The high turn out rate of 70.7% in the election in Euskadi (Basque name for the Basque country), 11 points higher than the last regional elections of 1994, and only 0.8% less than the general election of 1996, reflects the enormous interest of the Basque population in finding a solution to their problems, starting with an end to the long nightmare of repression and terrorism with the change in the political situation since the ETA ceasefire.
The bourgeois parties - both Basque (PNV and EA) and Spanish (PP) - have been trying to divide and polarize the population along national lines, aiming to divide and confuse the workers´ movement and to avoid any discussion on the balance sheet of right-wing goverments in Madrid and Vitoria and what they represent for the majority of the population, on the questions of class: unemployment, lack of job security, privatisation, attacks on heath care, on education, regresive tax reforms, etc.
At the same time the bourgeois parties have presented the possibility of an end to violence or the achievement of peace as something outside of the class division of society which has no relation with the existance of the capitalist system, trying to create two confronting blocs along national lines: Basque nationalists and Spanish Nationalists.
This dynamic wouldn´t have had any success if the leaders of the workers´political organisations had defended a class position instead of taking part, in both words and deeds, in a game which has put both the PP (in the case of the PSOE leadership) and the PNV (in the case of the IU) in a good position. Also from the left, EH´s leadership by defending the position that independence is the most important question - leaving for some indefinite future the struggle for socialism - has helped create this situation behind which the bourgeoisie has been able to take shelter.
Who´s benefited most from this dynamic?
Although in terms of deputies (in the Basque parliament) the right (PNV,PP, EA, UA) have gone from 46 to 45, losing one seat without any doubt, the right with 722,560 votes, as opposed to the left (IU,PSOE,EH) with 512,706 votes, has benefited most from this dynamic increasing their vote by 209,854, which means the difference between the votes for the right and the votes for the left has increased by 62,148 compared with the elections of 1994.
The big increase in the PP vote (100,000 more than four years ago, and 19,000 more than the general election of 1996) is not unconnected to the political positions of the PSOE leadership: experience has shown time and time again that pacts and agreements with the right only benefit the bourgeoisie.
PSOE has increased its vote compared with the last Basque election , in 1994, but has suffered a big collapse (of almost 80,000) compared with the general election of 1996.
Despite the PSOE leadership´s defence of the constitution and the statute of autonomy, its identification with reactionary ideas (defence of those in prison for their involvement with GAL), its refusal to recognise the democratic rights of the Basque people, workers have once again voted PSOE , doing so fundamentally to punish the right, but without illusions in its leadership. This could be seen in its pre-election events with a low turnout and a critical atmosphere extending right into the party itself - both before, during, and after the elections- despite the increase of two deputies in the Basque parliament. The leaders of PSOE bear the responsibility for not stopping the rise of PP, something perfectly possible if they´d put forward genuinely left-wing politics- if they´d spoken more about socialism and less about Spain.
The results have been insuficient for PSOE and a disastre for IU whose campaign was run without the participation of its militants at the cost of millions of pesetas (one million pesetas=4200 pounds aprox.) leaving the organisation mortgaged both finacially and politically.
They went from 14,440 votes in 1990 to 93,291 in 1994, clearly showing itself as an emerging force on the left, forming a parliamentary group of six deputies. Now, four years on, the IU has lost more than 20% of its vote and sees itself reduced to two deputies. These votes have gone to EH and to PSOE.
As Anguita and Madrazo (IU leaders) have said a large number of the votes gained in 1994 came from the milieu of HB, and now they´ve gone back to EH.
Was this inevitable? And anyway, how could the electoral debacle have been avoided in the face of the extreme polarization of the campaing.
The only way of not being sucked into the whirlpool of the Basque nationalist- Spanish nationalist dynamic was for the IU to have clearly defended class independence and revolutionary politics, combined with an intransigent fight for democratic rights like the right to self-determination. IU had the responsability of presenting a program for the socialist transformation of society, and on this basis of paciently explaining the need to obtain the unity of the working class in Euskadi and throughout the Spanish State to put an end to the capitalist system which is the real cause of the violence, the unemployment, the poverty of the majority of the population and the denial of democratic rights to the Basque country.
Without the slightest concesion either to the bourgeoisie- whether Spanish or Basque, who should be denounced as our irreconcilable class enemies- or to independentist ideas which contribute to the divisions in the working class, IU could have shown itself as a coherent left-wing reference point.
If the IU had spent the last four years fighting for this program, presenting a sharp left-wing, revolutionary profile, those so-called "borrowed votes"(from HB) together with thousands of youth votes, would have quite possibly not only maintened what have been acheived, on a firmer basis, but could have lead to further increases.
However, the coalition with PP and the PNV on the Bilbao city council, the alliance with the PNV on the Estella agreement, together with the possibility- debated in public before the election- that IU might participate in a future PNV-EA goverment, has discouraged thousands of people who belived the IU to be something different. In these elections, more than ever, it was necessary to go to the working class neighbourhoods, the high schools, the universities to seek out the youth and to the workers at the factory gates and distribute material with a high political level, clearly explaining IU´s alternatives and attacking the right. But the IU campaing has been in the totally opposite direction: handing out condoms in the streets, hot air balloons, "chu-chu" trains (minature trains normally seen as a fairground attraction for small children) heading off towards marginatised areas, and turning its back on a real class orientation with the excuse of running a "modern" campaing "of the street". Their main slogans were abstract, "For Jobs", "For Euskadi", "For Peace". And if that weren´t enough the activist base was disheartened and worn down by continual internal fights for positions by different sectors within the IU . The most serious thing now is the leadership´s attempt to blame workers and youth for not having voted IU instead of seriously thinking things over and correcting all these mistakes.
Without a clear profile, the IU vote has gone to PSOE and EH. The strengthening of EH, despite them having their main base in villages of less than a thousand inhabitants in Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa, has taken place just as much in the industrial centres reflecting the fact that it was a left vote that expreses the aspirations of thousands of young people to finish off this injust and oppresive system.
There´s a clear conclusion. Pacts and agreements with the right benefit the right. The case of EH is no exception. It´s true that they´ve gained electorally despite making common cause with the PNV, but in the case of EH the main thing in these elections has been the support of their voters for the abandonment of the wrong methods of ETA´s individual terrorism, bringing together an important part of those sectors who´d stopped voting for them in recent years.
The future Basque Goverment.
The PNV has to form the government and there exist various different possibilities. If the Basque capitalists are aiming for a strong goverment with a broad majority enabling it to carry forward a program of attacks on the working class, then there´s likely to be a minority executive of PNV and EA with support from outside by EH, until the next elections. They were counting on the IU to play this role but after its electoral colapse, this possibility is less relevant.
They could also repeat a tripartite government with PSOE. In this case it would be necessary for the base of the party which was able to turn around the situation inside the party a few months ago to radically oppose pacts with either the PP or the PNV and to demand a genuine socialist policy together with a defence of the national-democratic rights of the Basque people like the right to self-determination.
There´s no contradiction between this and the defence of the organic unity of the working class of all the (Spanish) State, on the contrary, this is the best way to guaranty it, on a voluntary basis.
These elections have made clear an enormous polarisation in Basque society. For the moment, the popular hopes for a peaceful way out of a conflict that´s been draging on for more then three decades, will take centre stage in the political situation. But even an agreement by ETA to abandon their arms, in exchange for an amnesty for those in prison and some minor changes to the constitution wouldn´t solve the basic problems of the workers and youth of Euskadi: Sooner or later the basic class contradictions will clearly emerge, putting on the agenda the struggle to transform society along socialist lines.