GARA > Idatzia > Euskal Herria


"If the attacks stop we are ready for a firm commitment to a violence-free scenario"

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about ETA's apparent intentions. Until today, the most recent speculations and debates were based on a public statement made by the organisation on the 10th of January. In this new interview, ETA talks to Gara about its aims, vision and commitments.

Josu Juaristi

There has recently been much discussion about how to resolve the conflict in the Basque Country. Give us a snapshot of how ETA sees Euskal Herria today.

It is well known that our objective is a free, socialist Basque Country and that this is what we are fighting for. We are able to say that we are closer to achieving independence today than we were a few years back, even he effort and the struggle are far from over yet.

We also see in Euskal Herria a country prepared to build its own future in freedom; a people on the road towards independence. However, those who divided Euskal Herria, and their successors, have been effective in their efforts to stamp out our country's sense of identity. In our daily lives we are surrounded by capitalist values. We think that the people in charge of this divided Basque Country today are the ones chiefly responsible for this situation.

What do you see as being the most pressing issues for Euskal Herria?

Our country's most urgent needs are precisely those which the people running our institutions at present, the political bosses now in authority in Euskal Herria, refuse to address.

How can they be so blind to Euskal Herria's very serious structural problems? Take the official status of Euskera, for example. With the future of our language in the hands of the likes of Sanz or Lasserre, Basque is condemned to a slow death. A glance at the sociolinguistic surveys for the seven Basque provinces is enough to realise what a bleak future the language faces. Their response is to come up with false solutions that merely serve to demobilise the general public by lulling people into a false sense of complacency. It is not the solution.

Or take the Basque working class. The unspeakable working conditions and outright job insecurity they have to put with are intolerable. Accidents and deaths in the workplace have become an almost daily occurrence in Euskal Herria. The public authorities and Basque company owners have an undeniable responsible here. Yet while company bosses are dealing out death sentences to their workers, what do the local political bosses of the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) do but worry about how to conceal from the general public the fact that they are the owners. Meanwhile, public political debate focuses on the endless lists of summer, winter and holiday residences they own! At the same time, they turn a deaf ear to the pleas and demands of the trade unions. How much longer is this going to go on for? Basque Country And Freedom (ETA) asks what they propose to do to put an end to such oppression.

Then we have the deplorable state of affairs in the provinces of Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Low Navarre. Because Northern Euskal Herria lacks a proper administrative structure, it faces a highly uncertain future because of the imposition of Paris interests with proposals such as the 2x2 motorway project, the TGV (high speed train) and other such grandiose plans.

The fundamental problem here is not just the fact that we don't think those projects are good for Euskal Herria. The real problem, the problem per se, is the way they are imposed. Projects that clearly jeopardise the future of Euskal Herria are foisted on our country quite non-chalantly. No matter how they rant on about democracy and citizen participation, they are all along concealing from the public the truth about their plans and their motives. The present institutions pay no heed to issues of such grave concern to the public. The only information about such projects that ordinary citizens have access to is that provided by the grassroots groups, whereas the projects employ ideologues whose job it is to keep the truth away from the public. That's how it was with the Boroa power plant project and the Itoiz reservoir scheme, to mention a couple of examples of the total havoc wreaked on the country in the face of widespread public opposition.

All this is what results from the oppression, negation and division of Euskal Herria. At this time our country does not dispose of sovereignty and instruments of authority that would allow it to construct and plan its own future. On the contrary, those presently in power in the existing institutions labour day in and day out to perpetuate the negation and division of Euskal Herria. To them we say: stop your policy of coercion, and give us the full range of democratic instruments we all need to build our country's future together!

The peace process, those who are boycotting it, and what can be done

Everyone is talking about the peace process you have set in motion and support. Why now, and why this insistence that the time is ripe?

Two years have passed since certain events in the Spanish state marking a new turning point.

The March 11 bombings in Madrid brought Aznar's eight years in power to an end and put the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) in the government. That meant a change of direction, and our analysis at the time regarding its likely effect on the conflict in Euskal Herria was that it all depended on the intentions of the new PSOE leadership. So that was one important factor.

Another was the PSOE's discourse at the time, including Zapatero's famous speech about the talante (favourable disposition) of his new government, which seemed to signal coming changes. ETA interprets this as meaning a possible intention to set in motion a second political reform of the Spanish state (following the reform which took place after the death of Franco). Why shouldn't such a reform usher in the resolution at last of the conflict between Euskal Herria and the Spanish state?

And as in any process of conflict resolution, naturally a commitment was undertaken on both sides to move towards a climate of reconciliation. We cannot enter into details, but that is what we meant when we said that the Spanish state has failed to keep its ceasefire commitments.

Okay, but the press and media have been full of speculation and leaks about talks between ETA and the Spanish government. What can you say about that?

We have repeatedly expressed our readiness in no uncertain terms. We have both decided and announced that we are prepared to reach a permanent solution of the conflict through talks and negotiation.

What is the present state of that process as you see it?

It is moving forward. But the first question to ask is what we mean by a process. A lot of people in Euskal Herria, especially the politicians are not interested in a change, are bent on distorting the meaning of words. Many of them would have us believe that the process is just about peace, about ETA disappearing. They are wrong.

As we said in March, 2006 and have often repeated since then, our understanding of this process is that it involves creating a democratic framework in Euskal Herria and giving Basques their say and power to decide on their own future. So it's about what each one of us is going to contribute towards this. We know that we are willing, and we have already made a number of moves in this sense, and are prepared to go on making more. Now can the Spanish government, and the big parties in Euskal Herria, say the same?

These are not times of optimism, but still we will stick to our purpose. Basque Country And Freedom maintains its full readiness, and ETA remains prepared to take steps to promote that process and ensure its continuation. ETA's commitment is clear, make no mistake about it. But ETA's commitment is to is a process that will genuinely lead to a democratic solution of this conflict.

We are at an impasse, then?

Yes, the process is stuck in a dead-end at the moment because the Spanish government has paid no heed to what the Basque people are saying and has failed to react responsibly to ETA's gesture of good will.

If it goes on refusing to move forward in negotiations the impasse will worsen. It's as simple as that. So the Spanish government has to decide whether it is going to shut the door on an avenue towards resolution of the conflict or opt for a political solution aimed at ending this long-standing dispute.

A view is speading that says that at this point, if there is going to be a process at all, it needs to have a sounder basis and acquire a new rhythm. It's impossible to develop a serious process with the Spanish government behaving as it has done so far, and parties like the PSOE and the PNV maintaining their present attitudes. Their attitudes need to change.

The time has come to act with political sense. We can't afford any more of this nonsense!

We keep repeating that the Basque people are convinced that the real keys to a resolution of the conflict are the territorial question and the right to decide. That is at the centre of the political debate, so it is what we should be talking about.

Insisting on an explicit condemnation of violence as a prior condition for talks to begin, or arguments over whether our country has a right to defend itself, are mere pretexts for sidestepping the real issues.

What would you ask people to do to break the impasse?

First of all we would like society at large to mobilise in protest against the attacks on our country and to insist on the political parties doing their real job. The most important asset for the resolution of the conflict are the Basque people and it is up to the political parties to carry out the people's wishes and work to defend Basques' right to decide on their own future.

Next, we would ask the press and media to please stop throwing fuel on the fire by siding with the hardline proponents of police persecution, and support the quest for a real solution through democratic participation and negotiation.

Finally we wish to express our heartfelt admiration for all those who are working, on a daily basis, to bring about change, the folks in the neighbourhood groups, the schools and universities, workplaces and grassroots movements.

The Barajas bombing and the ceasefire

So you're saying that the overall process is up and running, but that the negotiations are at a standstill? Was that the reason why you carried out the bomb attack at Barajas Airport in Madrid?

Precisely, the Barajas bombing was a strike in reaction to continual aggression by the Spanish government. Back in August ETA announced that if the attacks on Euskal Herria didn't cease it would respond, and on the 30th of December we did so. It was ETA's direct response to a position maintained by the Spanish government over the previous eight months. Then, as now, the Spanish government had not fulfilled its part of the ceasefire commitments. It hasn't even shown signs of having any intention to carry them out.

With the Barajas bombing ETA was making a move to stop the whole process from derailing, by sending the Spanish government an unequivocal message to think about: if you really want to have a process for the resolution of the existing conflict then commitments must be honoured, the machinery that has been set up to repress Euskal Herria must be done away with, and you must take definite steps that will lead to a process in which Euskal Herria's rights will be respected.

Seen in that light, ETA didn't break anything through its strike at Barajas. On the contrary, its purpose was to move the process along on a firmer basis.

Many have said that ETA broke an unwritten rule in its code of conduct at Barajas by acting without giving any previous warning that it was about to interrupt the ceasefire. There are fears that this has led to a devaluation of the concept of a ceasefire and a loss of credibility. What would you say to these people?

We don't think so. We have lost no credibility. Everyone knows that in any negotiation process credibility comes from fulfilling and honouring whatever has been pacted at the negotiation table. What gives rise to credibility is the taking of definite steps consistent with the pursuit of a process towards the resolution of a conflict and in support of that process. The main guarantee any such process can have is the keeping of commitments undertaken at the negotiating table, and acting accordingly.

As the months go by, it is the credibility of the Spanish government that has been going down the drain. The PSOE has steadily thrown away what little credibility it might have had for the Basque people. As far as Euskal Herria is concerned, the government's political course has eaten away at whatever credibility it could have had with regard to a resolution process.

ETA can claim to have fulfilled all its commitments over the past months. The Spanish government cannot say the same.

We view ceasefires as bilateral affairs. You can't have a one-sided ceasefire. You can't build a peace process on the basis of the good will and positive initiatives of just one side; the commitments that are made have to be bilateral ones.

It is an equation that anyone can understand. Don't attack Euskal Herria. Don't pass measures such as the Parot doctrine to target Basque political prisoners. Don't prosecute and imprison Basques like Iñaki De Juana. The trials of large numbers of Basque youths, and so on and so forth, are all further examples of the exceptional state of affairs in our country. Let all this stop, and ETA will have no need to react.

But you have been asked by many people to keep the commitments you made in your March 24, 2006 declaration.

Today ETA reconfirms all the commitments it made on the 24th of March. What is more, if the attacks on Euskal Herria cease, then in such a context we are absolutely ready to make a strong commitment to a scenario without violence. That includes ruling out any possibility of isolated responses during the ceasefire.

Looking ahead: Zapatero's room for manoeuvre and the attitudes of the other parties

In Madrid in particular (but the same thing is also sometimes heard in Euskal Herria), it is thought that Zapatero has lost any room for manoeuvre, given the PP (the opposition Partido Popular)'s all-out offensive. What does ETA think about that?

Zapatero's government has all the room for manoeuvre it would like, if it wants it. Not only room, but capability. The real question is whether it has the political will and determination to end the conflict democratically. Don't be fooled.

But up until now they have moved in the opposite direction, and that has undermined not the room for manoeuvre of the Spanish government but the future of the process itself. Unless some bold steps are taken to support this process, and unless the process is filled with political content, it will lose ground. That is the situation that has come about because it is where the Spanish government has taken it by establishing that the Spanish constitution is the upper limit.

This country had a situation imposed on it in 1978. The Basque nationalist Left took the course of resisting a framework imposed from the outside, and we have fought for the survival of our country ever since in the midst of widespread oppression. We made it through resistance. Now there is general agreement that a political, negotiated settlement is needed and that this must of necessity entail changes to the current political structure. The idea that a new, democratic structure must be constructed has taken root.

What is more: despite the steadfast opposition of the reactionaries to the recognition of Euskal Herria's rights, that is the issue on which the debate between political parties has in fact focused. That is a positive gain: we have succeeded in bringing about a scenario revolving around the issue of political change and opening up a debate about what legal and political structure Euskal Herria should have in the future.

At this stage in the game, important parts of the Basque public will not accept a process restricted in scope to the limits set out by the Spanish consitution they already voted to reject in 1978. That would mean a betrayal of thirty years of struggle and a dead end for Euskal Herria's future. The process must serve to lift those limits and produce political change. It must pave the way for a passage from an undemocratic situation to a democratic one.

Now Spain has a crisis of state on its hands. They are looking at nothing less than finally carrying out the transition to democracy that had been put off all these years. The PSOE and the other supposedly progressive parties are concerned about democratising the Spanish state, and so they should be, for it is not only their concern but their obligation, as the most important unresolved matter in Spain's present political development. But the Spanish state cannot achieve that unless there is a political, democratic, negotiated settlement of its conflict with Euskal Herria.

It's the Spanish government's call.

But there are many who believe that the options exist and that the conditions for a resolution of the conflict are clearly already present.

Great! What then of the continual attacks on everyone and on Euskal Herria as a whole? What of the vicious behaviour displayed by Spain's autonomous community police at demonstrations? What of the arrests, the torture, and so on? We have never concealed anything: we have always been clear both with the Basque general public and the Spanish government about what stands in the way of a resolution of the conflict.

Who can seriously believe that we can move towards a resolution of the conflict with the parties that represent one of our main political options banned? Nobody, right? Or with the PNV's indefensible attitude a year after ETA's cessation of hostilities, still sending the autonomous community police out to hunt down Basque citizens like rabid dogs? This country doesn't deserve such a police force, nor does it need one. That will have to be discussed. We call on those responsible for such savage repression to take responsibility for their acts. It certainly is not the contribution to the process that we need!

Then they have the gall to talk to us about the irreversibility of the process. They even go so far as to demand that it must be irreversible! For it to become irreversible, one needs to act responsibly; the process that will lead to an eventual resolution of the conflict must be cultivated, and bold, robust political decisions need to be made.

Aren't some such steps already being taken? The Spanish government's decision on Iñaki de Juana, for example?

What they did with Iñaki and what they are doing in general with the Basque political prisoners can be summed up in a word: blackmail. To repeat: the Spanish government has misinterpreted the process. They planned to force ETA into technical negotiations but their plan fell through. They hoped to use the prisoners as a bargaining chip in negotiations with ETA. There is your explanation for Iñaki's prison sentences, the proclamation of the Parot doctrine and the long list of authoritarian measures.

However, the people fought to bring Iñaki back to Euskal Herria, and succeeded. Working together for a change in the prison policy for our prisoners, we shall also succeed.

For the government it was just a necessary gesture under the pressure of a situation that they alone had got themselves into, in our view. And a gesture that came very late in the day. And we repeat, a gesture that they were forced into producing. We mustn't forget (and they are trying to make us) that Iñaki was convicted for writing two newspaper articles. How can that be? But Spain's former Minister of Justice actually said that he was going to build up the necessary evidence to produce a prison sentence for Iñaki, and we all know that anything goes in the fight against Basque activists, and that evidence is concocted in the police stations and in court. So they did. These measures form part of the extra-legal situation in which the Basque political prisoners are placed. Gesture? They had to do something to get themselves out of the difficult situation they were in as a consequence of their own previous action; now they want to call it a good will gesture!

What does ETA think of the Spanish government's new Minister of Justice?

We are not going to pass judgment on the person. But of course we can judge the actions that pertain to the post. And to be honest, the latest declarations left us dumbfounded. The new minister seems to be from the same school as his predecessor. Time will tell, but the fact that he has begun by reconfirming the ban on Batasuna, upholding the legal and political persecution of the Basque nationalist Left, does not bode well.

His actions form part of a state strategy and we will interpret whatever he does as such.

In Batasuna's statement at a famous rally at Anoeta stadium in 2004, the distinction was made between two tracks of talks, one for the political parties and activist groups, and another just for the Spanish government and ETA. Has ETA been interfering with the "other" track? Some people in the PSOE or the PNV have accused ETA of obstructing a political agreement…

Not at all. ETA has no wish to interfere where it doesn't belong. Ultimately the PSOE and the PNV are just using this argument as an excuse to avoid having to confront the political issues of substance that the process has to involve, and addressing the political questions that will lead to a solution. But the proposal of Anoeta is a plan for negotiations that has been accepted by the people and is no longer at issue.

When ETA gets accused of interfering, we need to refresh our historical memories. Let us not forget that the present political structure was the fruit of a transitional process forced on Euskal Herria. And remember how it was imposed: with the Spanish army doing its bit, and with blithe acceptance and loyalty from the members of the reformist camp.

That anti-democratic structure, imposed by force, is guarded under the supervision of the Guardia Civil and the Spanish courts. In this way the political, economic, cultural and military oppression of Euskal Herria is perpetuated to this day. Some 'supervision'!

How can we get the PSOE to address the political substance of the matter? It looks as if the PSOE is happier just talking about the peace process, and saying something like: peace first, and then we shall see.

Both the PSOE and the PNV have done everything in their power to avoid the issues so far. They have wielded their means of repression in order to weaken the nationalist Left's bargaining position, stood in the way of political negotiations, and tried to buy off the nationalist Left with pseudo-solutions.

That attitude is what has led to the present impasse in the process, by distorting its sense while denying the political content. That attitude and approach is what needs to change because we think it does nothing but feed the cycle of confrontation. Questions of substance need to be addressed in order to open up a new way forward and make a solution of the conflict possible. The stance of the Basque socialist party is a significant example…

Speaking of the PNV, what do you think of the reaction within the party to your reference in ETA's latest communiqué to "Imaz's PNV"?

We see the PNV as being in sync with the strategy of the Spanish government. Imaz, Urkullu and their likes have sometimes played the role of spokesmen for messages issued from La Moncloa, whenever a need was seen for someone to act as a vanguard. But we are also aware of differences of opinion within the PNV. They are becoming more evident, and that is a good thing for Euskal Herria.

That is why we say that the PNV of Imaz has been playing the same game on the question of political negotiations, with the intention of betraying Euskal Herria once again. The same thing with policing strategy: the PNV has placed Spain's autonomous community police at the service of the guidelines established by the Spanish government. The PSOE and the PNV, each in their own way, have had similar strategies and political positions throughout the process. At Ferraz and Sabin Etxea, the selfsame strategies are drawn up, whether by Mr Rubalcaba or Mr Imaz.

There are big interests behind this, big economic interest of both the PNV and the PSOE; there are mammoth economic projects in which they both share an interest. You only have to look at the way they are able to reach agreement on aggressive and destructive projects such as the TGV and back each other when it comes to the Basque Autonomous Community's budget or that of the Spanish state. There is plenty of corruption involved too, as we all know. And as a background to it all, there are their coinciding views on the structure of the Spanish state.

And of course the recent row inside the PNV over control of the Gipuzkoa General Assembly. But that's not the real issue: is there anyone who has never asked themselves where all that money and wealth must have come from? Where from, and how! We have more questions than answers. The PNV stinks of big-time corruption. They have reaped the benefits of years in power, above all to fill their own pockets. Their politics is brimming with corruption, while they turn their backs on Euskal Herria's needs and the country's interests, and fail to develop policies in favour of the general public.

Political consensus and the nationalist Left's proposal for a negotiating committee

Is ETA going to have any say in the political consensus that you are seeking?

Not if that consensus comes about democratically. Not unless it is limited out of hand to specific political coodinates. And not if all the citizens are allowed to defend our different political projects under equal conditions.

That is not the case at present, when Batasuna's participation in political talks faces impediments and the nationalist Left are denied a chance to engage in political negotiations on an equal footing with everyone else. They are under a ban; their activities are attacked constantly throughout the process; just now a case of political espionage against their negotiation team has come to light. Those are not the right conditions for political negotiation.

This is a situation that the PSOE supports and the PNV accepts. The PSOE and the PNV want to set pre-conditions for talks (demanding that Batasuna condemn the use of violence, for instance), while maintaining their ban on Batasuna.

Our message, loud and clear, is that Euskal Herria's future legal and political structure must be agreed on by the social groups, political parties and trade unions. We believe this makes a political consensus necessary. We support that. What we don't understand is why they still haven't built that consensus after all these months, given that that is one of the chief factors that would make it possible to break out of this impasse.

Our message, loud and clear, is that today we are at this impasse mainly because of the lack of a political consensus due to obstruction by the PSOE and the PNV.

What is your assessment of the proposal by the nationalist Left's negotiation group? Could it be a solution for the present difficulties? Do you think it has a future?

Yes indeed, it could be a step towards breaking the impasse. We see it as a proposal for political negotiation and a political consensus that would lead the way to a resolution of the conflict. It isn't the project for Euskal Herria that we would have chosen, but rather a proposal to break the deadlock. Seen in that light, we view it positively, as a minimum programme that opens a debate about the necessary content for a political consensus.

We believe that Batasuna's proposal helps to pin things down, and we think that the other parties ought to make a comparable effort, that way it might be possible to reach a consensus.

Here Batasuna is offering an alternative to the country, to the whole of Euskal Herria, which seeks autonomy from the French state, while asking the Spanish state to provide the means to do away with the division between Navarre and the remaining three provinces and create a single structure. We think this is an important element for putting an end to the conflict. That is why we applaud this proposal.

But Batasuna has repeatedly complained that neither the PSOE nor the PNV have responded to the proposal or stated a position.

That is right. As we said, we are stuck at this impasse because the PSOE and the PNV persist in their negative attitude towards the possibility of a political consensus. In the final analysis, maintaining their rejection of a consensus equates to a refusal to contemplate a political restructuring and the need to construct a democratic framework. On the basis of that refusal it is impossible to develop a resolution of the conflict.

The position of the French state and the autonomy proposal

In this so-called process, what exactly is the French state being called upon to do?

Today Euskal Herria, with no political recognition, no official institutions, no administrative power and under constant attack, is under a death sentence by inertia. In that context we understand the call for an autonomous structure for the Basque Country as a way of asking for a basic framework to ensure the survival of Euskal Herria founded on what makes us a country, so as to control the instruments of authority that the country needs in order to live. That is what the people want from the French state.

We ask for recognition and respect for Euskal Herria. We ask for an end to the vicious attacks on our country. We want the colonisation of our country to end.

And how can we achieve that? By uniting the pro-Basque elements behind this demand, with mobilisation and through struggle. That is the way to get the French state to respect Euskal Herria's rights.

Circulating this proposal should make it possible to enter a new phase. Under this interpretation, it announces the start of a new stage in the fight for recognition of the rights of Euskal Herria. So we see it as a move to open up a stage in the struggle to proclaim the Basques' demands of the French state.

But the call for autonomy isn't new.

No, it isn't, but it seems there is a need to put this proposal on the table at the present time. It is our understanding that a proposal for the whole of Euskal Herria has been put forward on the basis of the situation in the seven provinces. That is what we think the nationalist Left has submitted to the people. And in all humility we say well done. This country's aspiration and need to survive are revealed in such proposals.

It is a historic demand in Euskal Herria. The important thing is to send the message to the world's fifth power that Euskal Herria will not lay down and die. Forgetting past disputes, the citizens of the three Basque provinces of Lapurdi, Low Navarre and Zuberoa are being presented with a proposal that would permit these provinces' development. That is what is important. And it is a huge undertaking to demand and achieve this from the French state, so we must all fight for it together.

But why now? A number of years ago the northern group Iparretarrak also put forward an autonomy proposal. At that time no consensus was achieved among the Basque nationalists and it came to nothing.

As we have said, we think it is a good thing to demand this of the French state. A tremendous amount of progress has been made over the past few years but the negation to which the seven provinces that make up Euskal Herria are subjected is an undeniable fact.

Our country exists under two states, as if in two realities. Yet in spite of this, the nationalist Left has managed to put together a single proposal for the whole of Euskal Herria based on the two realities, with tangible solutions, yet aiming at a single goal in terms of timing and objectives. That is a change from a few years ago, in our opinion.

We haven't the shadow of a doubt but that such a demand will be supported by all the nationalists and all the Left in the present-day Northern Basque Country, because of our certainty that such a change of status will bring benefits to the whole country.

Do you see any chance of the French state changing its present attitude towards Euskal Herria?

Definitely. Every time French leaders insist that the Basque conflict "doesn't exist in our country" they are conveying contempt towards Euskal Herria. And that hurts. But neither the Basque public nor the French are taken in by such nonsense any longer.

What is more, Basque public opinion is already well past that stage. They want the French state to offer an alternative. And it's unstoppable. The need for an autonomous space or structure of decision-making and administration taking in the three provinces is obvious. Euskal Herria is moving forward, we're all moving forward!

We are convinced that fighting together we will persuade them of the need for a change. It is clear that the French state will not be able to keep denying the existence of the conflict much longer, and that its closed-minded attitude to the recognition of Euskal Herria will have to change too, because the demand of Basques for their own political structures is growing all the time. France's rulers will not be able to ignore that demand for ever.

The ban on Batasuna, the law of political parties and Abertzale Sozialisten Batasuna

What about the law of political parties? The issue of banned parties still awaits resolution.

Banned? A foreign legal system that we don't accept is trying to claim that we are banned, but we don't feel banned! However, it is not to be denied that the Spanish authorities' dogged insistence on their banning policy is making life very difficult for a lot of citizens, while also showing up the true lack of democracy in the system under which we live.

At the same time, the very fact that a ban affects such a large part of our society surely points to a failure of the states, which have tried time and time again to dissolve and absorb aspirations for a free Euskal Herria into their own legal system as if they were a lump of sugar in warm milk. We Basques don't need to find a place within Spanish legality. They are the ones who have to decide whether they want to let the Basque public have a framework where it can move along towards the fulfilment of its rights, or prefer to keep it in a constant state of fighting for survival in a head-on confrontation with the realities of Spain and France.

So, it is clear enough what needs to be done. Let us move on from the present situation. They will have to introduce more democratic measures. And one of those measures will be to repeal the law of political parties.

One of the big news items of recent days was the presentation of Abertzale Sozialisten Batasuna, the new Socialist Nationalist Unity party. What is your reading of this development and the resulting situation?

It is a demonstration by the Basque nationalist Left that despite the obstacles placed before it, it is nevertheless capable of real steps forward and of acting with the boldness, forcefulness and responsibility that the situation calls for.

The nationalist Left has recently brought forward a political proposal for a consensus that is needed to put an end to the conflict. And now it has gone futher and announced the formation of a new political party. The Spanish government responds to these moves of the nationalist Left in the negative, by saying no; the PSOE and PNV's answer is to lay down new conditions. In the last few days we've seen spokesmen for the PSOE, and even people like Urkullu of the PNV, making new demands on the nationalist Left. What moves are they planning to make?

At the same time, the presentation of the new party shows the strength, vigour and vitality of the project defended by the nationalit Left.

What will happen if it is banned and the nationalist Left is barred from taking part in the upcoming elections?

In that case it will be perfectly clear that we're back to a situation devoid of democracy, and that the outcry from everyone except the right-wing extremists calling on the government to revoke the law of parties has fallen on deaf ears.

In the event of the Spanish government carrying out its intention to oppose the nationalist Left's move, thus indicating a lack of interest in resolving the conflict, ETA would take that very seriously.

Basque Country And Freedom cannot contemplate elections without the nationalist Left. To hold undemocratic elections would amount to a decision to prolong the conflict. We hope such a scenario is not going to occur. Because that, in a word, would mean the process has failed; it would signify the Spanish government's decision to oppose the process.

What legitimacy would such elections have? And how responsibly would other parties act? Because it's easy enough to criticise the law of parties, yet reap benefits from the situation. That is what we think they're up to. It's the PNV's game. Through the mouths of Azkuna (the PNV mayor of Bilbao) and his henchmen, they're asking for Batasuna to be kept out of the elections for the sake of avoiding the real issues and scraping up a few extra votes. And for what? Simply to carry on with their corruption-ridden administration unopposed.

Thoughts and reflections on the armed struggle

You caused quite a stir last year in your Gudari Eguna (the 27th of September commemoration of the Basque freedom fighters) statement, when you said: "We confirm our commitment to continue to fight with arms in hand until the independence of Euskal Herria and socialism are achieved."

Yeah. It's easy to cause a stir in Euskal Herria when you tell it like it is.

To start with, our intention was to express our fervent homage to all our fighters and to say that by following their example we will liberate our country. But we also wanted to make another important point: that the fight goes on every day. Whether you fight yesterday or today, our fight is the future - that is what we were saying. Because through our fight we are building the future.

So what we were saying is that ETA will continue to fight until the purpose for which it came into existence is achieved. It is not our intention to open up any sort of debate. Today, in the conditions our country is in, we consider that the reasons for carrying out armed struggle are still applicable and as long as that is the case we will continue. It's one thing to offer a ceasefire, even though we view our actions as our instruments of struggle, because of an understanding that the enemy or other side is also entering a state of "ceasefire" or cessation of hostilities.

But it's quite another matter to consider that the practice of armed struggle is unncessary. In today's conditions we are nowhere near that situation. That will happen when we consider that conditions in Euskal Herria are sufficiently democratic and there are adequate safeguards to ensure that they will continue to be so.

When that time arrives, ETA will inform the Basque public of its decision. Sadly it is quite clear that no such conditions exist today, given the enormity of the division, cultural imposition and repression of our country.

Of late it has been suggested that there are divisions within the nationalist Left over the issue of armed struggle. What impact has that had on ETA's thinking?

That is nothing new. There are indeed people within the nationalist Left who do not agree with the use of armed struggle as a tool; this is not only respectable, but enriching. That is so because the legitimacy of armed struggle is not by any means the source of those contradictions, and there is no question that armed struggle is a political instrument for the achievement of our ends. So as long as there is agreement on the general line and political objectives, we don't see any reason why an internal debate should not take place within the nationalist Left over such issues as the assessment and analysis of political actions carried out through armed struggle or the consequences of such actions.

There are also people who say that ETA should disappear or that armed struggle makes no sense in these times…

If only you take a look at this country's recent history and its will to survive, you will see that it really makes no sense to demand that ETA should disappear. Other Basque organisations besides ETA have practised armed struggle before, and even if ETA itself were to disappear today, for as long as the oppression of our country continues the reasons for continuing with the armed struggle will not go away, and there will always be people ready to organise and take up arms to fight for Euskal Herria's survival, when they see that their country has no other way to attain freedom.

Gehitu artikuloa: Delicious Zabaldu