Quite a few pro-Catalan independence people have expressed horror and indignation at the statements of Spanish politician José Manuel García-Margallo in an interview recently. They should instead that be grateful that he spoke much of the truth and dispelled unrealistic illusions about the way forward for Catalonia.
Did he threaten the independence movement with violence? Yes and not too subtly. That was no doubt his purpose as well as perhaps reassuring Spanish unionists, whether fascist or otherwise. But nevertheless, he spoke an important truth.
Spanish ex-Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said that Spain would not withdraw ‘peacefully’ from the Principality. ‘It will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag’, he told ‘El morn de Catalunya Ràdio’. He expressed support for the accusations of ‘rebellion’ against the Government of Puigdemont, President Forcadell, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez and the General Secretary of ERC, Marta Rovira. According to him, the unilateral way to achieve independence ‘necessarily’ implies violence.
His statement may be listened to on the link.
Margallo was raised in a family with close military relatives, two of which died in the anti-colonial Rif uprising, one of whom was a colonial Governor of a town there. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs was educated (and presumably brought up in) a part of the occupied Basque Country which must have helped condition him and his early adult life was spent under the Franco dictatorship. His early political career was there too and took shape during the ‘Transition‘ and since.
His statement may be listened to on the link.
Translation of the transcript of the excerpt below:
“-Mónica Terribas: Crime of ‘rebellion’, does it exist there are or not, José Manuel? (DB: one of the charges against the Catalan activists but which requires the use of violence).
“-García-Margallo: I think there is a crime of rebellion. I share the theses of Llarena, that is, I believe that what we saw on the streets during the course of the (events outside the) Ministry of Economy was violent. I think that, by definition, unilateral secession can only be achieved by violence. That is, I say that hypothetically this leads to violence. Because? We have discussed it many times and we all agree: the Constitution does not allow secession. Therefore there will be no referendum agreed. Secondly, the Spanish state will not withdraw peacefully, that is, it will not deliver the keys to the dependencies and furl up the flag. So how is the Catalan Republic proclaimed? If it cannot be by agreement and it can not be by unilateral abandonment, then it will have to be by violence. And that necessarily leads to rebellion.”
Margallo’s political party, the Partido Popular is of course a coalition of a number of Franco-fascist organisations, put together to operate in the ‘new’ Spanish state. But the greater truth about the Spanish ruling class is more important than all this.
The Dictatorship ruled as the only face available of the Spanish ruling class – representing “old money”, from the expropriation of the labour power of workers and the plunder of its colonies but also “new money”, appropriated from the losers in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War.
In the 1960s and 1970s the Spanish State began to receive substantial US and other investment, particularly in military form. But the concern of investors was that with the rise of national liberation movements and the upsurge of the youth and student movement around the world, that an unyielding dictatorship would lead to revolution, so pressure began to be applied, although it was understood that attempts at reform after so much repression could also precipitate a revolution. Given the prevailing circumstances within the Spanish state, such a revolution could only be a socialist one.
When General Franco died in November 1975 two years and one month after his chosen successor Admiral Carerro Blanco had been assassinated, the reformers got room to move (internally Opus Dei and externally the US and others, especially the EU or Common Market as it was then). Reform and normalisation of control meant bringing on board of the ship of State two significant political forces with their corresponding large trade unions, illegal until then: the social-democratic PSOE with their UGT trade union and the Marxist CPE with their more militant Comisiones Obreras union. And imposing a Monarchy.
Both those illegal opposition forces agreed, accepted the monarchy and were legalised; then controlled and even sacrificed their own members. They pushed for agreement of the monarchist and unionist Constitution of 1978, in which the majority of a dazed and hopeful population of the state (but not in the Basque Country) voted in favour of it (and which is now being used to illegalise Catalan bids for independence).
Subsequently the PSOE gained an electoral majority and while in government in the 1980s ran assassination squads against the Basques (chiefly GAL and BVE groups, although foreign fascist gunmen were also brought in for individual jobs).
Under alternating governments of the PSOE and of the PP, the State forces regularly used repression, particularly in the Basque Country, including torture of detainees and jailing people on the basis of ‘confessions’ tortured from them and which they repudiated in court. And they dispersed political prisoners throughout the jails of the State, hundreds or thousands of kilometres from their families.
This Spanish State is one that had at one time ruled much of the world and never ceded territory without a fight — with the English, the French, the Dutch, the North Americans; with native resistance and liberation movements from the Canaries to the Caribbean, to America, the Philippines and Africa. As a monarchy and feudal system, it overthrew the Arab colony of generations and expelled Arabs and Jews, brought in the terror of the Inquisition (the worst of all the states that had it), suppressed the rising of the Comuneros and resistance of the Basque and Catalan nations. As a semi-feudal capitalist monarchy, it overthrew a Republic and then raised a military coup with foreign fascist aid to overthrow another.
So this José Manuel García-Margallo is being on the whole brutally honest here and shattering the illusions many people had, especially those of a liberal or social-democratic turn of mind, that somehow Catalonia would win genuine independence without having to fight a Spanish military repression. But they should look on his utterances as doing them a favour, forcing them to look at reality.
In fact, for all that I have recounted about the particular nature of the Spanish State and its history, the more general historic truth is also that NO capitalist state (not to mention an imperialist one) is going to stand by and see itself being dismembered and losing huge chunks of what it considers its territory and economy.
Nations that won true independence had to fight for it. In the last century alone, how did Algiers win independence from the French? How did Kenya in Africa and Aden in the Middle East expel the British occupation forces? How did the Vietnamese expel the French occupation forces and defeat the US aggressors? How were the Nazi and Italian fascist and Japanese invaders of so many countries defeated?
People who hear the truth, no matter how bitter it tastes, should spend no time in bewailing it but instead concentrate on preparation.