The birth of Askapena According to our purpose of combining informative Boga with other more "historic" ones, in this Boga we will talk about the international and national frame in which the internationalist Basque organization was born in 1987.
International situation During the 80's the Cold War goes on and U.S. imperialism is gaining ground. Slowly but relentlessly, it was cracking the unity and morale of the so called Socialist Bloc. Once global rejection to military coups in Latin America was neutralized, the imperialism managed the new favorable situation in several “restructured” countries such as Uruguay, Argentine and Chili. During this phase, the confrontation antiimperialism/imperialism moves to Central America. This area lived a very hard process: the exultant idealism of the past decade had to face with the difficult reality of an Empire which does its best to finish with the resistance movements. Nicaragua was a reference that caused great sympathy worldwide. In the field of international relations, it was close to the NonAligned Countries Movement. Nicaragua was an encouragement and a support for the revolutionary movements in El Salvador, Guatemala, and to a lesser extent, Honduras. For the Cuban people and government, Nicaragua was a new free space to support so that the Sandinista government could become strong. For the Nicaraguan people, it meant an opportunity to realize the dreams they had been sheltering during the years of the war against Somoza and for imperialism, led by Washington, it was a virulent and threatening front they had to liquidate.
The victory of the Sandinista
On January 23rd, 1981,just 10 days after Reagan began his term of office, he canceled the delivery of the last fifteen million dollars of a loan. It is the first economic antiNicaraguan measure soon followed by others: On February 10th the Reagan administration canceled the purchase of 60,000 tons of wheat; on April 1st they cut all credits allowed to Nicaragua, and in 1982 they vetoed the loans from other financial institutions under their control. The economic sanction or block was the first step of the aggressive policy chosen by the new US administration. In 1981, Nicaragua is engaged in another war promoted from the outside. Many members of the former National Guard, reinforced by mercenaries, were organized as a military "contras" (opposite) on the borders of Honduras and from there, they undertook a military harassment against the new born revolutionary process. The civilian population, peasant cooperatives, transport and schools were the targets of these attacks. The new government had to divert resources that it did not have to repair the damage caused by sabotages made by the contra. Furthermore, this government is obliged to take very unpopular measures that is to impose a compulsory military service to increase the contingent of the Sandinista People's Army. The government also had to transfer 42 Miskito (group of native Americans) communities to a settlement known as Tasba Pri. Sections of the political contra (with the very important role played by the Church) took advantage of the unease generated by this kind of measures. They used it to discredit the Sandinista Front and to diminish their social base. As the project was materializing tensions with the business as well as with organizations and leftist groups arose. The former believed that the revolution was a Marxist one, the second, that it had lost its essence. The differences become more and more acute. In the elections of 1990 the Sandinista Front was defeated by a coalition led by Violeta Chamorro. But these data are beyond the time that we are studying. During these years two simultaneous struggles took place in Guatemala. On the one hand, there was a intense power struggle among the various sectors of the oligarchy and the military. On the other hand, the terrible struggle of the state apparatus against the guerrilla movement continued. In 1982 the military Efraín Ríos Montt took power. This bloodthirsty evangelical pastor came to say respect to indigenous people "if they agree with us, they can come together, and if they disagree with us, we must kill them." At the beginning of the decade, the guerrillas had 25,000 fighters. The US run the war in Guatemala, and they used methods they had tested in Vietnam: the civil selfdefense patrols (PAC), the "poles of development", the "model villages" ... These experiences aimed to separate civilians from the guerrilla, to isolate the guerrilla depriving them of social support ultimately aiming to exterminate them. The Episcopal Conference of Guatemala denounced the militarization of civilian life and the massacres being committed. Two years later due to a military coup Ríos Montt was displaced by Humberto Mejia. An election was called according to the new Constitution adopted in 1985; on January 1986 a civilian, Vinicio Cerezo, become president of the country. The URNG gave an opportunity to the new government and they stopped for a time the armed activity. The new government demanded the armed organizations to disarm in order to start the talks, but the armed organizations realized that the government had not a real will to negotiate. A government speaker confirmed later as he said: “What we called dialogue was a euphemism for achieving the demobilization.” The armed activity resumed, the military rearmed, the peace talks kept on, but all that is also beyond the time that we are studying . The resistance in El Salvador followed a very tortuous path. The offensive of 1981, which was presented as a final push, failed. It did not achieve the expected widespread insurgence. There were many casualties and the enormous differences among the groups that made up the FMLN exacerbated. One of the most bloody proofs of these disagreements were the assassinations in 1983 of two FPL leaders, Ana Maria and Marcial. On 1984, President Duarte opened a process of talks with the guerrillas, there were two encounters that did not have the desired result, but that opened up prospects for a peace agreement. While the first talks took place the war kept on in all its starkness. Several general offensives by the FMLN confirmed
that it was impossible to defeat militarily an army sustained by imperialism. This army received from the US over 1,000 million dollars, besides advisers, war materials. In 1987 the FMLN presented a peace proposal with 18 points. In 1989, the FMLN presented in Washington their platform to negotiate the end of the war. These facts transcend the period we are analyzing.
National situation The period from 1980 to 1987 is very clarifying in the Basque political scene. Some parties disappeared, as Langile Abertzale Iraultzaileen Alderdia (LAIA) dissolved in 1984;The Basque Communist Party (EPK) and Euskal Iraultzarako Alderdi (EIA) unified in 1981 in a party called Euskadiko Ezkerra. EMK was born in 1983 after dissociating itself from the Communist Movement in Spain. After being involved in several electoral coaliations such as Auzolan (198386), in Navarra they finally become the organization Batzarre (since 1987 until now). LKI is also involved in various electoral coalitions until in 1991 it became Zutik. During these years the Basque Left became stronger. Herriko Alberdi Sozialista Iraultzailea (HASI) has been consolidated (1983) as a party committed to the project from the left and sovereign is very present in the structures of Herri Batasuna. Langileen Abertzaleen Batzordea (LAB) reconsiders its earlier decision and in 1980 he returned to KAS. In 1985, after an intense debate, KAS reaffirmed in the struggle against the enemies of the people and classes. There is a significant internal strengthening and a continued expansion opening to the various sectoral struggles as a union. Since 1980 the Koordinadora Abertzaleen Sozialista (KAS) was structured as a block leader of the Basque revolution. This block has an armed group (ETA), a movement of popular struggle committees (ASK), a trade union (LAB), a youth organization (Jarrai) and, since 1988, a feminist group (EGIZAN). At its founding manifesto, KAS provides internationalism as one of its traits of identity. Simultaneously, it will consolidate the electoral coalition Herri Batasuna (HB) which records the vote in favor of a breakup process. In March 1979, and despite including prisoners on their lists, they get an unforeseen electoral success. The conglomerate seen as the Basque National Liberation Movement (MLNV) is becoming a strength that alarm the State. This political subject is a serious risk to its transition project with no change. In this decade of repression by the State is going to bait the various sectors of MLNV: attacks against militants and posts of Herri Batasuna (197980), mass arrests of elected posts (1981) multiple prosecutions (1982), emergence of terrorism of State, the Armed Liberation Groups (GAL), murder of Santi Brouard, secretary general of HASI (1984).
The agencies and social sectors that make up the Basque National Liberation Moving do not give up, by contrast, reaffirm in their bet for independence and socialism. They faced the violent state repression in various ways: participation in elections with the slogan "We fight to win" (1982), significant demonstrations with the motto "National Sovereignty and democratic normalization" (1983), sitins to protest (Cathedral Baiona) and general strike (1984) campaign to unlock the isolation "cheerful and steadfast in the fight" (1985) self campaign "Yes for Euskal Herria, no to NATO" (1986) which won an overwhelming rejection in the Hegoalde admission to the European Parliament elections (1987) which yielded a deputy. During the seven years we are talking, there is in the process of organizing the Basque left in Iparralde. It was born Euskal Batasuna (EB) with a similar perspective to the left of sovereigntist Hegoalde. Although it did not share the strategy of armed struggle, advocates the pursuit of a territorial Basque regard to the French State. Ezkerreko Mugimendu Abertzalea (EMA) emerges in 1985, it did not consider necessary to disassociate from armed struggle to achieve their goals. In 1988, EB and EMA presented joint lists for different elections of Iparralde. The armed organization Iparretarrak, remained silent between 1981 and 1983 but resumed its armed activity since that year. It is worth mentioning the projection and international recognition that during those years, obtains the Basque National Liberation Movement. In the campaign that has developed in 1982, among others, with the backing of Grimau Lola, is the daughter of Julian Grimau, leader of the Communist Party of Spain and shot in 1963. When it appears the GAL (1984) they collected signatures for membership of a document "To the Peoples and Nations of the World"; the many signatures collected were handed over to the President of the European Parliament. The campaign was developed in 1985 "cheerful and steadfast in the fight" with significant membership from outside Euskal Herria, the secretary of CCOO of the Andalusian countryside Jose Antonio Romero, the singer Ramoncín, journalists Alvarez Solis and Jose Luis Morales .. . In the European Parliament elections the Popular UnityHBwon 112,000 votes in Spain. In this line towards the international settings, deserves to highlight the participation in the Conference of Nations without a state of Europe (CONSEU). This initiative was born in Catalonia in 1980 to create a European framework in defense of stateless nations of Europe. The Popular UnityHBactively participated in a meeting in Paris attended by several European groups. This encounter led to the Conference of Nations without State of Western Europe (CONSEA), which held its first Assembly in Barcelona (1985). The intense international work done by MLNV was evident in the mass Aberri Eguna (day of the motherland) of those years which went wide representation in the international field. It also secured the official recognition of the Sandinista Front and other revolutionary forces.
The birth of Askapena The Coordinating Committees of Solidarity of Euskadi developed, since its origins, an important job of awareness, sensitization and mobilization. It was opening a network of contacts with the media to make them pass the information on the events of interest and the appreciation on them. Sometimes the information distributed from the fronts, and in others, was offered the coordinator´s own opinion articles. It was very present in the streets through rallies, demonstrations, posters, wall charts, information desks and sales of materials so that the society would obtain objective information. At the beginning, it was the Coordinating committee itself which promoted events, exhibitions, screenings for information ... As it was consolidating its social recognition, it acted in response to numerous requests for public events, lectures, panel discussions organized by other groups which required the presence of any member of the Coordinating committee or an
expert provided by them. Given the moral authority granted to it by the different political and social forces, the Coordinating Committee convened on numerous occasions units of action so that the different organizations joined forces with respect to any initiative of concrete solidarity. Another of its tasks was to welcome and open doors to the various delegations of countries in conflict. The organizations in the fight felt at that time of great interest to tour around Europe with the aim of transferring direct information from the process and also to collect funds. The Coordinator offered its entire infrastructure and contacts to get the maximum results out of those tours at the lowest possible cost. The economic sanctions that imperialism imposed the Sandinista process forced to derive a great deal of time and effort to alleviate the economic shortcomings. The promotion campaigns for the collection of different materials respond to the demands coming from Nicaragua. Although the Coordinator Committee attempted to give these campaigns a political component, it acted sometimes as charitable organization. It established a network of shipping to get these materials to the consignee. The Coordinating committee promoted the presence of volunteers to travel to Central America,especially to Nicaragua, to assist in reconstruction. They worked on the line to support specific projects funded from the Coordinating Committee. Although it may be paradoxical, this work of solidarity with Central America energized relations between Euskal Herria and Europe. On the one hand, contacts were established with other groups in the European Coordination of Solidarity with Nicaragua. On the other hand, they took advantage of the brigade´s trip for strengthening these contacts. The Basque brigade members confirmed rejection of the Spanish brigade members by travelling as a distinct national realities. During those years, and against what is often believed, was not only Central America, Nicaragua, the singlepole of reference of the Basque internationalism. It also opened the horizon towards other peoples and other processes. The Coordinating Committee became a reference point for the representatives of other processes that were established in the State and promoted networks of solidarity: Kurdish people, Saharan ... Quite a few of the delegations that visited them, by ideology or lack of information, were very reluctant to give treatment to the Coordinating Committee as national organization. They were seeking the support of the PSOE in power since 1982 and knew that relations with the Basque leftist would be frowned upon in the areas where they were looking for official support. The Coordinating Committee maintained a close relationship with people who played some degree of representation of the Chilean MIR and that were present in Euskal Herria. This united and intense work was not without contradictions, some of them insurmountable. Gradually and with varying degrees of acceptance by the militancy, the characterization of the Coordinating committee was changing defined as a national organization and other than that of the Spanish State. On the other hand, the tensions that occurred in Central American countries were reflected in the Coordinating committee: the Sandinista government in Nicaragua granted a preferential MLNV recognition, and tensions remained strong with leftist groups in its country, with the groups that identified sectors included in the Coordinating Committee. It had become an increasingly intense debate. Do they support the Nicaraguan people or the Sandinist agovernment as an expression of that more qualified people? The same happened with the support of the FMLN. Those severe fractures that were kept in its heart also moved to the Coordinating Committee. The different delegations, following a single appearance, taking advantage of affinity with certain sections of the Coordinator for channeling aid with partisan intent, there were even attempts to create a parallel Solidarity network. It also influenced the rivalry within the different tendencies of the Basque left to win referentiality, the different assessments with regard to armed struggle in Euskal Herria. The dialogue with the various preferential Fronts led to continuing suspicion. Other sources of friction were projects to support. Each brigade member returning and every one of the trends reflected in the Coordinating Committee tried to enforce the priority of their projects. The weak leadership of the Coordinating committee was overwhelmed
by the particular initiatives that were promoted on their behalf and these committed the entire group. Nevertheless there was an element that led to the Coordinating Committee to a dead end. It was a crisis of identity and maturity. In its origins it had opted for a fairly generic characterization to safeguard the unity between the different sensibilities. The years and the internationalist work carried out raised the level of awareness of many of its participants. They felt part of a people struggling in thousands of ways to achieve independence and socialism. They conceived the relationship with the fronts of struggle from similar experiences. There were more and more female and male colleagues who were fighting for a sovereign and socialist Euskal Herria. They understood internationalism as one of the key features in nation building in which they felt involved (several internationalists militant are now prisoners in Spanish jails and a female colleague died riddled by the Spanish Basque police of PNV). For all this quotamilitant with increasing weight and presence, the fuzzy characterization of the Committee of Solidarity was insufficient. Definitely, the Coordinating Committee of Solidarity of Euskadi did not fulfil their needs. They demanded an internationalist movement much more linked to the process of national liberation and social that live our people. Therefore, and for that, Askapena was born in October 1987.