Letter from Catalonia
Gods&Radicals is pleased to host this communique from a comrade in Catalonia. [Any errors are due to editorial translation]
There’s a lot of talking about Catalonia these days; a country that, not so long ago, few would have been able to place on a map.
Now this will be a long writing, for the Catalan struggle has been going on for quite a long time.
Catalonia is a small territory, but nevertheless has its own language, culture and traditions. A heritage that has been way too often threatened by Spanish authoritarianism.
Spain is a country that has had a deep legacy of fascism, that these days had resurfaced and awakened. It may be odd, that, while acknowledging it, many have not fully realized it until now. Fascists are not a minority in Spain, though in many cases it's a kind of disguised and sweetened fascism, one that only shows its true face in anger and rage when the unity of the empire was at stake.
That would be why we are seeing such a huge amount of Spaniards these days who are justifying the riot Police strikes that left almost 900 injured.
Now, would you for a second be able to imagine the German Nazi party having a voice and a vote in the process of writing the German democratic Constitution after WWII? Unthinkable?
Well, that’s precisely what happened in Spain.
In Spain, over a million people went to pay homage to Franco when he passed, forming long queues to salute his dead body in a final tribute effort. In Spain, the ruling party is the heir of Francoist Association “Alianza Popular”, which barely changed its name to “Partido Popular.” The largest Spanish monument, ordered by Franco and built by slaved Republican prisoners, is still standing.
This is the Spain that is now willing, quite literally, to crush the Catalan Revolution, yet it is also the very same Spain that caused it.
Now it’s worth noting that the Catalan people have historically been, who knows if because of their geographic location, remarkably open minded and defenders of freedom, so much that even on 1719, De Vayrach was writing about them:
“Their active and whimsical condition (that from the Catalans) leads them to being so zealous of their freedom that, in order to keep it, they do insolently disregard all law, being those divine or human”.
So much, that even with a centre-right ruling party, they passed laws in order to protect basics rights of all citizens, challenging the market laws. Unfortunately those laws have been void under the name of the Constitution.
The Spanish Constitution doesn’t seem to like equal rights for men and women; doesn’t like that helpless people have their water, electricity and gas supplies warranted, nor that they can keep their homes; doesn’t like the people to be entitled to decide via referendums; doesn’t like that nuclear energy pays for the risk it generates; doesn’t like fracking or torturing bulls being banned.
The will of the Catalan people is not to the taste of reactionary Spain, and the Constitutional Court has become the arm the structural Francoism uses in order to repress it, even disregarding separation of powers when necessary.
And so it has been, that without even realizing it, with their repression they managed only to increase the angriness of the Catalans, and with it, the number of independence supporters. Should a self-determination have been held a decade ago, no to independence would have probably wo,. Nowadays, those in favour of the status quo are, in worst case scenario, barely 35%. Mind you, ten years ago not even the party now promoting the referendum was pro-independence; they had to become so due to the popular pressure for that.
We even reached the point where anarchists not only went to vote, but they did so in favour of a new country. Unthinkable, isn’t it? Well maybe not, because what the Spanish government has achieved in doing, by systematically trampling on us, is to turn struggle for national rights into one for civil rights.
I was not myself able to understand how the Spanish government could possibly behave the way they did. I was looking for some kind of rational reasons and background to their strategy.
And I was wrong.
That’s something I eventually understood on October 1st, when I realized they attacked with specific ferocity and rage the polling stations where Catalan government members where expected to cast their vote, even if they knew that would never escape the eyes of the world. The cause for that behaviour is to be found in an attitude, a way of being, not in reasoning but simply in despotism. They want the Catalan people to be submissive and on their knees. Humiliated. Defeated.
Should they have any knowledge of history, they would have been aware that these people are the very same who, in the XVIII century, used to swear loyalty to their kings with this particular formulae:
We who are worthy as Thy, we swore in front of Thy who are not better than us, that together we are worth more than Thy, and that we accept Thy as King and Sovereign provided that Thy respect our laws and freedoms, but otherwise, NOT.
And as NOT came to be, so insurrection was born. A joking, peaceful and tolerant insurrection, but with an indisputable will. A revolt from virtually the entire Catalan society, that united fire-fighters, teachers, elders, youth, stevedores, anarchists, administration and civil society, parties, athenaeums and associations... all kinds of people aiming for one goal only. The people getting their government to obey.
From its organization to its compulsory defence, the Referendum included people of all origins and social conditions. Ballot boxes were dropped in France and hidden by private citizens in a completely clandestine way. Following a plan from which none of the people taking part were entirely aware of all the information. Avoiding use of telematics. In many cases not even the closest relatives of those people knew what they were up to.
All this, in order to avoid the State intelligence to intercept the ballots. And the ballots reached the polling stations without one being intercepted.
People’s ingenuity presented us with hilarious pictures of civil disobedience. Ballot boxes hidden, during Spanish Police raids, on roofs, graveyard tombs, or hanging from threes. In Campins, a single access village, citizens blocked it by turning down a few pine trees after Police entered the town. They had to leave on ungraded roads and ended up lost in the hills, until at 5 a.m. the following morning the “mossos d’esquadra” (Catalan Police), came to their rescue. Still in another town, they counted the votes in church, during the holy mass, so that it went unnoticed by the Police.
Sadly though, it wasn’t all fun. Spanish Police forced their way into the polling stations charging against anyone or anything in their path. They used tear gas, they tried to run over people with their armored vans, they dragged our grandmothers on the floor, they threw voters onto a man being taken care of after a heart attack... All this against peacefully resisting people.
They injured almost 900 of them. Caused over 300.000€ wreckage, smashing glasses, doors, furniture and all sorts of equipment, mostly without any reason to justify it, if there could ever be any. Anyone willing to go in depth into it can find hundreds of images with a quick search.
It could well be that Catalans should not feel that special, as those are probably aspects which are common to all popular revolts, it’s just that technology nowadays allow us to record and share them. However, watching the people organizing themselves in order to challenge the State is a picture worth praising. And remembering.
Remember, yes, and do not forget that many of the people now taking part in this revolution are the very same who endorsed or took part in repression to reclamation movements in Catalonia not so long ago. People who justified using Police in full riot gear, and brute force, in order to stop the protests. That Catalan media who now show themselves to be surprised and incensed by the Spanish media manipulation, did act in a very similar way on a number of occasions in the past. It might be that for many of them, what we are seeing these days led to some inner change and that it has taken them to the left-minded path, but it’s also certain that many were just dragged away by the tide, and as soon as things get back to normal they will quickly forget the times when they used to shout “the street will always be ours” and “Police tortures and murders”. That’s why those of us who have always been in the anti-establishment struggle, are having mixed feelings these days.
But amid all this mess of feelings and emotions for us Catalans, particularly for those of a libertarian mind, there is a clear certainty leading our path.
This revolution is to be triumphant, for if it wasn’t, the message for all world leaders, and all those having any ambitions to become one, would be that no matter how strong and just the will of the people might be, it can be bent with force and deception. And that is why the struggle for Catalan people’s self-determination must be that of all people fighting for freedom, no matter where they come from.
From Catalunya, we beg you have our story told, and let it be known, helping us wherever and whenever you can; for only the people can save the people!