Europe’s republican revolution

The popular democratic movement in Catalonia which culminated in the declaration of the Catalan republic is not simply a Catalan or even a Spanish matter. It is part of battle for democracy across Europe and the wider world. It is a link made by author Liz Castro. She says “with the establishment of the Catalan Republic, we hope that the triumph of grassroots ……….democratic process can be precursor to a much more democratic Europe”.

The Catalan rebellion has the characteristics of a democratic revolution – the declaration of the republic, a provisional government, a process for a new constitution and rank and file ‘Committees for the Defence of the Referendum and the Republic’. But the revolution is unarmed and faces the might of the fully armed Spanish state. Already the Republic has been overthrown by a counterrevolutionary coup by the Spanish state.

The class struggle between the Spanish ruling bourgeoisie and Catalan petty bourgeois nationalism – the Kingdom versus the Republic – is vital for the development of the revolutionary democratic working class. The vanguard of the working class is neither indifferent to the Catalan rebel republic nor sitting on the fence. On the contrary the revolutionary working class takes sides with the republic against the (United) Kingdom of Spain.

Paul Demarty seems to criticise the SWP’s Alex Callinicos “for claiming that Spain retains its Francoist state core, that Rajoy’s Popular Party is the inheritor of the Franco regime”. What is wrong with that? The Spanish monarchy was put on the throne to claim the mantle of ‘democracy’ for entry into the European Union whilst retaining Franco’s police state apparatus. It only took the attempt to hold a peoples’ referendum for the Spanish state to reveal its true colours.

That the rebellion in Catalonia is not a ‘socialist revolution’ is a statement of the bleeding obvious. It is a democratic republican revolution more akin to the Dublin 1916 Easter uprising in Dublin. Lenin’s famous observation on proclamation of the Irish republic says “To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc. – to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution”. (Lenin- the discussion on self determination summed up July 1916)

Some leftist intellectuals wash their hands of such national rebellions, uprisings and even “revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie” on the grounds this is not “the socialist revolution”. This will not overthrow capitalism in one country!

Lenin had his own answer. “Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is”. (Lenin- the discussion on self determination summed up July 1916). He takes aim at the abstract revolutionism of the ultra lefts. He ridicules their ideas.

“So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view could vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.

Lenin saw the Irish uprising as a European event and this is how we should see the events in Catalonia. They are obviously connected to the democratic movement in Scotland and the unfinished business in Ireland. The people of Catalonia were inspired by the Scottish democratic movement expressed in the 2014 referendum. They hoped they could go one better.

The SNP government wanted to keep the British monarchy and Bank of England. The Catalan movement embraced the republic as their Unionist opponents clung to the Spanish monarchy. Cameron thought he would win easily in Scotland and got a nasty shock before being rescued by Gordon Brown. The Spanish ‘Cameron’ knew the republic would win and was determined to stop it or disrupt it by all means necessary including violence.

Paul Demarty makes a very important point (Weekly Worker 1177). He says “The long-distance left urges support for the “Catalan Republic”; but that republic exists largely in theory, and the local state apparatus is largely obeying the new direct rulers. To make the republic a reality, what is demanded is nothing less than the organisation of a militia or other armed force.”

On Paul Demarty’s demand to arm the Republic we can compare the Irish Republic in 1916 and the Kurdish referendum earlier this year. The Irish republic existed “largely in theory” but had arms. It lacked popular support. The Catalan Republic has mass support amongst Catalan workers, not least Barcelona fire-fighters, but no militia and no weapons except those in the hands of the Catalan police. The Iraqi Kurds won their referendum and are backed up by the armed Pesh Merga.

The Kingdom of Spain (or the ‘United’ Kingdom of Spain) is opposed to the Catalan Republic, has declared it illegal and is determined to crush with as much or little state violence as necessary. Without arms to defend the democratic revolution, it is, as Paul says, a very unequal contest unless the working class in the rest of Spain and Europe come to their aid. It is therefore time for every socialist and communist across Europe to come off the ‘self determination’ fence and support the Catalan republic against the United Snakes of Spain.

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