Origins and Ideology of ETA

The Euskadi Ta Askatasuna origins trace to the Basque Nationalist Party. The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) is a political party started in 1894 out of Spanish control by stationing itself in Paris (1). In 1945 the PNV started a youth movement called the Euzko Gaztedi (EG) who were the Basque Youth. The group developed into a resistance movement and referred to themselves as the Euzko Gaztedi del Interior (EGI) (5). In 1952 a group of young men separated from the PNV and created “Ekin” which means “action” or “to do” in
Euskara , the Basque language. They would meet in Bilbao to study contemporary issues, which were the basis of teachings for an armed struggle. Jose Manuel Aguirre, Jose Maria Benito del Valle, Julen Madariaga, and Jose Alvarez Enpanaranza were influential members of the Ekin that would join with EGI to form the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna on two distinctive principles from the PNV in 1959 (5). Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) means “Basque Homeland and Liberty.” The ETA wanted Euskara to be the sole language for a new independent Basque republic. The PNV disagreed on both issues, believing that Basque was a dying language in provinces like Vizcaya, and that they had assurances from the Republic that once Franco was overthrown the Basque’s would receive autonomy (5). The Ekin did not believe this because Basque’s separatism from Spain was mainly influenced on the disparity of income taxes and aid distributed throughout the Basque communities (5). The Basque region was the most prosperous at the time, paying more in taxes than being returned to the region. The taxes were spent on Spanish government in the area and for Guardia Civil, instead of helping the oppressed Basques.

The primary goals for the ETA are to create an independent Basque Country that is ruled by the Basque people. They want the Basque country to include the four Basque Provinces from Spain; Alava, Viscaya, Guipuzcoa and Navarre. The Basque provinces from France they want to include are Labourd, Basse-Navarre, and Soule. They believed they could accomplish this through an armed struggle with Spain to use as leverage for independence. The main ideology that fueled armed struggle was the “third-worldists.” Their ideologies spurned from examples of revolutions won by the Vietnamese and Algerians against Cubans and the French (5).The revolutionary tactics adopted by the ETA have changed throughout the years because of influential contacts with countries going through their own revolutions. Their belief is of all out liberation against non-Basques and Basque bourgeoisie, whom were people who did not cooperate in the struggle (5). Spain was thought of as an evil to the Basque community at the time because of Dictator General
Francisco Franco . He had devastated the Basque people. He consented to Hitler the bombing of the town of Guernica, considered to be the capitol of the Basques at that time, killing over 1,000 civilians. Franco suppressed the Basque culture by outlawing publication of the Basque press and ordered random arrests, beatings and torture of Basque people. This was done in attempt to break Basque nationalist sentiment, but it united the Basque’s to recognize their ethnic heritage and brought about an understanding of what Franco was doing to them. (5). Many Basques followed along as they viewed the ETA as the only option for freedom instead of the PNV plan.



ETA is known as a terrorist group world wide because of their ruthless killings and disregard for life. They have killed many Spaniards, including Prime Minister Admiral Carrera Blanco as well as children of the Guardia Civil (8). Early attacks started in 1968 and were focused on representatives of the opposing political parties. They would attack law enforcement like the Guardia Civil, members of the government and military. Later attacks have shown reckless tactics and disregard for civilians. Explosives were used for major disturbances in key economic areas and assassinations of high public figures (5). Tourist attractions and markets are common places for bombings to occur, causing fear in everyday civilians’ lives. The violent campaign has led to over 820 deaths within the last 40 years (7).
The ETA primarily finances their activities through extortion. “The "revolutionary tax" on businesses in the Basque country and Navarra is ETA's main source of revenue, analysts said. The political wing Batasuna has been cut off from state subsidies since being outlawed in 2003 (2). The ETA usually sends a letter informing a businessman of money owed, citing a revolutionary tax. If not paid, they will send a follow up note or break material items. If demands are not met they kill you, regardless if you are a Spanish or Basque businessman in the area.


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ETA uses media outlets for announcements, which are done in secrecy. The ETA confirms attacks either by a phone call or sets up a private meeting with the media. Usually, two or three masked members will be present along with ETA’s flag, Ikurrina, which is the Basque flag, and the militaristic flag. The core values of the group are represented on ETA’s flag which hangs behind the members in videos. The axe stands for the armed struggle for independence and the snake stands for the fight in political movement. The words at the bottom “Bietan Jarrai” mean onward with both. The ETA has no religious ties affiliated with their political movement.
ETA has been in and out of at least three ceasefires with Spain (3). One of the more recent occurred after the Madrid airport was bombed in 2006, ending a permanent ceasefire. On 5 September 2010, it announced a decision not to carry out further attacks. In January 2011, it declared a permanent and "internationally verifiable" ceasefire (3). The ETA has not responded to demands for the group to disband; but, has admitted the time has come to build a democratic framework for the Basque country, respecting the wishes of the majority of the Basque people (4).

Work Cited

  1. "ETA". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 05 Dec. 2012< >.
  2. Abvien, Katell. ETA extortion hurts Basque economy . 20 September 2012. 2 December 2012 < >.
  3. Basque separatists Eta 'ready to disband' . 25 Novermber 2012. 1 December 2012 < >.
  4. Cala, Andres. How the militant ETA lost support among Basques . 21 October 2011. 2 December 2012 < >.
  5. Clark, Robert. The Basque Insurgents . Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.
  6. Ferguson, Jack. Basque Country: Armed struggle ends, political struggle begins . 3 October 2010. 1 December 2012 < >.
  7. What is Eta? 20 October 2011. 1 December 2012 < >.Yohan, Alexander, Michael Swetnam and Herbert Levine.
  8. ETA: Profile of a Terrorist Group . 2001. 1 December 2012 < >.