The Basques: Their Struggle for Independence

By Luis Núñez Astrain; Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

What do the Basques want now? Don't they already have a democratic system comparable with that of any other European country? Don't they enjoy a substantial measure of autonomy? So what is the point of their interminable protests, their huge demonstrations, their armed struggle?

Many people in Europe have some knowledge of the Basque Country because they have heard of the Nazi bombardment which destroyed the town of Guernica in 1937; or else they have read about the infamous Burgos Trials of 1970, or perhaps the assassination of Admiral Carrero Blanco, Franco's right-hand man, in 1973. More recently, they may have heard of the frequent outbreaks of violence which have occurred in the Basque Country. But most don't have any clear idea about what is happening there, nor do they understand the causes of the conflict between the Basques and the Spanish and French Governments.

The Basque Country does not really exist as an entity of its own, with a unity that is generally recognized by others. Its territory on the northern side of the Franco-Spanish border has been denied even the smallest degree of autonomy, while on the southern side it is divided into two distinct parts. Nevertheless, when Sabino Arana, the father of Basque Nationalism, was still in his cradle, Victor Hugo, who was well acquainted with the Basque Country, wrote in the first volume of his novel, L'homme qui rit ( 1869), 'A Basque is neither a Spaniard nor a Frenchman. He is a Basque.'

In our own day every Basque is called upon to cast his vote on six separate occasions, but the voter who lives in Saint-Jean-de-Luz will vote for one set of institutions, the one in San Sebastián for others, and the one in Pamplona for yet others.

The political institutions of the Basque Country at the present time are complex and confused, and far from making up an entity peculiar to the Basques, they have exactly the opposite effect, of actually

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