Representatives of ETA, the armed wing of the Basque independence movement, yesterday issued a permanent ceasefire annoucement. This represents a clear message, calling an end to the movement’s decades-long armed struggle. Today’s pledge follows on from September’s commitment to pursuing independence through non-violent means, as blogged about by Jack.
Incredibly, the response of the Spanish state has been to dismiss the ceasefire announcement… AGAIN. You would think they’d be encouraging the Basque national liberation movement to put down the guns, but no, they’ve simply said it doesn’t count as “an irreversible end to violence”, while talking trash about ETA being “arrogant”.
The national liberation movement has made a big effort in recent years to take account of the current political situation and new events in other oppressed nations. In particular, they have closely studied what has been going on in Ireland, with the IRA decommissioning weapons and Sinn Fein now forming part of the coalition government at Stormont. The ETA leadership has said the process will be open to mediation by other countries — they are happy to be scrutinised, as they are sincere in wanting a democratic solution. However, this suggestion was rebuffed by Spain’s deputy prime minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. He took a bold/ludicrous stand: “There is no way we are going to allow someone to place conditions on peace or impose the intervention of international mediators.” This is daft, as any meaningful peace process will naturally involve neutral arbitrators.
DEMO IN BILBAO
Here is the point where Spain’s ‘democratic’ mask starts to slip. Despite their ‘anti-terrorist’ rhetoric, the Spanish state is still committed to a campaign of state terror against the pro-independence Left, with over 400 Basque political prisoners having been arrested in recent months. The Spanish government is pursuing a policy Franco would have been proud of — they don’t want a peaceful solution; they want total victory, with the Basque claim to self-determination airbrushed from history.
Despite Spain’s intransigence, the streets of Euskal Herria have recently witnessed some of the biggest solidarity demonstrations in living memory, e.g. 64,000 marching in Bilbao last Saturday, in support of the jailed comrades. Such events must have the authorities in Madrid shaken, as it shows the potential for a peaceful revolution in favour of independence. The ETA leadership deserve credit for recognising the need for mass struggle rather than vanguardism.
As with the Provo struggle in the North of Ireland, there has recently been a sense that small paramilitary groups had become ineffective, if indeed they were ever a viable means of achieving national liberation. I hope that the comrades can maintain a meaningful commitment to socialist revolution — the experience in the North of Ireland has left a bitter taste in the mouth, with the old radical McGuinness heading up a neoliberal regime based on a sectarian division of power, with Irish reunification no closer to becoming reality.
This situation is different as it is not about coming to some kind of power-sharing arrangement. There is still a clear demarcation between the stateless nation and the oppressor. ETA ending the armed struggle helps to boost the general struggle for freedom, with key demands which should be supported internationally. Firstly, the ban on Batasuna and associated political parties must be lifted — the Basque people must be allowed to vote for who they want to. Secondly, the Basque nation should be allowed the freedom to control its own destiny; there is now a new opportunity for a debate on what type of country the people want. Ultimately, the right of the Basques to declare an independent state if (they choose to do so) must be made explicit and protected.
The constitution of the Spanish state currently forbids any ‘region’ from declaring independence. This makes Spain a prisonhouse of nationalities. And historically they’ve never hesitated to use violence to back up what they say: stories of extraordinary rendition, torture and assassination are sadly not uncommon amond Basque activists. Information of such state crimes does not often reach us – Spain is an ally of the UK and in the past few were able to break through the imposed media blackout.
What the ‘Socialist’ government in Madrid (effectively the Spanish version of New Labour) do not understand is the erosion of the basis for their methods of ruling. The internet means that we are now able to see and hear about what is really going on. A resurgence in awareness of the Basque situation will take place, in fact it has already started. With the excuse of ‘combatting terrorism’ gone, Spain will have to recognise the Basques’ right to self-determination or be damned.
It is now the duty of all socialists, progressives and democrats, in Europe and around the world, to support the movement in Euskal Herria and help make sure that justice triumphs.