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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Left Nationalism In Euskal Herria

Book Review

Matxinada. By Eoin O’Broin.
Publisher – Left Republican Books.
Price £10.

Anthony McIntyre Fourthwrite, Autumn 2004

Perhaps I should have asked the author of Matxinada - a loose meaning of which in Basque is ‘revolution’ or ‘revolt’ - how to pronounce it. But Eoin O’Broin is less likely to be preoccupied with grammatical pronunciation than he is with its political equivalent. In his book on the formative influences and maturation of Basque politics, he aims to correctly pronounce the essence of Basque resistance to Spanish rule.

The North Belfast Sinn Fein councillor is regarded by many, opponents and supporters alike, as a highly competent and diligent local politician. His demanding schedule would not have made a book of this quality something that could be easily churned out between meetings, solidarity activity or bouts of constituency work. It took time, energy and commitment. The research is extensive - it puzzles why the author did not compose a doctoral thesis on the topic. He persuasively flags up the gaps in the existing literature. Whatever intellectual requirements exist for a doctoral foray, they are not beyond O’Broin.

A dearth of empathy has characterised my view on ETA since, with fascistic fervour, it murdered one of its former leading members, Yoyez, as she crossed a square hand in hand with her young child eighteen years ago. Her crime – dissenting from the armed struggle. These days my sympathies lie more with those who protest against ‘obligatory nationalism’ than the inflictors of it. Self-ordained high priests of intellectual nihilism who offer freedom subject to one important proviso – it does not mean the right to be free from them. While appreciating that O’Broin wishes to illuminate the positives of left nationalism, Eric Hobsbawm’s alarm bell warning against the dangers of ethnic particularisms is never far away.

Nevertheless, unlike many who share his political stable, O’Broin is so at ease with ideas wholly at odds with his own perspective, that he is always worth listening to or reading. Throughout the book we find fidelity to dissent; it protests against strategies of instilling fear into young people, of forcing them into silence and compliance; it praises those who dare to ‘think and act differently’; Mikel Garainondo is approvingly quoted when he criticises ‘mental policing, which teaches us to be afraid of the consequence of dissenting, of disagreeing, of being different.’

For those unfamiliar with the Basque history a few days set aside reading this book, coupled with Paddy Woodworth’s fine work on GAL, will reward the mind with a tapestry that is anything but bland. One purpose of the book is to identify the resurgent youth politics in Euskal Herria. O’Broin contrasts this with its virtual absence in Ireland, ‘where there are in fact no youth movements to speak of at all.’ Matxinada draws particular attention to Kale Borroka, which it depicts as a spontaneous response to Spanish state repression. Others, such as Woodworth, feel it is much more organised and controlled than is admitted in O’Broin’s work. Elsewhere, commentators have drawn attention to the totalitarian urges that manifest themselves through Kale Borroka. For a left nationalist movement, much of the energy of Kale Borroka seems directed at suppressing the Left.

Perhaps the most irritable aspect of Matxinada is its author’s liberal usage of the ‘securocrat’ label. Its employment in an Irish context invariably means someone else is to be blamed for one’s own shortcomings. Analytically dubious, it would be sad if it were to blemish an otherwise fine work.









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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

12 October 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

George Harrison: An Appreciation
Sandy Boyer

Derrida, doctrinaires, debate
Seaghán Ó Murchú

That Hammering Sound
Michael Youlton

Truth Hurts
Mick Hall

Left Nationalism In Euskal Herria
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters page has been updated.

9 October 2004

Death of George Harrison
Ruairi O Bradaigh, National Irish Freedom Committee and Brian Mór

Can't Deal, Won't Deal
Anthony McIntyre

Update - Youth Suicide Prevention Project
J. Terry Ryan

Father Mc Manus on Ron Lauder, David Trimble, the Orange Order, and Catholic anti-Semitism
Father Sean Mc Manus

Say it in Breac'n English (Part Four)
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Some Inconvenient Facts
Patrick Hurley

Marx, Engels and Lenin on the Irish Question
Liam O Ruairc

The Gates of Hell
Elana Golden

After the Venezuela Referendum
Toni Solo

One for the Road
Brian Mór



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