(previous points on page basque.html)
6. Basque politics
Basque politics are not an easy question to deal, understand or
explain. The foreigner may know, more or less, than an independentist
radical group, ETA, wages war against the Spanish government through
Under the surface of that topical and simple image, a complicated
situation lies. We wil, try to explain a little.
It must taken in mind that Basque politics and Basque society are
cut by strong dividing socio-politic lines. Here are the most obvious
dividing lines, and the "axis" in which they are based:
- 1. the French / Spanish border. The map axis.
- 2. Nationalist / Statalist sides. The national axis.
- 3. Pro-armed struggle / anti-violent. The violences axis.
We may also add another dividing line:
- 4. Basque-speaking / Non basque-speaking. The language axis.
Maps and Nation
The first Axis is the most obvious. Politics, life, social
situation, everything, are completely different in the Northern
Basque Country compared to the Southern Basque Country. Basque who
live under Spain and France have different political options, and the
socio-political maps imposed by this situation are totally different.
Under the jacobine centralist French State, there is not basque
autonomy at all, the language has no officiality and is to seriously
endangered, and basque apparteinance feelings and nationalism have
been wiped out by France.
In the Southern Basque Country, Francoist dictature was hard but
it developed a strong resistence feeling absent in the Northern side.
After constitutional formal democracy was stablished in Spain, some
autonomy powers have been granted to Basques, but not to all of them
(Nafarroa / EAE division), and with results that are bound to
discussion. The basque question remains unresolved for many and the
main result of this is the endless armed conflict, in contrast with
isolated bombing in the North.
The main parties in Northern Basque Country are the french RPR,
its ally the UDF, and socialist PS. The strongest of all is the
rightist RPR, the party of Mr. Chirac. Those forces are all in the
Statalist side of the 2nd Axis: there seems to be no option for
de-centralisation or any recognition of Basque cultural and language
rights with these groups.
The other side, the abertzale or nationalist forces are almost
marginal in the Northern BC.
In the Southern BC, there is a bunch of parties. In the Basque
Autonomous Community, the PNV, Basque moderate nationalist party is
usually the most voted and controls, sometimes through coalitions,
most local institutions. The moderate nationalist side is filled with
Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) a splitting section from PNV. Then we have
Herri Batasuna (HB), sort of Basque Sinn Fein that supports the armed
actions of ETA, and that now appears under the name Euskal
Herritarrok (EH). These are nationalist groups.
In the other side of the national axis, we have also the Spanish
national parties, PSOE and PP which are present in Basque politics. A
regional right-wing ally of PP rules in Navarre (UPN). There are
other regional pro-Spain parties: UA in Araba (its main purpose seems
to be attacking the Basque language), and CDN a moderate party
exclusive of Navarre.
If we look at the 3rd axis, that marked by political
violence. Pro-armed struggle / anti-violent axis.
First, we have the armed organisations: ETA has fighted violently
against the Spanish State. Kidnaps, bombs against property,
killings... At a time they focused personal actions againts armed
Spanish policemen or military, but the targets wer expanded over the
last years to include politicians and businessmen that do not pay
In the Northern BC we have also Iparretarrak (IK), which only
attacks property, not people. Their main targets are ultimately
tourism interests, as they contribute to Frenchizise the Basque
Armed actions are absolutely condemned by all parties in the
Southern BC, except HB. Constant calls for isolation HB and anything
near to HB are heard once and again. In Spain, condemnation of
violence many times is mixed with a demonization of all things
Since September 1998, ETA has declared an unconditional ceasefire,
which has lead to more unity among nationalist parties (a wide accord
called the "Lizarra-Garazi agreement"), and more radical position
among Spanish parties. Most expect that truce will lead to definitive
peace, but the outcome of the process is doubtful at this moment.
Between the radical stances, there is a group called Elkarri,
which tries to condemn all excesses and violence. It is doubtful that
they have had any success...
In the Northern BC, actions of IK are viewed in different ways by
the little nationalist forces. IK is also in a state of "ceasefire"
lately. For the pro-French, they are just plain terrorists.
And then there is the language axis.
Through centuries of language suppresion policies, the
Basque-speaking have become a minority in their own land (see
figures). Politically speaking, in terms
of parties and so on, they are even less than that.
There are no basque-speaking parties in the BC. All are Spanish or
French speaking, some exclusively, and some giving more or less space
to Basque language.
The nationalists are obviously more kind towards language rights
and so on, but there are differences. By chance, groups that support
violence seem to be the ones who support the language, and that does
not make things easy, actually. At the same time, pro-Spanish forces
are turning more and more radical (almost racist) against Basque
Still, we believe that the survival of Basque culture and the
Basque nations is linked to the language. The violence issue is the
hardest point of the Basque conflict, surely, but the key political
issue is the language. Being independent, autonomous or not, as long
as the language is alive, there will be a Basque Country. Not
There is a whole movement working for the language, claiming for
legal and political actions, working in cultural and social
initiatives. There is also something like an official disdain and
fierce opposition from pro-Spanish and pro-French sectors towards
that movement. This very site, GeoNative, has received hate-mail from
Spaniards (look here), and that shows what
kind of appreciation a linguistic minority gets in Spain.
That is the true political issue at stake. The right of that
Basque-speaking minority, the true native minority round here, to
keep its roots and its culture in their own land, Euskal Herria, the
nation of Euskara.
- Loturak / Links: Basque links are displayed in
- Eguneratua / Last updated: 1999.01.10
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