ETA

   ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna), whose name is Basque for "Euskadi and Freedom", was founded to resist the Franco regime's repression of Basque national consciousness. Yet the restoration of democracy, and the wide-ranging Basque autonomy that followed, did not signal an end to ETA's violent activities. Although the number of its victims declined from the peak of the early 1980s, the increasingly indiscriminate nature of ETA's violence—and the rise in intimidation and vandalism by its supporters—meant that it remained a major problem for the Basque country and for Spain as a whole.
   ETA was formed in 1959 by elements of the youth wing of the moderate PNV and a radical nationalist splinter group Ekin. As the latter's name —the Basque for "action" —suggested, ETA was a response to the passivity of mainstream nationalism at the time; its aim was an independent Basque state. From 1961 the group undertook armed actions against property. In 1968, after the shooting of one of its activists by a police patrol, it committed its first assassination-typically for this early period, of a member of the Francoist security apparatus. ETA became generally known in 1970, when sixteen activists were tried by a military tribunal in Burgos. Six were condemned to death, but their sentences were commuted after international protests. In 1973 ETA assassinated Franco's Prime Minister and likely successor, Admiral Carrero Blanco, by blowing up his car in Madrid. In 1965 the organization had officially adopted leftist ideas alongside its nationalist principles. During the following decade it suffered various rifts involving their proponents and activists for whom nationalist ideas remained paramount. Underlying these, however, was a further question: the relation between "military" —that is, armed-and political activity, the legalization of which brought differences to a head. In 1976, the then leadership decided to give political activity equal priority with the "armed struggle". This provoked the breakaway of a "military" wing, ETA-m. The "politico-military" faction, ETA-pm, after promoting the creation of Basque Left, renounced violence in 1982. Since then ETA-m, rejoined by those ETApm members who rejected this course, has been the only active part of the organization. During the primacy of more leftist-oriented groups, including ETA-pm, ETA's targets were extended to Basque businessmen allegedly exploit-ing the "Basque Working Class" which ETA claimed to represent. Kidnappings of such figures continued into the 1990s. By then the range of targets had widened to include politicians and civilian employees of the central and regional governments. Moreover, in addition to killing and maiming members of the public with letter and car bombs "intended" for others, ETA has planted devices in public places such as department stores. ETA's core of activists always depended on a wider network of sympathizers. Since 1975 it has used the freedoms afforded by democracy to develop this network, known collectively as the Basque National Liberation Movement (MLNV), the political wing of which is Herri Batasuna. The MLNV's leadership is the so-called Socialist Patriotic Co-ordinating Committee (KAS), consisting of representatives of various groups linked to ETA. The most prominent are the Gestoras Pro-Amnistía (support groups for ETA prisoners) and KAS" own youth wing, Jarrai, which has been increasingly active in the 1990s, harassing police officers, burning buses and organizing pro-ETA demonstrations. Under the dictatorship ETA enjoyed considerable prestige, not merely among nationalists but also among opponents of the regime throughout Spain. However, acceptance of the new constitutional order, and revulsion at the indiscriminate use of violence, increasingly restricted sympathy for ETA to its own diehard supporters. Yet these form a significant minority of Basque society, and the pressures they exert, especially in the more rural areas long meant that the majority's opposition to ETA was muted. That is one reason why the authorities have found it so hard to put an end to ETA. Another is the abortive use of counterterrorist groups, most notoriously the GAL, which provided ETA with a powerful propaganda weapon. Consequently the organization was repeatedly able to survive the arrest of activists and even its leaders. Attempts at clandestine negotiation, both by the Spanish government and by the leadership of the PNV, have always foundered on the intransigence of ETA's demands.
   ETA's persistence has been seen as reflecting the deep-rooted importance of ideas of martyrdom in Basque collective consciousness. It reflects also the contemporary fact that the Basque country-and especially its youth—suffers in aggravated form various ills common in declining industrial regions, most notably chronic unemployment. Moreover, for over twenty years it has been in social and political turmoil, with direct action a constant factor. Under these circumstances ETA's anti-state rhetoric provides a ready-made channel for frustrations possibly unrelated to nationalism, and constantly generates a climate propitious to its continuing violence.
   Recently, however, hopes of an end to violence have risen. A series of successful police operations, begun in 1996, were crucial in breaking the deadlock. In July 1997 ETA reacted by assassinating Miguel Angel Blanco, a councillor for the ruling People's Party (see also PP) in the town of Ermua. This action in turn triggered popular rejection of violence on a hitherto unknown scale, which further killings of PP representatives served only to heighten. The pressure on ETA increased with more arrests of key activists, and the closing by the courts in July 1998 of the newspaper Egin, long notorious as its mouthpiece. By then ETA had begun to seek a political escape route through contacts with the PNV On 16 September its leadership announced the first "indefinite" ceasefire in the organization's history. In November the Spanish government declared its willingness to negociate directly with ETA. See also: González Cataráin, María Dolores; regional nationalism; reinserción; revolutionary tax; terrorism
   Further reading
   - Clark, R. (1984) The Basque Insurgents: ETA 19521980, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin (insight into the social milieu from which activists emerged).
   —— (1990) Negotiating with ETA: Obstacles to Peace in the Basque Country, 1975-1988, Reno, NV: University of Nevada (covers in detail all the most important initiatives).
   - Llera, F. (1992) " ETA: ejército secreto y movimiento social", in Revista de Estudios Políticos 78 (statistical summary of violence and assessment of its social significance).
   - Sullivan, J. (1988) ETA and Basque Nationalism: the Fight for Euskadi, 1890-1986, London: Routledge (the definitive account of ETA's development to the mid-1980s).
   - Zulaika, J. (1989) Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament, Reno, NV: University of Nevada (discusses socio-anthropological roots of violence).
   CHRIS ROSS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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