Adopted by the Conference on 4th November 2017
This year is the 100th anniversary of the socialist revolution in Russia. One of the first things that this new socialist government in Russia did was to proclaim the right of nations to self determination. Shortly later the same principle was advanced by President Wilson of the USA. This principle has had a lasting impact on world history.
Sixteen of the states now making up the EU: Bulgaria,Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia had their origins in acts of self determination by which they won independence from larger states.
It is thus an act of utter hypocrisy for the EU to refuse to recognise the act of self determination by the people of Catalonia on the grounds that the vote was illegal under Spanish law. If the laws of once dominant states like Turkey, Austria, Britain, or Russia had been the sole consideration, most EU states would not exist. The principle of self determination holds that it is the wishes of the populations of the seceding territories that must ultimately be the deciding factor.
Although socialists support the right to self determination, we do not claim that secession is always socially progressive or in the interests of the working classes of the countries concerned. In some instances, for instances the breakups of Yugoslavia or the USSR, it has been catastrophic. But any attempt to prevent secessions that have broad popular support can only lead, at the very least to a heightening of national antagonisms and in the worst cases to the horrors of civil wars.
When we say that all socialists have a duty to defend the right of Catalonia to become independent following its recent referendum, we do not imply an endorsement of the economic and social policies of the Catalan government. Still less are we claiming that it will lead to a socialist Catalonia. But even among capitalist states, a democratic republic is to be prefered to monarchy, and socialists, as consistent defenders of democracy, must uphold the result of the popular vote.
Spanish nationalists argue that opinion polls show that only a minority support independence, but those polls pre-dated the repressive measures taken by the Government of Spain against the proposed referendum, which repression appears to have polarised opinion in favour of independence. Moreover, polls are no substitute for actual votes, or there would be no need for a right to vote. The polls were wrong about the UK referendum to leave the EU but the result of the vote is not contested on those grounds. The democratic legitimacy of the referendum that rejected independence in Scotland is not questioned. In the Catalan case, a considerably higher portion of the total electorate seem to have voted YES, than had voted NO in Scotland**. If the Scottish NO vote stands, so should the Catalan YES vote.
On this basis the case for secession is democratically uncontroversial. Opposition to the recognition of the result of the vote is an opposition to democracy itself.
*** Analysis of the two votes
votes counted 2,221,585
Votes confiscated 750000
Total cast 2,971,585
Yes share of total counted 92.01%
Likely total yes vote 2734098
Likely Yes as % of electorate 51.46%
Votes cast and counted 3,619,915
No as % of electorate 46.78%
It is assumed that the yes share of the confiscated votes would have been the same as the yes share of the counted votes, since there is no reason to suspect that the police preferentially confiscated no votes.