To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
October 9, 2017
RE:Catalonia, the kneeling protests, women's clinics
The Spanish government is moving towards a violent confrontation with the people of the region of Catalonia, which is one of what are called "autonomous communities" in Spain. Hundreds of people were injured as the Spanish government attempted to suppress a referendum Sunday, October 1 on whether Catalonia should be independent. The Spanish government is led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the conservative People's Party; it is a party committed both to carrying out economic austerity against working people and to repressing the democratic rights of the different nationalities in Spain. Rajoy holds that the Spanish constitution outlaws the right to self-determination of the nationalities of Spain.
The Spanish people include several different national groups, including Basques, Galicians, and Catalans. Of the almost 47 million Spanish people, about seven and a half million are Catalans, and they speak Catalan as well as Spanish.
The Catalan people themselves are apparently divided on the issue of independence from Spain. The October 1 referendum and some other votes showed an overwhelming majority for independence. But opinion polls by Catalonian institutions show a split, and this is reflected in other votes that have taken place in Catalonia. Perhaps one of the reasons for these opposing indicators is that the overwhelming majority of the Catalonian people, whether for or against independence, believe they have the right to decide on self-determination, while independence referendums, because they are made illegal by the Spanish government, become a place to defy the repressive dictates of the Spanish state. Of course, with all opinion polls and referendums, there may also be the question of how they are phrased, and whether they give several options, or have full independence as the only alternative to the present situation.
In any case, polls this year by the Catalonian regional government's own Opinion Studies Center showed 44.3% in favor of independence in March, and then 41.1% in July. But the poll also showed that among those who said they were likely to vote in the independence referendum, 62.4% would vote yes.
This year the Spanish government once more did its best to suppress the October 1st referendum. It had the Spanish Constitutional Court declare it illegal. It threatened Catalan police and government officials if they went ahead with or allowed the vote, and it unsuccessfully attempted to take direct control of the local Catalan police. It used the Public Prosecutor's Office of Catalonia in an attempt to confiscate material related to the referendum, such as ballots, ballot boxes, announcements, and websites. This reached the point that on September 20, the Spanish Civil Guard raided Catalonian government ministries and arrested officials, outraging the local population. On the day of voting, thousands of Spanish Civil Guard from outside Catalonia were sent in to prevent the vote, as the government could not rely on the Catalan police for this task. The Civil Guard treated people so brutally that almost 900 had to be treated at hospitals or other health care centers.
The campaign against the vote closed down some voting sites and prevented over 700,000 votes from being counted. It probably also increased the sentiment for independence, and guaranteed that it was mainly pro-independence voters who showed up. There was mass defiance of the Spanish government's ban. The Catalonian government announced that 90% of the 2.2 million ballots that were counted were in favor of independence, with a turnout of about 42% of eligible voters (eligible by Catalan standards, by Spanish government standards no one was eligible as the vote had been declared illegal).
Two days later, on October 3, hundreds of thousands of people throughout Catalonia protested the violence of the Spanish government. There was a mass general strike "against repression and in defense of civil liberties". The local police estimated that there were 700,000 people in the streets in the capital Barcelona alone. Meanwhile the Spanish government is trying to have the chief of the Catalonian police arrested for sedition for not carrying out orders to smash the October 1 referendum.
On October 8, an anti-independence rally took place in Barcelona, estimated to be 350,000 by the Catalan police, with the organizers claiming many more. This reflects the split in Catalonia over whether to become independent.
Meanwhile the Spanish government continues its campaign of suppressing the Catalonian people by decree. The Constitutional Court of Spain is seeking to prevent the Catalan parliament from holding its next session. And there is the threat that the Spanish government will invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, something never done before, in order to suspend the Catalan government and rule Catalonia from Madrid. This would inflame the situation and threaten major violence.
Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont is pushing for a rapid declaration of independence, possibly in the next few days, and he has previously suggested the creation of a Catalan army. The October 1 referendum specified that if the vote count was for independence, it would be declared 48 hours after the count was finished. This hasn't been done, but it shows that a declaration of independence may be soon. So it seems that the independence movement leadership will use the mass outrage against repression to achieve independence immediately, despite the division in Catalan opinion. This doesn't seem appropriate, but the intransigence of the Spanish government will make it seem as the only alternative to capitulation. Yet it's one thing to defy the repressive, undemocratic bludgeoning by the Spanish state against the Catalan referendum; it's another to pretend the October 1st referendum settled the issue of what the Catalan people really want.
The present Spanish government has vehemently declared that it doesn't respect the right to self-determination of Catalonia. It has already been resorting to violence, and it threatens to escalate it. It is the Spanish government that will bear responsibility if a major conflagration in Catalonia breaks out.
The anti-democratic stand of the Spanish government is not an accident. In part, it reflects the general practice of the big bourgeoisie which rules the European Union. They have forced unpopular constitutional changes on the EU in order to facilitate austerity. They are implementing austerity year by year although they know how unpopular this is. With regard the possibility of countries leaving the EU, they want to prove that it is prohibitively painful. And they stood aside while the Spanish government employed violence against the October 1 referendum.
It isn't necessarily a good idea for Catalonia to leave Spain. But it is up to the Catalonian people to decide to stay or go. The present Spanish government wants to hold them in thrall by force, and the leadership of the European Union has shrugged and said "so what". If the Spanish government was willing to negotiate over autonomy and other issues, there would have been negotiations. This would have helped ensure that the Catalonian people would only leave Spain if they found that they could not achieve an appropriate status in Spain. Such discussions plus a more deliberate process in Catalonia, free from the mass arrests and repression ordered by the Spanish government, would have been helpful. But by its resort to force, the Spanish government increases the likelihood that Catalonia will leave. And it reveals itself as a true representative of the wealthy bourgeoisie, which worships only money and power, and has contempt for the democratic rights of the people.
By Joseph Green, Detroit Workers' Voice <>
Below is a comment on the NFL protests by Art Francisco, a subscriber to the Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list. It's a spirited article which debunks the NFL owners as well as Trump, and talks about the conditions facing the professional football players. At the same time, I think it's a mistake to portray the NFL protests as challenging the legitimacy of the capitalist state or to present them in the light of a working class struggle that could build to challenge the class power of the bourgeoisie itself. There are many struggles that are worthwhile and important, but aren't revolutionary struggles. The NFL protests, aimed at racism, are an example. It's a task of revolutionaries to know why such struggles are important although although they are not revolutionary ones, and to help these struggles create a militant atmosphere among the masses.
-- Joseph Green <>
by Art Francisco
Last year, towards the end of August, Colin Kaepernick drew national attention for choosing to sit during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality. It was around this time, in response to the vicious criticism of bourgeois journalists and pundits, Kaepernick and Eric Reid chose to kneel at every game for the entire football season. In response, Kaepernick was blacklisted.
At the start of the 2017 pre-season, it is said that about 12 players were continuing Kaepernick's style of peaceful protest, to the slight irritation of the capitalists who turned American football into the national sport of US imperialism, replacing baseball. The Superbowl is the most watched event on television with about 172,000 average viewers and $5m/30seconds for an advert.
The capitalist owners of the big teams, largely supported their fellow capitalist Donald Trump during his election. But on September 22nd, while hurricane Maria was making landfall on the colonial island of Puerto Rico, Trump in typical opportunistic fashion lashed out at an Alabama rally against the handful of black NFL protesters. He lashed out against the players as a whole by advocating that the game should be as harsh as it used to be in wake of a new medical study concluding that 110 out of 111 of players brains studied showed signs of CTE, serious brain damage. Pro football players have a 99% chance of getting brain damage and no amount of money is going to repair that. When the players are too broken to play any more after being battered in the modern gladiatorial arenas, they will be cut off from NFL health care. The average football career is less than four years, with many NFL players retiring young, physically and financially broken. Moreover, there is reason to believe that the pattern of trauma dramatically affects their personalities which may help to explain the common patterns of violence by players. Trump knows all this, but his capitalist callous opportunism drives him.
Trump's disgusting comments came after months of police carnage, racist rallies and incendiary speech. With Trump's latest comments, the annoyance of the #TakeaKnee protests set off like wildfire and became a full blown crisis for the capitalists who own the NFL teams and use the NFL for its extremely lucrative audience for advertisement.
And so the following Sunday on September 24, every single team in the league playing in Sunday morning football joined in protest. Entire teams boycotted the anthem, sat, locked arms or kneeled. Anthem singers kneeled and raised fists. Players raised fists after touchdowns. The first baseball player took a knee. The owners themselves were compelled to accept the mass action and show their opposition to Trump. Racist fans swore against their own teams, the NFL and their favorite players. Racist fans booed, heckled and shouted profanities at the New England Patriots and the Colts as players protested.
Of course, the capitalist owners had little choice but to feign support. Regardless of whether or not they were personally irritated by Trump's arrogant comments telling them what to do, it was in their direct interests to ensure that the players would not turn against them as well. The blacklisting of Kaepernick was already a sore spot for athletes in the NFL and other leagues, but coupled with the recent CTE studies and the racist comments by Trump, if the owners were not careful they could incite a serious player action that wouldn't be satisfied with a protest to the national anthem but an attack on their profits at the start of the football season. For that reason, nearly every capitalist is going into the classic damage control mode of employers before a union action.
Even if it meant holding hands with the players on the field in common protest — the capitalists had to do whatever they could to avoid a strike or any escalation. For the past week, the players have continued protests. The owners have replied that they would not punish or retaliate for those protests, but they are still coordinating an effort to turn the unity of the players against the wealthy capitalists into a call of unity with the wealthy owners themselves despite having opposing interests. Liberal journalist Shuan King obfuscated this fake owner's solidarity by suggesting the owners lack the "courage of their convictions" when it came to standing against racism. The owners however do not have any anti-racist convictions, or pro-player convictions. Their convictions are capitalist convictions, and there is no lack of courage there.
The attempts at de-escalation by the owners may be too little too late. While they may temporarily soften the protests, the genie is already out of the bottle. Colin Kaepernick, the Jackie Robinson of the 21st century, has already injected working class politics into a sport that is more holy and sacred to capitalists than any church. How many times have we heard the bourgeois line, "Keep politics out of football" or "Keep politics out of sports?" This of course has never been a possibility, as it is simply meaning to keep only bourgeois politics in sports. This is a part of the sacred compact between the bourgeois media and the owners of the leagues. It is good for the players and the masses to split the capitalists in this way, even if such a split was temporary or for show since ultimately it is a concession. Despite that, we shouldn't forget what side the capitalist owners will always be on — their own side.
It can be no coincidence that Kaepernick was so viciously attacked and blacklisted for more than just taking a knee, or speaking out about police brutality, or speaking in favor of black people in the US. Kaepernick combined his protest with the target of the American bourgeois state itself by choosing to make his protest during the national anthem, which exposed the hypocrisy and lie that the bourgeois state serves everyone of all classes and thus deserves our support and devotion. Even Kaepernick's attempts at remaining respectful in protest were not good enough — and the result is that he is out of the job.
In the bourgeois campaign to de-escalate, the legendary liberal bourgeois sports commentator Bob Costas remarked,
"The idea of linking protests, no matter how legitimate the issue you are protesting, directly to the national anthem is not just offensive to the love it or leave it crowd. It actually causes ambivalent feelings, at best, among many people who are sympathetic to the issue, but see the anthem as representing a lot of different things including the country's ideals and aspirations. So, to me, perhaps the most effective thing to do would be to stand for the national anthem, but the second the last note is struck, take a knee."
In an earlier interview, Costas said,
"Virtually every player who knelt in the initial stages of this was black, and the initial impetus from it or for it came from Colin Kaepernick and it was about police brutality and mistreatment of African Americans. You can't separate those two things.
"Now, if you want to make the point that the national anthem is about something more than the nation's flaws and shortcomings, it's also about its ideals and that people can see some texture to what the national anthem means, and you might prefer that people protest or make their point outside of the national anthem, that's something to be argued."
This attempt by the bourgeoisie to divorce the attacks on the state from the protests against police brutality should be exposed and resisted. Costas speaks for the most liberal capitalists and liberal NFL owners — who may be willing to let protests slide, but want to see an end to the delegitimizing of their state and their military. In the coming weeks ahead, there will be attempts at watering things down. Costas's comments were two-fold, one to preserve the patriotism of the masses to the bourgeois state, but later in his CNN interview he turned his sights to discredit Kaepernick's politics since they contain shreds of working class politics:
"Kaepernick, whether people know it or not, has raised and/or donated millions and millions of dollars to worthy causes. He's walking the walk, he's involved in the community. But Kaepernick himself was an imperfect messenger. He's given to saying things like I don't vote because the oppressor will never let you vote your way out of your oppression. So I guess it doesn't matter to him who wound up being president of the United States. It doesn't matter that when he first knelt Barack Obama was president and now someone who many of his fellow African-Americans and importantly many of his fellow citizens of all races and backgrounds object to. It doesn't matter to him.
"Sometimes what Colin says when he does speak makes it sound as if, and I say this with great respect for his intentions, and for what he has done beyond kneeling on the field. Sometimes he sounded like someone who took one semester from a radical professor when he was a freshman and that's all he knows about the world.
"So I think it's better that additional voices here from multiple backgrounds weigh in, because Colin Kaepernick, despite what some people want to say, is not the natural heir to Muhammad Ali or Arthur Ashe or to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who continues to be a public intellectual. He's not. He's tried to do a good thing from his heart. I don't know if he's equipped to carry that baton."
For the bourgeois journalist Bob Costas, Kaepernick's challenge to the legitimacy of the state itself is where he draws the line - but that is what makes his protest so powerful. Like the owners themselves, the liberal and progressive bourgeois journalists are fine supporting a short lived anti-racist protest so long as it doesn't build to challenge the class power of the bourgeoisie.
But aside from Bob Costas, a new kind of liberal bourgeois journalist has emerged over the years the "progressive," the Shuan Kings, Dave Zirins, Juan Gonzalezes and Amy Goodmans give plenty of words for racial justice, racial equality, an end to police brutality and all kinds of other progressive causes. But they avoid the crucial conclusion that one who is truly concerned with those things must arrive to. There will be no racial justice or any of these other progressive ideas realized to their full most potential until there is first a political revolution against the capitalist class. So we can support Kaepernick, and the players protests, and we can even share the exposure of these liberal journalists — but our duty as Marxists is to expose their limitations which are restricted by the interests of the class they represent!
Expose the capitalists in their entirety.
Expose the state in its entirety.
Expose the bourgeois media in its entirety. <>
About 80 spirited and youthful people turned out for clinic defense on Saturday, September 30. They brought many good signs and chanted "When women's rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!", "When abortion rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" and "Abortion is health care, health care is a right!" The drivers of many, many passing cars honked their horns in support. On the anti-abortion side was a praying woman and a guy with a bullhorn who had the nerve to shout we were nazis, accessories to murder and the like. He left after about a half hour. Needless to say, they failed in their mission to harass women going to Planned Parenthood. Two more clinic defenses are now planned for sure: Saturday, October 14 at 9 AM - 11 AM at 1509 32nd St in Everett; and October 28 back in Seattle. But in today's crowd there was a lot of sentiment for having Seattle clinic defenses every Saturday until the "Forty Days for Life" campaign ends, and whether to call for that is being decided right now. So https://www.facebook.com/seattleclinicdefense/ for more information.
-- by Frank Arango, Seattle
Workers' Voice <>
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