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(en) Freedom 07.02.2004, UK newsletter - 21st Century Dambusters - Fighting Itoiz

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 8 Feb 2004 09:08:48 +0100 (CET)

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We live in an age of water wars. The Israeli state occupys the West bank
largely to take advantage of it's aquifiers and a recent attempt by the
Turkish state to dam the Tigris and Euphrates rivers almost caused war with
Syria. The control of rivers through vast dams has been the dream of states
and corporations across the world for over 80 years. The Spanish state is no
exception. In the North of the Iberian peninsula the Plan Ecologica aims to
divert many rivers and put them at the disposal of industry, tourist hotels
and intensive agriculture. The water wars are fought between states and within
the states -- against the interests of the common peopleand against the very
earth itself. In the region of Navarra the Itoiz dam will flood nine villages
and destroy the wildlife of two valleys. The struggle against the itoiz dam
has reached international prominence through the use of direct action by the
ecological group Solidari@s con Itoiz (Solidarity with Itoiz).

Your fearless Freedom reporter caught up with two activists from the
Solidari@s asked them some questions. I refer to the two activists only as 'M'
and 'C' to keep their identities secret. [from Freedom, Anarchist News and
Views newspaper]

Talking ecology, anarchism and the struggle against the dam, with Solidari@s
con Itoiz

"We have to say that this is not a local problem"

Sometimes I've also slightly changed or paraphrased their answers for clarity.

"Our objective is to paralyze the dam works...Sometimes we stop the work for
minutes, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for days -- but our objective is to
paralyze the works."

In 1996 the Solidari@s stopped work on the dam for one year when they cut the
cables on the concrete transporter. Although the Spanish High Court had
already ordered the dam's construction illegal, the Solidari@s were rewarded
for their act of law-enforcement by being charged with kidnapping -- a
security guard had been locked in his office for several minutes. The
activists charged responded by going on an international tour, doing talks and
actions across Europe, most memorably an occupation of the London Millennium
Eye in alliance with opponents of the Indian Narmada dam.

The Solidari@s are a part of a wider wave of ecological direct action. Where
did they get their inspiration from?

"M: For us, the UK direct action movement is a very big inspiration: fighting
the motorways, the anti-road campsites...we have a lot of influence from
Freedom: "And how did you find out about the UK direct action movement?"
M: "Mainly from the Undercurrents videos -- we have all the videos."
C: "Also doing the European tour we made contact with many groups."
M: "We are also working with groups from all parts of Europe, and we made
actions with Narmada-UK, since is same struggle. In Holland we made action
with GroenFront!, a very strong direct action group...and also in other parts,
with the Italian anarchists...there are a lot of people who have the same
problems and the same mentality and the same actions."
Freedom: "A lot of the time we are connected, not through any formal group,
but because we share a way of doing things..."
M "Informal, yes it is the best way."

The roots of the anti-dam campaign lie in the 1980s, when the Co-ordination
Agains the Dam began to oppose the government's plans. This grouping of
unions, political parties and civil society groups mainly fought the impending
dam through hte courts. When construction work began in 1995 the Solidari@s
adopted a differnt kind of tactic.

C: "We don't believe in law! We are direct action..."
Freedom: "In the mid 1990s we also saw a rise in ecological direct action in
the UK. Is it a coincidence that the same kind of movement was happening in
the Basque country?"
M: "In the 1980s there was a strong campaign against the road from Pampalona
to San Sebastian, we made one camp; that was 1990. It was a strong ecological
fight against the road..."
C: "Against progress!"
Freedom. "Did your group arise out of a wider environmental movement?"
M: "The end of the motorway campaign saw a lot of changes -- many
environmental groups started to talk with the political parties, to change
their tactics and become less radical. Also at the time ETA began putting some
bombs and killing some people...so it became part of a wider struggle in the
Basque country, it introduced another dynamic."
Freedom: "I've hear that it's more dangerous to be a radical activist in many
parts of Spain now, because of the presence of ETA, the government will make
up links and use that as an excuse to repress you -- is that a big problem?"
M: "It can be a problem, because the tactic of the Madrid government is to use
the argument of violence -- they're eager to make our struggle seem violent.
When we made an action that stopped the work one year -- because we cut some
cables -- the newspaper and all the media started a very strong campaign
saying that we are terrorists and we start with the violence...it wasn't any
violence...but it was a strong action, because we made a lot of damage,
millions of damage, so they start 'you are terrorists, you are part of ETA',
so the government is always very interested to manipulate the reason for the
C: "But now there are all the other movements, the squats, the government is
very eager to link them with terrorists -- doesn't matter if it is in the
Basque country or not -- Barcelona, Madrid..."
M: " If in Barcelona there is something strong, some action or something, they
will start 'yeah, is ETA', so it is very easy for the government to manipulate
the media."

"For us there are no borders to say 'this is the Basque nature, this is the
Spanish nature', for us there is no border."

Many 'Spanish' activists refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the Spanish
state. The legitimacy of this state is also challenged by regional nationalist
groups. Historically, nationalist groups in the Basque area ('Euskadi' in the
Basque language) have resisted Madrid's authority. How does this affect the
actions of Solidari@s con Itoiz? Is that area's history of national struggle a

M: "You mean, if the social movement in the Basque country helps, for example,
the struggle against the Itoiz dam? Yeah, I think so. Yeah, because I think
the people are more sensitive to other problems, environment problems, natural
problems... I think maybe the community sense, the links, it help social
struggle, the political struggleand the struggle for the earth.
C: "I think that Basque people are quite open minded, because they are
fighting so long that they don't believe in government; they know well the
face of government and politics...they are a people who live connected with an
environment -- forest, rivers, all other parts of Spain is very
M: "And so are some parts of the Basque country! Some provinces are very
developed; very badly. Maybe the place we live, in Navarra, is more forest..."
Freedom: "So do you consider yourselves Basque? Would you use that label?"
M: "Yeah, I am basque."
C: "No, I am not from Basque country...I am fighting in some of the same
struggles, but, I don't share some stuff..."
Freedom: "Could you become Basque if you wanted to?"
C: "People who have birth in another place, I don't think feel Basque..."
M: "Why not? Why not?"
C: "Because, for me, is political, as well...I don't believe in the
politics...I understand the way the Basque people think, but I don't share
things as well; because is political, and is nationalist."
M: "But I am not a nationalist -- but I am Basque! Because Basque is a
sensibility...You don't have to be for the Basque state -- I don't believe in
the state, but I am Basque, because I am Basque, it is a sensibility...you
cannot say that it is only a political thing...I am not Spanish, I am not
French...I am Basque."
C: "But you were born there -- if you were born in Madrid, like me...you are
not going to feel Basque."
Freedom: "So one reason you don't feel Basque, is that the concept of Basque
identity is owned by the Basque political movements, like ETA?"
M: "No, it depends; there are many political parties in the Basque are...for
example the is conservative, another one is like Batistuna, now is
illegal...everything is illegal in the Basque country."
C: "I'm not saying that feeling Basque is just political thing...it has other
Freedom: "So in the Solidarios campaign, there are both people who have been
born in the area, and there are also people who've come from other parts of
the Spanish State?"
M: "And also from Europe, and from the world..."
C: "You are welcome to come!"
M: "A lot of people take part, we have no restriction of the territory -- we
are fighting against earth destruction, first thing, because for us there are
no borders to say 'this is the Basque nature, this is the Spanish nature', for
us there is no border."

"We are like a net -- so we help each other"

How do the Solidari@s see the other political groups active in the Spanish
state? We quickly dismiss the traditional left -- the PSOE, equivalent to our
own Labour Party. They're in the pockets of the companies just like the PP
(conservatives), but maybe in slightly different pockets. But what about the
Anarchist organisations, like the legendary CNT direct action union?

C: "We are like a net -- so we help each other. We are fighting against the
dam, but maybe there is an action in another city against the high-speed , or
maybe against a jail, and we go...so we are like a net, and one day we're all
together, but there are too many struggles and we cannot be all together...I
used to lived with a CNT member...and for example in the social centre we had
in Pampalona, the CNT is there."
M: "I think the CNT is very few people, but they work hard, very active."
Freedom: "And the anarchist squatters, what do you think about them?"
M: "I don't know if we can call them 'anarchist squatters' -- for example, in
Pampalona, in the city where we lived, the squat, the social centre, it hasn't
any label -- it is a squat palce, and in this place it can be Basque
nationalist, autonomous...some Trotskyist! I don't know...about other parts --
in Madrid, Barcelona, they are more 'anarchist'?
C: "I think that they don't call themselves 'anarchist' there either -- it is
always a part of them, but it is not just that. It is too much like closing
doors...people who pass along the street can come in, without thinking 'but I
am not an anrchist.'"

M: "Too often, maybe, the label stops people: 'they are anarchists, they are
communists', it is much better to start to understand one another."

Right now the authorities are test filling the dam, to see whether it will
hold the water's weight. Most of the villages in the water's path have already
been violently evicted. Although the Spanish high Court is still rulling
against the dam there is no garuantee that the dam won't be filled quickly in
a few days, to present all the campaigners with a fait acompli.

Still the struggle continues. The wars that are fought by the companies always
demand our resistance. After making more than seventy action in eight years
the Solidari@a con Itoiz also need to struggle to defend themselves. Iñaki
García Koch was recently jailled for five years for his part in the cable
cutting action .

Freedom: "Is there anything else you'd like to say to people in the UK who
will be reading this interview?"

M: "We'd like to say that we are fighting against this dam, and we have to say
that it is not a local problem. Because now the big discussion in the world is
the water privitisation; this must be one of the biggest problems in the
world. Now in the 21st century the big corporations want to take control over
all the water, and this is already happening in many places around the
world...so, I think we have to take control of our resources, not only the
water -- everthing that we need, that is not a luxury, but a real need. They
want to steal this resource that belongs to everybody, and they want to get a
lot of money from that, and there are a lot of people who are dying now
because they don't have any fresh water to drink. So the water in this century
must be the biggest problem, just like oil was for the last century and the
cause of the biggest wars, just like oil has been.




Taken from Freedom, Anarchist News and Views of 7th February 2004
Freedom is a fortnightly anarchist newspaper published since 1886. To
subscribe or for a free sample copy, check out our website at

e-mail: info@freedompress.org.uk
Homepage: http://www.freedompress.org.uk

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