Catalonia and the Spanish state on collision course

1.8 million people (25% of the population of Catalonia), took part in this year’s September 11 Diada demonstration. More pictures HERE.

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By Dick Nichols

September 17, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This year’s September 11 Catalan national day (Diada) demonstration, in support of the Catalan parliament’s planned November 9 popular consultation on Catalan statehood, was the biggest since the present cycle of mobilisations for the country’s right to national self-determination began four years ago.

The first was the July 2010 1 million-strong protest against the Spanish Constitutional Court’s overruling of key parts of the 2006 Catalan statute of autonomy. The second was the 2012 1 million-plus Diada protest in Barcelona and the third was last year’s “Catalan Way”—a human chain of well over 1 million that stretched 400 kilometres across Catalonia, from France in the north to Valencia in the south.

Yet, according to the local police, 1.8 million people (25% of the population of Catalonia), took part in this year’s Diada demonstration, forming an immense human V across capital Barcelona. Its two arms each spread back 5.5 kilometres from the starting point in the Place of Catalan Glories, intersection point of the city’s three main avenues. It was the biggest political mobilisation in modern European history.

The V (for “victory”, “vote” and voluntat—“will” in Catalan) was formed in the national colours of red and yellow. The striking impact of this 11-kilometre-long V-shaped national flag was achieved by demonstrators wearing either a yellow or red t-shirt and agreeing to stand in an assigned space. The resulting red-and-yellow-striped V straddled the entire central city area.

The whole effort was based on over half-a-million people volunteering through a special “Now is the Hour” organising web site, set up by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and the Omnium Cultural association.

Seven thousand volunteers oversaw the 73 separate sections into which the V was sub-divided and in which participants from all Catalan-speaking localities (including south-eastern France around Perpignan, the Balearic Islands and Valencia) gathered by region.

The well-choreographed event (“North Korean” in the words of one bitter Spanish-centralist commentator) went off without a hitch in a good-humoured and exhuberantly festive atmosphere that featured the classic offerings of Catalan popular culture.

Along the V 50 teams of “castlers” erected their six-, seven- and eight-storey human castles, numerous “giants” (three- and four-metre-high puppets operated by an operator hidden in their clothing) twirled about, town bands played their traditional reedy instruments and everyone broke out into chants and song.

Along with “inde-independència”, the most popular chant was “We want to vote”, in reference to November 9. Everyone present knew that a showdown is approaching—the national conservative Spanish People’s Party government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is totally opposed to the consultation and will appeal it to the Constitutional Court.

To dramatise Catalonia’s right to decide its political relationship and link it to the country’s tragic past, at 17:14 hours a schoolgirl who on November 9 will reach the voting age of 16 stepped forward from the point of the V to place a voting paper in a ballot box. The timing of this gesture marked the 300th anniversary of the final fall of a besieged Barcelona to Borbon royalist troops in the War of the Spanish Succession (on September 11, 1714).

Two brief speeches by ANC and Omnium Cultural spokespersons, Carme Forcadell and Muriel Casals, followed. Forcadell called on Catalan premier Artur Mas to listen to the will of the people and put the ballot boxes out on November 9 in accordance with the forthcoming Catalan law governing popular consultations, regardless of reactions from Madrid or any decision of the Constitutional Court.

The day ended with 1.8 million voices singing The Reapers, the powerful Catalan national anthem, dating from the 1640 popular revolt against crippling taxes imposed to fund the wars of the Spanish crown.

Causes of an outpouring

No one, not even the most rancidly anti-Catalan Spanish media, is denying that this Diada was clearly bigger than it two massive predecessors. Why?

The fact that 2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the Spanish crown’s suppression of Catalonia’s traditional rights (including the use of the Catalan language for state and public functions), would have had some impact.

This year has seen endless reference to and recreation of the events of 1714, including the opening beneath the Born market building of excavations of the Barcelona of that epoch, effectively turning the site into a national shrine.

The traffic of novels, historical studies, television mini-series, concerts, exhibitions, re-enactments, newspaper supplements and university seminars with a 1714 theme has been so dense that if the Catalonia resident doesn’t now understand the events, characters and great-power plotting that determined the country’s fate, then he or she just mustn’t want to understand them.

This year’s official Diada ceremonies, broadcast live on public TV, emphasised Barcelona’s final hours of resistance, with the main event being celebrated for the first time not outside parliament but at the Graveyard of the Mulberry Trees, where hundreds of nameless defenders of the city are said to be buried and which is a nationalist sacred site.

Yet, by itself, the non-stop remembrance of 1714 wouldn’t have got hundreds of thousands more onto the streets. The main recruiter of new demonstrators has been the stony and arrogant intransigence of the Rajoy government, with its endlessly repeated lie that allowing a consultation of Catalan opinion would mean violating the Spanish constitution.

Revulsion against Madred

The rising revulsion against “Madrid” showed in many ways. Originally it was thought that bussing demonstrators from the regions would require 1500 coaches, but on the day more than 2000 had to be hired.

The metro and rail lines serving the working-class inner and outer “belts” of Barcelona, where families from other parts of Spain, Latin America and North Africa predominate, were packed.

In the populous neighbourhoods, the estalada, the pro-independence version of the Catalan flag (with its white star on a blue triangle—taken from Cuba’s) has been hanging from more balconies than ever, a visual symbol of growing working-class desertion of the social-democratic and anti-consultation Party of Catalan Socialists (PSC), the Catalan affiliate of the once-reformist Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).

It’s not that hundreds of thousands of working people of non-Catalan origin have become one-eyed Catalan nationalists. As in Scotland, working-class support for national rights is driven by the experience of central-government austerity. Put bluntly: “If those bastards are opposed to the Catalans’ right to decide, I’m probably with the Catalans’ right to decide.”

Another fact making for a greater turnout this September 11 would have been the crisis of the Spanish two-party system and the emergence of Podemos, which has now joined the United Left in supporting Catalans’ right to decide their political future. This is a reflection of the awareness, growing among the indignado generation, that any movement that weakens the “dynastic” parties responsible for austerity (PP and PSOE) also helps the all-Spanish struggle for real democracy and social justice.

Perhaps partially reflecting this shift, this year Catalonia’s left forces, opponents of the Mas government’s “Catalan” austerity policies, took part in the V instead of conducting their own event as in past Diadas.

“For a social Catalonia”, was the banner flying over sections 57 and 58 of the V, which grouped together the trade unions, neighbourhood associations, social movements and left political forces. In sections 19 and 20, in front of the branch headquarters of the hated Deutsche Bank, the Marches for Dignity and the Constituent Process installed a small stage, where social activists like Diego Cañamero, from the radical Andalusian Workers Union, spelled out the connection between the Catalan national struggle and the Spain-wide fight for social justice.

The V also saw the presence of LGBTI organisations and of SOSRacism, with its call for Barcelona’s Foreigners Internment Centre to be closed down. SOSRacism’s Diada leaflet said:

The question of Catalan citizens of different origins is one of the big debates that have yet to be seriously addressed, with clear positions in defence of equality of rights and opportunities in the struggle against discrimination, racism and xenophobia.

Role of the ANC

Behind these influences making for this unprecedentedly massive Diada mobilisation lies the ever-rising authority of the forces organising the last three Diada mobilisations, especially the ANC, but also the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI, covering 697 of Catalonia’s 947 local councils) and Omnium. Cultural.

At one point in mid-August, inscriptions in the V were running behind those for the previous year’s Catalan Way human chain and there were hopeful mutterings in the Spanish centralist media that the air might be beginning to leak from the Catalan sovereignty balloon.

The apparent decline in support was ascribed to the scandal provoked by the confession of longstanding former Convergence and Union(CiU) prime minister Jordi Pujol that he and his family have been keeping millions stashed away in accounts in tax-haven Andorra.

However, a special call from the organising group was sufficient to get the inscriptions running so strongly that by September 11, they easily outnumbered those of the previous year.

As analysed by Enric Juliana, political commentator for La Vanguardia (the principal Barcelona daily), the implantation and breadth of the 51,000-strong ANC was never going to be undermined by the sordid financial affairs of CiU’s founding father. If anything, these spurred more people to get active in this “party of those without a party”, which draws together people from left-nationalism, many former members of the United Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSUC, the former Communist Party, the key force in the anti-dictatorship struggles of the 1960s and 1970s) as well as tens of thousands of unaffiliated activists.

Then there was the role of the Catalan institutions: the government, which gave total logistical support to the day, and the public broadcaster, whose boosting of the Diada was so intense that the journalists’ association felt obliged to issue a media release stating that Catalan public television’s respected Channel Three had crossed the line demarking factual reporting from propaganda and promotion.

This Diada was also marked by a greater international connection. It was not just due to the resolute attempts of the organisers to get the Catalan cause into important foreign media and to put pressure on international leaders to support Catalonia’s right to decide. (This effort made special use of former Barcelona and now Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, who told the German media that “the consultation will take place in the end because the power and will of the people is superior to anything else.”)

It was also the result of growing real solidarity with Catalonia, especially from within and beyond the boundaries of the Spanish state. As at the last two Diadas Basque and Galician national flags joined pro-independence Catalan esteladas flags and senyera banners floating above the crowd, but this time the flags of the other European nations without a state also featured—led by a healthy presence of  saltires (the Scottish national flag).

Joseba Pernach, European deputy for the Basque left-nationalist force Sortu, described the effect on his party: “From the Basque Country we look on Barcelona with healthy envy and a smile on our lips, noting that there is so much that unites us.”

In ridiculous contrast to all of this, the pro-unionist forces, including the PP, Citizens, the racist Platform for Catalonia and the odd PSOE supporter, had their smallest September 11 demonstration in years—at the very most 7000 attended their rally in Tarragona.


As people approached the V on September 11, they were met by groups of pro-independence activists offering a placard for display. It called for “disobedience” in the case of a Constitutional Court ruling against November 9. Would disobedience be the best response in the case of the almost inevitable suspension of the consultation by the Constitutional Court (composed of a majority of PP and PSOE-picked judges)?

Critical choices face the four pro-consultation parties—the ruling right-nationalist Convergence and Union, the centre-left nationalist Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), which has an agreement with CiU that allows Mas to govern in minority, the left alliance Initiative for Catalonia-Greens and United and Alternative Left (ICV-EUiA), and the left-nationalist Popular Unity Candidacies (CUP).

So far, the Popular Unity Candidacies has said it supports disobedience, ERC leader Oriel Jonqueras has said that the government should consider it, while ICV-EUiA spokepeople have stressed the critical importance of maintaining the unity of pro-consultation forces and that a badly executed “fake consultation” could boomerang against the movement.

To date, the CiU government has said it will only conduct the consultation if it is legal, but after September 11, the tune changed slightly—it was seeking sufficient “democratic guarantees” to carry it out.

This was an oblique reference to the possibility of an impeccably representative consultation being carried out with the support of the movements supporting Catalonia’s  right to decide, most importantly the ANC and the Association of Municipalities for Independence, with appropriate international certification that the vote was free and fair. It would involve working out how the vote could take place, for example, in a town like Badalona, run by the PP.

If that course becomes impossible, the only other option would be early Catalan elections.

The decision remains to be taken, and the key variable will be the willingness of fight of the mass of people in Catalonia. To gauge that thoroughly, the ANC and Omnium Cultural have decided to carry out a door-knock of every home in Catalonia, calling on 100,000 people to volunteer to carry out the massive task.

The stakes could not be higher, and the main actors in the politics of the Spanish state all have their own very definite views on what should be done.

For the PSOE and El País, flagship of the multinational Prisa media group and the “liberal” daily closest to the social democracy, the solution to the Catalan crisis is to compel Rajoy to offer Mas serious negotiations on a new status for Catalonia in exchange for Mas’s calling off the consultation. The results of those consultations, some new “statute” for the region, would then be submitted to the vote in Catalonia.

The September 6 El País published a Metroscopia opinion poll that asked its 1000 interviewees what course should be followed in the case of a Constitutional Court ruling against November 9.

Only 23% of the sample said such a decision should be ignored, with ERC voters being the only majority in support of this “disobedience” (55%). For ICV-EUiA and Podemos voters the figures in support of proceeding with November 9 regardless of a Constitutional Court veto were respectively 19% and 22%, while CUP voters’ opinion is not shown in the poll.

Asked if they thought Catalan independence “probable”, 60% said no and only 35% yes. Next, just 27% then said they preferred outright Catalan independence, as against 42% who considered Catalonia should continue to form part of Spain, but with expanded powers.

This last finding—the result of asking people not what they want but what they think will happen—is in contradiction with all polls since 2012 that have simply asked interviewees whether they support Catalan independence: all-Spanish and Catalan polls have shown pro-independence running between 45% and 55%.

The Metroscopia poll also sought to plumb the solidity of independence sentiment with two further semi-loaded questions: “In your personal opinion, for how long have Catalans who say they are for independence been that way?” and “As things stand, when you think of the future of Catalonia what do you feel?”

Not surprisingly, the answer to the first question was 23% “for a long time” and 71% for “in recent years”. For the second, 43% felt “hope” about the Catalan future, while 56% did not; 67% felt “concern” about the Catalan future, compared to 32% who did not.

The survey was taken before the enormous outpouring on September 11. It would be very interesting to know what impact that electrifying event had on people’s “feeling”, but don’t expect an El País poll to ask that question any time soon.

The pressures on Mas

No matter how loaded some of its questions, and no matter how they are being used in the “furious” dispute over tactics towards the rebel region between Spanish centralism’s PP hard cop and PSOE soft cop, the Metroscopia survey’s results have focused the crucial issues.

Is the Catalan movement and people agreeable with confronting Spanish legality? Is now the time for the showdown with Madrid, or should it be postponed until the movement can be made stronger? Would postponing a showdown over November 9 by holding an early election for the Catalan parliament weaken the morale of the movement or help it better prepare for the eventual showdown?

The key actor in the rapidly developing drama is Catalan premier Artur Mas, who is under enormous pressure from all sides. Catalan big capital, led by the Caixa Bank, is exercising all its power to get the Catalan government and Madrid to negotiate, but that remains impossible while Mas and the CiU government remain committed to holding the consultation.

Yet abandonment of the consultation is unthinkable for CiU and Mas: holding it is the absolute precondition for ERC support and any hint of a CiU retreat would devastate the party—already behind the ERC in recent polls—in any future Catalan election.

On the other hand, if Mas is tempted by late-night thoughts of disobedience, which would certainly unite most of the pro-sovereignty camp behind him, he would also be visited by some pretty dreadful spectres.

There’s the nightmare of a split in CiU, an alliance of the officially pro-independence Democratic Convergence of Catalonia (CDC) and the Christian-democrat Democratic Union of Catalonia (UDC). In recent days UDC spokespeople, led by former CiU president Josep Duran i Lleida and interior minister Ramón Espadaler, have attacked the calls of ERC leader Oriel Jonqueras for disobedience as irresponsible and inviting disaster.

Another spooky thought would be the fate of the 1934 Catalan cabinet, whose quixotic revolt against Madrid ended with premier Lluis Companys and his ministers being imprisoned on a Spanish warship for two years. As if to make that that prospect more vivid, Eduardo Torres-Dulce, the Spanish prosecutor-general, remarked on September 13 that all the powers of the Spanish penal code would be deployed to punish any transgression of a Constitutional Court ruling.

Most importantly, there’s the spectre that an “illegal” consultation would be a flop, with low participation and no international recognition, demoralising the sovereignty movement and setting it back years.

Moreover, whatever Mas’s final choice, there’s the nightmare of the CDC, wounded by the Pujol affair  and presently engaged in desperate “refounding”, permanently losing its position as Catalonia’s main party—with all that entails in loss of perks, privileges and jobs.

Not surprisingly, in a September 15 address to the Catalan parliament, Mas hinted that in the event of a Constitutional Court veto, early elections were the most likely option. However, which tactical hot potato was finally grasped wouldn’t be his decision but that of the four parties supporting November 9.

The conundrum was temporarily solved after a September 16 parliamentary debate. After, the four parties supporting the consultation reaffirmed their determination to proceed, and their commitment to decide any necessary change of course together.

The left debates

Notwithstanding this important agreement, Catalonia’s tactical options, which are presently being debated in every bar and over every dining table in the country, also continue to provoke debate within and between the parties in the pro-sovereignty camp.

One left commentator counselling caution is respected journalist Josep Ramoneda, who wrote in the September 2 edition of the nationalist daily Ara:

I insist, at the risk of becoming tedious, that an independence process involves a very large transfer of power and that those who presently hold it will resist losing it however they can. I insist on that because the idyllic version of independence that is often put about seems to me irresponsible [this is probably aimed at the CUP and many in the ERC].

People have to know that this will never be a simple process, that there will be moments of tension and rupture. And the public need to be conscious of that, both to avoid frustrations when everything’s going uphill, but also so as to understand that a large accumulation of forces is needed in order to take the decisive steps.

Machiavelli said that the art of politics consists in the sense of opportunity. We could also say in the virtue of prudence. Prudence is not a conservative virtue. It’s equally imprudent to want to go too fast as to go too slow.

Ramoneda concluded that carrying out a consultation against a Constitutional Court veto would be “a shot in the foot for the independence movement”.

He continued:

Why? Because the relationship of forces is what it is. At this moment it doesn’t look as if there is a broad social majority demanding a showdown with legality, nor enough support in the different spheres of influence both domestic and foreign to believe that this is the right moment to force a break with Spain. An illegal consultation would probably have a low level of participation, far from the necessary minimum. It would end up being more delegitimising than anything else.

Specifically arguing against Ramoneda’s take on the situation is Martí Caussa, a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur (close to the Anti-capitalist Left and its Catalan affiliate Global Revolt). On September 14 he wrote in support of Forcadell’s call (“Premier, put out the ballot boxes!”):

In order to carry out the right to decide a large accumulation of forces is needed: this is measured, basically, by the capacity to maintain a sustained social mobilisation, and nothing must be done to weaken that. To accept the non-realisation of the consultation because it is not authorised by this Constitutional Court [italics in original], whose attitude has been taken for granted from the beginning, would have a catastrophic effect on the capacity for mobilisation

If one really wants to exercise the right to decide, one or more breaks with ruling legality will be unavoidable, and the movement now feels strong, very much in the right, and capable of winning a further victory, even if not the definitive one. A consultation carried out in spite of suspension by the Constitutional Court would probably have lower participation and a less convincing result that one that was authorised, but it would have enormous value as a demonstration of the democratic will of the people of Catalonia and of the injustice of Spanish state authoritarianism. The movement could emerge strengthened. And that is the important thing.

Ada Colau, former spokesperson for the Mortgage Victims Platform, and presently heading the “Let’s Win Barcelona” campaign for the 2015 council elections, also supports Carme Forcadell’s position. Interviewed on Channel 3 on September 16, she said: “Early elections are no answer, the consultation must take place. Social mobilisation is unprecedented.”

Yes Yes or Yes No?

But is it yet sufficient? It is one thing (of course, an immense achievement) to bring millions out to a legal demonstration, another to convince people that it’s in their interest to take part in an “illegal” poll with unforeseeable consequences.

This is understood in the movement. It was to organise the pressure on the Catalan authorities that the 9N Referendum Network was set up in July, with the goal of forcing November 9 to go ahead, whatever is decided by the Constitutional Court. Further such pressure came on September 14, when the ANC delivered 750,000 signatures for independence to the parliament.

However, to further strengthen popular commitment to a Catalan consultation two critical elements are needed—ongoing unity among the pro-consultation parliamentary forces that gives confidence to the movement’s “rank and file”, and a closer tie between the struggles for national rights and against austerity—the joblessness and cuts to welfare, health and education that are wreaking havoc in Catalonia’s working-class and poor neighbourhoods.

It is over this last issue that a dividing line within nearly all major left currents keeps re-emerging. On the one hand are those who, while accepting Catalonia’s right to decide, tend to counterpose it to the all-Spanish fight against social injustice and corruption. For this camp, the struggle for Catalan sovereignty is to some degree or other a “diversion” from the “real social struggle”.

This camp also tends to coincide with those who see the situation of the Spanish state’s discriminated nationalities as being solved centrally—through the emergence of a progressive  all-Spanish social and political bloc capable of winning a national election and creating a new Spanish constitution.

On the other side are those who see the struggle for an increasingly progressive and popular movement for Catalan sovereignty as a critical motor force within the all-round Spanish social struggle, much as the 1930s fight for Catalan statehood helped produce the victory for the republican side in the January 1936 Spanish national elections.

Naturally enough, these counterposed positions also tend to take a different position on how to vote on the consultation’s double-barrelled question. This question will ask voters (1) if they support Catalonia becoming a state, and (2), in the case of a Yes vote to (1), whether that state should be independent.

The first camp tends to support a Yes, No vote, in line with its position that Catalonia should remain part of a Spanish state embodying a new federalism decided by an all-of-Spain constituent process.

The second favours a Yes, Yes vote, and encompasses both unconditional Catalan independence supporters and those who favour a new federal or confederal Spanish (or Iberian, including Portugal) state structure, to be negotiated among the peninsula’s sovereign peoples.

Leaving aside some minority Catalanist trends within the PSC, the main formation giving voice to the first stance is PSUC-viu (the PSUC lives), the Catalan affiliate of the Communist Party of Spain and an affiliate of EUiA, the Catalan sister party of the all-Spanish United Left. In its September 11 declaration it said:

PSUC-viu has always counterposed the bourgeois nationalism that aims to mask social reality to the popular Catalanism that defends social interests in a project for the country based on the unity of the popular classes.

PSUC-viu considers that independence proposal is not the solution. In the face of the centralist and anti-democratic regression of the national PP government, what is needed is the powerful reply of a republican state model, featuring economic, social and participatory democracy…

Calling for a Yes-No vote on November 9, the PSUC-viu statement added:

We shall only agree with a consultation with full democratic guarantees. Other possibilities will only serve to increase nationalist tension, which always ends up favouring the conservative nationalist right, both here and beyond the Ebro [River, roughly marking Catalonia’s western border].

The second position is presently being concretised in a platform called Lefts for Yes-Yes, which not only calls for “disobedience” towards any Constitutional Court veto, but also argues that Catalan independence is the best way to defend and extend quality public health and education and the right to decent housing, jobs and pensions.

The Lefts for Yes-Yes manifesto, to be launched on September 18, will be signed by leading figures from all the main left parties—ICV, EUiA, ERC and CUP—as well as from the Constituent Process and past Catalanist currents from within the PSC. It will also feature a broad range of trade union and ANC signatories. The goal, according to one signatory interviewed by Ara, is “to create a stage for bringing together a broad range of left forces in order to guarantee that the process doesn’t stop and to create a current aimed at establishing left hegemony within it.”

The fault line between the two orientations runs through both ICV and EUiA. In late June, a plenary meeting of ICV’s working group on the national question adopted a resolution calling on the ecosocialist formation to adopt an unambiguous Yes-Yes position.

It said:

Given that the model of social, egalitarian and solidarity-based state that ICV champions can only be defended on the basis of the double-Yes proposal, the ICV leadership should also without complexes defend Yes-Yes at the consultation (that is, a sovereign state that can decide on equal terms if it wants to federate or not).

It should once and for all discard the options of federalism light, the status quo or a vague Third Way, still dependent on a hypothetical conciliatory proposal from the Spanish state.

It should warn of the uselessness of a Yes-No vote in the consultative process, given that this would be interpreted as a weakening of the stance in favour of breaking with the status quo and as a defence of conservative positions opposed to the idea of a transformative left.

At the time of writing the ICV is yet to decide its position on the consultation question, with leading members leaning towards Yes-Yes and Yes-No. In the final analysis, that contradiction is a reflection of the variegated social base of the organisation, including migrant workers from other parts of Spain, as well as “indigenous” Catalans.

These divisions do not affect Podemos, which, as an all-Spain party, has said through spokeperson Pablo Iglesias that it does not presume to tell its members in Catalonia how to vote.

Unity reaffirmed

Inevitably, all this debate, carried out in the full glare of a media obsessed with difference and conflict, has been having its own political impact. To counter this, ERC leader Jonqueras stressed on September 12 that the unity of the pro-consultation forces “is greater by the day”. ICV national co-coordinator Dolors Camats said: “We are very conscious that the popular mobilisation has not failed us: what we believe now is that political unity must not fail us.”

As already mentioned, it has not. As this article was about to be sent off, the four groups in the Catalan parliament that support the consultation agreed to a resolution to continue with the process as planned, and to decide together, after parliamentary debate, any changes of course that actions from Madrid might dictate.

That re-affirmed unity can only have a positive effect on morale in Catalonia and make an increasing part of the population more prepared to confront the Rajoy government in defence of its democratic rights.

[Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly’s and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona. A shorter version of this article appeared in the Green Left Weekly.]