Basque to the Future

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It's hard to see the Basque terrorist group ETA's announcement of a permanent ceasefire as anything but good news, but it seems a bit premature to break out the champagne as well. First, of course, nothing is really "permanent" in politics; since the separatist group hasn't indicated any plan to lay down arms, "permanent" can't really mean anything but "until we change our minds," and in the group's currently weakened state, foreswearing violence may just be a way of milking their short-term inability to carry out effective attacks.

ETA now says it wants to seek a "political process" toward Basque independence. The problem is that there's very little reason to believe that such a process will actually give them what they want. Before the Batasuna party—ETA's Sinn Fein—was banned in 2003, it typically pulled in 10 to 20 percent of the Basque vote, and while there's popular sentiment in favor of greater autonomy in the Basque country, the most recent polls suggest that fewer than a third of Basques actually want full-blown independence—and the rest of Spain remains pretty adamantly opposed, as suggested by the Spanish parliament's overwhelming rejection last year of an independence proposal. (For those who think the rest of Spain shouldn't have any say, bear in mind that there is a significant population of non-ethnically-Basque Spanish citizens in the region; some fear they'd find themselves suddenly reduced to a second-class status under an independent, nationalist Basque government.) So the question is: What happens if ETA gets its "political process" and finds that it doesn't fare any better with democracy than it did bombing schools?

NEXT: Global News Snapshot, March 2006

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  1. Jules:

    Did you actually rip that post title from TDS, or was it just a coincidence?

  2. Anyone read about Mondragon, the big Basque appliance co-operative that’s been around since the 50’s? Apparently “anarchists” like Noam Chomsky aren’t too fond of it.

  3. “What happens if ETA gets its “political process” and finds that it doesn’t fare any better with democracy than it did bombing schools?”

    Hehe…well, what happens when you give the Palestinians the right to vote, and they vote terrorists into office?

    Majoritarian Democracy is all well and good, as long as you are prepared to accept the fact that things might not turn out like you want them to.

  4. “foreswearing violence”

    Is engaging in democratic politics truly “forswearing violence,” or is it merely forswearing direct violence while promising an increase in indirect violence?

  5. Snide comments about ETA’s sincerity aside, this is really incredible and unexpected news. It was starting to look like these guys would go down in flames. From what I understand, Zapatero was almost dumbstruck when he received the news of the 90 second announcement of a permanent ceasefire.

    With ETA–at least on paper and video–committing itself to democratic and non-violent processes, the Franco era effectively comes to a close. I kow that there are caveats galore, but this is pretty huge.

  6. I don’t even know what “TDS” is… so yeah,I guess it’s a coincidence.

  7. This means it’s safe to watch jai alai again?

  8. “This means it’s safe to watch jai alai again?”
    And take the Che T-shirts out of mothballs! Oh…wait a minute…

  9. Is it just me, or do their masks make them look like the main character of V for Vendetta?

  10. “B for Batasuna.”

  11. “B for Batasuna.”

  12. Yeah, all of that is very good, but is it not the 10th time that ETA has said something like to that effect? I am skeptical, also what are their demands from the governement.Zapatero does not seem to be one of the brightest prime ministers

  13. Yeah, all of that is very good, but is it not the 10th time that ETA has said something like to that effect? I am skeptical, also what are their demands from the governement.Zapatero does not seem to be one of the brightest prime ministers

  14. Yeah, all of that is very good, but is it not the 10th time that ETA has said something like to that effect? I am skeptical, also what are their demands from the governement.Zapatero does not seem to be one of the brightest prime ministers

  15. Oh! The Daily Show! Hmm, not consciously, but I did have it on in the background last night, so I might’ve subliminally lifted their headline, if they used it.

  16. “the most recent polls suggest that fewer than a third of Basques actually want full-blown independence?and the rest of Spain remains pretty adamantly opposed”

    What is the rationale behind refusing their independence? Really. The only legitimate one I can think of is the fact that most Euskara (basques) don’t want it. The rest of Spain should have no say.

    Shouldn’t a liberal democracy recognize the right of certain regions to become independent if that’s their desire?

  17. Andy-
    I agree in princpiple, but it’s a little trickier than that. Two complicating factors: A minor one is that if the Basque region has been a net recipient of national tax monies (I don’t know whether this is the case), there might be a case that they should buy out some of the value of the infrastructure built by the national government if they’re leaving. The more serious issue is that there’s a significant population of people who aren’t ethnic Basques in the region, and they’re (mostly) Spanish citizens, and there’s some concern that they’d have second-class status in a regime run by Basque nationalists. So there’s also a question of whether the national government has an obligation to Spanish citizens who don’t want their social contract radically revised even if a slim majority in the region decides it wants to withdraw. To pick a sort of silly example, if 51 percent of the residents of your town decided they wanted to form a theocratic mini-nation, would you shrug your shoulders and move, or would you feel entitled to the First Amendment protections you took to be in effect in the area when you bought the house? Not to say I’m unsympathetic to secessionists per se, but it’s not necesarily as simple as “Let ‘them’ go if ‘they’ want to leave.”

  18. They were backed into it….it’s what has to happen when you put all your basques in one exit.

    (mmph.)

  19. Has Jack Bauer or Chuck Norris visited Spain recently?

  20. Also, the fact that ETA is rabidly left-wing could also present a stumbling block to acceptance of full independence.

  21. I’m skeptical aswell. Although, the IRA did this a few years ago and everything seems fine now.

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