On the Catalan “Revolution”

The Form of the Struggle

Loyalism v Independence

There’s a gruelling battle going on between Madrid and Barcelona. ­On one side you have a massive loyalist mobilisation combined with extensive economic and political repression. On the other, demonstrators brandishing the flag of independence and democracy against "oligarchic" power. To understand the underlying cause we have to look at the wider framework of crises that have engulfed the capitalist system and the measures that the various states have taken to deal with them.

Restructuring State Assets

Each step in this process is about maintaining the economic functioning of the capitalist system as a whole. This is what is fundamentally behind the reshaping of various aspects of government, from administrative to political decision-making, which in turn impact on political and social relations between the classes. The salient features are:

  • The centralisation of power and executive decision-making
  • the maximum centralisation of control over public spending cuts associated with the economic policies of "blood and tears".
  • the authoritarian redefining of class political and social relationships

These measures are also about the role national states have to play in the process of capital concentration and centralisation which is rooted in the construction of a European imperialist bloc. Such a bloc has to be able to compete internationally at the same time as being able to deal with critical events and military engagements at an international level. It is a process which is neither linear nor painless, involving many obstacles and contradictions.

The Social Consequences

The proletariat has been badly hit by the various austerity policies. Now the survival of those small and middle layers of the bourgeoisie who in previous stages still managed to survive is also under threat.

Thus the specific battleground between Madrid and Barcelona is shaped by these general conditions.

The Crisis Leads to Inter-Bourgeois Hostility

The fundamental issue is central control over spending and the associated restructuring of regional powers and prerogatives. It reveals how the dynamic of the crisis plays on inter-bourgeois interests, altering and reducing their room for manoeuvre to the benefit of the dominant sectors of the bourgeoisie.

… Masquerading as a People’s Struggle

Inevitably the crisis has sparked the various classes into action to preserve and defend their interests. The growing radicalisation of assorted Catalan social strata has been interwoven with the initiative of the region’s political leaders who are struggling to preserve their own power as their room for manoeuvre declines along with the overall stability of the specifically Catalan economic and social system.

Far from presenting an alternative to the present system, the “Catalan revolution” is in fact a defensive interclass movement, both in terms of its participants and the content of its "programme". In effect this is about keeping political control in the hands of the existing Catalonian political executive. The Independence banner raised by the bourgeois Catalan leadership, which has mobilised various sectors and social strata, immediately increased the stakes in a high risk poker game: whether in "opportunistic" terms of aiming to renegotiate relations with Madrid on the Statute of Autonomy, or whether it is interpreted as the will to separate by the Spanish State.

Aims of the Struggle Define Who is the Strongest

The first point demonstrated by the facts is that the simple ground of "democratic legitimacy" constantly invoked by the Catalan movement is an impotent, or rather catastrophic, aspiration which is incapable of meeting popular demands. And this is because the real battleground is not the one the Catalans have stumbled into, but the one imposed by the interests of the dominant sectors of the bourgeoisie in today’s stage of capitalism, where the Spanish State is the guarantor of all, for all, and despite all.

The flag of 'Independence' comes up against this wall, demonstrating all its political inconsistency, because its strategic core – which cannot be avoided – directly poses the question of the composition of the bourgeoisie and its State.

If, on the one hand, a thousand strands link the Catalan bourgeoisie with that of Madrid, the same ties "remind" Barcelona how the state is the dominant organ of the ruling class and how propagating the will for "separation" and "democratic” aspirations, where these conflict with the dominant interests, can only be posed in terms of political and military conflict. Here Spain, as a bourgeois state, is no more and no less "oligarchic" than any other representative of bourgeois democracy in this period of acute crisis of imperialism.

Imperialist Democracy is Authoritarian Democracy

Spain is in full measure an "imperialist democracy", albeit with specific features resulting from its history. As a bourgeois-democratic state, it has incorporated all the terms of domination developed during events in its own history – including conflict between the classes – as well as particular international conflicts. Today, faced with the crisis and the re-emergence of contradictions, every bourgeois-democratic state not only uses the old repressive arsenal but develops it in different ways to deal with the problems they come up against.

Thus the tendency towards an authoritarian reshaping of imperialist states is growing. The bourgeois democratic framework and its rights are not formally denied, but emptied of meaning and redefined from the inside in the name and on behalf of the interests of the ruling class. Its responses are circumscribed by the new limits of possibility imposed by the crisis, not least towards the class struggle, where the only possible negotiation is about how to meet bourgeois interests. Government increasingly means the coercive management of contradictions, either to bring them back to an acceptable level or to nullify them.

In this respect, it should be enough to point out that in early October, France (home of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité) made the "emergency" measures imposed two years ago following the attacks by Isis activists permanent.

Democratic Illusions or Undisguised Opportunism?

Thus the positions of the Catalan reformist left (and not only them) are shaped, not by concrete reality but by a mechanistic equation which sees the Catalan independence not just as a process guided and shaped by the interests of the Catalan bourgeoisie, but as a catalyst for the general democratisation of Spain and Europe. It is a mechanistic and idealistic position because it is light years away from the real political factors shaping today's capitalist and imperialist world.

The point is that NOT making the revolution when pretending to do so, is not only a sign of impotence or, worse, of simple illusion, it is preparing for disarmament and retreat tomorrow: something which can be neither put down to the "compromise" or "betrayal" of the Catalan leaders nor to the "iron heel" of Madrid. Moreover, allowing tens of thousands of people to become the victims of state repression only extinguishes enthusiasm and hopes of change.

It’s a hard lesson in political and historical facts which the Catalan bourgeoisie, from its capitalist standpoint, can neither understand nor go beyond, even if it sees things differently from Madrid.

The Catalan Crisis: Fruit of Real Contradictions

The second objective fact to note is that the Catalan crisis is not “artificial”, or simply a scheme grafted from above by the ruling classes of the region. As we have seen, factors associated with the general crisis of capitalism and the consequent reorganisation of powers and relations between the classes are the predominant cause.

But if this is the objective situation, the political climate in which the crisis matures is not neutral. The crisis objectively leads to the polarisation of class antagonisms. Within this general framework the two phenomena have almost always been distinct yet intertwined. On the one hand there is a proletariat who, from time to time, in defence of its own conditions, has given rise to cycles of "resistance" to the austerity policies of the bourgeoisie. However, this has not prevented a general undermining of its class position in the overall trial of strength. Above all, there is a notable lack of awareness of an alternative to the system, limiting itself – when and if it has done so – to resisting the attacks yet effectively submitting to being in a subordinate and auxiliary position in the general political process.

On the other hand, the small and middle bourgeoisie who have been hit by the crisis are coming together to preserve their own class position. They have entered the bourgeois political process and are mobilising to put pressure on it and find an outlet for their own political ends.

It varies with the specific situation, on the weight of influence of the proletariat and the character of the bourgeois elements involved, but the general political perspective which mobilises people is cobbled together from out-of-date reformism, various forms of populism, identity nationalisms.

This is also what’s happened in Catalonia. “Independence” demonstrations have drawn in people from different social backgrounds and classes who have all been hit by the crisis. They see ‘independence’ as a means of protecting their own general interests and it is the political glue of the whole protest movement. Objectively the working class contradiction still remains, but it has submerged itself in political, organisational and consciousness terms, with the self-asserting independence tide that has submerged everything. Objectively, the strength of the working class has been subordinated and become an accessory to the bourgeois leaders of the independence process.

Nationalism: That Bulwark Against Proletarian Independence

The readiness of parts of the working class to mobilise and burn up their energy for the cause of "independence" is not a point in its favour. On the contrary, it is an obstacle to the class being able to pursue their own interests. Nationalism, whatever the colour, is the historical cord which binds the hands and feet of the proletariat to those of the bourgeoisie. Nationalism is inter-classism and divides proletarians from proletarians, both locally and internationally.

The "Catalan Revolution" has not gone, and cannot go beyond the limit of the interests of those it represents and who move it. The border is the limit of its interest. It cannot call on the other "peoples of Spain" for unified action because its programme excludes that possibility.

The Independence Movement Aspires for Bourgeois Legitimacy:

From Those Who Deny Its Feasibility

They look to the EU and the various imperialist heads of state for approval, Nobel prizes, round tables, various saints and holy men ... because the main problem is to establish a capitalist legitimacy which could pressure Madrid into recognising the independence process, in return for certain guarantees. The fact that the EU’s response – from the high offices of the various countries – is a sharp rejoinder, further highlights how imperialist interests today play out. The nationalist flag of Catalan independence is up against that other nationalism of the Spanish Unionist loyalists. It is obvious that the political purpose of every demonstration organised by either side is to extend their influence over the struggle and win approval for their own policies.

But this does not alter the fact that the struggle of class against class, which as Marxists we anticipate and work towards, is entirely different from a conflict between bourgeois factions and their auxiliary troops.

We believe that the Catalan affair – just as the Greek one recently in different ways – continues to see a proletariat that, due to its own weakness, is trapped in a condition of inferiority, despite the frustrations within its ranks which make it willing to participate in the fight. That the battleground and political goals of the struggle are dictated by the bourgeoisie is another fact. Yet even though they are obliged to operate on the ground of confrontation imposed by the bourgeoisie and under difficult conditions, the task of revolutionaries here, as always, is to subtract the proletariat from the vice of the bourgeoisie, giving flesh and blood to the INDEPENDENCE AND UNITY OF THE CLASS.

The process of consolidating the independence and unity of the working class does not arise from the spontaneous evolution of inter-class movements, much less is it a proletarian way forward. It is necessary to have a plan of how the working class can break away and separate their own interests, especially since we know that every kind of "bourgeois solution" to the crisis will never resolve the situation of the proletariat. Transitional "alliances" have historically marked bourgeois resolution of crises, even the most acute, and with them the death of the class political perspective, paving the way for new and wilder terms of exploitation of the proletariat and more stringent terms of annihilation for its political elements.

The "Catalan Revolution" does not escape this general law. Bourgeois legality, such as is now being put into practice, prepares the "more or less soft" counter-revolution of tomorrow.

The only political perspective the proletariat and its political leadership can have is that it must be able to deal with these tougher conditions and act within their limits. The starting point is the very basic lesson that the liberation of the oppressed class is either internationalist – beyond borders and boundaries, corporations etc. ... or it will not happen.


Translated from our Italian comrades webpage 20 October 2017


Monday, October 23, 2017


This article clearly explains the strategy advised by the ICT for proletarian struggles against the bourgeoisie. However, trying to look ahead, if not just some but all 'nations' are to be abolished, and thus their frontiers down, it seems difficult to envisage just how areas of responsibility for essential tasks can be set. On a very small scale, for example, some workers already have allotments alongside others, without 'invading' and plundering, and, on a larger scale, not every present-day nation, albeit capitalist, is intent on waging war on its neighbours, but of course we need to be well aware of the whole scenario of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. Leaving aside the many and various views about Stalin and Stalinism, does the now ended union of soviet socialist republics to some extent give examples of how areas of responsibility can be agreed between vast numbers of workers without needing to declare nations ended ? It is difficult to imagine just how workers councils could be held responsible for running airlines and railways and so on, even if and when plans for a world socialist economy are made available. No doubt I shall be told that today's problems are not those of tomorrow. Never mind. Think on !