Etxebarria: Basques and Kurds working for peace
20 May 2010
- InterviewsThe Kurdish movement has created a political and social national conscience which cannot be avoid or ignored by the Turkish state and the international community
Rufi Etxebarria is an historical member of the Basque Independent Left (Izquierda Abertzale). He was among the promoters of the Ireland Forum which opened the door to the Lizzara Garazi Agreement (1998). He has been among the interlocutors in the last negotiations (2005-2007). Because of his activities he has been arrested several times. Judge, Baltasar Garzon, has enclosed him, at one point, in the inquiry culminated with the arrest of the Basque Independent Left leadership in October 2009. His position has since been reviewed. Etxebarria spent two years in prison, between 2007 and 2009, charged with being a leader of the dissolved Batasuna party.
- In the debate by the Basque Independent Left two needs emerge: that of opening new spaces to build the democratic process and that of reflecting over the necessity of a change in strategy by the Izquierda Abertzale. Do you think that a crucial prompt to change the present situation must come from the Independent Left?
If we look at the struggle carried on by the Independent Left in the last thirty years, we could draw two main conclusions. On one side, we have obtained the logoration of the autonomous political environments imposed after the reform of the regime because of Franco's death and we have avoided that Euskal Herria ended up diluted in the 'Spain of the autonomies'. On the other hand though, we have not been able to overcome the barrier that would allow us to build a new democratic political context which recognizes the territoriality of Euskal Herria and its right to decide in a free way about its future. During this debate process we have discussed about which strategy we need to develop within the independent left to achieve the objective of this political phase which we name 'phase of the change'. The debate doesn't start from scratch, indeed it starts by the convincement that there are now sufficient political and social conditions to go a step forward and that we could profit by these conditions risen after years of struggle. After having analyzed the phase and the political situation with the participation of thousands of members and supporters of the independent left (around 7600 people took part to the meetings organized in more than 270 places), the independent left has decided that the tool to achieve a democratic context will be what we call Democratic Process. It will be through this process that we intend to confront with the state on the ground which sees it in the weakest position: the political ground. For this we think that the basis of the process will be the sum of forces and the popular activism, as well as the international support. We propose the ground of the struggle being the mass struggle, the ideological struggle and the political-institutional struggle. At the same time we commit ourselves to a Democratic Process without violence nor interferences. The Independent Left will be a crucial element of this process and to start it it is indeed our unilateral decision, but our objective is to work hand in hand with different political, unionist and social organizations.
- The reactions of the political forces which participated to the last negotiations (2006-2007) to your debate and proposals have been, overall, of general skepticism. The Spanish government has reacted by increasing the repression, the judiciary has sped up inquiries and trials. The PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) at official level has shown skepticism although there have been some isolated voices. What your reading of all this?
By looking at the reactions we could identify two set of opinions: there are those who fear that with the proposal of the Independent Left would have something to lose. And there are those who a part from their own interests are willing to work for the rights of our people. The parties within the state context like Psoe and PP have shown panic towards a situation in which the Basque society could actually decide freely about its future. At the end of the day the denial of the right to decide is what has been feeding the conflict in the past years. Other parties, like the PNV, which clearly (albeit not publically) to become a regional force within the state and therefore wants to keep Euskal Herria divided, fear that an aggregation of forces openly independent would change the relation among forces in the country. There are others, parties, social organisations, unions, that in the past might have supported autonomism, and now think that the autonomist receipts are not good because in the end they are tools made to divide Euskal Herria. These social and political elements are therefore willing to work, their common target being the national recognition and the right to decide.
- The building of a pole for sovranity is one of your short term tasks. Again your interlocutors gave different answers. One of the emerging problems, among the forces which might have this sector as a referent, seems to be the different situation existing in the present three institutions of Euskal Herria, Basque Autonomous Community, Comunity Foral Navarra and Iparralde, Basque provinces in the French state.
The Independent Left things that, although it would be necessary to realize a strategy at national level, this should adapt to the different realities we have in our country, because if we analyze the three realities you mentioned we'll se that NOR the socio-political reality nor the politico-institutional situation, nor the relation among forces are the same. It will be the task of the different forces to support a common work to realize this common strategy. For now, the Independent Left has two clear points of reference: the Proposal of Anaitasuna (Navarra) and the proposal of Uztaritze (Iparralde) in which it is written that for the construction of the future democratic context, in which there will be territorial unity and right to decide, we should start from the administrative reality we have now and that it will be the Basque people in each territory to decide wether they want to enter in a new context with the other territories. This was a very discussed element in all of the meetings we had.
- Eta in its last communicate states its endorsement of the Independent Left words, specifically of the Alsasua Declaration. Again the political forces have reacted to this statement by saying that in fact it does not represent a change in the organization position and that Eta is actually insisting on impose its political-military strategy to the Independent Left. You and Eusko Alkartasuna give a different reading of the statement saying that it is in fact a contribution to the process.
We think that with that statement ETA is recognizing the Democratic Process as a working tool that will bring us to the achievement of a democratic context, while at the same time recognizing that the Independent Left has spoken with the discussion organized among the grassroot. This is what ETA says in its statement. Different matter is that there are political elements and media interested to a non-change in the scenary, because they are quite confortable in the present conflict situation. The same elements who willingly minimize the statement by ETA and give little value to the Zutik Euskal Herria resolution in which the conclusions of the debate are expressed and to the position of the Independent Left. They are those who wanted to undermine the debate within the Independent Left through arrests, manipulation…
- How is it possible to keep a vision of radical, social and political change as contained in your political proposal, and keep talking about 'democratic process' at a time when the democratic processes as articulated in Europe did not translate into a challenging of the political, economical and cultural hierarchies. In other words, what is your idea of democracy?
We think that there are two level of discussion on this issue. On one hand the Independent Left aims to develop a Democratic Process in which through the articulation of forces and popular action, we will reach a scenario where our people and its right to decide will be recognized. This is the aim of the Independent Left in this phase, but we cannot forget that the Independent Left links the political change to the social change, In other words, our strategic project is one for independence and socialism. For this reason the Independent Left is developing what we call “Euskal Herria Ezkerratik Eraikiz”. This is not small job. This is a project in which left policies concerning mobilitation, ideological and institutional struggle are being developed. We realize that the situation of apartheid to which we are subjected has made it more difficult to reach this task but our aim is that. To keep working along with the different social movements and unions, to articulate the construction of our social project.
Finally, the Independent Left recently had some exchanges with the Kurdish movement also engaged in suggesting a way forward and above all out of the conflict. What would you like to say to the Kurdish people?
For many years, both the Independent Left and the Kurdish movement have been acting to solve the conflicts we are living, and we tried to solve them in democratic terms, where respect of everyone's right is at the centre. We believe that this long work has not been in vane and today the majority of Kurds (and Turks) are convinced that dialogue and negotiation are the only way to solve the conflict in Kurdistan. The denial of dialogue has been the position of the states so far, but this indicates their fear and political weakness when it comes to deal with both the Kurdish and Basque conflict. But despite this denial position by the Turkish state, I believe that in Kurdistan is clear how the Kurdish movement has been able to organise itself at all levels. It has created a political and social national conscience which cannot be avoid or ignored by the Turkish state and the international community. The work of the last years have made the Kurdish national reality something which is undeniable. And it is specifically because of this that the Kurdish movement has managed - despite the incredible repression - to open the door to political participation above all at local levels, to give some sort of status and recognition to the previously denied Kurdish language, to open the way to the liberation of women. All these steps are tangible.
We express our total solidarity with the hard work done by our Kurdish brothers for a negotiated solution of the conflict and for the building of a more just and free world.
ANF / NEWS DESK
ANF NEWS AGENCY