The International Bolshevik Tendency condemns Madrid’s egregious use of force to suppress Catalonia’s 1 October independence referendum, and we absolutely oppose all attempts by the Spanish state to impede the Catalan people from exercising their democratic right to form a separate state.
Despite Madrid’s efforts to intimidate voters, over 2 million people defied the central state authorities by participating in the referendum, with some 90 percent voting in favor of independence. In many cases, Catalans occupied polling stations to ensure voting would take place and bravely resisted brutal attacks by National Police and Civil Guards sent to abort the plebiscite. Madrid’s repression limited overall participation to 42 percent of voters, but it is as clear as possible in the circumstances that Catalans have opted to exercise their democratic right to separate and form their own state.
As Marxists, we recognize the right of all nations to self-determination, which means the right to an independent nation-state. In some cases, like Quebec or Scotland, we defend the right to separate but do not at this point advocate independence. In advising whether or not to separate, we are guided by our evaluation of what would best advance the class struggle – and, in those two instances, independence is not currently necessary to get the national question “off the agenda” because joint workers’ struggles are still possible. In Catalonia, the population has already decided to separate in a formal referendum, so the axis must shift from defending the right to self-determination to defending the act of self-determination.
Supporting independence for Catalonia does not mean that we give any political support to the bourgeois nationalists currently governing the Catalan Generalitat, including President Carles Puigdemont’s Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT). We do, however, defend Puigdemont and his government against any attempts at repression by Madrid and call for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all Spanish police and military units from Catalonia.
Until independence is achieved, many Catalan workers may be fooled into thinking they have a common interest with Catalan capitalists – separation from Spain will create the conditions in which those illusions can be shattered. Marxists seek to unify working people around a program of proletarian revolution across the entire Iberian Peninsula as a step toward a Socialist United States of Europe.