A human chain for the right to decide gathered more than 150,000 Basques on Sunday. Where does this initiative come from, where is it going and how can it be understood? An explanation by CIEMEN Director and co-author of 'L'esquerra abertzale. Història d'una rebel·lió' (The abertzale left. History of a Rebellion') Ricard Vilaregut
June 8th 2014 was an important day in the Basque Country: a 123 km-long human chain connected Durango and Iruñea, surpassing all expectations with more than 150,000 participants while generating very good feelings among Basque society, which is in need of innovative ideas that can break decades-long social restraints. The Basque Country lacks a lot of contact between people willing to share their lives. Why this successful human chain?
The origins of Gure Esku Dago tells a lot about the philosophy and success of this initiative, which was proposed by the Nazioen Mundua social movement. Everything begins in 2008 and 2010, when two people from Idiazábal -a village in Gipuzkoa renowned for its cheese- who apparently lived in different political trenches were able to overcome and disable the political deadlock within which the Basque society has developed for the last 30 years. A holiday tour to Scotland opened by chance a new peaceful and democratic way to understand how opposing political identities can be managed, and how the municipality itself may be the cause of understanding between different positions. In this case, rural sports will be the bridge between the two nations. This will bring the Basques to Scotland and the Scots to the Basque Country, performing the first meeting in history between the two nations. While setting aside political differences, they will undertake an exchange based on rural sports.
The twinning project, which includes a documentary (Gazta zati Bat-A Piece of Cheese, by Jon Maia), reflects the philosophy under which the Nazioen Mundua social movement was started. Although having a small budget, Nazioen Mundua managed to move forward thanks to the participation and collaboration of many people. In this context, the two peoples involved in the documentary, while lifting stones in the case of the Basques or tossing the caber in the case of the Scots, saw how important historical events were occuring in their countries. In the Basque Country, the last armed organization in Western Europe, ETA, announced a permanent and irreversible ceasefire. Meanwhile, in Scotland, pro-independence SNP achieved an absolute majority in the 2011 election, opening the door to a referendum on the country's sovereignty. Only then will the story on the right to decide converge with the big stories of both nations. Democracy is the solution, and participation from the municipality is the keystone for that. Since then, the relationship between Scotland and the Basque Country's Goierri (Highlands) region has been strengthened and kept until today.
Gure Esku Dago ("It's in our hands") emerged in 2013 from that experience. It is more than just a campaign: it is a dynamics for the right to decide of the Basque Country. Its main goal is to achieve activation and citizen's engagement for the right to decide of the Basques, stemming from three main ideas:
1. We are a nation
2. We have the right to decide
3. Our future is in the hands of the citizens of this country
The initiative launched by Nazioen Mundua, called Gure Esku Dago, is based on creating a dynamics that can activate citizens of different political backgrounds in the Basque Country, which at the local level will work to create social, unions', political and institutional majorities geared towards the right to decide. The key for this is the fact that it is nothing specific or anecdotal: on the contrary, it is a dynamics in which the human chain is just another step further. Where to? We shall see. The key to success is the desire to become a local, pluralistic, participatory initiative, totally detached from any political party, and enhancing the autonomy of locally self-organized groups. Long may it last. According to Spokesman Angel Oiarbide, the second step of the Gure Esku Dago dynamics will be calling a mass meeting in Autumn 2014. The purpose of the meeting will be to take stock of what has been done to date, especially considering the degree of activation and engagement for the right to decide thanks to the human chain. And if so decided, it will be time to jointly formulate and agree on the operation, management and roadmap of new, agreed dynamics. Because the dynamics is the key.
* Ricard Vilaregut is CIEMEN Director and co-author of L'esquerra abertzale. Història d'una rebel·lió ('The abertzale left. History of a Rebellion') (Pol·len Edicions, publication scheduled for September 2014.)
This article was originally published on Nationalia under Creative Commons NC-ND licenses.
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