The Material World column from the June 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
Euskadi ta Askatasuna, meaning 'Basque Fatherland and Liberty' in the Basque language, was formed in 1959, when its founders focused on Franco's suppression of the Basque language and culture. The separatist group has now formally announced its disbandment, almost exactly 50 years after claiming its first victim
The reality and the realisation that their urban guerrilla strategy failed has finally prevailed amongst the ETA leadership. The vast majority in the Basque people clearly rejected the tactic of terrorism nor did it force either the Spanish and French governments to make substantial policy concessions.
The Basque region has a greater degree of autonomy than any of Spain's other 16 regions, with its own police force, education system, language and a special financial relationship with Madrid. However, it is questionable if these powers which were granted to the region by the 1978 constitution, were as a result of ETA's actions. ETA has come to the conclusion that terrorism is generally an unsuccessful way for perpetrators to attain their demands.
ETA is said to have killed more than 800 people between 1968 and 2010, the year before it announced a permanent ceasefire. In January 2011, ETA declared that their September 2010 ceasefire would be permanent and verifiable by international observers, later in October announcing the cessation of armed activity. In April 2017 it staged a disarmament ceremony.
For the terrorist the most pressing incentive is belief in the virtue of their cause. The fact that ETA had high-sounding objectives like freeing the population from the tyranny of Franco's fascism and obtaining the rights for Basques does not make any difference to the end result as far as the working class are concerned. Terrorism uses violence, or the threat of violence, to achieve its ends. It is designed to have far reaching psychological repercussions beyond the immediate victim or target. That is the bottom-line despite trying to disguise the fact.
Political movements which rely on non-violence are more likely to achieve their objectives than are those movements that resort to force. After all, violence usually results in retaliation and counter-violence. The Socialist Party explains that the only one way to achieve lasting peace across this planet involves discarding nationalism and forgoing violence as a means of accomplishing nationalist goals. The case for political violence is the case against the possibility of working class consciousness. On the whole, the Basque workers were viewed by ETA as an unthinking mass that the force of events, guided and accelerated by the hand of the self-appointed elite, would result in a sovereign Basque state. Success by ETA would have only produced a change of masters.
The concept of the 'nation-state' and those who promote it are the enemies of our class and there will be little hope of lasting peace around the world until the workers refuse to support and sympathy for nationalism.
The Socialist Party certainly hopes that ETA's demise brings a permanent end to the political violence, the killing, and the maiming in the region . Violence and terrorism are not instruments which can be used in the building of socialism.