Radical independence forces made significant gains in last week’s parliamentary elections in Catalonia, as the pro-independence vote shifted measurably to the left.
Turnout declined because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but reached 51%. A majority of voters opted for pro-independence parties for the first time, and those parties increased their majority by 4 seats.
The anti-capitalist left is responsible for the entire +4 seat gain by the independence camp. The CUP – Popular Unity Candidacy – went up from 4 MPs to 9, and secured 6.6% of the national vote.
The CUP is based on municipalism and localism, and originates in the social movements. In its campaign it called for the disbandment of the most repressive police units, an end to housing evictions, a 1200 Euros minimum wage, to seek more international solidarity, and confront the Spanish state with strikes and public disobedience. The impressive result is not even the CUPs high watermark, which came in 2015, but does show a demonstrable shift to the left in the election results.
Also notable is the fact that the social democratic/democratic socialist Esquerra Republicana overtook the bourgeois/liberal Junts as the largest pro-independence party in the parliament. Esquerra did not do this on a surge of new voters, and as a party is less committed than the CUP to confrontation and more interested in negotiations. Nonetheless, Esquerra called for a feminist and anti-fascist republic, said it would curtail landlordism and control rents, committed to ending fossil fuels, and said it would slash university fees and that independence could not be based on neoliberalism. That is, even the more reformist wing of the Catalan pro-independence left insists on foregrounding social demands that would be radical – and welcome – in the Welsh context.
The necessity of this stance is only reinforced by the entrance of the far-right VOX into the Catalan Parliament for the first time. It barely needs saying that the national movements need to be explicitly anti-fascist and anti-racist when confronting the wave of far-right activity across Europe.
The aftermath of the vote has coincided with vicious police repression of the demonstrations in support of the provocative Catalan rapper Pablo Hasél, who has been jailed by the Spanish state for his offensive lyrics. Debate about the nature of the artist’s lyrics and his role as a provocative campaigner is on the whole less important than the need to defend freedom of expression. Condemnation of the jail sentence from Podemos, the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, has seemingly had no effect.
Regardless, the street-based character of the Catalan independence movement is likely to intensify if a political solution to the wider issue of political imprisonment cannot be reached. This underlines how important it is to avoid characterising the Catalan independence movement as “wealthy” or privileged over Spain. Rather, it is a democratic movement being actively repressed by the police, the courts and the state.
The events unfolding in Catalonia are related to the specific conditions there, whereas Wales is at a far earlier stage in our independence mobilisation. The strategic and tactical questions within the Catalan movement are not necessarily relevant to Wales at this point.
But Catalonia has served as an inspiration to the Welsh movement, and communities across Wales have demonstrated in support of Catalonia’s rights and freedom.
Undod takes courage from the extent to which the two most progressive pro-independence forces in Catalonia have insisted on fusing social demands with their national aspirations.
Undod proposes to the wider Welsh independence movement, which is of course a movement of multiple perspectives, that the shift to the left and the rejection of neoliberalism in Catalonia is to be welcomed.
As the Welsh independence movement grows in vibrancy and popularity, it will inevitably confront a wider range of social questions. We propose that independence can be a vehicle for the emancipation of our people and communities.
The social question and the national question are inseparable. Liberty for the political prisoners! Ymlaen at Gymru radical annibynnol!
Pic: Parliament of Catalonia by Ginosal