In that context, only the forces around the abertzale left remained opposed to the reform process. They interpreted it as the result of a concession forced onto the regime by popular struggles for democratic rights, the return of exiles, the legalisation of political parties, the dissolution of the state’s machinery of repression, as well as the right to self-determination and self-government. Hence, ETA decided to maintain its pressure on the state in order to obtain greater changes, while pursuing a strategic unification of Basque nationalist forces. Indeed, the idea of creating a single national front uniting all nationalist forces (moderate and progressive ones) in defence of the national and democratic interests of the country was central to ETA’s philosophy of patriotic insurrectional warfare. It believed that having conversations with the state as a nation would be positive in breaking away from Francoism, and agreed to talk about the end of the armed struggle if there would be a nation-to-nation negotiation with the state on the settlement of a democratic framework. The meetings of the Basque nationalist forces held in Txiberta in the spring of 1977, promoted by Telésforo de Monzón, a prominent member of the EAJ-PNV and councillor of the Basque government during the Republic,31 were attended by all the small political forces, including both wings of ETA and the so-called Assembly of Mayors.32

However, the meetings failed to establish a unified strategy among the patriotic forces with respect to the upcoming June elections. ETA-m and the KAS organisations (with the exception of ETA-pm), supported by ex-prisoners, decided to boycott them unless there was a total amnesty, and decided that the Basque people would not take part in the constitutional process if democratic freedom and total amnesty were not allowed. On the other side, EAJ-PNV and the EE coalition promoted by ETA-pm did want to participate in the elections, even though the state had not fulfilled any of the above-mentioned claims (not all the prisoners were released, the exiles did not come back and pro-independence parties were not legalised). As Judge Navarro said, “the failure to create a single body that would bring together all Basque patriotic political forces was warmly welcomed in Madrid. It was a relief for Suárez’s government as the prospect of a Basque patriotic bloc including ETA did not make them very happy” (Casanova, 2007).

The constitutional process and the creation of Herri Batasuna

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31 Later on, he became one of the main promoters of Herri Batasuna.
32 The Assembly of Mayors was formed by some mayors elected according to the Francoist system, but who were nationalist and longed for a national liberation process where city councils would play an important role. The first proposal for a statute of autonomy for the four Basque communities had been promoted by a city council movement at the beginning of the twentieth century.