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Defense Committees in the Catalan Uprising: anarchist style People Power can Win
Activists around Europe are buzzing with the arrival of a new revolutionary force. The Catalan CDRs.. the Republic Defence Committees, characterized by direct, decentralized assembly action. Anarchist organisations except for their aim for a new StateIn just a few weeks over 172 CDRs have sprung up. This is in response to the neo fascist paramilitary repression, jailings and abolition of limited local government. CDRs,, for example in Manresa have called demonstrations up to 5,000 strong a few days after being formed.
The Defence Committees can be traced back to those created by the CNT in the Spanish Revolution to defend the 2nd Republic from a fascist takeover, which morphed into the revolutionary militias. This time round the CDRs have largely been inspired by the small but influential CUP, a remarkable ‘anarcho-republican’ anti capitalist party.
And then there was the 2nd General Strike on Wed 8th Nov. It was billed as a big flop, called by the tiny CSC, opposed or ignored by all the Trade Unions and faced with massive paramilitary police repression and a pending banning order. Just days before the Madrid based regime had sponsored fleets of coaches and even trains to bring in thousands of violent right wing ‘demonstrators’, for a huge demo openly led by thugs sporting swastikas, zieg heils and Francoist symbols.
Nevertheless before 6.00am on 8th Nov. thousands of people were blocking the main North -South A7 Motorway from France and Spain in the freezing winter night. Northbound the motorway was closed for over 13 hours at the La Jonquera French border. Southbound it was still closed at 9.00 pm at Ampolla.
The 2nd General Strike couldn’t close down industry, but tens of thousands of people came pouring out of the barrios, where there is 40% youth unemployment. As in 1936, they blocked all the roads, and on this occasion practically stopped capitalism moving.
The main Republican organisations, ANC and Omnium did support the strike, but it was the eruption on the scene of the CDR’s, with the schools and Uni’s closed down, that snowballed the resistance. The police were left powerless unless they got orders to just shoot the ‘pacifist’ demonstrators.
The CDRs began to take shape in the weeks before October 1, although much more intensely after the intervention of the Civil Guard at the Ministry of Economy on September 20. They emerge in an absolutely decentralized way, from the meeting, more or less orchestrated depending on each territory, between neighbors who did not always have previous experiences of political activism.
The police have a huge problem containing leaderless assembly based CDRs which spring up overnight, radicalising a new generation of youth. On the other hand, when the danger has passed they can disappear, like the 15-M, or rather evolve into new forms.
In the secret 4 day general assembly of the newborn CDRs in Manlleu on Nov 4th a total of 172 were confirmed and the anti hierarchical structure of the organisation decided. “Defending the Republic in a peaceful, but forceful way”.
Although they seem by definition nationalist and statist all the CDRs are different, and some, like Comité Defensa Raval in Barcelona are anarchist antifascist networks based on community defence rather than republicanism.
The way of CDR organising opposes control by leaders and factions and bans Party recruitment, following the forms of the ’15M Take The Squares’ Movement, which went worldwide and evolved into myriad forms, including the Occupy movement which still inspires so many.
The CDR began to take shape in the weeks before October 1, although much more intensely after the intervention of the Civil Guard at the Ministry of Economy on September 20.
“Sincerely, the response from the people on October 1 surprised us a lot, that powerful mobilization has allowed us to continue channeling, as a CDR, all that will of political participation that citizens have,” says Emma Rojas, spokesperson for one of the committees. of Manresa.
Spontaneity is the key
The “political intensity” of recent weeks is something that everyone agrees on. Once the unilateral referendum had been held and won, “the structure of the CDR went from spontaneity to greater formalization”, explains Alba Cano, spokesman for the CDR of the Cap-pont neighborhood of Lleida.
Assemblies are open to everyone, but now each committee has one or more spokespeople, who rotate from time to time, the one that marks the same assembly; its managers of social networks -Twitter, Whatsapp and Telegram are its usual channels-, and its coordinators. The levels in which the latter operate are the neighborhood, the city, the territory, which includes different regions, and the national coordinator, established on the 4th day of the Manlleu assembly.
Over 1000 people were injured when the Spanish police unsuccessfully attacked the Referendum on Oct 1st.
“Our role now must be to work so that people do not miss the intensity with which the Spanish State is repressing us, and through our actions we must avoid normalizing that we have eight councillors and the two Jordis’ in prison, “says Rojas. “We can not stay in the symbolism of yellow stripes, we must go further,” the spokesman in Lleida agrees, where last Sunday 5,000 people took to the streets for “the freedom of the prisoners.”
Other actions are the repeated roadblocks carried out throughout the territory during the past weeks In the one of this Monday in inner Ring Road of Barcelona we met Jordi , a young person who came for the first time with the CDR of his district, Vallcarca. “I’m not happy with the hierarchy from top to bottom that some want to impose,” he explains.
María, retired and participating in the Gràcia CDR, also participated in the same blockade. “We are living a Catalan style 15-M,” she says.