Thursday, January 3, 2013

Basque Country: Batasuna announces its self-dissolution

In a press conference at Baiona, where it is still legal (France never formally banned the Basque nationalist party), Maite Goienetxe and Jean-Claude Agerre announced the self-dissolution of Batasuna, in line with other political self-dissolutions of (youth movement Segi, prisoners' solidarity movement Askatasuna) in order to adapt to the new open phase

Batasuna was news in the last months mostly for the persecution, arrest and extradition to Spain by the fast procedure of  "French citizen" Aurore Martin, who was recently released on bail enthusiastically donated by hundreds of Northern Basque citizens. However for years it was the main political reference of the Basque Nationalist Left and main target of the political repression unleashed by the Spanish occupation regime.

Sources: Kazeta[eu], Naiz Info[es].

Appendix: brief history of Basque Nationalist politics since 1975

At the death of dictator Francisco Franco there were essentially two Basque Nationalist forces: the Christian-Democrat Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV), whose Basque ideological name reads as Jeltzale (supporters of the J.E.L. principles, inherited from Carlism: God and the Old Law) and the Socialist Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA, Basque Country and Freedom), which had been active mostly in the military (guerrilla) aspect.

In 1976, ETA's VI assembly (denounced as illegitimate) caused a break up of the Basque Nationalist Left (senso lato) in two camps:
  • ETA-VI or "political-military", i.e. ETA(pm) and their political branch, the Party for the Basque Revolution (EIA), later recycled into Basque Country's Left: Euskadiko Ezkerra (EE). These proclaimed themselves internationalist to the exclusion of Basque nationalism and were rejected by most. A decade later they broke up in pieces and the official sector joined the Spanish socialdemocrats, while a dissident faction joined the Basque socialdemocrats (EA, see below). Part of ETA(pm) accepted a shameful unilateral surrender with unilateral repentance in exchange of release from prison, while the others joined ETA(m) and (arguably) led it through one of the bloodiest periods in its history.
  • ETA-V or "military", i.e. ETA(m), which was without doubt the main rallying force of Basque revolutionary nationalism for decades, around which orbited several parties and other organizations. These parties were:
    • HASI (People's Socialist Revolutionary Party): probably the strongest and more central force.
    • Basque Nationalist Action (EAE-ANV): the historical Basque Nationalist Left party, founded in 1930 (although with precedent in the Basque Republican Nationalist Party, b. 1911), important in the Republic but later weakened by the decades of fascist repression. 
    • LAIA (Worker Patriotic Revolutionaries' Party), part of which aligned with the Autonomous Anticapitalist Commandos, a smaller libertarian communist Basque guerrilla that was partly exterminated by the Spanish police in the massacre of Pasaia, 1984). 
    • ESB (Basque Socialist Assembly), which included famous linguist Txillardegi.

Basque Nationalist Action is the oldest Worker Basque party which is not a mere Spanish/French delegation

Herri Batasuna late logo
This majority camp organized politically in two parallel platforms:
  • Patriotic Socialist Coordination (KAS), which meant to dynamize and coordinate the popular revolutionary movement (labor unions, social movements, etc.)
  • People's Unity (Herri Batasuna, HB) which was an electoral coalition of the aforementioned parties and independent politicians (notably Telesforo Monzón). LAIA and ESB vanished soon but HASI and EAE-ANV continued in existence for some time (HASI was never formally inscribed and self-dissolved in 1992 in favor of KAS, EAE-ANV was only declared illegal by the Spaniards in 2008 and still exists out of legality, as far as I know.
Initially, HB did not concur to elections but later it began taking part, becoming immediately a major political reference in the Basque Country (instead EE was always a small party). For several reasons (harassing in Madrid, welcoming of the Spanish King in the Basque Autonomous Parliament), they soon began boycotting these institutions but did participate in the municipal and provincial (regional) ones. A second attempt to participate in the Spanish Parliament ended suddenly with the murder of Txomin Muguruza (attempt to murder all four MPs of HB) by Spanish death squads. 

In the center-right camp

C. Garaikoetxea
Meanwhile the Basque Nationalist Party, presenting itself as a "center" force, won most elections in the Western Basque Country (but not in Navarre, where Spanish Nationalist forces have wide support). Their first Lehendakari (President) was Carlos Garaikoetxea, a widely respected figure. However EAJ-PNV (whose leader, former priest Xabier Arzalluz, was not allowed to run because of the party's statutes, only now reformed) eventually made pacts with the Spanish Nationalist Right (PP), heirs of Fascism, exchanging support in Bilbao for support in Navarre.

This and other very questionable decisions split the party between a more radically nationalist (and vaguely left-leaning) faction lead by Garaikoetxea (who is Navarrese and was personally offended) and supported mostly by the Navarrese and Gipuzkoan sections (and some municipal sections too, notably Bermeo, Gasteiz...) and an opportunist quasi-regionalist right-leaning faction which retained the name under the leadership of the fiery verb (but not equally fiery action) of Arzalluz.

Creative Commons License
'Western Basque Electoral History v2' 1980-2012 by Maju
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

=== Erratum: 2013 should read 2012) ===

The resulting almost 50-50 split of the vote between EAJ-PNV and break-away Eusko Alkartasuna (EA, Basque Solidarity) is apparent in the graph above, column for 1986. In Navarre (not shown), EAJ-PNV simply vanished and EA took its place. In 1987 EA defined itself as "social-democrat" and soon absorbed the more coherent members of EE, who rejected absorption by the Spanish Unionist PSOE.

However in the following years EAJ-PNV (who retained the government with a number of coalitions, usually with EA, EE and the moderate Spanish Nationalist PSOE) recovered some of its losses, while EA suffered a sharp decline in sympathies soon after, probably because of disappointment of their support for the so-called Ajuriaenea Pact (an agreement of exclusion against the Nationalist Left and ETA) and pragmatic support for their former associates after all the mess.

Later EA would run together with EAJ-PNV (2001 and 2005) but that agreement only hurt them even more. After some changes in the leadership, and after one of their worse results ever, they became instrumental in the formation of the new Wide Front of the Basque Nationalist Left, successively named Bildu, Amaiur and EH Bildu (see below), which achieved record support from voters in 2012 (wrongly written as 2013 above). 

Back to the Left

Herri Batasuna grew in support until 1986 but the political harassment of the Ajurienea Pact gradually stigmatized them. Their support proved stubborn and solid but their growth was stopped.

However in 1998, a new project, Euskal Herritarrok (We The Basque People) aiming to include wide sections of the Basque Nationalist Left (senso lato, for example members of dissident Navarrese coalition Batzarre, as well as many other groups and individuals who had felt excluded by some of the military-style discipline around HB) managed to gather a record of support initially (more than 300,000 votes for the European Parliament, for example). However the initial enthusiasm was later quelled, possibly because ETA abandoned a year-long ceasefire that was not backed by any negotiator movement from the Spanish side at all (just like now). 

In parallel, HB transformed itself into a monolithic party: Batasuna (Unity) and some less bellicose sectors, notably from Navarre, formed first a current and then a distinct party known as Aralar (for an emblematic mountain and temple where they first met). 

While Aralar moved to become a new party, the Spanish Inquisition (Audiencia Nacional: special political tribunal of Fascist creation) banned Batasuna in 2003. In 2005 a last minute call for support to a totally unknown list: the Basque Regions' Communist Party (EHAK) managed to avoid legal banishment and gathered most of the historical Nationalist Left voter base. In 2009 there was no such chance and the Spanish Unionists "won" in rigged elections, ruling the Western Basque Country in unholy and controversial coalition for three years... until now.

In 2011 members of EA, Alternatiba (a breakaway faction of the all-Spain United Left) and independents, announced the formation of a new ample front coalition known as Bildu (Gather, Collect) which was soon perceived as having the support of the historical Basque Nationalist Left, then in process of forming a new party, Sortu (Create). 

After the municipal and provincial elections, Aralar acknowledged reality and joined them under a new provisional name Amaiur (for the last stand of Navarrese resistance in 1521). Later the same formations and individuals run together under the name EH Bildu (where EH is a common acronym for Euskal Herria: the Basque Country/Nation/People) to Western Basque Elections, achieving almost unprecedented best results.

Recently Sortu was successfully inscribed in the Spanish registry of political parties and approved by the Spanish Constitutional Court. However all these formations are under the Damocles sword of Spanish political caprice, who rule in our country as if it was their own. 

In the North

Filipe Bidart (IK)
The Northern Basque Country, under French control, has a quite different political dynamic. Even if Southern Basque parties have formed their delegations in the North, the main Nationalist party is Abertzaleen Batasuna (AB, Patriots' Union), which was born in the year 2000 and has been growing in electoral support ever since. However, as there are no Northern Basque specific institutions other than municipalities, the all-France parties still tend to dominate the poitical landscape, even if local politicians are almost invariably supporters of some sort of Basque autonomy, always rejected by Paris on whatever pretext.

Previously, while ETA did not operate in French territory, which attempted to use as refuge instead (for some time France was ambiguous about ETA and its political asylum laws were very favorable to political fighters be them Basque, Italian, etc.), a distinct armed guerrilla arose there: Iparretarrak (The Northerners), also known as IK. They self-dissolved in 2000. Their most famous leader was Filipe Bidart, who was captured in 1992 and set free in 2007 under condition of forced residence in Beziers (far from the Basque Country) until 2014.

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