The article below is from Neues Deutschland. Clunky translation is my own.
For months the popular base of the Basque party Batasuna, banned by the Spanish state, has been debating a new direction for the Basque left. Following debates in many villages, small towns and urban neighbourhoods, 600 delegate at four regional assemblies approved the document “Zutik Euskal Herria” (Basque Country Stand Up).
Batasuna is mapping out a new path. The conclusion of the party base’s process of self-critical discussion has made that clear. The goal is, “to create a democratic framework in which all political projects, including that of the independence movement, can be realised.” But the pursuit of an independent, unified and socialist Euskadi is to be pursued “exclusively by political and democratic means”.
This is not simply a tactical ceasefire by ETA, but a new strategic turn. The underground organisation’s armed struggle is being rejected by way of a critical analysis of developments in recent years, even if there is no explicit condemnation of ETA. For the majority of the Basque left it is clear that armed actions hinder rather than help their activism.
There is also a recognition of the growing strength of the independence movement in Catalunya, where there is no active armed group. Therefore the strategy of the Basque left will now be based exclusively on “accumulating stronger forces and mobilising the population in order to bring the confrontation onto the political level”. This is where the Spanish and French states are seen to be weak. Therefore civil society is explicitly recognised as the motor of change.
The entire independence movement must create the conditions for these initiatives to develop. There is an appeal to ETA, which supports the process in its fundamentals and has not carried out an attack for months. “Only the struggle of the broad masses, in the institutions and on the ideological level” can “lead to a change in the balance of forces.” It is also the case that the process will need international support. To bring forward work on an institutional level, a legal party is required. This would then take part in all-party talks, in which an agreement would be reach to resolve the conflict. The method being adopted is therefore the same one which underlay the peace process that collapsed in 2007.
There have been a wide variety of responses to this move. The forces that want to work alongside Batasuna in a sovereignty movement have welcomed it. The main Basque trade union ELA has long demanded such a move, so as to build united action with the Batasuna-allied union LAB. “We are happy,” said union leader Txiki Muñoz. It was a “step in the right direction”, said Pello Urizar, leader of the Basque Solidarity (EA) party. Urizar demanded the abolition of the Political Parties Act under which Batasuna was banned. Cautiously positive reactions came from the dominant Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the United Left (IU).
The rightwing People’s Party (PP), which has never distanced itself from the Franco dictatorship, sees this as just a manoeuvre ahead of the 2011 local elections. The PP demanded a tightening of the Political Parties Act so as to further exclude “ETA-Batasuna” from the political institutions. This is also related to the fact that since 2009 the PP has been able to govern the Basque Autonomous Community (CAV) in coalition with the Socialists (PSOE), because the ban meant that many Batasuna supporters’ votes were disallowed.
There has been a similarly negative reaction from the PSOE. But they also claimed in 2003, when Batasuna put forward its last peace plan, that there was nothing new in it and demanded “deeds not words”. But that plan did become the basis for peace negotiations.
My own thoughts: Batasuna and ETA haven’t really known what to do for a long time. But it might have sunk in that the last attempt at a political path led not only to a huge surge in Batasuna’s electoral support, but to increased collaboration between the nationalist parties vis-à-vis the state, as well as raising the possibility of blocking with Catalan and Galician nationalists. This scared the shit out of the Madrid government, which then embarked on a strategy of tension aimed at collapsing the ceasefire, and has since banned a long succession of pro-independence parties. But, while the state can force the independence movement into a dead end, it can’t destroy the movement; hence, we’re back to 2003.