The exercise of the right to self-determination in Catalonia: a right defended from the grassroots


The Referendum from 1st October 2017 was the peak point in a process of popular mobilisation and organisation started, at least, ten years before.


During the debate about the reform of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia driven by the Government of the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) at the time of the mandate of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE), the basis of the souverainist movement experienced a big growth. Souverainist and independist sectors decided to organise the Platform for the Right to Decide (PDD) who organised the big demonstrations from 18th February 2006 and 1st December 2007. It was the first time that a demonstration not supported by the main autonomist parties, Convergència i i Unió (CIU) and the PSC, reached a massive participation.

Another popular dynamic meaning a process of maturity in the movement were the Catalan Independence Referendums started at the town of Arenys de Munt, at the initiative of the Local Assembly of the CUP, the 13th September 2009. In this referendum the question was: Do you agree on Catalonia becoming an independent, democratic and social constitutional state, integrated in the European Union? During one and a half years more than 500 consultations were organised showing a big organisational capacity from the Catalan souverainist movement, mobilising thousands of voluntary people and reaching a big participation despite the non-binding character of these consultations.

A lot of the committees having organised these consultations becomes local organisations of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) from 2012. The ANC together with Omnium organised the big Diades of 11th September from this year.

The Consultation from 9 November organised by the Catalan Government was a new demonstration of popular engagement, taking into account the doubts in the Government of Artur Mas to face Spanish state threats, only surpassed by the popular force who guaranteed the success of this day. Today the consequences have been the ban from holding public office for some of the members of the Government as well as fines imposed by the Spanish state.

In October 2017 the popular movement starred in a qualitative leap in the mobilisation for exercising the right to self-determination. The persistent negative from the Spanish state to permit a Self-Determination Referendum despite the big support among the Catalan population (according to some surveys, 80% of the population would like to decide their political future by the way of a binding Referendum) generated an impulse in the self-organization and popular empowerment influencing the course of events. From the debate about defending the polling stations, through active non-violent resistance, emerged a new actor, the Referendum Defense Committees (after Republic Defense Committees). These are meeting spaces with the objective to support the collective right to self-determination, permitting the popular expression despite the repression and despite the lack of international supports. Meeting spaces created during the non-violent civil disobedience as a strategy of defense of rights and as a way to claim a political solution to the conflict.

Finally the 3rd October we have seen the the power of the anti-repressive movement as well as the importance of combative unions to call to a general strike. A general strike without the support of the main unions but meaning a strong and clear answer form the working class to the intolerable cuts in social rights and labor rights but also in political rights. The 3rd October was an additional step in the awareness of people about the force that every one of us has to defend collective rights and freedoms.

This time the answer from the Spanish state arrived with the King Felipe VI with a speech the same 3rd October denying the self-determination right and justifying the repression and persecution of popular movement defending this right.

11 de febrer de 2019