Basque police brutal suppression of Bilbao demo

Stop attacks against democratic rights

The outlawing of Batasuna has meant a qualitative step in the curtailing of democratic rights and fundamental freedoms. As was shown in the streets of Bilbao on Saturday, September 15, the freedom of expression, demonstration, organisation and the right to strike, which are conquests of the working class and the youth, are under serious attack.

Judge Garzon has banned several protests against the banning of Batasuna since August 26 when the Spanish Parliament in an emergency session decided to propose the outlawing of Batasuna, and on the same date Judge Garzon made it effective with a court order, closing down their offices and freezing their bank accounts under the argument that all the organisations and offices linked to the abertzale (patriotic) left are part of a network led by ETA.

On September 7 a mass demonstration against these measures had been called in Bilbao but Garzon banned it. The Department of Interior of the Basque Government, controlled by the Basque Nationalist party (PNV) supported the ban. The organisers decided to postpone it.

A week after, a group of intellectuals, journalists and artists called for a new demonstration in Bilbao on September 15 with the slogan "Long Live the Basque People" (Gora Euskal Herria). The day before the demonstration Judge Garzon banned it with the argument that the organisers were members of the outlawed Batasuna. Meanwhile, the Department of Interior of the Basque Government and the leaders of the three main parties in the government (PNV-EA and United Left) said that the banning of the demonstration was not justified.

Double game of the Basque government

The spokesman of the Basque Government (member of the PNV) said that the protest was "socially legitimated". The Basque Justice Minister (from EA) declared that "the aim of the demonstration was to defend democratic freedoms" and the Basque Social Affairs Minister (United Left) said that such a demonstration "could only be banned from a totalitarian social and political viewpoint".

However, despite the fact that these public statements could have been understood as giving permission for the demonstration to go ahead, 20 minutes after the start of the demonstration and without any provocation the Ertainzta (Basque police) charged against the demonstration.

The charge was brutal, using a water cannon which threw thousands to the floor; the water used contained chemical products which provoked irritation in the eyes, and rubber balls were also used. The charges left more than 40 people wounded amongst the 40,000 present and dozens were arrested. The response of the demonstrators was to resist, standing their ground while laying on the pavement. This forced the police to retreat and allow the leaders of the outlawed Batasuna to address the crowd for a short period of time.

The images from the Saturday demo represent a state of emergency where the most basic democratic freedoms of a bourgeois democracy are suspended, like the freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate or organise. It is false to say, as the Popular Party government does, that this was a demonstration of ETA. Present in the demonstration there were many workers and youth who reject the methods of individual terrorism and oppose the curtailment of democratic rights.

The Basque bourgeoisie, represented by PNV and EA, has shown once again that above all they will defend their class interests. It is hopeless to appeal to Eusko Alkartasuna or the PNV asking for their support and collaboration to put an end to national oppression. The history of the Basque bourgeoisie proves once and again that their "nationalism" ends where their profits begin. The democratic aspirations of the oppressed masses of Euskal Herria have nothing to do with a bourgeoisie which has always looked only after their class interests, including when they gave the industries of Bilbao untouched to Franco and when they tried to sign a separate peace with Franco during the Civil War. The democratic rights we have were conquered by the working class in struggle against the Franco dictatorship and not by the PNV leaders or the Basque capitalists.

Oppose repression

The [ruling right-wing] Popular Party has attacked the PNV for having allowed an "ETA demonstration to go ahead". The capitalist mass media, starting withEl Pais, defend the outlawing of Batasuna and the repression. The repression is spreading like an oil spillage, penetrating every town and village, every factory, every neighbourhood, and will end up reaching every household if we do not stop it with class based methods.

The leaders of the Socialist Party (PSOE) have said that the Ertainzta intervened "correctly" and within the legal framework, thus joining in the chorus of "against Batasuna, all means are justified" without understanding that the working class and the youth in the whole of the Spanish State is suffering this drastic curtailment of democratic rights. The PP and the leaders of the PSOE have justified the Political Parties Law and the outlawing of Batasuna as part of a bold struggle against individual terrorism. But how can they think that the banning and violent repression of Saturday's demo will weaken ETA? On the contrary, the anger felt while on the pavement under the water cannons, the rubber balls and the beatings will try to find an expression. Those who defend the tactics of individual terrorism will see their numbers increase, and so will those who defend a break with the Spanish State and independence. Only those who are completely blind, like [PP leaders] Arenas and Aznar are not able to see this.

Individual terrorism is useless in the struggle for the rights of Euskal Herria

Every bomb attack by ETA means more votes for the PP and at the same time is used by the government to divert attention away from its anti-worker policies. Individual terrorism always achieves the opposite of its stated aims. The whole of the experience internationally and in the Spanish State shows that the methods of individual terrorism always provide the State apparatus with an excuse to increase repression and curtail democratic rights. Only the mass struggle, the united and conscious action of the oppressed, of the working class and the youth can defend the democratic rights, including the right of self-determination of the nationalities. The Popular Party is planning to increase the number of police officers by 50,000, to build more jails and modify important aspects of the penal system in a completely reactionary way. On the other hand the Basque bourgeoisie has already announced that in order to face this new situation they will need more police and more means of repression in the Basque Country.

While the expenses in the repressive apparatus of the state increase, there are cuts in all the social expenditure, an increase in work related accidents, unemployment benefits are cut, and there are massive cuts in education, health, housing, etc. [Spanish president] Aznar wants to divert attention away from the class struggle, particularly after the general strike on June 20. But far from being forgotten, that strike will have its following up in the national mass demonstration called by the trade unions in Madrid on October 5.

The policies of the Popular Party are the same in social questions, in dealing with the Basque national question and in attacking democratic rights. It is a mistake to think that the banning of Batasuna has nothing to do with the labour movement. On the contrary, with these measures they are establishing a dangerous precedent which tomorrow could be used against a left wing organisation challenging the interests of the capitalists. Using any excuse they will use the laws they have just passed to try to silence our voice.

The workers and the youth are interested in winning decent working conditions, good quality health and education, a roof over our heads and the freedom to be able to defend our views. That is why the struggle for social rights and the defence of the democratic rights, including the right of self-determination, are both part of the same struggle for the socialist transformation of society.