The militant demonstrations around national independence in catalonia continue (The Guardian 27/10/2019) in the face of State repression; a growing militancy that “threatens to transform the demands and consciousness of the movement itself.”(CrimethInc. 23/10/2019)
However justified we are in believing this last – and anyone one would be, given the fundamental unpredictability of any protest and/or insurrection -, this must not be taken as a mere apriori. And there are circumstances surrounding the catalan movement which invite reflection.
If anarchism does not exist without active militancy, it is also the case that not every demonstration and uprising is to be embraced by anarchists.
We share below a reflection, in translation, on the events in catalonia by Tomás Ibáñez; a text which he has kindly passed on to Autonomies.
Catalonia October 2019: when the flames of the barricades blind us and the police shots deafen us.
How can an anarchist heart not rejoice when a part of the people not only defies, but rushes forward against repressive forces, assuming all the risks that this entails?
How will the anarchist fiber not vibrate when there are shouts against incarceration, when the freedom of prisoners is demanded and the end of the monarchy is called for?
How are we not going to get involved in a mass revolt and, if our body allows it, are we not going to try to be in the front lines of the contest?
It is clear that the barricades, the flames, the hand to hand fight against the police ignite our libertarian imaginary and make our blood boil. In addition, we know well that it is from episodes of struggle of this kind that that are sometimes born subversive events that far exceed the initial motives and circumstances of the revolts.
So it goes without saying that I fully understand that parts of the anarchist movement have responded with energy to the appeal launched from the Catalan government and national/independence organizations to protest against the judicial condemnation of some members of the previous government and two leaders of national/independence organizations. Moreover, I understand that these affirm that they have not responded to these appeals but that they would have thrown themselves into the street on their own.
I understand all of this, but I find it hard to silence some of the doubts that assail me.
Should not that same anarchist heart that I alluded to before manifest some perplexity in seeing itself involved in a revolt encouraged by the highest levels of political power?
Should not that anarchist fibre feel somewhat uncomfortable due to the unmistakable nationalist resonances of the struggle in which it participates?
Perhaps that perplexity and that discomfort should lead to a small pause in the combative momentum, to find answers to some questions, because:
Will we agree (or not?) that Catalan institutions and national/independence organisations have been inciting for some time and repeatedly, to unleash a massive popular response as soon as the sentence was known?
Will we agree, (or not?) that this popular response, in addition to provoking the natural sympathy of those who fight against the system, forms an integral part of the long “process” elaborated to move towards the national independence of Catalonia?
Will we agree (or not?) that without the tireless performance of the institutions and their media, as well as the permanent mobilisation of national/independence organizations, that the response would hardly have reached the dimension that it has had?
Will we agree (or not?) that the reason that the protests and demonstrations are so massive is because hundreds of thousands of people, who are mostly deeply nationalists, come to them?
Of course, it is not about waiting for a revolt to present unmistakable anarchist hues to get involved in it. That would mean in practice the renunciation of all action. However, the lack of discernment in deciding which revolts to participate in, and with whom to fight, also annuls the eventual emancipatory efficacy of our actions. Which then equates them with the absence of action, or worse, burdens them as counterproductive actions. To get involved in popular struggles that are far from being anarchist, like those in Chile or in Ecuador, has justifications that power-backed struggles with nationalist resonances lack.
To demand the freedom of prisoners? Obviously! Of course! But without responding to the whistle of those who summon us to express that demand only when it comes to national/independentist prisoners. My doubts about responding to that type of call will vanish as soon as I see that those appeals are also launched to demand the freedom of other kinds of prisoners. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for me not to think that my repulsion towards prison is being instrumentalised in the service of values and objectives that are far from being what I defend as a libertarian.
As beautiful as the flames of barricades are and as outrageous as the police shots are, we should not let those flames prevent us from seeing the deceptive paths that they illuminate, nor let those shots prevent us from hearing the teachings provided by the long history of our emancipatory struggles.
Barcelona, October 2019