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Monday, February 11, 2008

Civil disobedience and the Basque national problem (1)

Long ago I was quite active in the antimilitarist movement (the Conscious Objection Movement). Once we decided to adress the issue of civil disobedience in the context of the Basque Country but eventually the discussion became polarized between those that thought it meant basically asking for the end of ETA and those that thought that it was beyond that: it was about making ETA useless by creating a real movement for self-determination on nonviolent grounds. This discussion became somewhat problematic as certain member published his own opinion and others published a harsh criticism in response. Eventually all the work became blocked because of that.

Gandhi wrote that the real difference is not betwee those that fight with weapons and those that fight with satyagraha (nonviolence) but between those who fight and those who do not. So you guessed well: I was markedly alligned with the second position, as I believe the first one is manichean and hypocritical.

In fact I really dont know how correct was Gandhi about everyting. His satyagraha worked well enough in India but it would be near impossible in other circumstances surely. On the other hand, more than a decade of nonviolent resistence in Kosovo yielded zero results, while a few weeks of armed action have given de facto independence to this country (though certainly thanks to foreign intervention rather than their own forces).

Anyhow, going back to my own country, the few attempts to create a civil disobedience movement have been quelled through judicial inquisition, assimilating them to ETA (and legitimating this group a lot - even if some don't want to see that), along with many other expressions or actual Basque self-determination in daily grounds (specially press but not only).

Another problem is the submissive attitude of mainstream "nationalist" parties, accepting Spanish law and implementing it out of pure conformism and fear of losing their profitable administrative seats. They really don't want to confront the state but very slightly and symbolically. Not that being so shy and obedient will avoid prision for them, as happened with the former chief of Basque police, now indicted on grounds of disobedience to Spanish special super-judges.

Basque politicians have taken two paths that possibly bring us nowhere: the path of institutional collaboration and the path of armed resistence. Nobody is really promoting a third way of nonviolent resistence independently - and, well, certainly, it's very possible that the Spanish Neoinquisition would get them classified as "dangerous terrorists" anyhow as soon as they issue any public opinions that are not exactly the stupid "condemnations" of non-institutional violence required by the state to let you be.

It's a complex issue and has become much more difficult in the last two decades. I'll see if I can seed some ideas around in the future.


Daniel Owen said...

Pacifism is a deeply anti-human ideology. It is also an expression of weakness. (see George Orwell's essay on the subject)

As George Orwell also said: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." I've often thought this when, for instance, liberals go on about physical force antifascism being "authoritarian." The only reason they have the freedom to say that kind of shit is because men laid their arses on the line to protect freedom.

Maju said...

I'm not talking about "pacifism" but about nonviolence: about civil disobedience, which is an active form of political struggle that chooses not to use violence (for several reasons, most important of which, in my opinion may be effectivity).

One of the issues we had in that debate I mention in my post is related to the fact that the ideological declaration of our organization (MOC) explicitly acknowledged the right to self-defense: for the "pacifists" claimed that paragraph to be wrongly there (a historical compromise, blah, blah), while the "resister" faction considered it to be essential.

We never believed that teh right to self-defense is wrong nor that self-defense by violent means is deplorable. No way. We thought that, in many circumstances, the possibility of achieving successes, of "winning the conflict" is not mre at hand because of the use of violence, as most of the struggle is political anyway and the use of force only create divisions and gives justifications to the rival.

Basically (in our case): ETA's violence causes little or no harm to their rival (Spain) and is unlikely to do so in the future. Instead it causes divisions and gives pretexts to their enemy. So some other more effective strategy should be considered.

The goal is not to justify this or that but to liberate the Basque people. If a strategy of outright disobedience can achieve a greater consensus and cause at least the same difficulties to the residual Spanish empire, it's probably the way to go.

But disobedience means much more than the occasional shy gesture: it means that basically the Spanish state should be made to disappear from the social reality and that any residual forced presence would be systematically challengd by, of course, nonviolent means.

Anyhow, it's just a meditation.