Territory and Terror: Conflicting Nationalisms in the Basque Country

By Jan Mansvelt Beck | Go to book overview

3

The Spanish-Basque experience

A case of weak nation-state building

Seville, 16 October 2000: after a terrorist incident a local policeman shot an ETA member, who had just killed a Spanish military doctor, in the shoulder. '¡Estoy herido en el hombro!' ('I'm hurt in the shoulder!'), he shouted to his mate. His cry, in Spanish, reflected in a nutshell the ambiguity of many militant Basques. The etarra was prepared to take the personal risk of being killed for the sake of his deeply felt Basqueness, symbolized by ETA in Euskera. On the other hand, Basqueness in a linguistic sense was apparently absent in this person. In this chapter I will demonstrate that this etarra embodies the way many Basques have been nationalized from above. They combine successful language diffusion with incomplete nation-state building.

The weakness of Spanish nation-state building is shaped by a history characterized by contradictory messages about the essence of the nation state and a lack of continuity in the transmission of nationalist messages. Besides interruptions in the process of democratization, discontinuities in the process of state legitimization have contributed to a weak nationalization from above.

Like France, the Spain of the mid-nineteenth century was far from being united. Spain's situation was similar regarding the languages spoken, customs and traditions that divided the country into a multitude of patrias chicas hardly connected with the outside world. Localism and particularism were usually reflected in a mental horizon restricted to nearby market towns and neighbouring villages. Although Spain's territorial organization had been centralized since the coming of the Bourbon kings in the early seventeenth century, the mental map of the average Spaniard followed the mosaic-like pattern of local, and at best regional, communities and cultures. The Spain of the 1860s could be regarded as a less integrated and nationalized version of France. About one-third of its population did not speak Castilian, the official language, in comparison to one-quarter of French people who did not speak French. The transport system of roads and railways was worse than north of the Pyrenees. Compared to France, the authority of the state was weak in Spain's periphery. It was within a poorly organized and fragmented state territory that concepts of Spanish nationalism were formulated and contested.

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Territory and Terror: Conflicting Nationalisms in the Basque Country
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures x
  • Tables xi
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The French-Basque Experience 19
  • 3 - The Spanish-Basque Experience 41
  • 4 - Euskal Herria 77
  • 5 - Basque Nationalism 97
  • 6 - Euskadi as a Weak Proto-State 126
  • 7 - The Spatial Dimension of Violence 176
  • 8 - Conflict Solutions 205
  • Conclusion 225
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 253
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