Secession - Devolution of Political Power
Secession - the action of withdrawing formally from membership of a federation or body, especially a political state. [Oxford]
Whenever government becomes destructive of life, liberty, & pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.
Declaration of Independence of the American Colonies, 1776
At least 5,000 racial, ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups are lumped together into only 195 nation states. Most of the world's violent conflicts are related to struggles for dominance within or independence from some large, larcenous welfare-warfare state. Many of the world’s people (especially in India, China, Indonesia and Africa) would choose to secede from their respective nation states if given the opportunity.
Millions of activists worldwide are committed to national, ethnic, religious and regional secessionist movements described variously as: self-determination, independence, autonomy, sub-national, micro-national, separatist, sovereignty, indigenous, and homeland. Ideological movements explicitly or implicitly promoting individual, community, or regional rights to secession include: libertarian, anarchist, anti-authoritarian, decentralist, devolutionist, cantonal, green, bioregional, "small is beautiful," communal, survivalist, radical pacifist. or futurist. While these latter movements may promote differing social and economic goals, their commitment to individual liberty is strong.
Depending on which party the US ruler-president is in, "Blue state" or "Red state" partisans talk seriously about secession. Tribalism aka identity politics is becoming extremely nasty. Isn't it time to end the winner-take-all system and devolve into many - with each community pursuing its own norms and values? In the twenty-first century, the desire for individual liberty is at an all time high. We are developing the computer, internet, cryptography, and other technology which can secure it.
The time has come to recognize that the great nation state “experiment” of the last five hundred years has failed. The time has come for humans to launch new experiments, ones based on past experience as well as new ideas and technology. The time has come to identify principles and strategies, and initiate educational and action campaigns, to support the world’s people as they seek true freedom, true peace and true justice.
We want to create a worldwide secession network promoting:
- Right to Secede
- Community-Based Secession
Primacy of the Right To Secede
The primary political right of the individual and of political communities must be to secede from any larger political entity, whether they were born into it, were forced to join it, or voluntarily joined it. If one denies or relinquishes that right, one is little more than a slave - and no agreement to become a slave can be legally or morally binding.
Secession of individuals and communities does not have to mean war and violence. It should be a natural evolutionary feature of all political entities. Communities can form networks or confederations, since secession is accepted by both in principle. However, communities should not form "federations" which do not allow secession. We will suggest practical and nonviolent means by which such separation can occur and the kinds of networks and confederations that could be created to replace oppressive nation states.
In the name of nationalism, religion, ideology, tradition or "the common good," the governments of the world suppress individual liberty and individuals' control of their own communities. Special interests - corporate, state, bureaucratic, and military elites worldwide - tax, regulate, bully, beat, prosecute, jail and execute citizens into submission. They discriminate against, rob, ethnically cleanse and genocide members of oppressed racial/ethnic/religious/regional groups. Without central government control, these elites would have little real power over individuals and communities.
The concept of individual liberty is simple: individuals should be free to do whatever they please as long as they don't harm others by using force or fraud. This is the basic ethical tenet or "golden rule" of all religions, one corrupted by layers of theology and ritual and centuries of kowtowing to political authority. Individual consent - not some nationalist, racial, religious, tribal or, ideological construct or “social contract” - is the only legitimate basis of any social, economic and political organization. However, supporting the idea and value of individual liberty is not enough to obtain liberty. We must support institutional structures that make it difficult or impossible for government or private entities to crush individual liberty.
Throughout history most individuals have chosen to live in community with others, be it on communally held or privately held lands, as either owners or renters. Large, multi-national nation states were created by military conquest of smaller independent communities, tribes and nations. Individuals today have little control over their local communities, most of which have become mere administrative units of large, distant, oppressive nation states. Government and special interest confiscation of communal and private land has further muddied the territorial basis of many communities.
In the last 50 years the largest and most powerful nation states have been building big super-national organizations like the United Nations, NATO, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization to ensure that special interest-corporate-state-bureaucratic-military elites further concentrate their control. What some call "corporate globalization" is really government globalization in service of (mostly "First World") corporate and political elites.
Many think in terms of "state's rights" secession, especially in the United States, with such states opposed to secession by smaller political units. However, we favor "community-based secession," assuming that smaller entities like communities, towns, small cities, neighborhoods within larger cities will and must become the basic political unit, after the individual.
The map at left suggests hundreds or even thousands of independent, networked or loosely confederated communities as an alternate to the United States of America, Canada and Mexico. However, communities can be both geographical and non-geographical. Geographical communities can include contiguous "bedroom" or vacation communities, industrial or commercial "parks", counties including a number of farms and tiny communities, shopping malls, environmental preserves or be mixed use communities.
Non-geographical communities are communities of interest, be they industrial, professional, trade or service-related, charitable, cultural, ethnic, racial, political, etc. and may include members all over a continent or the planet. It is possible that members of geographical communities not only can hold overlapping memberships in non-geographical ones, but conduct most of their affairs with those communities.
Communities must be free to join or secede from any larger regional, continental or even worldwide networks and confederations they join to deal with a variety of issues. While communities may choose to confederate along traditional linguistic, ethnic or racial national lines, these confederations must recognize the rights of sub-communities among them to maintain their autonomy. And communities themselves must recognize the right of members and geographical sections of the community to secede and become autonomous or attach to other communities. Only the right to secession guarantees true autonomy. (Future articles will detail how these processes have and can work.)
Many worry that corporations would run roughshod over such communities. But without central government- limited liabilities, privileges, welfare and stifling of competition, most existing huge multinational corporations would disappear or break up into much smaller entities that would have little real power to control communities. Those who look to central governments for such protection are enslaving themselves to a phantom.
Libertarian/Decentralist Political Processes
Communities may create whatever economic, social or cultural systems they choose. However, we believe that in order to prevent communities from re-creation of warring nation states or abusing individual rights and liberties, they must follow five principles of political process, which are both libertarian and decentralist:
A Bill of Rights: Any community may fall victim to prejudice, intolerance, exploitation, suspicion or hysteria towards one or more of its members. Therefore it is necessary to have a written guarantee of (a) freedom of association and of movement in and out of the community; (b) equal political rights to participate in community decision-making or to access community-related information; and (c) procedural rights - right to trial and due process, right to counsel, right of appeal, no cruel and unusual means of interrogation or punishment.
Polycentric Law: Over the last few centuries legislatively decreed law ("fiat" law), made by and for elites, has restricted individual liberty worldwide. It has supplanted more naturally and freely evolved "common law," private commercial law or law governing voluntary associations. Because such laws come from many centers of activity and interest they can be called "polycentric" law. Individuals and communities must be free to choose the legal system by which they will abide. They may choose different systems to deal with personal, business, or other matters. They may choose how much of their lives will be ruled by contractual obligations and how much, if any, by democratic decision-making. They can do so, in large part, simply by deciding what legal system and what community or communities to join.
Consensus-Oriented or Super-Majority Democracy: . "Democracy" means "rule of the people" - a phrase which has been interpreted in ways both authoritarian and libertarian. Even those who attempt to form communities only by contract usually will encounter unexpected situations which require some sort of democratic decision-making. Majority rule decision-making usually turns into a cloak for defacto minority rule by special interests and elites which ever increase their control over society. Contracts and consensus democracy are both examples of consensus-oriented decision-making where decisions, including those to restrict liberty, are not made until all affected parties agree. Super-majority decision-making means at least two-thirds, three-quarters or even nine-tenths of all those eligible to vote must agree to the decision. These processes contribute to community harmony because members propose and adopt only rules and policies that enjoy overwhelming support by all members.
Direct Democracy: Representative democracy, even in groups of a few dozen people, usually results in rule by cliques or elites, usually for their own benefit. Direct democracy means only the votes of individual members can approve or reject laws/rules/regulations and taxes/fees/contributions (depending on what each community chooses to call these functions). The growth of the Internet makes it easy for people to vote from home, office, library, etc. Direct democracy also discourages elites from suggesting special interest laws or taxes since only a small number of people will be motivated to vote for them, and at least a super-majority of all eligible voters must approve them. Voters may still elect, appoint or hire adminstrators and managers, but their policy-making ability is strictly limited.
Sunset Provisions: People too often are panicked into creating rules and regulations to deal with one time or emergency situations. Therefore it is necessary to include a provision allowing a minority of members (15 to 25%) to vote to rescind rules after a few months have passed. And all rules and fees should have "sunset" provisions so that they are phased out after a few years unless explicitly re-instated by voters. There also should be explicit "fair exit provisions" ensuring individuals disagreeing with a near-consensus rule or policy are given sufficient time to settle affairs and leave a community.
Variations on the principles above also should be followed in the regional, continental and other networks and confederations communities choose to form or join. While some sort of representation (probably proportional) probably would be used in these bodies, important decisions still would be referred back to community members. Most important we must all remember that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
Nonviolent Secession And Institutions
The world's large nation states are maintained through threatened and actual military violence against even perceived secessionists. Democratic welfare states bribe their citizens with unsustainable social welfare programs while they build up powerful and increasingly nuclear-armed militaries. Dictatorships dispense with social welfare bribes, sacrificing their people as they focus on military buildups. Only abolition of large multi-national nation states and their militaries will prevent destructive regional wars and eventual and inevitable, accidental or intentional, nuclear war.
Nonviolence is the belief that no racial, ethnic, religious, ideological, social, or economic belief or goal excuses the use of individual or state violence to force the compliance of others. Nonviolent philosophy and practices extend to interpersonal, group and community conflict resolution, nonviolent legal sanctions and nonviolent policing and defense.
The purpose of non-violent action is to withdraw consent from government or other authorities, rather than wrest power from them - defacto secession. Non-violence heightens the moral superiority of the actionists in the eyes of the general public - especially if the authorities respond to their sincere and open nonviolent protest with violence. Even members of the ruling classes can be swayed to sympathy by such non-violent actions. Police and soldiers wooed with sound political arguments and non-violent demonstrations are more likely to come over to the side of the activists than ones afraid of being harmed by protesters.
Political violence destroys public sympathy and unites the people with the elites and the police against the protesters - that's why governments infiltrate demonstrations with violent "agent provocateurs." Violent action usually is practiced predominantly by angry young males, often with military training, who often become as ruthless towards other dissidents as they do towards the oppressor. When violent revolutionaries take power, their regimes often are as ruthless as their revolutions.
Similarly, we must work to remove violence as a means of resolving conflicts in, or regulating, our private and public affairs. The acceptance of personal violence, public violence, government violence and war between nations are intimately connected. Nonviolent conflict resolution within and between communities, nonviolent enforcement of contracts and rules and regulations, and even nonviolent policing, peacekeeping and defense have all proved workable in many places, at many times. A commitment to nonviolent conflict resolution helps create tolerance among people, despite their ethnic, racial, religious, ideological and other differences. We must extend them to all place and all times, if humanity is to survive and prosper.
- Legitimatize Secession of Small Political Entities: the United Nations and human rights organizations give lip service support to autonomy and self-determination movements; we promote factual and moral arguments for the right of individuals, communities large and small, and national sub-groups to seek independence.
- Promote Nonviolent, Libertarian and Decentralist Political Visions: ones that will replace centralized, authoritarian economic-political institutions and offer concrete nonviolent strategies for achieving true peace, freedom, justice and prosperity.
- Influence Existing Secessionist Movements: too many movements want to replace one big, centralized authoritarian state with two or more smaller ones. Only a worldwide movement promoting the radical goals of freedom for individuals and communities can legitimatize the aspirations of hundreds of suppressed national and regional groups for freedom.
- Promote New Secession Movements: billions of people are ready for radical decentralist alternatives and secessionist strategy, they just need a firmer philosophical basis and a little encouragement to begin organizing their own movements.
- Network among these Movements to coordinate nonviolent secessionist strategies and tactics.
Emphasize right to secession: so as not be co-opted by "reformist" promises to decentralize power. Movements advocating anything short of the right to peaceful secession–i.e., advocating any form of “top down” decentralization or "devolution” - are easily ignored or co-opted.
Promote tolerance: so that oppressed and freedom loving men and women from every racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, economic, sexual grouping or orientation, can find a common goal and common bond of trust. Long-time adversarial groups which seek to separate into homogeneous communities must maintain mutual tolerance, as well as tolerance towards members of their groups who may choose to live in integrated communities in their region. This will help provide solidarity as we attempt to free ourselves from the powerful entrenched elites who themselves have transcended such differences in their quest for power over humanity.
Work within the System: by promoting decentralist alternatives and secession through education, lobbying, secessionist initiatives, referendums and constitutional amendments, influencing radical parties and running candidates. Maintaining cordial relationships with those in power, and their supporters, divides elites, wins over converts and helps minimize harm to future secessionist action.
Withdraw Consent from the System: because elites, special interests, and individuals receiving government contracts, paychecks and social welfare payments are usually majority of those who bother to vote. Therefore, we must also work on withdrawing our consent from the nation state system by assertively using the full range of nonviolent strategies.
- nonviolent protest and persuasion
- political noncooperation
- economic counter-institutions
- education & persuasion
- social noncooperation
- nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action
- the creation of parallel community institutions
- coordinated proclamations of secession
Even if only for a day or a week, until enough communities have joined in any region or nation to make the right to secession a de facto right. We must continually marginalize violent street fighting and terrorist elements from our organizing until we have convinced them to use only the full diversity of nonviolent tactics.
Create Alternate Networks and Confederations: Something to replace the United States of America. Something like ConfederatedCommunitiesofAmerican.Net
Respect Rights of Non-Secessionists: We must reassure the public that communities and new confederations will be created by voluntary alliances, not by driving off unwanted people and confiscating their property. And we should assure non-secessionists that those who want to retain citizenship in the nation state, obey its laws and pay its taxes may do so, even if most of their neighbors secede.
Prepare for Alternative Scenarios: Three scenarios for change are possible, "gradual/reformist" scenarios of relatively slow change, punctuated by crisis (as well as those years of increased activism during sunspot cycle heights); continual "crisis" scenarios of escalating economic, political, and military crisis; "catastrophe" scenarios of economic and political chaos and/or massive regional wars and even nuclear war. The self-destructive dynamics of large nation states, as well as the spread of technology which makes them increasingly irrelevant, are opportunities freedom lovers must seize. It is possible great progress towards a free world of networked and confederated communities can be made by the year 2025.Middlebury Institute for the study of separatism, secession, and self-determination
The Breakdown of Nations - Leopold Kohr
198 Methods of Nonviolent Action - Gene Sharp
Virtual Cantons - Roderick Long
Lists of active secessionist movements - Wikipedia