The political situation of the Basque people, like every other situation, is unique. We can only begin to make judgements when we understand its complexity, which this book will help us to do. But the Basques also raise in an acute form and close to home the issue of self-determination which is of world-wide relevance — whether in East Timor or Chechnya or Kurdistan. Can there be democracy without the right of self-determination or when the electoral and administrative boundaries make self-determination impossible?
For us in Wales, the Basques offer some instructive parallels and contrasts. The Basque language, like the Welsh language, is a central feature of identity, and the linguistic demography is quite similar. Moreover the culture is both rural and old heavy-industrial. In the fields of education, public administration and the media, linguistic policy and practice, a lot is going on in the Spanish Basque country today which we can learn from.
But that all sounds rather general, and what I have to say here is more personal. Though I have come to know quite a lot about the Basques over the years it is not as an expert that I write now but rather as one who has made friends of individual Basques and also observed and been moved by their communal life, not only in its dramatic moments but in the daily struggle and commitment of extraordinary ordinary people.
I passed through the Basque country a dozen times during the early 1960s when I taught at the University of Salamanca. Even by the standards of Franco's Spain the industrial towns of the Spanish Basque country seemed grey, sullen and neglected. Any protest was blacked out in the Spanish media and there was no public presence whatever of Euskera, the Basque language, nor do I remember once hearing it spoken. Yet there was a whole world there waiting to surface.