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The Myth of National Self Determination

Recent events in Catalonia demand a restatement of a basic socialist principle.

The word ‘we’ is one of the most powerful words, all the more so because its use often passes invisibly. Every time we speak of a ‘we’ we are also creating a ‘them’, an other, we are identifying ourselves as a group and placing others outside it. ‘We’ could be the people that live in our neighbourhood, it could be those with whom we share a common language or accent, or it could be those that go to the same clubs, pubs or places of worship as us. In daily life we can easily think of ourselves as belonging to a variety of different overlapping communities. But which of these groups is the most important? With whom are you most loyal? To which people do you belong? 

Power, Overt and Covert

The concept of power is an important but contested one. For socialists the question is an important as they are engaged in a process challenging and ultimately transforming the existing power relations of society. How power is defined determines what is examined and what our conclusions about it will be. This article looks at how some key contemporary writers have approached the problem.

The Heroic Tragedy: A Civil War Within a Civil War

The second part of our look back at the Spanish Civil War. Continued from last month.

The Spanish civil war is often simplistically described as a war of democracy versus fascism, or by Francoist historians as Catholicism versus Soviet Communism but this hides the real multiplicity of the underlying forces that fed into the conflict. Religion, regionalism, the agrarian question, rival claims to the monarchy, and class conflict all played a role in shaping the course of events.

The Heroic Tragedy: Civil War and Social Revolution in Spain

'Back the revolutionary general strike the very instant anyone [i.e. the military] revolts. We, the people of Catalonia, let us be on a war footing and ready to act. Be valiant. Arm yourselves and do battle. Long Live the CNT! Long Live Libertarian Communism! Launch the revolutionary general strike against fascism.' - CNT statement of 19 July 1936

Eighty years ago this summer, Spain saw an attempted military coup being temporarily defeated by ordinary people in many parts of the country. This was the beginning of what was to be a three year long civil war, resulting in half a million deaths, and followed by the four decade dictatorship of General Franco. This article will aim to describe some of the key features of the conflict, paying close attention to the ‘social revolution’ in Catalonia and Aragon which is of most relevance to socialists.

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