This article analyzes the mechanisms used by abertzale organizations (literally “patriots”) in the French Basque country to produce a long-term, intense commitment despite the numerous splits that this movement has experienced since it was first structured in 1963. Based on an empirical corpus of forty biographical interviews conducted between 2002 and 2008 with activists belonging to the Basque nationalist conglomerate, and on a collection of secondary sources, it sheds light on the biographical conditions and institutional processes that determine a commitment to the Basque cause. Highlighting the different determinants of the initial commitment that characterize each generation, this article also shows how the strength of continued abertzale militant commitment over time derives from the ways in which activist institutions maintain their members’ attachment to the cause. Emotional and ritualized activity in relation to prisoners, social celebrations, and systems of group management of individual commitment strengthen their bond with the organization and reinforce the cohesion of the group, making disengagement difficult.
Special Report: Continuity and Discontinuity in ActivismBy Isabelle Lacroix