By Ian Richardson
The attempt of the Catalan independence movement to hold a referendum has been met with brutal state repression. The Madrid government used Guardia Civil forces from outside the region to block voters and attack them, seize ballot boxes and smash up polling stations. TV footage of unarmed protesters and voters being brutally assaulted have now been seen worldwide, despite the ludicrous denials of ministers in Madrid and their spokespersons.
The argument that the referendum was illegal is irrelevant. Clearly a large part of the Catalan population wanted to express its view on independence. The police brutality follows from an attempt to criminalise a large section of the popular masses.
In the event, the referendum organisers claim 2.2 million people voted, with 90 per cent in favour. This is broadly similar to the 2.2 million votes in favour of independence registered in a referendum in November 2014, especially when the forcibly closed polling stations are taken into account. This compares to 5.3 million registered voters. In the intervening period, opinion polls conducted for the Catalan government have generally showed a majority against independence.
This could change after the show of force by Madrid and the huge general strike since. But for now, it is unclear whether there is actually a majority for independence.
Even so the people of Catalonia have a right to self-determination, including secession. These are fundamental rights. The suppression of the Spanish state should be roundly condemned. This has been the approach of Jeremy Corbyn, in contrast to the Tories and the reactionary parties throughout Europe. There must be no violence used to suppress of democratic rights.