CUP and the independentista left in Catalonia

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Mark.
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Oct 11 2017 15:57
CUP and the independentista left in Catalonia

A thread for links to English language articles about the independentista left in Catalonia. As I've followed the crisis over the referendum I've realised that there's a gap in my understanding of the political project of CUP and associated independentista groups. I think this lack of understanding also comes across in some of the discussion on here, so it may be useful to provide some information about them. By posting links here I'm not necessarily intending to endorse anything or agree with everything said.

Mark.
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Oct 11 2017 16:10

The radical party behind the Catalan referendum

Quote:

But the sweeping raids were not the only actions conducted by Spanish police that day in Barcelona. Somehow unnoticed by international papers, a group of plain-clothes police surrounded the headquarters of a political party, the Popular Unity Candidacy, known as the CUP, and threatened to enter despite having no judicial warrant to do so.

Thousands of supporters and sympathizers gathered in front of the office and forced the police units to abort this plan after 8 hours of their intimidatory presence.

The demonstrators made a decision to party, sing and dance in front of the police – to avoid any confrontation that could justify the use of force against the vote planned in Catalonia. But why has such tiny political party been at the epicentre of the repression by the central authorities?

Despite having only 10 of the Catalan parliament’s 135 MPs, this anti-capitalist force has become one of the central kingmakers in the process of self-determination conducted by the Catalan government. Its deputies are crucial for ensuring a separatist majority in the chamber, and so, while voting to put a pro-independence government into power, its radical anti-capitalist view has frequently clashed with the Catalan establishment and the liberal parties in charge of the Catalan government.

Born in the 1980s in some villages as a municipalist movement closely linked to the separatist far-left movements, the CUP decided to make its debut in the regional (Catalan) elections in 2012.

With the echoes of the 15M movement still ringing through Spanish politics, their representatives brought fresh air to the chamber. Even the simple fact of seeing a politician talking in parliament with a t-shirt bearing a political motto became a matter of debate in the Catalan media – not to mention the party’s openly anti-capitalist speech.

The party’s internal code prevents the professionalization of MPs as they can’t run for more than one term in the Catalan parliament – or a maximum of two terms in local municipalities.

‘Nobody is infallible, and this is the best tool we found to avoid any material or personal interests standing between us’, says party spokesperson Núria Gibert.

But the core of the CUP’s work is in cities and villages.

‘We understand that politics are born there; are made in the streets’ says Lluc Salellas, a member of the party’s national secretariat. Or as a slogan of the movement goes: ‘One foot in the street, one foot in the institutions’.

The CUP now rules 28 municipalities in Catalonia, and is part of the ruling coalition in big cities including Sabadell and Badalona, where they managed to defeat mayor Xavier Garcia Albiol – the leader of the ultra-conservative People’s Party (mostly known by its acronym PP) in Catalonia. As well as frequently railing against migrants, Albiol likes to describe the CUP’s members as the “socially unstructured ones” – just one example of the hate speech mounted against the party.

In these cities and villages they debated, then acted, to remunicipalize services – reversing privatisation – and introduced the participatory budgeting process. In some villages they even brought the debates to schools, where pupils took part in debates to decide how to spend public money.

The CUP prefer not to call themselves a party but a movement – with decision-making by assemblies central to its model. ‘We’re trying to work the opposite way from how traditional leftists movements did’ says Salellas.

When a decision must be taken by the party as a whole – for example, every time the party votes on legislation – debate is taken to each and every local assembly. Consensus is sought, but if it is not reached, a vote takes place.

Local assemblies then send delegates to coordination meetings. Any single assembly has the same number of representatives as any other, just as any single member has the same voice and vote as any other. ‘We don't understand a member as just a fee payer’ says Salellas. ‘for us members are daily activists’.

Groups of assemblies can also ask for decisions to be reconsidered, of call a general assembly where all members – and even outside political forces – can participate. The party must take on the decisions of the assemblies even if they contradict the ideas of the secretariat: and assemblies can push the movement to reshape decisions previously taken, or force a general assembly to be called on a specific topic.

He says the idea is that local assemblies must be the ones setting the agenda, not the other way around, and that major decisions must be supported by a majority. ‘At least we try, we don’t always succeed,’ he adds – nowadays rushed meetings sometimes collide with this principle.

Assemblies are good for deliberating, not for deciding’ remarks University Pompeu Fabra’s political science professor Ferran Requejo, arguing that the CUP ‘works more pyramidally than what it may look like’. But their radical model has had many successes. ‘It is probably the only party in Europe that is genuinely steered by its base,’ Lluis Orriols, a politics professor at the Carlos III University in Madrid, told the Financial Times last year. ‘And it is an anti-system party that has always tried to keep its distance from the machinery of power.’

Mark.
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Oct 12 2017 00:04

Some more links:

A brief history of Candidatura d'Unitat Popular

An escape route from capitalism?

Interview with Mireia Vehí, from the CUP
(video of interview with a deputy in the Catalan parliament)

In Catalonia, women hope to build a feminist republic

Catalan’s decision
(Jacobin article)

Debating Catalonia
(Jacobin - Izquierda Unida MP debates the referendum with the CUP’s Pau Llonch)

Mark.
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Oct 11 2017 17:19

The far-left separatists who took Catalonia to the brink (paywalled FT article)

Quote:

Anna Gabriel lives in a flatshare in a modest building tucked away in the bohemian Barcelona neighbourhood of Grácia. The first thing you see as you enter is a poster of Hugo Chávez, the late anti-capitalist leader of Venezuela, and a table stacked with political leaflets. The living room is small and spartan, devoid of books and personal objects.

The humble surroundings are a world away from the sumptuous medieval palaces that house the Catalan president and his ministers. But there are many, not least inside the Spanish government, who believe that the rhythm and pace of Catalonia’s escalating conflict with Madrid are dictated not by the official Catalan leadership but by Ms Gabriel and her far-left separatist party.

The Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) holds just 10 of 135 seats in Catalan’s regional parliament, but without them President Carles Puigdemont has no majority to continue his separatist course.

That has given the CUP and Ms Gabriel, the spokeswoman of the party’s parliamentary group, sweeping power to shape the political process. More often than not, they have used it to press for a hardline, confrontational stance that could culminate in a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain as early as next week.

Ms Gabriel argues that there is simply “no alternative” to such a declaration, especially after the events surrounding Sunday’s independence referendum. The vote, which had been declared illegal by Spain’s constitutional court, was marred by violence after Spanish police tried to interrupt the voting process and confiscate ballot boxes. Madrid argues that its officers were defending the constitutional order against a de facto insurrection, but Ms Gabriel insists the intervention was a “savage and brutal attack against an entire people”.

“Many people who were not in favour of independence now say that they no longer want to form part of a Spanish state that confronts political problems like this. In political terms, people are saying: is this what the Spanish state has to offer?”, she says.

Spain, Ms Gabriel argues, is not only a state with “fascist roots” but also one that cannot acknowledge its own failure: “If you need so much brute force to defend the unity of the state, isn’t it evident that this unity does not exist?”

Quote:

Profile: Anna Gabriel

CUP spokeswoman in Catalonia’s parliament

Catalonia’s far-left Popular Unity Candidacy does not have formal leaders. But it does have a face, and it is that of Ms Gabriel, the spokeswoman for the party’s group in the Catalan parliament. She hails from a leftwing family of miners in Sallent, north of Barcelona, and trained both as a teacher and a lawyer. Ms Gabriel belongs to the radical wing of what is already, by European standards, a radical party. The CUP describes itself as a “clearly socialist organisation with the objective of replacing the capitalist socio-economic model with a new model that is centred on the human collective and that respects the environment”. It opposes Catalan membership of Nato and of the EU. Ms Gabriel is a veteran activist who was part of an anti-fascist group in her youth before setting up a local CUP chapter in her hometown. Her greatest fear, she once told a Spanish interviewer, is that the “havoc created by the capitalist system will be irreversible”.

Mark.
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Oct 11 2017 17:29

Guardian video - the idea of being 'independentista' but not nationalist seems quite widespread, if not entirely convincing.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=U_-exLoVo68

Salvoechea
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Oct 11 2017 17:51

I prefer Ana Gabriel, which is openly libertarian communist, thou she is one of the heads of CUP

http://www.eldiario.es/catalunya/politica/Anna-Gabriel-Dentro-UE-condiciones_0_605089821.html

She comes from a family of old CNT members in the 30s. her grandpa burned all his money in one of libertarian communist insurrections in Sallent.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYHETN4oy2I

Another interesting person is Jordi Martí Font, councilor of Tarragona. He's a CGT member, writer, teacher and a self-recognised anarchist, thou he is quite socialdemocratic in his practice.

https://blocs.mesvilaweb.cat/jordimartif69/

The same goes to Xavier Diez, from Girona, this time he belongs to USTEC/IAC:
https://blocs.mesvilaweb.cat/xavierdiez/
He wrote a book about anarchoindividualism in Spain

Anyway. They may be anarchist, but they are not in an anarchist organisation. CUP is a municipalist party, trying to implement radical changes from below, by participating into local politics. They're kind of similar to libertarian municipalism. After the years (they have the power in 14 villages and towns) we cannot see much difference between a village ruled by them and another one ruled by another political party. Municipalities don't have much competences and usually are the poor sister among all the administrations. All the money and power lies on regions and the central state.

CUP has suffered a big growth in the last years thanks to jumping to the catalan parliament on 2010. It was a difficult decission for them, as they broke with the former municipalism. Catalan parliament is mediatic, and public attention is on them. But as they did it quite ok, they had another growth on 2013-16 period

CUP is a part (the biggest part) of a bigger movement: Independentist Left -> Endavant is their cadre party, ARRAN the youth organisation, SEPC the student union, Alerta Solidaria the antirrepressive organisation, Rescat their prisoner org., and COS is their trade union (which is really tiny). They have around 70 social centers around Catalonia, Mallorca and Valencia full with activity.

This model is exactly the same of the Basque Liberation Movement: Sortu the political mass party, LAB the trade union, EPPK the prisoner org., Ernai the youth organisation... and so on.

Mark.
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Oct 11 2017 18:43

It would be interesting to find a translation of Anna Gabriel's intervention in the Catalan parliament yesterday:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t9prjBUH5TQ

Ragnar
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Oct 13 2017 12:21

Maybe Mark would you also interested in the post about ERC and CNT relations in the 20´ and 30´
http://www.alasbarricadas.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=62090

Mark.
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Oct 13 2017 14:09

Yes, that's very interesting. Thanks.

Mark.
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Oct 13 2017 14:27

CUP tells Puigdemont to proclaim the Catalan Republic

Quote:

After the powerful Catalan National Assembly published its request that Carles Puigdemont unsuspend Tuesday's declaration of independence on Thursday night, the minority radical-left party on which Mr. Puigdemont's regional government depends, the CUP, made its own demand public on Friday morning.

Responding to the commencement of the Article 155 procedure to suspend home rule in Catalonia, the CUP said in a statement that "if they […] want to keep threatening and gagging us, they should do so with the republic already proclaimed".

The CUP recognised Catalan separatists would have to do so without much support: "we will continue without the support of markets and states, we will continue without great natural resources, and without economic powers that support us".

"It is true we do not have big economic powers, and that the EU is not ready to admit that the right to self-determination is a fundamental right of peoples."
[...]
The CUP's strategy, if there is no support from markets, big business or Europe, is the crowd: "it was people who stopped this country [on October 3] with a massive, unprecedented general strike".

An "overwhelming mass" of people poured onto the streets "to condemn the alarming regression in rights and liberties", said the statement.

"People are the only solid structure this country has faced with a lack of explicit international support, with a lack of a powerful, rooted structure of production with a national awareness […] and with a lack of natural resources that might put us in a different position in international geopolitics. Our force is people and their needs, people and their hopes."

Mark.
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Oct 14 2017 19:07

2015 interview with Gabriela Serra and Antonio Baños from CUP

Catalonia’s radical kingmaker, committed to unmaking Spain
(2015 profile of Antonio Baños)

The Catalan left
(2015 Jacobin interview with Boaz Vilallonga)

Mark.
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Oct 16 2017 14:40

Catalonia’s fight is driven by a passion for neighbourhood, not nationhood
(cif article on participatory democracy and neighbourhood assemblies)

Spikymike
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Oct 16 2017 17:52

Without wishing to belittle some of these genuine local defensive activities and initiatives ( as referenced in post 12) this strategy seems to lack any real understanding of the functioning of the commodity economy, private property or it's defence by state structures. The CUP seems to me to be less ''in and against the state'' as ''in and for a reformed state''. Some of the anarchist commentaries have a grasp of this but not all.

Mark.
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Oct 19 2017 20:42

Small far-left party agitates for Catalan independence

Mark.
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Oct 19 2017 21:14

Interview with Lluc Salellas from CUP