European elections in other stateless nations

I thought it would be good to look at how other stateless nations on the path to independence voted in the European Parliament elections yesterday.


The big news in Catalunya is that the ERC, the Catalan Republican Left, has topped the poll in Catalunya for the first time in the post-Franco era, pushing CiU into second place.


On the right of the political spectrum, the Catalan nationalist (although only recently pro-independence) CiU has always been comfortably ahead of the Spanish nationalist PP. But on the left of the political spectrum ERC has generally played second fiddle to the Spanish nationalist PSC. Although they narrowly beat the PSC in the last Catalan parliament election, they came second to CiU.

So things still look good for the independence referendum on 9 November.

This is a picture of what I would like to see happen in Wales. Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist left, is in a similar position to that which ERC used to hold: always playing second fiddle to Labour, the British nationalist left. Things have now swung the other way in Catalunya, and the same could happen in Wales with Plaid.


In the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community, the picture is similar, but with left and right reversed. The EAJ-PNV, the Basque nationalist right traditionally outperforms the Spanish nationalist right of the PP, and has done so again by 27% to 10%. It is only in the past few years that the pro-independence left has got its act together (under various names) but the current EH Bildu has comfortably outperformed the PSOE by 23% to 13%.


So things also look good for Basque independence, however I don't expect much to happen in the immediate future. It's probably best for the Basques not to make waves and wait to see what happens in Catalunya. But, besides that, it might well be counter-productive for the three provinces to make any move without first re-uniting with Nafarroa.

In Nafarroa, the fourth Basque province south of the Pyrenees, EH Bildu have done remarkably well with 20% of the vote. The Basque nationalist right in Nafarroa has never been particularly well-established, tending to be allied with the PP when not part of it, and preferring to paint itself as Nafarroan rather than Basque (the situation is similar in Galicia, Valencia and the Balearics). The EAJ-PNV did stand but only got 2% of the vote.

The Spanish State

In terms of these European elections, the Spanish State elects on the basis of a single list, therefore the situation is complicated by alliances that tend to change at each European election. But this is what happened this time round:


•  The ERC stood with other pro-self-determination parties of the left in Catalunya as L'Esquerra pel Dret a Decidir, and won 2 seats.

•  The Catalan and Basque nationalist parties of the right, CiU and EAJ-PNV stood as Coalición por Europa, and won 3 seats.

•  EH Bildu turned to BNG, the Galician nationalist left, to stand as Los Pueblos Deciden, and won 1 seat.

6 nationalist seats out of 54 in total is actually a very good performance; perhaps 7 if Primavera Europea, which includes Compromís, the small and relatively new Valencian nationalist party, is counted. This is much better than Plaid Cymru and the SNP's combined total of 3 out of 70 ... or 4 out of 73 if we include Sinn Féin's win in the Six Counties.


There were federal, regional and European elections in Belgium yesterday. The Flemish nationalist party, N-VA, did exceptionally well in all three. They got 32.6% of the Federal Parliament vote (up 4.4%), 31.9% of the Flemish Parliament vote (up 18.8%) and 26.7% (up 16.8%) of the European Parliament vote.




After the last federal elections in 2010 there was an impasse lasting 541 days before a federal government could be formed ... something which only went to show that Belgium doesn't really need a federal government to function, because so much of the real power is already exercised at regional level.

In the end, the N-VA, even though it was the largest party in 2010, was squeezed out of power by a coalition of nearly all the other parties. The N-VA took the view that it was better not to compromise on the more substantial constitutional reform they wanted, and let the other parties implement a modest sixth round of reform. Bart de Wever's stance appears to have been vindicated, and their success now will inevitably lead to a stronger seventh round of constitutional reforms which will further increase Flemish autonomy and weaken Belgium as a political entity. The idea is that, "Slowly but surely, Belgium will very gently disappear."

Constitutional reform (the N-VA's bottom line in forming a federal government) should be quicker this time round, not so much because other parties will be any more willing to work with the N-VA, but because they probably only need to hammer out a package with a couple of other parties, rather than with half a dozen of them.


We should bear in mind that although the N-VA is a nationalist party which wants to see the break up of Belgium, it is unashamedly a party of the right. So I support the first aim, even though I don't support the policies they would implement if they were in government in an independent Flanders. But that's democracy.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the gulf is to watch the video below.


Pass the sick bucket, please. Bart de Wever is pretty chummy with David Cameron too.


I wonder if the Tories realize the inconsistency of supporting the party which wants independence for Flanders and the break up of Belgium, while at the very same time being against independence for Wales and Scotland and the break up of the UK?

Actually, I'm sure they do; but reckon on nobody in the mainstream media being willing to hold them to account for it.

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MH said...

A slightly wider view of the same subject from Nationalia, here. They've included ANOVA and ICV (both part of Izquierda Plural, who wo six seats) in the Spanish total. I'd put these down more as Green and pro-self-determination than as nationalist, but the EFA and Greens work together as a group in the EP, so the distinction isn't entirely clear-cut.

Anonymous said...

When was Wales ever a nation?

Anonymous said...

A long time before trolls figured out how to connect their cold, dark, wet caves to the internet.

mensagensnanett said...

Three Rights which, in my opinion, should be preserved:
1 - The right to survival of indigenous identities: see the blog "50-SEPARATISM-50." [English]
2 - The right to monoparenthood in traditionally monogamous societies: see the blog "The Origin Of Sex Taboo". [English]
3 - The right to veto who pays (the taxpayer): see blog "Fim-da-Cidadania-Infantil". [Portuguese]

Anonymous said...

What was the situation in Brittany ? We've always seen them as our closest cousins, particularly in the 70s and 80s, but we seem to have forgotten them again of late.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to write up and analyse the situation in Spain MH. Very useful. There is so much to take away from comparisons with Galizia, Euskal Herria and Catalunya. It is a crying shame that many in Wales are oblivious to the opportunities.

Just a minor point. Perhaps your section titled 'Euskadi', might be more accurately titled 'Euskal Herria' if you (rightly) wish to include Nafarroa (and Iparralde for that matter)?

Interesting, is it not, that both Euskal Herria and Catalunya have successful nationalist parties on both the left and the centre-right (and always have)? Galicia, until very, very recently did not (the Bloque is a coalition of mostly left and ultra-left groups), with Compromiso por Galiza recently emerging as a centrist-nationalist party (they joined the PNV-CiU European group for these elections). Galician nationalism is way behind Basque and Catalan nationalism by the way...

Wales, of course does not have a right-wing or even centrist nationalist party. Can it 'do a Catalunya' or a 'Basque Country' without one, I wonder? Scotland is 'doing a Scotland' precisely because the SNP is (or appears to be) centrist and is pulling in support from nationalists in Labour and LDs...

Could separate left and right-wing Welsh nationalist parties fight separate elections where proportionality/scale allowed (Assembly, perhaps local government if the system changes)? And as a grouping where it didn't (Westminster / Europe)?

Is the demise of the Liberal Democrats an opportunity to launch a Welsh Liberal Nationalist Party along the lines of the PNV and CiU? They are, after all, very coy about absolute independence and even the current politicking in Barcelona is as much to do with leveraging the Spanish state for further autonomy as it is with declaring absolute independence...

Should DET and others in Plaid be having secret meetings with Aled Roberts, William Powell and others to create a break away 'Cymru Fydd'? (Kirsty Williams sees her future in Westminster that's for sure)

Would that be in everyone's best interest? Would it be in Wales' interest?

But if there aren't to be two parties, shouldn't Plaid move a little closer to the centre ground left by the Liberals? Are we seeing that independence is gained from the centre, or a coalition of the left and the right?

Lots of questions... I said looking at international comparisons was very interesting!

Phil Davies

MH said...

Yes, it's a shame that Brittany is not more in the news, 09:19. France is perhaps the most centralized and monolithic state in Europe, and the idea that everything must be subsumed into an overarching "Frenchness" is all but hard-wired into it.

There are two Breton parties, the UDB, affiliated to Plaid in the EFA, which is looking for more autonomy; and the more radical PB, which wants an independent Brittany. According to the Nationalia article, Breton nationalists got 9% of the vote in the region; which was good, but not enough to win a Euro seat.

The "big thing" for Breton nationalism right now is the proposal for reorganizing the regions of France and, specifically, whether the Loire-Atlantique department, which includes the city of Nantes, becomes part of a re-unified Brittany.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting comment by Phil Davies. It strikes one that Plaid Cymru has become more and more left-wing as the Welsh have become more right-wing. Most Welsh nationalists I was with in Bangor in the 80s were certainly reactionary rednecks, but no less dedicated to the Welsh language because of that. They would never progress in PC because of the politically correct brigade who now control the party. The UKIP result in the Valleys should finally open Plaid's eyes to the futility of trying to out-flank Labour on the left. Worrying about migration does not make anyone a fascist or a fool, as any dedicated nationalist in the Fro Gymraeg will tell you.

Anonymous said...

The SNP would say that it is left-of-centre and social democratic, not centrist

Also "centre-right" in Euskal Herria and Catalonia means different things to centre-right in Wales/UK.

I don't actually agree with Phil Davies and think the comparisons are quite limited due to fascism in Spain, the nature of the Spanish constitution and the reasons for nationalism.

" It strikes one that Plaid Cymru has become more and more left-wing as the Welsh have become more right-wing."

I think this is imaginary. It's more or less in the centre of the Welsh spectrum but is seen as more Welsh than most people in Wales.

Plaid isn't that left-wing. It's seen as catch-all and definitely seen as left-leaning, but is also seen as a party for Welsh speakers.

Anonymous said...

It appears Phil Davies has beat me to it regarding most of the points I was going to raise - the overarching one being the presence of nationalist parties on both sides of the spectrum (or a more centrist single party in the case of Scotland) in the stateless nations with a strong nationalist vote/voice.

I just cannot see Plaid as an out and out left wing party ever attracting enough votes to ever fully challenge Labour's dominance. The '99 Assembly elections have been Plaid's high water mark and it's been a case on constant retreat since then. They got rid of their primary asset in Dafydd Wigley and moved further an further to the left. The results are for all to see. It's useful to remember just how close Plaid came that night in '99 to painting the valleys Green. They of course won Islwyn and the Rhondda (which would be inconcievable now) but were also within a whisker in a number of other seats throughout the valleys also or at the very least a respectable 2nd. Where has that vote gone? How do Plaid get it back?

From a nationalist point of view, the case for another nationalist right of centre party is strong. How that would practically achieved I don't know - although Phil states some interesting possibilities. From Plaid's perspective there seems to be many more questions rather than answers at the moment.

Dai Twp

Anonymous said...

Check out the maps here for detail of Euskadi and Nafarroa

Phil D

Anonymous said...

So, basically, Plaid Cymru is the only nationalist party in Europe to lose votes? And Plaid Cymru is the only nationalist party which refuse to fight and develop and create a nationalist agenda over the last 15 years. There's a link.

Plaid's vote has gone down in every Euro election since 1999. No point blaming the press. No point blaming the press office. The elected officials in Plaid - MEP, MPs and AMs have to start being brave, saying things from a nationalist agenda, be ready to be ridiculed even but stick to their beleifs,stop apologising and stop being. Plaid have tried the Welshier version of Labour under IWJ and it doesn't work.

Socialist policies are attractive and work if presented within the paradigm of nationalism as SNP, Sinn Fein, Bildu and ERC show. People think that socialists want to give their hard won money to somebody else. With a strong nationalist agenda the party can present the policies as being for a stonger state.

May I suggest Plaid's elected politicians do some role playing in conducting a radio/tv interview and give a nationalist narrative to the interviews so that they get used to hearing their own voices say things which they have never said on the media although they say it to their supporters. These aren't dangerous things, it's things like;

* how can UKIP voters go on about respecting indigenous culture or UK but not support Welsh;
* how can UKIP, Labour and Tories all say immigrants should have to learn English but to suggest the same for Welsh is racist;
* Plaid want to see the Welsh team at this year's Commonwealth Games represent Wales at the next Olympic Games;
* an independent Wales would not have gone to war against Iraq; an independent Wales would have 12 MEPs not 4 etc etc.

Actually, as Plaid are always complaining about lack of publicity in the media why don't they get some publicity over the next few weeks and promote the nationalist agenda in what is an open goal. Why won't Plaid write a press release and Leanne go public and say we want a Welsh team at the next Olympics. It would be good for Welsh sport; good for Wales's profile for tourism and goods; good for athletes who would compete for Wales but not maybe get into team GB; it would help solidify the Welsh civic identity.

Sure Labour will attack Plaid - and demand Leanne retract the comments. But let them argue that Wales is too useless to have its own Olympic team when other countries have them. At least they'd be arguing on Plaid's agenda.

Why not - what's stopping Plaid? If they did this they'd get publicity. And on the back of that publicity they will force the other parties to say they are against a Welsh team and Plaid. Which means more publicity and Plaid setting the agenda. They can then present another policies.

What's to lose?

Plaid Boy

Anonymous said...

Plaid Boy raises the point about publicity; I’ve always thought the best thing Plaid Cymru’s could do is invest in a new English Language daily newspaper that covers the whole of Wales with welsh news, sport, culture etc that would change the political debate almost overnight.

If that’s too much effort then Scotland’s independence campaign has seen a few online media business models emerge than can be replicated in Wales such as Newsnet Scotland, Bella Caledonia and Wings Over Scotland that do serious journalism from a nationalist perspective and have more reader than a lot of the Scottish Daily’s.

Question is have the nationalists in Wales got the will to try and change the debate in their favour?

Anonymous said...

From the outside there seems a strong temptation for Plaid to "slipstream" Scotland and the SNP. The latter makes the running and sets the menu whilst Plaid shouts, "Me too please! Well have what they are having but with less chips"

Btw ,Plaid was never "left wing" in any actual sense except for DET's vanity flirtation with Eurocommunism way back in the day...along with the button down shirts. Just rhetoric and positioning. Vapid.

Anonymous said...

"Wales, of course does not have a right-wing or even centrist nationalist party. Can it 'do a Catalunya' or a 'Basque Country' without one, I wonder? Scotland is 'doing a Scotland' precisely because the SNP is (or appears to be) centrist and is pulling in support from nationalists in Labour and LDs..."

More pertinently than parties being left/centre/right is that they have been in government. The SNP, ERC, PNV (but not Bildu) have all been in government and you can only get independence after being in government. In the case of Catalonia and the Basque country, for decades. In Galicia, nationalists haven't governed at all yet, and in Wales only once.

Ideologically it makes more sense to look at Wales than continental Europe. Catholicism is a big influencer for the Basques.

Plaid Cymru could pull support from Labour and LDs but this means remaining left-of-centre.

Right-wing nationalism in Wales would be a marginal, tiny identity and AFAIK does not exist outside a group of people online.

Where is the truth in this? You need to govern successfully and have a decent economy before people consider independence, and you must be at odds with the governing ideology of your central state.

Anonymous said...

It's foolish to suggest a direct read-across for politics in Wales/Basque Country/Catalonia/Galicia - there are many differences (civil war, fascism, Catholicism have been justifiably mentioned)

It is also foolish to deny any read-across or any potential for learning lessons at all...

At their core the PNV and CiU are pro-business, pro-individual and 'pro-social order as it is'

At their core EHBildu and ERC are Marxist and revolutionary (in the social sense as well as economic).

Whatever the idiosyncracies of the Basque/Catalonian poltical culturey may be, and however different it may be to Wales, the voters of those countries are presented with a nationalist spectrum of socio-economic-religio-cultural choices (along the traditionally accepted axis) before having to turn to a 'Spanish' party.

That is surely the interesting and important point isn't it?

Nothing for us to take away from that?

Phil Davies

Anonymous said...

"Right-wing nationalism in Wales would be a marginal, tiny identity and AFAIK does not exist outside a group of people online. "

Just look at the UKIP vote in the Valleys.

Anonymous said...

UKIP is not Welsh nationalist

Anonymous said...

All the opinion polling conducted suggests that UKIP's appeal is based on their hostility to the EU (continuing membership of which most impartial observers would suggest is of huge significance to the Welsh economy), their hostility to immigration (which is really just thinly veiled racism - the collapse in the BNP's vote in the European elections may well account for a third of UKIP's increased vote) and their anti-politics stance (not, I would suggest, a viable, long-term position for any party which has ambitions to achieve political power). These are the reasons why a minority of people in the Valleys (like everywhere else) chose to vote for UKIP. They did not vote UKIP because it also has, in a rather ill-defined way, a wider right wing social and economic agenda (most people are ignorant of the party's commitment to a flat-rate of income tax or its previous opposition to Welsh devolution - which it may or may not have dropped as official policy, it's difficult to tell). Unless it adopted UKIP's anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-politics policies, any centre or right-of-centre Welsh nationalist party would be fishing in much the same voter pool as Plaid Cymru currently does.

Anonymous said...

Splits from Plaid Cymru over the years have been based on the national question and local issues rather than the left/right axis. Broadly speaking all politicians in Plaid Cymru are either centre-left or left and this has been the case for many decades.

It is surely clear that the party needs a broad voter appeal, but the centre-left is the best position from which to be based and gives you flexibility.

As such, the debate about Plaid Cymru's challenges is about other topics, not least how the people of Wales might react to the referendum in Scotland.

External shocks like the rise of UKIP will also be foisted on Plaid Cymru and need to be reacted to.

William dolben said...

I agree with Phil Davies that parallels with Spain are limited. The overwhleming difference is that the Catalan and Basque regions are richer than most Spanish regions and, while democracy has eroded those differences, the dominant force has been 2 right wing parties: CIU and PNV which represent a local ruling class that has enjoyed a degree of autonomy unknown to most European "regions for 30 plus years. It is also important to point out that the election was not free and fair in many parts of the Basque country. Twhe voting system is very different to The UK as miilitants from parties like Bildu sit by the polling boxes "supervising" the vote. You have to be brave to go over to the table abd pick up the list for a "Spanish" party and deposit it under the glare of a party whose members justified the ballot box and the armalite in the same way as Sinn Fein. Many non extremist voters grab several lists but it is still nerve wracking ( not turning out is the safest route. The landslide results for Bildu in some localities speak volumes.

Do we need 2 nationalist parties, maybe yes but I pray we never have as toxic a party as Bildu or Sinn Fein in Wales

Sent from my iPad

Anonymous said...

I would say the bigger story in Catalonia than the centrist CiU is that the left-wing ERC, which unlike CiU has always supported independence, has actually overtaken CiU. The story is of CiU's stagnation and ERC actually driving Catalan self-determination, last week winning with their electoral list "To The Left for the Right to Decide". A key part of that transformation has been taking votes from Spain's labour party PSOE. They also governed in coalition with PSOE at one point like Plaid Cymru did here. CiU have also actually suffered due to governing from the centre-right as Catalonia has shifted to the left, although in previous years CiU ruled very successfully and had a social/liberal element to their politics.

We should be able to support Catalonia's success without beating ourselves up that it isn't happening in Wales, or Galicia, or Britanny, or Corsica etc. We are a different country to anywhere in Spain. Scotland is a much closer comparison but I am even wary of that. We have to analyse the situation in Wales whilst expressing solidarity with other nations.

MH said...

Thanks for your comment, Phil, and sorry that it's taken so long to respond.

First, on Euskadi, I was trying to avoid using terms like the Basque provinces "in Spain" because I don't regard them as part of Spain, hence the rather contrived "south of the Pyrenees". I suppose the best technical term for the four is Hegoalde, but that's rather obscure.

I didn't really look at the three Basque provinces north of the Pyrenees, the Iparralde, but Nationalia linked to this table, with the percentage results for all seven. Suffice to say, Basque nationalism is very much less developed there, largely because of the attitude of the French state that I mentioned in the last comment. The one thing that would probably help most is to separate the three provinces from the remainder of the Pyrénées Atlantiques department; but because the idea behind French regional reorganization is to make fewer, bigger regions, it's going to be an uphill struggle.

Thanks for the maps you linked to. They're very helpful. As always, the EAJ-PNV is strong in Bizkaia, with Bildu strong in Gipuzkoa. Araba is rather more Hispanicized, but even there the two Basque nationalist parties outpolled the two Spanish nationalist parties. In Nafarroa the split between Bildu and the PP is very marked, and reflects the language distribution. But it's surprising, and to me encouraging, that there are Bildu areas south of Pamplona/Iruña.

MH said...

That was the easy bit, now for the harder part. As a general observation, it's actually hard to be objective about where, exactly, on the left-right spectrum some parties are. I take the point that the SNP aren't really as left-of-centre as they officially like to portray themselves. But equally I'd have to say that Plaid aren't really as left of centre as we officially like to portray ourselves, either. Nor are we as Green as we'd like to portray ourselves ... or even, dare I say it, as pro-Welsh-language as we'd like to portray ourselves.

I'm sure that this will offend some people in the party, but in essence Plaid is vague and contradictory about nearly everything it stands for. Put bluntly, even though we do have policies, we know that those who disagree with them will ignore them or, in extreme cases, go round saying that Plaid has a different policy. Because of this, we tend to be very vague about policies in an attempt to allow our politicians plenty of wiggle-room to say whatever they like without appearing to disagree with colleagues who say the complete opposite.

Obviously, there would be less need for vagueness over policy if there were two parties: one more towards the "left/socially radical/green" end of the spectrum (to suit the likes of me, for example) and one more towards the "right/culturally conservative/to-hell-with-the-planet" end of the spectrum (to suit the likes of Jac o' the North / Royston Jones, for example).


As I understand it, Phil, the idea you're floating is that there might well be room for two parties. But, crucially, to avoid splitting the vote these two parties might form alliances to fight particular elections in the same way that the nationalist parties in Iberia have formed alliances.

I think that is a clever idea which might well work, and would be easier now than in the past. This is because the law was specifically changed in 2011 to allow candidates to represent two parties using both logos or a joint logo. At the time, the motivation for doing it was apparently because of potential Tory/LibDem pacts (see here), but a lot has changed since then, and now this new provision is being talked about as a way to facilitate Tory/UKIP pacts.


So the big questions would then be: where should this party position itself, and what then would happen to the existing party which calls itself Plaid Cymru.

It depends where the initiative comes from. If the initiative in forming a new party is from the right, then rump-Plaid will inevitably become a party of the left. But if the initiative comes from the left or centre, then rump-Plaid will become a party of the right.

William Dolben said...

MH, if you think Bildu is "left/socially radical/green" and that their high vote is positive you need to visit the Basque country / Navarra, meet its militants and read their pronouncements. You might also meet some of the bereaved which includes PNV and Socialist Party members even if you don't feel sorry for the PP families. It might disabuse you of some of your idealism or maybe you think the armed struggle was/is a good thing . The UKIP is positively cuddly in comparison. Plaid Cymru needs to be careful about the company it keeps. For me the ends don't justify the means in the case of Bildu. God forbid such a party sea the light of day in Wales

MH said...

Where did I say I thought Bildu was "left/socially radical/green", William? All I've said is that it is pro-independence and left.

From your last comment and the one earlier, you obviously have a "thing" about Bildu being something more of the past than the present, and seem to want to charcterize it as merely being a continuation of the more militant elements of that past.

That's exactly what the Spanish State tried to do for years with former pro-independence left coalitions; but even they've had to give up on that one now, and I'd suggest you do the same.

The high level of support that you want to portray as being the result of intimidation would be better seen as a natural, democratic swing on the left of the political spectrum towards the Basque nationalist left at the expense of the Spanish nationalist left in the form of the PSOE/PSE-EE. This came about precisely because the Basque nationalist left finally got its act together to use democratic means alone to pursue its political aims.

WIlliam Dolben said...


You're right that I misquoted you on Bildu being green. You're also right that I have a "thing" about violence and intimidation in politics. I think most if not all Catalan nationalists left and right also have a "thing" about violence in politics because human life is more valuable than ideas or the pursuit of power. I'm more than happy to disagree with you on that. Bombs and shooting may be in the past for now (especially for those who committed rather than suffered the violence. You might ask the question as to why there is "peace". I think it has more to do with ETA's operational difficulties post Sept 11 than any embracing of non-violence. ETA was born in dictatorship but committed most of its terrorism under democracy and in a highly autonomous region. The Basque country and the PNV with a small hiatus under the PSOE has controlled health, education (a key area in developing a nationalist narrative) for decades so the influence of the Spanish state has been much more limited than in British state in Wales. The extortion and intimidation however continue and when you have visited a polling station in the the Basque country / Navarra we can discuss in depth (as I said above the voting process in Spain is less protective of voters than the UK for the simple reason that lists are used and these are cumbersome and have to be chosen). It's not easy to discuss in the Basque country many people are genuinely scared to have they kind of conversation which would be normal in a Welsh pub. I know you like the statistics as fear is a factor in turnout in the Basque country along with the usual suspects like apathy

I am quite happy to see a natural democratic swing on the left but Bildu is toxic from my perspective and I personally think neither PC nor ERC nor CIU should have anything to do with them.

I assume we agree to disagree on this point. My "excuse" is that I have been too close to the violence and have seen too many images of the maimed and murdered to put it behind me. Many say that the Basque country is like Northern Ireland and we have to forgive and forget. Whilst many in Northern Ireland struggle with this it seems to be the consensus. But in the Basque country, the oppressed majority (as opposed to Catholic minority in NI) actually controlled most of the apparatus of the state.

On the shift to the left, you are of course right in the case of Catalonia. Of my friends and colleagues in Catalonia the older ones support CIU and the younger ERC. CIU struggled to attract the "nationalist" left voters (Your choice of "nationalist" would of course be deeply offensive to any PSOE member in Spain for obvious reasons, but I'll use it for the sake of clarity in this discussion). These "nationalist" left voters were overwhelmingly Andalusian and Extremeño immigrants who were despised by the Catalan speaking middle class as "charnegos". They are largely confined to the deprived suburbs of Barcelona and are as likely to vote CIU as a Mardy ex-miner to vote Tory. But their children and grandchildren have been immersed in Catalan (far easier for a Spaniard than Welsh for an English speaker) and many have embraced the nationalist cause. In fact Oriol Junqueras the head of ERC represents an "immigrant" suburb of Barcelona. Here there are maybe lessons for PC but the mass immigration of poor Spaniards to Barcelona occurred more recently than the same movement in Wales.

william dolben said...

sorry I meant

I know you like the statistics BUT fear is a factor in turnout in the Basque country along with the usual suspects like apathy

thanks in any case for the stats and analysis, I enjoy it a great deal

MH said...

And what makes you think that you disagree with me about violence in politics, William?

You'd do well to simply say what you want to say rather than try to misrepresent what I say. You're making a habit of it.


Most of what you've now said is a repeat of what you said before, so I won't repeat my answer. But in your last paragraph you talk about a "shift to the left". The main point I have been making is not that there has been a shift to the left, but that there has been a shift within the left. In Euskadi from the PSOE-EE to EH Bildu, and in Catalunya from the PSC to ERC.

There has been a shift from left to right as well (particularly so in Catalunya, with ERC outpolling CiU) but this is the everyday stuff of politics in every country. That pendulum will no doubt swing the other way, and back again, as part of the normal electoral cycle.

I'm sure that describing the PSOE (and PP) as "nationalist" is not something they'd like. But it is not a question of one side being "nationalist" and the other not being "nationalist"; it is a question of which nations they act for. The same is true in the UK. Labour and the Tories are just as "nationalist" as Plaid Cymru and the SNP; it's just that they are UK nationalists rather than Welsh nationalists or Scottish nationalists.

william dolben said...

I base our discrepancy on violence in politics on your enthusiasm for Bildu and your belief that we need to "move on" (easy for the perpetrators, less easy for the victims) . Or am I misrepresenting your phrase above "But it's surprising, and to me encouraging, that there are Bildu areas south of Pamplona/Iruña*”? Maybe you’re just more forgiving

*(the official form is now Iruñea by the way)

I also wonder why I,when I agree with many of your ideas feel such revulsion for Bildu while you don't. have I been contaminated by the Spanish state? I dislike Gerry Adams Martin McGuiness and co but they seem more palatable than Bildu and the Catholics were a mistreated minority within NI

and while we're on misrepresenting, where did I say that intimidation was the explanation for the high vote for the Basque left? I actually said "fear is a factor in turnout in the Basque country along with the usual suspects like apathy "

I provoked you precisely because you ignored what I considered some relevant points about the democratic process in Euskadi / Navarra. I think the voting process in Spain, which I am sure you haven't experienced, is a key element and while it doesn’t fit your argument I think you should read and register as I do with your writings (when I’m not misrepresenting you of course). It is your blog but I didn’t think the ideas were just yours.

I've lived in Spain for 25 years and followed Basque politics visiting the region on many occasions including at election time. It is the only place of the 60+ countries I've travelled to where I have smelt fear in expression of political opinion except by the non-Bildu majority including the PNV and I include places like Russia, Venezuela and China.

I started out with an interest in Batasuna and Basque nationalism & politics in the early 80’s based on the limited similarities between Wales and the Basque country and followed their rise in the polls and enjoy the election stats But I tempered my analysis with reading viewpoints from across the spectrum and talking to Basques of all persuasions (inevitably in private it’s sad to say). The grim terrorist attacks took their toll but it was the reaction of the HB/EH/Sortu/Bildu politicians which most disappointed meI observed the many reinventions of HB, EH, Sortu and Bildu but it seems to me that they retained / collected many unsavoury individuals and methods along the way. They might be more guarded now but their impromptu pronouncements show their true colors (bit like the UKIP)

As for why the PSOE wouldn't like to be called “nationalist", I think you might not have understood the semantics in the Spanish context

I'm sure that you can validate your opinions on the Basque country and Spain with others who share your experience but it might be useful to open the door to some alternative views. If there really peace in the Basque Country you might get some feedback from the locals but as the Spanish say: “wait sitting down”.

MH said...

What on earth is there to "forgive" Bildu for, William? They are a non-violent coalition. If you think the previous actions of particular politicians should be condemned, then you're free to condemn them. But when it is obvious that large numbers of voters disagree with you and vote Bildu anyway, it seems misguided to try and explain this away by blaming it on intimidation.

As for "misrepresenting" you, people just need to re-read your comment of 13:24. You specifically mentioned "militants from parties like Bildu" acting in an intimidating way in polling stations, and said this explained the high level of support for them.

In a democracy, the ballot box doesn't lie ... despite your insinuations and condemnations. I'd advise you to respect what people vote for, even when they vote for parties you disagree with.

You also seem to be "sure" of a lot of things about me. As I said before, you'd do better to stick to what you think, rather than make wild guesses about what I might or might not think.

william dolben said...

OK they've clearly convinced you and a minority (20-23% of the 45-47% who turned out) of the locals. You're in good company. I suggest you ask the 77-80% who didn't vote for them how much they believe in Bildu's non-violent platform. But not in public

william dolben said...

Hi MH,

Petulance aside, I did some research last night and yes you are right. Bildu espoused non-violence in 2011 and of course that was why they participated in then elections. It also includes 2 small parties EA Alternatiba who might have struggled to condemn political violence but didn't overtly support ETA. Batasuna, who provide around half of Bildu's candidates and its leader was however the political wing of ETA (or as many people see it, the right to bomb and murder their way to independence. They did this over 33 years before their "conversion" and most grievously of all they did it during Basque autonomy (not to be confused with the watered down Welsh version) and following the Basque's vote in favour of the Spanish constitution. Now of course while 32% of Spaniards abstained, the figure for Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia was 56% so there was a minority of 20% back then who were anti-constitution similar to Bildu's vote now. Navarra however was more enthusiastic than Spain as awhile and only 33% abstained.
One link, I assume you can read Spanish is here:

In 1979 The Basques voted for autonomy. Turnout was 59% and 90% supported (a bit like General Sisi in Egypt the other day) so you can see that the Basque country is very polarized and historically some nationalists have abstained because they hate the system, some Spanish nationalists as you call them have abstained out of fear and the majority have abstained because of apathy. As in Wales, in the autonomous elections, many Spanish nationalists do not vote like English people in Wales

My "thing" about Bildu is that I'm suspicious about a leopard that changes its spots after 33 years. Let's imagine there was a Welsh party called Cymru Unedig like which regarded holiday home burning as too benign. This political wing spent 33 years under Welsh autonomy à la basque (i.e. tax raising etc) refusing to condemn countless murders of politicians and policeman but then terrorism got difficult. All non Cymru Unedig political party politicians including Plaid Cymru have to have a bodyguard! I mean 33 years with a bodyguard can you imagine that? Faced with loss of funds (Spanish parties are funded by the state in addition to taking a regular "percentage" of public works) they agreed to espouse non-violence. How many Welsh people would feel comfortable with that party? Even if they joined up with say Arthur Scargill's party?

So in conclusion, you're more up to date and I bear grudges?

I also apologize for saying what you think. Now I'm going to ASK you what you think

On to policy. A quick question to explore the left-right spectrum UK vs. Spain
As a left-winger would you support the following 2 policies

1. Redundancy severance of 45 days per year served with an upper limit of 3.5 years i.e. if you lose your job after around 27 years in a company you get 3.5 years pay
2. A complete rent freeze long-term to prevent landlordism and Rachmanism

Anonymous said...

The PNV should not be described as "right-wing nationalist" because it throws up very unfortunate misunderstandings. Over thirty years they created the Basque welfare system so that it resembles a Nordic country. They believe strongly in social protections due to their Catholicism. In a British or Welsh context they would be regarded as centre-left (in a European context they are in the Lib Dem Group). Their beliefs are not that different to Plaid but I would not make any further comparisons. The lessons to be learned are more about Basque society than party politics. The economy and social system should go together, the language should be given a high status especially in education, and everyone (including capitalists/businesses) should co-operate for the national good and not undermine each other.

william dolben said...

Dear Anonymous,

It is absolutely the PNV/EAJ's wish to be seen as centre rather than right but for once I would side with Bildu who tease PNV mercilessly about their similarity to the Spanish PP (which is also a Christian Democrat party to the left of the British Labour party on many social and employment issues). Hence my question as yet unanswered to MH. With the exception of nationalist allegiance, what is the difference between PNV and the PP? The social policies you mention are common to the whole of Spain. The Basque region is richer than almost all regions in Spain and yet the number of non-EU immigrants is lower. If it's richer AND the social benefits were better, it would draw many more immigrants

PNV/EAJ's roots were very much racial nationalism and their founder Sabino Arana would make Saunders Lewis look like a Hampstead liberal. Their appeal remains largely with those who consider themselves "true" Basques. The arrival of poor immigrants from other regions of Spain which peaked in the 50's and 60's was problematic for the PNV. These "maketos" as they are disparagingly referred to were and are unlikely to vote for a "right-wing" (in Spanish terms) party like the PNV. Bildu has been more successful at attracting some of these non-Basques: A Spanish "nationalist" would call this The "Stockholm Syndrome" but clearly Bildu is a more open party than the PNV to this day and better at converting

A visit to the grand San Sebastian / Donostia followed by a a visit to its poor and dilapidated relations on the periphery like Pasaia, Hernani and Errenteria would underline the economic rather than ethnic split between PNV and Bildu. Bildu is waiting for the PNV to radicalize as CIU did in Catalonia to create a grand coalition for Euskadi.

Anonymous, your sentiments about everybody business/capitalists and workers pulling together are a great prospect for any nationalist party but it's tricky to pull off.

The PNV has a problem: it is essentially conservative and the property and business owners that are its core are nervous about Bildu's revolutionary ideas. PNV also had its failed attempt at self-determination which led to the defenestration of its advocate: Ibarretxe, the (lehendakari) prime minister of the Basque autonomous community until 2009. It is also fair to say that Artur Mas of CIU was in a tight economic corner in Catalonia and CIU's new found fervour for independence is in part a case of fleeing forward. The Basque country is in fact a model of financial rectitude and good stewardship and raises and spends its taxes (including income tax) in a way that any conservative would laud.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, your sentiments about
everybody business/capitalists and
workers pulling together are a great
prospect for any nationalist party but
it's tricky to pull off."

Historically its been "pulled off" by force and repression from above. Class interests and economic/political organisations suppressed in the supposed interests of the organic "national" state and its pimps. And other self serving bollox.

william dolben said...

I'm all for it

and of course you're right but it is easier for some

Trechaf treisied a gwanaf gweidded

MH said...

While you continue with your insinuations about intimidation, William, I'll remind you that Bildu got more votes across the four provinces than any other party or group.


I'm not sure I'd want to answer any questions "as a left-winger", but my answers to your questions are:

1. I certainly believe that workers should have redundancy protection, and that it should increase with the length of employment. Legislating for more generous provision would encourage companies to place greater value on their workforce, and in particular make it harder for companies to up sticks and move, say, their manufacturing base to other countries.

However I have no absolute view on what the exact terms should be. Instead, things need to be viewed in context. For example: Is 45 days better or worse than at present? Is 3.5 years better or worse than at present?

I would also say that it is possible to approach matters in a radically different way. I remember reading somewhere that it was in fact comparatively easy for companies to "hire and fire" staff in Denmark (the usual justification is that this enhances economic competitiveness) but that the state, rather than the employer, provides the same safety net. That might be the best of both worlds, but is probably only possible in a high-tax economy.

2. I would not be in favour of something like a complete rent freeze, because that would simply enshrine current rents, whether they were too high, too low, or just about right. But I would be in favour of rent, and other, controls to regulate the housing market.


I think what 11:08 said.makes a lot of sense, and I agree with it. As s/he mentions, the EP group to which parties affiliate themselves is a good way of looking at things. Both EAJ-PNV and CiU are in the ALDE group.

Left and right are always relative terms which only make sense in the context of the opposition. For example, the UK Labour party, especially under Blair/Brown, could only be described as "left" because its policies were, quite deliberately, only half-a-millimetre to the left of those of Thatcher/Major.

It might be said that the whole nature of politics in the UK over the past few decades has been to fight to occupy the "centre ground", and that this is a particular by product of the first-past-the-post voting system.


On a specific point that William raises, EAJ-PNV would find it relatively easy, and desirable, to portray themselves as a centre party while they were the only major Basque nationalist party, as they have been for the last 30 years or so. But now that Bildu has become a major force, EAJ-PNV will of course become and be seen as more to the right, simply because Bildu are more to the left.

william dolben said...

Thanks for answering the question Michael. Sorry but I won't give up on insinuations but if you think I'm being visceral let's leave it at that.

45 days pay with a maximum of 3.5 years if you've served 27 years is, in my experience of hiring people in 29 countries, the highest severance available (unless of course you're a banker or director who sets their own severance package)

That's why your question "Is 45 days better or worse than at present? Is 3.5 years better or worse than at present?" surprised me because the Spanish labour protection is out of the stratosphere compared to almost all countries. Check out the UK statutory provision and what labour propose. I suspect it's more like 5 days per year served and then there are zero contracts.

The rent freeze had all the problems you mention but was very good for elderly pensioners and poorer people living in city centres for example as this prevented gentrification and stopped the usual process of rich in poor out. Of course some rich people benefited but the social texture of Spain's cities was much more varied before than now.

But the most surprising thing of all is that those policies were not from the transition but from Franco. It was in fact a PSOE (socialist) minister (Boyer) who stopped the rent freeze to the glee of the developers and it was a PSOE prime minister Zapatero who proposed reducing the 45 days to 20 days with an upper limit of 2 years. He would of course say it was the PP that implemented it (partially in reality)

A discussion on what is the best employment and rent policy is another debate and I'd only contribute to the employment bit as I know very little about rents

I mention this because I think it shows how far to the right the UK is compared to Spain and that parallels between UK-Wales and Spain-Euskadi/Catalonia are more limited than some would like. And as I've mentioned many times ineffectively (nobody seems to have picked it up)

If the starting point with Franco was (from the worker's perspective) stellar labour protection and peppercorn rents then the kind of neoliberalism that is the main feature of the UK would be an anathema to all but the owners of capital. Most supporters of the PP advocate 45 days too because it is great for the working and the middle class. Entrepreneurs and business owners hate it because while they cherish some workers, some can raise a middle finger knowing that the boss can't afford to fire them

The semantics of left right are distinct in Spain to the UK, a Bildu or Izquierda Unida or even a PSOE person will rail against the PP as being the "right" but on social policy they are well to the left of the British Labour Party. of course I know there's gay marriage, abortion and other issues where left and right is more like the UK but the bread and butter issues for most voters are: what's my job security and what's my cost of living (rent)

William Dolben said...

Michael, you state that the PNV was the only major Basque nationalist party. That's partly true. But the PNV was to the right to start with because of its ideological roots but also because it didn't want to subsidise either the maketos in its midst or poorer regions of Spain. It was like a grumpy Tory voter in the SE complaining about paying taxes to support Scousers. This is the opposite of Wales where most incomers are richer than the natives and Wales is poorer than England and is subsidized (I know the system is unfair but Wales must be a bit poorer whatever way you look at it)

Geographically the UK South East is equivalent to Madrid and the NE (Catalonia / basque Country). And before the transition economic power under Franco was more concentrated in Euskadi/Catalonia than in Madrid. So hardly surprising that a "right" wing (Spanish sense) nationalist movement emerged

Herri Batasuna was a left wing party too and it received ca. 15% of the vote even 20-30 years ago in Euskadi so the radical Basque nationalist left is not new.

check out these figures

The English link inevitably is very limited but here in Spanish you have the % achieved by HB in Euskadi and Navarra elections from 1979

PNV also suffered a split in 1986 when Carlos Garaikoetxea stormed off is disgust at the PNV's horse- trading / focus on keeping more of the money they raised rather than independence. EA is now part of the Bildu coalition as I mentioned above.

william dolben said...

And as I've mentioned many times ineffectively (nobody seems to have picked it up)

haha this time I was so ineffective I didn't mention "it". The fact that Euskadi/Catalonia are richer than Spain and Wales is poorer than UK (see my comments above)

Anonymous said...

I suspect there are many Welsh "nationalists" who would cheerfully embrace neo-liberalism given the right wrapper. Wales as a regulation free "competitive unit" parading on the global/local stage? Get out of my way Ma Thatcher, We've seen the future and its making smart phones. With a Welsh language app. of course. We have SOME principles.

MH said...

I'd agree with you that most people in the UK don't realize how far UK politics has shifted to the right, William. It's been going on since Thatcher, under both Tory and Labour governments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to MH for hosting a genuinely interesting discussion and debate.

To Anonymous 13:02's snide comment. What you suspect is up to you. But a Wales that could move beyond the legacy of Thatcher? I would long for such a thing, whether it made smart phones or not. Not so much neoliberalism as 'socialism with Welsh characteristics'. We have got the social principles of the Scandinavian social democrats down to a tee, what we haven't got is the economic and innovation side.

William dolben said...

Thanks Michael for a stimulating debate. I hope you're right about Bildu

MH said...

Thank you as well, William and 15:24 ... and everyone else who contributed.

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