Spanish state tightens the noose

The authoritarian Spanish state has dramatically stepped up its repression of Catalan separatists involved in the independence referendum held in the region in October 2017. The third attempt to swear in a president of the Catalan parliament has failed and the candidate has been jailed; the Spanish state is blocking any political way forward as it continues its control of the region, under Article 155 of the Constitution; more politicians have been jailed or persecuted, and those protesting on the streets of Catalonia against repressive rule from Madrid have been met with sustained police brutality. In part, the right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy hopes to divert attention away from mass mobilisations in Spanish cities against austerity, corruption and racism, coupled with Rajoy’s own struggle to get his Budget passed in parliament. Juanjo Rivas and Cat Wiener report.


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Spanish state punishes communist rappers for ‘insulting the crown’

pablo hasel1

In a chilling attack on free speech and dissent, the Spanish state has brought criminal proceedings against two rappers for their political messages in songs and social media posts. Josep Miquel Arenas Beltran, known by his artistic name Valtònyc, and Pablo Rivadulla i Duró, known as Pablo Hasél, are the two young communists accused.

Valtònyc is a communist and rapper from Mallorca who supports Catalan independence. On 22 February 2017 he was condemned to three and a half years in prison for ‘praising terrorism’ and ‘insulting the crown’. On 20 February 2018 Spain’s Supreme Court ratified the sentence. This is the first time an artist has been imprisoned simply for his lyrics since fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975. Valtònyc is challenging the verdict and taking it to the European Court of Human Rights.

Pablo Hasél is a Catalan communist rapper. He stands accused of committing similar crimes to those of Valtònyc: ‘glorifying terrorism’ and insulting and slandering the crown and state institutions. Although he is yet to be sentenced, Hasél has been tried in Spanish national courts before. In 2011 he was accused of ‘praising terrorism’. In 2014 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and in 2015 the Supreme Court ratified the decision. The tribunal claimed that Hasél’s songs implied ‘hate speech and exceeded the limits of freedom of speech and of artistic creation’. He didn’t go to prison but he was forced to sign in at a police station every fortnight for two years.

The trials of the two communists have taken place at a time when the Spanish state has resorted to brutal repression against the Catalan independence movement. Four separatist leaders are in prison while others remain in exile under threat of arrest.

Draconian punishments have been used against other left-wingers who have dared to speak out. The lead singer of the music band KOP, Juan Ramón Rodríguez i Fernández, also known as Juanra, was arrested in 2000 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to be extradited to Spain and imprisoned for six years. He was accused of collaborating with the Basque national liberation armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). However, it is only now that words in songs and Twitter posts have been criminalised.

In March 2017, university student Cassandra Vera was condemned for 13 jokes on Twitter about the ETA attack that killed Luis Carrero Blanco, fascist dictator Franco’s would-be successor. Cassandra was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and banned from working for seven years as a civil servant. Fortunately, Spain’s Supreme Court absolved Vera, finding the sentence to be absurd.

The Spanish state uses the threat of excessive punishment as an effective repressive tool, intimidating critics to stay quiet. Many on the left in Spain have published social media posts in the past celebrating the anniversary of the death of fascist leader Carrero Blanco, but lately they are more careful. In fact, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter now censor their own users when such jokes are made.

Neither Valtònyc nor Pablo Hasél have retracted their words or ideas. Instead, they have both made a political defence of their right to free speech. Both rappers have continued to be active on stages and fighting in everyday struggles on the streets. Revolutionary communists will not be intimidated by the Spanish state.

Free all political prisoners! ¡Salud y República!


Spain: an oligarchic state challenged by the people’s will

The pro-independence parties won an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament on 21 December 2017
The pro-independence parties won an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament on 21 December 2017

On 21 December 2017, Catalan people voted in a regional election forced upon them by the Spanish state following the independence referendum in October. But this latest attempt by Spain to undermine the pro-independence movement backfired: nationalist parties again obtained an absolute majority and the Spanish government is now using its entire means to prevent the Catalan government from being effectively formed. Spanish president Mariano Rajoy has tightened state control over Catalonia and made it impossible for the Catalan president to return from exile to be sworn in. As we go to press it remains uncertain whether and how the investiture of Carles Puigdemont will take place. The crisis expresses the authoritarian rule of the Spanish establishment, which is willing to invalidate social and political rights as soon as they threaten the legal and political framework set up in the post-Franco era. Juanjo Rivas reports from Madrid.


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Catalonia and the fight against the Spanish state

catalonia protest

The Catalan referendum on 1 October 2017, with a 90.1% vote in favour of independence, has accelerated a crisis for the Spanish state that has been a long time brewing. The repressive and autocratic response of the right-wing government of Mariano Rajoy has exposed its Francoist leanings; in doing so it can only strengthen those sections of the independence movement which identify their struggle not with purely nationalist aspirations but with an unrelenting struggle against the brutality, austerity measures and corruption of the Spanish state. The 21 December regional election imposed on Catalonia by the Rajoy government will be a litmus test for that emerging movement. Juanjo Rivas and Cat Wiener report.

Catalan referendum, Spanish repression

The run-up to the referendum and the day of the ballot itself were marked by the extreme violence of the Spanish national police drafted into Catalonia in an attempt to prevent the vote going ahead. Hundreds of people were battered by police batons and rubber bullets, many dragged bleeding out of polling stations. Ballot boxes were seized and those suspected of facilitating the vote arrested. But across the region, people mobilised in their thousands to defend the polling stations – mostly local schools – and resist the police onslaught. The days that followed saw mass mobilisations and strikes in support of independence and against police brutality. The Spanish King Felipe added his reactionary support for state repression in a menacing televised broadcast in which, with the arrogance of a true Bourbon, he condemned Catalan nationalists for their ‘inadmissible disloyalty’ and called on the governing party to ‘restore constitutional order’. Meanwhile, those supporting a ‘unified Spain’ also came out on the streets in Barcelona and in the capital Madrid, some sporting the fascist insignia and flags of the Franco era.


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Catalan referendum: Spanish state flexes its Francoist muscle

Spanish state police have launched widespread attacks on the Catalan people’s attempts to hold an independence referendum. Hundreds have been injured in police attacks. The vote, ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court, asks Catalans if they want to start the process of building a republic, independent of the Spanish state. The people have faced massive repression by the Spanish government, which includes financial intervention, arrests of members of the Catalan government, raids to seize voting material and mass deployment of armed police. Far from seeking dialogue and political negotiation, the government of Mariano Rajoy has stepped up authoritarian measures which echo those of Franco’s dictatorship. JUANJO RIVAS reports from Madrid.


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