original interview in GARA newspaper

Rufi Etxeberria reflects with a wide perspective on the advances provoked by the change in strategy by the Abertzale Left, the difficulties of the process and the coming challenges.

While you were all sitting in the dock of the accused in Madrid a sentence was produced by Strasbourg. How was it felt and received?

We are conscious that it is a direct consequence of the reach that in the international area the political process open in the Basque Country is also having. A process that we know is difficult and that the Spanish and French governments insist on making even more difficult. With all that we have been able to open a new time and a new context. It’s a context where two strategies collide, two attitudes, that generate two realities: one that looks to the future, with a decided commitment for a framework of democratic coexistence that guarantees all human rights and for which the repeal of the so-called “Parot Doctrine” is a recognition; and the other that looks to the past, that doesn’t want to break the strategy of the historical denial of the Basque Country and that doesn’t want to deal with the new situation of this country with a democratic agenda, because it fears the war of ideas. For that, to continue clinging to the past, it activates mega-trials, carries out raids like that of Herrira or demonstrates in Madrid against the resolution of an international court.

What is there to say about the resolution of the European Court?

That, besides meaning an advance from the point of view of human rights, values the policies and actions in the key of a solution and overcoming the conflict. It supposes a point of inflection for the Spanish state, which must abandon the entrenchment in strategies and policies that, as has been made evident, are contrary to Law and rejected by the maximum legal instance in the matter of human rights. The position of those of us who advocate a future of solutions is strengthened and puts into question before Europe, and on the defensive facing Basque society, those who boycott these solutions. I think that the new time that we have opened has facilitated this judgement and that this judgement must make it possible to continue working in this new time.

But, having seen the reaction of the Spanish government and the PP, to not mention the lobbies that pressure them, are there really motives to be optimistic?

It’s true that it’s disheartening to see how there are rulers and political leaders willing to miss out on historical opportunities of this calibre. However, their reaction isn’t the scale – not the main one, at least- for which we evaluate the events that are taking place in our country. The important thing in these moments is the correlation of forces among those of us who commit to resolution processes and those that block them.

In our country, it’s evident on which side the social and political majorities are tilting towards. The extreme positions of the PP generate a lot of rejection and the UPN is suffering an evident erosion. With their behaviour, the PSOE which continues the trail of the no-solution, they insist on not wanting to tune in to the social desire of the social majority of the Basque Country for a scenario of democratic coexistence and they continue denying the acceptance of the right to decide of the Basque citizenry. That of the PSE, who were at Aiete, is an authentic regression. They are sacrificing the Basque scenario, one doesn’t know if it’s for Patxi Lopez aspiring to be a candidate of the PSOE for the presidency of the Spanish government.

In this scenario, for what have the gestures and steps taken by the Abertzale Left served?

If the question was that if we make tactical gestures or in bad faith in the hope of satisfying the PP, we could talk in these terms, that if it is worth anything all that we have done. But our commitment isn’t based on tactical games, it’s not made in bad faith, it doesn’t have as an objective to satisfy any enemy of peace. Our main target has been and will continue being the Basque people, also international agents, to open new frameworks of collaboration, work and struggle that allow moving the situations of blockage and reaching democratic scenarios.

The change of political strategy of the Abertzale Left wasn’t produced with the thought that they were going to present us with a placid reality on the part of the Spanish and French states. We knew that the difficulties to achieve, first, our rights, and later, our objectives will remain intact. The Abertzale Left – in a historical debate, for the unprecedented subjects that were dealt with and the decisions adopted – came to the conclusion that the pro-independence project had to be developed only and exclusively through democratic means through a strategy with a repercussion in the future. These fundamental decisions of the militants of the Abertzale Left brought each and every one of their organizations to debate and decide in consequence.

Then, your change came by political convenience and not by an ethical conviction, as other formations accuse?

The debate and later change of political paradigms weren’t mere cosmetic operations. The commitment caused a profound compromise at the time of confronting the conflict, and also from the human point of view, which has had consequences in our standards of action and will continue to have them. However, we understand that the Basque people, the Basque citizenry don’t want renegades, nor hypocrites, nor Pharisees. They want that, from sincere positions, and also ethical, we contribute so that the causes and consequences of the conflict are solved, that the damage caused is recognized, that the truth is known and that work is done for a profound and sincere reconciliation.

This is what we are going to do, without us being blocked or limited in repeating accusations against those who sell themselves as democrats but have done nothing but use, share or support violent strategies from the central and autonomous governments, and also from the headquarters of the political parties, with the end of capitalizing or taking advantage for their political objectives. We will have enough arguments to stay put, in the big wheel of criticism, and in the “and you more”, but we have to get off of this wheel, with all the truth and with all the responsibility.

In the Abertzale Left we have the example of our dead, of all of those who have lost their lives from Francoism until our days for political motivation. Families that yearn for a Basque Country that achieves democratic normalization, that aspires for a legal and political framework that guarantees the overcoming of the reasons that have motivated and continue to motivate so much suffering, families who with the only “revenge” with which they dream is the smiles of their children and grandchildren, after gaining a real democracy, the rights of the Basque people.

Although the target is the Basque people, the action of the states has a great influence in the development of your strategy. This must create, at least, incertitude…

After seeing themselves surprised and thrown off by the debate and change operated, with notable success, by the Abertzale Left, the strategy of the state is based on that, precisely as a consequence of their repressive obstinacy, each time more sectors of the pro-independence left would question the efficiency of the new strategy and that would mean in the end a serious problem for its development and a collapse of the liberation process. They haven’t discarded the idea of an split at any moment. The state sought a double blow: the direct one of repression and that derived from the psychological war. They haven’t achieved it, and today is the day in which the majority of the contradictions are being suffered precisely by those who have fed these belligerent policies and the language of war, that of victors and vanquished.

Should it be understood that in the Abertzale Left nothing can be questioned from this commitment?

Not at all. But for more than for what has been done, I think that our self-criticism must be made for what hasn’t been done. If you want to free all the potential of your strategy, the Abertzale Left, together with other sectors, must define a new political culture, which opens us more, that allows new mutual understandings, that promotes participation, that helps popular actuation.

You’ve mentioned the operation against Herrira. How do you evaluate it? What did they try to do?

It had a clear component of blocking the global development of the process, at the same time it meant a symptom of regression, in that it recovered the thesis of the policy of banning. It contains a second ingredient of going back to situate the knot of the blockage in the question of the political prisoners, precisely a few days after the decision of Strasbourg. In my judgement, the operation also has the objective of complicating the steps and contribution that the Collective of Political prisoners must make. If you’ll allow me a comparison, remember the operation of October 2009 [from which came the “Bateragune Case”] that tried to condition the development of the debate in the Abertzale Left so that it wouldn’t get out of square one. I think they want the prisoners to say at square one. Those who are behind the operation against Herrira don’t want the Collective of Basque Political Prisoners to advance on rails to share, in the design as well as in the development, with Basque areas and sectors of all types for their return home.

They accuse the Abertzale Left of impeding that the prisoners make any movement…

This is a fallacy that, in spite of operations like that against Herrira, time, in short, will take care of refuting. The prisoners will make clear where the big problem is found, which is none other than the obstinacy of the government of the PP in a vengeful penitentiary policy and uses it politically to avoid that the process open in the Basque Country shoots off like a rocket.

What opinion does the demand for the disarmament of ETA deserve?

That it is part of the agenda of solutions, and therefore, it must be dealt with. In the best possible conditions, without frivolity or irresponsibility.

Let’s recover a more general vision. What is the democratic process today that they have talked about these past years?

The transition from a situation of injustice to another of freedom and rights. For the militants of the Abertzale Left it’s, also, our general framework of action, so that, for us, “process” means the totality of our activities. To put it another way, it is our natural political habitat, a direct consequence of the realignment of our strategy in exclusively democratic terms. It’s the form that the national and social liberation process has adopted. In the framework of the democratic process, we also want to articulate specific processes of solutions that respond to the reasons and consequences of the political conflict, each one with its own development, so we understand it to be good to reach agreements among different parts and, reaching that point, also with the states. What doubt is there that their rejection of any understanding and the new reality that is being imposed – a generalized crisis and the lack of a democratic offer are demonstrating that the only reasonable way out is full sovereignty, they encourage to strategically opt for or incline the democratic process in pro-independence terms. It will be to bring till the end, to the last station, this transition from an unjust situation to one of freedom, and doing so from maximum unilateralism, through our own way, the Basque Way towards full sovereignty, and with popular adhesion as a catapult.

After two years since then, what does Aiete mean today?

In the first place, it is crossing the Rubicon that puts us in a new scenario and, also, covers the necessary aspects to deal with reaching a just and lasting peace. In the context of this declaration evident and tangible advances were produced, valued in a very positive way by the Basque people. Aiete is one of the great steps on the path. It is understood that way even today by important leaders, like those who met recently in Mexico to adhere to its content.

Its development hasn’t been able to take place in the desired manner due to the closed mindedness of the Spanish and French governments, for which, in the future, renewed roadmaps must be explored and new steps taken, which would be impossible, on the other hand, without the crucial contribution of this historic milestone. What the Abertzale Left can’t do is remain in the demand of Aiete and limit itself to reclaiming its unblocking in the point in that it is produced [the 2nd, that calls on the Spanish and French governments to dialogue with ETA], because this would make it that Aiete was perceived as our flag. And it isn’t. It is the achievement of all of us who were there, that will serve for new attempts and initiatives, like the recommendations that came out of the Social Forum.

Looking at what could happen in this political course, what duties do you contemplate for the immediate future?

Facing strengthening a critically popular process, there already exist specific challenges for social activation such as the right to decide, which should be a key for an eventual unilateral decantation of the process in sovereigntist terms, or the defence of the rights of prisoners and exiles, apart from the dynamics against political raids, trials and sentences.

In this context, we insist with other agents and forces, in the Basque sphere as well as the international, in preparing roadmaps to work the whole and every point of the solutions to the conflict. At the same time, in specific territories opportunities are being produced to promote deep political changes. The interesting dynamic among all the political forces of the north of the Basque Country conforms a majority that demands institutional recognition and solutions. And the retrograde model of imposition current in Navarre is sinking.

At the same time, always within this great challenge of building processes of a popular type with wide and ample majorities, it becomes an authentic priority a structural response – with the capacity for a proposal of a new model – to the situation of the economic crisis, as well as the impoverishment of the country and its popular classes.