’ve quickly gone over one of the unsolvable crises corrupting Spain: the structural weakness of its nation-State as a material and symbolic space of enhanced accumulation that is capable of integrating oppressed people. I won’t go into detail about other forms of this internal rupture, like the overt or covert contempt for the languages and cultures of the oppressed nations, the systematic violation of agreements signed with “regional” bourgeoisies, the reinforcement of national-Catholicism and the power of the most conservative Church, the nationalist essence of the Spanish political-media industry, etc.

There are other three crises. One is the lack of technologic and scientific development and of work productivity. In the mid to long term, productivity of work is essential for socio-economic and cultural development. In Europe, only Greece, Moldavia and Serbia are behind Spain in terms of work productivity and technologic-scientific competence of companies. The worst thing is that the gap increases with time and the only way that Spain’s dominant class knows to deal with this is increasing work exploitation, reducing wages, eliminating public and social spending, violating international agreements that oblige them to make non-productive investments, etc., in order to compensate the acute and permanent underdevelopment in research, development and innovation, science and education.

Another issue, which is very much related to the above, is the enormous weight of corruption and of the illegal economy. It is like coarse sand obturating the socioeconomic cogs because it is consubstantial to the bureaucratic apathy, to administrative ineptitude and clientelism. Companies on the Ibex-35 have tripled the amount of capital they divert to tax havens during the crisis, this includes 1,285 subsidiaries. We have this mass of dirty money, of corrupt economy, of tax fraud, moving beyond any form of control. A recent report indicates that this mass represents 17.2% of the GDP, and others even estimate it to be bigger, depending on the criteria. Another report indicates that a very reduced number of Spanish patrician families evade taxes for an amount of 12% of the GDP. The inefficacy of the state when it comes to overcoming the financial crisis has cost us over 40 billion Euros, while Germany, France and the UK have been much quicker, efficient and rational—among other things because the Spanish Bank is untouchable no matter how corrupt.

Lastly, we have the Spanish “tradition” of preferring repression to reform and sticks to carrots when it comes to solving any serious problem. The Zumarraga Assembly and the Ibarretxe Plan are examples: even when it comes to crushing peaceful mobilizations, which only act within the institutional realm and mobilize people in the context of institutionalism. Now the same thing is going on in Catalonia, which is under a state of exception, its rights annulled, and more repression is expected.

We must be aware that, now that we have come to this irreversible point, from October 2 on we will begin a new stage in this long struggle. We have struggled side by side up to this point and will continue to do so beyond October 2. And I will finish with what we said in the Fossar: none of us is going to kneel down!

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