NAZIOGINTZA’S communiqué: It is our obligation towards our international audience to make it clear first off that our words in this article had to be carefully chosen because of the strict censorship imposed by Spain on this issue. We cannot write free, we cannot, since the charge called “defense of terrorism” looms over our heads, and the possibility of ending up in prison is real. Therefore, the reader should be aware that the writing of this is conditioned by censorship.
On 4 May, the armed organization ETA put an end to its 60 years-long path. The organization Euskadi And Freedom, ETA, was founded in 1959 with a view to achieving the independence of the Basque Country, not only to bringing an end to Franco’s dictatorial regime. No bloody actions were carried out during the early years, since they took the shape of pitching Basque flags, wall paintings, distribution of propaganda, or small-scale explosives. 1968 saw the first lethal attacks, i.e. they took the life of a Civil Guard officer during a roadblock, and killed the infamous police official and Francoist torturer Melitón Manzanas later.
ETA emerged in the midst of tough circumstances, when Franco’s dictatorship stamped out the slightest expression of Basque identity, e.g. Basque language and culture were banned and persecuted, the Basque flag and all Basque symbols repressed, many Basque nationalists imprisoned, the Basque Government in exile. Franco’s regime imposed tough repression on the peninsular Basque Country, with Basque activists in turn operating underground. Confronted with such harsh national repression and weary of the party PNV’s passivity, a number of PNV youths decided in 1952 to found another organization called EKIN, which turned into ETA over time.
Since its very inception, ETA called into question some notions of nationality. It spread a new way of understanding Basque nationalism. As opposed to Sabino Arana and their preceding nationalism, ETA does not assign special relevance to race or religion, for example. It actually underpins language as the essence of a nation. It proposed an open nationalism, by considering immigrants who embrace Basque language and sentiment as members of the Basque nation, no matter where they were born; an innovative view at the time.
During its 60-year existence, ETA has killed over 800 people. During the first years, its lethal actions were very selective, targeting members of the Spanish armed security forces, but over time they became less and less selective, showing an increasingly wider range of victims and threatened people, i.e. politicians, journalists, entrepreneurs, etc. At the same time, its ideology gradually shifted towards socialism, first, and Marxism-Leninism, later, which became a mainstay of the organization. In addition, ETA’s activity provided a badly needed pretext to the successive Spanish governments, Francoist first and neoFrancoist later, to enforce a tough repression on Basque cultural and pro-independence movements. Since 1960 to date, 25,000 people have been arrested, 5,000 tortured, 300 dead… 1995 saw the start of a new era in Spanish repression, crystallizing in the closure of Basque media, imprisonment of Basque pro-independence politicians, prohibition of demonstrations, proscription of political parties… A new media, political and judicial doctrine operating along the banner “everything is ETA” sent Basque journalist, union leaders, politicians, intellectuals, jurists, university professors, to prison.
The armed organization earned an international echo in 1970, when the regime put 16 of ETA’s members on trial during the Burgos process. It garnered still further attention in 1973, when ETA assassinated admiral Carrero Blanco, called to succeed the dictator Franco.
After three failed negotiation attempts with the Spanish government in 1989, 1999 and 2006, ETA eventually announced its permanent cessation of armed activity in 2011. The decision did not go down well on the Spanish government at all. It actually set all kinds of hurdles to the arms decommissioning, including the arrest of international brokers. Finally, the peace brokering activists known as the “Peacemakers” in the continental Basque Country had decommissioning materialized last year, and ETA has now announced its permanent disbanding.
300 prisoners of the organization are still in several Spanish and French prisons, due to the dispersal policy enforced on them, far away from the Basque Country. The French government has brought several prisoners nearer to their homeland. We look forward to the continuation of that policy now ETA has disbanded. Only 15 years ago, the number of ETA prisoners rose to over 700.
The group Naziogintza is pleased to share its joy for the decision made by ETA. We think it has been long overdue, but we salute the end to their means of struggle. First of all, it puts an end to the needless suffering of people. Secondly, it strips the Spanish government away of the pretext it needs to conduct its repressive and antidemocratic strategy. Finally, it opens a path forward to improve relations between people struggling for the freedom of the Basque Country. In addition, the end of ETA’s armed struggle has exposed many things, such as the Spanish hypocrisy and successive lies. One of these lies went that “without violence everything is possible”. Catalonia attests to just the opposite.
In this new stage without ETA, Basque progressive nationalism faces a not particularly smooth challenge, i.e. strengthening nationalism and a pro-independence stance, and standing up to antidemocratic positions, placing the conflict of Basque national rights along democratic parameters and exposing the contradictions of both states. By betting hard on these topics, we are persuaded that Basque nationalism is set to win.