On March 29, Spanish citizen Cassandra Vera was given a one-year prison sentence by the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) for making Twitter jokes about Carrero Blanco, the head of government in one of the last stages of Franco’s dictatorship. Blanco was killed in 1973 in an attack carried out by Basque organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (E.T.A.; literally Basque Country and Freedom), the avowed goal of which was/is to remove the Basque Country from Spanish political control and set up a democratic Basque republic. The National Court is a vestige from the Francoist state which took over some of the responsibilities of the former discredited TOP (Tribunal de Orden Público). Cassandra Vera’s jokes translated to comments similar to “E.T.A. gave Carrero Blanco a free space ride!”
A photograph showing Spanish citizen Cassandra Vera on trial. She was given a prison sentence for Twitter jokes.
Vera planned to be a teacher, but now the prison sentence doesn’t allow her to become one. While her case is one of the few ones which gained much attention, in fact this is only one among many in recent times. The Spanish police systematically track social networks, and every year arrest many people for making certain jokes in Twitter, or certain comments which allegedly trivialize, joke about or supposedly support anything considered “terrorism” by the state, which usually ends up in a prison sentence. Artists are the target among others: in fact, Pablo Hasel, a rapper, recently noted on his blog that “15 rappers” have been tried in the Spanish National Court in just three months for writing songs. While we don’t agree with Hasel’s Stalinist politics, we position ourselves sharply against this attack on freedom of speech.
This crusade is entirely biased against anyone who the state considers left-wing. While almost nothing (or in fact nothing, since we actually haven’t heard of anything done against it) is done against systematical death threats, harassment, hate speech and support for fascism, dictatorship and genocide carried out by Spanish right-wing extremists on Twitter, a ostensible left-winger who makes a couple jokes about a controversial issue quickly is targeted by the state for the next prison sentence. Equally, nothing was done about vile transphobic hate and harrassment against Cassandra Vera on Twitter.
This crusade is not only anti-left, it is also anti-Basque. Cassandra Vera was given a prison sentence for supposedly “humiliating the victims of terrorism”. Recently, right-wing extremists have been spewing sick hate on Twitter humiliating a Basque person who recently died in an Islamist attack. So a Basque politician asked the Spanish government if it was going to do anything about that. Ludicrously but not surprisingly, the murderous Spanish government replied that it’s in fact well-aware of the hate going on against the Basque victim, but that it plans to do nothing against it and considers it to not be a crime. (naiz.eus, April 3)
The hateful Spanish government still considers that anything related to the Basque people can be labelled as “terroristic” (having, for example, shut down the only newspaper published in the Basque language, Egunkaria for allegedly supporting terrorism, the state admitting seven years later that there was no such support). Thus, anyone who even dares to say anything remotely controversial related to Basque history on a social network, for example, is immediately a target for a prison sentence.
Actually, the Spanish government has a history of supporting murderous death squads, such as the G.A.L. supported by the fake-“socialist” P.S.O.E. party. Even with the British government’s repression in Northern Ireland, the extreme of making Sinn Féin an illegal party, for example, did not occur. But the Spanish government illegalized several allegedly E.T.A.-linked parties (with much support in the population, e.g. Herri Batasuna, a major Basque party) and systematically represses anyone who allegedly supports it, a policy meant to curtail political discussion which would expose the Spanish State’s murderous role. In fact the Spanish government’s policies have inflicted cruelty on the population and obstructed the peace process. While we don’t agree with E.T.A.’s politics, nor endorse their methodology, nor consider them “socialist” as claimed by the group, we are against this mass-scale repression. In fact, the right-wing People’s Party (PP) and representatives of the government once tried to stop Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, one of the most played video games, from being sold in Spain, because it includes characters belonging to a fictional group allegedly resembling E.T.A.! (ABC.es, 14 Aug. 2012; elmundo.es 14 Aug. 2012)
The representatives of the Spanish bourgeois crusade against free speech also took issue with these allegedly “E.T.A.-like” characters in popular video game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and tried to stop the game’s distribution in Spain. The game is played by hundreds of thousands of players in the world per day, a number rising throughout the years.
While there is almost no support for E.T.A. among the Spanish population in general, the average citizen is well-acquainted with a general awareness of the ridiculous extents of this bourgeois witch hunt with a peculiar obsession. A common popular comment is “todo es E.T.A.” (literally, “everything is E.T.A.”), which highlights how the Spanish government considers everyone who says literally almost anything even remotely related to E.T.A. a target for political repression and a prison sentence. We’re sure that the reason the bourgeois state obstructed the peace process and blamed E.T.A., which showed willingness for it and unilaterally declare a peace in 2011, is that they liked having something to blame for every problem and distract popular attention. Note that other E.T.A. factions were on peace before this 2011 peace declared by its last active faction. This faction was unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a peace with the Spanish government for decades, with demands centering around the right of self-determination of the Basque Country, that is to say the right to hold a referendum on national independence.
In fact, E.T.A. is hardly the real issue at hand in this censorship campaign, but rather is frequently used as an excuse for mass censorship and surveillance. If bourgeois circles and their police apparatus start to dislike a certain individual, they can drag out some tweet mentioning “E.T.A.” from years ago in order to give a prison sentence.
The Spanish State of today is in general a reformed version of the former Francoist state, which has shielded many Francoist criminals, prevented scholars’ investigation of the Francoist era, continuously allows the display of Francoist symbols by certain local governments, and hardly does anything to restore justice to the many Francoist victims. The Francoist state killed about 500,000 persons in its horrible repression, not counting any victim of the Spanish Civil War, which was started by a right-wing extremist clique which Franco later took over. The goal of the war, which killed another 500,000 persons, in which Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy also participated on Franco’s side, was to overthrow the democratic Second Spanish Republic and establish a dictatorship, which successfully occurred. The Spanish monarchy and red-yellow-red flag was restored by Franco after being removed by the Republic, which is the reason of their continuation today, though the flag had some changes. When Felipe VI became the new King in 2014, the Spanish police thugs were given orders to arrest any demonstrator who displayed republican symbols on his coronation day. In fact, while carrying out all this censorship against people who allegedly view “terrorism” positively, the Spanish State gives hundreds of thousands of Euros through its public budget of government funding to the National Francisco Franco Foundation, the only goal of which is to promote Franco and his dictatorship.
But the Spanish State is no exception as far as human rights or democratic liberties are concerned. The bourgeois state, everywhere and at any time, has shown that it will violate all its supposed ideals in its persecution of any of its enemies. Only the working class can liberate the human race in general and put in place actual human freedom through socialist revolution organized by its revolutionary party.