There are over three hundred of them. Simply sitting there. The photograph’s significance is more concrete than symbolic. These people are putting their faces there as part of a new political project. Almost all are ex-militants of Batasuna, a movement declared illegal by the Spanish judicial and political system. Behind them in the photo is a graphic that shows red lines on a white background tracing the outline of the Basque Country, with the inscription “Gora Ezker Abertzalea”, or ‘ forward with the Basque Left’.
This new project is the future of Batasuna. A new movement, a new name for a movement that does not deny the political roots of its more than thirty years of history. It simply declares its adhesion to the proposal for a new phase of dialogue and peace, a path that is purely political.
Ezker Abertzalea, which used to be Batasuna, wants to take part in the upcoming elections, and all successive elections, because the place for a political and social movement is society, and therefore also a presence in the institution that society delegates as its political representation. The new movement’s statute – the document to which the three hundred have put their faces – is contained in just four pages: but four extremely densely written pages! In reality this is the fruit of a sedimentation and stratification of projects, of debates, votes and sharing of aims that has been going on in the streets and villages of Euskal Herria for more than two years. The document’s title is “Towards a new political and organisational project”. It opens with an introduction focused on the market forces that drive the world, “a neo-liberalism that establishes a de facto dictatorship of the market against the genuine popular will of peoples, nations and States.”
A brief historical excursus then outlines the key events that led to the current cage of statutes and laws restricting the will to independence, or the right to decide. The document is particularly clear, in its words and syntax: faced with a new scenario for solving the conflict, the Basque Left insists on its demand for the basic pillars of the new movement: independence, full euskaldunizacion (total affirmation of the Basque language), socialism, justice and liberty as a framework for peace, feminism, international solidarity and anti-imperialism. The final part of the statute, particularly important and rich in sub-paragraphs, deals with participatory democracy understood as “empowering society with respect to the progressive deterioration of the democratic credibility of institutions.”
The document’s conclusion uses no less than three paragraphs to emphasise the same concept in different terms, and namely the idea of embracing a kind of political activity exercised “exclusively through pacific and democratic means, refusing violence and menace as methods for achieving political objectives.”
The Political Parties Law passed by the Spanish parliament in June 2002 outlawed Batasuna through statutes tailor-made for the specific case. It also forbade that any future electoral list that included ex-militants, or that was a direct continuation of the Batasuna experience, be declared legal. A political apartheid, as the Basque Left described it, which did not succeed in repressing the ability to develop and continue politics, despite the arrests and the difficulties involved in clandestine political action. Today a new proposal exists, which declares its right to act in a political scenario of non-violence and non-coercion. For Spain’s political class, and the Zapatero government, this is not enough. “First of all, the militants of the Basque Left must declare that they have broken with ETA,” was the immediate official reaction. In other words they must abjure ETA.
Words that sound dangerously like a return to the imposition of self-condemnation, to the days of confessions extorted by torture, when the condemned heretic, broken by the methods of the inquisition, abjured his beliefs as a prelude to his final physical elimination. The new movement will enter the arena of electoral competition. Eight years after the introduction of a law that discriminated against over one hundred and fifty thousand voters, the hope is that this time the “print on paper” of this statute will placate the censors in Madrid. Always remembering that rights are sacrosanct and – in a democratic nation – should never be a matter of hope.