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Spain: PSOE ‘pardons’ Catalan political prisoners to better fight Catalan rights

 

 

By Dick Nichols

July 1, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Who is that attacking Catalonia’s Catholic bishops and the Spanish Confederation of Employer Organisations (CEOE), Spanish big capital’s peak body? An anarchist? An indignado? No, try the other end of the political spectrum: it’s Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative opposition People’s Party (PP).

Ever since news of the impending pardon of the nine Catalan leaders imprisoned over the October 1, 2017 independence referendum became public knowledge in late May, the PP leader has been up in arms, determined to stop anyone, no matter how rich or how holy, from approving Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez’s plan for early release of those who flouted Spain’s unity.

On June 21, the PP leader sounded the direst of warnings about this decision of the ruling Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos (UP). The goal of the criminal alliance supporting the pardon — Sánchez, UP and “the nationalists” — was the destruction of Spain and the PP.

Catalonia: Coalition government formed after prospect of mass disaffection forces independence parties into agreement

 

 


By Dick Nichols

May 25, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — On May 17,with negotiations over forming a Catalan government bogged down and a repeat election looming, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Together for Catalonia (Junts) reached an unexpected agreement for coalition government. Hammered out in two days of secret meetings between ERC national coordinator Pere Aragonès and jailed Junts national secretary Jordi Sànchez, the accord was ratified on May 19 by the ERC National Council and by a plebiscite of Junts members (83% to 17%).

Four days later, the 135-seat Catalan parliament voted 74 to 61 to invest Aragonès as premier (president) of the Catalan government (the Generalitat). As the ERC’s lead candidate in the February 14 Catalan elections, he will head a 14-member cabinet made up half-and-half by the appointments of the two parties. Catalonia’s third pro-independence force, the radical People’s Unity List (CUP), voted to invest the government but not to participate in it.

Forming government after the Catalan elections: Who is left? Who is right?

 

 

By Dick Nichols

March 19, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The standard political terms “right” and “left” originally grouped supporters and opponents of the French monarchy according to their place in the National Assembly born of the 1789 Revolution: monarchists sat to the right of the speaker, revolutionaries to the left. Since then, the terms have been used to classify parties and elected representatives according to their attitude to the prevailing political order. 

These necessary words must be used with great care when that order is constituted by a multinational state that denies the right of self-determination to its various peoples, as in the case of the Kingdom of Spain. Politics in states like Spain is a minefield because it operates on a double axis: it moves “left and right” along the scale of social and class interests but also “up and down” the scale running from full recognition to total rejection of the right of stateless peoples to choose their relation to the regime ruling over them.

Catalan elections analysed: what now after Spanish unionist assault repelled?

 

 

By Dick Nichols

February 25, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The February 14 elections in Catalonia took place in a phantasmagorical setting created by the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ruling of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia that they had to go ahead despite the danger of an increased infection rate in a country where 20,000 have already died of the pandemic.

As a result, 25% of the 90,000 citizens chosen by ballot to staff polling stations requested exemption; candidates gave rousing speeches to vacant halls while thousands of eyes watched on over Zoom, and the TV debates between the lead candidates were weird combinations of robotic set speeches and uncontrollable screaming matches.

With COVID-19 still raging in a half locked-down country, it was inevitable that the abstention rate would surge and decide the main issue in the elections: would the independentist majority in the Catalan parliament withstand the onslaught of Spanish unionism, this time carried out under the banner of the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC), the Catalan affiliate of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE)?

Spanish state: the Catalan February 14 election backgrounded

 

 

By Dick Nichols

February 12, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The issue must have been serious to persuade Salvador Illa, Spain’s minister for health, to leave that critical job just as the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic was approaching its peak. 

It was. For Illa’s party, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which runs the Spanish government with Unidas Podemos (UP) as junior partner, the Catalan independence movement’s still undefeated threat to Spain’s territorial unity is a graver concern than any virus—even one that has so far claimed 60,000 lives.

Spain: a budget for an ecological, feminist and socially just recovery?

 

 

By Dick Nichols

November 20, 2020 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The Spanish government of Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) prime minister Pedro Sánchez and Unidas Podemos (UP) second deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias launched their 2021 draft budget with great fanfare on October 27. For the proud parents, their newborn fiscal package — the first since 2018 — will inaugurate “a new epoch that definitively leaves behind the phase of neoliberalism and cuts to the public sector” (Iglesias): it will also “mark a turning point in our economic model” (Sánchez).

Not that the birth was painless: up until the day before the draft budget was to go before cabinet UP was tweeting that it could not be adopted because they did not agree. UP only relented after stitching up late-night deals with the PSOE on relaxing conditions for access to the Minimum Living Wage and adopting a law to allow rent control by regional and local government.

Catalonia after the sentence: the tsunami of protest driving Spanish politics

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

October 28, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The emotional gap between the 75%-80% of Catalans who uphold their country’s right to self-determination and the Spanish elites and parts of Spanish society that just want to see it wiped out was already enormous before October 14. But on that day, when the Spanish Supreme Court condemned nine Catalan political and social movement leaders to a total of 99.5 years jail, it probably became unbridgeable.

 

Since October 14, in bars, restaurants and public transport across Catalonia, there has been practically no other topic of conversation than the Spanish court’s vindictive sentences against the twelve leaders of the October 1, 2017 independence referendum and the torrents of protest that the verdict has provoked.

 

An immediate indicator of the profound indignation the verdict caused was that every last social, recreational, scientific, artistic and sporting organisation— from the most to the least political, from Barcelona Football Club to the Catalan Association for the Defence and Study of Nature— immediately issued statements condemning the sentences.

 

Punishment without crime: the judgment against the Catalan leaders analysed

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

October 22, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The unanimous verdict of the seven Supreme Court judges that set off the still expanding wave of protest that has engulfed Catalonia was calculatedly vindictive. The nine Catalan leaders—seven former ministers and social movement leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart—were found guilty of “sedition” for preparing the October 1, 2017 Catalan referendum of self-determination. For this eighteenth-century crime, long deleted from the penal codes of many other European states, they were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 9 to 13 years.

 

The harshest sentence was handed out to former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras as “leader of the sedition”. Former ministers Raül Romeva (foreign affairs), Dolors Bassa (social welfare) and Jordi Turull (minister of state) came next with 12 years: along with Junqueras they were also found guilty of “embezzlement”.

 

Former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell incurred 11.5 years jail for allowing the chamber to vote on the referendum’s enabling law after being instructed by the Spanish Constitutional Court not to do so.

 

Catalan sovereignty movement: disoriented or preparing to fight back?

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

September 22, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Below is a fragment of a conversation I had the day after 600,000 came out in Barcelona on September 11 to celebrate this year’s Catalan National Day (the Diada).

 

Occupying the Plaça d’Espanya and the surrounding streets, the vast crowd demanded the acquittal of the 12 Catalan social movement and political leaders presently awaiting a Spanish Supreme Court verdict on charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, the release of the nine of them who have been in preventive detention for up to nearly two years, and an independence referendum.

 

Most of all, however, it called for a united strategy from the leaderships of the tension-ridden Catalan sovereignty and independence movement. Let the political parties—Together for Catalonia (JxCat), the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the People’s Unity List (CUP)—and the mass organisations—the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural—get their act together and show a way forward.

 

Ada Colau re-elected as Barcelona mayor—but at what price?

 

 

By Dick Nichols

June 30, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Compare these two scenes, which took place in Barcelona’s central St James Square after the election of the city’s mayor, the first four years ago and the second on June 15.

On June 13, 2015, successful candidate Ada Colau, former spokesperson of the Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH) and leader of the radical mass-meeting based movement Barcelona Together (BeC), takes ten minutes to lead the city’s 41 newly elected councillors in their traditional walk across the square from the town hall to the Catalan government building on the other side. An enormously enthusiastic crowd presses in on all sides to greet her, to endless shouts of Si, se puede! (“Yes, we can!”)—a celebration of the conquest of Barcelona Council by BeC’s anti-establishment, participatory, ecological and feminist. radical municipalism.

Fast forward to June 15, 2019. This time the newly successful Colau crosses the square to a chorus of whistles, boos, and ugly sexist abuse from a small group. The councillors wearing their red sashes of office walking with her is also one representative short. Missing is Joaquim Forn, leader in the council of Together for Catalonia (JxCat), party of exiled Catalan ex-president Carles Puigdemont.

Spanish elections: The right defeated and Catalonia’s right to decide re-asserted

 

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

May 12, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — How strongly would the filthy brown tide of reactionthe vote for the racist, xenophobic, islamophobic, anti-feminist, homophobic, pro-gun and above all anti-Catalan outfit Vox—run at the Spanish April 28 general election?  That question was on everyone’s lips in the last week of the campaign.

 

Spanish state: candidate preselection turmoil as ‘existential’ election looms

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

March 26 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — According to Josep Borrell, outgoing Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) foreign minister and self-appointed scourge of the movement for Catalan sovereignty, the April 28 general elections will be «existential» for the Spanish state. For People’s Party (PP) opposition leader Pablo Casado they will be a "referendum on the secessionist menace".

 

This shared judgment of Spain’s "parties of government" would only have been heightened by the resounding success of the March 16 Madrid demonstration "Self-Determination is not a Crime: Democracy is Deciding". The rally, organised by the Catalan National Assembly, Òmnium Cultural and the platform Women and Men of Madrid for the Right to Decide, brought into the capital up to 120,000 supporters of the right to self-determination of the nations of the Spanish state. The size and spirit of the demonstration marked an important step ahead down the long road to a democratic alternative to Spanish state unionism.

 

Spanish state: an early election about breaking the Catalan struggle

 

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

February 25, 2019 Links International Journal of Socialist RenewalPedro Sánchez, prime minister of Spain’s minority Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government, announced on February 15 that the country would vote on April 28.  The election comes 15 months short of a full term and only nine months after the previous People’s Party (PP) government of Sánchez’s predecessor Mariano Rajoy fell to a PSOE censure motion in the Spanish Congress.

 

The censure motion was supported by the rest of the all-Spanish left (Podemos and the United Left), the alliances in which they participate in Galicia, Catalonia and the Valencian Country (respectively In Tide, Together We Can and A La Valenciana) and by nearly all nationalist forces, left and right.

 

These were the conservative Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the left pro-independence Basque alliance EH Bildu, the conservative Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat) and the centre-left Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the New Canary Islands group.

 

Once in government, Sánchez, with only 84 PSOE seats in the 350-seat Congress, had to negotiate support for his legislative program bill by bill. Nonetheless, he had been saying before the announcement that his government would run its full term. Why did he change his mind?

 

Catalonia: The struggle over strategy in the independence movement

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

October 26, 2018
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal Last December 21, the three parliamentary forces supporting Catalan independence-- Together for Catalonia (JxCat), the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the People’s Unity List (CUP)--together won a 70-65 seat majority in the 135-seat Catalan parliament. Six months of drawn-out negotiations over forming a pro-independence government followed.

 

During this period Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, instructing magistrate with regard to alleged offences in relation to the October 1, 2017 Catalan independence referendum, prohibited JxCat and ERC MPs in preventive detention and exile from standing for Catalan president or as ministers in any new Catalan government. Llarena’s work was backed up by the Spanish Constitutional Court, acting at the behest of the former People’s Party (PP) government of prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

 

Spanish state: How and why the Rajoy government fell

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

June 5, 2018 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — On June 1, the Spanish government of the ruling People’s Party (PP) of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fell to a no-confidence motion brought against it in the 350-seat Spanish congress by the opposition Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), led by its federal secretary Pedro Sánchez.

 

The vote was 180 to 169 with one abstention. This result installed Sánchez as the new prime minister of Spain. It was the first time since a multiparty-system replaced the Francisco Franco dictatorship 40 years ago that a no-confidence motion has succeeded.

 

Key to the final result was the decision of the conservative Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), governing the Basque Autonomous Community (Euskadi), to support the PSOE motion. Without its five votes the motion would have been lost because an absolute majority of 176 was needed for its adoption. Previously, the two Catalan nationalist parties with a presence in the Congress — the centre-left Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and the conservative nationalist Catalan European Democratic Party (PDECat) — had flagged their support.

 

‘Racist’ Catalan president vows to build republic as Spain vetos ministers

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

May 24, 2018 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — On May 14, 199 days after the Catalan pro-independence bloc re-won a majority at the December 21 elections imposed by the Spanish government, the parliament of Catalonia finally voted in a new president. Quim Torra, MP for Together For Catalonia (JxCat)—headed by exiled outgoing president Carles Puigdemont—was invested as head of government by 66 votes to 65 with four abstentions. On the first round of the investiture, held on May 12, the same vote was inadequate because an absolute majority of 68 was required.

 

The conservative Catalan nationalism of Quim Torra

 

 

By Dick Nichols

 

May 24, 2018 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Is new Catalan president Quim Torra just another right-wing xenophobe, as claimed by Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), the equivalent in the Spanish state of Marine Le Pen in France, Gert Wilders in the Netherlands, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, Hungary’s Victor Orban and their counterparts in Denmark, Sweden and Finland?

 

As the battle over Catalonia’s right to self-determination increasingly gets fought out on the European stage it is vital for any democrat to answer this question correctly.

 

Catalan Spring: Which way forward for the independence movement?

 

 

Introduction and translation by Richard Fidler

 

April 27, 2018
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Life on the Left  — The Spanish state’s prosecution of Catalan independence leaders suffered a serious setback April 5 when a German court rejected Spain’s request that former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont be extradited to face a charge of “rebellion,” subject to a jail term of up to 30 years.

 

The Schleswig-Holstein regional court freed Puigdemont, saying it could find no evidence that he was guilty of “high treason,” the equivalent for rebellion in German law. And the judges asked Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena to provide more information on his further charge against Puigdemont of embezzlement for using public funds to finance the October 1 referendum on independence.

 

Three central issues facing the Catalan independence movement

 

 

Introduction and translation by Richard Fidler

 

March 16, 2018
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Life on the LeftAlthough parties supporting Catalonia’s independence from the Spanish monarchy won a majority of deputies in the autonomous community’s December 21 election, they have been unable to elect a Generalitat, or government, due in part to internal disagreements but primarily to blockages by the Spanish government and its courts.

 

A major obstacle is the fact that prominent leaders of the pro-independence forces are either imprisoned — four, including ANC leader Jordi Sànchez and ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, facing their 150th night in jail — or in European exile: former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, as well as former CUP leader Anna Gabriel.

 

National struggle and class struggle: complementary or contradictory?

 

 

Introduction by Richard Fidler

 

November 23, 2017 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Life on the Left — A major item on the agenda of the upcoming convention of Québec solidaire (QS), to be held in the Montréal suburb of Longueuil December 1-3, will be a proposal for fusion with another pro-independence party, Option nationale (ON). This will entail revisiting the relationship between the parties’ support for Quebec independence (basically the entire program of ON) and Québec solidaire’s attempt to link the national question with its social justice program.

 

The current struggle for national self-determination in Catalonia quite naturally suggests parallels with the issues posed in the Quebec pro-sovereignty movement. In recent weeks, two leaders of Québec solidaire — Manon Massé, a party spokeswoman and member of Quebec’s National Assembly, and André Frappier, a member of the QS National Coordinating Committee — have visited Catalonia as invited guests of the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), a left pro-independence party that is now contesting the December 21 Catalan election.

 

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