Kontxi Arana, code name “Rita”, was a fighter of the Basque armed organisation ETA and also of the Sandinista movement. A ceremony of homage to her memory on 22nd April was also the occasion of an antifascist conference with representatives from a number of European countries.
The event took place in Gernika, the SW Basque town infamously bombed by German and Italian Nazi and Fascist squadrons during the Spanish Civil/ Ant-Fascist War, the act which inspired the Catalan painter Picasso´s famous piece on the event (which he called by its Spanish name, “Guernica” (sic)). The venue was the disused Astra factory, formerly manufacturer of handguns.
The Origins and Nature of Fascism
The day-long anti-fascist conference began with a talk on the origins and basic nature of fascism by Iñaki Gil de San Vincente, Marxist theoretician and veteran of the Basque Left Patriotic Movement from which leadership of however he has broken for a number of years.
Speaking in Castillian, he declared the essential nature of fascism to be authoritarianism, deriving from the development of the bourgeois family. The central authority figure in that family, later reproduced in other social classes including the working class is the Father, represented in capitalist society by the employer and the Church.
It is an authority to which all are required to submit: patriarchical, homophobic and intolerant of criticism or deviation.
De San Vincente spoke at length about this development and about early descriptions of fascism, for example by Clara Zetkin and Lukacs and described it as a production of capitalism and imperialism and therefore represented today most clearly in the actions of US Imperialism and the NATO over which it exercises hegemony.
The speaker also highlighted the development of NATO and its recruitment of Nazis as well as the development of its Vatican route for Nazis to leave Europe and enter Latin American countries where they would form fascist centres.
This talk was followed by a representative of Ezkerraldea Antifaxistako (Antifascist Left) who, speaking mostly in Castilian, outlined the history of the development of fascism in the Spanish state following the military-fascist uprising and the four decades of dictatorship, and how the organisation he represented responded to that.
The final speaker of the morning session was from Mugimendu Socialistako (the Socialist Movement – organisation with a large membership, according to a participant) who spoke entirely in Euskera (Basque language). Although simultaneous translation was provided into Castilian (Spanish), the volume of such was too low to be understood by many.
According to a participant, the content of that speaker´s contribution was similar to that of the previous speaker, although he mentioned the existence of Frente Obrero (Workers´Front), a Basque organisation which, despite its name, is a fascist organisation. The existence of that latter group appeared to be news to many present.
These talks were followed by a break and, upon resumption, there were some contributions from the floor and some responses from the panel, after which all repaired to the green outside the Astra building to where the ceremony of respect to the memory of Kontxi “Rita” Arana was to take place.
Kontxi Arana: A leading Basque liberation fighter who also joined the Sandinistas in the liberation struggle of Nicaragua
A Basque woman of the independent Patriotic Left movement blew the traditional cow or bull horn to summon attention, while the speaker in the Basque language introduced the program and speakers along with a short history of this internationalist anti-imperialist and anti-fascist fighter.
Kontxi Arana was an active member of the Basque armed liberation organisation ETA who avoided capture while on operations in the Spanish State but was arrested in the French state and exiled to an island, from which she and others escaped. Sometime later she surfaced in Nicaragua, where she had joined the Sandinista armed liberation movement.
Around the end of the 1990s, the leadership of the Basque Patriotic Left asked some exiles to return to the Basque Country to help push the pacification process and release of prisoners but the Spanish State refused to play, though they did not arrest Kontxi (however according to reports arrangements were not well organised to support her).
The homage to her memory
A man formerly of the official patriotic Left movement spoke in Spanish about the need for internationalist solidarity, through which however mistakes can be made (e.g. in supporting corrupt leadership) which however does not alter the importance of such solidarity, without which the revolution cannot advance.
This was followed by a man from Dublin Republicans Against Fascism who briefy explained in Castilian (Spanish) the history behind Christy Moore´s “Viva La Quince Brigada“, which the Dubliner then sang in its original English.
The homage event concluded with red carnations being laid by members of the audience in front of a portrait of Kontxi “Rita” Arana. Two ex-political prisoners played the ´txistu´ (Basque three-hole flute), one of them also beating a rhythm on a small drum (´tamborina´). A young woman stepped forward and danced the ´aurresku´, a traditional honour dance.
This dance was traditionally danced by a male, then by male dancers, then by male and female dancers until today, when it may be performed by any of those combinations or by a lone female, as in this case, and often enough in ordinary clothing as was the case on this occasion, though she did wear dancing shoes laced to the ankles.
The musicians then played the air of The Internationale, which most could be heard singing in Euskera, followed by Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”), the Basque national resistance song, similar to the Soldiers’ Song/ Amhrán na bhFiann of Ireland in content. Many had raised clenched fists as the songs were sung.
Suddenly, a wild high-pitched yodelling cry rang out from a female throat, the Irrintzi, traditional Basque battle-cry which probably echoed around the mountains in olden days.
All the audience then repaired to the Astra building where a hot meal was served to all on long tables with a bottle of wine to share among each group of several people (those present had purchased tickets to the event either in advance or upon attendance).
Afternoon session: Presentations from Turkish, Irish and Catalan antifascists.
The afternoon session started a little late as people straggled in. The chairperson, speaking in Euskera, introduced the theme of the session which was for antifascists from Turkey, Ireland and Catalonia to describe the situation with regard to fascism in their countries and how it was being confronted.
Two people from the Turkish-based revolutionary organisation Anti-Imperialist Front presented their contribution while using a video of images, some subtitled in Castilian but where not, spoken by the woman in English while her comrade translated simultaneously into Castilian.
Overall, the presentation was about the development of state fascism in Turkey and the failed military coup of 2016. The DHKP/C organisation had resisted this on the streets but a major struggle with the Erdogan government took place in trials and in the jails.
Through hunger strikes and physical resistance in the jails, hundreds of martyrs had lost their lives, said the speaker but had remained undefeated. Also martyred had been members of the Group Yorum music group which has played revolutionary songs heard by millions.
Another struggle was carried out through public hunger strikes by elderly relatives seeking the uncovering of mass graves in the bodies of fighters, their sons, had been thrown by the Turkish military.
As a result two mass graves had been eventually disinterred, permitting the remains of fighters of the DHKP/C and of the PKK (Kurdish patriotic socialist organisation) to be returned to their families for respectful re-burial.
The Turkish speakers concluded by stating the necessity for anti-fascism to be anti-imperialist and calling for internationalist solidarity and victory to peoples’ struggles.
The next speaker was from Dublin Republicans Against Fascism, explaining that eight centuries of occupation of his country by England has ensured that the dominant struggle had been one of national liberation and that all armed struggles since 1798 had been led by Republicans of various kinds: 1801, 1848, 1867, 1882 and 1916.
The Irish State that came into being after the War of Independence in 1921 had been a client of the UK, conceding over one-fifth of its national territory as a direct colony. The armed forces of the State had formally executed over 80 of the IRA and instituted a wave of repression including kidnappings, torture, murders including of prisoners.
In keeping with the rise of fascism across 1930s Europe, Ireland saw the Blueshirt movement, led by former police chief Eoin O’Duffy. The Republican movement and socialists fought these on the streets, the speaker said.
The Dubliner recounted briefly the history of Irish Republicans and socialists going to fight Franco in the Spanish state and the Irish diaspora fighting the British fascists, the Blackshirts, in British cities and in defence of Eastern European Jews in famous Battle of Capel Street in the East End of London against over 7,000 police.
He went on to recount some more recent successful physical attacks by joint Republican groups against fascist organisations, the Pegida group in 2016 and even more recently the National Party. Recently too, Republican ex-prisoners had released a video stating the opposition of Republicanism to fascism with a growing list of signatures.
In conclusion, the speaker said that Ireland’s history made it difficult for fascism to advance in Ireland (except in the Loyalist areas) but as long as capitalism exists so too does the danger of fascism, particularly if the progressive forces do not fight effectively against the attacks of Capital on working people.
The representative of the Anti-Repression Platform of Catalonia, speaking in Castilian (Spanish), explained their organisation had come into existence after the repression of the Independence Referendum in 2017 and the subsequent frame-ups and allegations of terrorism against the Committees for the Defence of the Republic.
The speaker alluded to the jailing of the revolutionary socialist rapper Pablo Hasel and comrades who were charged with terrorism merely for expressing and organising solidarity for those being repressed.
“Don’t try to frighten us with threats of a fascist party getting into government”, he said in a reference to the growth of the Spanish fascist party Vox, because we have had a fascist government in the Spanish state since 1939!” (The year that the military-fascist forces defeated the Second Republic and founded four decades of dictatorship).
The Catalan went on to denounce the social-democratic party PSOE (currently in coalition government with Podemos Unitas), pointing out that it has had more political prisoners in jail and fatal victims than any other party in Spanish government (he was probably including the sponsoring the GAL terrorists of the 1980s).
“There has not been a year in which there were no political prisoners in the Spanish state”, he went on to say but also denounced the current Catalan Government, led by the allegedly pro-independence and leftist ERC party and its repression of socialists and independence activists.
He pointed out that fascists would make no distinction between communists and anarchists and asked “so then why should we?” He declared that all who resist repression now, regardless of before, are welcome to take part in their organisation.
Prisoners on hunger-strike
The chairperson of the panel thanked the speakers and drew together elements from each of their presentations.
He went on to announce the declared intention of a small group of Basque political prisoners to embark on a hunger strike and to outline solidarity events being organised. The prisoners concerned are in the non-compliance minority of Basque political prisoners with a regime that forbids them referring to themselves as political prisoners.
The prison authorities intended to make the prisoners share a cell with other political prisoners who are however in compliance, intending to undermine the resistance of the small group and also posing the danger of conflicts within the cell. (A few days later news came that the hunger-striking prisoners had won their demands).
The conference in its organisation and content of contributions drew anti-fascism together with imperialism and internationalist solidarity, all from an anti-capitalist perspective. It also drew connections between solidarity with political prisoners and resistance to repression.
All of the Basque organisations represented are in opposition to the trajectory of the leadership of what had been the Basque Left Patriotic movement, now represented by the EH Bildu party led by Otegi (with daily newspaper GARA, its trade union organisation LAB) and many of the older people were ex-supporters of that leadership.
That included some prominent ones such as Inaki Gil de San Vincente and the speakers and organisers of the conference and of the homage to the memory of Kontxi “Rita” Arana. The younger participants might have included ex-members or had come into political consciousness in opposition to that leadership.
Taken together, they are what many call ‘dissidents’ though some reject that term, saying that they are in fact sticking to the original line of independence and socialism and that it is the official leadership and their followers who have deviated. Their numbers are comparatively small at the moment but they are growing.
On 2nd June a number of Left anti-imperialist organisations and individuals held a public rally in Bilbo/ Bilbao. The municipal authority refused them use of a building and they held it in the open air in the Etxebarrieta Square. The organisers issued a statement in Euskera (Basque language) and Castillian (Spanish) calling for unity against the war plans of NATO and the EU and denounced the equivocating posture of the ‘official’ left Basque movement, denounced also the militarism of the Spanish coalition Government and advertised a joint demonstration for 18th June in Moyua, on the south side of the river in Bilbao1.
STATEMENT ISSUED BY COORDINATING GROUP (translated by D.Breatnach from Castilian Spanish version published in Ecuador Etxea)
For several weeks, various people and groups from Bilbao, Meatzaldea, Uribe-Kosta, Ezkerraldea and Busturialdea2 have been coming together in this broad initiative to respond to the escalation of war that we are seeing around us. An escalation of war promoted by NATO, with the aim of shielding the world hegemony of the United States against the rise of emerging powers such as China, India, Iran or Russia. A strategy that is doomed to failure, but that will cause, if we do not prevent it first, destruction, misery and death throughout the planet.
In relation to the conflict in Ukraine, we believe that in no case can one speak of an inter-imperialist struggle between the NATO countries and Russia. Rather, it is an offensive planned for years to overthrow the legitimate government led by Vladimir Putin and gain control of Russian energy resources and markets. A policy of looting and plundering that the current Russian President put a stop to, no matter how hard it is for some to admit it. Ukraine is nothing more than the operations base and the cannon fodder of Atlanticist imperialism against its historical enemy, Russia.
Many on the Left say that the Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of yesterday. And they are completely correct. The problem is that even the slightest economic planning for social purposes by any State has become an obstacle to the viability of the parasitic capitalism that we live under. There we have the cases of Slovdan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, sadly imprisoned and/or executed in the face of complicit silence or the enthusiastic support of what they call the “international community.”
Those of us who are here today have already learned our lesson: first they demonize the currently out of favour ruler through the media, and then they justify military offensives and imperialist massacres. That is why at this time we cannot make the mistake of placing ourselves at equidistance. Both Russia and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have every right in the world to defend themselves against the aggressions of NATO and the EU, which conspire and supply weapons to fascist governments like Zelensky’s to harass Russia and destabilize the region. Not to mention the openly Nazi battalions captured in Azovstal, whose release France and Germany now demand in order to advance in the negotiations. What do European governments owe the Nazis in Azov? What do they have to hide and why do they intend to buy their silence?
The truth is that we still do not know the exact reason why the States of the European Union have completely bowed to the interests of the United States. It is evident that the sanctions against Russia and the new oil and gas supply routes imposed by the US only benefit the Yankee tycoons, the Arab sheikhs and the absolutist monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. NATO vassals like Borrell have definitively cast the old European project into History’s dump. They prioritize profit and military spending to the detriment of the health and living conditions of the broad masses and announce a future of misery and sacrifice for a war in favor of a capitalism that is against us. The European Union is definitely a rotting political corpse, in case anyone ever thought that it could have been a progressive alternative or for oppressed nations like ours.
Precisely here in the Basque Country, the official position of the institutional Abertzale Left3 regarding what is happening in the Ukraine is especially embarrassing. It seems unbelievable that those who proclaim themselves heirs to the historic struggles of the Basque Working People, a people of which the majority in 1986 opposed remaining in this criminal organization4, now wave the flag of “no to war” and of ambiguity. It seems immoral to us, both the pacifism that denies the just right to defense of those who are attacked by imperialism, as well as the lukewarm posture of those who do not take a stand, thus facilitating the advance of imperialism. Anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism must be cultivated day by day, if we do not want the ideological and cultural offensive of NATO and the EU to continue having effect, in particular among the sons and daughters of the working class. Thirty-six years later we unambiguously reaffirm ourselves in NO to NATO, no to FASCISM, no to GENOCIDAL IMPERIALISM.
As we said, we are witnessing an implacable propaganda to make us part of this imperialist strategy, so that we do not rebel against what is happening. While they continue to spread one-sided thinking through the big media, television channels that question the official story — such as Russia Today — are closed without the slightest shame, content on the Internet is censored by appealing to supposed “verified information”, journalists like Pablo González5 are imprisonedor political information is systematically eliminated from our streets. They not only want to indoctrinate us, they directly deny us the right to be informed. Where are the defenders of freedom of expression? Are we already living in a hidden state of emergency?
It is our obligation, therefore, to denounce, not only the rise of international fascism, but also the fertile ground that the fascists have in the Spanish State of the bannings, the GAL6, the closure of newspapers and the systematic torture of political dissidents7. Atlantic capitalism will never be able to find a better ally than the PSOE8, veritable experts in the art of manipulating and deceiving the working and broad masses. Sadly, there are times when collective memory seems too fragile. Of course, for this new phase they have found a faithful shield-bearer, the party of Yolanda Díaz9. Seconds were never good, we are already seeing where these wolves in sheep’s clothing are leading us…
We said at the beginning that different people have come together to counteract this hegemonic discourse that manipulates consciences and protects the sequestration of rights and freedoms. From Muskiz to Gernika we rebel today here against this ominous imperialist offensive. All this suffering is not necessary, there is no reason to accept the misery and the war to which NATO and the EU want to condemn us. It is also not the time to stay at home watching, or to follow the war as if it were a video game.
We therefore issue a call to all the towns and neighborhoods of Euskal Herria and other nations to continue organizing the fight against imperialism, capitalism and fascism. And we also invite all the people who are against the imperialist offensive of NATO and the EU to participate in the demonstration that we will carry out in Bilbao, on June 18 at 6:30 p.m. from the Plaza Elíptica.
NO TO NATO! NO TO THE EUROPEAN UNION! NO TO IMPERIALISM!
1Which is also the location of the representation of the Spanish State in Bizkaia and guarded by armed police.
2A number of towns and districts across the SW Basque province of Bizkaia.
3The ‘official’ leadership of the left-Basque independence movement, e.g the EH Bildu party under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi and others.
4In the 1986 referendum on whether to remain in NATO, the Basque Country gave the highest majority for No, with the Canaries and Catalonia coming behind. For the whole Spanish state, nearly 57% voted Yes against 43.15%.
5Basque freelance journalist reporting for Publico (Spanish left online media) and La Sexta, threatened and advised to leave Ukraine by state intelligence services, which he did but arrested by Polish intelligence on 28 February as he was about to re-enter Ukraine with a group of journalists. Poland has charged him with spying for Russia but to date produced no evidence and even denied him access to his lawyer. The Spanish State sent intelligence service agents to question his wife, mother and friends.
6GAL: A Spanish state terror and assassination organisation of the 1980s operating against the Basque resistance which was exposed as led by the Prime Minister (though never even questioned) Felipe Gonzales and directed operationally by the Minister of the Interior and senior Army and Police officers, a number of which received prison sentences.
7The Spanish state has long been accused by human rights organisations of torturing political dissidents and convicted in the European Court of Human Rights a number of times of failure to investigate complaints of torture. The State has closed newspaper and social media sites, jailed rappers, banned political parties, banned demonstrations, closed political cultural centres, disqualified political activists from representation in elections and jailed political activists.
8The main Spanish social-democratic party, currently in coalition government with Podemos.
9Yolanda Díaz resigned from Izquierda Unida (United Left – a broad coalition) but remained a member of the Communist Party of Spain; she is currently Deputy Prime Minister in the Spanish coalition government.
Far from the battleground which drew their separate loyalties, on Sunday (8th) an area of the Basque city of Bilbao became for a short while another battleground as pro-Palistinians and supporters of the Israeli basketball team Hapoel U-NET Holon clashed. The confrontation gave no indication of having being organised as such but many accounts from the Basque side spoke of days of anti-Palestinian actions and provocations — including an assault on a Palestinian woman — without any police intervention.
The Israeli basketball team was taking part for the first time in a four-team basketball championship, the “Big Four Finals”, the other three being MHP Ludwigsburg (Germany), Lenovo Tenerife (Canaries, Spanish State) and Baxi Manresa (Catalonia, Spanish State).1
Although the Hapoel supporters (around 80 according to one report and 200 according to others) had received some jeers when walking through the city during the weekend, their numbers had faced no organised resistance to tearing down pro-Palestinian posters and signs. The main physical clash arose on Sunday after some Zionists on their way to the basketball arena tore a Palestinian flag from the front of a small bar in the old section of the city and set fire to it. The customers in the bar responded vigorously and the battle played out in that general area until the arrival of the Ertzaintza, the Basque southwest regional police force.
Short report from Bilbao Hiria (my translation from Castillian original):
As usual in these cases, the social networks were the ones that began reporting the violent behaviour of the Hapoel Holon ultras. For two days the media remained complicit in silence until the altercations went viral and they had to start up the story manipulation machinery.
Most of the media dealing with the subject have equated the aggressors and the attacked, presenting it as fights between fans, but perhaps the worst case is that of El Correo, which turned the situation around by calling the Bilbao population “pro-Palestinian terrorists” whom it accuses of having harassed and attacked the peaceful Israeli “fans” since they arrived in the city and of setting them up in “an ambush” that was the cause of the altercations on Sunday.
It is interesting to see the treatment of the media depending on who causes the disturbances. When they happen in a demonstration or a strike, they make sure to make known how much the destruction costs each citizen, because there is nothing more evil than wanting to fight for your rights. But, on the other hand, breaking street furniture because any team loses or wins a game is the height of democracy.
THE PEOPLE UNITED… Once again it was the people’s organization that faced the attacks, that protected the establishments and denounced the impunity of the Zionist ultras. The response was quick and for Sunday afternoon they organized a rally to show rejection of what happened. Interestingly, it was the only time that the Ertzaintza made an appearance and identified some attendees, arresting two (who have since been released).
As mentioned above, earlier on the Sunday, a Basque antifascist platform, Sare Antifaxista, had convened a demonstration in what may be considered the central area of Bilbao north of the river, the Unamuno square. The demonstration was organised under pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist slogans and, as stated above, here the Ertzaintza did intervene, detaining two pro-Palestinians and recording them on their database before setting them free later. Among the slogans shouted as they began to march was “Israel is a terrorist state” (in Basque).
The Haupol fans had either passed by or avoided that demonstration before, less than 10 minutes walking distance away from Unamuno, they crossed the Nervión river on the San Anton bridge on their way to the arena. In doing so, they had to pass a small Basque bar just on the very south side where a Palestinian flag was hung over the entrance.
Soon a group of Zionists rushed the bar, tore the flag down and set fire to it with a flare. There were only 15 customers inside or on the terrace but they responded quickly and bottles and even furniture began to fly at the Zionists (possibly the Hapoel fan reported hit on the head with a chair received his injuries here). The Zionists picked up tables, chairs and parasols too to launch at the bar, smashing window glass there and on the next-door entrance to an apartment building.
There are many migrants living in that area known in Basque and Spanish as “Bilbao the Old” and they began to arrive to assist the customers of the Basque pub, at which point the Ertzaintza also arrived and shepherded the Israeli fans towards the arena and afterwards, in two groups to their accommodation in the city2. The police reported no arrests or recording of identities arising from that battle and one Hapoel supporter required medical attention after being hit over the head with a chair.
That very day, the Israeli Occupation Forces shot dead a Palestinian for the crime of trying to pass through from the Jordan side.
THE MEDIA, THAT BAR AND THE BASQUE POPULATION
Although Bilbao social media had been buzzing with reports of Zionist provocation for two days, the mainstream media did not pick up on it until the battle at the bridge end. True to form the mainstream media either tried to represent both sides as equally at fault or, as with the case of a reporter for the right-wing El Correo3 – and ‘right-wing’ in the Spanish state usually means descended from fascist Franco supporters during the Civil War – to cast the Zionists as the unfortunate victims. It was she who alleged specifically anti-semitic insults had been thrown at the fans which though not impossible, would certainly be unusual in Bilbao. It is the fascist groups in the Spanish state (including in the Basque Country) who have a history of anti-semitism as did the fascist Falange, who fought alongside Franco’s forces in the coup against the Popular Front Government in 1936.
The Abertzale4 Left has always been socialistically-inclined, anti-fascist and anti-racist and the first planned victim of the armed Basque group ETA was Melitón Manzanas, chief of the political police division of the Guardia Civil in Donosti/ San Sebastian in 1968, a man with a record of torturing detainees but also of hunting down Jews escaping through France and handing them over to the Gestapo.
The Naiz.eus5 website had no report on the incident but its Facebook page carried a photo of the burning of the Palestinian flag by Zionists and a report which, however, did not mention the Palestinian solidarity demonstration (perhaps because its own movement had not organised it). It appears to have been the only publication to also draw attention to the shooting dead of a Palestinian by the Israelis that very day.
El Debate went even furthering misrepresentation than El Correo through the former’s manipulated video of interviews with two people. The first, a youth and alleged eye-witness, gave an account blaming “around ten youth shouting in Basque” for being the cause of the event with only an unclear reference to a flag-burning. His testimony in foreign-accented Castilian is so at variance with so many other accounts that one is inclined to take him as a plant, either by Zionists or anti-Basque popular movement interests. The other testimony, from an elderly lady, a resident next door, is sweeping in its condemnation – but of whom? She refers to a peaceful bar and people on the patio – including with children – before the clash; after the youth’s testimony one is led to believe that she is condemning those “Basque youth”. Hardly, from information received here she is in fact the owner of the bar’s mother and also much video footage shared on social media had been shot from above in her very building.6
That particular bar at the centre of the battle is right by the southern end of the bridge, very small, not much more than a passageway from door to toilet with a bar on the way but also containing a patio outside with tables and chairs of the light aluminium or plastic type. The clientele is varied in age profile from 20s right through to 50s and 60s, generally Left and pro-Basque independence — and I have never seen it empty (unlike the much bigger and well-lit nearby Taberna of the Abertzale Left which also has a patio).
If the Palestinian flag was not permanently attached7, the management or patrons may well have intended to make a point on that day. They could hardly have expected the reaction however but despite their gross disparity in numbers responded vigorously.
The final results of the Anton Bridge match ended in a draw with only one injury to a Zionist, thanks to the intervention of the very biased ‘referees’, the Ertzaintza (who also took down two players’ names from only one side). There was no extra time played. However the match will be long remembered with effect no doubt the next time any Israeli Zionist team brings its fans to Bilbao.
For those interested in the result of the other match, Lenovo knocked Hapoel out of the competition at a final score of 78-71.
1Apparently these are unwilling to support the boycott of Israel but like many others will no doubt flock to support the boycott of Russian teams declared by the International Basketball Federation, among a boycott of Russian competitors from participation in at least 27 international competitions ranging from canoeing and chess to paralympics and pentathlon.
2According to one report, that required an Ertzaintza commander speaking to them in English (a rare event in that police force, surely).
3The Courier, right-wing Basque Catholic newspaper closed down in 1936 by the Popular Front government, resuscitated under the Franco dictatorship and true to its pedigree since.
4Izquierda Abertzale, literally “Patriotic Left”, a broad movement (but centrally-led) of political party, daily newspaper, trade union, social centres and pubs (and formerly also armed organisation ETA). For generations it dominated the general Basque patriotic movement but for decades now has been losing support as its embracing of a non-existent “peace process” failed to end even the dispersal of its hundreds of political prisoners throughout the French and Spanish states, to say nothing of gaining their release under amnesty. There are also anarchists and other groups outside the formal Izquierda Abertzale, including some formed by its former members.
5Online representations of the Abertzale Left’s daily newspaper GARA.
6When the filming was being made, the bar was shut and the area deserted. One suspects the youth was there by arrangement with the reporters, whereas the elderly lady was videoed leaving the premises next door. Her recorded interview may well have been edited to remove clarification of the target of her denunciations; even if she had not made it clear herself it seems unlikely that she would not have been asked to clarify whom she was blaming. According to Wikipedia, the Spanish newspaper El Debate was a right-wing Catholic-conservative newspaper that, like El Correo, ceased publication in 1936 (year of the election of the Popular Front Government followed by the military-fascist uprising). However, an online search turns up the current newspaper’s own website, claiming its foundation in 1910 – the same year as that of its right-wing namesake and a quick review of even its headlines reveals its very right-wing and unionist editorial attitude. With the media with which it is provided it is hard to blame the average Spanish citizen for ignorance or bigotry.
7It was not so in years past but having not been there in two years can’t say whether prior to that day it had been.
The revolutionary Basque socialist coordination organisation Jardun Koordinadora organised a celebration of Aberri Eguna, the Basque national day, combining political, social and cultural forms. Aberri Eguna takes place annually on Easter Sunday, a date chosen by its founder Elias Gallestegi based on a traditional commemoration day of the Easter Rising in Ireland. Aberri Eguna was first celebrated in Bilbo in 1932 attended by 65,000 people, including members of Emakume Abertzale Batza1, the Basque nationalist women’s organisation founded by Gallestegi also in emulation of the Irish organisation Cumann na mBan. Around 1,000 people, with a high representation of youth but also of veterans of the struggle, attended the events in Gernika2.
The Irish connection was reiterated on Sunday by the reading at the political rally of messages of solidarity from three Irish-based sources: Anti-Imperialist Action, Anti-Internment Committee of Ireland and Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee.
Jardun Koordinatora is a relatively new initiative which is a sharp departure from the trajectory in recent decades of the official leadership of the Abertzale Left, a trajectory which has served to dismember and dishearten the movement.
La Haine Report
(Translation by Dublin Basque with explanatory notes in italics)
The different organisations comprising this Coordination (Jardun) demonstrated in Gernika under the slogans “Aberri gorria, biharko Euskal Herria, “Independentzia eta Sozialismoa”, “Euskal Herrilangilea Aurrera”, “Presoak Kalera Amnistia osoa” and “Amnistiarik gabe bakerik ez” (“Bright future in tomorrow’s Basque Country” “Independence and Socialism”, “Forward Basque workers”, “Prisoners Free with Full Amnesty” and “No Peace Without Amnesty”).
This Sunday, April 17, the JARDUN Coordination convened the Aberri Eguna (Basque National Day) gathering some 1,000 people to claim the national objective of the Basque Working People.
Along with a Zanpantzar group (performers with bells in traditional costumes representing animals), the event began with a march starting from Plaza Mercurio and during the journey different acts were carried out to demand prisoner amnesty and rights for working women. The event ended with the speeches read in Pasealeku Plaza: the first two were messages of solidarity sent by Anti-Imperialist Action and Anti-Internment Committee (both of Ireland) and ended with the political statement of the JARDUN Coordination.
The demonstration went smoothly. However, the bus that departed from Irunea/ Pamplona had problems getting there because the National Police stopped it in Urdiain, taking details of the occupants.
To conclude, JARDUN Coordination stated that the only alternative for the Basque Working People will come from the hand of independence and socialism. To conclude, the Internationale and the Eusko Gudariak (Basque Soldier) were sung.
Jardun Statement for Aberri Eguna 2022 (Translated by D.Breatnach from text supplied in Castillian Spanish)
Under capitalism, we workers are condemned to survive. We build our lives around work and the exploitation we suffer in it, while the bourgeoisie lives at the expense of this work. Such is the dynamic of capital. This is the logic of the economic system currently in force in the world. That is why it is important to clearly identify and point out the adversary facing us; because the capitalist system, the bourgeoisie, normalises and legitimises the fears and the repression that it produces daily to absorb the blood of the workers.
But with 19 years in prison for the freedom of his people, the murder of Iván Colona, a direct consequence of the criminal French prison policy, is not normal. The situation of the working people of Ireland, suffering from crushing British occupation for more than 800 years, is not normal. After eight long years of war, the situation of the working people of Donbass, who experience bombings, murders and massacres on a daily basis, is not normal. And much more heinous, outside of the norm, are the attempts to whitewash and legitimise criminal institutions such as NATO murderers.
We must situate ourselves in that context, understand within that reality, the situation that Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) is experiencing. Today our country are controlled by both the French and Spanish states. Not only do both these states not recognise Euskal Herria but they carry out an oppression based on that denial against the working class of Euskal Herria. In effect, we must understand well that, beyond the national question providing the a joint market for the states, the working class can only use the political project of the bourgeoisie as an element of unity to support and protect it, promoting interclassist attitudes.
The aforementioned denial, as well as the attacks carried out by the Spanish and French States against the Basque Working People, must be understood as an ideological motivation of the national State. We must, therefore, situate the oppression of Euskal Herria in the very creation of the Spanish and French capitalist states; because the objective of the denial is clear, the assimilation of Euskal Herria. To do this, the states take advantage of the institutions aimed at creating divisions and gaps in the Basque consciousness. And to protect these institutions and guarantee the supremacy of the bourgeoisie, they take advantage of dogs of various colours to attack the working people. To promote alienation and renounce our identity, in addition to normalising the attacks against the language, they have turned the Basque language and culture into souvenirs of a territory that today wants to dedicate itself to tourism, since for the bourgeoisie everything is business, to the point of commodifying our places of residence.
This being the case, given that denial is a decision of a political nature, we must cover with a political character the oppression experienced by Euskal Herria to view it with a class vision. We have to be clear about the concept of the political nature with regard to Euskal Herria nationality. Therefore, we have to fight against normalised oppression. Along this path, it is up to the workers of Euskal Herria to build our own political project and in response to this we have to equip ourselves with our own institutions that have to arise out of the counter-power that we need to form. And for this it is necessary for a Workers’ Euskal Herria to break politically with the Spanish and French states.
These States offer the working people the use and threat of both persecution and violence, within the capitalist system that condemns the working class to servitude for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. For this reason, to carry out the aforementioned political rupture, political confrontation must be a valued concept in order to carry out the political project of the workers of Euskal Herria. Political confrontation must also be the engine of the revolutionary process aimed at achieving an independent and socialist Basque state in Euskal Herria.
For this, it is necessary to take the revolutionary process to the extreme and form a political body that must feed the revolutionary alternative. Specifically, a political body to be formed by organised workers in favour of national and social liberation and the sale of their labour power in the Basque Country. A political body that is committed to achieving an independent and socialist Basque State. Because the Basque Working People cannot be limited to the forms of work authorised by the capitalist system. These not only destroy the revolutionary potential of the working class, but are aimed at sustaining and reproducing the ideology of the bourgeoisie; because the enemy will not give, in any way, more than he is willing to give. The bourgeoisie will not voluntarily give up its privileges.
It is essential to set in motion the revolutionary process that must take place on the path of a classless society, towards the acquisition of political power by the working class; the aforementioned subject will only be achieved through the confrontation carried out with the capitalist state. Through the counter-power built in the confrontation, the Basque Working People must articulate revolutionary structures that wear down the centres of power of the oppressor and guarantee his liberation against the exploiters, to guarantee the achievements obtained during the revolutionary process. Because the political power of the Basque Working People must be based on counter power. In other words, the revolutionary alternative of the working people will be built and take root as the control and power of the capitalist states over the workers of the Basque Country is annulled. The revolutionary alternative must be a comprehensive political alternative that satisfies the needs of the Basque Working People.
It must be understood that this will be capable of leading struggles based on the activation and commitment of the workers. Therefore, in order to weave and build a revolutionary alternative at this time, the priority is the activation of workers aimed at promoting the ideological struggle and mobilization, understanding the JARDUN coordinator as an instrument to achieve this. In short, JARDUN is a framework created with the aim of promoting the organisation of bodies and militants to win the freedom of Euskal Herria. Its objective is that, under a common political project and strategic approach, each organisation carries out its contribution in specific political areas, but that all act within the framework of a common strategy and direction.
We have to be aware that this will be achieved through gradual activation and participation through the awareness of the Basque Working People. In this process, the revolutionary process itself will be carried out gradually, and the Alternative of the Basque Working People must carry out struggles based on the different forces, conditions and problems of the moment. As its political work deepens and Basque workers’ participation in the Coordination increases, JARDUN will create new framework organisations and acquire comprehensiveness and integrity, with the revolutionary movement’s priority being to create the conditions to achieve it.
When talking about the liberation of Euskal Herria, self-determination is a frequently mentioned term: self-determination, a term that appears many times when a nation is subjected to the sovereignty of another against its will. But when we speak of self-determination, considering the revolutionary process developed under a counter-power based on political rupture, we are not referring, in any way, to the vote marked, accepted and facilitated by the States that persecute Euskal Herria, but to the process of separation of one nation from the state structures of another nation. Self-determination as synonymous with the revolutionary process that must be carried out to achieve an independent and socialist Basque State, in the case of Euskal Herria.
Autonomism, because it is a struggle based on the management of the remains provided by the states, is not an option. It is not a legitimate choice on the table for the revolutionary movement, since this implies reformism and the strengthening of the position of power and subjugation of the States, together with the renunciation of the strategic objectives aimed at the liberation of the Basque Working People. However, it would be a serious mistake to believe that, through national liberation, the liberation of the workers will take place mechanically. This must be understood within the class struggle, in which we must place self-determination itself within the class conflict.
On the other hand, there exists the denial, underestimation or rejection of the national question, the strengthening of the repression that the capitalist states carry out and accepting the framework of the oppressive nation imposed, in the name of socialism, with the argument of unity of the workers. Regarding the national issue, the lack of correct position also allows the French and Spanish States to continue applying unjust laws and coercion, helping to hide the dimension of oppression suffered by the working class of Euskal Herria. Keeping silent before a crushing stomp, since taking a neutral position means protection from crushing; taking neutral positions allows oppressive power relations to continue unchanged over time and space, perpetuating them.
Consequently, the mere demand for independence only benefits the interest and political project of the bourgeoisie of the Basque Country. And the socialism that in Euskal Herria does not address the national question goes hand-in-hand with denial, denying in class parameters the revolutionary potential of the national question. The achieving of the independent and socialist State must be the result of the revolutionary process of Euskal Herria due to the national oppression suffered by the Basque workers. Revolutionary alternatives beyond the essential defence of independence and socialism must be the basis of the political position of the Basque Working People. They are only alternative for the Basque Working People, because it inevitably comes hand-in-hand with independence and socialism.
Long live a free Basque Country!
Long live a socialist Basque Country!
1A strong organisation in the antifascist resistance to the fascist-military uprising against the Spanish Republic but no longer in existence.
(Report by Jardun Koordinadora translated by Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee)
The atmosphere was tense on September 25, 2021 in Leitza due to the presence from the early hours of the morning of the Civil Guard and the secret police. To this must be added the checkpoint and identification by the GAR (Guardia Civil “anti-terrorist” Rapid Response Organisation – Translator) of many of those attending the political event organized by the revolutionary organization JARKI. In the same way, the Civil Guard had no problem in stopping and subjecting to identification those who traveled by bus organized from Bilbao and Gernika. This was not the only episode of police repression since several JARDUN activists from Leitza complain of having been followed by the secret police over recent days.
The event organized by the revolutionary organization JARKI gathered hundreds of people in Leitza square. Once the flame was lit, to the sound of the adarras and the txalapartaris (traditional ox horns blown and wooden percussion instrument played – Trans.), the act began, under a gigantic ikurriña (flag of the Basque Country – Trans.). Next, the dantzaris exhibited the “agintariena” (see Notes) while a gust of wind snapped the rope securing the ikurriña and two young people had to climb the pediment to hold it for the rest of the act. Later, two bertsolaris took the stage asserting with their verses independence, socialism and amnesty, as the legitimacy of the fight of the gudaris (volunteer liberation fighters).
To conclude the ceremony, a member of JARKI read a statement in reference to the commemoration of Gudari Eguna. The statement among many other things vindicated the struggle for memory of Euskal Herria, and of those who have given all in for it, thus legitimizing their struggle and the celebration of this day. He also mentioned the presence of ‘dogs’ in different uniforms that act with total impunity, making it clear that there is no type of coexistence between the oppressed and the oppressors. To the revolutionary organization JARKI this underlines a clear principle: confronting who is oppressing you and who is keeping you under their control is not an option, but a necessity.
The act ended with the singing of the Internationale and the Eusko Gudariak.
The Gudari Eguna (Day of the Soldier) originally celebrated the Basques who fell fighting the fascist-military coup in the ‘Spanish’ Anti-Fascist War or who were executed when captured or died as a result of their prison conditions. The martyrs in the struggle against the Franco dictatorship and after required that they also be included in the Gudari Eguna celebrated in October but since the Basque Nationalist Party dominates that commemoration and excludes the later martyrs, the patriotic left movement has changed the date to the last weekend in September and celebrates all the Basque martyrs. The last weekend in September was chosen because of the Franco regime’s execution of two ETA and three FRAP volunteers on 27th September 1975.
Jarki is a revolutionary socialist organisation for Basque independence. Statement on who Jardun are: “It is an image that includes a group of organizations fighting for the achievement of the Basque socialist state, operating under common agreed ideological bases and minimums. JARDUN is a meeting place for different organizational frameworks, a movement that promotes their collaboration. To this end, it provides a common framework for the adoption, coordination and decision-making of the various organizations that make it up. Therefore, at different levels, it is a tool for solidarity between militancy, organizations and groups within it. Using these coordination frameworks, the ACTION will be made up of sectoral organizations with specific functions and well-defined roles to carry out in a sector-specific way. The aim of this sectoral framework is to promote the efficiency of the organizations, which, in turn, incorporate the Basque Country Workers’ Alternative in the field in which they work. In this way, all the organizations that make up JARDUN work within the framework of the same objective and strategic line, each of which deals autonomously with its own line of work.As long as we understand that the workers are the subject of the struggle for an independent, socialist and united Basque state. So, when we talk about the Basque Country Workers’ Alternative, we are talking about a comprehensive political alternative that meets the needs of the Basque Country Workers. Its aim is to reach all areas of Basque society as a tool for activating and organizing the critical pro-independence and socialist masses in the Basque Country. In other words, the Basque Workers’ Alternative must be a tool for confrontation that will lead us to a break with the states. Ultimately, JARDUN must be the organizational framework for the Basque Revolutionary Workers. In order to achieve the strategic goals of the Basque Revolutionary Workers, which must carry out the Basque socialist revolution, it must be a comprehensive alternative that must provide the means to carry out the necessary struggles.”
Leitza is a town in northern Nafarroa (Navarra), one of four provinces of the Basque nation within the Spanish state.
The Guardia Civil are a Spanish state-wide gendarmerie or militarised police force, armed and living in barracks. They were the physical backbone of Franco’s dictatorship and continued in a repressive political role following the “Transition to democracy”.
The Agintariena is a ‘dance’ which resembles a short military parade with ‘arms’ to music; two lines of dancers march while a flag-bearer proceeds between them. At a particular point the dancers all go down on one knee with heads bent while the flag-bearer waves the flag over them all, seemingly in blessing over the fallen in battle. A mass example in a festival can be seen in the video clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfoTmQZC_gs with the irrintzi (traditional ullulating call) thrown in for good measure.
Bertxolaris are performers of a traditional format of expression in song and rhyme on any theme. Competitions among these are held in the Basque Country in which the performers must extemporise rhyming verses on a given theme; these receive great public interest.
“dogs in uniform” — “txakkurak” (dogs), a pejorative slang name given for generations to the police in the Basque Country.
The Internationale is a song of revolutionary socialist struggle with lyrics written by an Anarchist activist in the Paris Commune of 1871 and put to music later by Marxist; it has been translated into a great many languages with examples in every populated continent. Eusko Gudariak (Basque Soldiers) is a Basque national anthem (in theme somewhat like the Irish national anthem “The Soldiers’ Song”). It was reputedly sung by ETA martyr Juan Paredes Manot (Txiki) while being executed by Guardia Civil firing squad in 1975, even continuing while mortally wounded by the first volley.
The wolf was hunted to extinction in Ireland during English occupation1 – in fact, a similar bounty was paid by the colonial administration on delivery of Catholic priests and resistance fighters as was paid on a wolfskin2. They were extirpated in most of western Europe and in large parts of the USA and plans to reintroduce them run into lots of opposition. But really, what is the problem with wolves?
The canine with closest ancestry to our domestic dog is the wolf, the Eurasian and American subspecies – close enough to our dog to mate and produce viable offspring – and the divergence from a common ancestor is estimated to have occurred 11,00 to 16,00 years ago.3 The wolf is an apex predator usually in a pack ruled by an alpha male and alpha female, the only ones permitted to mate and their offspring are cared for by the whole pack.
Highly social, adaptable to different terrain and weather, the wolf is a highly-intelligent animal able to travel long distances and fierce in defence or attack. Many people might fear wolves through imagining they or their children being attacked by them – and certainly there are enough childhood stories to feed that fear — but the main opposition to their conservation or reintroduction does not come from that source. Nor is the source those pet owners, particularly of weak or diminutive descendants of the ancient canine stock, like those for example in Los Angeles who complain that a coyote ate their toy poodle.
Wolves playing among themselves in juxtaposition to humans in Gorbeia, the largest natural park in the south-western Basque Country. The presence of wolves there is mentioned in only some of the tourist promotional literature and no explanation was provided with the youtube posting of this remarkable video.
The main opposition, and by far the most powerful, are the livestock farmers4. And their fears are far from irrational. Wolves are top-range predators easily capable of killing a sheep, pig or goat and, as a pack, of killing cows and even horses too5. Most livestock farmers are not going to be convinced by arguments in favour of biodiversity when they largely favour one or two breeds of meat or dairy animal, selectively-bred for high production relative to maintenance cost.
And the bigger the livestock farmer, the more realistic his problem with wolf conservation — or worse, wolf reintroduction. The bigger the herd, the more widely it is dispersed for grazing, the more difficult to protect. Paid guards with high-powered rifles are only effective by day. Corralling by night requires electrified fencing and even they are not infallible.6
So how did people manage before? In some parts of Western Europe, there have been wolves in living memory and people raising livestock in those areas made a reasonable living. How did they do it?
The answer is dogs7. Not the poodle or spaniel or terrier type but big strong dogs capable of fighting wolves and, in the case of some breeds, more than a match in a one-on-one contest. The studded or spiked collar was invented to shield the dog’s vulnerable neck and throat.
PROTECTION FROM WOLVES BY DOG
In a video from the Basque Country I viewed some years ago, some villagers talked about wolves and the mastiff dogs they had and these are discussed also in a video in Spanish included here with shepherds from the Zamora region, in Castille and León, in central Spain. This type of dog is not a sheep or cattle herder8 but rather a livestock guard; living around the livestock, it knows them and does not permit predators of any size to approach them. In some parts of the world and in the case of some breeds, nor will they permit the approach of any humans, other than their masters and their known associates. Livestock guardian dogs are not all mastiffs but all are typically big and strong breeds, hardy to the prevalent weather conditions typical to their area, socialised to the herd animals and therefore at ease with them (and vice versa), protective of the livestock and inhibited from injuring or killing them, even when hungry. They are comfortable enough with their owners (although reputedly some do not enjoy petting) and his or her close associates, with some breeds also very protective of their owners.
There are around fifty currently known breeds around the world to fill this role9 including: Akbash and Aksaray Malaklisi of Turkey, Bakharawal of India, Beauceron of France, Cane di Manara of Sicily, Estrella Mountain dog of Portugal, Georgian Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees and Pyrenean Mastiff, Greek Shepherd, Himalayan Sheepdog, Karakachan of Bulgaria, Mazandrani of Iran, Mucuchies of Venezuela, Slovak Cuvac, Vikhan Sheepdog of Pakistan. The Irish Wolfhound was probably not one, it seems to have been primarily a hunting chase dog, though its name suggests it might have been used to hunt wolves too.10
2019 interviews in Castillian Spanish with shepherds who use Mastiffs livestock guard dogs in Zamora region, central Spain.
It should be born in mind that in many parts of the world, wolves are not the only mammalian apex predators; big cats and bears compete with them; in those regions guard dogs have to be and are willing and able to confront those species too. Despite the size and armament differential, a good guard dog will confront such predators displaying extreme threat in appearance and sound (and possibly also summoning assistance). Livestock guard dogs have been known to fight to the death but bear or even lions will usually back off to seek easier prey. Besides, a flock needs a minimum of two livestock guard dogs and and there might be more.11
These breeds are mostly comparatively rare now in many parts of the world, where apex predators have been extirpated, since their function has largely been dispensed with, or they are maintained as pets or competition show dogs.
None of the Basque villagers interviewed had mastiffs any longer, although one Basque livestock farmer informed the interviewer that his father had two. However, in some other parts of Iberia, the mastiff breed is still active as a working dog and a shepherd in Zamora (Castille and León autonomous community, central Spain) with a flock of 450 sheep has five mastiffs; all five might not be necessary but as he explains, one must have a working reserve in case of injury, sickness etc among the guard dogs. He spends €5,000 p.a on the dogs. The shepherds there have no interest in the show specimens of the breed saying that they are not being judged by their working ability. “If a wolf sees a show dog, it laughs,” says another shepherd. “If our dogs see one, they’d laugh too.” “It is impossible for the necessary qualities of a working dog to be judged in show environment”, says another shepherd, pointing out too that a mastiff that is too heavy cannot run, thereby rendering it it useless for guarding the flock.12 The dogs also need to learn from experience how to respond not just to an individual wolf but to a pack, where individual members of the pack will seek to lure the dog away towards others in ambush, or to detach it from the prey which others will then attack.
A wikipedia entry on Livestock Guard Dogs links their use with wolf coexistence: “With the reintroduction of predators into natural habitats in Europe and North America, environmentalists have come to appreciate Livestock Guard Dogs because they allow sheep and cattle farming to coexist with predators in the same or nearby habitats. Unlike trapping and poisoning, LGDs seldom kill predators; instead, their aggressive behaviors tend to condition predators to seek unguarded (thus, non-farm animal) prey. For instance, in Italy’s Gran Sasso National Park, where LGDs and wolves have coexisted for centuries, older, more experienced wolves seem to “know” the LGDs and leave their flocks alone.”13
Some Basque and Spanish shepherds seem to agree and are prepared to coexist with the wolf, using more traditional methods of livestock farming, corralling their stock by night with dogs to protect on duty as they are also by day.14 With a different apex predator in Australia, the widely-hated by farmers dingo, a few farmers are seeking to coexist with the predator against the opposition of the majority of their colleagues, in areas where dead dingoes may be seen suspended from trees or even roadside structures.
Dingoes are pack animals in which only the alpha pair breed (like wolves) and one of the cattle farmers states that dingo extermination attempts break up the pack, resulting in more individuals breeding. He also relates that kangaroos eat down the vegetation which competes with his cattle but also contributes to drying out of the land. When he stopped trying to eliminate the dingo, he says, they preyed on the kangaroo which in turn resulted in more surviving vegetation and land in better condition.15
A shepherd in the Zamora range states too that the wolf keeps down the numbers of wild boar and deer and generally across Europe these ungulates are reported to be on the increase (the white-tailed deer also in the USA). Boar are well-known in some regions for raiding cultivated fields, trampling growing plants to reach what they find edible, well able to knock down types of fencing, squeeze through gaps and so on. Increasingly on the Internet one can find videos of wild boar, often accompanied by their litter, foraging in villages and towns (in one video, even successfully overturning a trash dumper to feed on the contents). These types of ungulates contribute their own kind of environmental damage in addition in some cases to nuisance to humans16.
The Zamoran shepherd comments also that deer, a natural prey of wolves, often carry brucelosis and infect cattle, which in turn is is transmissible to humans and treated as a serious disease. In cattle it results in loss of weight, abortion of fetuses and lower milk production and as the shepherd says, state control procedures require the destruction of the whole herd upon finding of some infected animals. Apart from anything else, clearly this measure can have serious economic consequences for the farmer and for the whole state in question.17
If wolf conservation and reintroduction is be successful in the long-term, it will require livestock farmers to have smaller herds and a partnership with herd guard dogs, as well as other defensive means. This entails the irony that the expansion in herd protector dogs results in protection for wolves, in preventing their cousins from causing depredation in the herds, which would entail reprisals from humans.
It may be that farmers will occasionally lose a lamb or a calf or a pig from their ranges to a predator – but they lose occasional animals anyway, to pests, disease and mishap. Their stock animals will probably be healthier and tend towards the sturdier types.
Yes, but smaller herds? Well, is it not widely accepted (except by big farmers and banks) that we breed too many meat animals, with huge emission of greenhouse gasses and lots of waste? Smaller herds would surely be environmentally welcome.
CONSERVATION AND REINTRODUCTION PROGRAMS
Reintroduction methods for wolves vary from releasing adult animals from captivity, whether alone or as a pair, to placing captive-bred pups within a wild litter, when according to reports they are fostered without difficulty by the wolf bitch.
The problems involved in projects of conservation and reintroduction are not small. The wild mammalian apex predators can compete with and threaten the other mammalian apex predator – the human. Direct predation on humans by the other land-based predators is statistically low; fatal encounters for humans are much, much rarer than those for the other mammal involved and, when occurring, usually arise from self-defence by the animal or defence of kind (especially of the young), along with rabid animals. So, in general, leave them alone and they’ll leave us alone.
Still of a Mexican Wolf Reintroduction from video (Videocredit: Arizona Game & Fish Dept. 2018)
But leaving our livestock alone is a different proposition entirely and even more so if our livestock and livestock management systems have reduced the wolves’ natural prey, both in number and variety. And we tend to do that. Our systems tend to reduce forest to favour grassland for our domesticated grazers, which reduces or wipes out forest prey. Then we set out to reduce or even eliminate the wild grazers competing with our domesticated ones. Even when we develop forests we tend to favour monoculture or restrict to a few species of commercial timber with high turnover in comparatively shorter time.
Hunting and fishing reserve managers kill predators ranging from hawks, eagles, and owls to stoats, badgers, wolverines, foxes, otters, bears, felines and wolves; legal and illegal means of killing predators include shooting, trapping and poisoning. But those practices also favour only those particular wild species valued for hunting, often edging out a diversity of other species which are now faced with “unfair competition” from the “sport” species, resulting in damage to diversity and to the particular eco-system.
Large-scale elimination of prey animals in order, for example, to protect crops, also reduces the natural prey available to predators. Growing only particular kinds of trees will result in quicker turnover and or greater profits but also in monoculture forests giving little shelter to diverse wild life.
For good reasons as explained by their supporters, the presence of apex predators affects not only their prey and other predators but also vegetation, which in turn affects other animals, birds and fish (through their effect on water courses) – in fact, a top-down effect on the whole local environment which has been shown to beneficial.
The objectors argue that large mammalian predators can cause significant problems to humans and most significant among those humans are the livestock farmers. They, ranging from rancher livestock operations of thousands of animals, down through the medium enterprises of some hundred head, to small farmers with up to a sore or so, are the main source of opposition to wolf conservation or – what are we thinking of? — reintroduction.
The opposition based on fear of attack on person, largely without contemporary logic but relying on ignorance and some folklore, can be educated and managed by conservationists but the livestock farmers are a different proposition. Those who rely on livestock to make a decent living and those companies for which it is big business, along with their shareholders and banks, are not going to be easily persuaded. The smaller or even medium-sized concerns are potentially more amenable to convincing, especially if aided by state grants to offset losses to predation18. The evidence is that for them a change to investing in livestock guard dogs would be manageable and very possibly more emotionally rewarding19.
Big business is another matter. Grants would have to be substantial to convince them and, in any case, ecological grants to big business have not turned out to be of benefit to the environment overall. Quite crudely, big business will need to be forced to reduce the size of its operations or be put out of business one way or another; how that may be achieved is another day’s discussion. Meanwhile, progressing with smaller and medium-sized livestock farmers will make some difference and play an important educational role in what is good for the environment and for us.
NATURAL REINTRODUCTION AND VIABILITY
Not all reintroduction is human-initiated. In the Pyrenean region of the Iberian peninsula, in areas devoid for years of the native wolf, they speak of the appearance of the Italian wolf (sub-species) slightly divergent from its Iberian cousin), though none of those migrants having yet bred and thereby established a pack. This situation is leading to increased discussion around the pros and cons of wolf conservation and herd protection there.
The wolf is protected in Iberia and though classified as game species in the northern part of the Spanish state20 a ban on hunting wolf was introduced even there in February of this year (2021). This had been agreed some years earlier by the Euskadi regional Government but not implemented, until conservationists (with the support of some traditional shepherds took a successful court case to force the implementation.21 Compensation is paid for livestock killed by wolf or bear but in uneven amounts and by different systems across the state.
In the case of achieving general agreement and support for reintroduction, there remains the problem of viability of the reintroduced animals. Although the White-Tailed Eagle reintroduction to Ireland has been successful, reintroduced Golden Eagles struggle to survive and expand on the amount of suitable prey available to them. Wolves might not fare much better, once they had reduced the red and roe deer populations in the country.
However, a puzzle for us is that the earlier well-referenced wolf existence in Ireland predates that of the deer, raising questions on what were its main prey animals at that time. Perhaps it was the wild boar and certainly the presence of the torc is attested to in many Irish place-names.
In a number of other European countries, wolves could probably build sustainable populations preying on deer and boar, in addition to rodents and lagomorphs, along with some waterfowl (in particular ground-nesting ones such as the mallard). Swans in Ireland for example would presumably have to change their nesting habits to more isolated reed-beds and islands (though wolves are good swimmers).
In countries with large wild areas the problems of wolf and human interaction are reduced but Ireland is not such a country. The success of such a project in Ireland would require substantial areas apart from bogland being given over to wildness, with substantial forest coverage (the benefits of the latter are discussed below). Sheep flocks and cattle herds would need to be smaller and require guarding by day and night; the benefits of smaller livestock herds and a mechanism for their protection has been discussed earlier here.
Also required would be a rigorous enforcement of predator protection legislation which does not have a good record in Ireland (see http://trinitynews.ie/2016/10/farmers-wildlife-freak-outs-and-facts/) and and a compensation scheme for farmers in case of livestock loss (or indeed cultivated land loss to wilding habitat, multi-species deciduous forest planting, etc).
SUPPORT — WHY BOTHER?
The financial and educational benefits of eco-tourism are often quoted in defence of reintroduction of wolves and other terrestrial apex predators and, for some, those are sufficient justification. Eco-tourists are particularly interested in seeing apex predators and even hearing them, especially in the case of wolves. Certainly providing for such tourism is a niche which can permit a living to be made from management of low livestock numbers or even land without any livestock at all. As such it can be a convincing argument for small herding communities or for individual farms in livestock country.
Another reason quoted is the psychological and scientific benefits of living more in tune with the natural world and, though hard to quantify, in a world heading for ecological disaster such potential benefit should not be ignored. Which is what it is likely to be, however, in communities and enterprises focused on surviving in the present (not to mention those for whom extracting maximum profits is the only viable reason for any undertaking).
Another and more tangible benefit of encouraging mammalian apex predator conservation or reintroduction is the early and visible environmental improvement resulting in places where it has been tried. Wild grazers compete with livestock grazers, often more efficiently than livestock can manage. Not only that but they will graze areas being left for regrowth by the farmer. Such overgrazing results in arid ground, retaining little moisture, soil erosion and can even end in desertification. What long-term benefit to the environment if reducing domestic herds results in more and more land being overgrazed?
In addition, there are the problems of infection of livestock and in turn humans by diseases carried by wild ungulates (e.g. deer, bison, antelope, boar, wild goats, mountain sheep22).
The large predator can be the solution. Wolves and other apex predators keep down the numbers of wild ungulates, keeping them also on the move (in fear of predators), allowing vegetation to recover from grazing, in turn assisting moisture retention in the soil. These changes in turn benefit many other animals and plants, from invertebrates up to birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Previously to wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone, the moose had only the occasional bear to worry about and they chewed their way through branch and leaf; rangers had to cull large numbers every year and even so there was substantial deforestation and large numbers of moose would die during severe winters, only to be quickly replenished the following year. Only one family of beavers was seen at work (their food of shrubs and low trees by the water margins was being eaten by the moose).
Twenty-five years after the reintroduction of wolves, willow and aspen had recovered in some areas of Yellowstone, beaver colonies had increased 14-fold, song-birds had recovered and some new species were being seen. The soil is retaining greater moisture. There are arguments about how much these changes are due to the action of the wolves but most experts grant the wolves at least some credit while some others give them a lot.23
So that’s good news for the environment and the wolf, not so good for the moose, right? Actually, it seems to be good news for the moose too, with lower die-off for moose in winter,24 signalling a general improvement in health of the stock surviving predation.
When the numbers of grazers is controlled, tree seedlings of willow and alder get a chance to grow on the edges and banks of bodies of freshwater, which tends to control soil erosion on banks and reduce flooding. When grazers are prevented or restricted from eating seedlings, new trees survive to extend the woods and forests or to replace fallen trees and harvested timber.
Many ecologists and forestry experts blame the white-tailed deer for changes across large parts of the USA, involving reductions in canopy-cover, reductions in diversity of tree species and general forestry maintenance (to say nothing of failure to extend)25.
For the ecology of the world, the thinning out of wild grazers is perhaps the most valuable service rendered by large mammalian predators although other factors need to be taken into account, including pattern and variety of planting and management, domestic herd sizes, along with of course responses to insect and fungal pests.26
It has long been known too that many species of trees prevent or restrict soil erosion and restrict flooding by holding water margins and, in some cases such as mangroves, sap the effects of hurricanes coming from the seaward side, along with tidal waves.
More crucially, trees produce oxygen and consume or hoard carbon. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen”.
We all know that we need oxygen to breathe and also to combine with other elements, such as carbon dioxide, to produce water.27 But the problem of excess loose carbon dioxide is recognised as one of the most serious confronting the eco-system at this moment, with carbon dioxide emissions creating part of the “greenhouse” cover over the earth, contributing hugely to global warming. This process in return is causing sea-levels to rise and also to warm, causing mass deaths in seas, along with big changes in weather systems with devastating effects for human and animal populations.
The wolf can also play a role in mediating the effect of other predators and has done so in part of the USA with regard to the coyote, similar to what the dingo has done to the European-introduced red fox, which has become a problem in Australia.
In Ireland another introduced species, more likely through escape from fur farms, the american mink, is also a problem and is spreading.28 It may be that the wolf can play a helpful role there too, along with having some effect in controlling that other american, the grey squirrel which, in turn, might assist the red squirrel’s return to areas from which it has long been absent.
1Though indications exist of some hunting of wolves by humans in Ireland, in England, wolf persecution was enforced by legislation and the last wolf was killed in the early 16th century during the reign of Henry VII (see Wikipedia on the Eurasian Wolf). Ireland was invaded by British-based forces in 1169 and over time native forces were defeated and the whole country came under English rule until partly independent in 1921.
2For priests: “An 1709 Penal Act demanded that Catholic priests take the Oath of Abjuration and recognise the Protestant Queen Anne as Supreme Head of the Church of England and, by implication, in Ireland. Priests who refused to conform were arrested and executed. ……….The reward rates for capture varied from £50–100 for a bishop, to £10–20 for the capture of an unregistered priest; substantial amounts of money at the time. The work was dangerous, and some priests fought in self-defence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest_hunter
For Wolves: “In AD 1652 the Commissioners of the Revenue of Cromwell’s Irish Government set substantial bounties on wolves, £6 for a female, £5 for a male, £2 for a subadult and 10 shillings for a cub”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolves_in_Ireland
4In some parts of the USA and Western Europe, where hunting big game is a widespread activity, fear of competition with the wolf in hunting season is also an important factor and one where “the common man” may come into conflict with those wishing to protect or reintroduce the wolf.
5It is worth noting that wild grazing mammals are capable of defence against hunting canines by outrunning them and, usually as a last resort, by fighting them with horn, antler, tusk, teeth or hoof. In turn, wolves have to plan, ambush, select targets and coordinate attacks. Old and very young grazers are vulnerable but calves and foals are pushed by their mothers to stand minutes after birth; in an hour or two, they can run. A wolf injured in attack cannot travel with the pack and will miss out on most food and, if failing to heal rapidly enough, will die. There is a constantly flexing relationship between the survival mechanisms of both prey and predator.
6In the first place they need to be high enough to prevent wolves leaping or scrambling over them, also proof against digging under. And since anecdotal evidence relates livestock guard dogs being willing to stand the pain of electric shock if sufficient stimulus is provided to get out of an electrified enclosure, one must assume that wolves will develop that same resolution at some point. Finally, there is the issue of possible weather damage and failure of the power supply to the barrier.
8There are a few types that can combine the characteristics of herding and guard, such as the Beauceron but in general livestock dog breeds specialise in either guarding or herding. In Australia, where the apex land predator is not the wolf but the smaller and lighter Dingo, some herding breeds also act as livestock guard dogs.
9Two are known to be extinct: The Alpine Mastiff and the Molossus.
10It seems that this breed was so valued abroad that Irish chieftains and English occupiers exported them, so that no originals of the breed remain. The current breed that goes by that name, a gentle attractive dog of high stature, is derived by cross-breeding. Wikipedia: “Based on the writings of others, Graham had formed the opinion that a dog resembling the original wolfhound could be recreated through using the biggest and best examples of the Scottish Deerhound and the Great Dane, two breeds which he believed had been derived earlier from the wolfhound. Into the mix went a Borzoi (“Korotai”), who had proved his wolf hunting abilities earlier in his native Russia. For an outbreed a “huge shaggy dog” was added, which may have possibly been a Tibetan Mastiff.
14See videos in Spanish from Zamora and the Basque Government region (latter in References & Resources)
15See Sources and References at article end for items in relation to dingo conservation,
16Apart from upending trash containers and raiding farms, boar may also attack humans, especially in the case of a sow accompanied by her litter and is capable of inflicting mortal wounds. Should boar become widespread in very close contact with humans, children might be attacked too.
18A Zamoran shepherd says he receives no grant and though not asking for one, says he should be supplied free of charge the ID chip he is required by law to embed in his dogs. On the other hand the Euskadi regional Government agreed to pay a grant and other regions have done so too, in areas where the wolf and bear are known to be in residence, without having to prove or even claim a kill of any of their stock.
19Partnership with working dogs is likely to be therapeutic in itself and surely wholly preferable to setting out traps, poison bait (which kills other predators and scavengers too) and shooting, including even killing cubs. Besides, break up the pack and more wolves will mate and bear litters.
20Ironically that status can serve to protect predators from extermination and since it was given that status in Poland, the wolf population increased substantially (see Wikipedia the Eurasian Wolf).
Sorprendió a mediados de agosto de este año tan atípico, la presentación en el Albertia que organiza Eusko Ekintza, este año también Jarki, de la iniciativa Jardun.
Ha pasado dos meses y he tenido una conversación de un representante de Jardun para que nos explique en qué consiste esta iniciativa, cuales son sus objetivos y si ha logrado avanzar en este mes escaso
Bueno… la verdad que fue sorprendente, la noticia de la aparición de este iniciativa… la primera pregunta es obvia… ¿Qué es Jardun?
Jardun es un proyecto político nuevo que surge en forma de coordinadora para llenar un vacío que existe en la izquierda independentista revolucionaria de Euskal Herria. Pretende agrupar a todos los militantes y organizaciones nacionales y locales que luchan por una Euskal Herria independiente, socialista, euskaldun y reunificada. Entendiendo que la independencia pasa por la conformación de un estado socialista vasco. Entendemos que para la consecución de dichos objetivos es necesario que cada organización que conforma Jardun, dentro de su espacio de actuación pero respetando su autonomía, funcionen enmarcadas dentro de una estrategia común que sea la plasmación de un proyecto político que responda a las necesidades de la clase trabajadora de Euskal Herria. Tenemos como principios el internacionalismo, la defensa del medio ambiente, la amnistía y la consecución de una sociedad sin clases y sin opresión de género que van todas de la mano, pues, el no luchar contra todas las opresiones puede perpetuar alguna de ellas y eso para nosotros no es una opción.
Se trata de una iniciativa que han lanzado Eusko Ekintza y Jarki… Un poco, ¿Qué tipo reflexiones habéis hecho común para llegar a estar conclusiones que comentas?
Lo que nos ha llevado a configurar la coordinadora Jardun es que las dos organizaciones que lo hemos conformado advertíamos que había una carencia en cuanto a una alternativa revolucionaria en Euskal Herria. Llevamos algo más de un año reuniéndonos y reflexionando conjuntamente ante el estado de colapso en que se encontraba el movimiento revolucionario vasco. Esto unido a la situación de desmovilización y alienación generalizada en la que se encuentra sumido Euskal Herria y al cierre del ciclo político anterior hace necesario poner en marcha un proyecto político independentista con perspectiva de clase y coherente. Pero más allá de la reflexión de por qué han ocurrido las cosas que han ocurrido durante décadas y han desembocado en la actual situación, lo que nos ha impulsado a dar este paso es la necesidad de ofrecer al Pueblo Trabajador Vasco una alternativa política integral, con vocación para avanzar de una manera real hacia los objetivos mencionados anteriormente. Para ello, necesitamos dotarnos de los instrumentos políticos y organizativos necesarios. Y es por eso que debemos tener la verdadera determinación y el convencimiento de que los objetivos son posibles si conseguimos activar a los sectores más concienciados del Pueblo Trabajador Vasco.
¿Hasta ahora que respuesta ha tenido vuestra iniciativa por los diferentes colectivos de Euskal Herria y que no están de acuerdo con las posiciones de la Izquierda Abertzale, llamémosla “oficial”
En estos momentos Jardun se compone de Eusko Ekintza y la organización revolucionaria Jarki a nivel nacional y de las iniciativas populares Bultza Herri Ekimena en la zona de Bilbo y Askatasun Haizea Herri Ekimena en Busturialdea. Seguimos buscando burkides para este proyecto y estamos encontrando gran receptividad por parte de diferentes grupos con los que estamos abriendo conversaciones y eso es ilusionante y muestra del la linea seguir. Sin duda en los próximos meses y años más grupos se sumarán a Jardun ampliando la base de este nuevo proyecto por la independencia y el socialismo dentro de una izquierda independentista renovada.
En el caso de Eusko Ekintza, ha tenido recientemente una experiencia unitaria, que por decirlo de una manera suave habrá salido trasquilada, me refiero a su experiencia dentro de Herritar Batasuna, en el caso de Jarki, es un colectivo nuevo de reciente aparición. ¿Han tenido muchas dificultades para llegar a acuerdos? ¿Han puesto encima de la mesa que tipo de comportamientos no van a aceptar para que esto vaya a buen puerto?
Las dos organizaciones tenemos recorridos diferentes, cada uno desde su propia realidad, pero nos une la voluntad de articular una alternativa lo suficientemente amplia y plural, dentro de las líneas rojas que nos marcamos, para que el movimiento revolucionario de este país pueda ir creciendo hasta convertirse en una fuerza política determinante de cara a conseguir la independencia y el socialismo. Para ello sobran los dirigentismos, los sectarismos, el buscar enemigos entre los burkides más cercanos a tu proyecto o el intentar construir una alternativa política a la reacción o a la contra de lo que hacen el resto de fuerzas políticas existentes en Euskal Herria. Nosotros luchamos contra la opresión nacional y social de los estados español y francés, el capital y sus gestores socio-políticos.
¿A que perfil militante va dirigida esta iniciativa?
A individuos y organizaciones nacionales, sectoriales o locales que compartan, las bases ideológicas y organizativas recogidas en el documento “Txinparta” (que es el documento base de trabajo para las organizaciones que conformamos Jardun), y que quieran sumarse, de una manera estratégica, para construir un verdadero movimiento capaz de avanzar de una manera real desde la sinceridad, la lealtad y el trabajo conjunto.
De los agentes vascos que se mueven en las coordenadas revolucionarias y abertzales que citáis… ¿Pensáis que se sumara alguno más, aparte de los que ya han dicho públicamente, en redes que aplauden la iniciativa? ¿Os vais a dirigir a ellos?
Además de los grupos que ya te hemos citado, continuamos y continuaremos reuniéndonos con toda nuestra determinación con diferentes grupos y colectivos para que Jardun siga creciendo en los próximos meses y años.
Supongo que con la Izquierda Abertzale “oficial” no tenéis ningún contacto y que no estará interesada en esta iniciativa
Evidentemente si nosotros estamos construyendo esta iniciativa es porque constatamos que el espacio socio-político del socialismo independentista revolucionario no está ni estructurado ni representado hoy en día. La militancia de Sortu ha hecho su propia elección política y nosotros no tenemos nada que decir al respecto puesto que no somos, ni parte, ni disidencia de lo que hoy en día se define como Izquierda Abertzale.
Ya para terminar… Destruir es muy fácil, construir es muy complicado… ¿Pensáis que esta iniciativa abrirá por fin un periodo en el cual haya una herramienta organizativa en nuestro pueblo para lograr sus objetivos históricos de Independencia y Socialismo?
Precisamente para eso constituimos Jardun, pero a la vez somos muy realistas en que construir una alternativa independentista y socialista amplia, eficiente y potente no se consigue de la noche a la mañana. Por eso, es muy importante ir avanzando de una manera firme, con las cosas claras y sin crear falsas imágenes de lo que no se es, pero haciendo llegar a todo el Pueblo Trabajador Vasco lo que sí somos por encima de los cordones sanitarios, bloqueos mediáticos y el boicot que algunos pretenden promover contra esta alternativa ilusionante.
Bueno… pues nada más. Estaremos atentos y atentas a los siguiente pasos que se vayan dando y que ojala conduzcan a ese objetivo…que nuestro pueblo entre vosotros y muchos más se organice y logre sus objetivos históricos
Sí, los objetivos históricos de nuestro pueblo y de nuestra clase.
The construction of an Independent and Socialist State that integrates Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Lapurdi, Nafarroa Behera, Nafarroa Garaia and Zuberoa.
(On the 18th I reported on the launch of the Basque organisation Jardun, a coordinating body seeking to unite Basque left-national organisations and collectives in a revolutionary movement. Since then they have published a fuller manifesto of their aims, here translated from the Castillian version.)
The construction of a society based on the power of the Basque working class, on overcoming the class struggle and on the socialization of the means of production.
Overcoming all oppression against working women.
Reunification of Euskal Herria.
Remaking Euskal Herria Basque-speaking.
The new alternative of the Basque Working People is a pro-independence and socialist political project whose ideological principles have six main points:
The national question is framed within the various oppressions suffered by the Basque Working People, oppression that in the opinion of this coordinating organisation can only be overcome through independence. In other words, when we speak of self-determination, we are referring to the undeniable right of the Basque Working People to separate from the states that oppress them and to undertake a process of building an independent and socialist state.
Before talking about socialism, it is convenient to specify what we mean when we speak of the Basque Working People. The Basque Working People is made up of everyone who lives and sells their labour power in Euskal Herria. Every worker within the Basque Working People, from the moment they suffer exploitation and oppression, that is, from the moment they suffer the blow of capital in a crude way in their day to day life, has the potential to organize the revolution. Therefore, when we speak of socialism, we refer to overcoming the class oppression suffered by the Basque Working People, on the way to creating a classless society.
We must understand that the Basque Working People cannot undertake the fight against capital alone. It is necessary to maintain contact with the different oppressed peoples and to acceptmutual aid. Even so, JARDUN will always set down an unpassable red line, that the national framework of the Basque working people can never be doubted. (Translator’s note: I was unsure about what exactly was meant by this sentence but one Jardun’s supporters told me it means that any struggle expecting solidarity from Jardun must accept the Basque people as a nation).
It is necessary to overcome the sex-gender dichotomy and the reproductive role that capital imposes on working women, in order to overcome the oppression suffered by working women and the structural reasons that originate it.
Amnesty is a strategic term that, going beyond confining itself to the freedom of all those fighterswho have worked for the freedom of Euskal Herria, implies political recognition in the eyes of working people of the struggle they have carried out and placing at the disposal of popular justice those who have systematically oppressed them.
Within the current capitalist production model, the environment suffers from overexploitation, responding to the logic of obtaining the highest possible economic performance, generating more waste than can be managed and creating a degradation that in many cases puts living conditions at risk. That is why the environmental struggle can only be approached from a root change in the production processes.
The six points outlined above that define the ideology of JARDUN cannot be understood or addressed in an isolated way, since if their achievement does not go hand in hand with the others, the only thing that we will achieve will be to perpetuate the oppression suffered by the Basque Working People. In the same way, only by addressing these points from a class point of view will the workers of Euskal Herria be able to obtain control of the productive processes and political power, neutralizing the bourgeoisie.
Although the Basque Working People have the potential to carry out the revolution, only by acquiring awareness of their situation and organizing themselves in pursuit of national and social liberation can they begin the revolutionary process, forming the Basque Revolutionary Proletariat. JARDUN needs to be the organizational space of the Basque Revolutionary Proletariat. At the same time, the working people at an organic levelshould be composed of different sectoral organizations working under the same strategic objectives, for the construction of an independent and socialist Euskal Herria.
In the same way that our predecessors faced the oppression that this people has suffered and fought against fascism in Albertia, today, it is up to us to confront the oppression that working people suffer and for that, unity is necessary, it is necessary join forces. It is time to start joining forces. It is time to start adding forces. It is necessary to get together with different groups in Euskal Herria and defend a common project. It is necessary for different groups to join JARDUN, so that each one from their own fighting trenches can contribute what they can, with a firm commitment, and thus respond as a people, as a working people to capital. Since we are very clear about the way forward and what strategy has to be carried out. And let there be no doubt that we will continue working in that direction. For those who have given their lives, for Euskal Herria and for the workers of Euskal Herria.
Press release, founding of Jardun (translated by D.Breatnach)
On Saturday August 15, two events were held on Mount Albertia in Legutiano.
“At 12 noon, at the top of Mount Albertia, the Eusko Lurra Foundation remembered the Gudari activists who fell in the war of ’36 fighting against fascism. This year the participation of women who fought for freedom and for the rights of workers in the war of ’36 was especially remembered, since women are have been greatly overlooked in this war.
“Later, in the surrounding of the Gaztelua oak grove, a political act was held. There, to begin the act, three veteran Ekintzales militants who maintained their militancy for decades were honoured. Later the organizations Eusko Ekintza and Jarki presented the new coordination called “JARDUN”, as an initiative for the union of forces of the pro-Independence Left.
“Today in Albertia, we bring to mind the gudaris (patriotic soldiers – Trans.) who, faced with fascism, fought for the freedom of Euskal Herria (Basque Country) in the war of ’36. Even so, we cannot, in any way, bring them to mind in a folklorist type of perspective. Passing beyond tears, we must approach today’s event from the point of view of the working people, whose only desire is to win and fight. That is why today, beyond only memory, we proclaim the legitimacy of the struggle of all those who in Albertia and in different parts of Euskal Herria have fallen fighting for this people. Precisely, the Albertia Day of 2020 has been organized along the line of that desire to continue fighting, in which its organizers want to make public a new tool that must respond to the aspirations of the Basque Working People. A tool that should function as a space for activation and organization.
“Due to fractures that have occurred for different reasons following the end of the previous cycle, the various organizations have not been able to overcome our differences and mistrust in order to agree on spaces for unity and coordination. Today, Eusko Ekintza and the revolutionary organization JARKI want to present a coordination space called JARDUN to the Basque Working People. JARDUN is not a split from anything, rather a framework that should shelter different national and local organizations, combining them in a political project and a strategy of a revolutionary independence and socialist nature. So that everyone can, from their space of struggle, organize individually or collectively.
“Today’s presentation, far from being what certain organizations are raving about, is in line with the capacity that the Basque Working People has historically shown when it comes to self-organisation in the face of the oppression it suffers. JARDUN is not a brand for the organizations that compose it to impose their ideology or their political project. It is a meeting point whose objective is to encompass and coordinate the Basque Working People, and all the organizations that work in favor of it, around broad but defined ideological principles. Its strategic objectives are clear: The construction of an Independent and Socialist state that integrates Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Lapurdi, Nafarroa Behera, Nafarroa Garaia and Zuberoa.”
(i.e the seven provinces of the Basque Country, including those on both sides of the Border between the Spanish and French states – Translator).
Albertia is the site of a battle in the Anti-Fascist war in Araba province from 30 November to 24 December 1936. The Basque Government’s forces launched an offensive on Villareal to take the town from coupist military-fascist forces and relieve the pressure on Madrid. Though the Basque forces significantly outnumbered their opponents, the latter were in defensive positions and had substantial air cover, while the Basque forces had hardly any. Eventually the siege was relieved by which time the Basques had lost 1,000.
Clearly a revolutionary movement needs to unite within itself different organisations and groups if it is to succeed. The official Abertzale Left had succeeded in this to a large degree, including under its umbrella a daily newspaper, a trade union, along with its welfare, political, cultural and social organisations. However, in taking the road of not only abandoning armed struggle but also focusing on the electoral path above all else, the official Abertzale leadership has taken some of its parts down that ruined road, causing confusion and fragmentation around it.
Is this Jardun a first step in the process of unification of the revolutionary alternative? Will it include the Amnistia and youth movements? Can it also include different elements such as anti-authoritarian self-organising groups? Will the internationalist arm of Basque national liberation, Askapena, be re-activated on a revolutionary basis? And can the mistakes of the past be overcome?
Basque independentist militant Itxaso Zaldua was arrested on Tuesday in Hernani, in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa and according to media is to be charged with complicity in the killing of a senior right-wing politician in 2001. She has spent only three years at liberty in the southern Basque Country after nearly twelve in a French jail and is now back in custody pending trial. Her arrest has been denounced by both wings of the Basque pro-independence movement but from different perspectives.
As according to the bilingual GARA newspaper Zaldua was not held incommunicado, i.e without access to friends and relations, lawyer or doctor of choice, it is not likely that she will be tortured. Until a few years ago the use of a variety of types of torture during the five-day incommunicado period under the “anti-terror” (sic) laws was the rule rather than the exception. However, all detainees charged under the terrorism laws of the Spanish State are always taken to Madrid for interrogation by the Guardia Civil and then for court appearance, the distance from their homes placing an additional burden on friends, relatives and supporters (it is 450 km from Hernani). Some of those will be given temporary accommodation and support by Madrid organisations in solidarity.
TWELVE YEARS IN JAIL
Back in April 2005 Itxaso Zaldua was arrested in the Lannemezan area of the Occitan region of the French state, along with her comrade José Segurola Querejeta. They were charged with membership of ATAKA (sub-structure of the armed Basque resistance organisation ETA), of which she was accused of leading and duly convicted and jailed in the French system (which also disperses political prisoners to jails throughout the territory).
Zaldua was released in 2017 and right-wing Spanish unionist organisations including the “Association of Victims of Terrorism”, many of their members relatives of Spanish police or military, complained at the traditional honouring reception she received upon her return home from French jail. Zaldua walked hand-in-hand with her young daughter down a street with well-wishers on both sides cheering, was presented with a floral bouquet, two women danced the aurresku (honour dance) before here and another shouted the irrintzi, the high-pitched yodeling cry reputed to have been a battle-cry (see embedded video) and the Eusko Gudariak (“Basque Soldiers”, similar to the Irish “Soldiers’ Song”) was sung by all.
The “official” Basque independentist movement responded quickly to the ex-prisoner’s new arrest: the Sare organisation convened a demonstration in Hernani the same afternoon demanding Zaldua’s release and the trade union works committee of her place of employed also denounced her arrest. The official movement’s political party EH Bildu (headed by Arnaldo Otegi), issued a statement that “It is time to be emptying the jails, not filling them,” a reference to the nearly 250 Basque political prisoners still in jail.
The party’s statement called the arrest “another obstacle in the path chosen by this nation towards peace, coexistence and freedom; a path which, cost whatever it may, we are determined to follow”.
However the ‘dissident’ organisation Amnistia (Movement for Amnesty and Against Repression), which also condemned the arrest, issued a statement declaring that “There will be no peace until the reasons that are at base of the conflict are resolved and until all the militants who are punished as a consequence of said conflict are free.
Both organisations called the people to action, with EH Bildu referring to “the participation and activation of Basque society” and Amnistia in contrast stating that “the working class need to organize”.
“THEY WANT TO HUMILIATE THE BASQUE COUNTRY”
The Basque organisation ETA ended its armed struggle in 2012 as part of a unilateral bid for a peace process of the movement under the leadership of Arnaldo Otegi. However, a peace process requires the participation of at least both antagonists and the Spanish State has shown no interest in negotiation. Whatever one may say about such processes in Ireland or in South Africa, the resistance organisations in those countries ensured the freedom of their imprisoned members before they signed up to the deal. This was not so in the Basque case.
It is no doubt difficult for observers to understand why the Spanish State is now pursuing an ex-prisoner for alleged complicity in an assassination nineteen years ago when State has gained not only the ETA’s abandonment of armed struggle but even its dissolution. Nor is there any sign that Zaldua is a sympathiser of the “dissident” movement; the statements in her support from across the “official” movement and the speed of response is in stark contrast to the “officials’” response to the hunger and thirst strike of political prisoner Patxi Ruiz in May. Ruiz had denounced the “official” leadership some years ago and been expelled from the collective that leadership controls (and which precipitated the resignations of another four Basque prisoners in solidarity).
Ironically, it is the assessment of the “dissident” Amnistia which seems correct: “This arrest, like other previous ones, shows that the States (i.e French and Spanish) want to humiliate the Basque Country. By means of life sentences against a specific against a specific model of resistance, they want to intimidate the new generations that join the struggle.”
Whatever the eventual outcome of the judicial process against Zaldua in the no-jury National Court in Madrid, it is clear that the struggle against the Spanish State is far from finished in the southern Basque Country, though its armed stage seems over at least for the present.
The “official” leadership has been following an electoral path and quoting the support of external political figures such as Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, Kofi Anan, Tony Blair and Brian Currin of South Africa.
In the Euskadi regional government elections on Sunday in the southern Basque Country, the “official” party led by Otegi, EH Bildu, as expected came in second. The PNV, the Basque Nationalist Party, came in first and the PSE, Basque version of the Spanish unionist PSOE, in third place. Despite periodic approaches by the EH Bildu leadership, the PNV will govern the three provinces either in coalition with the PSE or in “confidence and supply” agreement with the party.
Even if EH Bildu in years to come were able to reach first place in Euskadi regional elections, what of the other region, Nafarroa? And the three northern provinces of the Basque Country, under French rule? And, even with an eventual majority in all seven provinces, if the Spanish State were still to deny independence, as it does with an independentist majority in Catalonia, what then?
Over to the Amnistia movement, which advocates street power: “If we are to achieve peace, it will come from the full implementation of total amnesty, with the unconditional release of prisoners, refugees and political deportees, with the expulsion of the occupation forces and with the overcoming of the reasons that pushed so many people to fight. That will be the only guarantee to end arrests like today and other similar repressive actions.”
That seems a realistic enough assessment. But as to how to achieve their objectives against the opposition of the Spanish and French states, neither section of the Basque independentist movement seems to have an answer.