Regarding Michael Washburn’s comments about Basque nationalism (Cultural Revolutions, November 1996), let me say that the “nationalism” espoused by the terrorist ETA organization (and its political counterpart, Herri Batsuna) has little to do with the traditional movement by the Basques (or, for that matter, by the Catalans, Calicians, or other Spanish “nationalities”) for autonomy and self-determination and much more to do with Marxist “liberation.”

I was resident in Pamplona during the years 1972-75 (at the Catholic University of Navarra), completing doctoral work on Spanish Carlism, in particular on “fueros” (what the late Frederick Wilhelmsen called the “Spanish equivalent to Southern states’ rights”—the regional rights, statutes, and privileges which set the Basque provinces off from the rest of Spain). Historically, the Basque provinces (Vizcaya, Guipuzcoa, and Alava) formed a part either of the Kingdom of Navarra or of Castille. They possessed their own set of “fueros,” which Spanish sovereigns (or their representatives) swore to respect. In the 19th century, the Carlist kings and succeeding legitimist claimants made a point of swearing to uphold customary Basque states’ rights, “las fueros,” and to reverse the centralizing tendencies spawned by the liberal state of Isabella II and Alfonso XII. In turn, the Basques enthusiastically fought at the side of the Carlists in three bloody civil wars.

By the 1930’s some Basque political leaders, influenced by liberal political theory, began to move away from historic regionalism toward a more militant “nationalism.” The PNV, the Basque Nationalist Party, after some painful hesitation, even supported the Spanish Republic during the “Cruzada” of 1936-39, despite the Republic’s open anticlericalism and their own avowed Catholic confessionalism. Even so, sentiment in the Basque provinces, from 1936-39, was split down the middle in what my traditionalist friends have called “the last Carlist War.” Support for a Carlist, regionalist solution continued to be strong in Basque areas.

The ETA organization uses terror, bombings, and assassinations to achieve ends which have little to do with the historic rights and traditions of the Basque people. ETA, like GRAPO and other violent groups, is the logical result of 19th century liberalism and its parent, the French Revolution. By deifying the powerful, centralized, nationalist state—freed from historic and traditional restraints, and above all, freed from God—liberal political theory made it possible for “minorities” to assert the same principles to argue for their “liberation.”

Latter-day Spanish traditionalist writers, in particular Francisco Elias de Tejada and Rafael Gambra Ciudad, have argued convincingly that economic decentralization and the rebirth of historic regionalism are the only means of sparing Spain (and Europe) from a deceptive statist nationalism. They have also highlighted the crucial role the Church must play.

I would hope to see more of this in the pages of Chronicles, rather than accounts of assassins.

        —Dr. Boyd D. Cathey
Wendell, NC