Spain clamors for freedom and justice

This weekend has brought us two more major demonstrations in Spain, in Iruñea-Pamplona on Saturday and Barcelona on Sunday. Around the country, there were many more as, in recent months, the numbers of protests and demonstrations being staged across the country are growing and telling about the condition of the Spanish State. Pensioners have been demonstrating peacefully all over the country, and not just about pensions. The government of Spain has arrogantly and unwisely taken the grey vote, which has kept it precariously in power for seven years, for granted. Murcians have demonstrated peacefully against the wall that will divide their city for 216 consecutive days. The Catalans have come out against repression and injustice massively, repeatedly, determinedly and peacefully, again and again, and the Basques are demonstrating again against the same. Mutual support to resist the excesses of the Spanish State is growing around the fringes of the country. Catalans have demonstrated with the anti-wall movement in Murcia, and Murcians and Basques were in Barcelona yesterday. There have been many demonstrations in towns and cities across Spain and the world in support of the Catalans.

Hundreds of thousands of people thronged the streets of Barcelona yesterday in the most transversal of demonstrations for Freedom and Democracy. Civil organisations Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC), Òmnium Cultural and the Comités per la Defensa de la República (CDRs), were joined by the main trades unions and a myriad other social entities. Include also the pro-independence parties plus En Comú-Podem and it’s easier to say who wasn’t represented here: only Spanish nationalism, only the Partido Popular (PP), the Partido Socialista Obrera Española (PSOE), Ciudadanos (Cs) and Societat Civil Catalana (SCC). That’s the Societat Civil Catalana that does not represent Catalan civil society, that represents only Spanish nationalism and nothing else, that defends the indefensible, denies the undeniable, and justifies the unjustifiable, that believes only in the ‘unity’ of Spain and that anything goes in the pursuit of this higher purpose. They assert that the Spanish State has acted correctly in respect of Catalonia.

Yesterday it was a broader-based Catalonia that demonstrated in Barcelona against the repression the Catalans have been subject to for over six months, and they demonstrated in support of all those prosecuted and persecuted by the Spanish State, in particular the politicians, civil leaders and civil servants who have put their liberty and patrimony on the line for their beliefs, but also the members of civil society whose rights to freedom of speech, association and assembly have been curtailed. Real Catalan civil society showed itself once again to be peaceful, associative, active, transversal and inclusive. Yesterday there were fewer Estelades and far more non-independentist flags, which reflected this wider representation. The heart of the demonstration might still have been secessionist, but the demonstration was against the government of Spain and its support. Thanks to the PP, the judges and the police it’s possible that support for secession is growing, but yesterday that was not the point.

50,000 people took to the streets of Iruñea-Pamplona to protest against the 517 days three young people from Altsasu have spent in a special restrictive regime in preventive prison. Their trial for alleged terrorist offences starts today, despite their not belonging to a terrorist group and having only been involved in a bar brawl with two off-duty Civil Guards and their partners. The terrorism narrative is a tenuous one, not least because there are no longer any active domestic terrorist organisations in Spain. Basque secessionism was illegalised and  Catalan secessionism is undergoing the same. There is a use of similar techniques and narratives of demonisation, but this time incredibly an election result is not being accepted. The right to vote, of suffrage, is non-existent if, when exercised, it isn’t respected. The magnitude of this breach of fundamental rights is grievous. To force an election and react to the undesired result with mockery and excuses of an ‘unfair’ electoral system, to disallow the legitimacy of the candidates after the vote, is an aberration of enormous proportions for a supposedly full democracy.

So where is the violence in Spain now? Where are the violent delinquents? Where is the terrorism? Where are the terrorist commandos? Invisible, or only visible to the trained eyes of Spanish nationalists. And who is under attack? Who is being persecuted? And I do not mean being pointed at, or perhaps ignored by some, in the Catalan corridors of power that are now controlled by a Supreme Court judge in Madrid. No, I mean being beaten, imprisoned, forced into exile and charged with some of the most serious crimes in the country; Being sacked, investigated and beaten again. A growth of mutual support between Catalans and Basques is more bad news for the Spanish government. Again they arrogantly took it for granted that they could bribe Basque nationalists to approve their budget. Of course they did. It is the way they work, on both the home and on international fronts. Now the Basques are digging their heels in. Catalan independentists are not the only people in Spain to have had enough of this regressive Spanish regime. Spanish ducats have fewer takers both at home and abroad.

Of the other numerous but smaller demonstrations special mention should be made of Saturday’s gathering of 1,000 people in Burjassot, Horta Nord, Community of Valencia in memory of Guillem Agulló, a young pro-independentist from the town who was murdered by a Nazi gang 25 years ago last Wednesday for his ‘No Nazis’ arm patch. His killer served only 4 years in prison and the other gang members present went free. It points up another of Spain’s deep-seated problems – the leniency or impunity with which far-right violence and hate crimes have traditionally been dealt with in Spain. There is now a total perversion of these laws as they are currently applied in Catalonia to those that mock the authorities. Remember that 88 people have lost their lives in Spain as a result of aggravated assaults and far-right violence since 1990, yet Spain’s prime minister is capable of calling a Nazi hooligan to offer his support as the family terrorise their village neighbours, but is incapable of talking to the democratically elected Speaker of the Catalan parliament.

The Spanish State responds to none of the demonstrators’ or protestors’ requests or demands. There is no discussion with the Spanish State; no dialogue, and certainly no negotiation. Instead it demonises and criminalises its opponents, its enemies. It says they are violent, like terrorists, but what people see is the Spanish State and Spanish nationalism providing the real violence: police, judicial, political and social violence. If there had been any secessionist violence, secessionism would not enjoy the popular support that it does. If there were secessionist terrorists, the support would be non-existent. The Catalans being persecuted are all good people, neither violent delinquents nor terrorists. They are not guilty of rebellion and they are not guilty of sedition and if you cannot see this, either you are not paying attention or you are a Spanish nationalist, in which case you will say absolutely anything for the unity of Spain. All the terror in Spain is caused by or in the name of the State.

Europeans of a certain age know what domestic terrorism is: the British, Irish, Spanish, French, Italians, Germans… and they know that what exists right now in Catalonia is a very politically active, associative society. Violence? Terrorism? Only from the state, the police, far-right Spanish nationalist groups, criminal gangs and hooligans. No, what you have here is anger being channelled in very positive constructive ways. That’s what the CDRs are all about, born out of a spirit of determined peaceful resistance and action. The eyes that see them, or at least paint them, as the Kale Borroka of current Catalonia are the same ones that see the Altsasu 3 as ETA and their 5 companions as being the other members of the commando. It’s a lie. It’s all a lie. There is no GRAPO, Terra Lliure or ETA any more and the Spanish State and Spanish nationalism misses and needs them and their violence to justify its human rights abuses.

Those same Europeans also know about riots and violent demonstrations and can see that only Spanish nationalist demonstrations are violent. The State thought the CDRs were a godsend, but in fact they are the State’s worst nightmare. They are the hundreds of thousands of Catalans already building their republic. There is no terrorism here now but the State still sees it everwhere, wants people to believe it has returned or that it never left us, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Who believes the narrative when the only pictures we see are of politicians going to jail or into exile, regular people accused of serious offences they have not committed, and of which there is no evidence? There is no violence. It’s the prerequisite, but it simply is not there. And the police, despite seizing everything from whistles to dongles, have simply learned what everyone knew – that Catalans do things, a lot of things. If only the Spanish police were so diligent when gathering evidence against Spanish nationalists or the corrupt establishment, or when protecting Catalanist and Valencianist demonstrators from fascist assaults. If only the Spanish judiciary were equally diligent when sentencing them, and the penal system when releasing them early. It’s the fascism that never left us, not the terrorism.

The only demonstrations in support of the State in the past two months have come from Societat Civil Catalana, the Spanish unionist and nationalist civil organisation that grew out of far-right organisation Somatemps four years ago in Catalonia, and they were heavily stage-managed and poorly attended affairs. What is the unionist mantra on Catalan secessionism, the narrative you will hear from a Nazi skinhead, the leader of PSOE, a Nobel laureate and an ex-prime minister of France?  They claim that they they want to save Catalans from separatists wanting to establish a Catalan dictatorship. As the failed French socialist politician, Manuel Valls, cast around for a cause last year, he remembered his roots, and made a beeline for Barcelona to participate, not in the failed Partit Socialista de Catalunya (PSC) campaign, but in the failed Cs campaign to take the Generalitat. He could not just sit there in Paris doing nothing. He had had to come then, and now he was back, screaming that the ‘separatist process’ had also failed, and that the break-up of Spain would lead to the break-up of Europe, that Spain was a ‘great democracy’ and 5,317 overjoyed Spanish nationalists and unionists cheered. There is a violence in the language of the Spanish unionism.

In Catalan, his ruddy face claimed that he had shed tears on hearing the whistles and boos directed at King Felipe VI during the massive demonstration of solidarity for the victims of last August’s terror attacks. Tears shed for monarchs are all the rage on the republican left in Spain too. He made no mention of the oblique role of the Spanish state in those attacks. He is in favour of an ‘open Catalonia’ not a ‘withdrawn, racist and separatist culture’. He gave no examples of this mythologised vision of the region and climaxed in bellicose terms, promising to stand with Spanish nationalists and unionists in their ‘battle’. According to Valls, the anti-rebel with a cause, ‘changing the borders of Europe is war!’

Back in October, SCC attracted its largest crowd, bussed in from all over Spain, flown in from around the world, during the fallout from the 1 October referendum. Vargas Llosa dubbed independentists ‘racist fanatics’ whose ‘nationalist passion’ had caused more havoc in history than any other factor, whose ‘secular religion was inherited from the worst romanticism.’ He added that ‘nationalism has filled the history of Europe, the world, and Spain with wars, blood and corpses.’ Which nationalisms? PSOE baron Borrell followed the thread. ‘What are national borders? Borders are the scars that history has left on the skin of the earth, carved in blood and fire.’ If you know Catalonia, the narrative sounds demented.

Spain’s discontents will remain firm but peaceful despite the punishment they are receiving. The question is what will the State do? The Spanish government has refused to deviate from its chosen course, despite UN censure and a growing reluctance of its European neighbours to facilitate their repression. Spanish nationalism’s reaction to the bailing of Puigdemont gave a clue to the course things could take. It lashed out in a typically aggressive, abusive, offensive and violent way.  In Congress, Justice minister Rafael Catalá’s blood boiled at the sight of a yellow ribbon and the suggestion that there are political prisoners in Spain, while a contemptuous vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría went all swivel-eyed and incoherent over the Catalan situation in a press conference, again. As well as this, Spanish government representatives are embroiled in a whole new raft of scandals related to fake degrees and CVs, on top of the hundreds of historic corruption cases that no one in the country has time to talk about.

The Spanish government is growing disconcerted. The nervousness has been palpable as diplomatic assaults fail to achieve the desired results, like in all recent Catalan elections. How will the Spanish state react if, internationally speaking, things go further against them. Some fear this government will morir matando, die killing, that the reaction will be even more repressive at home, even more violent, and that the State might turn in on itself, and withdraw from the international community having not got what it wanted. The resentment, added to the offence already taken and their historic hatred of the Catalans could make the coming months terrible.

Spanish nationalism is still the problem. Spanish nationalism crushes opposition, then tortures it. It destroys diversity and it is violent. It has never been held to account thanks to the amnesty it ensured for itself at the end of the dictatorship. It is why one of Franco’s torturers can freely walk the streets of Madrid and you can buy merchandising from the Valley of the Fallen, a lovely mug to commemorate your visit to a monument that celebrates the Spanish holocaust. It’s like a mini-Auschwitz museum still run by Nazis. The Spanish government is like a rabid dog that needs putting down, that should have been put down long ago. But there is no one to do it as it has all the power, and so it will keep on biting. Today begins a new round of hearings for those accused of rebellion and secession and the trial of the Altsasu 8.

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