Herri Batasuna

Herri Batasuna
   Herri Batasuna (HB) —Basque for "People's Unity"—is ETA's political wing. It was founded in 1978 by four left-wing nationalist parties, two of which had themselves emerged from ETA, together with a number of prominent independents without party links. Unlike Basque Left, HB was a purely nationalist grouping and was sponsored by the "military" wing of ETA. Originally formed as an electoral alliance to fight the 1979 general election, HB has in theory retained that form, as well as a decision-making structure based on open assemblies. In practice, however, it is controlled by the representatives of ETA, through the agency of the Socialist Patriotic Co-ordinating Committee (Koordinadora Abertzale Sozialista—KAS). The original party components have withdrawn or declined into insignificance, and leading figures showing any tendency to criticize ETA have been removed in successive purges.
   HB's programme remains based on the socalled KAS alternative, the main points of which are: withdrawal of the Spanish security forces from Euskadi; release of all ETA prisoners; unification of Navarre with the Basque autonomous community; and recognition of Basques" right to self-determination. The nature of these demands, clearly unacceptable to any Spanish government, reflects HB's purpose; to perpetuate conditions under which ETA's "armed struggle" can be presented as a legitimate—indeed the only viable—means of achieving Basque aspirations, and to undermine the legitimacy of the Spanish state. Thus HB opposes both the constitution of 1978 and the 1979 Basque Statute of Autonomy. It continues to boycott the Spanish and Basque parliaments, except under "exceptional circumstances". HB seeks also to foment a constant atmosphere of confrontation with the authorities, especially through street demonstrations, manipulating to this end a wide variety of issues not necessarily linked to that of Basque self-government.
   HB has consistently scored 15–18 percent at elections in the Basque Autonomous Community and some 10 percent in Navarre. Its electoral highpoint was reached in 1986–7, when it won 13 seats in the Basque Parliament, five in the Spanish and one in the European. Thereafter its support fell slowly but inexorably; a decade later the equivalent figures were 11, two and none. Futhermore, its unquestioning support for ETA increasingly isolated HB even from other nationalist groupings. In December 1997 HB's leadership was imprisoned for an election broadcast featuring a statement on behalf of ETA. Along with the changes occurring inside ETA, this allowed new leaders, including previously expelled moderates, to begin political contacts with other nationalists. In September 1998 a joint declaration was signed at Lizarra (in Spanish, Estella), reaffirming the goal of ultimate independence; four days later ETA announced a ceasefire. Meanwhile, HB had formed a new organization, Eusko Herritarrok, to fight the upcoming regional election, at which it obtained 14 seats, a performance construed as an endorsement of the new course.
   Further reading
   - Llera, F. (1994) Los Vascos y la Política, Bilbao: Universidad del País Vasco (overview of the Basque political system, giving electoral statistics).
   - Sullivan, J. (1988) ETA and Basque Nationalism: the Fight for Euskadi, 1890-1986, London: Routledge (chapters 7–9 include details of HB's relationship with ETA).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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