To document the origins and the initial movements of the organization (including its institutionalization as the nearly only enduringexpression of Basque nationalism during the Franco regime, 1936-1975), collecting and analysing the different publications and interviewing its last remaining actors, must not be seen as a fact-finding mission for a remote problem. It has, in actual fact, an explicit political purpose in a time of peace. It documents the birth expansion and decline of an organization that was once known and celebrated beyond the Basque country as the expression of resistance against a fascist regime. It is vital that we attempt this work, especially since most of the first “etarras” (members of ETA) are either dead or too old. José María Garmendia died in 2007. José Mari Benito del Valle (aka “Zaballa”) died in 2011. José Luis Álvarez Enparantza (aka “Txillardegi”), one of the key founders of ETA and a major figure in the promotion and dissemination of Euskara (Basque language), died on the 14th of January 2012 at the age of 84. Julen Kerman Madariaga Agirre, co-creator of ETA and key member of Herri Batasuna is now 80 years old and Francisco Javier Iturrioz Herrero (aka “Patxi Iturrioz”), one of the first leaders of ETA, is 75. After nearly six decades of history, the actors and the traces of ETA’s inception are slowly but surely disappearing. No single actor can actually grasp its own past without misremembering, modifying and adorning its actions or motives. Searching for and collecting the documents published by ETA, and opposing them with the testimonies of the last survivors of the clandestine organization is not a quixotic approach to the study of violence, its actors and motives. It is rather an attempt to add a circumspect contribution to the understanding of the logics of violence. The general concern here is to document engagement in violence in the specific Basque context and therefore to be attentive to details that might otherwise escape the attention of researchers who focus too narrowly on actual events alone or exclusively on grand theory that is disconnected from the overall context.
During its six decades of existence, ETA and its different ramifications did not only publish statements (“Adierazpen“) to explain an attack, to condemn a particular situation or to justify further actions. As with any type of organization, whether official, recognized or not, ETA also produced a variety of practical documents such as internal rules and regulations, security manuals but also survey templates and internal feedback procedures. Briefing notes, reports from the Big Assembly, Acts of the Biltzar Ttipia (“the small Assembly” or Executive Committee), resolutions, memorandum prior to a meeting, confidential or open letters but also documents concerning the expulsion of a member, or other disciplinary matters. These first-hand documents are extremely interesting when it comes to understanding the institutionalization of ETA, its diverse attempts to standardize the management of its different components, clarify the decision process and, finally, transmit the outcomes of annual meetings and other important information to part, or all of the activists from the organization.
ETA’s publications: where to look for them? You can always start there…
Sancho el Sabio Foundation in Vitoria (Gasteiz)
Centre Documental de la Comunicacio (Centre for Communication Studies – CEDOC)
Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine (BDIC) at the University of Nanterre (France)
International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea in San Sebastián (Donostia)
Lazkaoko Beneditarren Fundazioa in Lazkao (Gipuzkoa)