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At Fifty, Everyone Has the Face He Deserves

When it comes to ETA, the notorious Basque nationalist and separatist organization, which violently “celebrated” its 50th anniversary some days ago, George Orwell’s words are compelling. Indeed, at fifty, ETA has the face it deserves, a despicable and malicious face. If mind is over matter, then I wonder what rotten mind lies behind the scars of matter. But let’s not get lost in physiognomy here, and let us rather recall ETA’s inglorious history with a death toll of some 800 victims and not one single political goal (if you can reasonably call Marxism-Leninism politics at all) achieved.

The Guardian‘s timeline gives us a concise graphic overview.

Screenshot of The Guardian's timeline of ETA's history

Screenshot of The Guardian's timeline of ETA's history

Not only has ETA achieved nothing. ETA has also learned nothing. Since you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, after half a century the dog still behaves like a vampire, sucking the blood of his people and being afraid of sunlight. Or “sharp like an axe and quiet like a snake” in ETA’s own pathetic words. Amazingly, even though snakes don’t die of their own venom, they still don’t have a high life expectancy, so ETA’s choice of a mascot is both suboptimal and telling. Not to talk about the usefulness of a blunt axe.

Franco is long dead, the proud Basques are sick and tired of ETA more than they are sick and tired of Spain. So has Spain once and for all won the struggle? Certainly not. But in war, no side ever wins because the very mode of conflict becomes the adversary itself, notwithstanding the underlying objectives on either side.

Take the IRA as an example, one of ETA’s self-chosen antetypes, an organization much more capable of development. I’m not putting lipstick on the pig, but I am advocating that if you choose a template, make sure you do not only copy sinisterness, but think about electoral and popular support. And if you agree on a permanent ceasefire, better don’t shoot. The bullet might come back.

More on ETA from the ISN:

2 Responses to “At Fifty, Everyone Has the Face He Deserves”

  1. Outstanding piece.

    How people find themselves a member of such an organization and still are able to believe that they’re pursuing political and social interests rather than just mayhem for mayhem’s sake is beyond me.

    Thank you for this post!

  2. Maybe they are too busy to actually think about why they do what they do. They leave that up to the boss.

    Here’s an abstract from the summary of Loretta Napoleoni’s speech at TED a few weeks ago:

    She also discovered that the life of a terrorist was not ruled by politics or ideology, but by economics. They were constantly searching for cash. Terrorism, she explains, is actually a very expensive business — arms, vehicles, explosives. If you live underground, it’s very hard to produce this amount of money. Most people were extremely reluctant to talk about politics, because they had no ideas. The ideology is decided by leadership of a terrorist organization, all the others do is search for money.