Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, a history of repression

Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya has suffered fierce repression from the Spanish State during its 86-year history. A quarter of the 70,000 members of Esquerra during the 30s were imprisoned, shot or killed in the war. Esquerra had also to continue its struggle in exile, suffer the imprisonment of two governments and the execution of its president in 1940.

Thursday, November 2, 2017. Madrid. Approximately 6pm. The vice-president and part of the Catalan Government are sent to prison without bail after having testified at the National Court. The crime: having fulfilled the democratic mandates received in the elections of 27 September and the referendum of 1 October and having proclaimed the Republic of Catalonia. Among the prisoners are the president of Esquerra Republicana, Oriol Junqueras, and three other ministers from Esquerra: Carles Mundó, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa. In Brussels, ministers Toni Comín and Meritxell Serret, with the rest of the Government, led by President Carles Puigdemont, remain in exile.

Sadly, the Spanish State’s repression of the legitimate Government of Catalonia and Esquerra Republicana is nothing new. In fact, Esquerra is a party that has been punished and persecuted since its foundation 86 years ago. Imprisonments, repression, persecution, exile, outlawing and executions. The history of Esquerra is full of episodes of extreme repression from a state that has fought over time to maintain its privileges.

The history of Esquerra is full of episodes of extreme repression by a state that has long struggled with the same force to maintain its privileges

One of the first episodes of repression suffered by Esquerra was during the events of 6 October 1934, when the president of the Catalan Government, Lluís Companys, declared the Catalan State within the Federal Republic of Spain. In response, the Spanish government suspended the Catalan autonomy, condemned the Catalan government to 30 years' imprisonment and sent the government ministers to the Cartagena and Puerto de Santa Maria penitentiary centres. It was the beginning of a period of repression across Catalonia. In total, there were more than 7,000 political prisoners in Catalonia. In addition to the government, commander Enric Pérez Farràs, chief of the Mossos d'Esquadra, and Captain Frederic Escofet, (both remained loyal to the Catalan Government) were sentenced to death, but the Spanish president Niceto Alcalá-Zamora pardoned them, commuting the sentence to 30 years of imprisonment.

The instability of an authoritative Spanish government that was embroiled in various cases of corruption led to an electoral advance in February 1936. Esquerra Republicana led the Front Popular de Catalunya candidature that achieved an absolute majority with a program based on two strengths: amnesty for political prisoners and the restoration of the Autonomous Government of Catalonia. On 1 March, the Government went back triumphantly to Barcelona and Lluís Companys pronounced the famous phrase "We will fight again, we will suffer again, we will win again."

The second great wave of repression from the Spanish State began with the defeat of the republican side in the Civil War and the start of Franco's dictatorship. Some figures: it is estimated that a quarter of the 70,000 members of Esquerra at that time were imprisoned, shot or killed during this bloody war. And about half of these 70,000 people decided went into exile. More than 700 members of Esquerra were executed, including about 60 mayors -Josep Abril de Mataró; Antoni Arimon i Joan Brunat, from Parets del Vallès; Josep Maria Badia, from Berga; Celestí Boada, from Santa Coloma de Gramenet; Francesc Campà i Bernabé Llorens, from Sant Feliu de Guíxols; Ricard Farré, from l'Espluga de Francolí; Josep Fortuny, from Mollet del Vallès; Dídac Garrell, from Palamós; Lluís Mon, of Santa Coloma de Farners; Domènec Puigredon, from Cervera; Josep Rodríguez, from Tortosa; Vicent Soro, from Gandesa; Frederic Xifré, from Badalona ... - and the deputy Josep Fàbrega. At the beginning of the war, the president of Futbol Club Barcelona at that time, Josep Sunyol, who was also a member of Esquerra Republicana, was assassinated.

The most symbolic episode of this repression was the execution of the President of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, on October 15, 1940. In August, Companys, who had been detained by the German military police in France, where he was exiled, was handed over to the Franco regime. He was shot at Montjuïc castle after a highly questionable summary trial that lasted only two hours. He remains the only president of a democratically elected government - to date - to have been executed by fascists.

The most symbolic episode of this repression was the execution of the president of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, on October 15, 1940. The only president of a democratically elected government to have been executed by fascists

After the war, Esquerra Republicana quickly resumed its political activity inside the country, organising itself underground within the anti-Francoist struggle. However, repression continued. In the spring of 1946, a total of seventeen members of the party were detained throughout Catalonia, in a repressive operation that culminated with the fall of the party leadership in January 1947. It was not until 1952, followingHeribert Barrera’s return from exile, that Esquerra reappeared as a fundamental part of the anti-Francoist platforms.

Esquerra was also organised in exile. And despite the dictatorship and persecution that it suffered, it never ceased to be the hegemonic party of the Catalan progressive left in exile. The party was present in a dozen countries of the Catalan diaspora (France, UK, Belgium, Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina...) and maintained, through the presidents Lluís Companys, Josep Irla and Josep Tarradellas, the Generalitat's legitimacy in exile, the only institution of the Republican period recovered during the Spanish Transition.

We know that, before us, many other people resisted in order to allow us to be here. For them, the victory we crave nowadays, was impossible. Their victory was to resist and give us the opportunity to win
Oriol Junqueras President of Esquerra Republicana

The significance of Esquerra Republicana before, during and after Franco's regime is demonstrated by the fact that it was the last party to be legalised. For this reason, in 1977, the party took part in the constituent elections of 1977 under the acronym of the coalition «Esquerra de Catalunya».

Esquerra Republicana, like Catalonia, suffered defeats, repression and imprisonment but, in spite of everything, it has always raised from their ashes and continued working to defend their ideals and the country. Now, Esquerra Republicana represents again the hegemony and centrality as it did in the 1930s. And, despite the suffering of recent months, it has the opportunity to win the Catalan elections once again in order to restore the Catalan institutions before a State that turned its back on democracy. As the party's president, Oriol Junqueras, said during the National Congress of 2011, , it is the resistance of our predecessors has made our work possible: "We know that, before us, many other people resisted in order to allow us be here. For them, the victory we crave nowadays, was impossible. Their victory was to resist and give us the opportunity to win. We are the result of many defeats, but we are the seed of all victories," Junqueras decalred. victories," Junqueras sentenced.