I thought it would be convenient to have this brief and concise essay on the Basque problem which was originally written by Menydh in the Irish Nationalism Forum posted here also.

The essay is very clear and thus useful for anyone who wishes to understand the Basque problem in context, especially for those who may not have too much knowledge on the history of Spain.

An Historical Introductuin to Spain and the Basque problem in Context:

I'm afraid that to understand the problem of Spain and the Basques in particular, and of Spain and the rest of the territories in general (this is not only a matter in the Basque Country, or Basque Provinces) it is necessary to start with a bare minimum of historical background. I'll start by following on a question posed about the so-called Basque flag.

The so-called Ikurriña (Basque flag), is actually the flag of the EAB/PNV (Basque Nationalist Party).

There has never been any political unity among the Basque Provinces, and each had its own flag and its own Fueros (Old Charters). In fact the differences among the provinces are substantial. But I'll leave for another discussion, if needed.

EAB/PNV is the majority party there and has been in control of the Basque government since the end of Franco's Regime. It is part of the European Popular Party, and it has placed itself in the area of influence of the Christian-Democrats.

The origins and the reality of the PNV, however, tell of a different story. The PNV was founded by Sabino Arana, the man who spawned the idea of Basque Nationalism, in the 19th century.

Sabino Arana belonged to a family supportive of the Carlist Traditionalist cause. This is a movement started to support the Pretender Don Carlos to the throne of Spain, when Fernando VII abolished the Pragmatic Sanction (which prevented women from accessing to the throne) in favour of his daughter, Isabel II. Isabel II was supported by the Liberales (notice that the historic Spanish liberales are not affiliated to Liberalism, as this is a later creation).

The clash of Carlist supporters and Liberales was the cause in Spain of three civil wars, known as Guerras Carlistas (Carlist Wars).

The Traditionalists were also fierce defenders of the Old Fueros. While the Liberales were in favour of the centralized regime model, which was strange to Spain.

La Guerra de Suceción
(The Spanish War of Succesion)

But to introduce how Spain was first degraded from her status of Nation to a jacobine State, allow me to go back in time, to la Guerra de Sucesión (The Spanish War of Sucession), 1701 - 1714:

This foreign (French) model of State was imposed by the first Borbon monarch, Philippe d'Anjou (Felipe V of Spain) with the Decretos de Nueva Planta ("New Plant Decrees") which abolished the Old Fueros in the Crown of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and The Balearic Islands). Philippe d'Anjou forced this model to these Spanish territories, under the excuse of the "right of conquest", because of their support to the forces of Archduke Carlos of Austria (a minor Habsburg) in the civil war known as the Sucession War, which was a major even in Europe as many interests were at stake, which included countries like England changing side during the conflict.

What must be absolutely highlighted here is that the Basque Provinces supported the cause of the centralist and jacobine Philippe d'Anjou, and were therefore part and cause that we had our Furs abolished (for those who don't know about me yet, I am a Valencian Spanish). They [the Basques] preserved their Fueros.

Even if it was the foreign Borbon dinasty that initiated this deconstruction of Spain (of The Spains), in all fairness it must be said that this process had already started by earlier events into this direction, during the reign of the Habsburg dinasty which, although it was in part Spanish, it drained The Spains in the pursuing of their dinastic interests in Central Europe. In all fairness we must say that there has not been a proper Spanish monarch since the late XVIth century. The lasts of the Hispanic Monarchs were King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile.

La Guerra de Las Comunidades (o Los Comuneros)
(The War of the Communities of Castile (or The Communeers))

Someone has commented on the Basque implication in the loss of the Fueros of Castile. A brief account follows.

At the death of King Ferran (or Fernando, Ferdinand) of Aragon, Regent of Castile, his grandson Carlos arrived in Spain from Ghant, to be crowned as King of Castile and of Aragon (actually, the titles are larger, but for the sake of brevity). Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros, the Regent of Castile, awaited him. The people and the Courts of Castile received him in coldness, as they saw in him a foreign-born king surrounded by foreign Flemish advisors. The situation came to worse when he tried to impose a Waloon as president of the Castilian Courts. The Courts resisted and forced Carlos I to respect the Fueros of Castile and to remove all foreigners from any administrative posts, after which the Courts resolved to give him a subsity of 600,000 ducats. Be noticed that in The Spains, kings had to swear the Fueros of the territories before being crowned.

But Carlos knew that in order to be elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire he had to have full control over the resources of Castile, which already included the incomes from the newly discovered Americas.

To this end, he breaks his promise and attempts to modify the government and requests further subsidies, to finance the support to his election in the German lands of Central Europe. The Courts resist but finally, in 1520 some were bribed and others were blocked to enter. The Castilian people were furious at the social injustices and taxations provoked, as well as for the violation of their Fueros. The representatives of the cities who betrayed the people and voted in favour, were killed.

The local nobility and representatives of the cities of Castile organize a rebelion, against the royal troops. A few days after Carlos was crowned Emperor of Germany, as Carlos V, his regent the Flemish Cardinal Adriaan van Utrecht declares the war against the Communities of Castile.

The territories of the Crown of Castile are in arms in the first revolution for the defense of their freedoms. Except for those who seek the royal favour, like the Basque Provinces, of which Iñigo de Velasco tells of their loyalty in a letter to the Emperor.

The imperial troops crushed the rebellion --and committed massacres like the 3,000 old men, women and children who were refuged in a church which they set on fire--, and a harsh represion followed suit.

Castile had her Fueros reduced to a joke, while the Basque Provinces gained a name that lasted them for a few centuries: The "Exempted" Provinces. Guess why?

It is only fair to assume that they probably expected to gain more privileges, when they took side for the centralist Phillip d'Anjou, against the Foralist-friendly supporters of Archduke Carlos.

Las Guerras Carlistas
(The Carlist Wars)

It is usually thought of these wars exclusively as a war in defense of the restoration of the Fueros. However this is not the reason that made the Basque Provinces and Navarre support the Carlist Cause, or La Santa Causa (the Holy Cause) as it is known by the Carlists. Both the Basque Provinces and Navarre had kept their Fueros, and the abolishion of the Fueros in the other territories of The Spains certainly had favoured the priviledges of the Exempted Provinces for long.

The First Carlist War took place between 1833 and 1840. It started in support of the Infante Don Carlos María Isidro de Borbón as pretender to the Crown of Spain. The wide support of the rural areas of the Basque Country to the Carlists came as a result of the influence of the local priests, who favoured a Traditionalist movement.

In Valencia and Catalonia, the wide support was due to it being an opportunity to regain the abolished Fueros.

With the agreement between Vergara and Maroto in 1939 to maintain the Basque Fueros, the Basques agreed to integrate their Carlist troops in the Realist army. Carlist General Cabrera (El Tigre del Maestrat) was left alone resisting in the mounts of El Maestrat (El Maestrazgo), a natural region of Northern Valencia and Southern Catalonia.

The Second Carlist War (1846 - 1849) came after the failure to marry Isabel II with the Carlist pretender, Don Carlos Luis de Borbón. It had most support in points of Catalonia, where some Carlist fighters had been resisting as Guerrilla and bandits since the end of the First Carlist War.

After the First Carlist War the Basque Fueros were lightly modified, but in the sense that they were made more fit to the times to allow economic progress.

It is the Third Carlist War (1872 -1876) that has a special significance for the Basque Country. After finished the war, the Spanish Courts abolished the Basque Fueros in July 21, 1876.

This was seen as a retaliation for their support to the Carlist Cause. And while there is some truth in it, the reality is that the Basque Fueros had been for almost 300 years an enormous injustice to the other territories that had had theirs abolished, especially Castile. Any industry, any business would settle in the Basque territories and not in an empoverished Castile, because of the huge difference in taxation. And it was the other territories that were supporting the financial burden of the State, while the Basques profited of their privileged position.

Much as I love the Hispanic identity of the Basque people, this must be said once and for all after so much lie and trickery:

While the Comuneros of Castile first, and the Maulets of Valencia and Catalonia later, fought for the spirit of Freedom and Justice that represented our Fueros, the Basques have only fought for the privileged position and the tax and business advantages that the Fueros gave them over the other Spanish territories, which they had helped to the abolishment of their Fueros.

The Construction of Basque Nationalism

After the abolishment of the Basque Fueros in 1876, a man saw how it went bankrupt a family business which had been thriving with the fiscal advantages that their privileged position gave them over other territories. This man was Sabino Arana (1865 - 1903), the ideologue of Basque "Nationalism"[*] and the founder of the Basque Nationalist Party.

* a brief break here, to say that in the early stages it was Biscaian "Nationalism", as Biscaians did not consider the Guipuscoans or the Alavans as their "equals". In the Spanish Armadas and Tercios, they had to be separated from each other, to avoid conflict.

As if what this man constructed can be called anything of an ideology.

All the resentment that had grown in him from seeing the failure of his family business, crystalized in hatred for Spain. And it is from this hatred that in the last decades of the 19th century Basque "Nationalism" was born. A hatred that took him to any extreme, like trying to send a telegram to congratulate US President Theodore Roosevelt for the Spanish-American War. For which he was charged with treason.

On a next chapter I will dissect this individual, one of the most interesting study cases for Psychiatry as it has had a terrible and long effect of blood and tears over a nation.

But for now I think that you have enough historical background to start making a judgement on the issue. I know that I have followed a chaotic timeline. Take your time and put the events in the correct chronological order in your minds. Or don't. It is good enough as it is for anyone to arrive to his own conclusion.

An Historical Introduction to Spain and the Basque Problem in Context - Irish Nationalism