Basque country: nationalist left bare their teeth as communist youth surge forward

Since the emergence of the Gazte Koordinadora Sozialista (GKS), [click here to read more about the emergence of the communist youth movement, GKS] the official leadership of the Nationalist left (EH Bildu) in the Basque Country has treated them as a nuisance; maintaining an official appearance of ignoring them. Last year, Arkaitz Rodríguez, the general secretary of Sortu (the largest party in the EH Bildu coalition) described the group as ‘reactionary’. But in the next breath, he claimed that GKS is a mere fly in the ointment, and that the leadership had not dedicated “even half a minute” to their developments.

While this boastful claim seems rather unlikely, it is now clear that the Nationalist left are paying full attention. In February, Sortu sent a circular to their members in which they aimed to politically clarify their position regarding GKS. This amounted to peddling the lies that the Basque media have propagated (depicting GKS militants as ‘thuggish’ and ‘violent’); and most strikingly, using identity politics to tar the communist youth.

Sortu’s ‘clarification’ was a thinly veiled attack; a conscious acknowledgement that their approach so far has failed. Though claiming that GKS “weaken transformative projects”, the timing of Sortu publicly breaking its silence is rather telling.

Indeed, the circular followed another magnificent mobilisation of 7,000 people organised by GKS in Bilbao and Iruña on 28 January. The demonstration rang with militancy – with slogans including “let’s face the bourgeois offensive” and “the workers’ revenge: socialist revolution”. Though the size was the same as last year, it was clear that the bold, communist messaging is garnering support from swathes of the Basque youth.

The circular states that behind GKS’s “revolutionary and radical rhetoric” we find an “inability to influence society and change things.” But far from a flash in the pan, GKS and the wider Socialist Movement is a force the Nationalist left must reckon with.

They counterpose the reformism and paltry offerings of the Nationalist left with revolutionary agitation and propaganda. It is no surprise that they have become a reference point – in the Basque country and beyond.

Politically bankrupt

As we have explained before, GKS emerged from a debate within the Nationalist left, with the explicit aim of exposing the ‘historic failure’ of the strategy used to bring about Basque independence, as well as criticising their subordinate role to the government in Madrid. This is something Sortu cannot tolerate, especially with their pitiful record in parliament.

Far from a flash in the pan, GKS and the wider Socialist Movement is a force the Nationalist left must reckon with / Image: Gazte Koordinadora Sozialista, Twitter

EH Bildu is part of the government majority whose vote is necessary for the PSOE-UP coalition to stay in power in Madrid. There have been many written agreements between Bildu and PSOE. And so the track record of this government – one which has defended the interests of the ruling class on all decisive questions – reflects back onto themselves.

For example, there have been a handful of instances of backtracking on election promises since the shaky coalition came to power. There was a written agreement between PSOE and Bildu about the repeal of the right-wing Popular Party’s labour counter-reform. When it came to putting this agreement in practice, the PSOE refused to implement it, passing only a partial reform of the PP legislation, whilst leaving intact the most reactionary elements. Bildu protested, presenting its own alternative proposal… but in the end, stayed as a loyal partner to the PSOE-UP government.

The same was the case with the reactionary Ley Mordaza (Gag Law), also introduced by the PP government in order to limit democratic rights. The PSOE-UP government had promised to repeal it. Then they settled for amending it slightly. Bildu protested, refused to vote for it… but continued its support for the government.

Moreover, it would be wrong to think that EH Bildu simply protests against the government, and then falls silent. They have voted in favour of the reform of the penal code (Codigo Penal), which increases the repression on those who struggle against injustice.

Just to give another example of the kind of government the Nationalist left is supporting in Madrid: recently, an officer involved in the torture and extra-judicial killing of Mikel Zabalza in 1985, a Basque bus driver, has been promoted in the Spanish state to the leadership of the Civil Guard. This is the reality of playing second fiddle to the regime in Madrid.

With elections approaching, they are falling over themselves to promise the world in order to secure their seats. But just like the rest of their ‘resistance’, this amounts to nothing more than words, words, words.

Though EH Bildu feigns a mixture of shock and disappointment at the government, it continues to give crucial support to that very same government. Moreover, their ‘constitutional path’ to independence is a mirage. National liberation in the Basque country is not one centimetre closer since EH Bildu ingratiated themselves with PSOE in Madrid and in the Navarre parliament.

The facts speak clearly, the PSOE-UP government in Madrid, despite its pretence of being “the most progressive government in history”, is firmly committed to managing the crisis of capitalism in the interest of the bosses. They are loyally servile to US imperialism when it comes to foreign policy, including support for NATO in its war with Russia in Ukraine.

EH Bildu’s support shows the Basque youth where their allegiances lie. They are a completely pacified and politically bankrupt force. In truth, these petty-bourgeois nationalists were only ever concerned with having a seat at the table.

Demo Image Gazte Koordinadora Sozialista TwitterSocialist Movement stands against capitalism and for socialism, while the leaders of Sortu stand firmly for a reformist strategy / Image: Gazte Koordinadora Sozialista, Twitter

Their record at home is no better. In the Basque country, they engage in the Stalinist tactics of smear campaigns, chiming in with the attacks mounting daily in the bourgeois press against the Socialist Movement. They have attempted financial strangulation of GKS; expelling the communists from the txosnas, which is an instrumental way of raising money for their projects. We might ask: with comrades like these, who needs enemies?

In their circular, Sortu lambasts the “reactionary” GKS for “the most harmful practices that have been seen on the left.” Irony is perhaps lost on them. The leadership of the Nationalist left should hold up a mirror to themselves.

Identity politics

With nothing to offer the workers and youth but more of the status quo, Sortu has dressed itself up in the language of identity politics. As they write:

“On the road to a unified, independent, socialist, feminist and Basque-speaking Basque Country, GKS does not contribute anything. On the contrary. In addition, there is no possibility of collaboration, because we have different projects and strategies, because they reject that possibility and, above all, because they act in an exclusive and aggressive way.”

One part of that paragraph is actually true: there can be no collaboration between the opposing projects and strategies, but that is precisely because the Socialist Movement stands against capitalism and for socialism, while the leaders of Sortu stand firmly for a reformist strategy of managing the crisis of the system within the narrow limits of capitalism.

The circular continues by arguing that GKS feels “uncomfortable” with struggles of the LGBT community, feminism, etc. For example, they slander Itaia, the women’s coordinating group of GKS. In a customarily patronising manner, they claim this group corrupts the minds of young women militants. With these broad strokes, Sortu aims to paint GKS as a single-minded group that is against social justice; completely aloof from anything other than communism.

Womens demo Image Itaia TwitterThe leaders of Sortu claim that the GKS women's coordinating group corrupts the minds of young women militants / Image Itaia, Twitter

This is a red herring. The struggle of genuine communists aims to connect all the various struggles. Revolutionaries must seek to unite the oppressed and exploited strata in society and channel the collective energies into building a revolutionary party capable of overthrowing capitalism. Paying close attention to all the injustices of capitalism and agitating against them is a prerequisite to building. And only on this basis, can we uproot all discrimination and prejudice that plagues society.

After all, it is the system that Sortu defends through their reformism that relies on these divisions to rule. And so it is little surprise that they fall back on the arguments of identity politics.

Identity politics claims that the main division in society is one of subjective identity. It separates the struggle for women’s liberation from the struggle against the capitalist system, pandering to trendy ideas that serve to confuse and disorientate the youth. It is no surprise that this emaciated reformist party speaks in such language; being the torchbearer of social justice in mere words is the cheapest of all reforms!

These attacks are cynical and self-serving. Once again, we see the genuine oppression faced by women weaponised by a party that has no serious interest in fighting against it in the first place. GKS have rebuffed this nonsense.

Sortu stands in a long line of reformist parties that fall back on radical-sounding language to keep up appearances. We see this in Scotland also, where the SNP has profited from being more ‘progressive’ than the rabid Tory party in Britain, while still standing firmly within the limits of the capitalist system.

In all cases, if you scratch the surface, you will find reformist politics that offer no route forward for the masses.

In truth, the focus on ‘identity’, ‘nationality’, etc. – and the relegation of the importance of class independence and methods – has spelled disastrous consequences. Lenin once commented that the national question is at root a question of bread. That is absolutely correct. In a period characterised by cuts and counter-reforms, the problems of housing, security, jobs will continue to fester. There is no way of solving the national question on the basis of capitalism.


We note that it is from a position of weakness, not strength, that Sortu has attacked GKS militants. This will serve a dual purpose. With elections later this year, Sortu is aiming to deflect attention away from its failures. They will also be aiming to firm up their youth group, Ernai, who have been left behind in the wake of this explosion of militancy.

For all of the bombast of GKS being “against Basque national liberation” in their circular, it has not dawned on the leadership that the youth are pushing beyond the limits of nationalism – with resounding success. This is occurring not just in the Basque country. There are other such promising developments in Catalonia with the formation of Socialist Horizon (Horitzó Socialista).

Horitzó Socialista Image Horitzó Socialista TwitterThe youth are pushing beyond the limits of nationalism. This is occurring not just in the Basque country. There are other such promising developments in Catalonia with the formation of Socialist Horizon / Image Horitzó Socialista, Twitter

Across the world we see a layer of working-class youth, radicalised by the experience of capitalist crisis, the threat to the climate, war and destruction, turning towards the ideas of radical change, rejecting this rotten system and turning towards the ideas of communism. GKS is undoubtedly the most advanced example of this to date. But the potential for developments like this exist all across the globe. Internationalism must be the lifeblood of the communist movement in order for us to succeed in the tasks we set ourselves.

GKS have shown the way forward for the youth disillusioned with reformism and nationalism. The path forward is class struggle and communism. We commend the efforts of GKS in the example they have set. And we stand in full solidarity with them against the attacks and slanders which they continue to face.

The sterile politics and strategies of the reformist parties have been put to the test. They have been found wanting. The role of communists is to expose the weaknesses of these woolly, institutional politics, and to educate ourselves in the ideas of scientific socialism. Marxism is our sharpest weapon in understanding the world in order to transform it. With further crises impending, we haven’t a minute to waste.

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