Catalonia goes to the polls

Submitted by Matthew on 13 December, 2017 - 10:59 Author: Tony Holmes

The constitutional crisis in Catalonia continues to simmer as the region awaits elections on 21 December.

A number of Catalan politicians and activists, including members of the recently dismissed government, have been denied bail and remain jailed on charges of sedition. Some are in exile in Belgium.

The Spanish government has been directly administering Catalonia now since late October. While there have been large-scale demonstrations against the suspension of regional autonomy and political arrests, the civil disobedience among local government and regional police that some predicted has failed to materialise.

Despite, or maybe because of, the heavy-handed, almost calculatedly bullish behaviour of the Spanish authorities, it seems that support for Catalan independence and pro-independence parties is on the wane. Although the electoral system favours pro-independence small towns and villages over less-separatist Barcelona, early-December polls have predicted a loss in seats for the pro-independence ERC (Republican Left) and Puigdemont's Junts Per Catalunya coalition from 62 seats in the 2015 election to maybe fewer than 60. The main beneficiaries may be the neo-liberals of Ciudadanos. Both the left-wing independence party the CUP, as well as the alliance of Podemos and Catalunya en Comú (which opposes both independence and the Spanish crackdown) have held fairly steady.

Given the thuggish behaviour of the Spanish government, this may seem surprising. But equally, support for independence was only ever a minority position. Many who voted for pro-independence parties as a protest against the status quo may have been repelled by Puigdemont's rush to declare independence with scant democratic mandate, or scared off by Madrid's hardline response. More still may simply be sick of the chaos the crisis has generated.

Unlike others on the left, Workers' Liberty has been critical of the drive for independence, while condemning Spanish repression. Along with much of the labour movement and left in Catalonia and the rest of the country, we continue to believe that the creation of a new border between the workers of Spain would be a backward step.

But above all, we demand the question be resolved democratically by the people of Catalonia themselves.

That means an end to repression, the release of political prisoners and the restoration of Catalan autonomy.