TODAY marks the first anniversary of the great October 1, 2017, independence referendum in Catalonia. What balance sheet can we make of the 1-O referendum and the events which have unfolded since in the Spanish state?

As I and my colleague Chris Bambery wrote in our recent book, Catalonia Reborn, 1-O represented far more than a struggle for self-determination in one corner of Spain. Rather, the Catalan popular revolution is only one aspect of a wider crisis of the ailing and spectacularly corrupt Spanish regime that succeeded the old Francoist dictatorship. When Franco died in 1975, his henchmen created only a semblance of democracy. It is a façade behind which the old Francoist oligarchy and its heirs literally stole much of the state’s financial assets for their personal use, while imposing a rigged constitution that gave them legal immunity from the crimes they committed during 40 years of dictatorship.

To this day the Spanish state maintains a paramilitary Civil Guard – housed in military-style barracks – to protect itself from its own people. Last year, on referendum day, this paramilitary elite were unleashed on unarmed civilians trying to vote at local schools and civic centres. On 1-O there was no threat to civil order other than from heavily-armoured Civil Guards smashing their way into polling stations and clubbing civilians – including the elderly – and firing tear gas rounds.

Some 844 people requested medical aid following this police riot. As an official observer on the day, I can vouch for the calm determination of those who voted – whether pro or anti-independence – and their unwillingness to be provoked.

To date, the Spanish government, Interior Ministry and judicial authorities have refused to entertain any public inquiry into the excess force used by the Civil Guard and National Police in last year’s referendum. On the contrary, this weekend saw a provocative public demonstration in Barcelona called by Spanish police unions to “honour” those Civil Guard officers who took part in the raids on the polling stations. To get the point, imagine if British police officers openly marched, say, to oppose a public inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster and praised their colleagues’ actions – supported by the British National Party.

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Since 1-O, the neo-Francoist deep state has done everything it can to avoid dialogue with the Catalans. Instead, it has used the maximum repression to politically decapitate the elected Catalan leadership. This month more than 20 Catalan politicians and civil representatives will stand trial charged with “rebellion”. The penalty could be 25 years in jail. Outrageously, those in the dock include Carme Forcadell, former Speaker of the Catalan parliament, whose alleged crime is allowing a debate on holding the 1-O referendum.

Hundreds more elected representatives and ordinary citizens are under indictment for so-called crimes relating to the independence referendums of 2014 and 2017, including flying the Catalan flag or rapping with lyrics deemed unwelcome by the state. If this scale of repression was happening in, say, Hungary, the European Commission would long since have intervened. But with Brexit looming, Brussels and Berlin prefer to turn a blind eye. Besides, Spanish publicly-owned banks owe a fortune to Germany, so don’t expect Mrs Merkel to do anything as long as Madrid siphons off taxes from Catalonia’s booming economy to repay Berlin.

Any genuine democrat realises that the obsession of the Spanish state with crushing Catalan's right to self-determination can only lead to permanent political crisis. Especially since events in the Basque region are heading in the same direction. For most of the period since Franco’s death, Basque politics was poisoned by the violent confrontation between the ETA terrorist organisation and Madrid. This left the Basque independence movement bitterly divided between its conservative and radical wings – a split that Madrid used for its own ends. In the run up to the Catalan 1-O referendum, Madrid offered extra cash to the conservative Basque regional government, to keep it from supporting the Catalans.

But with ETA gone, a tacit alliance is growing between the Catalans and Basques that could force a change in the Spanish constitution in favour of allowing a right to self-determination for both nations.

This existential threat may explain the absurd lengths to which the Spanish oligarchy is prepared to go to protect its interests. But repression is not working. For starters, the Catalan popular movement shows no sign of fatigue – over one million demonstrators turned out in Barcelona on September 11 to celebrate Catalan National Day and protest the continuing imprisonment of independence leaders.

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Secondly, the endemic corruption of the decaying Spanish state has at last caught up with the Popular Party (PP), the main political home of the former Francoists. In June, the PP government led by Mariano Rajoy collapsed following a major corruption trial, putting a minority Social Party administration into power, headed by Pedro Sanchez. This government depends on the votes of the Catalans and Basques. As a result, direct rule by Madrid in Catalonia has been lifted and a Catalan government restored under President Quim Torra. Sanchez remains opposed to Catalan independence but he has made noises regarding a liberal reform of the Spanish constitution. A dialogue is now theoretically possible provided the political prisoners are released.

However, Sanchez is playing a devious game. His Socialist government refuses to withdraw indictments against the imprisoned Catalan leaders, citing an unwillingness to interfere with the judicial process. More likely, Sanchez is unwilling risk accusations of pandering to the Catalans, lest he lose electoral support to the right-wing, unionist Ciutadans (Citizens) Party. Last month, the Socialist government launched its own legal bid to stop the Catalan government re-opening diplomatic offices in Europe, including the UK.

Meanwhile, Ciutadans is bidding to capture middle class Spanish voters fed up with the corruption of the neo-Francoist PP. In a bizarre twist, the party has nominated Manuel Valls – the former Socialist prime minister of France under president François Hollande – as its candidate for mayor of Barcelona in next year’s crucial local elections. By putting up Valls, Citadans hopes to attract anti-independence voters away from both Sanchez and the pro-Catalan parties. Unfortunately, the Catalan parties are split on who to field against Valls, which could hand Spanish unionists a propaganda victory.

For Scots and democrats everywhere, the fortitude and courage of the Catalan people in the face of constant repression is both extraordinary and humbling. As a result of this popular resistance, Catalan self-determination remains firmly on the cards – even if, as in Scotland, the process is proving more protracted and tactical than we might have wished. Nevertheless, serious cracks are now appearing in the edifice of the neo-Francoist state.

As for the next stage in the struggle, this month’s show trials must become the focus of a tremendous wave of international solidarity. The Catalan political prisoners believe they will be found guilty but are convinced an appeal to the European courts can free them eventually – just as European courts threw out the infamous extradition warrants issued by the Spanish state against ex-president Puigdemont and our own Clara Ponsatí.

But we can’t rely on that strategy alone. We must keep the Spanish Socialist government under intense international pressure to free the political prisoners – or grant them amnesty if convicted. Now is anybody listening in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party?