Leon Trotsky: The National Question in Catalonia
Written: July 13, 1931. First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 24, 19 September 1931
Once more on the subject of the timely questions of the Spanish revolution.
Maurín, the “leader” of the Workers and Peasants Bloc, shares the point of view of separatism. After certain hesitation, he has resolved himself with the left wing of petty bourgeois nationalism. I have already written that Catalan petty bourgeois nationalism at the present stage is progressive. But on one condition: that it develops its activity outside the ranks of Communism and that it is always under the blows of communist criticism. To permit petty-bourgeois nationalism to manifest itself under the Communist mask means at the same time to deliver a perfidious blow to the proletarian vanguard and to kill the progressive significance of petty bourgeois nationalism.
What does the program of separatism mean? The economic and political dismemberment of Spain, or in other words, the transformation of the Iberian Peninsula into a sort of Balkanic Peninsula, with independent states, divided by, customs barriers, and with independent armies conducting independent Hispanic wars. Of course, the sage Maurin will say that he does not want this. But programs have their own logic, something Maurin hasn’t got.
Are the workers and peasants of the various parties of Spain interested in the economic dismemberment of Spain? In no case. That is why, to identify the decisive struggle for the right to self-determination with propaganda for separatism, means to accomplish a fatal work. Our program is for Hispanic Federation with the indispensable maintenance of economic unity. We have no intention of imposing this program upon the oppressed nationalities of the peninsula with the aid of the arms of the bourgeoisie. In this sense, we are sincerely for the right to self-determination. If Catalonia separates, the Communist minority of Catalonia, as well as of Spain, will have to conduct a struggle for Federation.
In the Balkans, the old pre-war social democracy already put forward the slogan of the democratic Balkan Federation as the way out of the madhouse created by the separated states. Today, the Communist slogan in the Balkans is the Balkan Soviet Federation (by the way: the Comintern adopted the slogan of the Balkan Soviet Federation, but at the same time it rejected this slogan for Europe!). Can we, under these conditions, make our own the slogan of the Balkanization of the Spanish peninsula? Isn’t it monstrous?
The syndicalists, or at least certain of their leaders, declare that they will fight against separatism even with arms in hand. In this case, the communists and the syndicalists would find themselves on opposite sides of the barricades, because without sharing the separatist illusions, while criticizing them, on the contrary, the Communists must stand up pitilessly against the hangmen of imperialism and their syndicalist lackeys.
Should the petty bourgeoisie succeed – against the advice and criticism of the Communists – in dismembering Spain, the negative results of such a regime will not take long to manifest themselves. The workers and peasants of the various sections of Spain will speedily arrive at this conclusion: yes, the communists were right. But this means precisely that we must not assume a particle of responsibility for Maurín’s program.
Monatte hopes that the Spanish syndicalists will create a new “syndicalist state.” Instead of this, the Spanish friends of Monatte are integrating themselves successfully into the bourgeois state. It is the story of the luckless hen who sits on duck’s eggs. Today, it is very important to follow all that the Spanish syndicalists say and do. This will open up possibilities for the Left Opposition in France to deal a harsh blow to French anarcho-syndicalism. One cannot doubt for a single instant that under revolutionary conditions the anarcho-syndicalists will discredit themselves at every step.
The gifted idea of the syndicalists consists of controlling the Cortes without participating in it! To employ revolutionary violence, to fight for power, to seize power – all this is not permitted. In its place, they recommend the “control” of the bourgeoisie which is in power. A magnificent picture: the bourgeoisie breakfasts, lunches, and dines, and the proletariat led by the syndicalists “controls” these operations – on an empty stomach.
Note: On 14 April 1931, after municipal elections which gave a large majority in Catalonia to the ERC, its leader Francesc Macià proclaimed an independent "Catalan Republic".
Meanwhile, however, a republic was declared across Spain. The new Republican government in Madrid negotiated with Macià an agreement in which the "Catalan Republic" became an autonomous government inside the Spanish Republic.