The Basques: Their Struggle for Independence

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

Chapter 8

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND
PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY

One of the characteristic features of Basque society is its highly participatory character. The country has always had an extraordinarily rich communal life, which is to be seen in the fields of sport, the arts, education, cuisine, religion, festivals, and in such recreations as hunting and fishing. This gregarious people can always find a good reason for forming a society or bringing together a group of people who share a common interest. It may very well be that this collective way of living and the interest the Basques show in social matters is part of the heritage of a mountain people in which mutual aid, which is often foreign to more liberal and individualistic traditions, is an indispensable condition for survival, but however that may be, it cannot be denied that this collective dimension is very strongly ingrained in the country's social life.

The Basque penchant for disputation in political matters would be incomprehensible if we were not aware of how they behave in other spheres that are not at all political, or at least, not strictly political. There have been numerous initiatives in recent decades for the solving of ecological problems, or other local matters, and even some of much wider scope.

Some of the main campaigns that have taken place since the political transition of the 1970s in turn date back to earlier campaigns started during the Franco regime. ETA was formed early in the 1960s and this organization has been of the utmost importance in the fight for the sovereignty of the Basque Country. At about the same time, two other important initiatives were taken that are not so wellknown beyond our borders: the Basque-language schools and the co-operative venture at Mondragón.

In about 1960, in the district of Mondragón in Guipúzcoa, a co-operative movement was born which, within a few years, would

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