The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

More Divisions in Europe

Nov 13, 2017

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

As in Catalonia, other regions of Europe have political currents pushing for greater autonomy or even independence. From Scotland, to Belgium, to Italy, these currents have seen important electoral successes. While there are many differences among these different situations, these movements express a common demand: to have control over their regions’ financial resources and hand over as little as possible to the central government.

Catalonia is the richest region in Spain and pays more in taxes than it receives. A big part of the push for independence is the idea that Catalonia shouldn’t pay for the rest of Spain and that the population would benefit if its resources were controlled by a local power.

The heads of Lombardy and Venezia, two of the richest regions in Italy, initiated a referendum for October 22 which had just one question: “Venetian money must stay in Venezia,” as the governor of the region declared. The governors of these two regions are leaders of the League of the North, an anti-immigrant party that has in the past declared its objective to be the independence of the “Padanie,” the region of the plain of the Po river, in the north of the peninsula. While it has today abandoned this demand because this clique of politicians has designs on the central power, it maintains its regionalist demagogy since this is what provided it an electorate.

In Scotland, a new referendum on independence has been proposed for 2019 after the defeat of the last one in September, 2014. This may even be delayed further, but in the meantime the Scottish Nationalist Party has been in power since 2007 and its leaders have acted just like other bourgeois politicians, with the same sorts of cronyism and the same policies to defend the interests of the capitalists, whether Scottish or not.

Whether they demand independence or just greater autonomy, these movements don’t fight national or cultural oppression. They express the aspirations of powerful people and of the bourgeoisie large and small to profit from their local resources without having to share them with the ruling class of the rest of the country. This desire has grown as the economic crisis and austerity policies have exacerbated the fights among different groups for their share of the spoils. At the same time, defending regional egoism against poorer regions provides a political wedge to build an electoral base among the middle class and workers.

The workers have no interest in these autonomist or nationalist demands, or in the social demagogy which goes along with them. They have nothing to gain from breaking up the countries where they live, nor from creating new borders that will not protect them from exploitation but which will isolate them a bit more from the workers in the neighboring countries. Nationalism can only divide the workers and set them against each other.

Just the opposite: the workers’ struggle must be international. To reprise Marx’s formula: “the workers have no country, they have nothing to lose but their chains.” Whatever their origins or nationality, they have the same interests to defend and a common fight to wage in order to defend those interests and ultimately to create a world free from borders and exploitation.