Catalonia

A march of almost 200,000 people in Barcelona on October 1 marked the first anniversary of Catalonia’s independence referendum.

Pro-independence Catalans commemorated the first anniversary of the banned vote, which had to defy heavy repression as the Spanish state sought to stop it taking place. Despite a brutal crackdown by the Spanish police that left 900 people injured, most who voted backed independence.

More than 1 million people marched in Barcelona on September 11 in support of Catalonia’s struggle for independence from the Spanish state. The day is marked each year as Catalonia’s national day, commemorating Barcelona's capture by Bourbon forces in 1714 during the War of Spanish Succession.

This year’s march also demanded the release of pro-independence political prisoners, who have been jailed for their role in last year’s independence referendum.

The Catalan parliament finally voted in a new president on May 14, 199 days after the pro-independence bloc held on to its majority at the December 21 elections imposed by the Spanish government.

The most extreme Spanish reaction to the April 5 ruling of the Higher Regional court of German state Schleswig-Holstein that freed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was from radio shock jock Federico Jiménez Losantos.

“In the Balearic Islands there are 200,000 of them [Germans] as hostages,” he railed. “In Bavaria, well in Bavaria pubs could start being blown up. So, I’m proposing action? Of course, they’ve slapped us around, they’ve given us a kick in the you-know-what.”

“General strike! General strike! General strike!” In protests across Catalonia after the March 23 jailing of five MPs and the March 25 detention in Germany of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, these words rang out loud and appeared on placards and banners everywhere.

A general strike would certainly make the Spanish government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the senior judges doing its bidding think twice about their relentless persecution of Catalonia’s pro-independence MPs.

Except that a general strike, while desirable and important as a goal, will not happen until there is an earthquake in the Catalan trade union movement.

After the December 21 Catalan election reconfirmed a majority for pro-independence forces, it seemed inevitable a new government would soon be formed. More than two months later, however, the spectre of a repeat election haunts Catalonia.

Early on January 30, Roger Torrent, speaker of the Catalan parliament elected on December 21, suspended that day’s session, which had been set to elect outgoing president Carles Puigdemont as head of the new Catalan government.

The decision of Torrent, leading member of the pro-independence Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), came after the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled two days earlier that electing the exiled Puigdemont could not take place in absentia.

The main war aim of the People’s Party (PP) government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for the December 21 Catalan elections was to stop the re-election of a pro-independence government.

During the election campaign, the Spanish political, economic and media establishment even dreamed of the election of a pro-unionist administration on the back of unprecedented participation from a «silent majority» supposedly in favour of continuing the tie with Spain.

All three competing blocs in the intensely polarised December 21 Catalan election are working feverishly to win in a battle shaped by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s October 27 sacking of the Catalan government.

The struggle in Catalonia for self determination has shaken the whole Spanish state. It has forced all political forces to take a stance.

Much of the left across the Spanish state, while not supporting the repression of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have also not supported Catalonia’s independence process.

The December 21 election in Catalonia will not only decide if pro-independence forces can return to administer this region of the Spanish state: it will also decide if the Spanish state’s own underlying crisis of legitimacy intensifies or starts to fade.

In essence, the election will be a plebiscite on the central Spanish government’s takeover of the Catalan government under article 155 of the Spanish constitution and whether a majority think Catalonia has a right to decide its relation to the Spanish state.

Road and rail blockades organised by the Committees in Defence of the Republic (CDR) paralysed traffic movement across Catalonia on November 8.

The blockades were part of a day of protest action aimed against the Spanish government’s takeover of the Catalan government and parliament, and the detention of eight Catalan government ministers.

Judge Carmen Lamela of Spain’s National High Court — direct descendant of the fascist Franco-era Court of Public Order — took the war of the Spanish state against the Catalan pro-independence government to a new level of judicial violence on November 2.

Live coverage of the struggle for independence in Catalonia from Dick Nichols, European correspondent of Green Left Weekly and Links--International Journal of Socialist Renewal, based in Barcelona.

Just after 3pm on October 27, the Catalan parliament voted to ratify the results of the country’s October 1 referendum on self-determination, proclaiming Catalonia “an independent state in the form of a republic”.

Outside parliament the vote was greeted with cheers from the tens of thousands of people who had gathered for this historic moment.

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