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Militant Nationalism

Between Movement and Party in Ireland and the Basque Country

1999
Author:

Cynthia L. Irvin

Militant Nationalism

A comparative analysis of two militant nationalist groups.

Why do some militant nationalists turn to electoral politics while others resist-and even seek to destroy-that arena? Cynthia L. Irvin examines two cases of electoral interventions by nationalist organizations engaged in violent political competition: in Northern Ireland and in the Basque provinces of Spain. Through her research, she offers important insights into these insurgent organizations’ adoption of different strategies--from armed struggle to parliamentary politics.

The majority of studies on paramilitary groups focus on why they resort to violence, but Irvin recognizes in this comparison of the Irish and Basque cases that understanding the move from violent to ‘playing by the rules of the game’ is indispensable. Such knowledge offers insight into the best way to get extremist groups to the negotiating table. Because her data are gathered from interviews (for both cases) and surveys (for the Basque case only), Irvin makes a significant empirical contribution to the study of revolutionary movements. For obvious reasons, it is rare for anyone to observe this particular kind of organization, but the perceptions of these actors are crucial to understanding their behavior in changing contexts. This book should be of interest to a broad cross-section of political scientists and social movements theorists.

American Political Science Review

Why do some militant nationalists turn to electoral politics while others resist-and even seek to destroy-that arena? Cynthia L. Irvin examines two cases of electoral interventions by nationalist organizations engaged in violent political competition: in Northern Ireland and in the Basque provinces of Spain. Based on her findings, she offers insights into the circumstances that lead such groups to abandon violence in favor of institutional political struggle.

Using fieldwork done in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country, Irvin develops a model linking the internal dynamics of Sinn Fein and Herri Batasuna (the electoral arm of the militant Basque separatists) to changes in their external environments. In this unusual comparative analysis, she draws on interviews with more than 100 Sinn Fein and Herri Batasuna activists and on a unique survey of 140 Herri Batasuna activists. This approach moves Irvin’s work beyond previous analyses, which have relied on either descriptive and historical accounts or formal models of insurgent violence.

This detailed account has broad implications for the study of social movements and ethnic identity, providing a valuable new perspective into the strategic interactions and often conflict-ridden relationship between social movements and political parties.

ISBN 0-8166-3114-X Cloth £00.00 $49.95xx
ISBN 0-8166-3115-8 Paper £00.00 $19.95x
304 Pages 26 Tables 5 7/8 x 9 May
Social Movements, Protest, and Contention Series, volume 9
Translation inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

Militant Nationalism

Cynthia L. Irvin is assistant professor of political science at the University of Kentucky.

Militant Nationalism

The majority of studies on paramilitary groups focus on why they resort to violence, but Irvin recognizes in this comparison of the Irish and Basque cases that understanding the move from violent to ‘playing by the rules of the game’ is indispensable. Such knowledge offers insight into the best way to get extremist groups to the negotiating table. Because her data are gathered from interviews (for both cases) and surveys (for the Basque case only), Irvin makes a significant empirical contribution to the study of revolutionary movements. For obvious reasons, it is rare for anyone to observe this particular kind of organization, but the perceptions of these actors are crucial to understanding their behavior in changing contexts. This book should be of interest to a broad cross-section of political scientists and social movements theorists.

American Political Science Review

Irvin’s work is penetrating, clear, and profound. It provides highly valuable data and original interpretations, which are certainly necessary for the respective peace processes and are of relevance for the resolution and understanding of other conflicts as well. Militant Nationalism is one of the most fascinating books I have read not only on Basque and Irish radical nationalism but also on political violence in general.

Daniele Conversi, author of The Basques, Catalans, and Spain: Alternative Routes to Nationalist Mobilization

Students of ethnic conflict have long been fascinated by the struggle of the Basques for a greater degree of autonomy within Spain and by the struggle of Irish republicans for national unification in Ireland. It has almost become routine to remark on the similarities between the two conflicts. In a real sense, this is a book that has long been waiting to be written. Irvin's success in drawing out the lessons of her comparative analysis depends in no small way on her uniquely competent blend of academic detachment and personal involvement. She has lived among, and been accepted by, some of the actors in her drama; and yet, in her questionnaire analysis, she has accurately and objectively calibrated shades of opinion within her target populations. There are many good books about the Basques, and many good accounts of Northern Ireland's troubles, but this is likely to be, and remain, the definitive comparative study.

Edward Moxon-Browne, Director, Centre for European Studies, University of Limerick

Militant Nationalism

Contents

Preface
List of Abbreviations and Organizations

1. Unconstitutional Means to Constitutional Change: Dilemmas of Violence and Politics
2. Splits in the Ranks: A Theory of Militant Nationalism
3. Resurgent Nationalism in Ireland and the Basque Country: The Historical Context, 1950–1976
4. Sinn Fein and Herri Batasuna: Parties to the Conflict
5. Republicans and Abertzales:Pathways to Activism
6. Regime Responsiveness, Recruitment, and Movement Strategies
7. People, Places, and Political Violence: Some Concluding Comparisons

Appendix 1: Methodology and Data
Appendix 2: Survey for Sinn Fein Activists
Notes
References
Index