In the political arena, an important sector of the Basque society consolidated around the abertzale left started to realise that the option of breaking with Francoism had to be adapted to the new circumstances and situations, into a new democratic framework. One of the outcomes of such debate was the acknowledgement by Herri Batasuna (in its Oldartzen document) of the need for greater involvement in nation-building and social transformation, besides the promotion of a negotiation process between ETA and the state. The party thus began to act as a revitalising and catalytic actor, advocating the need to move from a resistance model in which changes and transformations would follow an agreement between ETA and the state, to a model of struggle and transformation of everyday lives. This also implied a need to open new alliances with other social and political organisations.

Hence, in 1994, the trade unions Basque Labour Union (LAB) and Basque Workers’ Solidarity (ELA)50 agreed on a Basque labour relationships framework, and in 1995 they also agreed to join forces in the pursuit of the right to self-determination. As a consequence of these common work dynamics, on October 18th 1997, ELA organised an event in Gernika where it solemnly stated the death of the Statute of Autonomy.

Moreover, on April 26th 1995, a few days after an attack against the leader of the Popular Party José María Aznar (from which he miraculously escaped unharmed), ETA announced the so-called “Democratic Alternative” (as a replacement for the KAS alternative). The Democratic Alternative meant a tactical readjustment to the new approach suggested by the abertzale left.

Other political parties, such as EA and sectors of the EAJ-PNV, began to recognise the limits of the current framework,51 and the national leadership of Herri Batasuna started a private dialogue channel with the EAJ-PNV, with the aim of reconciling their diverging points of view.

With the arrival of the Spanish right-wing Popular Party in power after the general elections in 1996, the confrontation between ETA and the state intensified, as well as the repression against the abertzale left movement. As Herri Batasuna tried to use the electoral framework to bring the Democratic Alternative into the public domain, its national executive committee was prosecuted under the charge of collaboration with an armed gang, and eventually, on December 1st 1997, Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced 23 Herri Batasuna leaders to seven years’ imprisonment.

Finally, other factors contributed to a radicalisation of the broad nationalist forces, such as the European integration process (decisions affecting autonomous powers were taken in the EU, where only the central state was represented), and the Spanish state’s failure to transfer powers to the Basque Autonomous Community.

The Forum of Ireland

50 The former was the trade union close to the abertzale left, while the latter was a trade union that had historically supported the autonomy model.
51 At the end of 1996, the EAJ-PNV politician Juan Maria Ollora expressed in his work called “Una Vía Hacia la Paz” (A Way towards Peace) the need to pick up the self-determination concept with more strength, introducing this debate in the emerging globalisation process, and advocating the promotion of a content-related dialogue in Euskal Herria.