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Reassessing National Separatism in Late Franco-Era Spain

Research presentation

Spain: Social Movements between Past and Present

‘The plague bacillus never dies…the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.’ So warned Albert Camus in The Plague, a cult classic book among late-twentieth century radical nationalists.

Camus is correct—separatism never dies in Spain. While historians have captured Spanish political discord in the early-twentieth century and since the democratic turn, insight into violent separatism in the last decades of the Franco regime remains poorly-developed. Spanish historiography has overlooked the small, violent separatist group Front d'Alliberament Català in Catalonia, while Euskadi Ta Askatasuna in the Basque Region is examined in isolation or compared to groups with which it lacks situational similarities beyond violent methods.

This paper argued that these two groups were spurred by the same conditions that inspired other separatist organisations in France, Belgium, Great Britain, and Canada between 1965 and 1975—precarities of minority languages, secularisation, centralisation, and economic discord—and exemplify a discrete form of violent Western nationalism. Only such a trans-national comparison produces this better understanding of these Spanish groups’ motives and methodologies in this period.

Furthermore, parallels exist between conditions today and in the late-Franco regime— economic centre-periphery disparities, centralisation, secularisation, and an international community that acknowledges the right of secession. As such, the recent Catalonian independence vote seems less surprising, an extension of an ever-evolving Catalonian separatism.

The relationships between Basque and Catalonian peoples and the state, then or now, cannot be fully evaluated without understanding the violent nationalisms of the last decade of Francoism.