Tuesday, October 03, 2017
A View From The Left-Independence For Catalonia-Now!
A View From The Left-Independence For Catalonia-Now!
The national question in Catalonia is on the agenda-here is a view from the left concenring a struggle to get that idea right from the leftist perpective of national slef-determination
The Basque Country and Catalonia
There is a single Basque nation and a single Catalan nation, both of which are divided and oppressed by two capitalist states. The differences in how nationalist sentiments are expressed in the northern and southern provinces of the Basque Country and Catalonia reflect the differences in capitalist development in Spain and France.
In Spain, the Catalans and the republican Basques played a vanguard role in the Spanish Revolution of the 1930s. After its defeat, the influx of tens of thousands of refugees reinvigorated national vitality in the northern part of these nations in France. Under Franco, all languages except Castilian were outlawed, and this was embodied in the slogan “one nation, great and free.” The autonomy statutes enacted by the Republic in 1932 were abolished. The Franco regime carried out harsh and punitive repression against oppressed nations, symbolized by the 1937 carpet bombing of the Basque city of Guernica by the Nazis at Franco’s behest. As a result of this repression, after Franco died in 1975 the struggles of the oppressed nations were mainly expressed along national lines, in contrast to those of the 1930s, when the working classes of these same nations fought directly for power.
The Spanish constitution of 1978 maintained the rule of the Bourbon monarchy in Spain, which was restored by the grace and favor of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. The restoration of the monarchy was essential to stabilize the central Castilian state and retain the oppressed nations within Spain by force. In order to stabilize the Spanish state, Catalonia and the Basque Country—along with other regions—were granted greater autonomy. This contrasts with “glorious” republican France (“the country of the rights of man”), where to this day the oppressed nations have no linguistic or legal rights. Especially in the Basque Country, the population faces as much repression as in Spain. Due to the historical weakness of the Castilian bourgeoisie relative to the Basque and Catalan bourgeoisies, the defeat of the Spanish Revolution and the resulting Franco dictatorship, the motor force of pro-independence movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country comes from the regions forcibly retained within Spain. Thus, the fate of the provinces forcibly retained within France strongly depends on what will happen on the Spanish side of the border. We call for the independence of the Basque Country and Catalonia, in the North and the South. If the Basque or Catalan regions of Spain obtained independence, it is likely that the regions in France would want to join them. If they wanted to remain part of France, we would defend their right to thus exercise their self-determination.
Jan Norden, editor of Workers Vanguard at the time, was centrally responsible for our line in opposition to national liberation struggles in Catalonia and the Basque Country on the Spanish side. For its part, the LTF is centrally responsible for our chauvinist line on the Basque Country and Catalonia on the French side. In the years around Franco’s death, Spain was shaken by significant workers struggles, leading to a social radicalization. While the struggle against national oppression played a central role in these mobilizations, WV, which regularly commented on these events, completely ignored this question. This silence had to be conscious and shows hostility to the fate of nations oppressed by the Spanish state. We launched a vicious polemic in defense of the oppression of Catalonia the first time we commented on this question in 1979.
This conference repudiates the article “Spanish LCR Pays Homage to Catalan Bourgeois Nationalism” (WV No. 233, 8 June 1979). This article is a gross capitulation to Castilian and French chauvinism and is a perversion of Leninism on the national question. We cite a polemic by Lenin against “cultural national autonomy,” and we outrageously use his arguments to oppose regional autonomy and independence, i.e., secession:
“As Leninists have always held, recognizing the right of self-determination is quite distinct from calling for its implementation, i.e., independence. And Spain is one of the most striking examples where communists would struggle doggedly to maintain working-class unity within the framework of the present state.”
This grotesque article is a loyalty oath in defense of the unity of Spain. WV acted as water boys for the bourgeoisie and the monarchy in the struggle against the national liberation of the Catalans and Basques.
The article also asserts that:
“The Basque and Catalan regions, while suffering discrimination (linguistic prohibitions, distribution of state services, repression) at the hand of the Francoist state apparatus, were the most developed regions in the country, containing the core of Spanish industry. Were they to separate, the two largest, best organized, most combative sectors of the proletariat would be subtracted, greatly weakening the workers movement in the rest of Spain and representing a considerable defeat for the European proletarian revolution.” (emphasis in original)
In fact, independence for Catalonia and the Basque Country would have been a step forward for the workers movement in Europe. This is all the more true today, when the breakup of Spain would profoundly destabilize the European Union, a reactionary imperialist bloc.
The problem with the way the LTF has approached the Basque and Catalan questions can be summed up in the following statement by a Basque nationalist: “There is not a Basque problem in France but a French problem in the Pays Basque.... The struggle of the Pays Basque will endure as long as there are Basques” (James E. Jacob, Hills of Conflict: Basque Nationalism in France[Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1994]). In 1987, at the same time that the French state was fiercely repressing the Basques, the LTF published an article that mainly attacked their demands for national rights. We wrote: “Indeed, while there is no national question in the French Basque Country, the military siege by [police ministers] Pasqua-Pandraud could well lead to one being created!” (“Gestapo-Style Raid in the Basque Country”). The article continues with a polemic against a “united, socialist Euskadi” and asserts that “self-determination is out of the question for the Basque region.” The forcible assimilation of the Basques in France is presented as a gain of the French Revolution.
These problems were only very partially corrected in 1998, when the LTF recognized the right of self-determination for the Basques in France. The International and the LTF repudiated the former political line, but in a dishonest way that covered up the full scope of the chauvinism of the 1987 article. However, we never reviewed our opposition to independence for the Basque Country nor for any other nation retained in the Hexagon.
When the question of independence for Catalonia was raised in 2014, the LTF decided not to take a position in favor of it. When the recent fight broke out in the International, the LTF did not undertake a review of its approach but instead rushed to produce a draft with a line comparable to the pre-1998 position. In a letter to the LTF, comrade Sacramento asserted:
“Your draft fundamentally equates the nationalism of the oppressed with the nationalism of the oppressors, misquoting Lenin to Salomonically denounce ‘aggressive bourgeois nationalism.’ You chose to emphasize that you are for independence of Basques and Catalans ‘in Spain,’ while somewhere in the next paragraph you barely mention that on the other side of the border we support ‘their right to join an independent Basque Country.’ In this formulation, you don’t mention explicitly their right to secede from France, regardless of what their co-nationals may do on the southern side of the border. And, as always, you found a way to ignore the Catalans in France.”
In 2014, the IEC adopted a line, against initial objections from the LTF, in favor of independence for the Basque Country and Catalonia. This change represented a qualitative improvement in our program. Nevertheless, this was done without making a complete break from the weaknesses of our former methodology: the aspirations of the oppressed for national liberation were still considered to be an obstacle to working-class struggle that we needed to “get off the agenda.” We are for independence—in the here and now—and we consciously fight to lead the struggle for national liberation toward socialist revolution. Our program is for workers republics in Catalonia and in the Basque Country.
To this day, our main argument for independence for the Basque Country and Catalonia has been that this would foster unity with the Castilian working class. In regard to Catalonia, our call for independence was based on an empirical and conjunctural assessment in the context of the 2014 referendum. The Basques and the Catalans have resisted assimilation for hundreds of years, thus expressing their desire to exist as nations. Another weakness in our recent articles is that they fail to explicitly call for the abolition of the monarchy. The fight for independence also means putting an end to this Francoist excrescence. Down with the monarchy!