Argazkia: EAJ-PNV

In our group Naziogintza we have lamented more than once that we Basques know very little about our history, including our recent history. Therefore, some historical episodes of great importance remain ignored, in the shadows of our collective imagination.

In this article we want to bring to light one of those historical episodes: the pro-independence pact signed 101 years ago by the Basques, Catalans and Galicians, a pact that set off all the alarms in Madrid: the Triple Alliance of 1923.

It can be said that the collaboration to reclaim their national rights between the three nations oppressed by the Spanish state began with that 1923 pact. Indeed, the Triple Alliance of 1923 was the precursor of the famous Galeusca, having been signed 10 years before the first Galeusca.


At that time the nationalist movement of the three nations under Spanish rule was growing strongly: In Catalonia, at the beginning of the 20th century, some nationalist political parties emerged as an alternative to the autonomist Lliga Regionalista of Cambó and Prat de la Riba, the most radical being the Estat Català of Francesc Macià (1922). This pro-independence political party advocated armed struggle to achieve its political objectives (Macià himself organized in 1926 a military uprising, in Northern Catalonia, which failed).

In Galicia, in 1916, the nationalist organization Irmandades de Fala was created; in 1918 this organization put aside regionalism and adopted a clear nationalist position. In 1922 the organization was divided into two: the Irmandades de Fala itself, in favor of political participation, and the Irmandade Nacionalista Galega, which had a more culturalist tendency.

And in the Basque Country under Spanish rule, on the other hand, the hard blow of 1876 was still remembered, when the three territories of the Western Basque Country lost their sovereignty. Navarre had lost its sovereignty a few years earlier, in 1841. It must be said that in 1921, shortly before the signing of the Triple Alliance of 1923, the Basque nationalism represented by the PNV had suffered a painful split: in that year the supporters of maintaining the pro-independence orthodoxy clashed with those who defended a more autonomist and possibilist political position. The PNV party split into two: EAJ-Aberri (whose most prominent leaders were Eli Gallastegi and Luis Arana), clearly pro-independence, and Euzko JEL-Batza (EJB) (whose leader was Engracio Arantzadi, “Kizkitza”), a pro-autonomy statute party.

These Catalan, Basque and Galician nationalist waves failed against the rigid centralism breakwater of the Spanish monarchy. It should be remembered that the 1898 disaster in Cuba and the Philippines and the 1921 disaster in the Rif (known as the “Annual disaster”) ignited in Spain a passionate Spanish nationalism, along with a feeling against any non-Spanish nationalism, which left very little room for the claims of peripheral nationalisms.


The initiative to form a front between the three nations under Spanish rule came from the nationalist political party Acció Catalana. In the summer of 1923, that party called for action “to create an alliance between the nations of the Spanish sate in which there exists a patriotic flame: Catalonia, Vasconia (sic) and Galicia”, adding “Unity is strength”.

The first party to give a positive response to this call was EAJ-Aberri, through its media (the “Aberri” magazine). Euzko JEL-Batza, on the other hand, was more cautious at first, although it later adopted a more open stance towards this collaboration.

In Catalonia,  first Macià’s Estat Català, and then the Unió Catalanista (a party that evolved from regionalism to radical nationalism) gave their approval to the alliance proposal in August 1923.

At the same time the Irmandades de Fala of Galicia showed their support for Acció Catalana‘s initiative. The other nationalist organization of Galicia, Irmandade Nacionalista Galega, had some doubts at the beginning, although at the last moment it also gave its approval to the project.

The Galician historian Xosé Estevez -who has been living among us for a long time- has been, without a doubt, the expert who has written and researched most about the Galeusca. As he told Naziogintza, “the Triple Alliance of 1923 was the predecessor pact of the Galeusca, and among all the pacts signed between the three nations, the most pro-independence one. For Catalonia it was signed by Acció Catalana, Estat Català and Unió Catalanista, for the Basque Country by EAJ-Aberri, and for Galicia by Irmandades de Fala and Irmandade Nacionalista Galega”.

On September 11, 1923, on the occasion of the National Day of Catalonia (Diada), a significant representation of the three peripheral nations met in Barcelona to sign the pact that would become known as the Triple Alliance. The Basque representation was large:  for EAJ-Aberri Eli Gallastegi (“Gudari”), Manu Egileor, Telesforo Uribe-Etxebarria and Jose Domingo Arana; for Euzko JEL-Batza, Julian Arrien and Jesus Maria Leizaola. The Catalan delegation also had important figures: Francesc Macià (on behalf of Estat Català) and Antoni Rovira i Virgili (Acció Catalana), among others. Federico Zamora and Alfredo Somoza, representing the Irmandades de Fala, also went to Barcelona.

In the acts of September 11, there were passionate speeches, some of them with a clear pro-independence tone (which provoked a strong contestation in the Madrid press), and also some incidents with the police (who arrested some people and injured others -among them Arrien and Leizaola-). In the evening a crowded act was organized in a local theater, in which Els Segadors and the Gernikako Arbola were sung and the “senyera” and the “ikurriña” (Catalan and Basque flags, respectively) were displayed in  a prominent place.


The September 11 talks to sign the pact took longer than expected, because there were some disagreements over the content of the pact. As a result the signing was delayed until September 12. According to Xosé Estevez, during the talks Acció Catalana and Euzko JEL-Batza expressed some misgivings, because they considered the pact too radical. Acció Catalana, in the end, signed the pact, but Euzko JEL-Batza did not; the latter delayed its signature, saying that before signing it they had to consult their  members (this consultation with the members did not take place, because on September 13 General Primo de Rivera staged a coup d’état). Also the Irmandade Nacionalista Galega, which did not go to Barcelona, had some doubts, although in the end it gave its agreement by means of a telegram sent to Barcelona.

The pact had a radical, pro-independence tone, referring twice to the armed struggle if necessary to achieve “national freedom”. The influence of EAJ-Aberri and Estat Català in this radical content is obvious (let us remember that Macià and Gallastegi had close relations with the Irish Sinn Féin, which at that time was firmly fighting for the independence of Ireland).

The radical tone of the document is reflected in some paragraphs:

-It stated that the political regime imposed on Catalonia, Euskadi and Galicia was a consequence of the violence exercised by Spain.

-Total sovereignty for the three nations was demanded.

-It stated that the three nations had the right to “heroic appeal” against Spanish oppression.

-A joint struggle was proposed to achieve national freedom, and if necessary,” to shed their joint blood in the sacrifice”


The pact was very short-lived, because the day after it was signed, the Captain General of Catalonia, General Miguel Primo de Rivera, staged a coup d’état and outlawed all the nationalist political parties. There were several reasons why Primo de Rivera  carried out the coup d’état and imposed a military dictatorship: anarchist terrorism, strikes and labor unrest, the weakness of the monarchy and, especially, the unease that the rise of peripheral nationalism created among the military. Indeed, it is very significant that the coup d’état (which had been prepared in advance) took place the day after the signing of the Triple Alliance of 1923.

The Triple Alliance of 1923 opened the way for the collaboration of the three peripheral nations, which was strengthened 10 years later (during the Second Spanish Republic) with the creation of the Galeusca.

Since then, Catalan, Basque and Galician nationalists have signed various pacts -political and cultural- over the last 100 years. None of them has ever had the pro-independence tone that the Triple Alliance of 1923 had, with one exception: the one signed in 1959 in Caracas (Venezuela), in exile, between the three nations. According to Estevez, that 1959 document was signed by the following people: Andima Ibinagabeitia -on behalf of Euzko Mendigozaile Batza-, Xosé Velo –on behalf of the Movemento Galeguista-, and Juanola Massó –on behalf of the Moviment d’Alliberament de Catalunya-. The 1959 document claimed the same objectives as that of 1923, and also included anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist references, so  customary at that time.