ⓘ Basque Nationalist Party


ⓘ Basque Nationalist Party

The Basque Nationalist Party, officially Basque National Party in English, is a Basque nationalist, Christian-democratic and social-democratic regional political party. It operates in all the territories comprising the Basque Country: the Basque Autonomous Community and Navarre in Spain, and in the French Basque Country. It also has delegations in dozens of foreign nations, specifically those with a major presence of Basque immigrants.

EAJ-PNV was founded by Sabino Arana in 1895, which makes it the second oldest party in Spain that remains active, after the Spanish Socialist Workers Party. It is the largest Basque nationalist party, having led the Basque Government uninterruptedly since 1979, except for a brief period between 2009 and 2012. In Navarre, it is part of the coalition Geroa Bai, which is currently the party in the Navarrese regional government. Currently a member of the European Democratic Party, EAJ-PNV was previously a member of the European Free Alliance from 1999 to 2004. Earlier it had been affiliated with the European Peoples Party and the Christian Democrat International from which it was ejected in 2000.

The current chairman of EAJ-PNV is Andoni Ortuzar. The partys youth wing is Euzko Gaztedi. EAJ-PNVs social offices are called batzokis, of which there are over 200 throughout the world. Since 1932, the party celebrates Aberri Eguna Homeland Day on Easter. Also, since 1977, it celebrates Alderdi Eguna Party Day.


1.1. History Origins and early history

The Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea-Partido Nacionalista Vasco EAJ-PNV "Basque Nationalist Party" was founded in 1895 by Sabino de Arana Goiri as a Catholic conservative party agitating for political independence for the province of Biscay and the defense of Basque traditional values, language, and racial purity. In fact, in its early years, party membership was restricted to those who could prove pure Basque ancestry by having eight Basque surnames.

By 1897, the party sought independence not only for Biscay but for all seven provinces comprising the Basque Country in both Spain and France.

In 1916, the Basque Nationalist Party renamed itself Comunion Nacionalista Vasca Basque Nationalist Communion. This name change marked a departure, in many aspects, from the original doctrine of the late Sabino Arana and casting itself as a broader social movement rather than simply a political party. The Basque Nationalist Communion at this point advocated for Basque autonomy within Spain, rather than outright independence. However, a small faction known as the "Aberrianos" "Fatherlanders" within the party remained committed to the cause of independence. In 1921, the leading members of the Aberrianos were kicked from the moderate Basque Nationalist Communion. Later that year, the Aberrianos officially formed their own political party, reclaiming the name "Basque Nationalist Party".

During the single party dictatorship of Captain General Miguel Primo de Rivera 1923-1930, the Basque Nationalist Party was outlawed, and its members went underground. Many of its activities continued through mountaineering "mendigoxale" and folklore associations. However, the Basque Nationalist Communion was tolerated by the Spanish dictatorship as it was considered a moderate regionalist party.

At the end of 1930, the two nationalist organizations united under the original name Basque Nationalist Party. However, a small faction split from the Basque Nationalist Communion shortly before the reunification, calling itself Eusko Abertzale Ekintza-Accion Nacionalista Vasca "Basque Nationalist Action". It was on the moderate nationalist left, non-confessional and open to alliances with Spanish republican and socialist parties.


1.2. History 1934–1935

The division between autonomism and independentism appeared again during the Second Spanish Republic. Headed by Aberriano veteran Eli Gallastegi, a small group of independentists coalesced around the Mountaineering Federation of Biscay and its affiliated weekly publication Jagi-Jagi "Arise Arise", and abandoned the now-moderate and autonomist Basque Nationalist Party.


1.3. History Civil War

After the coup detat of 18 July 1936, the party felt torn. Certain branches of the party supported the rebellion against the Republic, feeling sympathy for its Catholic and anti-Communist agenda. However, the right-wing rebels insisted on a unified Spain, making them hostile to nationalist movements in regions such as the Basque Country. Furthermore, the Basque Nationalist Party was also anti-Fascist, while Fascists constituted a large part of the rebellion. Ultimately, the republican government was able to secure the allegiance of the Basque Nationalist Party with the promise to pass a Basque Autonomy Statute.

The Biscayan and Gipuzkoan branches declared support for the Republic, democracy, and anti-Fascism in the ensuing Spanish Civil War and were key in balancing those provinces to the Republican side. In the territory seized by the rebels, PNV members faced tough times. During the military uprising in Navarre, the Basque nationalist mayor of Estella-Lizarra, Fortunato Aguirre, was arrested by the Spanish nationalist rebels 18 July 1936, and killed in September. Some Basque nationalists could flee north to Basque areas loyal to the Republic, or France. However, some members of the Alavese and Navarrese committees, ahead of an official decision, published notes refusing support to the Republic. Notwithstanding their initial ambiguous position in certain areas, the party premises and press in Alava and Navarre were closed in that month of July.

Some PNV sympathizers and members joined the Carlist battalions, either out of conviction or to avoid persecution. By October 1936, a war front had been established at the northern tip of Alava and to the west of Donostia-San Sebastian. Initially, the Defence Committees in Biscay and Gipuzkoa were dominated by the Popular Front. After hard negotiations, eventually Basque autonomy was granted within the Second Spanish Republic in late 1936, and the new autonomous government immediately organized the Basque Army, consisting of militias recruited separately by the various political organizations, including the EAJ-PNV, EAE-ANV, and Jagi-Jagi.

The autonomous government maintained remarkable order behind the lines in Biscay and western Gipuzkoa, and managed the coordination and provision of military resistance. Upon occupation of territories loyal to the Republic, the rebel forces focused repression on leftists, but Basque nationalists were also targeted, facing prison, humiliation, and death in some cases. As the rebel troops approached Biscay, the Carlist press in Pamplona even called for the extermination of Basque nationalists.

Jose Antonio Aguirre, the party leader, became in October 1936 the first lendakari Basque president of the wartime multipartite Basque Government, ruling the unconquered parts of Biscay and Gipuzkoa. In April 1937, the city of Gernika was bombed by German airplanes covertly aiding the rebel forces. Jose Antonio Aguirre stated that "the German planes bombed us with a brutality that had never been seen before for two and a half hours." Pablo Picasso made a painting in remembrance of the massacre named after the city that year.

When Bilbao, the most populated city in the Basque Country, was taken by Francos troops, the Basque nationalists decided to not destroy or sabotage the powerful manufacturing industry of Bilbao, thinking that they had the responsibility to secure the prosperity of their people in the future. This decision allowed the occupying rebel forces to use the industrial power of Bilbao in their war effort against the rest of Republic-aligned Spain.

In July 1937, having lost all Basque territory, the Basque Army retreated toward Santander. With no territory or help from the Republic, the Basque Army surrendered to the Italian Corpo Truppe Volontari through the so-called Santoña Agreement. Prison sentences and executions followed, as the rebel government of Francisco Franco ruled that separate terms of surrender could not be made between the Basques and Italians. The Basque government then moved to Barcelona until the fall of Catalonia, and then out of Spain into exile in France. Lendakari Aguirre was exiled in Belgium when Hitlers forces invaded it, thus beginning his long clandestine journey to reach the United States. With a false identity, he boldly travelled to Berlin itself, and then on to Sweden with the help of a Panamian ambassador. He fled Europe for Latin America, where in Uruguay he re-assumed his real identity and was given a visa to the United States. He travelled to New York, where he was taken under the protection of American Basques as a professor at Columbia University.


1.4. History Exile during the post-war

The president of the Basque Government in exile was always a PNV member and even the sole Spanish representative in the United Nations was the Basque appointee Jesus de Galindez until his murder in an obscure episode regarding his PhD Thesis about Dominican Republics dictator Trujillo. He also decided to put the large Basque exiles network at the service of the Allied side and collaborated with the US Secretary of State and the CIA during the Cold War to fight Communism in Spanish America.

When the United States decided to back Franco in 1952 Aguirre went to France anew where the Basque Government in exile was established. Also, he learned there that the pro-Nazi French government of Vichy confiscated the Basque Governments building and that the anti-Nazi De Gaulle maintained it as a Spanish Governments possession, given that the Basque Government has never had any international consideration other than representatives of a region in Spain at most. The building today is the Instituto Cervantes premises where French people can learn any of the Spanish languages, including Basque.


1.5. History Generational conflict and new alliances

In 1959 ETA was created by young undergraduates from the area of Bilbao organization EKIN lured by Basque nationalist ideology, but increasingly disgruntled at the ineffective political action of the PNV, largely daunted by after-war repression and scattered in exile. In addition, the new generation resented an attempt of PNV to pull the strings of their movement and PNVs youth wing Euzko Gaztedi EGI, with whom they had merged in the mid-50s, as well as showing a more modern stance, stressing for one the language as the centre of Basqueness, instead of race.

In the 1950s and 60s the party looked for alliances abroad, expecting at first that the defeat of the Axis in World War II would encourage USAs support for an eventual overthrow of Francos hold on power, which didnt happen. In addition, it was a founder party of the Christian Democrat International, but now the party is an active member of the European Democratic Party, with the French Union pour la Democratie Française, etc.

In the late 60s and early 70s, contacts started with other Spanish parties to assert PNVs position in a new post-Francoist order. At the same time, the Basque Nationalist Party confirmed its stance against ETA in a period when its violent actions saw a surge and its influence in society was very apparent, especially in street protests. Juan de Ajuriaguerra paved the way for PNVs comeback to Basque politics from exile, and started to negotiate their participation in the new status-quo, with special attention to a new Statute.


1.6. History A Basque Statute

PNVs good results in 1977 and 1978 confirmed PNVs central position in Basque politics. While PNV advocated for abstention in the referendum on the Spanish Constitution for its lack of Basque input, the party supported the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country, approved in December 1978, and paved the way to its success in the first elections held in the Basque Autonomous Community, once Navarre was left out.

In the transition years after Francos death in 1975, Xabier Arzallus came to prominence, who masterminded the so-called "Spirit of Arriaga" to accommodate the party to the new Spanish democracy. Despite some internal tensions, the former priest and Jesuit came up reinforced and was chosen undisputed party leader. PNV found in Biscay its main and strongest support base, while in Navarre PNV was next to non-existent.

Carlos Garaikoetxea spearheaded the new autonomous government after being elected with 38.8% of the votes and during this first term the Basque Nationalist Party held office without outside support. During this period, PNVs challenges were closely associated to its position in the Basque Government: defense of the Statute, devolution of powers from Madrid, discrediting of political violence, restructuring of manufacturing industry steeped in crisis.

As of 1985 tensions inside the party spurred the formation of a splinter group with a stronghold in Gipuzkoa, which in turn led to a new party in 1987, when dissenters from the PNV formed Eusko Alkartasuna "Basque Solidarity". Carlos Garaikoetxea was then elected as the first president of the rival party. The split from the PNV was mainly based on:

  • A personality clash between the lehendakari Garaikoetxea, who went to form Eusko Alkartasuna EA, and the PNV leader Xabier Arzalluz.
  • Strong provinces PNV.
  • The configuration of the Basque Country
  • A strong Basque government and weak provinces EA.

Afterwards, some ideological differences also came out. EA adopted a social-democratic ideology, while the PNV remained more attached to its Christian-democratic ideas. The split was particularly bitter given that it was headed by the lehendakari premier himself. Many PNV political bars batzoki, "meeting place" became alkartetxe "meeting house".

Since 1991, as time has eased the bitter split helped by the fact that both Arzalluz and Garaikoetxea have gone into political retirement, both parties agreed to form an electoral coalition in a number of local elections as a means to maximize the nationalist votes, which eventually led to reunite both candidatures in a joint list again for the regional governments of Navarra and the Basque Autonomous Community in 1998. Thus, EA has participated in several PNV-led Basque governments, including the 2006 government of President Juan Jose Ibarretxe Markuartu. Still, EA decided to run by itself in the municipal elections held in May 2007.

Former president Juan Jose Ibarretxe spearheaded a call for the reform of the Statute of Autonomy that governs the Basque Country Autonomous Community, through a proposal widely known as the Ibarretxe Plan, passed by the Basque Parliament but not even accepted for discussion by the Spanish Cortes Generales.

In 2009 PNV was expelled from office by an alliance of the Spanish Socialists Basque branch, the PSE, and the Spanish conservatives PP, taking advantage of a distorted parliament representation issued from the outlawing of leftist Basque nationalists. Until that moment, the PNV dominated every administration of the Basque government. In Navarre, EA and PNV formed the coalition Nafarroa Bai - Yes to Navarre - along with Aralar and Batzarre, but a split within the coalition led to its revamp as Geroa Bai. In terms of ideology, by November 2016 the Basque Nationalist Party shifted its rhetoric to make the autonomous community of Euskadi the subject of the Basque nation.


1.7. History Position in recent referendums

PNV called for:

  • Yes to the European Constitution proposal in the referendum held in Spain on 21 February 2005; and supported the Lisbon Treaty in the Spanish Cortes Generales.
  • Abstention in the Referendum for Spanish Constitution in 1978.
  • Gave freedom to vote yes or no to permanence of Spain in the NATO in 1986. The Yes won the vote in Spain, but the No was the first choice among the electors of the Basque Country.

1.8. History Presidents of the party since 1895

Note: The National Council of the Basque Nationalist Party Euzkadi-Buru-Batzar was created in 1911. Therefore, Sabino Arana and Angel Zabala were only presidents of the Regional Council of Biscay Bizkai-Buru-Batzar

  • 1922–1930 Luis de Arana y Goiri Aberri
  • 1916–1920 Ramon Bikuña
  • 1895–1903 Sabino de Arana y Goiri
  • 1930 Ceferino de Jemein Aberri
  • 1906–1908 Deputation formed by Santiago Alda, Alipio Larrauri, Antonio Arroyo, Vicente Larrinaga and Eduardo Arriaga.
  • 1903–1906 Angel Zabala Ozamiz
  • 1920–1930 Ignacio Rotaeche Comunion Nacionalista Vasca
  • 1911?–1916 Luis de Arana y Goiri
  • 1934–1935 Isaac Lopez Mendizabal
  • 1933–1934 Jesus Doxandabaratz
  • 1986–2004 Xabier Arzalluz
  • 1984–1985 Roman Sudupe
  • 2008–2013 Iñigo Urkullu
  • 2004–2008 Josu Jon Imaz
  • 1935–1951 Doroteo Ciaurriz
  • 2013–present Andoni Ortuzar
  • 1932–1933 Luis de Arana y Goiri
  • 1957–1962 Jose Aguerre
  • 1975–1977 Ignacio Unceta
  • 1931–1932 Ramon Bikuña
  • 1980–1984 Xabier Arzalluz
  • 1977–1980 Carlos Garaikoetxea
  • 1951–1953 Juan Ajuriaguerra
  • 1985–1986 Jesus Insausti


2. Jeltzaletasuna

JeL is the motto of the party.

The "old laws" referred to are the fueros, the traditional laws of the Basque provinces, observed by the kings of Castile, and later Spain, until the Carlist Wars. The motto of Basque Carlists was Dios, rey, patria y fueros. Basque nationalism evolved out of Carlism, eventually supplanting it in much of the Basque Country.

Jeltzale in the partys Basque-language name Eusko Alderdi Jeltzalea is a word comprising two parts: JeL the acronym for "God and the Old Laws" and -tzale literally meaning "fond of". Thus jeltzalea could be rendered in English as "one who is fond of God and the Old Laws JeL", or translated simply as "nationalist".


3. Alderdi Eguna

Alderdi Eguna "Party Day" is the national holiday of the Basque Nationalist Party which is annually celebrated on the last Sunday of September, the Sunday closest to the feast day of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Euskal Herria and of the Basque Nationalist Party.

The central act of this celebration is a political meeting of leading nationalists, but the celebration begins in the morning with a traditional festival in which the different municipal organizations from the party set up stands to sell drinks and their more typical products, all brightened up by traditional music. Dances and traditional sports are also enjoyed. The celebration takes place in an open air arena currently in Foronda, Alava, and lasts until nightfall.


4. Bibliography

  • Hepburn, Eve 2013, New Challenges for Stateless Nationalist and Regionalist Parties, Routledge, 186, ISBN 978-1-317-96596-1
  • Stefuriuc, Irina 2013, Government Formation in Multi-Level Settings: Party Strategy and Institutional Constraints, Palgrave Macmillan, 200, ISBN 978-1-137-30074-4
  • Cabestan, Jean-Pierre; Pavkovic, Aleksandar 2013, Secessionism and Separatism in Europe and Asia: To Have a State of Ones Own, Routledge, 246, ISBN 978-0-415-66774-6
  • Verney, Susannah 2013, Euroscepticism in Southern Europe: A Diachronic Perspective, Routledge, 224, ISBN 978-1-317-99611-8
  • Gibbons, John 1999, Spanish Politics Today, Manchester University Press, 174, ISBN 978-0-7190-4946-0
  • Lopez Basaguren, Alberto; Escajedo San Epifanio, Leire 2013, The Ways of Federalism in Western Countries and the Horizons of Territorial Autonomy in Spain: Volume 2, Springer Science & Business Media, 924, ISBN 978-3-642-27717-7
  • Chislett, William 2013, Spain: What Everyone Needs to KnowRG, What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, 256, ISBN 978-0-19-993645-8
  • Anttiroiko, Ari-Veikko; Malkia, Matti 2007, Encyclopedia of Digital Government, Idea Group Inc IGI, 1916, ISBN 978-1-59140-790-4