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Spain: “National strike” in Catalonia
Collaboration with the bosses and the bourgeoisie will lead the proletariat to an assured defeat
The referendum of the first of October showed clearly what democracy, equality and the rule of law mean: thousands of policemen and Civilian Guards landing in Barcelona as occupying troops, more than 800 wounded, some in need of emergency care after being injured by rubber bullets, old men, women and children being beaten and dragged to the ground, in other cities bands of Spanish nationalists proclaiming the indivisibility of the country and threatening any who cross their path... In brief, a lesson in the real meaning of the so-called “constitutional freedoms”.
But it was not only on the “Spanish” side that the terrible reality of veneration for the laws and the “Rule of Law” was revealed: if the Guardia Civil and the National Police pummeled the unarmed demonstrators, let’s remember that it was the parliamentarians, democrats and supporters of the legality of the Generalitat (Catalan autonomous government) who called upon the demonstrators to remain disarmed and defenseless, who said that it was enough for them to present themselves at the polling places for the repressive apparatus of the state to collapse. While the leaders Puigdemont, Junqueras, Rufian or Gabriel were quietly voting in safe areas without any problems, the people they called upon to vote in the referendum were subjected to repression in large numbers. The so-called “smile revolution” was reflected in the blood of the protesters, while its leaders smiled at the prospect of using the images of repression transmitted throughout the world.
The first of October showed the terrible result of class collaboration at its highest level. In the name of the Catalan nation and its independence, all social classes were presented as a single force, with identical aspirations and interests, united in a common struggle for a future of peace and harmony in a Catalan republic described as practically Paradise on Earth.
The reality is very different. The fraction of the Catalan bourgeoisie which led the struggle for the referendum, the petty bourgeoisie who unanimously followed their instructions and who played the role of maneuvering in the streets in order to allow the vote, and finally the proletariat which has remained practically indifferent to the so-called independentist “process” until the police invaded the streets, had opposing interests; and what emerges in this exacerbation of the chauvinistic localism and particularism that is called “independence” is completely different for each and everyone.
The Catalan bourgeoisie, whether it be the faction that led the struggle for the referendum, or the one that was initially hostile to it, then remained on the sidelines before finally joining it, struggles to increase its share of the cake in the distribution of profits to the detriment of other bourgeois factions in Spain. Historically, it has always struggled to obtain a reduction in the share of the fiscal resources it has to cede to the central government, and an increase in its share of taxes, that is, an increase of investments of the central state in Catalonia. What does that mean? That the Catalan bourgeoisie, traditionally the backbone of the Spanish bourgeois regime, suffered particularly from the consequences of the economic crisis, that is, from the fall in the rate of profit of capital. And to remedy it, it must increase the investment of capital in its sphere of influence and increase the exploitation of the proletariat from which it derives the surplus value necessary for the valorization of capital. This means that it wants to reduce the share of profits in the form of taxes for the rest of the country in order to increase the share to be invested in the region. This is what its aspirations boil down to; but it’s not insignificant because it implies a change in the tax structure of the Spanish State and the political and legal edifice on which it is based. A change which, given the important economic weight of Catalonia in the country, would necessitate changes in the Spanish Constitution and legal system.
For its part, the petty-bourgeoisie is doubly struck by the low level of capitalist profits insofar as it depends on the profits of the capital invested in Catalonia; and at the same time it is in competition with bourgeois from the rest of Spain or the world who want to do business in the region and tend to oust it from the market. It is fighting for a policy which defends its interests, which protects the local market, which prevents the large masses of capital invested in Catalonia from displacing it. In short, it is struggling against the consequences of an economic crisis that has led to an increased concentration of capital and a worsening of competition between the bourgeoisies in order to capture a bigger part of the profits involved. In this sense, its interests coincide immediately with those of the Catalan bourgeoisie, who can make promises in response to the petty-bourgeoisie’s demands, even if the hard laws of capitalism will once again impose sooner or later measures that are contrary to his interests.
Finally, the proletariat suffered more than any other class from the consequences of the crisis: unemployment, impoverished redundancy plans, wage cuts, increasing work rates, queues in front of soup kitchens, police raids against immigrant workers, etc., are dictated by the imperious need of capital to increase its rate of profit by seizing the increase of surplus-value, i.e. the share of unpaid labor extracted by the capitalist from the proletarian. It has suffered because it is from its exploitation that the other classes live, and it is from its laboring that the benefits are derived which both the large and petty bourgeois need to maintain their social status. And it is not only the bourgeois from Madrid who have increased the pressure on the proletarians: for these bourgeois of Madrid are also Catalan as the Caixabank is Catalan, as Gaz Natural is Catalan or as the Raventos family is Catalan. But the proletariat is not only exploited by the big financial holdings, it is also exploited by the small boss of a metallurgical enterprise in the suburbs of Barcelona, by the peasant who hires 2 or 3 agricultural workers for the harvest, it is by the hotelier who lives from the tourism of the Ramblas.
And on the first of October, all these peasants, grocers, hoteliers, but also the owners of large enterprises and means of communication, called on the proletarians to take to the streets to defend democracy!
In the October 1 referendum, what was in the offing was not the independence of Catalonia, but a formidable maneuver designed to unite social cohesion around a project to defend democracy and bourgeois institutions, in the form of an interclassist front to defend bourgeois demands. This front was illegally constituted against the Spanish State. Because the Catalan bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie have played the card of imposing their own legality, a legality that will subjugate the proletariat, in the same way as the Generalitat did, with Catalan nationalism at its head, when it has imposed antisocial measures on the proletariat over the past five years. The difference is that today they pretend to harness the proletariat to the carriage of the defense of the Catalan nation and all its internal and external demands through the democratic “process”. Democracy, whatever its name and its national colors, is the mechanism by which the bourgeoisie tries to interest the proletariat in the government of the nation by making it accept being dominated and therefore exploited. This is why democratic discourse is being waged in Barcelona as in Madrid, and why the leaders of the two capitals present themselves as the true defenders of the rule of law, citizen participation and so on.
How could the struggle for Catalan independence be won? By ballots in a referendum? Everyone, from the central government to the autonomous-government and the media, knows that this is not the case. The independence of Catalonia, a struggle which would be on the agenda if there were sufficiently strong social forces interested in obtaining it, could be conquered only by open confrontation on the grounds of armed force, as was the case whenever a colony wished to free itself from the metropolis or a region wished to break with a country. But the aims of the Catalan bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie are very different from an independence which could only be achieved by civil warfare; this is the reason why they reduce the whole thing to a democratic manifestation: their first and only fundamental interest is linking the proletariat and with it the whole society, to the defense of the region, the local economy– in other words, to bourgeois interests presented as the general interest. That is why their slogan is: Vote!, Which means: go to the defense of the state, and what this state is, we will tell you later, when you will all be behind it .
And that is also why the unions and the bosses alike called on the proletarians to participate in the so-called “national strike” on 3 October.
This “national strike” is a farce with which the Catalan bourgeois, through their trade union and political agents, want to enlist the proletarians in defense of the Catalan “nation”, the bourgeois state, the regional economy and local businesses; in a word, in defense of the social relations that constitute capitalism.
And they try to do so on the basis of the situation of real deprivation that the Catalan proletarians are experiencing. They want to make believe that the solution to these shortages passes through independence and that, having become the sole national bosses through the rupture with Spain, they would guarantee prosperity to the workers; the proletariat should therefore swear loyalty to them with this strike, which unites labor and capital, exploited workers and exploiters, bludgeoners and those being bludgeoned, victims of anti-social measures and the authors of these measures.
This national strike is not a day of class struggle; it is a further step to attach the proletarians more closely to the capitalists with the patriotic project of defending bourgeois and petty bourgeois interests. The national strike unites the proletarians to the bosses as the rope unites the hanged man to the executioner. A simple glance at the call to this strike is sufficient to show that it cannot bring anything to the proletarians. The authors of the appeal are the representatives of the small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the trade union organizations united in the Taula per la Democracia (Table for Democracy), which has nothing to do with the struggle for defense of wages, the standard of living, against dismissals, etc.
In their appeal, the major trade union organizations presented the strike as a symbolic act of national unity, without any reference to any action of struggle, without the slightest call for any solidarity on the part of the proletarians of the rest of Spain, without denouncing the Spanish chauvinism which stretches unchecked on the other side of the Catalan frontier, without advancing any claims other than the defense of the legality of the Catalan Parliament.
For their part, the organizations of the trade union left which called for a strike (COS, CGT, CNT, IAC, etc.) initially planned to call for a week-long strike. But on October 1, after the appeal of the employers' organizations and the majority unions (which they had always denounced as Spanish and in the pay of the employers), they yielded all along the line and joined the “national strike”.
The bourgeoisie never ceases to struggle. At first it struggles against the feudal classes which it must overthrow. Then it struggles against the other bourgeoisies to obtain economic advantages, higher rates of profit, greater market shares, sometimes through open conflicts, sometimes through latent ones. But it always struggles against the proletarian class which it exploits daily and which it continually represses to prevent it from entering a struggle in defense of its class interests.
Today the Catalan bourgeoisie and the Spanish bourgeoisie struggle between themselves. But at the same time they both struggle against the proletariat of the whole country. And the struggle between them will cease long before their common struggle against the workers: against the proletarians they have the same interests, because they will always agree on the exploitation of labor power, as centuries of common history have demonstrated.
Today the proletarians are subjected to the domination of the bourgeoisie; they live under its iron heel, obliged to consecrate their lives to produce profits for the capitalists, and without perceiving any way out of their condition. But proletarian tension emerges every time there is a social divide. That is why it is possible that they could hope that a situation like today could be a way out, a break from the stifling established order ... It is also why, since the proletariat to-day is not an organized force, fighting for its own class demands, struggling against its class enemies, all the petty-bourgeois demagogues are trying to bring it into this impasse by agitating around the idea that at least something is happening, and that there may be something to gain (before tomorrow asking him to serve as cannon fodder in inter-bourgeois confrontations).
But historically the proletariat has a power much stronger than that of all the charlatans who claim that the fatherland, social reforms or municipalities can bring a remedy to its situation. It has a potential force conferred upon it by the fact that it is the class which produces all social wealth and that the very evolution of the capitalist system leads it towards the destruction of this system. It does not need to listen to the separatists or the Spanish propagandists who can only lead him into wars that are not his own.
The harsh lessons of the last years and the harder ones of the years to come, will lead the proletarians to perceive their real strength, who their real enemies are, where the alliance with other social classes and subordination to their programs and control objectives leads. These lessons will enable them to understand the necessity of the independent class struggle, the organization on the economic field to combat the effects of the capitalist system, and on the general political field in order to bring down the bourgeois regime.
In a word, they will enable the proletarian class to feel the need for the revolutionary class struggle, and consequently for the class party, for the Marxist party, in which is condensed the accumulated experience of the historical arc of the struggle against the bourgeoisie, and which includes in its program the rupture with all nationalist illusions, with all chauvinistic defense of national particularism.
Against all nationalism!
Against any form of particularism!
Against the defense of national unity!
Against class collaboration!
For the return to the independent class struggle!
International Communist Party
October, 2nd 2017
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