Hasier Arraiz, Sortu’s president, Member of the Basque Autonomous Parliament and EH Bildu’s spokesperson was interviewed by Gara, the interview, published this Sunday, covers a number of issues, including the Basque Way proposal by EH Bildu, the future as broad front of EH Bildu and the charges against him for being a member of Batasuna.

The next lap sprint are governments in favour of the right to decide in all of the institutions

Iñaki Iriondo,  interview published by GARA

Hasier Arraiz ESTUA

Hasier Arraiz (Gasteiz, 1973) has found out this week that the public prosecutor’s office is asking for him to serve six years in prison for “belonging to a terrorist organization” for his political activity in Batasuna. He has known prison for this case after the raid of Segura. In spite of his personal and political concern he prefers to look to the future, to speak of the “Basque Way”, of the act on Saturday at the BEC and of the necessity to keep advancing “decision by decision”, with the protagonism of the citizens, towards the achievement of a Basque state.

You want to gather 10,000 people in the BEC this next Saturday. With what objective?

To achieve a great public outcry in favour of independence. We ask for 10,000 personal commitments so that the BEC will be the starting point of the constitutive process in the Basque Country.

In what does this process consist of?

We speak of a process to build a Basque state which guarantees social justice and full sovereignty for all of the Basque citizenry. We make a very pragmatic and realistic proposal, because we start from the current Basque realities to reach this final scenario of independence, which consider to be what the popular sectors and the working class are most interested in.

How is that done?

We propose that the right to decide is the instrument and the way. Many times in the Abertzale collective imagination the right to decide is seen as the finish line, the day in which one votes before proclaiming independence. Now what we propose is that the path is made decision by decision. The Spanish and French states are never going to recognize us as nations owners of our own future nor the right to self-determination. We have to get it, I insist, decision by decision, here in the Basque Country, conforming social and political majorities.

What kind of decisions?

The right to decide has to be an instrument to decide everything: we want to be able to decide to live as Basque citizens in all of our country, we want to be able to decide the relations among territories and we want to also be able to decide the economic, social and cultural policies that affect the Basque citizenry, that these decisions aren’t taken in Berlin, Madrid or Paris. We propose governments in favour of the right to decide in all the institutions of the Basque Country, as a lap sprint inside of the Basque constitutive process.

And how do you go from wanting to decide to being able to decide?

Our diagnostic draws that can induce pessimism, but that later gives way to optimism. After the strategic change of the Abertzale Left and the change in phase of the Basque Country, the majority hopes to find ourselves in another scenario. On the one hand, a Spanish more open to the resolution of the conflict. To state it clearly, we don’t expect that the following day people begin to leave prison, but we do expect that at least no more enter. The Spanish state is diametrically opposed to the what in the international sphere sees in the resolution of conflicts. And it is also true that in the Basque Country we have encountered political and social agents who tell us that dialogue, agreements and spaces for collaboration that weren’t possible due to the armed confrontation would be when it ended, and we have found that it isn’t so. Those who we hoped to have as travelling companions see us now more as adversaries.

Speaking of putting more people in prison, they just asked six years for you. How do you evaluate that?

As I said, the Spanish state doesn’t want to enter into the new political time in which the Basque Country finds itself. Anyway, our political commitment is made and is going to go forward because, although they force us to continue to play in an inferiority of conditions with respect to the rest, our commitment has connected perfectly with the desires and aspirations of the majority of the people in our country, which makes it unstoppable.

And with all of that, how does the step towards optimism go that that you mentioned before?

We made a unilateral commitment, that it is true that it hoped for for a certain correspondence in some matters. This hasn’t taken place and isn’t going to take place. We come from different experiences and from a very hard stage in which in the very difficult circumstances we have been able to do incredible things, and we trust in our strength to be capable of changing this scenario. We take unilateral steps to generate social conditions that make that these political and social agents who still don’t want to come with us are encouraged to share scenarios of democratic confrontation with two states who reject us and continue denying our rights.

You’ll need companions and that is usually measured in a good number of acronyms. On the path towards the changes of status, the PNV first demands an agreement on the matter of pacification…

For some time the PNV seems to always put conditions to not reach agreements with EH Bildu and we are seeing it week after week. In this scenario EH Bildu prioritizes the search for agreements to be able to put into practice the right to decide in its different spheres. We know that the life of this country isn’t normalized. Many problems remain to be solved. That which creates the biggest frustration and biggest pain, even personally, is that of the prisoners. But is also the recognition of all of the victims without exclusions and, of course, the disarming of ETA and the construction of accounts that make possible the political normalization of this country.

The Lehendakari has met with Etxerat. What does this suggest to you?

Although it comes too late this first meeting of a Lehendakari with families of the Basque political prisoners, I see the encounter as positive. He has made a public recognition of the tremendous injustice that, week after week, the state commits against these family members with the only objective of causing more pain for the prisoners. Also their commitment of collaboration with Etxerat against dispersion can open doors to new agreements on the path of building peace, political normalization and democratic coexistence among Basques.

Is there a possibility of advancement on the terrain of normalization?

We have looked for it and continue looking. We understand that on the one hand is the confrontation of the social and economic models, that these days is expressed in a virulent way, but on the other hand is the subject normalization of the country. Everywhere there are the rightists and leftists. Here there is a right-wing expressed by the PNV and PP and even from the PSE, and there is a wide and diverse left and to which it is possible that others come in, and they will be welcome if they do come. But for this confrontation of models is given in a logical manner, the political normalization of the country is urgent and EH Bildu it is a priority to seek agreements in this sense.

But they blame you for not, for example, moving for a new text for the presentation for peace…

We are speaking of the composition of a document for the Presentation for Peace, because we don’t admit the paralysis of this subject in the Parliament either. And we express our disposition to use new terminology. But the truth is that later they bombed us with the idea that new words don’t count, new terminologies and that you have to go to deeper questions. We completely agree. And what we propose is that they don’t try to reactivate, in any way, at any price, this presentation, but for what the presentation has to serve, for why we want this instrument, in the Parliament of Gasteiz. We propose that it is more important an agreement about why we want the presentation than about its possible reactivation.

Is an agreement of this type possible with the PNV and to continue confronting each other in other matters?

It has to be compatible to work jointly in favour of the right to decide and of the normalization with a confrontation between economic and social matters. PNV, PSE and PP represent a model that they present as the only one possible, and EH Bildu tries, day after day, to demonstrate that this isn’t true, that there are other alternatives that can also be carried out from the institutions. And this confrontation isn’t just legitimate but also necessary.

The PNV accuses you of exceeding the limits of decency…

It isn’t EH Bildu who has brought into the spotlight the main cases of bad praxis or even corruption. That of Kutxabank was brought out by themselves, that of Hiriko comes from the public prosecutor, and now they have announced the end of the preliminary investigation of the “De Miguel Case”. We didn’t bring them up, but we did denounce them, because the citizens have the right to know what has been done with their money. And these kinds of practices make clear the most notable differences between the model of some and ours.

On the other hand, the PNV shows daily their non-existent will to reach agreements with us. We see it constantly in the Parliament. For example, the Ombudsman pacts it with the PSE and the PP, they approve the budget with the PSE… The PNV buys cheap agreements with these parties, above all with the PSE, and we don’t enter into this game of buying and selling. In EH Bildu we present agreements among forces that they know are different, but they must be respected to reach points of consensus that make this country advance. And the PNV doesn’t admit this kind of relation.

“We govern in benefit of the majority, at the cost of the privileges of the few”

You speak of different models. How do you note the model of EH Bildu at the time of governing?

We don’t plant managing the leftovers that other parties leave and the neoliberal policies of these institutions. We plant for ourselves to govern in benefit of a majority, at the cost of the privileges of a few. Specific facts: the province of Gipuzkoa is the only province in which social policies not only haven’t diminished in the budget but have increased year after year, because the priority is to confront the consequences of the crisis. Gipuzkoa has increased the aid for disability benefits and have brought to a good port the publification of the housing for the elderly avoiding the loss of labour conditions of the workplace. It was the only institution that paid the 14 pay checks of their workers. We’ve changed the fiscal policy, to give content to the demand that those who have more must pay more. There is the Tax on Large Fortunes, for which 7,000 citizens of Gipuzkoa are affected in benefit of 700,000 habitants that this territory has. And the results speak for themselves. Gipuzkoa is the only territory that has most increased the collection and this later is reinvested in, above all, in social policies and policies of maintenance and the creation of jobs. And there I would put the example of the agreement reached with Candy, a business focused on the closure by the decision of a multinational, that on the basis of the search for agreements, promoted by the Provincial Council, could see itself afloat again.

Four years ago, you came to these institutions almost without expecting it…

It’s true. After conforming the coalition, the results were a surprise and we saw ourselves governing important institutions. In the case of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, this has been possible thanks to the people who have participated in this project. In the first place, Martin Garitano didn’t have an easy challenge as Deputy General and he has demonstrated that he has overcome this with a high grade. And there are other deputies who have demonstrated their capacity not only for managing, but to govern in benefit of a great majority. It comes to my mind German Ander Rodriguez, Larraitz Ugarte and Helena Franco, with their teams, that are a show of good government.

To put the director of Inland Revenue as a candidate of Deputy General, is that a message?

It’s a commitment to go farther on this path. And this that numerous powers that be of Gipuzkoa are bombing us everyday trying that we don’t bring forward these policies of change. We continue suffering this resistance, but I think that we count on the backing of this social majority that feels benefited by the policies of EH Bildu.

There are those, for example, the Lehendakari, who have announced their disposition to any kind of pacts to get rid of EH Bildu for the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa…

I’ve already said that we propose governments in favour of the right to decide in all of the institutions. That these governments become levers to promote and accelerate this process. While we make this offer, others plan to get together with whoever to get rid of EH Bildu. This brings us to govern ourselves in favour of the right to decide as a nation and as a society. Our challenge in Gipuzkoa has to do with absolute majorities. And we also need it so that there is no going back on the advances achieved in defence of the majority of the citizens.

Now, there has appeared another electoral agent, Podemos…

Podemos is structuring themselves now as a party and we still don’t know what they think about various questions. In any case, when we plant ourselves governments in favour in favour of the right to decide, we also count on this new force, which if it presents itself in the elections that day it will be an electoral adversary, but after that day it can become a travelling companion in the creation of majorities. We have a feeling that apart from the possibility it creating a new political geometry of the country. Where forces such as the PSE and the PP will be relegated to marginality, because they don’t have a political offer for Basque society, they will configure a triangle among the PNV, Podemos and EH Bildu, which is the pro-independence and sovereigntist left of the country. From what some and others say, Podemes and PNV can’t reach agreements between them. Those who want agreements will have to look for them with EH Bildu. This new geometry can open new scenarios of hope which contribute so that this new constitutive process of the Basque Country advances more quickly.

“EH Bildu, as a broad front, must have its own structures and bring together people beyond their parties”

What is this of the broad front?

At the moment it is an open debate in all of the parties that make up EH Bildu and we are very clear that we have exhausted the phase of the coalition of parties. From now on we plant that EH Bildu has to give itself structures, of personality and its own message. The objective is to bring to EH Bildu people who don’t sympathize with any of the political forces that form it but that they do with a pro-independence and sovereigntist left project.

Does that mean the disappearance of the parties who are part of it?

No, given that these parties have to have the commitment to be those who sustain this process. But we also have to do it with a lot of responsibility and a lot of generosity because all of the parties are going to have to cede part of their sovereignty inside of EH Bildu in favour of common structures.

Would that suppose the entrance of independents?

That means that people that recognize themselves in EH Bildu but aren’t militants of the parties that are part of it can participate in all of its structures and can also have all of the rights that any other activist of EH Bildu has today.