Political tensions within the Spanish state have reached a new pitch after the January 23 declaration by the Catalan parliament of Catalonia’s sovereign right to decide its political future. Antagonism is intensifying between the Catalan and national governments and polarisation continues to rise among and within all main political forces.
Politics in the Spanish state is a Rubik’s cube where all players must mark out their position on the axis of the rights of its nationalities, as well as class struggle and social justice. All-out warfare on both fronts marked the final week of the campaign for the November 25 elections for the Catalan parliament, as the nine parties with a chance of winning representation in its 135-seat chamber traded blows.
The European Day of Action and Solidarity involved a 24-hour general strike in Portugal and Spain, partial strikes in Italy, Greece, Belgium, Cyprus and Malta, and protests in 16 other European countries on November 14. Despite the main action being confined to the Iberian peninsula, the day was a big success, with 40 union confederations and individual unions involved.
A general strike was launched across Europe on November 14 as millions are protesting spending cuts and tax hikes they say have deepened the region’s economic crisis. Spanish and Portuguese workers are coordinating their strike with work stoppages underway in Greece, Italy, France and Belgium.
On the morning of October 22, the day after parliamentary elections in the Basque and Galician autonomous communities of the Spanish state, the TV and radio political pundits were struggling to be wise. Their powers of analysis were not tested so much by the rise of EH Bildu, the Basque left-nationalist coalition — the polls had predicted its 25% vote. The disorienting new phenomenon was result for the Galician Left Alternative (AGE). Not predicted
The economic, social and territorial crisis facing the Spanish state is morphing into a crisis of the two-party system that has provided either Popular Party (PP) or Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) governments for 30 years. Those who have been gaining electorally are Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalist forces (left and right), and the United Left (IU) and Union, Progress and Democracy (UpyD).
The results of October 21 election for the parliament of Euskadi, the Basque autonomous community within the Spanish state, are expected to confirm the rising popularity of the left nationalist coalition, Euskal Herria Bildu (EH Bildu―Basque Country Assembly). Regardless of whether EH Bildu tops the vote or is pipped by the conservative Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), progressive politics in Euskadi seems certain to record its best ever result.
Two recent events dramatised the state of economy and politics in the Spanish state: the Red Cross announced that this year the takings of its annual Flag Day would go to fight poverty and social exclusion in Spain, and education minister Jose Ignacio Wert told the national parliament that changes to the national education syllabus were aimed at “Spanishing” students in Catalonia. The Red Cross decision came as a shock across the country. People knew things were bad, but that bad?
Huge protests in Madrid, brutally repressed, are now matched by another Greek general strike. Three years of the European debt crisis are producing a social and political crisis on an immense scale, with the threat of the break-up of the Spanish state. Just as those in the global South – the great arc of less developed countries across the southern hemisphere, from South America to the Far East – have suffered years of debt crises and IMF-led structural adjustment programs, so now too is southern Europe.
On the Catalan National Day, September 11, Spanish politics suffered a huge shock: up to 2 million people ― more than a quarter of the population of Catalonia ― marched through the streets of Barcelona shouting one word, “independencia”. It was a moment when countless Catalans (those from the four provinces that make up Catalonia in Spain's north-east) discovered that others felt the way they did ― it is time to drop Spain for a state of our own.