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Leftover undemocratic habits

The Basque radical left is still refusing to formally demand the dissolution of ETA

Ten years have now passed since the outlawing of the Basque radical left party Batasuna, while it has been two years since Sortu, the new party of the movement (known as the abertzale), presented its statutes.

These statutes explicitly proclaimed the new party’s formal acceptance of the conditions set down by the Political Parties Law — that is, the rejection of violence as a means toward Basque independence. It was the failure to explicitly condemn violence that led to the outlawing of Batasuna. Under these terms the abertzale movement has once again constituted itself as a legal organization. It did so at its party convention, which was held this past weekend.

A number of stages brought the process to this point. Firstly, a coalition was forged for the 2011 local elections. Its legality was thrown into question, but later accepted by the Constitutional Court — a decisive factor was the presence of two already-legal parties in the coalition. The abertzales did the same with a view to the national elections of the same year; while by that time the terrorist organization ETA had already formally renounced its armed struggle, in a communiqué that had its share of mealy-mouthed ambiguities.

The latter circumstance — as well as the abertzale coalition’s strong presence in Basque municipal governments, its minority presence in the Basque regional chamber, and even a splinter presence in the Spanish Congress and Senate — was in turn decisive in the Constitutional Court’s decision to amend the Supreme Court’s position and admit, last June, the registration of Sortu as a legal party. This set the stage for the weekend’s founding convention.

In 2006, the abertzale left refused to accept the terms spelled out in the Political Parties Law as a condition for constituting a legal group. Now it is accepting these terms, including the renunciation of violence. The argument that its political line is conditioned by its traditional subservience to ETA no longer holds.

But certain residues of undemocratic habits remain. These are noticeable in the motions that were passed at the convention, and in the statements made by some leaders. The chief of these is the refusal to demand the dissolution of ETA — no doubt to keep the hope alive of making this dissolution conditional upon negotiations that could yield some sort of political reward for all the years of violence, one particular objective being favorable treatment for imprisoned ETA terrorists.

This week is set to see a vote in Congress on a motion brought by Amaiur (the name used by the abertzale’s splinter representation the national parliament) calling on the government to open negotiations on the “consequences of the Basque conflict,” and to modify its policy on prisoners.

The question is whether they are seeking changes to prison conditions now — which would be possible after the definitive announcement of the dissolution of ETA — or whether these concessions are supposed to be the result of negotiations — which would be totally counterproductive for the objective of an irreversible end to ETA.

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