ETA last interview: We dissolve into the people

“Revolutionaries cannot stop in daydream, what we have to do is create adequate strategies to make dreams come true”

After announcing in a video message to the Basque people its dissolution, the armed organization ETA, continues to hit the headlines. This time the daily Basque paper Gara has published extracts of the last interview given by the organisation prior to its dissolution. 

The interview, writes GARA editor Inaki Soto (who is also the author of the interview), has been conducted in Euskera (Basque language) and it involved 400 questions, which will be published in a book this June. 

The paper, though, given the relevance of the issue, has translated into Spanish part of the first chapter of the forthcoming book. 

Here we publish parts of this first chapter. 

«We have not achieved the objectives, but the road is not closed». This is one of the main reflections of the document approved by a majority [of the militancy], and supports the decision to end the cycle and function of ETA. It sounds sincere and realistic, there is no triumphalism, but does it mean that the organization has stopped halfway?

That road goes on. The process that has as its horizon the creation of the Basque State continues. ETA has been a fundamental actor in initiating and giving substance to the liberation process, there is no doubt about it, but we cannot equate the end of the historical cycle of ETA with the end of that liberation process. What we want to say with that phrase is that the intermediate objectives foreseen by ETA (i.e., national recognition and right to self-determination) have not been achieved yet, but the possibilities are there to achieve them.

From a historical point of view, comparing the situation when ETA started its journey and the situation when it closes its cycle, we can draw this conclusion: back then there was a people condemned to die and today there is a people who want to be master of its own life.

Did the organization become aware of this need, on its own, or it actually accepts this need through external influences? It was often accused of turning a deaf ear to external demands ...

Many things have often been said that have nothing to do with the reality of ETA. We have made this decision 'on our own', but that does not mean that we are affected by 'political autism'. We have analyzed the situation of the political process and the options for its development, and our main objective has been to favor that process of liberation, within the analysis of the abertzale (nationalist) left, in order to build a movement and a strong independence process, capable of responding to the debates at any given moment as well as to specific tactical turns.

(...) The reflection, in any case, is not how to end an armed organization, but how the liberation process must move forward. Our reflection started there, and it is within that framework that we have reached this conclusion. It will be the evolution of the process that will sentence if this decision has been the appropriate one. By itself, a negotiated agreement would not have guaranteed anything either.

Picking up the international terminology, some agents such as the Social Forum have claimed in recent months the term «demobilization». Others have demanded "dissolution". ETA has opted for «final». Is it all the same? Why exactly that formula?

(...) When the media said that we would use the term "demobilization", we looked at each other in amazement. Due to the characteristics of the organization and the Basque process, it does not seem to us that this word reflects well what had to be done. Perhaps because when we hear the word "demobilization", we imagine long lines of guerrillas coming down from the mountain. According to international standards, it may be a politically appropriate term, but we have not used it. And maybe it's better, because otherwise they would do that it is an ETA term. And those social agents will still have to continue working ...

We also have to say that we received a curious message. Representatives of the Paris government said that "demobilization" was not a clear term, because what is demobilized can be mobilized again later. It seemed absurd to us, because by following that logic, what is undone can also be redone again. We found the argument very curious, and it showed us that in order not to make any progress in the solution, any excuse is valid, even the supposed meaning of a word. Anything is useful to claim once again that "is not enough". 


In any case, the key word for us was "desegitea" [undone, in Basque]. It's the one we used. It must be said, moreover, that ETA thinks mainly in Basque and that in Euskera that term comes out naturally: we made ETA and now we unmade it. We wanted to reflect this, following the main idea used with disarmament: ETA was created from within the people and will now dissolve into the people.

For many people, this decision involves losing the names that have been their reference for decades. Or not?

As a historical reference, the names, the acronyms will still be there. They will continue to exist as witnesses of a long phase of the movement and the liberation process. But ETA will disappear as an organization, and therefore, as a consequence of its decision, its acronyms will not be used in the political action. Since 2010, there has been no armed struggle on behalf of ETA. And from now on there will be no political action carried out in its name: no one will be questioned, there will be no political proposals ....

Except for LAB, all the great historical names of the nationalist left have disappeared in this process. What conclusion can be drawn from it?

The politically correct answer would be to say that they are tools, but with that we would not be honest. For its militancy, ETA is more than a mere organization, it is a reflection of the commitment to the struggle for Euskal Herria and the ark that keeps deep values ​​shared with the rest of our comrades. The ETA militants will preserve that feeling until they death. And also that responsibility, to make, albeit in a different way, our contribution to the development of leftist independence movement and to maintain the commitment demanded by the liberation process, each according to his/her possibilities. We will be ex-militants of ETA, but we will preserve having been part of ETA until we die. At the level of feelings, we will always be ETA. Assuming everything done, including errors and all burdens (...).

Would the organization have become inevitably an obstacle to that accumulation of forces required by an independence process?

(...) Over the years we have seen many times that asking others to account for what they have done is the way to camouflage one own shortcomings. We do not blame anyone in particular, it is a general reflection and our goal is not to initiate polemics or riffs. But we do want to point out that many times it looked as that if ETA left the armed struggle everything would have been very easy, but it was not like that nor is it like that. We understand that we have to change things in political acting, and before asking anything to the other, it is necessary to think that one must also do its share. This is what ETA has been doing in recent years.

According to our analysis, to shape the movement needed by a process towards independence, the protagonists and agents must be organized according to it, and we honestly say that we do not see any contribution from a clandestine organization like ours. It would have to be, in its case, a qualitative contribution, but that does not fit into what that movement should be. The vast majority that has to be created would not understand. And we also reject that option, to survive as a hidden organization.

The states, and also many Basque agents, will undoubtedly argue that this decision is the result of a failure. How do you respond to such an affirmation? Or are we talking about a lost cause?

No doubt there will be a bombardment in that sense. The practice of so many years has not changed. The scripts are written and do not change, whatever happens. This impoverishes the debate and political opportunities, and this is precisely what ETA is concerned about, and not so much what is going to be written about the failures of our organization. The main battle lies in overcoming the conflict; the political conflict and its consequences. The main battle lies in achieving another situation, really democratic.

In any case, the question can also be formulated with another meaning: Is the Spanish 'State of Law' the one that has won in Euskal Herria, the one that has had an incredible victory? At this point in time, the distance from the “Spain project” is greater than ever and those who defend that project have less support than ever.

(...) We believe that in Euskal Herria there are sufficient strength, courage and intelligence to achieve another political and social reality. And that's why we've done what we've done, we've decided to dissolve the organization. It is true that the future is not written and that the political process can be reversed if the relevant route cannot be defined. The states will also try to preserve their domain, and we already know what they are willing to do. We have an opportunity to fight, and this people has to put the best of itself there. We believe there are objective data to believe in that; it takes a bit of perspective, and also strategic tranquility as people. 

A high level of consensus has been achieved. What consequences can we draw from that? 

That we were right in the content and in the form. This suggests that we certainly had to have done this before. But if we had done it wrong, the base would be weaker, and the risks, more serious. For this reason too, we have taken several months to carry out this discussion process. And the proposal has been clear, so to give everybody the possibility to give a clear yes or no. Therefore, one of the main consequences to highlight is how deep in people is the decision. (...) 

Is the organization aware of the damage it has caused? In its totality? 

Yes, ETA recognizes all the damage caused and now has wanted to recognize the great suffering that this damage has caused, with the desire to face the future in a constructive way. We have said that we are really sorry for it and talked about all the damage caused. We believe that it provides a good basis for the future, although those who continue to put obstacles in its way have read the statement with a bad eye. (...)

ETA has said something that on the other hand anyone knows: that there have been those who have been at the very center of the conflict, on purpose and under their responsibility, and those who have not. That's what they called categorization. But the categorization is done by others in their laws and declarations, because, for example in these very same laws, the victims caused by ETA and those caused by the dirty war are not the same. We will say more; for them, not everyone affected by ETA is equal (...)

It is not ETA's intention to reduce the damage suffered by anyone or to despise anyone. Without any perverse intention, in assessing what has been done for years, it has described some realities. That is the point of view of ETA, but ETA understands that there are others. Among Basque citizens, the concept of recognizing all victims is very widespread, and one can work on that, above the contradictions and the points of view. Because ETA will no longer be there, and within the Basque citizenship will emerge other consensus aimed at strengthening coexistence. We wanted to put a base with our declaration, to favor those consensuses, not to put red lines.

Suppose that put in the right track the consequences of this cycle of armed confrontation is achieved, and yet the political core will continue to stall things as it is doing now. Should we understand that the conflict returns to the point of origin?

The conflict is never at the starting point. From a historical perspective of scope, the political project of a Basque Republic is stronger than ever, and this is what we have to see: whether today we are more than yesterday and if with our strategy tomorrow we will be able to be more than today. This requires work, playing big, giving value to what unites us and leaving aside what divides us for the sake of the main objective. 

The magic day does not exist. The leader of the IRA and great friend of Euskal Herria Brian Keenan put it this way: «Wish lists are for Christmas». We would say that they are for the Olentzero [Basque version of father Christmas]. We revolutionaries cannot stop in daydream, what we have to do is create adequate strategies to make dreams come true. That is the key. And that is the great challenge today for the Abertzale Left, to design a real and effective strategy, with feet on the ground, taking into account the existing people and reality. Making way step by step, like the ox.