Despite the very clear bourgeois-imperialist motives behind Catalonia’s independence, many of us in the diaspora and even in the Global South champion it as if it were revolutionary.
Granted, with words like “self-determination,” “independence” and even “decolonization” being thrown around by liberal mainstream media, the confusion is somewhat permissible. Pictures of police repression against voters and the authoritarian response of the Spanish government adds to this disorientation, provoking knee-jerk impulses of solidarity.
From a global lens, this struggle can hardly be equated to independence, self-determination or decolonization as it is understood by nations oppressed by the worldwide capitalist-imperialist system.
Nowhere has it been said or implied that Catalonia’s separation from Spain has an anti-capitalist or anti-imperialist motive. On the contrary, the principle basis for “independence” is that Catalonia, as one of Spain’s central economic hubs, gives more to the Spanish state than it gets back.
That is, Catalonia wants to keep a larger share of its capitalist profits to be distributed among its elites and perhaps trickled down to its population as a whole. This position not only breaks with the Marxist understanding of national struggles, which should be class-based in favor of workers. It also breaks with an anti-imperialist and internationalist view of the world.
For those of us of Latin American descent, supporting Catalan “independence” becomes even more conflicting when we view it through a historical lens. Like all of Spain, the wealth that helped catapult Catalonia into a modern and developed region was created in large part thanks to the colonial invasion of Latin America and the subsequent enslavement of its people as well as the looting of its natural resources.
This parasitic relationship to the Global South did not end centuries ago either. Today, Catalonia is very much still involved in exploiting people and resources far from its own regional boundaries. The region alone makes up 20 percent of Spain’s GDP, undoubtedly using multinational companies and unfair international relations with oppressed nations for its economic sustainability. Not to mention it is also part of the European Union, the second biggest imperialist economy after the United States, and wishes to continue to be part of the European Union after gaining independence.
MANGO, a Catalonia-based clothing multinational, was one of 29 Western companies that sourced its products from the eight-story factory in Bangladesh, Rana Plaza, which collapsed in 2013. It was also among several companies that refused to compensate the relatives of those who died.
Indeed, it would be absurd to directly blame all Catalans for the vile mode of operation and attitude of one company. Nevertheless, like most citizens of the capitalist core, they do end up benefiting from imperialist economic parasitism in one form or another. Be it through jobs, affordable clothing or through the taxes that these companies give to their governments for public services and social subsidies.
All evidence points to a movement that wishes to benefit and make part of the global capitalist order, rather than break with it. From the corporate and political elites that govern the region, to the working classes who are yet to pronounce themselves in regards to their international position.
When the most exploited layers of Catalan society and the most oppressed sectors of Western Europe denounce global capitalism and its imperialist tentacles, the working classes and the exploited masses of the Global South will be there to support their cause.
Until then, they are at one with the enemy and deserve not an inch of solidarity.