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 OBroin 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.
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 OBroin.
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 OBroin wishes to illuminate
the positives of left nationalism, Eric Hobsbawms
alarm bell warning against the dangers of ethnic
particularisms is never far away.
unlike many who share his political stable, OBroin
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.
those unfamiliar with the Basque history a few days
set aside reading this book, coupled with Paddy
Woodworths 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. OBroin 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 OBroins
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.
the most irritable aspect of Matxinada is its authors
liberal usage of the securocrat label.
Its employment in an Irish context invariably means
someone else is to be blamed for ones own
shortcomings. Analytically dubious, it would be
sad if it were to blemish an otherwise fine work.