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Oct 4, 17

A Critical Look at the Catalan General Strike

The general strike was yesterday. A huge number of Catalan businesses closed voluntarily, and public services under the control of the Catalan government closed. There were highway blockades, but very few pickets that were forcing businesses to close.

“Participation” and closings in the strike were probably at the highest percentage in recent history, but the day was almost entirely pacifist. There was a huge mobilization coming from the political parties and the civil society organizations that ended up winning total control of the strike. Spreading the rumour that masked police infiltrators would be inciting violence, cooperation with the Catalan police, and especially the use of centralized assemblies with a monopoly on legitimacy were key to this process. With the latter element, central assemblies set low limits on acceptable tactics, taking advantage of majorities and ready-made discourses that favor nonviolence, and subsequently, the people with resources broke those consensus decisions wherever it was convenient– for example in Manresa turning an agreed “minute of silence” in solidarity with the victims of police brutality into an entirely silent demo (more precisely, more than an hour of silence, for the entire time that the demo went by the Guardia Civil barracks).

It’s really time to make hard criticisms against the populist comrades who have continued to talk about democracy as a good thing and to make no criticism of unified assembly structures, because those assemblies became a hammer against any independent action.

There was independent action, there were anarchist pickets forcefully closing shops, but we were a tiny minority even among anarchists. It’s been a long time since we’ve felt so firmly locked into the roll of black sheep. But much better that than just sheep.

In Manresa, we were the ONLY ones putting up posters and handing out fliers, out of tens of thousands of people in the streets, and though for the most part it got us bad looks and some even saw us as on par with fascist provocateurs, it was good that we interrupted the triumphant flavor of the day and showed everyone that “the people” is by no means a consensus construction. Especially the other activists, who unlike the majority will still be in the streets tomorrow, and who know that we’ve always been on the front lines.

But basically, yesterday was a pretty frightening and effective attempt by the bourgeoisie to appropriate the tool of the general strike.

Another important thing: the Catalan government has not obeyed its own law, which had declared it would make a unilateral declaration of independence within 48 hours of the referendum. The Catalan President is keeping the headlines active, now promising it will happen at the end of the week or the beginning of the next. It’s a negotiating tactic. The elite do not want to win this new country on the basis of a popular revolt (if they make the declaration, the Spanish police crack down harder and suspend the Parliament, and then you’d get another massive popular response in the streets, this time harder to keep pacifist). They are either looking for support from the European Union to tie Spain’s hands, or to start negotiations for what would probably be the middle ground of a constitutional reform.

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