Catalan independence and socialism

One of the aspects of my questions for supporters of Catalan independence touched on an issue I hold to be of vital importance: What model do you see an independent Catalonia adopting? Some sort of republic? How would it be organised? – This question, while it did receive some responses, didn’t attract the interest I’d be hoping for. That’s probably because I fudged the wording a little. What I was really getting at was: what type of state will Catalonia be?

The reason I feel this is important, indeed the main reason that I’m unable to personally back independence, is the socialist question. Or rather, What Would Trotsky Do? Because while I love Catalonia and would only wish the best for it, I would have trouble backing what I considered to be an independent Catalonia that conferred new rights on itself, but not its citizens. That is, for any such movement to deserve support, it ought to be either genuinely revolutionary or committed to serious socialist policies.

And at the moment I don’t see that happening.

For what it’s worth, Trotsky stated various times that the the cases of of states in the Soviet Union and Poland, independence was an understandable urge, and not at odds with revolution. He would probably not have been quite so supportive of Catalonia’s current bourgeois republicans.

It is true that the Catalan independence movement seems to be generally connected to left-leaning parties and organisations. ERC, the largest openly pro-independence party has certainly shifted away from what was a more chauvinistic “We are who we are” message. But the party continues to struggle with just who they really are. Are they ‘Esquerra’ first or are they ‘Republicana de Catalunya’ first? This question, trite as it seems, sums up the problem with the movement for independence here. I’m not an ERC supporter and nor do I expect that party ever to become a revolutionary force for change. I consider it all too likely that they’d sacrifice the ‘Esquerra’ bit before they sacrificed independence.

But perhaps I’m wrong about ERC and wrong about the chances for a revolutionary independence movement here. If one exists, even in nascent form, I’ve yet to encounter it. And that’s why, for the moment, I still find it difficult to make a blog that supports independence. At the very least, I would need to see a referendum that included a clear promise as to the republican and socialist nature of the state to come. Otherwise, maybe we should all just support the socialist movement in Spain.

40 thoughts on “Catalan independence and socialism

  1. I agree that the push for independence in Catalonia isn’t going to make a great deal of difference if it doesn’t pursue a different economic and social structure to the one that’s wreaking havoc on Spain and the world. I don’t hear any Catalan politicians speaking in this way which leads me to believe if ERC headed an independent Catalan government, it wouldn’t change much fundamentally.

  2. Has there been a case in which independence and socialism were connected in this way? I mean on the level of a large social agreement, not on that of one single party.

  3. I think this is misleading. I don’t find it fair to ask a country to follow a certain political ideology to become independent. Personally, my values are pretty much those of ERC (although I don’t like many things of their current performance in the Parliament). ERC has always been a party of republican social-democrats, never been a communist party and it’s not on the list of recycled socialist parties after the Fall of the Iron Curtain. If it was collaborating with socialist parties during the Civil War it was because, well, on the other side it was all conservative and fascist movements.
    I’m definitely not a socialist in its most communist ways. I do think the free market is necessary in many fields and I just support very strong social policies in fields like education or health (that-s just the common and traditional view of continental social-democrats alla Germany or Scandinavia).
    That being said, if Catalonia wants to achieve independence we’ll have to convince the liberals too (Convergencia). Any other attempt will be in vain.
    There are socialist parties that support independence (with Independencia i Socialisme as their motto) but they are not in the Catalan Parliament. At least not yet. So far, parties like CUP are only doing politics in certain city councils.

    1. It’s so unfair.

      Look, Grey: every time we argue for one thing or another, we’re stating our conditions. My condition for backing Catalan independence is that it should be linked to revolutionary socialism. I make no apologies for that and I consider socialism to be far more important than sovereignty. The most important thing, probably.

      Your historical explanations, while generally correct (though I think you’re very confused about anarchism in Barcelona, which was always of a syndicalist nature and latterly anti-Stalinist rather than anti-Communist), actually explain much of what is wrong in Catalonia. This is the perfect land, terrain and population for a realistic attempt at a sort of ‘region-state’ socialism which, I believe, will become the norm in our lifetimes.

      1. I didn’t say the anarchist movement in Catalonia was anti-communist. As you just said, it was indeed anti-Stalinist. Actually there were communist movements of a more libertarian (if that’s the correct word) nature, like POUM and all the trotskists were far closer to the anarchists than the Stalinists. I was just trying to explain the nature of the far-left connected with the general trends of thought and the very nature of Catalans.
        I understand your priorities are different than mine and you don’t have to apologize for that (I would never dare asking for an apology regarding someone’s political priorities and values).
        As for Catalonia being a perfect land for a realistic region-state socialism, I have my doubts. It might be so considering its size but I find it very unlikely to succeed given the state of Catalan people’s ideas and concerts. A major shift in the mentality of Catalans would have occur.

  4. PS: Catalonia has always been a very individualistic society. Therefore, communism has never been very popular. Neither have been very Catholic movements. The only far-left successful movement was anarchism and when it comes to moderate politics there has always been a strong liberal movement (not linked with the traditional Spanish conservative parties -Unio is a small part of Convergencia i Unio) and a social-democrat movement (less into big collectivizing policies).
    In the last 20 years, many conservative parties in Europe have become more liberal and many socialist parties have turned into social-democrats. But this structure was already the classic core of Catalan politics.

  5. Tom, I think Grey is right. Facts on the ground do not speak for Catalonia being the ideal lab rat.

    Yes, I said lab rat. I think time’s long over for experiments. Socialism itself is not dead, though. We might look at it for alternatives to the present capitalist crisis, but you must admit that in a democratic society things can swing any way, and back again.

    What you want is a socialist structure, and that won’t fly.

    It might sooth you that Marx is being proven right: economic power is being concentrated ever more in the hands of a few on a worldwide scale. But don’t expect the Weltrevolution. Let’s hope for changes in the conscience of many enough people to find a modus vivendi that is not socialist, but social enough for everybody to be treated fairly.

    Let’s get away from the impatience of the -isms.

  6. Trotsky supported the right to self-determination in quite unambiguous terms:
    “We are not concerned, of course, with calling upon the Catalans and the Basques to separate from Spain; but it is our duty to insist on their right to do this should they themselves want it”
    I do not agree that socialism (the real one, I mean, public ownership of means of production) has any chance at all. Capitalism is doomed, of course, but socialism is not going to replace it. It will have to be something else.

      1. I’m fine with the critique. But you were looking at how to apply it towards a solution. At that I see no chance for any of the methods of the past -actually, maybe with the exception of Sik and the likes- to bring usmuch of a benefit.

        And it is certainly odd to ask from the Catalans to have another ideology on top of their own, sacred nationalism. They’re just human, man.

  7. One last remark: Catalan nationalism is not a vanguardist movement of any kind but reactionary at its very core. It does not defend any change for the better anymore but a well established status quo against any change or improvement.

    The thing will not give out anything else but mould. What you are expecting here, Tom, is the impossible.

    1. Hey, have you tried getting your kicks from something else other than trolling on the internet? I don’t know, maybe you can go chat up some women, or build a railway model, anything. I think it’d be good for your mental health.

      1. Tom, is your lining up with the radicals only an optical glitch and are you really asking me?

        In this case the answer is that I not only got fed up with the dully recurrent statements of Catalan supremacy on the one hand and all-too-ridiculous shows of ignorance on the other, above all I got fed up with my own way of replying to this nonsense.

        Also, I’ve never been able to find the right track and tone, or time for this end. I think I never really have been able to express well enough how sad and dangerous this nationalism is.

        And then there’s the futility of it all.

        I said that much on my blog, then I closed it.

        Trevor had a nice way of interpreting that I “have come to the conclusion that watching Catalonia is rather like watching paint dry”, and I agree with this too.

        I’ve crossed words and other things with brighter people and more dangerous guys than our local heroes who have made it their holy duty to bash anybody who disagrees with their fascistoid little view of the world (“world” being a euphemism here). So boredom is also a factor.

        These are my reasons to take a step back. But I’ve seen that I’m able to mutate and come back at any other time, in surprisingly new settings.

        1. By not always agreeing with you, I’m “lined up with the radicals”? And this on a blog post where I’ve categorically stated that I can’t back the Catalan independence movement in its current form?

          Watching paint dry might not be the best way to spend your days. But you certainly enjoyed it for a while. Maybe you didn’t like how the picture was turning out?

          1. I took the risk, and you got me wrong. The lineup was created by your comment appearing after primo’s and before Rab’s. Just a coincidence, just an optical glitch, I know, but I wanted to toy around a bit.

            I did certainly never enjoy neither watching nor writing about what I see. In a programmatic first post I said that I was fed up. Or in other words: someone had to say certain things.

            Now I’m fed up with all of it, my own part included before all.

            The picture remains a hilarious one, there’s no change and no turning out. Only more of the same, which makes it worse day by day, if anything.

          2. Anyway, I would rather people got along and debated than just arguing all the time. So perhaps this blog will be about something else. I might not get 50 comments on my posts about TV shows or blues, but they’re equally valid to me.

            Incidentally, another of the crappy Life In Barcelona bloggers has fled because of Catalan language education rules. I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who makes a fuss about that is either a dick or an idiot. Catalan is pretty easy to learn, especially if you already speak Castilian. So anyone who has been here for more than 5 years but still doesn’t speak any should really wonder what their problem is. It’s not that difficult. Stop crying about it and grow up.

            Actually, maybe I’ll write a blog post about this đŸ™‚

          3. I’m sorry, Tom, I cannot see any relation in this comment of yours to any previous comment, to the topic of the post or to my person or blog.

          4. “Anyway, I would rather people got along and debated than just arguing all the time. So perhaps this blog will be about something else. I might not get 50 comments on my posts about TV shows or blues, but they’re equally valid to me.” – was my way of agreeing with you. It was never my aim that this blog become a single-issue fight club.

          5. Got it now, thanks.

            The “they’re equally valid to me” was the part I liked already on the first read. I also empathise with your “single-issue fight club” problem.

            Thanks for having offered space and patience nevertheless.

        2. Thank heavens you got fed up. I mean, you’ve posted what, several hundred ramblings on the subject, on this blog alone. I don’t want to know what it’s like when you’re not fed up with something.

  8. Would be nice. FC Barcelona out of La Liga, that’s only for Spanish teams. Let them play in some new catalan league then..

    1. A Catalan league would be interesting mainly in regards to what Espanyol Barcelona do. You could see Espanyol continue to play in la liga which would make them the big Catalan club in Spain….. or the they could play in the Catalan league, change their name again and pinch Real Madrid’s Catalan fan base…. Reial Club Barcelona vs Futbol Club Barcelona anyone????? It would be like Scotland but with better football.

        1. Remind me to use this argument wherever it’s due: Barça without any honourable home league is the ultimate argument against any independence of Catalonia from Spain (and others, if necessary).

          “More than a club” should not become “one-club-only”. It would be only inbreeding. And however much that’s quite en vogue for the nationalists (who so far have refrained from counting their offspring’s thumbs) sportively this would be a total desaster. And economically… well, the same.

      1. Sorry how could it happen that Espanyol would continue to play in the LFP and FCB would not? What a lot of nonsense.

        It could be like Scotland, or it could be like Wales or it could be like Monaco. What the hell has this got to do with Catalan independence and socialism?

        1. Rab, these people are a laughing stock, don’t take them seriously, mate. I made a promise to myself to not waste time with idiots, and my quality of life has improved enermously. I suggest you do the same đŸ˜‰

    1. WB boy! You know, I don’t think there’s a danger. Spaniards are jolly simple and this kind of bipolarity suits them. It is indeed quite a philosophical attitude: a high degree of manichaeism is ingrained into the collective psyche here, you can observe it in sports as well as in politics.

      And it’s not only the Spaniards who like to break the world down to two opposing poles. Remember the famous Bushism “you’re either for us or you’re against us”, which itself tried to quote Jesus.

      All in all, the black-and-white thinking is something we all are prone to, while the best of us are trying very hard to find an acceptable, and more complex, alternative.

      Now, a monopolar Catalan league is certainly the path towards the opposite end: fascism knows all about that approach and can only be upheld by ants, bees and the like.

      Which is why Spaniards, among which I count the Catalans, being so entirely human can never accept any Catalan league so dominated by Barça, and therefor I see this as the ultimate argument against the independence of Catalonia.

      Being football the real litmus test of society. I think I an stipulate that much without alienating neither the Catalans, not any other Spaniards, nor even English or German folks. Nor you name it.

  9. This post of yours must take the biscuit as to the most patronising, and insulting, piece of rubbish you have yet written.

    Candide dixit: “All in all, the black-and-white thinking is something we all are prone to, while the best of us are trying very hard to find an acceptable, and more complex, alternative.

    The best of us? I am still laughing at this one.
    Who do you think you are? The person that cannot see past the holy and sacred structures of the Spanish state is now an advocate of free-thinking.
    I can’t contain my tears!

    This kind of stupid argument was also used in Yugoslavia (football, basket), Lithuania (basket) and Quebec. If there is ever a chance of Catalonia constituting itself into an independent state, the future of FCB will not decide or influence the outcome. To say that it will is to be stupid beyond belief.

    Moreover, since the LFP would have as much to loose as FCB. In any case, all the other leagues in Europe will welcome FCB with open arms, whether it is France, Italy or England and will amend their regulations to make this possible. Leagues, associations and clubs can organise their affairs as they please and borders (or lack of) do not dictate anything. Check the FIFA regulations.

    As an example:
    Welsh clubs play in English leagues.
    Scottish clubs play in their own leagues.
    Monaco plays in France.
    Andorran clubs play in the Spanish leagues.

    I can see you are a rabid opponent of Catalan independence but arguments like the ones you have put forward in your post reveal how behind your fancy prose there is nothing but resentment, prejudice and ignorance.

    1. See, you’re one of “the best of us”! You are totally trying to avoid any black-and-white attitude.

      Congratulations Rab!

      Catalonia independent and its “more than a club” playing in other countries is indeed a novel solution.

  10. as mush as i love barca, it would be the greatest hypocracy should the league on an independent Catalonia not have the membership of FCB. That would be a case of Catalan when it suits.

    Here is where Catalanism meets football… being the rebel Catalan in Spanish footbal is good for business – the alternative is not. That is ofcourse unless Espanyol or another pick up the Catalan Real Madrid fan base.

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