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.
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: