Our regular readers will know how “Aguirrist” we are. Beyond the good and bad Lehendakari José Antonio Aguirre maybe have done as a person, for us, and for many Basques, at home and abroad, he represents the endurance and the resilience of our nation.
He also represents many other important things, like the democratic will of a people who refused to drown in the sorrow of their defeat at the hands of totalitarianism to fight; the commitment to the cause of Freedom, both ours and that of all nations; the conviction that a social order could exist which would put the Human Being at the center of all political, social, and economic actions. In short, in his work, he concentrated the defense of the best essences of any civilized society.
Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of his death, and that’s why we wanted to dedicated a new recognition to him which is also the recognition of a generation of giants who must be seen as guides and role models, due to their sacrifice, commitment, solidarity, and humanity. Not only did they defend their own, they also got involved in a global struggle against all forms of totalitarianism.
That’s why we’re bringing you a selection of videos, audio clips, and articles that we’ve blogged about over all these years, since they deserve to be together. We believe that this will serve to outline the extraordinary weight this Basque had in the modern history of our people; of his lifelong struggle for Freedom and Social Justice; and for his contributions to the construction of Europe.
Let’s start with the article we wrote on the 59th anniversary of his passing:
“On March 22, 1960, at the headquarters of the Basque Government in Exile in Paris, the first Lehendakari, and not just on the list of Basque Presidents, passed away. Jose Antonio Aguirre, who had been born on March 6, 1904, had just turned 56. His remains were buried in Basque soil after a funeral that the website Basque Kulture (which we’re citing here) defined thus: “Ses obsèques, impressionnantes, eurent lieu le 28 mars après une messe en l’église paroissiale de Saint-Jean-de-Luz.” (His funeral, impressive, took place on March 28 after a mass in the parish church of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.)”
A few months earlier, an event had taken place which had confirmed how Western democracies had abandoned the cause of Democracy and Freedom in the Spanish Republic and the Southern Basque Country. That was when Eisenhower embraced Franco in a deeply symbolic state visit to Spain on December 23, 1959, thereby legitimizing Franco’s dictatorial régime for all the Western world.
Lehendakari Aguirre had always believed that countries of strong democratic traditions, like Great Britain, France, and the United States, would stand strong in defense of the principles that they’d always promised to uphold. Actually, the Republican and Democratic Basques, whom the Lehendakari represented, were a sacrificial pawn, while Franco became a valuable ally in the fight against “Marxism”. That’s realpolitik. And that betrayal and abandonment, we’re sure, led to his heart finally stopping.
Aguirre was an extraordinary leader who was part of a generation of extraordinary Basques, extraordinary for their defense of the Cause of the Basque People; extraordinary for their commitment of Freedom and Democracy; extraordinary for their commitment to Social Justice.
Aguirre, primus inter pares of all those heroes and martyrs, has left us a human, ideological, and moral legacy of incalculable value, which concentrates the idea of a modern, progressive, and democratic Euzkadi that is still fighting to defend Freedom and Social Justice.
It’s a legacy all Basques need to understand and appreciate.
Agur eta Ohore Lehendakari
1904-1960 THE STORY OF LEHENDAKARI AGIRRE
Lehendakari Aguirre in New York
Lehendakari Agirre’s swearing in in Gernika (7/10/1936)
“Humbly before God, standing on Basque soil, with the memory of our forebears, under the Tree of Gernika, I swear to faithfully carry out my mandate.”
Trucios Manifest (June 30, 1937)
I have arrived with Basque troops to the Basque Country border. I have remained among them, admiring the temple of our people, whose spirit will never be beaten. And before leaving the Basque Country, I protest, in its name, before the world the plundering that the Basques have suffered, even in the 20th century, which has deprived us of our Homeland, which we have the right to because it’s ours and we love it so. And we doubly protest, because in order to cause that suffering and deprivation, Spanish fascism needed the help of foreign mercenaries with German and Italian elements of war. With absolute insolence our enemies have invoked the right to conquer. We deny it forever. The territory may have been conquered, but the soul of the Basque people has not, nor will it ever be.
We have acted nobly; our conduct has not varied, even at the end. We left Bilbao intact, along with its means of production. We’ve generously freed the prisoners, which has been repaid by our enemy with persecution and firing squads. No plundering can be blamed on the Basque Army.
The Basque People are looking forward to the future; its soul belongs to us. Our conduct is its conduct. We will recover the land of our fathers to restore our ridiculed language, our outraged law, our stolen freedom. What did fascism ever promise for the Basque Country? Nothing as once it stamped its foot over Bilbao, it took away not only the conquered region’s autonomy, but even its Economic Agreement, the last vestige of the historical freedoms which were respected in the times of the Monarchy. I also protest this final suffering, speaking for this subjugated people, who are no longer allowed to speak.
My emigrated people is pushed up to the sea, finding itself before a double danger. I don’t want to think that friendly or enemy peoples must remain silent. Is it so serious that a people defend its freedom?
To defend it, to stay worthy of the Homeland, hundreds of thousands of Basques today suffer moments of anguish and deprivation. I don’t want to believe that the world has lost its sensitivity.
The Basque Government is still at its post, either within the borders of the Basque Country, or wherever it may be. It is the legitimate government of the Basques, because it interprets the meaning of a people which has not been conquered, but merely humiliated and outraged. And the affection of our compatriots will go with them until the day of victory.
The President of the Basque Government
José Antonio Aguirre
June 30, 1937
The Creation of Eresoinka (Oct. 7, 1937)
On August 19, 1937, when all seemed lost, Lehendakari Aguirre thought that the struggle needed to continue to be fought with peaceful means. He met with Gabriel Olaizola and commended him to be a peaceful cultural ambassador before a Europe in the grips of fascism:
I told him this: it’s possible that we may not be able to leave here. However, our task has not finished and I would like it to also extend to the artistic world. I ask you to immediately go out to France and form, from among our best refugees, the best possible chorus, so they may take the memory of a people dying for freedom around the world, thanks to its melodies.
El mensaje a los vascos de la Diáspora y la defensa de la Causa del Pueblo Vasco
Articles from Aberriberri
Since the best option in these cases is to turn to the best sources, we’ll leave you with a series of articles about the Lehendakari that appeared on the Aberriberri blog