Workers in Catalonia have launched a general strike today in response to the brutal police repression following Sunday's Catalan independence referendum.
Originally called by a group of alternative unions including the anarcho-syndicalist CNT, who represent the majority of linesman at the Port of Barcelona, the revolutionary syndicalist CGT and Catalan unions the IAC and the COS, the strike is now also being supported by the dockworkers' Coordinadora as well as mainstream trade unions the CCOO and UGT.
They are also being joined by a wide range of student groups, social centres and Catalan nationalist organisations such as La Taula per la Democràcia, an organism created just before the referéndum, the ANC (Catalan National Assembly), FAPAC (the Federation of Catalan Neighbourhood Assemblies) and UFEC (Union of Catalan Sports Associations).
Neighbourhood defense committees which have been developing alongside the repression of the referendum vote met last night in squares around Catalonia to prepare for the strike. Many neighbourhoods held protests outside hotels at Calella, Pineda de Mar and Figueres to protest the hospitality given to National Police and Civil Guard, successfully forcing the hotels to end their stay.
image - twitter/@cntolot
Demonstrations involving tens of thousands have broken out in the streets this morning. Central Barcelona has an ongoing march of thousands led by the 'bombers' firefighters who were brutally attacked by police last week when they tried to protect demonstrators. Around Barcelona different groups have blocked roads and motorways both with throngs of people and barricades of tires. Tractors have driven into town from local villages to block roundabouts.
image - twitter/@CGTCatalunya
Strikes are taking place on Barcelona public transport, and ports at Barcelona and Tarragona are completely shut down. The University of Barcelona has been in occupation since September 22nd with most schools closed for the day. Flying pickets along demonstration routes have been calling on shops to strike for the day.
Image - twitter/@elpesolnegre
In a statement, the CNT said: "the unity of Spain has always been a rallying flag for the far right here. Therefore, any calls for self-determination from any part of it, as is the case now in Catalonia, spark a vicious response. We are already seeing an increase in the presence of fascist groups in many towns across Spain and the conservative government is taking an increasingly authoritarian stance, trampling on many fundamental freedoms. These are ominous signs of what might lie ahead for us. Repression is only likely to worsen on many fronts, maybe even involving the military.
"Make no mistake, while we firmly oppose repression from an increasingly authoritarian state and their fascist allies, we are in no way supportive of the nationalist agenda."
The statement also explained that CNT activists have "been busy making things uncomfortable for the nationalists, bringing economic and social issues to the fore, reminding people that the Catalan government was very keen to introduce social cuts only a few years ago.
"This should not be a fight between nations, but between classes. Between an oppressive regime and its fascist allies (as much a part of the “people” as anyone else) and those of us who stand for freedom and rebellious dignity.
We expect repression to increase during the following weeks and days and we will use our weapon of choice, the general strike, to make it difficult for police to move around, get supplies and do their work in general.
The statement concludes: "As revolutionaries, we don't believe we can just remain idle, while the police attack the people in the streets and fascist gangs roam our towns freely."
On Sunday, what should have been a peaceful referendum turned into a carnage. Ten thousand police officers from the Guardia Civil, sent by the central government in Madrid, surged against the peaceful voters, trying to thwart the referendum, by shutting down polling stations and seizing ballot boxes.
Image - twitter/@unicornunbound
Violence erupted quickly, and the Sunday turned bloody. More than 800 hundred people were hurt. Everyone from young children to pensioners were victims of an unnecessary display of police brutality. Female protestors have also complained of police sexually assaulting them during arrests.
All in all, police actions in Catalonia have felt to many like a revival of the ghost of Franco still alive in the Spanish right. At least 884 people were injured, after the police savagely attacked the people who were trying to cast their votes. Police officers resorted to rubber bullets (forbidden in Catalonia since 2013), truncheons and even tossed people away from polling booths. The gruesome images of police officers dragging by the hair several women, using tear gas on voters and brutally clashing their batons on even elder people, are available in the internet for everyone to see the strength that fascism has nowadays in Europe.
President Mariano Rajoy, of the right-wing Partido Popular, refuses to recognise the referendum, even declaring that “there has been no independence referendum”, before paying tribute to the Spanish Police, that responded with “firmness and serenity”.
The referendum bill was turned into law by Catalan President Carles Puigdemont on September 6, after being voted in the Catalan Parliament, with 72 votes in favour and 11 abstentions, in the 135-seat chamber in Barcelona. This law stated that 48 hours after the referendum, a yes vote would be followed by the declaration of independence, but was quickly suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court the day after, with the Spanish government claiming the vote illegal and unconstitutional.
The Catalan government declared that the referendum had been approved by 90% of the 2.3 million people who voted out of a total voter pool of 5,343,358. This means that the turnout was of 42%, with 58% abstaining.
The EU still remains largely silent, and hasn’t condemned the police violence in Spain. This represents the tension in the EU as a whole, where national independence campaigns in Scotland, Flanders, Veneto and elsewhere in other EU member states as well as the Basque Country in Spain. Catalonia is a major player in the Spanish economy and growth, accounting for around 19 percent of its GDP.
Lead image: twitter/@janinavilana