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The truth about nationalisms in Spain
by Newropeans-Magazine
2008-10-01 09:26:54
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The definition of nationalism is as follows The term 'nationalism' can refer to an ideology, a sentiment, a form of culture, or a social movement that focuses on the nation.

The human being has always had the need to feel attached to a territorially bounded home, perhaps, following the most basic animal instincts of clearly mark and bound a territory as belonging to a certain group, thus, defining areas of inclusion and exclusion in front of other group or individual that did not belong to the “territorially bounded” group.

On the other hand, nationalism as a “modern” ideology and social movement is one of the best examples on how the illustration and the scientific and philosophical revolutions starting in the 18th century were at best just “ideals” constrained by small elite and easily manipulated by those in power to cast it as a tool to have better control over the majority of people that were starting to question their unconditional loyalty to religion. How nationalism has been used to launch war, revolutions and create social and personal distress and misery is greatly exemplified throughout history and it is still on today in several parts of the world.

One of the examples in western Europe is Spain, “a nation-state” being continuously challenged by their inner nationalism or regionalism.

The problem of nationalisms and internal separatisms date back to the end of the 19th century and is followed by two clear events in spanish history: one is the succession war and the seize of power by the french-ascent borbon dinasty that transformed an extremely de-centralized kingdom with several small semi-kingdoms inside with their own legalities and customs into a extremely centralized state that meant an absolute sweeping of what it was left of autonomy of these small kingdoms (The Navarre Kingdom and the Catalan-Aragonese kingdom).

A second event happened at the end of the 19th century with the import of Industrial Revolution from northern europe that affected mainly Catalonia and the Basque Country whilst the rest of the state remained mainly rural and highly de-industrialized.

That duality and subsequent gap in the degree of industrialization and wealth production has not been overcome and it is still on today.

In any case, the advent of industrial revolution in North-Eastern Spain produced  narrower ties with the rest of industrialized Europe and clearly boosted “nationalist” aspirations in Catalonia and the Basque Country. The question was clear: why sustain a semi-feudal state with our wealth? Let’s create our own “modern” sate.

On the other hand, during the secession war in Catalonia (September 11th 1714) the previous privileges that these region had under the Austrian dynasty, as it has been said, were totally terminated by the Spanish state with the use of arms.

In the Basque Country, the unconditional support for another “Borbon king” different than the one reigning that would allow them to keep their older privileges in front of the mainstream borbons that along with the liberals sought to uniform the whole country, derived into a regional civil war in the Basque Country against the Spanish authorities under the command of the mainstream Borbons.

That is many times said as the first antecedent of Basque armed struggle.

In any case, the duality between Catalonia, the Basque Country and the rest of the state got deepened at the end of the 19th century when the country itself faced the dismantling of what it was left of the Spanish Empire with the loss of Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898 after the American-Spanish war.

The Spanish nationalism fell in an up and down bipolar mania alternating depression with euforia that would last during the 20th century.

The result would be revolutions, counter-revolutions, coups d’etats and so on always having nationalism at its core (Spanish, Basque, Catalan, Galician) combined with the fashion ideologies of the 20th century (Fascism, Marxism, Liberalism).

There was a leftist republic that overthrew the monarch in 1929 and allowed internal regionalisms ride free, in fact, in 1931, the 1st Catalan Republic was declared by Catalan authorities, although, it was finally reverted by the Spanish Republic.

After Franco’s office takeover in 1939, “inner nationalisms” were extremely repressed by the new fascist authorities. Spain was going to be under the new regime “Una, Grande y Libre” (One, Big and Free) in which the state would become not only totalitarian and national-catholicist but also utterly nationalist in which citizens should  show actively and in all aspects of their lives that they were spanish and that they felt proud to be spanish.

In front of this new situation regionalisms and separatist aspirations remained alife though, they became latent and the nationalist symbols of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia were hidden and their languages reserved for the intimacy of the families at home.

However, Basque and Catalan “nationalist parties” that had been created at the end of the 19th century continued their work underground. PNV (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) and Liga Regionalista de Catalunya.

At the end of the 1950’s, amidst a revolutionary stream that swept the world with the independentist processes of the overseas British and French colonies in Africa and Asia ongoing and the leftist revolutionary movements of Latin America, in Europe too, in Ireland and in the Basque Country two marxist-leninist guerrillas sprung both fighting for some sort of new arrangement of what they called “their nations” within the international scenario. (The IRA and ETA both date back to this age).

ETA which in the Basque language means stands for “Euskadi Ta Askatasuna” (Basque Country and Freedom) emerged out of a split from the nationalist and carlist basque party (PNV) and bid for the armed struggle in order to achieve the independence of Euskal Herria which should become a marxist state too once the independence had been achieved.

This brand new leftist approach to the “old inner nationalisms in Spain” was a surprise for many people because from now on the term nationalist or separatist in the Basque Country would be partly associated to political violence.

Ever since 1959 ETA has committed murders, kidnappings, blackmailing… the number of dead people due to ETA’s activities sum up to 900 people, some people have been kidnapped by ETA for periods so long as 2 years. Companies in the Basque Country and Navarre have been subject to black mailing through “Impuesto Revolucionario” (Revolutionary tax).

And besides all that, ETA has played a challenging role in the continuous Basque nationalist attacks against the state always positioning itself on the chess board to be considered as one more actor.

During the decades of the 1960’s and 1970’s ETA found internal and external backing based on their fight against the Franco’s regime, but once democracy returned only the Soviet Union and other “turbulent” states in Africa and America continued to provide them help of various kinds along the decade of the 1980’s, once the Soviet Union disappeared and the official Marxist-Leninist paradigm dissolved and the IRA (sister organization) began its path to arms surrendering, ETA lost its main financial and ideological allies, however, ETA would continue to pursue independence of the Basque Country less focused on Marxism and more focused on the the ethnicity and racial theory by which basques were the oldest people of Europe and thus they deserved to have their own nation-state, once again nationalism retrieves the most primitive human passions.

Whatever the reason, ETA has brought nothing but pain, grief, sorrow and misery to so many people from within and beyond the Basque Country in the name of the creation of a state for a “mythic nation, the Basques”.

Finally, just to remind some nationalism theorists and politicians in the Basque Country, Galicia and Catalonia that the fight for independence is legitimate and recognized by the United Nations (UNO) for as long as the fighting territories claim the recovery of a pre-existent state in the “modern term”, the basques or the catalans have never had a state as we conceive it today, by this, it is meant that their claims for self-determinations are not founded, they cannot claim a state that it has never existed before. They had kingdoms, feudal territories but not a state.

Iván Gómez*
Barcelona, Spain

* Iván Gómez is member of Newropeans' European executive managers team

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AP2008-10-01 17:15:23
You know something? I don't really think that the Basque Country and the Catalonian situations are comparable. First of all, because of historic reasons (the status of the Basque Country was always problematic), second because radical nationalism and "race pride" was always present, in a way, over there (even if in a minority of the population) and was sometimes expressed in distorted and dramatic ways, while the autonomy of Catalonia region has much more to do with the movements of decentralization of the political and administrative power in Spain. The history of the spanish autonomous regions goes as further back as to the foundation of Spain.

AP2008-10-01 18:10:29
So once upon a time in the lands of Hispany everything was simpler: the Iberian Kingdoms of Castilla, Navarra, Leon and Aragon together formed what was called those "lands of Hispany". Asturias and Galicia came together with Leon, Madrid was in Castilla, Barcelona was in Aragon and the Al-Andaluz was... becoming progressively shorter - when it got really small they called it Grenade (funny humor they had already then, uh? :P). It's easier if I tell you that the beaches of Costa de Sol, Costa Tropical, Sierra Nevada and Gibraltar are in the former Grenade (it took longer to expel the muslims from there because they wouldn't let go of their beach towel and summer tan). The Kingdom of Castilla (and don't forget that this Kingdom includes Madrid) was re-populated, among others, with Basques(yes, I know what you're thinking!) and some funny folks called Visigods who had the idea of proclaiming Toledo their capital (what kind of cake were they on?), blond nordic immigrants (yes!), frenchmen with accent and old portuguese folks, just because they were in the neighbourhood.
The Kingdoms of Hispany were polite enough to "invite" by post the also Iberian Kingdom of Portugal to the prom a couple of times, something which was very personally refused :P Actually, "Spain" as the designation of a nation was a name only chosen since the last time such an invitation came (it was chosen in order to unify the dance of the guests) and the cute guy from the same high-school said "no" because he didn't like the name of the party (1640).

AP2008-10-01 18:27:32
Spain is nowadays divided in 17 autonomous regions and 2 autonomous cities, of which only 4 regions (precisely the Basque Country, Galicia, Andalucia and Catalonia) enjoy the special condition of "Historic Nationality" recognized in the Spanish Constitution, together with the spacial "Autonomy Status", which gives them greater power, greater decision capacities and greater sovereignity when compared with all the other autonomous regions of Spain.
One important historic fact about the Basque Country is that the nationalist prides were exarcebated after the civil war - Basques were leaders, in certain regions, in the fight against the fascists, and although they took advantage of that to form their own Government with its own President and everything, they ended up executed by italian and spanish fascists, and not receiving much help from their fellow Republicans.
Of course, Franco's prohibition of any manifestation of the Basque culture or Basque nationalism was responsible for a recrudescence of those prides after Franco too.
Curiously, surveys show that a high majority of the Basque population wants all the parties to reach an agreement and a referendum to be done. The surveys also show that the Basques are very tired of ETA's violence.

"Basque and Catalan “nationalist parties” that had been created at the end of the 19th century continued their work underground. PNV (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) and Liga Regionalista de Catalunya"
Just the names (PNV and LRC) mean different things (something which can give us a clue), and I'll explain it better bellow.

AP2008-10-01 18:31:30
"special "Autonomy Status"", sorry. :P Not spacial, for God sake! That's Star Trek! :D

AP2008-10-01 19:03:56
So PNV means "Nationalist Basque Party", while LRC ("Catalonian Regionalist League") was not the local championship in which Barcelona played, but a democratic-catholic and conservative party (though not radical nationalistic) which founded the "Mancomunidad of Catalonia" in 1914, an administrative and legislative entity which gathered the 4 provinces of Catalonia for the first time, and was an important step forward. The Mancomunidad was dissolved in 1925 and the LRC does not exist anymore.
The PNV still exists. It gathered radicals and moderated people until a time came when the "racial pride" guys felt unhappy that the views of the party leaders were becoming "too moderate" and formed ETA(the stick)/Herri Batasuna(the snake). Short after, ETA became controlled by Marxists "fighting the capitalist Spain" (?! so they said...) and the PNV was faced with more inner dissidence and had to learn about democracy too, this time the dissidence was coming from the Basque Regionalists themselves, complaining about the centralization of the power by the Basque Government itself (ironic). Meanwhile, Catalonia, Galicia and even Andalucia tried to get back some dignity taken away by Franco, they tried to have autonomy, gain more rights, learn in their languages in the local high-schools and universities, have more power of decision on important local subjects, they tried to decentralize the political and administrative power, something which only improved the lives of the inhabitants of those regions, and much contributes to the Spanish democracy. In the Basque Country there are people trying to do the same thing, but there were always some distorted "intruders" worshipping the racial pride and the radical nationalism who didn't let the Basque people choose freely and always mined the dialogue.

AP2008-10-01 19:09:08
ps - oh, the muslims took long to get out because they also liked to do ski in Sierra Nevada.

AP2008-10-01 19:23:05
The prom soap opera continues, the cute guy Portugal said recently "Hey, you were not so very polite the other times and... besides, we didn't even like the glossy paper you chose for the invitations - do you want to invite us again?" (it's better to say it like that, not to mention that the guy recognized his own mistake and failure :P). That young girl Spain readily answered: "Sure, why not, we don't mind at all! Now the ball has a different name: it's called Europe. But you can always join at our place for a couple of drinks before going there"!

AP2008-10-01 21:54:29
Summing up:

I don't know, a young Catalonian or Galician nowadays considers him/herself to be a Galician or Catalonian but definitely a Spaniard (and it has always been more or less like that since the "lands of Hispany" exist, with their different kingdoms or different autonomous regions, it's more or less the same thing, it's just that you don't have a regional king but a regional government leader instead).

A common young Basque feels definitely Basque, but wants a democratic non-violent region, independent or not. He/she also wants the Basque people to choose and an agreement to be made, not bombs to be scattered.

AP2008-10-01 22:16:11
And a Portuguese feels "Iberian", because it makes him/her feel better :P Ahahah (Man, we were even dumber and more stubborn than the Basques!! Our regional king beated his mom up and sent her to jail just to have his own "private kingdom" founded, the spoiled child!! :P :P For God sake, it's already shocking to start a country like that!!).

AP2008-10-01 22:48:21
Now imagine the trauma in the History lessons: "Yes, our great heroic founder, Alphonse Henry, the conquerer, first conquered his mom's county to turn it into a kingdom (after she had just made peace with her Leon half-sister), by beating his widow mom up and sending her to jail, partly because a bishop wanted to keep being a bishop, partly because he just didn't have brains of his own!!". Who can cope with that??! It's like the British kids constantly calling "Henry the navigator" to Gama's statues - and they are right: they should have a statue of Henry somewhere!!

AP2008-10-01 22:57:49
It's not their fault that they taught them that Henry was the navigator (which he actually wasn't!!) instead of the "funny hat man".

AP2008-10-02 02:38:47
Now Asa, I'll test your abilities to detect funny hats one of these days too!! :)

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