Catalonia and the impasse of nationalism

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
18 December 2017

On December 21, the election of Catalonia’s regional Parliament will mark a new step in the conflict that has opposed those who support the independence of Catalonia and the Spanish state for years.

This conflict was aggravated when the Catalan regional government proclaimed an independent Catalan republic in the wake of the referendum it had organized on October 1. Spain's right-wing Prime Minister Rajoy had outlawed the referendum and sent police forces and anti-riot squads  to Catalonia. He also placed Catalonia’s institutions under the guardianship of the central state and dissolved the Catalan Parliament—which this week's election is set to renew.

Whatever the result, the workers of Catalonia and every other region of Spain can only count on their own forces to defend their interests against the propertied classes that rule the whole of Spain.

The battle between Catalan nationalists and the Spanish government for the control of a number of the state’s institutions is fought on both sides by reactionary and anti-worker parties and professional politicians.

All Spanish governments, whether they claim to be socialist or right-wing, have attacked the rights and living conditions of workers and the poor to guarantee ever-increasing profits to the big banks and corporations. Since the 2008 crisis, millions of Spanish workers have been fired, have seen their living conditions worsen, have had to cope with unemployment or have been compelled to accept temporary underpaid jobs.

To secure the Catalan people’s support, the nationalists tell them that an independent Catalonia would better defend their interests. This is a lie! When in office, the pro-independence political leaders carried out austerity policies with the goal of making workers foot the bill for the crisis.

The truth is that these movements want to rise to power for their own sake. And to do so, they count on the support of Catalan dignitaries and property owners who dream of controlling local resources without having to share them with their counterparts in the rest of the country.

Nationalism is an impasse for workers. It is a deadly trap which divides working-class women and men from Catalonia but also from all regions of Spain as well as from North-Africa and African countries. Nationalism pits workers against each other, even though they may live in the same neighborhood or the same town or work in  the same plant.

Catalan nationalism plays into the hands of Spanish nationalism. It allows the more right-wing political groups to increase their influence over the rest of the country. The Rajoy government, which had lost its credibility, has been able to muster new support by appearing as the defender of national unity against Catalan separatism.

On both sides, nationalism is used by politicians to transform people into a mass to maneuver in their bid for power.

There are many reasons for us, in France, to feel concerned by the events in Spain. Spain matters, not just because it is geographically close to us or because of the many ties created through Spanish immigration in France.

Like Spain, France has lived through many crises, has known massive job cuts, unemployment, increasing poverty and plummeting social benefits. Like Spain, France has many political parties and demagogues who rely on nationalism to divide us and draw us away from the fight against the real causes of the crises: the capitalists and the governments that serve them.

The working class is an international class. In France, it is made up of women and men from all corners of the world who can defend their right to a decent life if they stand united and in solidarity against their exploiters. Whatever our background or nationality, we have the same interests. And the same fight awaits us: the fight to build a world free of borders and exploitation.