Sunday, October 30, 2011

Echoes from the Class War (Oct 30)

I believe that this week again the brave 'Occupy Wall Street' movement gets 'first page'. There are other very important news zones like the non-existent Basque peace process, the chronically dramatic Japanese nuclear crisis, the incipient civil war in Syria, the persistence of the civic uprising in Yemen (more than six months already), the rather disappointing Tunisian elections, etc.

Spotlight: Occupy movement

But the civic stand in the USA (and some other places in Oceania and Europe) obviously gets some primacy, if nothing else because it is a clear symptom of deep discontent in the Western Empire, affected by structural disorder in all aspects beginning with the economy and ending with politics.

As I mentioned on Thursday, violent repression by Oakland police left a demonstrator seriously injured (he seems to be improving but was in coma for some time) and sparked greater anger across the country. It was not the only city where police repression was outstanding against the Occupy movement. As far as I have gathered (non-exhaustive list) it also happened at:

Chicago: dozens arrested (video)

More on the Oakland police aggression by George Washington (self-defined conservative but critical): did the policeman shot him on purpose? (sure, we know he did, otherwise he'd have missed as the guy was standing just in front of the police line... but anyhow), aerial footage of the police shooting, photos, videos and links (some photos recycled here).

Rubber-coated bullets do this and worse

Protests not particularly repressed:

NYC: rally against police brutality (video, notice that this was before this weeks ultra-violent showdown); demo against Morgan Chase bank (video).

Other Occupy protests across the World:

Australia is one of the places where this movement has caught, it seems, suffering some serious repression as well:

Some parts of Europe are being more influenced by what happens in the USA than the movements in southern Europe and have only recently began setting up protest camps:

Occupy Germany has its epicenter in Berlin, where the lawn of the Bundestag itself was occupied, also Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich, Dusseldorf... (video)

The movement has also arrived to Japan, where there have been some demos reported: Ginza (video). 

Also in Canada: Toronto (video), 


In other news:


Basque Country

Erandioko gaztetxea
Social center (gaztetxea) occupied in Erandio[eu], evicted illegally and occupied again[es].

High success (70%) in education strike in Navarre. Thousands demonstrate in Pamplona against education cuts. Police charged against high school students ··> Gara[es], Ateak Ireki[es].

In the Western Basque Country also the largest unions call for changes in policies and cries against education cuts ··> Branka[eu].

Spanish Nationalist Mayor of Pamplona, Yolanda Barcina suffers triple cream pie attack at High Speed Train conference in Toulouse ··> SA[es], Mugitu AHT gelditzeko[es] (worth watching the video). Two arrested later.

Pamplona Mayor Barcina gets not one but three popular prizes!

Josu Esparza hides out as French courts push ahead his extradition to Spain for ideological and speech 'crimes'··> Ateak Ireki[eu] (incl. video interview).

Euskal Memoria (Basque Memory) reminds that some 475 Basques were killed by Spanish police forces or paramilitary groups in the last decades, 236 of which were civilians, not member of any armed organization. While Spain claims some 825 killed by ETA, this figure actually includes victims of Spanish nationalist and other paramilitary forces. Euskal Memoria however counts more than 1300 mortal victims of the conflict (··> SA[es]).

Sweden: fire at nuclear plant! ··> EneNews.


Anarchists expropriated supermarket's food in Patras and distributed it among the people as form of direct action in the class struggle ··> Contra Info.

Communication from Revolutionary Struggle claiming authorship of bombing of the stock exchange in 2009 ··> Act for freedom now (full text in English).

Thessaloniki: free volunteer-manned health care center to open in few days to put up for state abandonment of social services (they accept volunteers and donations) ··> Contra Info.

Military parade blocked in Thessaloniki by protesters (go Thessaloniki, go!) (video).

Italy: thousands demonstrated in Rome against cuts (video).

Scotland:  homophobic murder in Glasgow ··> BBC, The Periscope Post.

Switzerland: Anarchists finish their Anti-Capitalist campaign with a demo ··> Contra Info.

Spain: National University of Education at Distance punishes pregnant worker for critical report on Telefónica company ··> Diagonal[es].

West Asia

Armenia: government claims that Metsamor nuclear power plant (considered one of the riskiest on Earth) is designed to withstand much larger earthquakes than recent one ··> Ex-SKF.


Clashes in Gaza Strip after Israel attacks Rafah, mischievously breaking an Egypt-brokered truce ··> Al Jazeera.

Civic protests against Apartheid during olive harvest (from Ilan Against the Wall):
  • Beit Umar: Apartheid Army attacks nonviolent protests against the wall
  • Bil'in: Israelis and Internationals (including some Basques) joined the Palestinian protests against Zionist land grab and the apartheid wall. Some ancient oaks were burned by the Apartheid Army. The Zionist soldiers picked Ashraf Abu Rahme (just because of being Arab) and arrested him, shooting him in the foot. ··> video.
  • Jalud: Settler terror party attacked Palestinian and Israeli supporters while these were harvesting the olives ··> video.
  • Jayus: Apartheid Army attacked Palestinians and internationalists attempting to harvest olives.
  • Ma'sara: local festival attacked by Apartheid Army. 
  • Qaddoum: 80 people demonstrated against Apartheid.
  • Sheik Jarrah: residents evicted from their homes continue protests all Fridays and ask for anyone willing to join them.
See also: Uruknet.

Syria: conflict tends to civil war as defectors confront the army ··> Al Jazeera.

Yemen: tens of thousands demonstrated against the stubborn regime of Saleh (video).



Government wastes billions in campaign against students' fight for the right to a public free quality education ··> Disidente del Capitalismo[es].

A small example of police abuse in Chile ··> Disidente del Capitalismo[es]. (video).

Argentina: Junta mass murder ringleader Astiz sentenced to life ··> BBC.

South Asia

Nepal: Maoist Party breaking in two ··> Revolution in South Asia.

In what signals the growing crisis within the main ruling UCPN (Maoist), party secretary C.P Gajurel Tuesday went on to accuse party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai of being ‘anti-national’ and that the two “have no right to stay in the party”.

India: West Bengal: Maoist guerrilla makes demands to state government: to remove some forces and to release 52 prisoners ··> Revolution in South Asia.

East Asia:

Japan-centered nuclear disaster:

Anti-Nuke protest in Tokyo under heavy stressful police surveillance (video).

Fukushima women camp for three days in Tokyo demanding evacuation of children from high risk areas (video).

Children show growing symptoms of radiation poisoning ··> Ex-SKF (with video report).

Radioactive fallout from Fukushima many times government estimates ··> Nature News, Ex-SKF.

France's IRSN: 20 times more radiation that Japan acknowledges ··> EneNews.

Radioactive concrete for sale in Yokohama ··> EneNews.

Fukushima worker, 31, sent to emergency health service ··> Fukushima Diary, EneNews.

Sludge workers sudden deaths suspected from radiation ··> Fukushima Diary.

The truth behind Japan's and other states' "civil" nuclear development: nuclear weapon capability ··> EneNews.


Wikileaks stops publishing in order to focus on revenue (suicidal nonsense) ··> The Guardian.


A. Montero: La lenta agonía griega (the slow Greek agony).

Antifascist Calling: Boomerang! Is the Pentagon Field-Testing 'Son of Stuxnet'? (the second generation of the infamous virus that causes nuclear accidents?)


Javan rhinoceros driven to extinction in Vientnam ··> The Guardian.

Comet storm detected in nearby solar system (supports life hypothesis) ··> SD.

Complex hydrocarbons are common in Universe (also supports basics of life everywhere) ··> SD.

Confirmed: Global Warming is real (in case you had any doubt) ··> SD.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Police violence in Oakland (California) leaves one person struggling for his life - General Strike called

A victim of police violence
Several blogs I follow have emphasized this operation. Yesterday Ah, Mephistopheles! reported of a huge crowd of riot police slipping under the shadows of the night through the Californian city (look at the video and count them please: they may well be many hundreds or even a thousand). Later they were at Snow Park besieging the tent camp.

Earlier in the day the Occupy Oakland crowd had shut down for a while the Chase Bank and occupied the streets with large demos.

The whole strength of the police violence is captured by videos at Jews sans frontieres and Washington's Blog: tear gas and rubber bullets were shot at the protesters without any safety consideration, right to the face. 

An injured demonstrator is helped
Follow the links in text for videos.


Scott Olsen
One person, Scott Olsen (pictured), is struggling for his life in comma after being hit on the head by a police projectile (gas cannister it seems) and then thrown a stun grenade on him and the people helping him.


Follows the video of when Olsen was hit: people tried to help him and one policeman shot
a stun grenade into the small crowd of people trying to help:

Some more videos are available at from the mainstream media, who are trying to blame demonstrators: ABC News, CBS 5.

Update (Oct 27): General Strike called via Twitter

According to Washington's Blog, the Occupy movement has called for a General Strike next Wednesday Nov 2nd. There is debate about calling for a Worldwide general strike for next year. See at Twitter.

(Honestly I have my reservations, it looks leftist in the Leninist sense of the word: unready. But we have seen many unexpected things this year out of raw enthusiasm and spontaneous organization so, well, it may work after all - but it can also fail and show some of the limits of the movement at this stage. Of course, I hope it works: right-wing Communism, if such must be said of the USSR and such, has already failed catastrophically, so maybe leftism can work after all).


Some more links: Daily Kos (videos, photos, live stream),The Bay Citizen (Oakland Mayor Kuan changes course on Occupy Oakland).

Californian rubber bullets are much smaller caliber than those used here in Europe

Also: Occupy Oakland.

Popular Assembly which called for General Strike

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crisis and Inequality

An image is worth a thousand words:

From Washington's Blog (a right-wing albeit interesting site).

The graph, which I believe refers only to the USA but should not be too different for Europe and maybe other places, clearly illustrates on what was based the social stability and prosperity of the mid century (besides colonialism and neocolonialism, that also): the oligarchy accepted to share and contain their greed.

Why would they do that? Because of the USSR contagion menace, which in fact was diverted to the so-called Third World, where such concessions were almost never made and instead was intensively exploited to compensate. At the time unions and the worker movement was strong enough that it had to be neutralized... until Margaret Thatcher and her American acolyte, Ronald Reagan, arrived to scene. Also the memory of the Great Depression and its uncontrollable consequences was very vivid. Keynesianism was fashionable.

Then the system began to be dismantled and wild uncontrolled credit served as cushion for some time, probably more than initially expected.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Echoes from the Class War (Oct 23)

From the Greek strike (source)
Along the week I have already mentioned some most relevant news:
Here comes all the rest, what found no niche or what is newer:

Occupy the World and related class struggles

It is really getting global. No wonder.

Basque Country: huge demo for 'solution':

Yet another demo numbering thousands occupied the streets of Bilbao yesterday (Gara[es], SA[es])

The Basque People (= Nation, Country) wants a solution

Video at Branka[eu]

Nuclear Japan

Other news

      Saturday, October 22, 2011

      A history of the Basque Wars (II)


      As the North of Vasconia (would-be Gascony mostly) became more romanized and under the influence of Western Frankish Kingdom (eventually known as France), the South would become the political stronghold of Basque identity around the city of Pamplona. 

      The origins of the Kingdom of Pamplona are still somewhat shrouded in mystery and legend but it seems clear that the state was product of the battles of Roncevaux which prevented Frankish ambitions to be consolidated. In the South a smaller Muslim realm, the Banu Qasi emirate of Tudela, supported and was supported by the nominally Christian Kingdom of Pamplona. Religion was not important, freedom was instead.

      The Kingdom of Pamplona in the 10th century

      Pamplona was a key and growingly important part of the status quo in the 9th and 10th centuries. At the end of this period, under Sancho the Great, the realm had become the most powerful Christian state in the peninsula, controlling parts of the Hispanic March and all of Castile, and even intervening militarily in Leon on occasion of dynastic disputes. 

      In the following map we can see the extension of the Pamplonese influence c. 1000 CE, under Sancho (Antso) the Great: Pamplona in red, orange indicates other realms in personal union, while pink indicates states under clear Pamplonese influence at the time.

      Domains of Sancho the Great at the beginning of the 11th century

      This period of peace and prosperity would suddenly end in the decade of 1030: in 1031, the last Caliph of Cordoba, the weak Hisham III died, resulting in the implosion of the Muslim state into a host of small emirates known as taifa realms. While until then the upper hand was always that of Cordoba, which regularly collected tributes from the Christian realms of the North, suddenly the situation changed radically and the vassals became overlords and raiders of the smallish new Muslim principalities.

      A few years later, in 1035, Sancho died and his little personal empire, was divided among his sons: García Sánchez of Najera, the eldest legitimate son, inherited Pamplona, Gonzalo got Sobrarbe and Ribagorza, Ferdinand got Castile and the illegitimate son Ramiro was appointed Count of Aragon under Pamplonese sovereignty.

      Soon Ferdinand of Castile had invaded Leon, with Pamplonese help (a clear strategical error), and taken the royal crown while Ramiro of Aragon had displaced his half-brother in Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. And soon after these two aggressive spawns were allied against their brother in the throne of Pamplona as well.

      Atapuerca and The first partition

      For many Atapuerca (from Basque ate: gate and Romance puerco: pig), located just outside Burgos, is just a Paleolithic archaeological site. However it is also a pass between the Duero and the Ebro basins and as such it was upon a time, this time, the Southwestern border of Pamplona.

      It was also the site of the battle in which García Sánchez lost his life in 1054 and the site where the Basque Army rejected the possibility of appointing his brother Ferdinand, the invader, as new king of Pamplona, electing instead by acclamation his teen-ager son: Sancho García the Noble.

      Sancho was in almost perpetual war with Castile for the western territories of Pamplona, sometimes supported by Aragon. Sancho was murdered by his siblings at a hunt near Peñalén in 1076, being Pamplona divided soon after.

      Pamplona remained formally independent, in spite of having lost 2/3 of the country to Castile, under the Aragonese monarchy. It was in that time when parts of it began to be known as Navarre, probably from Basque nabarra: the brown (land).

      The Restoration

      Upon the death of Alphonse the Battler, his will gave all his realms to the Templar Knights. Neither the Parliaments of Navarre nor those of Aragon could agree with such weird idea, so they proclaimed new kings. In Navarre it was García Ramírez the Restorer, a relative of El Cid, who was soon engaged in another continuous war with Castile for the Western Country.

      In 1177, King Henry II of England, who was also Duke of Aquitaine and Gascony (among other things), attempted to mediate between the two kingdoms. In the preserved documents it is clear that Navarre supports its claims on the will of the people, while Castile does on its military might that so useful could be to Christendom.

      The mediation failed but two years later a similar peace was agreed: Castile kept Oca, Bureba, Rioja, while Araba and the coast (would-be Biscay and Gipuzkoa) remained under Navarrese control.

      Castilian conquest of the West

      In spite of all guarantees, in 1199, Castile invaded the Western Basque Country again while the new king, oddly known as Sancho the Wise, was in Africa in diplomatic mission. The fortified places of Vitoria and Treviño resisted but the king, unable to muster an army apparently, sent the Bishop of Pamplona with the order of surrender. Vitoria did surrender but Treviño fought until the end, reason why it was assigned to a Castilian feudal lord, while the rest of the Western Country was allowed to retain most of their self-rule.

      For Castile, access to Basque harbors was important in order to export their wool to Flanders and general trade with Europe. Of course that was also true for Navarre, which had founded the harbor city of San Sebastian not much earlier and retained for some time access to the sea via Hendaia (and would later use Bayonne under treaties). But Navarre lost and that time it was a consolidated defeat, specially as Castile had grown very large at the expense of the Muslim realms of the South.

      In order to secure the loyalty of the defeated Western Basques, Castile granted quasi-independence to the three resulting provinces: Araba, Biscay and Gipuzkoa, which retained Navarrese law and self-rule for almost every aspect, being able at times even to negotiate fishing treaties. Importantly the citizens of these three republics were exempt from military service (except temporary territorial militia in case of local invasion) and were granted gentry rights in the territory of Castile (preventing torture specially).

      The last centuries of independent High Navarre

      The residual Navarre became more and more attached to some of the most dynamic feudal lords of France: the House of Champagne first, the French crown later (separated because of the French law impeding women to inherit, while Navarre allowed this), the House of Evreux eventually as well.

      In that time Navarrese Law became codified and Navarre formally became one of the first Parliamentary Monarchies of all Europe, however the power of the King (or regent) was still big and feudalization advanced as a cancer as well.

      It was briefly under effective rule of the Machiavellian John II of Aragon, who acted against the law all the time, plotting the final collapse of Navarre in parallel to pan-European imperial ambitions. For that reason he murdered one after the other all his children with Queen Blanche of Navarre being an arch-villain of Basque and European history, able to murder his own children for his megalomaniac ambition (leading to the Habsburgs incidentally).

      The trick did not work however because, as King consort, he was not by any means in the line of succession. After all heirs were murdered, the Navarrese Parliament eventually elected a young boy: Francis Phoebus of Foix, a member of the French Royal House, too big a fish for the Trastamara poisonous net... by the moment.

      Cesar Borgia, captain of Navarre
      The new dynasty was consolidated under (king consort) Jean d'Albret, a major feudal lord of France who became a relative of Pope Alexander VI by marriage of his daughter with the infamous Cesar Borgia, natural son of the former.

      We can see here how the politics and dynasties of Europe in the birth of Modernity all spinned around Navarre somehow. Cesar Borgia, after losing his Italian possessions and fleeing an Aragonese prison, became a commander of the Navarrese Army and died at Biana defending the Basque state against the mercenaries of Aragon.

      The invasion of 1512-21

      But the Trastamaras did not rest and in 1512 they invaded the country with the pretext of a forgery of Papal bull and the support of England, which controlled Bayonne and readied up to block any attempt of help by France.

      Navarre and dependencies at the time of the conquest

      The huge Castilian army had not too much of a difficulty in capturing the small country but another thing was to retain it. Almost as soon as the army had left, the Pamplonese revolted and expelled the garrison, incidentally lead by some Iñigo (or Eneko) of Loyola

      The war persisted for almost a decade, with several expeditions of Gascon troops from Bearn and other possessions of the House of Navarre,  entering the South to aid the people in revolt. However in the end, excess of confidence by the Navarrese general Asparros, who disbanded the infantry and put siege to Logroño, led to a catastrophe.

      The last stand of Southern Navarrese resistance was at Amaiur fortress, in Baztan.

      Protestant Navarre: First Basque Literature

      The remnant of Navarre, almost devoid of Basque-speaking areas but retaining a large number of feudal possessions in Gascony and France became soon a Protestant state and the leading force of the Huguenot Party in the French Wars of Religion.

      Queen Jeanne promoted a renaissance of Basque language, and, as happened with other Protestant nations, one of the first things to be translated to the vernacular language was the Bible (to both Labourdin Basque and Bearnese Gascon). However even older is the Linguæ Vasconum Primitiæ, a Basque grammar, as well as some other works. 

      She was also leader of the Protestant camp in France. However the main role in this aspect would belong to her son Henry, who would eventually become King of France (as well as of Navarre) under the condition of renouncing to his Calvinist faith (Paris is well worth a mass). Known as the good king, he founded the dynasty of the Bourbons and kept all the time Navarre effectively independent. The Kings of France would style themselves Kings of France and Navarre until the French Revolution and then in the brief Restoration, however, while residual Navarre (with Zuberoa and Bearn) enjoyed some autonomy, it did so as province of France since 1620.

      (... to be continued).

      What do relatives of Basque prisoners feel upon the end-of-war declaration of ETA?

      This is what no Spanish TV has inquired. Luckily for us we can turn off the TV and watch the Internet instead, where there is some more diversity and Navarrese blog Ateak Ireki (open the doors) has gone out to the weekly demonstration at the center of Pamplona to ask them. Video in Basque and Spanish:

      All commenters show hope and most happiness and confidence in the future. Thoughts for the prisoners, very specially the ill ones. Reminders on many Basque prisoners being purely political ones, prisoners of consciousness. Anger and fear at the stingy declarations of the Spanish nationalist politicians and EU officials.

      Naturally I wish everyone the best but I am under the impression that too much has been given away without getting anything in return and that this precipitation is going to be used and abused by the Spanish nationalist camp from their advantageous position of force. When I see these people so hopeful I can't but imagine that this hope will probably be crushed mercilessly by Madrid, which has showed no sign whatsoever of making any single concession for peace, leaving all the effort to the Basque side unilaterally. 


      Friday, October 21, 2011

      Reactions to the end-of-war unilateral declaration of ETA

      Mean, stingy, such are the reactions coming from the Spanish nationalist field so far. For example the Speaker Minister J.L. Blanco said that it is not the time to discuss the prisoners, while the Minister of Presidency R. Jauregi, emphasized that they will keep applying the law against prisoners.

      In Paris as well, Sarkozy declared his unconditional support for the Spanish allies.

      Instead, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair asked the Spanish authorities to assume the need to talk to their political foes.

      The Basque Nationalist Left gave a press conference (video in Spanish) reminding that the necessary condition for a consolidated peace is the recognition of the Basque People as a sovereign nation with full right to self-determination.

      Ample Basque Left coalition Bildu, which is becoming (under the new name Amaiur) the first political force in the Southern Basque Country, appealed for an open political debate and to work for our people to be able to decide its own future in full freedom.

      A history of the Basque Wars (I)

      On occasion of ongoing political events, I think it is important to remember that the Basque conflict is not something new at all but that its roots lay deep within the layers of history.

      This is a short tentative history of the wars that the Basques have held against the Indoeuropean invaders. They may well have extended deeper into the past, as archaeology suggests, but the first historical evidence we have comes from the Romans. In 56 BC the campaigns of Caesar in Transalpine Gaul brought the Roman legions in contact with the Aquitani (of Basque language by all accounts).

      War of Aquitania

      Caesar sent P. Crassus with 12 cohorts plus cavalry and auxiliary troops to Aquitania, via Tolosa (modern Toulouse), and attacked the Sotiates, besieging their main city. After some fight this tribe, the mightiest of all Aquitani negotiated a surrender (De Bellum Gallicum XX and XXI). 

      The capture of Sos alarmed the rest of the Basque tribes that assembled at least 50,000 troops against Crassus, not just from Aquitania but also from those parts of Hispania [Iberian Peninsula] that are nearest to it (the Cantabri are mentioned by name as well as procuring troops). However carelessness on the part of the Aquitanian army, which left the rear of their fortified camp unguarded, allowed a sudden victory to Crassus, whose men slayed 3/4 of the Basque Army.

      This caused the surrender of the Aquitani.

      Ref.: The Bello Gallico (book III).

      Location of likely Basque-speaking tribes (red) in Antiquity

      The Cantabrian War

      Then, since 29 BCE, took place the conquest of Cantabria. There is much controversy on whether the Cantabri (and by extension the culturally similar Astures) were of Celtic or pre-Celtic (Basque) origin. There is no archaeological evidence supporting Celtization of the area (Urnfields/Hallstatt in Iberia), toponymy is non-Celtic, and the nation always fought with other Basque peoples like the Aquitani or the Autrigones.

      In 29 BCE Aquitani and some Gaulish tribes (Treveri, Helvetii) rebelled. A Roman cohort was also massacred in Autrigon territory (Andogoste, in modern Araba) that year, however the Romans consolidated their presence in the Vaccean plains. In 28 BCE several Roman generals claim victories in Hispania and Gaul but it's unclear against whom.

      In 27 BCE Gaius Octavianus Thurinus (Octavius) was named Augustus and headed to Iberia with an army of eight legions, arriving the next year. In Summer 26 BCE takes Asturica and Amaia, the capital cities of Astures and Cantabri. The war continued however. In 25 BCE the remnants of the Cantabrian Army took refuge in the high mountains but were besieged there by the Romans, dying in the Winter. In 24 BCE the fortress of Aracillum (Arakil?) was captured.

      The war however was far from finished. As soon as Octavius returned to Rome revolt ensued, persisting for several years until it was quelled in 19 BCE, forcing the Cantabri to move their villages to the valleys (instead of the hillsides). Deportations and crucifixions were all part of the brutal Roman repression that ensued. Enslavement failed however, because Cantabrian slaves would murder their masters and run away, so no prisoners were taken in the end.

      The last revolt happened in 16 BCE. In order to guarantee the control of the territory three legions remained. Even a century later, in 68 AD, a legion was still permanently located in the area to secure the access to the gold mines and general Roman control, this legion is the origin of the city of León.

      The Bagaudae

      The Bagaudae was not an ethnic war originally but a class war instead. The decadent late Western Roman Empire had taken a clear path towards Feudalism, implying that many tribal communal lands were being appropriated by landowners and free people were being enslaved (servum = slave) or almost (colonus = serf). As reaction farmers from the Western parts of the Empire revolted. 

      The transition between Rome and no Rome happened here in two years: in 407, Basque troops under Roman command were able to prevent that Vandals, Alans and Suebi crossed the Pyrenees into Hispania. In 409, the Roman commanders brought to the imperial capital (Ravenna, not anymore Rome), they were allowed free passage, effectively taking control of all Western and Southern Iberia.

      409-17 was also the apogee of the Bagaudae in Gaul.

      In 410 the Visigoths sacked Rome. To prevent further damage, the weak Western Roman Emperor Honorius sent them to the West as foederati (allies), so they would combat against Bagaudae and independent barbarians alike in the name of the Empire. Their capital was Tolosa (Toulouse) at the gates of Vasconia. 

      The Visigoths were very successful, conquering much of Hispania but they could never submit the Basques apparently.
      It is most likely that the Basque aspect of the Bagaudae is the only reason why there is a Basque language and a Basque identity today. It is hard to believe that this ethnic identity could have survived without a de facto political independence as was generated by this revolt.

      The destruction of Cantabria City and the rise of Vasconia

      As I say, the Visigoths were very successful in Iberia, conquering the Vandal and Alan realms. Later, they also lost the Northern provinces to the Frankish, being forced to move their capital to Toletum (Toledo). 

      As marche against the Basques they founded the Duchy of Cantabria, of unclear borders. As part of their campaigns they destroyed in 574 the capital of the Cantabri Amaia (rock of the mother in Basque) and a mystery town known to legend as Cantabria City, allegedly not far from Logroño. 

      About that time, c. 602, the Franks created a similar entity in the North: the Duchy of Vasconia.  Since 626 there was a Basque rebellion against which the Franks sent a huge army lead by no less than nine dukes. This army was however defeated at Subola (modern Zuberoa/Xiberue/Soule).

      In 643 the revolt extended to the North and in 648 to the South. Pamplona was clearly not under Visigothic control since at least 589. 

      Duchy of Vasconia in the 8th century

      The situation remains unclear for lack of written sources (probably indicating de facto independence) until 660, when Felix, Duke of Aquitaine (in the Middle Ages indicating the lands North of the Garonne and not anymore the Basque Country, would-be Gascony), assumes also the title of Duke of Vasconia. 

      He and his heirs ruled these two realms in personal union for more than a century, effectively independent from any other power. However, with the Muslim invasion, the realm began facing hard times.

      In 714 the Arabs took Pamplona, in 721 they were defeated by Odo the Great at Toulouse but in 732 he was defeated near Bordeaux. The Duke had only one choice: to accept the claims of sovereignty by the Franks, led then by the Machiavellian Charles Martel, who had remained in the sidelines awaiting for his opportunity, and ask for military help. 

      Together the two armies decisively defeated the Muslims at Tours or Poitiers, at the banks of the Loire, the Northern border of Aquitaine then. While the Muslim invaders laid vanquished, the position of the greedy Franks was then one of unprecedented strength. 

      The three battles of Orreaga (Roncevaux Pass)

      Trapped between two powerful states: the Spanish Emirate of Cordoba and the Frankish Kingdom, both with declared imperial ambitions (Cordoba was ruled by the Ummayads, who would eventually reclaim the title of Caliph, while Charlemagne would soon accept the title of Roman Emperor), the position of the independent Basques became very difficult. 

      The ambition of Charlemagne was the major threat in any case, not only he was determined to exert his nominal overlordship on Vasconia but also he was offered once and again cities in Iberia wanting to escape Muslim domination. 

      The first one of these was Zaragoza, the capital of the Upper Marche, the governor totally betrayed the Emir and turned the city to the Franks, suddenly arisen to be the most powerful realm of Europe. Charlemagne personally led the invading army, which had to go through Basque territory. However upon arrival, a new governor had been appointed for Zaragoza and Charlemagne had to pull back.

      While retreating, he decided to demolish the walls of Pamplona, leaving the city exposed to Muslim invasion, or maybe he destroyed the city altogether. This was one step too far and the Basque militias were summoned, maybe by the Duke Otsoa himself, slaying the Frankish aristocracy in a key ambush, on August 15th 778. 

      This was the only major defeat of Charlemagne and one he lamented all his life.

      It is unclear if the battle took place at the spot now claimed to be, Roncevaux (too open), but surely not far away, maybe further east near the peak of Urkuilu, where the old Roman road (but not the modern asphalt road) went through.

      There was a second battle of Roncevaux in 812, which resulted in stalemate. A third battle in 824 was a clear Basque victory (possibly because of turnover by Count of Vasconia Aznar Sans, who was spared). The leader of this expedition, Duke Eblus of Auvergne was sent to Cordoba where he was decapitated.  

      These battles helped to contain the Frankish encroaching and eventually secured the independence of Vasconia, which nevertheless was more and more romanized, becoming Gascony. They also helped to forge a new and most important state: the Kingdom of Pamplona. 

      (... continues in part II).

      Thursday, October 20, 2011

      Breaking news: ETA declares the "definite ceasing" of armed activity

      Going one step beyond the unilateral perpetual truce already in force, ETA has let known to the Basque People and the World that it abandons armed struggle forever.

      Video (in Spanish, there's another version in Basque):

      Direct downloads of the communication's text (PDF) in English, Basque, Spanish and French.

      Importantly they claim to do so in adhesion to the conclusions of the International Conference that took place this weekend in San Sebastian, with the presence of major European statesmen, notably English and Irish ones.

      My first impression is that the secret peace negotiations, resulting in a surrender of ETA in exchange of a mere liberation of prisoners probably (??), is very advanced. However the Spanish government has said that it belongs to the government and parliament to be elected on November 20th to conduct this new stage.

      One thing is clear: the Basque People has yet to be consulted about all this. If this deep wound is not healed properly it will be reopened almost without doubt. Another thing clear is that Northern Irish achieved the right to self-determination with peace, what will we Basque achieve other than "peace blah blah"?

      Sources[es]: Gara, LINYM, Sare Antifaxista

      Update: Brian Currin (mediator) says that the next step belongs to the Spanish and French states and that he is persuaded that they will do so.