Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Basque Country: 200 years of "Liberal" Spanish imposition

Today 200 years ago the Parliament ("Cortes") of Navarre was dissolved in the name of the new post-Napoleonic "Liberal" regime of Cádiz. 

You may not know it, but in all the Kingdom of Spain, it were the Basque provinces the only ones who remained indifferent towards Napoleonic occupation. There was no guerrilla (except for some late offshoots triggered by the abuses of occupation) and the French Army had absolutely no problem in holding in our little country. Why? Obviously there was no sympathy for Spain and their Nationalist ideas and soon also it became obvious that the new "Liberal" ideology sought to impose the notion of a single nation-state against the wish of our people and its long-held liberties. 

The liberties of Spain became the yoke of the Basque Nation. 

For centuries, the Basque provinces had retained their unique (and quite "Liberal") institutions in the context of the Feudal system that dominated the Kingdom of Castile (later Spain). Our provinces were ruled by elected bodies since at least 1200, date of the Castilian annexation of the Western Basque Country, rooted in the Navarrese Law, very distinct from the Latin one. 

Residual Navarre had however evolved its "Cortes" into an more feudal-like body, similar to other European Parliaments of the time, in which the different estates (castes) were represented in less-democratic form. It was still better than what Castile/Spain had: absolute monarchy, with its intrinsic tendency to corruption and decadence.

With the Spanish War of Independence against the illustrated Napoleonic protectorate, a new and short-lived Spanish Liberal Monarchy arose from the Cortes of Cádiz, under Machiavellian British support. This new state suppressed the Navarrese Cortes altogether exactly 200 years, and also forced the Western Provinces' Juntas (Parliaments) to swear the new constitution, which incidentally suppressed them altogether. 

Ironically the return to Absolutism restored the Basque liberties, what set the stage for a whole century of Taliban-like support by the Basque institutions and people of the most reactionary camp in Spanish politics. Two Carlist wars, almost only manned by Basques, were the product of that imposition. Eventually it became obvious that the Spanish reactionaries were not either our friends and that the Basque society was much more liberal than its forced affiliation may have suggested and a more modern Basque Nationalism emerged, first with the Navarrese Republican Party, then the Basque Nationalist Party and finally with Basque Nationalist Action and its more recent offshoots: ETA and the Basque National Liberation Movement, with its various tactical names.

Partial source: El Blog de Fernando Mikelarena[es].

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