There is an interesting if understandably angry article by author James Petras at the Dissident Voice comparing the different reactions in Ireland and the Basque Country to the austerity policies being implemented in both nations. Where the Irish have adopted a poise of dejected servility the Basques have become ever more rebellious, with a rise in Left and Centre-Left Nationalist parties to challenge the cosy consensus reached long ago by the parties of the older Nationalist establishment and their Spanish “Unionist” counterparts.
“In the face of the long-term, large-scale crisis, Ireland has become the ‘model’ vassal state for the creditor imperial states. The leading Irish trade union confederation and the dominant political parties – including the Labor Party currently in the coalition with the ruling Fine Gael party – have signed off on a series of agreements with the Brussels oligarchs to slash public employment and spending. In contrast, the militant pro-independence Basque Workers Commission, or LAB, has led seven successful general strikes with over 60% worker participation in the Basque country – including the latest on May 30, 2013.
The class collaborationist policies of the Irish trade unions have led to a sharp generational break – with the older workers signing deals with the bosses to ‘preserve’ their jobs at the expense of job security for younger workers. Left without any organized means for mass struggle, young Irish workers have been leaving the country on a scale not seen since the Great Famine of the mid-19th century. Over 300,000 have emigrated in the past 4 years, with another 75,000 expected to leave in 2013, out of a working population of 2.16 million. In the face of this 21st century catastrophe, the bitterness and ‘generational break’ of the emigrating workers is expressed in the very low level of remittances sent back ‘home’. One reason the Irish unemployment rate remains at 14% instead of 20-25% is because of the astounding overseas flight of young workers.
In contrast there is no such mass emigration of young workers from the Basque country. Instead of flight, the class fight has intensified. The struggle for national liberation has gained support among the middle class and small business owners faced with the complete failure of the right-wing regime in Madrid (ruled by the self-styled ‘Popular Party’ ) to stem the downward spiral.
The Basque country’s revolt against centralized rule from Madrid is partly based on the fact that it is one of Spain’s most productive, technologically advanced and socially progressive regions. Basque unemployment is less then that of the rest of Spain. Higher levels of education, a comprehensive regional health system, especially in rural areas and a widespread network of local elected assemblies, combined with the unique linguistic and cultural heritages, has advanced the Basque Nation toward greater political autonomy.”