Tolerating Terrorism in the West: An International Survey

By Noemi Gal-Or | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

From the vindication of honour to blackmail: the impact of the changing role of ETA on society and politics in the Basque region of Spain

Peter Waldmann

In order to appraise correctly the importance of ETA and the kind of terrorism it has been practising inside and outside the Basque region, one should first differentiate this type of ethnically motivated use of violence from the terrorism of radicalized groups of the middle class in such highly industrialized countries as the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Italy, which is energized by a revolutionary social ideology. While the numerous outrages of the RAF and the ‘Action Directe’, both enjoying an extremely limited membership, meet with a lack of understanding or even disgust on the part of their respective societies, ETA may rely on the sympathy and indirect or even direct support of a considerable segment of the Basque population (the same may be said with regard to the IRA). In the era of the Franco dictatorship, until 1975, practically the entire Basque population backed the terror organization; its members, the Etarras, were considered heroes and martyrs who were upholding the honour of a culturally and politically tyrannized people. Since the transformation of Spain’s government into a parliamentary monarchy this silent consensus has broken down as many Basques are no longer able to understand the sense of bloody outrages in a political system seeking to grant other, peaceful means for safeguarding interests. However, a minority within the ethnic majority continues to stand solidly behind the terrorist organization. Due to its political engagement, its methods of enforcement and last but not least to the lasting irresoluteness of the remaining political forces in the Basque region, this minority, the left nationalists (abertzales), exercises an influence in the region greatly exceeding its numerical significance.

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