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Elections in the Basque Country

Democracy of left and right, guarantee of the exploitation of the proletariat



The Basque Country is one of the pillars of the political order in Spain. On the government side, the ruling coalition needs the support of the two major nationalist parties, the Basque National Party (Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea – EAJ; in Spanish. Partido Nacionalista Vasco – PNV; centre-right and non-separatist party) and EH Bildu (Basque nationalist, left-wing and separatist party), to maintain a parliamentary majority. On the social level, the support of these two groupings regarding all the “exceptional” measures that have been adopted by the central state since 2020 has been vital for their implementation vis-à-vis the population as a whole.

This is so much so that the electoral dominance of the PNV and EH Bildu in regional elections and their decisive weight in state-wide elections is seen by experts in political calculation as a key factor (along with the dominance of the nationalists in Catalonia) in preventing the right-wing Popular Party (PP) and Vox (a far-right splinter of the PP) from coming to power. Thus, a bloc is emerging that goes from the conservative right-wing PNV to the left-wing bloc-party SUMAR (successor to the left-wing alliance Unidas Podemos, which is currently part with the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party of the third government of Pedro Sánchez), and goes across the electoral spectrum to preserve the governing coalition that has promoted the most openly anti-proletarian measures in Spain in the country's modern history.

Undoubtedly, the element that could most disturb those who believe in words rather than facts and their historical significance is the presence of EH Bildu as the pivotal link of this Spanish state “axis” and a strong candidate for the presidency of the Basque government (in Basque, Lehendakaritz). This grouping was partly born out of the former Herri Batasuna (HB), ETA's political wing, and absorbed, after ETA laid down its arms, the political convergence of nationalist sectors dissatisfied with the armed struggle. It did not take long, however, for this grouping to abandon the remnants of its (always deceptive) “anti-Spanish” rhetoric, and in 2020 it could be seen supporting the state of emergency, which de facto meant the militarisation of the Basque Country and the suppression of basic freedoms for “its” citizens. Shortly thereafter, it also threw off its social and anti-capitalist mask to support all the labour legislation introduced by the Ministry of Labour, which, always with the complicity of employers and trade unions, meant the biggest deterioration in working conditions and wages for the proletariat since the so-called Moncloa Pacts (full name: Agreement on the Programme for the Rehabilitation and Reform of the Economy and Agreement on the Programme for Legal and Political Action; agreements between the government, parties and trade unions after the end of the Francoist regime) of 1977. The members of the EH Bildu have gone from applauding the killings of soldiers and policemen by ETA to supporting the government's deployment of tanks in Cadiz, to approving the shooting of demonstrators with live ammunition in Linares, or the recent imprisonment of Acerinox strikers. Both the struggle of ETA and the separatism of the HB eventually resulted in the support of the bourgeois state, which was not shy about involving them back in the democratic games and using them to chain the most militant layers of the proletariat in the Basque Country. This is precisely the strength of democracy: its ability to act as a centripetal force drawing in all the bourgeois factions and the proletariat itself, which is pushed to the margins of society by the capitalist social dynamic, while being prevented from breaking with the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie by the social force represented by the democratic system. In this democratic order, all political currents, from the most reactionary right wing to those like ETA that have embodied armed reformism for decades, have their place except the proletarian class struggle, and an organisation like EH Bildu, which has a history of carrying nationalist weight in the face of the anti-localist and internationalist tendencies of the most advanced proletarian strata, knows this well.

The election result will be exactly as it should be. The variations are not very important. If EH Bildu wins and supports the PSOE in forming a government, the process of integrating the social base that links this organisation to the past of mobilisation that has characterised the Basque Country will be accelerated. The cycle will close and we will see relatives and friends of those who have been subject to repression by the national and regional police giving orders to the police to repress. If the PNV prevails and the current political constellation is maintained, the fake left opposition will fulfil its role for the next four years, waiting for a new turn in national politics that will bring it closer to its goal. In any case, there will be no change of course, and both forces, the right-wing nationalists and the left-wing nationalists, will continue to support the central government, guaranteeing the stability of the state, the defence of the imperialist interests of the Spanish bourgeoisie in Ukraine and Palestine, the hasty destruction of the remnants of “welfare” that are untenable because of the excessive budgetary burden of the military rearmament that will take place in the next few years, etc. This is and will be the “Basque exceptionalism”, the cornerstone of the Spanish order.

Outside the Basque Country, of course, there will remain the demonisation of everything Basque, the enduring memory of ETA functioning as the fulcrum of the country's internal politics for thirty years, as the embodiment of an axis of national solidarity and the justification for any repression. The bourgeoisie still exists because it manages to maintain competition among the proletarians, and the national question is an excellent terrain for its escalation. As much as any political current that defends this very policy of social unification knows that the HB, EH Bildu, etc. were and are necessary to maintain order in the Basque Country, it is also aware that xenophobia, local haughtiness, Spanish nationalism are equally effective factors of social cohesion and cannot be abandoned. The Basque proletariat is one of the most militant in Spain, and it is therefore always necessary to foment the nationalist ethos so that its struggle does not set an example for the proletarians in the rest of the country.

For in the Basque Country the working class has had great strength, especially in the field of the economic defence of living conditions. It is enough to remember that it was the strike at the Laminación de Bandas en Frío (from November 1966 to May 1967; it was also the longest strike of the Franco regime) which, for the first time since May 1937, roused the working class in Spain beyond the local, factory, etc. confines. Or that events like the Burgos trial (1970), in which members of ETA were tried and convicted, were seen by the most militant sections of the proletariat as something that concerned the whole working class… The level of proletarian mobilisation (and social mobilisation more broadly) was almost always much higher there than in the rest of Spain, and the strength of the local working class was felt far beyond the industrial area of the Basque Country. Let us recall, if need be, the recent struggle of the Tubacex workers who remained on strike for 235 days in 2021 and who, when the workers of the auxiliary metalworking enterprises in Cadiz went on strike, rushed to support them and share their experience…

The strength of the proletarian class must rise above all regional particularism, above all nationalist politics, and must be directed against collaboration with the bourgeois class. Especially when these particularisms, when this nationalism has been used again and again against the proletarians on both sides. And when the organisations that have set themselves up, even at the cost of blood and lives, as in the above case, to lead the nationalist struggle, have shown their true colours by integrating themselves into the state apparatus, by adopting the defence of the bourgeois institutions, from first to last, by pitting themselves against the proletarian class supporting the bourgeoisie, which, to impose its demands on it, demands their forces.

The virus of democratism, inoculated for decades into the ranks of the proletarian masses, is a factor of the first order which delays the resumption of the class struggle. Every election, every parliament, every illusion of change in the name of this or that formation helps to consolidate the bourgeois social order. The future social upheavals that are sure to come will throw the working class against the bourgeois social establishment, and in them the struggle against democracy will be one of the most important victories to be won.


Against the electoral farce, for the uncompromising defence of the class struggle!

No to national solidarity!

For the return of the proletariat to the terrain of open confrontation with the bourgeoisie!


April, 17th 2024



International Communist Party

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