Thursday, September 29, 2005

A left-wing call for secession

The word secession usually throws the modern left-wing (big media pundits, academics, so-called civil rights leaders, Hollywood types) into knee-jerk panic. The word conjures up...shudder...the Civil War, slavery, and the KKK. Just mention secession and labels like racist, bigot, right-wing extremist, and fascist will be hurled at you.

Of course, secession has always been on the radical Left Libertarian agenda. So it was refreshing to see the leftist CounterPunch present an article by Kirkpatrick Sale and Thomas Naylor last weekend titled “Secession from the Empire: The Middlebury Declaration.” Wrote Sale and Naylor:

“In answer to a growing swell of interest in realistic responses to the excesses of the present American empire, The Middlebury Institute has been launched by a group of activists and professionals to promote the serious study of separatism, secession, self-determination and similar devolutionary trends and developments, on both national and international scales.

“We believe that, of the options open to those who would dissent from the actions and institutions of a government grown too big and unwieldy and its handmaiden corporate sponsors grown too powerful and corrupt, the only comprehensive and practical one is some form of separatism. Exploiting this option is not a step to be taken lightly, because there are established forces that will hamper and resist, and yet it is a legal and viable enterprise, squarely in the American tradition, and of a piece with the worldwide devolutionary current that has seen the breakup of European empires (including the Soviet) and the expansion of the United Nations from 51 to 193 nations in sixty years.”

It’s remarkable to see an acknowledgement of the “American tradition” of secession come from today’s Left. Likewise, it’s encouraging to hear modern Leftists use terms like self-determination and separatism without a sneer for the first time since the early 1960s — and even more so to hear left-wingers call secession practical and viable.

The Middlebury Institute plans to issue regular papers, sponsor academic seminars, and launch a website. Read the Sale and Naylor article in full, which includes the Institute’s first paper, “The Middlebury Declaration.” Then follow the authors’ advice:

“Spread the word. Join the action. Take the battlements. And keep in touch.”

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8 Comments:

At 6:11 AM, Blogger MDM said...

I was quite happy upon learning of this development. It's definitely something left-libertarians should keep an eye on. I'm also not surprised that Kirk Sale is involved. Though he's gone too far in a Luddite direction for my tastes, his book Human Scale is a decentralist classic and should be read by every libertarian.

 
At 2:42 AM, Anonymous waumpuscat said...

So Leftists are intending to establish a state that governs the inhabitants according to the principles advocated by the Leftist Intellectuals. These shamans, capable only of manipulating primitive mental constructs with an obsolete dialectic, envision a government of the productive by the credentialed, the stolid workers by the adroit activists. Their political thinking has not progressed past the hydraulic despotisms of ancient Mesopotamia. I suspect that "scheming" or "plotting" is the more appropriate description of such mental processes. Reactionaries!

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Waumpy, ol' boy--

Who said anything about establishing a state? We're talking about secession and separatism, not state-building. And if we're breaking nationstates down into smaller and smaller entities, I don't really care what policies YOUR itty-bitty nation pursues. I don't have to live there. I'll live in the itty-bitty nation of my own choosing.

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger freeman said...

Waumpy lives in an imaginary world where ALL lefties are centralizing, Soviet-style communists who want to create a dictatorship by the proletariat. His mind doesn't seem be equipped to wrap around the idea that there are lefties who hold decentralist and anti-authoritarian values. If you can see through his verbal virtuosity, you'll see something that's truly obsolete.

As Wally says, the key here is the break up of the nation-state by means of secession. Regardless of how people in Vermont may wish to organize their affairs, secession is something worth supporting.

Of course, Waumpy's much adored militaristic adventures abroad would be in jeopardy with a disintegrating central state, so that reveals perhaps another reason why he doesn't approve of secessionists.

 
At 12:20 PM, Anonymous waumpuscat said...

Those pitiful dreamers, who hope to establish themselves as lone social units by rejecting the present government apparatus, had better be more impoverished than the first English speaking pioneers in Kentucky or the early Cossacks on Russia's eastern fringe. Else, they will be fair prey for the enslavers and the looters and the conquistadores who will descend like so many wolverines to batten on their naive haplessness. ANY such speculations that do not consider Mankind's capacity for evil are worse than outright falsehoods, for Men are the top predators and other Men are their habitual prey. The so-called Left-Libertarians, who choose to live without any state, will discover only that phantom liberty available to the Stoic Slave, who contemplates his notional liberty as he sweats in the fields or coughs in the mines for Ol' Massa's benefit. The bands of defeated Indians and escaped Negroes, who formed in early Spanish Florida, are the prototype of your Left-Libertarian musings. Even they were not left alone.

 
At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Scott Bieser said...

Wumpus is overlooking one thing -- modern left-libertarians are, by and large, well-armed, and can fight like wolverines when we need to.

Classical Ireland, when it lacked a central authority, managed to resist conquest by the English until they united under a common king -- when that king was defeated, so was Ireland. And today, the United Statists are learning the difficulty of fighting an "insurgency" that has no single central command that can be crushed.

 
At 9:39 PM, Anonymous waumpuscat said...

Although the members of a mob may be well armed individually, the mob will invariably be beaten and subdued by a far smaller detachment of soldiers subject to military discipline. Irish rick burning and cattle maiming has served as the basis for song and dance, but the Irish speak English today and only pretend in Gaelic. As soon as a mob tires on losing and submits to military discipline, the State is made manifest and that usual Man On Horseback appears. Thank Providence, Americans, that Washington was your own example, allowing Americans the liberties that they enjoyed until Lincoln, McKinley, and Wilson yearned after the false gods of Empire. Washington preferred immortality to regal splendour.

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger Joel Schlosberg said...

"The word secession usually throws the modern left-wing (big media pundits, academics, so-called civil rights leaders, Hollywood types) into knee-jerk panic. The word conjures up...shudder...the Civil War, slavery, and the KKK. Just mention secession and labels like racist, bigot, right-wing extremist, and fascist will be hurled at you."

Indeed. The amount of guilt-by-association in this case is amazing, it's like the trump card for federalists. I was just talking to a friend last night about anarchism and he said, "I'm the biggest opponent of states' rights in favor of federalism. How can you be in favor of decentralization, wouldn't that just have left the South to abuse its slaves?" History really has been written by the centralist victors, to the point where people will dismiss any attempts at fighting injustice from below, such as John Brown's plans for guerilla warfare against slavery (as described by Voltairine de Cleyre): whereas "the politicians in their infinite deviousness contrived a fresh proposition of how-not-to-do-it", "Those who have read the autobiography of Frederick Douglas and the Reminiscences of Lucy Colman, will recall that one of the plans laid by John Brown was to organize a chain of armed camps in the mountains of West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, send secret emissaries among the slaves inciting them to flee to these camps, and there concert such measures as times and conditions made possible for further arousing revolt among the negroes. That this plan failed was due to the weakness of the desire for liberty among the slaves themselves, more than anything else." Instead, the only way to have change is to impose it from the highest levels of the federal government -- and when the same government perpetuates those very same injustices, that's never held against it. The history of civil rights is seen as one where minorities had to wait for the state to protect their rights.

This is why there's never any questioning of the centralized Supreme Court system by the mainstream "left" -- even at times (like now) when faced with the specter of the far right imposing their stuff on the whole nation for decades to come, they won't question the system because they want their turn to impose their stuff on the backwards red states.

It's amazing how quickly the United States of Canada / JesusLand map circulated post-election by the very people who are most dismissive of secession, though...

Here's a good quote on the ignoring and demonization of the idea of secession from an article by Matt Hern:

"..."the leading figures of political philosophy, past and present, are virtually mute on the issue of secession. Neither Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, nor Mill devoted any serious attention to secession." (Buchanan, 1991; p. vii) The term "Balkanization" has been synonymous with state breakup and breakdown, chaotic nationalist loyalties and organizational confusion for most of this century. The term is almost always used pejoratively and disdainfully by centralists, and has connotations of civil war and violent secessionism."

There's also a good post by Roderick T. Long and a proposal (obviously tongue-in-cheek, but still good anyway) by David Graeber.

 

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