By outlawing a new political party from an upcoming June 7 ballot, ruling circles in the Spanish regime are exposing their links to the 36-year-long fascist reign of Francisco Franco. Their latest anti-democratic step involved fraudulent charges to prevent the newly formed International Initiative—Solidarity among the Peoples (II-SP) organization from competing in elections to the European Parliament.
Spain’s Supreme Court on May 16 by an 11-5 majority supported a lower court decision to ban the II-SP. The new party is appealing to the Constitutional Court to reverse this, while waging an international petition campaign to gain support. A final May 21 decision is likely to maintain the ban, unless a massive struggle arises to reverse it.
The courts are imposing the ban in the midst of the economic crisis that exploded in 2008 and hit Spain much harder than most other developed capitalist countries. The “housing bubble” burst with a fury in Spain, stopping almost all new construction projects. Official unemployment climbed to more than 17 percent in April. Young people can’t find permanent jobs.
To underline an anti-capitalist solution to this crisis, some leftist parties, both on a federal level and in the regions that consist of oppressed nations within the Spanish state, joined together this spring to form the II-SP. They offered a relatively broad but clearly anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist alternative.
The II-SP competes not only with rightist bourgeois parties like José María Aznar’s People’s Party, but also with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s governing Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). It considers Zapatero pro-capitalist, despite his “socialist” label. It competes even with the United Left (IU) movement—the traditional Spanish left close to the Spanish Communist Party—that revolutionaries consider to be trapped inside the capitalist parliamentary system.
Historically, the Spanish state has included at least four peoples or nationalities. The people of Galicia in the northwest, of Catalonia in the east, and of the Basque Country in the northeast have been under the heel of the Castilian ruling class. Repression was especially brutal during the Franco period against local customs and any languages other than Castilian Spanish.
Today it also includes immigrants from Africa and Latin America, who face racial discrimination.
In carrying out the struggle for Basque self-determination, Basque freedom fighters set up an organization in 1959 known as ETA, an acronym for the Basque words meaning Basque Homeland and Freedom. ETA evolved into a guerrilla group that carried out armed actions against the Spanish state, both during the fascist period and afterwards.
The Spanish ruling class took the same approach toward ETA as the British rulers did toward the Irish Republican Army and the U.S. toward Puerto Rican patriots: repression. They hunted down ETA members and also jailed thousands of Basques involved in political struggles.
This repression extended to pro-independence political organizations in the Basque Country. The “Law of the Parties” of 2002 outlawed Batasuna, the political party that shared the same political program as the guerrilla group ETA. After Batasuna was made illegal, the AVN (Basque Nationalist Action) was set up to politically represent Basque self-determination. The courts then outlawed AVN.
Thus in today’s Spanish state, Basques who are for independence or autonomy have no legal political party, while former fascist youth like Aznar can run the government.
II-SP supports self-determination
The II-SP supports self-determination for Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country. The leading figure on the II-SP ticket, world-famous playwright and historical anti-fascist elder Alfonso Sastre, also led the AVN ticket in a recent election before the AVN was banned. Number two on the II-SP slate, Doris Benegas from the Castilian Left, and number five, Ángeles Maestro of the Red Current, are leaders who have politically supported Basque self-determination. They participated in meetings supporting Basque political prisoners and honoring Basque martyrs.
As Maestro told the media, none of these candidates belongs to ETA, nor does the II-SP advocate armed struggle, nor are the candidates of Basque nationality. Yet the Spanish regime and courts have applied the “Law of Parties” to outlaw the II-SP from the election.
The state’s argument—if you can believe it—is that Basques who support Batasuna and who see Sastre heading the list might consider II-SP an indirect representative of Batasuna’s program. Pro-independence Basques might feel inspired by voting for II-SP and encouraged to continue the struggle and thus, the court reasoned, it must ban II-SP.
Continuing to fight for its place on the ballot, II-SP asks for support inside and outside Spain on a petition to defend “democracy and the presumption of innocence.” Already Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina has written to Zapatero urging him to “intervene” to “avoid anti-democratic actions” by the courts against II-SP.
Inside the Spanish state, other federal parties on the ballot like the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE) and the Anti-capitalist Initiative (IA) have demanded that the ban on II-SP be lifted. The Basque Left denied it was manipulating II-SP and expressed solidarity with II-SP’s right to be on the ballot.
There are reports the IU is split on this question. So far the IU leadership has said only that it will support the decision of the courts in this matter.
Slanders from the rightist parties, the regime and the media against the militants of II-SP may prevent the election of the II-SP candidates, but even this hostile publicity has exposed many millions of people to this party’s existence and potentially its program at the beginning of an intense class struggle in the Spanish state.
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