From Catalonia to Scotland and Brexit: nationalism is a dead-end

1st November 2017

From May to Merkel and Macron, all European governments have rallied behind Spain's right-wing prime minister Rajoy, in his clamp-down on the Catalan pro-independence movement, following its attempt to proclaim a Catalan Republic.
    Predictably so, as all these governments fear a snow-ball effect, should the Catalan secession be successful.  From Scotland to Northern Italy and Flanders, among many others, there is no shortage of aspiring nationalist forces which aim at gaining some form of independence in order to cut out a fiefdom for themselves.
    But where are the interests of the working class majority in all of this?  Are they represented by the likes of May and Rajoy, who are only concerned with the interests of their capitalist masters?  Obviously not. But are they represented by the pro-independence camp?  Not any more so, in fact.

How the crisis propped up nationalism

In many respects, there are striking similarities between Catalonia and Scotland.
    In Catalonia, the leading nationalist force - the Catalan European Democratic Party (CEDP) led by deposed president Carles Puigdemont - is a right-wing party.  It represents the interests of the well-offs and businesses, whose only aspiration is to increase their parasitism on the provincial state.  In that sense, it is quite similar to Scotland's SNP which was formed by Scottish Tories in the 1930s, to represent the same social interests.
    But with such a narrow social base, neither party had a chance in hell to get anywhere close to political power.  So they sought to capitalise on the discontent caused by an on-going crisis which was decimating jobs.  They used populist language designed to appeal to working class voters who were alienated by the pro-business policies of the main parties in central government.
    In Scotland, this allowed the SNP to take over the regional institutions, in 2007, thanks to the revulsion caused by Blair's policies.  In Catalonia, it was the high unemployment caused by the 2008 crisis and Madrid's austerity policies which eventually allowed the CEDP to form a ruling coalition in Barcelona, in 2016.
    In both cases, these two parties made political capital by riding on the discontent generated by the crisis.  Waving their respective nationalist flags, they claimed that independence would allow their provinces to weather the crisis which was affecting the rest of the world, thanks to their taking over control of the economic resources.
    This was a con, of course, since the world capitalist crisis is not likely to be stopped by national borders.  But the real potential beneficiaries, the two regions' better-offs, had every reason to be satisfied with this outcome!

From Catalonia to Brexit

In Catalonia, the working class is faced with a choice between two dead ends: either the nationalism of the Catalan politicians, or the nationalism of the Madrid politicians!  The anti-independence protesters marched massively behind the Spanish flag last week!  But wasn't this flag soaked in workers' blood, during the 38 years of Franco's brutal dictatorship?  How can it ever represent the interests of the working class?  Of course it can't!
    And here, what springs to mind is... Brexit.  Ironically, in this case, the roles are reversed.  Those who want to go it alone and erect more borders around workers are politicians harking back to Britain's grandiose imperial past.  They want us to line up behind the Union Jack against the rest of Europe.  But isn't this same flag the bloody symbol of the looting and massacres carried out by British colonialism across its empire and, more recently, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria?  As if it was in our interests to align ourselves behind politicians who celebrate the crimes of British capital - the crimes of our exploiters - for the sole purpose of promoting their narrow-minded, petty ambitions!
    Look at these politicians who are trying to look as if they were great negotiators, when they're making a complete mess of everything!  And they are so terrified of exposing their incompetence and irresponsibility that they don't even dare to disclose what their own officials tell them about the chaos that Brexit will cause in the economy!
    We need to "regain control", they say.  Yes, we the working class, need to regain control - or rather to take it, once and for all - from the hands of those career-hungry politicians and from the hands of their capitalist masters.
    And to this end, here in Britain, just as much as in Barcelona and in Madrid, the working class needs to have its own voice, its own party, which will, at last, represent its class interests - the party that we need to build!