Sunday, December 23, 2012

Basque and Red: excerpts of Argala's thought

Some days ago I mentioned the anniversary of the execution of the fascist and Christian fundamentalist top leader Luis Carrero Blanco some 39 years ago. What I did not mention was that the mastermind behind that attack, Jose María Barañain Ordeñana, best known by his nickname Argala (Slim), was murdered by the Spanish secret services five years and one day later on December 21st of 1978, using very similar methods (bomb under the car) in a clear gesture of revenge. 

On the anniversary, the political debate blog Borroka Garaia da! (Is Time of Struggle!) published integrally a key document[es] to understand this man and his ideological and political legacy, which, on one side, reflects much of the collective feeling of the doubly oppressed Basque Working People and, on the other, has been so influential on the politics and ideological foundations of this nation as it is now, and very especially its sizable revolutionary fraction. 

After reading it I was tempted to translate it in full, so the people from around the World can understand better what is behind Basque struggle for emancipation, both national and socio-economically. But it is too long and my commitment too weak, so I will select some excerpts in the hope that they reflect the whole somewhat. 

The document is the introduction he wrote for the book by Jokin Apalategi Nationalisme et question nationale au Pays Basque, 1830-1976 (Nationalism and national question in the Basque Country, 1830-1976), published in 1977.

Banner with the image of Argala and a quote:
But neither ETA nor all KAS nor HB nor any political organization will
be able to solve the problems of the Basque Working Class. Only
the Basque Worker People itself can solve its own problems.



What I recall vividly is the impossibility to have any relation with my maternal grandmother. She barely spoke any Spanish and I did not know any Basque, so our conversations were never went beyond a brief exchange of unrelated words.  She had to die without us having ever a real conversation.


Since I have some reasoning --so to say-- I have been able to watch the exploitation of the working class, even without understanding it as such for long. I have seen workers ---my neighbors--- who after the working journey had to work after hours in the construction business of my father¹ or others, and all only in order to reach to survive along with their families: At about the age of seventeen I joined a Catholic organization known as Legion of Mary, one of whose goals was to dive in social misery to offer consolation to those who were forced to suffer it. Through my participation in it, I knew what I thought did not exist in our country, but I did not know the causes of that suffering I saw; what became gradually evident to me was that consolation does not remedy hunger nor illness. Only with the worker struggles that in the midst of the decade of the sixties happened in my area, and especially with the strike of Bandas and the repression unleashed under the subsequent "state of exception", and also with the reading of novels about worker priesthood I finally reached to the understanding of the social division in classes with opposed interests.


... I began to study Marxist theory. 

By that time we heard already rumors about a new patriotic and socialist organization that fought for the independence of the Basque Country, it was E.T.A. The Ikastolas² spawned all around and you could see young people singing in Basque language. The Basque question arose back to light and with all its problematic. Our people, almost annihilated, resurfaced and its awakening was also felt in Arrigorriaga³. Evening classes of Basque language for adults began and Basque speakers began losing their inferiority complex to show pride of speaking the Basque language. 

As result of both factors --study of Marxism and national Basque awakening--, I reached clear conscience of the existence of the Basque Country as differentiated nation, integrated by seven regions separated by the weapons of the oppressor French and Spanish states; of the division of society in classes confronted by irreconcilable interests; of the Basque Country itself not being any exception in this aspect. I understood what was the "evangelization of America" by the Spaniards and what were "the crusades", what were "the reds"⁴ and the "glorious national uprising"⁵; that it was not about the rich helping the poor, nor merely about the working class salaries being raised, but about socializing the means of production; that in order to reach social solidarity a cultural revolution is needed, and that, in order to achieve that, it is not enough with goodwill but that a transformation of the Capitalist mode of production currently dominant into another socialist one is necessary; that for such thing it is required that the working class gets the political power; that a State apparatus is not neutral and that this forces the working class to destroy the bourgeois State in order to create a new one of their own, that bourgeoisie resorts to weapons when they see their privileges threatened, what suggests that if the working class does not face the problem in similar terms, we will have to watch many massacres and very few revolutions.

Once begun this process of comprehension, that I hope to never dare to consider mature enough, I was offered entry in E.T.A., and I accepted.


... It was not the Francoist dictatorial State with its extreme centralism and imperialism the only reason of the existence of the independentist option, but alos the historical incomprehension demonstrated by the Spanish worker parties towards the Basque question. The independentist option was the political expression of national affirmation of the popular sectors with a national consciousness, which were expanding every day. The Basque People had the opportunity to check along the history that a socialist revolution at state level is not any automatic solution for their national oppression; that Spanish worker parties are too impregnated of the Spanish bourgeois nationalism. On the other hand, the achievement of independence demanded the defeat of the Spanish State at least in the Basque Country, that is: a true political revolution that could only be carried on by the popular layers under the direction of the working class, only one able to assume today in the Basque Country, with all consequences, the direction of a process of such dimensions. Precisely, this assumption of the Basque question by the working class is what has allowed the national awakening of the Basque Nation.

My later relationships, as representative of E.T.A., with representatives of diverse Spanish worker revolutionary parties, did only confirm this vision. Such parties did not understand the Basque question but like a problem, an inconvenient problem that should be made to vanish. I always felt that the unity of "Spain" was for them as sacred as for the Spanish bourgeoisie. They never came to understand that the national character of the class struggle in the Basque Country was a revolutionary factor; on the contrary, it was for them nothing but a discordant note in the Spanish revolutionary process that they hope to orchestrate.


... it is evident that the only viable economic solution for the continental Basque Country⁶ is its integration with the peninsular area, where it can find the capital and the technology it needs to stop being a mere touristic reserve and producer of workforce doomed to emigration.


But what is worker internationalism? Does being internationalist demand to the workers of a divided and oppressed nation to renege of their national rights to fraternize that way with those of the dominant nation? Not in my opinion. Worker internationalism means class solidarity, expressed in mutual support, among workers of the various nations, but respecting each other in their peculiar ways of national being. If the relationships between the Spanish and Basque patriotic worker forces have not been better, it is not because of the just demands of the latter but to the incomprehension and opportunist acting by the former towards the Basque national question. Does worker internationalism demand that the workers of the more politically advanced nation slow down their rhythm in order to walk hand by hand with those of the less developed ones? If that would be the case Humankind would still be stagnant⁷.


... The Spanish worker parties are not anymore the main enemy of the state because this role has been taken by the Basque patriotic worker forces, notably E.T.A.


Today, before the double solution ---Basque petty-bourgeois or Spanish socialist-- that was offered to the Basque People in the first third of century, a sector of the Basque working class is in condition of offering a third way: the Basque socialist revolution.

We must not deceive ourselves however: the success of this option is difficult. ...


Among the Spanish People we have found also true revolutionaries who were able to acknowledge the existence and rights of our people; but sadly very few of them. If the Spanish worker parties would have been like them, maybe today we who defend the independence of the Basque Country would have chosen a more unitary solution. In any case, the peoples walk towards their economic and political integration and workers must impel the international solidarity and unity as long as that does not force us to sacrifice our national personality.


The article at Borroka Garaia da! ends with a brief biography or Argala, which explains, among other details, that, upon his death, Arrigorriaga was taken by the Spanish military police (Guardia Civil) and that it was forbidden that the funeral procession entered the town. In response it was agreed by a popular assembly that everybody would stay locked at home except a small group of relatives and close acquaintances who would carry the coffin preceded by the ensign of KAS (the Patriotic Socialist Coordination, then the political platform of the Basque Nationalist Left).

Upon arrival to the town hall, with the Basque ensign at half staff with a black cloth on it in sign of mourning, three Spanish policemen saluted the coffin in respect.

Source and full text in Spanish: Borroka Garaia da!



¹ Earlier he talks in length of his father, of humble origins but who had luck with lottery and invested in construction business, what did not quell his worries because the Capitalist system is also implacable for small businesspeople. 

² Ikastola: lit. learning workshop, term used for Basque-only schools, originally private which began spreading in the 1960s. The more common Basque term for school is ikastetxe (lit. learning house). 

³ Arrigorriaga, small town near Bilbao where Argala lived all his childhood and early youth. 

Los rojos (the reds) was a term used continuously by the Spanish Fascist propaganda machinery to stigmatize all those who opposed their military coup and subsequent totalitarian regime. Being rojo back then meant that you would be socially stigmatized at the very least and that all evils that might befall on you, like being imprisoned and tortured, or even killed arbitrarily, or simply to lose your job... were morally deserved. 

Term used by the Fascist regime as pedantic apology of their coup

Iparralde (the North), the area under French control. 

Notice please that this was written in the context of the 1970s, when ample areas of the World had achieved what was then understood (by most Marxists at least) as a more advanced way of socio-economical organization, if not political.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please, be reasonably respectful when making comments. I do not tolerate in particular sexism, racism nor homophobia. The author reserves the right to delete any abusive comment.

Comment moderation before publishing is... ON