Repost from the old site.
Although it is not a popular cause in the US, this blog strongly supports the armed struggle of ETA, the armed Basque nationalist Red front. The Basque cause is very poorly known in the US and probably in most of the rest of the world, hence, here is a bit of a primer.
The Basque people are probably the last remaining group of the original populations that inhabited Europe before the Indo-European (IE) invasion and conquest about 8000 years ago. The best theory indicates that the IE people probably came out of the southern Ukraine near the Black Sea.
Their first stop was Anatolia, and this is why the Hittite languages (ancient languages of Anatolia, or Turkey) are by far the most divergent languages in the IE language family.
In fact, I subscribe to a controversial theory that renames Indo-European as Indo-Hittite due to this deep split. For those who don’t know about the IE language family, IE, or proto-IE (PIE), was the mother tongue of most of the languages of Europe.
European languages in the IE family include English, German, French, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Romanian, Moldavian, Albanian, Slovenian, Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Lithuanian and Latvian and some lesser-known ones.
A few tongues in Europe are non-IE, such as Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish, Estonian and Basque. Outside of Europe, we have some other IE languages in some pretty distant places, including Kurdish, Persian, Hindi, Urdu, Pashto, Sanskrit and a variety of languages related to them that are not well known by Westerners.
Apparently a divergent group of PIE left the PIE homeland and moved into the area of India, Iran and Afghanistan thousands of years ago.
Before the IE people spread out over Europe 8000 years ago, Europe was home to a variety of peoples who are very poorly known. Almost nothing is known about their civilizations (such as they existed), who they were, what they did, how they lived, what they ate, much less what languages they spoke.
The original inhabitants of Europe at this time weren’t Cro-Magnons, but they weren’t exactly Manhattan metrosexuals with cell phones either. After the IE people spread out across Europe, they apparently displaced, intermarried with, or wiped out almost all of the indigenous people of Europe.
One group that held out for a while were the Etruscans, residents of Italy. We actually have some retained some scraps of the Etruscan language somehow, but it doesn’t seem obviously related to anything else. The only other group that held out was apparently the Basques.
The theory that the Basques are the last remaining original inhabitants of Europe has long been a popular theory based on the fact that the Basque language is unlike any other language in Europe, or, really, in the world. Formally, Basque is considered to be a language isolate – not related to any other language.
However, I believe, based on very controversial theories, that Basque is related to some languages of the Caucasus (such as Chechen), an obscure group of Siberian tongues known as the Ket Family, an obscure language in far northern Pakistan called Burushaski, and also to the vast Sino-Tibetan family, of which Chinese is the most famous member.
Basque seems to me to be closest to various Caucasian languages. The latest genetic research has shown that the Basques have a blood type frequency that is divergent from all other populations in Europe. Interestingly, the closest people with this blood frequency are in the Caucasus Mountains.
In their mountain hideaways, the rugged Basques fought off many intruders and managed to keep a lot of other conquerors out of their hair with a hands-off attitude. Although the Romans conquered the area, they basically left the Basques pretty much alone as too much hassle, a common attitude of many conquerors that came through the region.
The Basques converted to Christianity along with the rest of Europe, and are known for their passionate, conservative Catholicism. With the consolidation of the Spanish nation, the question of how to deal with the Basques came up. For centuries, most governments in Spain and France preferred to pretty much leave the Basques alone.
During the Spanish Civil War in 1936-39, the Basque Region was a hotbed of Communism, Socialism, Anarchism and all varieties of Leftism. It was a major Republican stronghold. The Spanish Anarchists even “ruled” parts of the Basque country for part of this time, probably the only time in history that any humans have ever lived under anarchist “rule”.
The Basques fought very hard against fascism. Picasso’s famous “Guernica” painting is a painting of the Franco-Nazi air raid on the city of Guernica in the Basque Country, a raid that killed 6,000 people and outraged the world. A Basque Communist female fighter named “La Passionara” became quite famous.
The flood of Nazi guns was too much for the Republicans. The Republicans lost the war and fascism, in the persona of Generalissimo Franco, came to Spain. During World War 2, many Basques fought for the resistance against the Nazis, especially in France. The Basque region was known as a major redoubt and rear base for the French resistance.
When Franco came to power, a new chapter of history opened for the Basque struggle. Franco tried to consolidate Spain as no ruler ever had before. He demanded that all regional minorities adopt a “Spanish” mindset, language and loyalty. He ferociously tried to wipe out all vestiges of the Basque, Catalan and Galician languages and cultures.
Catalans speak a Romance language in between Spanish and French and live along the southern coast of Spain by the French border in and around Barcelona. The Romance family is a subfamily of IE that is derived from Latin. Romance includes Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Catalan, Sardinian, Corsican, Romansh (an obscure language in Switzerland) and some lesser-known tongues.
Galicians speak a dialect of Portuguese, believe it or not, and live along the rocky northern coast of Spain by the border with Portugal. Many Galicians are fishermen.
The Basque people resisted Franco for a while, but he put many of them in prison and really hurt the Basque movement. In 1959, a faction broke away from the Basque Nationalist Movement, formed the ETA, and took up arms.
They planted several bombs in Spanish cities that year. In 1968 , the ETA officially adopted armed struggle. The insurgency has been going on for 46 years now, though it is not as strong as it used to be.
Hardly any Americans realize the significant level of support for even the armed insurgency in the Basque country of Spain. As of a few years ago, there were regular street protests and even riots, as young nationalists run amok through the streets, smashing stuff and writing graffiti.
I have seen video footage in the past decade of very militant pro-ETA rallies in the Basqueland with large crowds of supporters milling around.
Many folks you would consider to be regular folks – middle-class people who dress well, drive nice cars and have good jobs – are strong supporters of even the armed Basque movement. It’s quite a shock to see dowdy-looking housewife types and middle-aged office workers with potbellies angrily waving banners supporting the ETA bombers.
Yet this is the reality of popular support for Basque nationalism, even the armed wing, in the Basque Country. Although Batasuna, the political wing of the ETA, was banned recently, another party took its place and garnered around 15-20% of the vote. Total support for complete independence in the Basque Country or Euskara, as they call it, is around 35-40%, or possibly higher, in my opinion.
Note: I just spoke to a German Communist friend of mine about the support level for the independence movement in Basqueland. Here is what he said: “Oh, I think almost all Basques support full independence. And even many Spanish migrants in Basqueland don’t really oppose the ETA or the independence movement.”
Note the presence of Spanish migrants who have moved into the Basque Country, mostly to take jobs. They are really the wild card in any poll about levels of independence support in Basqueland.
What is the struggle about, anyway? Well, a significant number of the Basque people (maybe almost 100% – see above) want independence from Spain.
Possibly a lesser number desire independence from France, but the struggle in French Basqueland is another matter and beyond the scope of this post. The Spanish government has always refused to hold a referendum on independence for Euskara, a key Basque demand.
The Czech Republic split from Slovakia, referendums have been held on independence in Scotland and Quebec, and yet Spain bucks the tide in the civilized world. The economy is surely a stickler. The Basque country holds much of Spain’s heavy industry, and how well Spain would fare economically after Basque succession is largely unknown. But it should at least be a subject of discussion, and Spain has put it out of limits.
As long as Spain refuses to provide a Basque referendum on independence, the Basque struggle, including probably the armed front, will go on. That’s all there is to it. Spain can end the insurgency tomorrow by opening peace talks with the ETA (Spain has never done this) and ultimately agreeing to hold a referendum on Basque independence.
An interesting sidelight to the Basque struggle is the role of women and feminism in the conflict. Some of the toughest ETA cadre have been women, often tougher than the men. And ETA male fighters, though nominally Marxist, have long been known to hold surprisingly conservative, Old World type views on the role of women in Basque society, opinions heavily tinged by conservative Catholicism.