Basque Country: ‘We have always believed in internationalism’

January 27, 2017
Hundreds attended the congress of pro-independence left-wing party Sortu.

The re-foundation congress of Sortu, the left-wing independence Basque party, drew together hundreds of militants from the Basque Country, as well as dozens of guests and international representatives of revolutionary and national liberation struggles from around the world.

The Basque Country is divided between the Spanish and French states. Most is within the Spanish state and a struggle for self-determination from the Spanish state has been waged for decades.

See also: Sortu congress sets target date for independent republic

Solidarity with the Basque struggle has grown out of the struggles in the last years of Franco’s 1939-75 dictatorship, all the way to the present-day campaigns for liberation of Basque political prisoners and their repatriation to their homeland.

The fight for national liberation and an independent socialist republic across the Basque homelands has drawn comparison with similar struggles from around the world, such as Palestine. As a result, the abetzale (patriotic) left in the Basque Country has maintained strong relations with similar struggles across the world.

Speaking with Green Left Weekly, the Sortu general-secretary and ex-political prisoner Arnaldo Otegi said: “We have always recognised the importance of internationalism. We have discovered that struggles need to become global in their nature.

“On the European level, we see the need to construct a forum, where at least the left, the movements for national liberation and the social movements that have arisen in the past years can adopt a new strategy of a global character.

“We need to seek out the most open alliances of progressive, left and revolutionary forces in order to apply that strategy.”

Addressing the Basque community in Australia, he said: “You have friends here. I send a strong hug to our friends in La Casa Vasca and say to them that we continue our struggle for our sovereignty, for building a more socially just society.

“They are our best ambassadors.”

Quim Arrufat Ibanez, a former member of the Catalan parliament for the anti-capitalist, pro-Catalan independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), drew parallels between the two most prominent independence struggles within Spain.

“For our movement in Catalonia, the independence movement of the Basque country has been the main reference for many years in many fields, including ideological and political,” Arrufat said. “Their commitment to their principles, as well as their resistance against repression, has been another important reference point.

“They created the basis of the national liberation project we are currently copying in Catalonia.

“Unfortunately in the Basque country today, there is no political majority to quickly follow the path towards independence — unlike in Catalonia, where we see a mass mobilisation on the streets, as well as a majority for independence in parliament and city councils.”

Arrufat noted: “In the Basque country, 50 years of armed struggle has certainly caused a lot of tension, violence, damage on many sides, and the [independence movement], as a consequence is still paying for that.”

Mariano Avalo, of the Galician Popular Front (FPG) and the left-wing coalition Anova from the Galacia region in the Spanish state, commented on the common platform of bringing social justice alongside independence in Galicia and the Basque Country.

“We have always had strong relations with Basque political organisations like Sortu. We coincide in our objective of national and social independence for our people.

“For us, self-determination signifies the people becoming real masters of their destiny, without inequalities between social classes. Social equilibration, with a just redistribution of wealth and our natural resources.”

Nestor Salvador, coordinator-secretary of Andalusian Workers’ Union (SAT), from the Andalusia region in the Spanish state, spoke of new possibilities of the working-class struggles within the independence movement.

“We believe that if the Basque people achieve freedom and an independent Basque republic, it would greatly benefit the Basque working class and serve as an example for the Andalusian working class. We have to work on a constituent process that constructs a socialist republic that puts interests of the workers first. They victory will be our victory as well.”

Errikos Finalis of the Communist Organisation of Greece, drew comparisons between the struggle in the Basque country and the resistance of the Greek people against the Troika-imposed austerity,

“We, as Greeks, have more than one reason to follow the developments in the Basque country. The last years we have become a semi-colony. We feel first-hand what it means to have no sovereignty, even a formal one that a bourgeois state had five or 10 years ago. Everything is dictated from outside Greece.

“Hence, we feel even closer to the Basque cause and we understand the attempt to combine social struggle with the national struggle.”

George Rashmawi, of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), praised Sortu’s level of organisation and compared it with the experience of trying to unite left-wing movements across occupied Palestine.

“Sortu is a modern left party, they have new ideas,” Rashmawi said. “There are a lot of youth in the leadership. They are open, without dogma and ready to speak about anything. That is the right way we see to develop.

“When we see a strong left in the Basque country, we feel stronger in Palestine. Their solidarity is always with the people who seek self-determination. We can learn from their experience of uniting the left and social movements for our own situation in Palestine, where we have five different parties on the left.”

Boyen Baleva, of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, said: “We have a common struggle for national liberation and social liberation. We feel solidarity with the people of Basque country in their fight for national liberation.

“Also, the NDF is in peace negotiations with the Duterte government. Hence, we also feel solidarity with the process of seeking to peacefully resolve the problems of our societies.”

Isela Sanchez, the representative of the governing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador, spoke of the FMLN’s experience of also fighting for national liberation and socialism beyond the armed struggle.

“In El Salvador, we are in a similar process of restoring our nation and people,” Sanchez said. “We have recently celebrated 25 years since the signing of the peace agreement and we are currently in the next stage of the process — introducing economic and social reforms for improving the life of ordinary people.

“Since 2009, we have seen many significant changes, especially around education, health, facilitation of employment for the youth, adult and vocational education, and much more.”

Sanna Lepola, of the Left Alliance of Finland, highlighted the importance of joining together the various struggles across Europe, noting: “We see that for the left across the Nordic countries and in the Basque country, the problems and issues are similar. We are struggling for a social Europe of equality. We struggle for feminism. For an ecological Europe.

“We try to mobilise the people to get them interested in the politics again, by reaching them through the grassroots and listening to the people and asking them what would be the motivation for them to join the struggle for a better world.”

Maj Aslett-Rydbjerg, of the Red-Green Alliance of Denmark, echoed the remarks of her Nordic comrade: “In both Denmark and the Basque country, we ask what is the socialist answer to the economic situations in the EU? We also share with Sortu our green and feminist agendas.

Eyup Doru, the European representative of the Kurdish-led left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, spoke of the joint efforts of the Basque and Kurdish people to win their rights to decide on the nature of their state.

Doru said: “The HDP supports the fight of the people for their self-determination and the right to decide whether they wish to live within a federal system, a confederate system, an autonomous region or an independent state.”

The re-foundation of Sortu signifies the resurgence and reorganisation of the Abetzale left. But it also highlights how national independence, alongside socialism, cannot succeed without the solidarity, support and connection with the similar struggles across the world.

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