On this day 90 years ago, the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed. This first occurred in the Basque town of Eibar, when a crowd watched, ecstatically, as the plaque giving the name of the square in front of City Hall was changed. The one being withdrawn called it “Alfonso XIII Square”; the new one, “Square of the Republic”.
It was a historical moment that has never been repeated. The subjects of the king of Spain, and the corrupt, dictatorial, and anti-democratic system that maintained him, carried out a structural change in the government of the State, giving the power to the People and taking it away, or at least trying to, from the elite who had control all institutional, economic, and social resources for centuries.
These reactionary and anti-democratic groups of power did not accept this change, and started a latent war against the Republic that finally woke up as a coup d’état and savage war. After its end, the citizens were again subjects, first to a dictator, Franco, and then to a monarchy he imposed.
For all those who wish to live in democratic societies free of kings and tyrants, April 14th is an important date.
That’s how the Basque nationalist councilmen in Biscay saw it when they issued this press release this April 14th:
WE, THE COUNCILMEN ELECTED BY BASQUE NATIONALIST PEOPLE, DECLARE:
That by recognizing as democratic the popular manifestation in Spain in favor of the Republic, and affirming that the latter exists in fact since the twelfth of April of nineteen-thirty-one, we welcome the will of the nascent Spanish republic, and as regards the Basque Country
DO SO DECLARE:
the integral Basque personality of the Basque Country on this side of the Pyrenees and, in particular, the historic and democratic history of Biscay, and thus set out its right to self-government and to convene General Committees, with all their genuine faculties, through the immediate reunion of the delegates of all the recently-elected city councils.
We therefore greet the Spanish Republic and call for our own Basque Republic.
14th of Abril 1931
(seal of the Bizkai Buru Batzarra)
The Biscay Parliament, the Juntas Generales, were dissolved by force in 1876, after the last Carlist war, the abolition of the fueros, and the suppression of the democratic institutions the Basques had used to govern themselves for centuries, all of which had allowed for the existence of civil rights in Basque territories centuries before the bourgeois revolutions. It goes without saying that Basque freedoms were removed by force.
Nor is it hard to imagine that a meeting in Gernika with the representatives of the city councils who were getting together to recover the Juntas Generales Biscay had a right to was also stopped, by force.
Today is a day to call for freedom and for the Republic, because that’s how we Southern Basques have been doing it since then, and need to continue doing now. But, it is also a good day to remind Basque Nationalists that a Spanish Republic is a good start, but it is not the goal, nor is it a guarantee that the Basques’ national rights will be respected.
As Ramón de la Sota, a Basque businessman and politician who had to flee to exile after the Francoist rebels’ victory in 1939, said in 1918:
«...We have to elect leaders for a foreign body, for the Spanish parliament in Madrid: the Basque deputies we send there must know that they are foreigners there; that they are not going there to defend the interests of Spain, but rather the sacred interests of their homeland: Euzkadi…»
So, as those Basques wrote in 1931:
“We therefore greet the Spanish republic and call for our own Basque Republic!”