By Andy Bowden
October 21, 2011 -- Scottish Socialist Youth -- Amid the worldwide media coverage of Gaddafi’s death, a historic
development in another conflict went largely unnoticed -- after more than 40
years of a military campaign against the Spanish state, the Basque
armed group ETA announced a permanent end to its use of violence in
the struggle for an independent and socialist Basque state. This
follows previous announcements from the group, declaring a
desire to pursue Basque independence through peaceful measures.
Naturally the Spanish PM has spoke of ETA’s declaration as a victory
over terror and a rebuke to radical Basque nationalists. In reality,
the use of shootings and bombings by a group the size of ETA is unable
to bring independence to the Basque country, and skews the coverage of
the conflict as one between the Spanish state and a small armed
organisation. This totally ignores the strength of the Basque radical
pro-independence movement, and acts in the interests of the Spanish
state by making the dispute about a conflict against terrorism that the
Basques cannot win by military means.
The position of the Basque independence left is an untold success story of the socialist movement in Europe. In almost every town and city,
the left pro-independence movement -- known as the Abertzale or
patriotic left -- controls youth centres, pubs and social clubs. These
community facilities are considered such a threat to the Spanish state
that one of them was recently demolished,
despite public opposition. The Basque left can also wield a significant
section of the popular vote in the Basque country -- almost certainly
larger than anywhere else for the socialist left in Europe.
In the recent municipal elections in the Spanish State, the Basque left party Bildu took 25% of the vote
-- the largest ever vote recieved by the pro-independence left, which
historically takes between 10% and 20%. This makes Bildu the opposition
party in the Basque country, to the pro-independence moderate
PNV party, which took 30% of the vote. This combined vote shows there is a
solid majority in favour of independence for the Basque country.
The vote for the pro-independence left was even more impressive giving the Spanish State had tried to ban Bildu from standing -- claiming that it was a front for ETA and Batasuna,
a radical Basque party the Spanish state previously banned that took
between 15 and 20%. This ban was ridiculous considering that Bildu declared it did not support ETA attacks to bring about independence, and that ETA itself had declared its intention to end its campaign.
Despite ETA’s repeated attempts to engage with the Spanish State in a
peace process, both the right-wing Popular Party and the New
Labouresque Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) refused to enter into any
meaningful negotiation to end the conflict. Unreported from the majority
of the world’s media is the ongoing political repression in the Basque Country -- in which political parties like Batasuna were banned, Basque newspapers were shut down, prisoners are tortured, youth organisations prohibited and radical Basque politicians jailed for insulting the monarchy.
This repression hasn’t all come from the right wing of Spanish politics
either -- it was the “Socialist” Workers Party that set up death squads
to assassinate and torture ETA members and Basque radical politicans,
with the authorisation and support of government ministers.
The Spanish state refuses to enter a peace process because it knows
what the result inevitably will be -- almost every single election since
the overthrow of Franco in Spain has produced a majority nationalist
administration in the Basque autonomous region. Spain has refused any
discussion on Independence for the Basque Country -- with the Spanish parliament vetoing even unofficial referendums on the Basque Country’s future, fearing the inevitable yes vote for Independence.
The modern Spanish state never really decisively broke with its
fascist past -- there were no trials or truth and reconciliation
commissions for those who tortured and murdered leftists, trade
unionists and Basque and Catalan nationalists under Franco. Instead an
agreement was struck between the conservative and centre-left parties
not to pursue justice for these people, and to enshrine in the Spanish
constitution the illegality of any form of independence for nations that
are currently part of the Spanish State. The so-called democratic
post-Franco constitution made it illegal for the Basque Country to
become independent without the approval of the central Spanish government. It was for this reason that the majority of Basque voters
abstained and voted against accepting this new constitution -- and why
despite the overthrow of Franco, ETA continued an armed campaign.
Basque political prisoners are dispersed. This poster demands their return.
Now it’s become clear the Basque independence movement has stronger
weapons in its arsenal than bombs or bullets, weapons the Spanish state
cannot easily quash. With the support of a third of the population, and
dozens of community facilities across the Basque Country the
pro-Independence left is ready to wage a war of the people against the
SSY was proud to have hosted a group of Basque Abertzale youth at our camp last year.
One of the motivations they had in coming to Scotland was to observe
the possible referendum on independence here. Unfortunately, we never
got a chance to vote for independence in 2010 because the unionist
parties blocked it. However as you’ve probably noticed, the recent Scottisn Nationalist Party
landslide means there will be a definite referendum in the next four years.
This isn’t just important for Scotland -- it’s a message to the Spanish
State and the Basque people as well. If Scots are allowed to vote in a
free vote on our future, without being blocked by theBritish government, tortured, shot by death squads, having our political parties
banned, our newspapers closed down, community centres demolished -- why
shouldn’t the Basque Country have that choice as well?