States responsibility against terrorism

Article published on Dec. 2, 2002
community published
Article published on Dec. 2, 2002

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The revival of exclusive nationalities must drive states to be above nations and defend the new European spirit of democracy and the common political project.

The Basque philosopher Fernando Savater once said, in reference to the words of Basque President Ibarretxe in which he stated that the sovereignty process in the Basque Country would create a general tend in Europe over the following decades, that, effectively, this was possible and that more than being just a process, it seemed to him a danger for the old continent. Savater reflected that Spain, which during the Civil War had already been the unfortunate political testing ground of a Europe that later fell to pieces in the Nazi disaster, could become the home of ethnic nationalities and emerging segregationist localisms.

This introduction outlines the hypothesis that argues for the necessary (and delayed) prohibition of Herrí Batasuna and shows us an approach that, obviously, fails to be recognised in the current political debate on the conflict in Euskadi. Basque nationalism, unlike other nationalisms, doesnt have a scale to its ideology. The Basque conflict derives from a nationalism formed against Spain, an idea that has already been outlined by the founder of the PNV, Sabino Arana. For Arana, the Spanish were inferior in race and in spirit to the Basques, and they represented an obstacle for the full national development (economic, political, cultural) of his powerful Basque area. What is certain is that this nationalism of Nietzschean races today continues feeding, in a more or less latent way, the arguments of the Basque nationalist parties. To be Basque, for them, is incompatible with being Spanish, even though Spain and its constitution favours and respects the regional economic and cultural interests of Euskadi.

The responsibility of a state

Until now, moderate nationalist ideas have had the approval of the parties in government, so as to collaborate in the task of constructing a State, as a strategy of integration of regional demands in a multinational and tolerant society. When they have radicalised, as has happened in the case of the PNV, both the Right and the Centre-left have distrusted their debate and become afraid of their independency demands, but they have never raised the issue of their prohibition or their ejection from the democratic system. If they had fought ideologically against non-violent (although not moderate) nationalism this is a response to a dual responsibility: firstly a national responsibility, as the State has the obligation to defend the social and ideological plurality of its citizens, as the Basta Ya campaign reports. However, there also exists an international political responsibility to ideologically combat the advance of non-violent radical nationalism: to stop the dangerous micro-totalitarian experiments that can seduce some areas of the rich and uneven Europe of Regions mosaic, and dissolve a process that was initiated, led and guaranteed by the Member States.

But the other responsibility requires not just a political approach, but, when the nationalist dream is taking human lives, it also requires a policing and approach although were not suggesting demolishing the basic principles of democracy: liberty and life. Batasuna, aside of being a party and a platform for the expression of the Basque Country things that arent the cause of its prohibition strategically constitutes the political hook that terrorism throws into democratic states in order to explode them. It is its methods, not its ideas, for which it is persecuted, because its ideas, both the independent ones (PNV, EA, Aralar) and the open socialist ones (Aralar), are supported, to some extent, by other democratic formations.

Batasuna is persecuted for participating in the cold blood elimination of ideas that are contrary to those of the State (ideas that the Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy approved and that are supported by a million Basques, approximately half of the electorate), for promoting violence, justifying it, protecting it institutionally from the councils that it governs, and for collaborating logistically and economically with it: creating a large pool of totalitarianism and hatred.

Appropriate criticisms

Many of the criticisms that the prohibition of Batasuna has received have evaded this ethical and political nucleus, and have focussed on ambiguous approaches from a juridical perspective (one that lacks interest and true content) and from other perspectives which avoid putting themselves on the same side as the banned. These criticisms have generally come from a part of the Left that remembers past events, when the State tried to abolish the freedom of expression, removing certain organisations from its legal system as a way of eliminating political ideas.

But this fear that, in outlawing them, Basque nationalist ideas will be reinforced or legitimated will end up being diluted in a more immediate reality, in Batasunas trick. Batasunas ideas can be expressed in todays democracy, and the strategical plan that the members of Batasuna refuse to carry out in a way that respects life and the freedom of expression, puts them in their true position: subject to ETA and against democracy itself, seeing it as an obstacle between them and their totalitarian project.

But, in reference to specific criticisms about banning Batasuna that question its future effectiveness in the fight against terrorism, when it isnt banned, should killing gangs be persecuted and punished for their practiced agreement or for their future effectiveness? Secondly, and here no more than a guess can be offered, its difficult to imagine an even worse scene than that in which they live in Euskadi: where a party enjoys the privileges of democracy only to round it off with death. The experience tells us that there isnt a political way to resolve the conflict which they raise, because the Spanish State, the Foral Community of Navarra and the French State will not cede to Batasuna the territories it demands (and what would happen to the people?) and carry out its project of post-industrial Basque socialism, turning Bilbao into a type of 21st Century Stalingrad.

A State cannot just exercise a passive defence of its values, which are the values of all democratic states, and limit itself to responding to terrorist acts with policing, without developing a global strategy against the complexity of the criminal fascist movement. The State must actively demonstrate, always within the limits defined by the State of Law, its power to defend democracy where it is endangered. Democracy is no longer a question of nations, nor even of States. There is a universal democracy, a common feeling that emerged from the globalisation of political cultures and ethical principles, that must defend itself from fascist threats, from the ethnic dreams of the Right and the Left. States must be the guarantors of democracy in all corners because democracy, sometimes, is so perfect, so full of itself, that it spawns its own executioners and can become completely rotten in any small place.