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SPAIN: The future? The Basque provinces



Writing from Vitoria, capital of the Basque province of Alava, Luis Sanzo sends these valuable comments:

"About the Basque Country you say:

  1. Were the Nationalists to win decisively, the push for independence might become irresistible, and other regions might follow.
  2. The big problem for independence is the large immigrant problem from other regions.
  3. To win their support, the nationalist candidate says all are welcome in his party; the issue is not where people came from, but where we are going. What creates a nation is a common goal. In sum, the presence of many immigrants is an irritant, as it is in Catalonia.

At this moment, neither nationalists nor non-nationalist parties will win decisively in the Basque Country. So, whatever happens, there will be some kind of agreement (not in the short term but surely in the mid-term). [On Sunday we shaññ fond out.RH] The real problem with independence has little relation with migrants. Some of them vote nationalist, in the same way that many Basque native people don t vote nationalist.[I was simply repeating what messages from Barcelona, not thee Basque provinces, said. RH] The real problems for extremist nationalists are:

  1. In the Basque Autonomous Community, Alava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, only 16% of the population would prefer a monolithic Basque nationalist government, not much more than the 12% who would prefer a non-nationalist monolithic government. Most of the people, 45%, would like a mixed nationalist and non nationalist government.See: http://www.elpais.es/articulo.html?d_date=20010507&xref=20010507elpepinac_14&type=Tes&anchor=elpepinac and http://www.elpais.es/elecciones/pvasco2001/graficos/grafico6.html
  2. Most people in the Basque Country feel not only Basque but also, in some way, Spanish (61%). See: http://www.elpais.es/articulo.html?d_date=20010507&xref=20010507elpepinac_16&type=Tes&anchor=elpepinac
  3. Nationalist parties are only a majority in two provinces: Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa. In Alava they are not.
  4. In Navarra and the French Basque Regions, most of the people vote for the non-nationalist parties (90% in France and 70-75% in Navarra).

Migrants are very integrated in the life of the Basque Country, much more than in Catalonia. [See my comment above. RH] For example, abstention in the elections in Catalonia was 40%, even at a moment when there was a possibility of change in the government. In the Basque Country it was of 30%, only 1,5% more than in the Spanish elections.

In fact, the Basque population, nationalist or not, is much more moderate and rational than their political leaders and we have in common a lot of cultural values. So, it is not really possible than the conflict will go on for much time if the voice of the people is heard. But, at the same time, it s true: if radical political directions can continue to push for conflict, this could really lead to a serious conflict. Yugoslavia is an example of a former stable and relatively prosperous country that has be leaded to disaster by incompetent politicians (Milosevic, Tudjman, etc) and the lack of vision (or excess of ambition) of politicians of other countries.

In Spain, we can see clearly the presence of radical nationalists in the two sides, with the same kind of vehement, irrational and violent language, leaded by the hate. We can also see the absence of a clear vision of the problem in other countries or in other parts of Spain. So, it could be some kind of problem in the future. But, again, the big obstacle to conflict will be the moderation of most of the Basque people.

About Zaragoza and violence: You ask: "Yesterday in Zaragoza, a boy was stabbed to death by another boy reportedly for having said "Viva España" or some such thing. What exactly happened?" As far as what I heard or saw in the media is correct, it was a problem of racism: a young gotano (gypsy) who was attacked by some young skinheads nazis. So, the reason of the attack of the Gitano was not "political" but "social", a violent reaction to racism. But, as nazis use normally the language of former franquists, it seems that they used the "Viva España" when attacking the gitano. This is a growing problem in Spain, with links to German nazis. I would not say that this murders are very common (this is an exaggeration), but these groups are very dangerous. Again the cult of violence, very similar in motivation and psychological components to the "Kale Borroka" in our Basque Country.

The nazis in Spain, as the Falange, have no real strength in Spain, but again, as in the Basque Country, radical leaders could find their way in the xenophobia of a lot of young people. This could be a danger, but again they will face the opposition of the majority of people, who are opposed to racism.Nevertheless, the incident you refer has no relation with the killing of Manuel Jiménez Abad in Zaragoza.

The action, also, has nothing at all to do with the area in the Sierra de Peña, which belongs to Navarre. It is just a question of the fascist strategy of ETA, directed to fuel a possible generalized conflict in the Basque Country. But it is important to say that 94% of the population in the Basque Community is opposed to violence See: http://www.elpais.es/elecciones/pvasco2001/graficos/grafico6.html

You say: This reminds me of the Second Republic. I saw the fall of the monarchy in 1931 and was evacuated during the Civil War, which was preceded by a series of political murders in a crescendo of violence and tension.

From what I have learned from my parents and from what I have read about Civil War, this could always be possible, even in a normal country, if people begin to listen to irrational politicians whose basic argument is hate. In Spain, even in the Basque country, these people are very few, but they have access to power in some important parties. What we have to do is to fight against those kind of people and accept the point of view of other people, for example in the question of the promotion of Catalan and Basque Language. I was born in Madrid. I speak Spanish, French, English and some German. I can read Catalan. I can also speak and read some Basque (with difficulty it is true, but I try). The access to big and minority languages is never a problem, it is just an opportunity. This is the reason why we always have defended bilinguism in the Basque Country and sent our daughter to an Ikastola. Now she can speak and read very well Basque, Spanish and English. Why not? [This whole problem has been extensively studied here, and evidence shows that children educated in two languages end up knowing neither well. Moreover, the time this takes reduces time for training in other subjects which are essential in the modern age RH].

Ronald Hilton - 5/10/01


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