Aug 23, 2009

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Decentralizing the Decentralist Movement

"Trail Riders" by Thomas Hart Benton

"Trail Riders" by Thomas Hart Benton

For three years in a row, between 2006 and 2008, a North American secessionist convention was held where delegates from actual secessionist organizations and interested observers gathered to discuss the possibility of decentralizing the United States into smaller political units. Thus far, it does not appear there will be another convention for 2009. I suspect this is for the better. I only attended the third such convention, but to my knowledge there was no growth in attendance or media coverage of these events over the three years they took place.

In spite of the fact that the secessionist movement in North America seems to have peaked for the time being, there has been a subsequent growth in so-called “state sovereignty” resolutions, i.e, legislation passed or at least introduced in state governmental bodies upholding the federalist principles of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A majority of the fifty states have either considered or enacted such resolutions. The highlight of this movement was Texas Governor Rick Perry’s no doubt insincere comments expressing sympathy for secession.

For the most part, these state sovereignty resolutions are simply matters of partisan political grandstanding initiated by members of the opposition Republican Party in order to embarrass or antagonize the Obama regime. I used to hear a lot about the Tenth Amendment the last time the Republicans were out of power, during the Clinton era, and it was often said in those days that Republican politicians carry copies of the Tenth Amendment in their back pockets but carry capitalist whore money in their front pockets.

During the era of the Bush the Younger, the roles reversed a bit, and it was not uncommon to see individual localities and a few states with liberal leanings issue resolutions denouncing the Iraq War or the Patriot Act. About 300 local governmental bodies did so. Now that the Democrats are back, the tides have turned once again. Only a handful of these recently issued state sovereignty resolutions include any genuinely radical provisions or even hint at secession.

Nevertheless, these resolutions may provide a rhetorical tool that genuine radicals can exploit. But a change in tactics will be necessary for the decentralist movement. Thus far, efforts to promote such actions as secession have involved holding continent-wide conferences attended by only a few dozen people, who in turn represent very small organizations or movements. However, these self-appointed secessionist organizations often claim to speak for entire regions containing millions, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of people. This would seem to be a case of putting the cart ahead of the horse.

Of course, this is not to say that the secessionist movement thus far has achieved nothing. Past efforts have brought a certain amount of publicity, and the Zogby poll commissioned by the Middlebury Institute indicates the raw materials do indeed exist for the development of a large scale secessionist effort at some point in the future. Yet, to continue to move such efforts along, it needs to be understood that before we can run, we have to crawl.

It is highly unlikely that secession by individual states or regions of any size will be viable for the forseeable future. For instance, the League of the South is the largest single secessionist organization with membership in the thousands. The southern nationalists do indeed raise legitimate and serious issues concerning the hysterical prejudice often displayed by liberal elites against white working class Southerners, and their history, culture, religion, language, and so forth. Yet, it is also true that sympathy for what used to be known as the “Lost Cause” (i.e., the Confederate secession) is at an all time low among Southerners. This is because quite a few people can be found in the South today who have no historical connections to the Confederate era, e.g., transplanted Northerners and their offspring, European immigrants and their offspring, more recent immigrants from Latin America, and, of course, a large African-American population that is alienated from Confederate heritage for obvious reasons, and many liberal, cosmopolitan, urban whites who resent the South’s conservative image. In other words, the prospect for a unified secession by the former Confederate states under the Stars and Bars is just about zero.

This is not to say that instances of a full-blown, secessionist fervor by certain states are not possible. It is imaginable that Texas and Vermont, both of which were once independent nations, could actually secede at some point. The same could be said concerning Alaska and Hawaii, neither of which are connected to the American mainland and both of which have their own indigenous cultures that have been subject to colonial subjugation by the United States. The indigenous people of the American mainland itself are another possibility for secession.

For the most part, however, it is far too soon in the game to begin thinking of secession by entire regions, such as Cascadia, New England, Novocadia, the former Confederate States, or California. Instead, it is better to begin with something a little less grandiose, and start agitating for secession by towns, cities, neighborhoods, counties or communities.

This is not to say that we should not have a long-term vision. In my view, the only way we will win in the long run is if we have numbers on our side. For instance, the majority of the population of the United States will need to either recognize the right of secession or not actively oppose it. Right now, the numbers are only at about twenty percent. Also, it is likely we will need for there to be a secession by at least a majority of the territory of the United States, and at least the majority of the residents of the seceded territories will need to hold pro-secessionist sympathies. This does not mean than an individual secessionist tendency cannot be very small. For instance, a single county or small town. But such a secession will need to be part of a much larger pan-secessionist alliance, or at least under the umbrella of such an alliance. Otherwise, the secessionists will end up like the Branch Davidians.

It would seem that the best course of action at present would be to begin promoting the decentralist idea in local communities. This gives us a great deal of leeway in terms of how to proceed. For instance, we can simply stick with the idea of secession or independence as an end unto itself and do so in a non-ideological manner, or we can advocate secession for a broader ideological purpose. If one wishes to pursue the former approach, then our local propaganda should simply emphasize the common benefits of independence: “Wouldn’t it be better if our tax dollars stayed in our community without going to the parasites in Washington?”; “Did you know that our locality gets less in services than what we pay in taxes?”; “Wouldn’t it be better if we could simply make our own laws here in our community rather than suffer the dictates of the feds or the state capital?”; “Look at Liechtenstein! If they can do it, why can’t we?”

The other approach would be to agitate for a more specific ideological program, the way that the Free Staters are doing in New Hampshire, or the Christian Exodus has attempted in South Carolina and elsewhere. If this approach is what one prefers, then it is essential to pick an actual locality where the local culture is conducive to one’s wider agenda. There are also options as to how radical one wants to make one’s secessionist platform. In certain communities, it may at present be a bit of an overload to advocate full-blown secession from the United States itself, even if that is the overall goal. Instead, it might be better to advocate secession by regions (for instance, turning northern California into a separate state within the U.S.), or by cities (turning New York City into the 51st state), or by municipality (turning Long Island into an independent city from NYC). This more moderate approach does not mean that we cannot maintain the dissolution of the present state-capitalist regime as an ultimate goal, and there may be at present certain regions or localities where agitation for full-blown secession from the U.S. is the proper route.

At this point in the game, the cultivation of effective propaganda is obviously a primary task. Hans Hermann Hoppe has remarked that answering the question of “How to Win?” means asking the question of “How to win the sympathy of the youth?”  The reasons for this should be obvious enough. If and when the pan-secessionist movement becomes a mass movement, those who are currently older will most likely be deceased. Youth are the future. So our propaganda should primarily be directed at younger audiences. Also, it is the younger people who have demonstrated the greatest proclivity towards secessionist sympathies, and who have the weakest degree of sympathy for the present regime. For instance, the writer Tom Wolfe once remarked that the incidents of September 11, 2001 did little to inspire long-term patriotic sentiments among young Americans, as much as it was just another event they saw on television. Likewise, it has been said that while the older members of the current “post-paleo” movement who came out of the Ron Paul campaign adhere to older paleoconservative ideas, many of the younger members adhere to more radical libertarian, anarchist or anarcho-capitalist positions. And we have seen the rapid growth of national-anarchism in North America in recent times as well.

Our propaganda campaigns should include three indispensable elements.

First, the principle of “peace through separatism” should be upheld to the letter. It makes little sense to advocate secession only by those sharing a uniform ideological stance if one of our objectives to maintain and respect genuine cultural diversity and if achieving civil and political peace is one of the reasons for separatism.

Second, the “good riddance” argument must be emphasized. We should say to conservatives: “Don’t you want to be rid of all those godless atheists, ungrateful minorities, bitchy feminists, perverted homosexual deviants, tree-hugging eco-freaks, gun-grabbers and smelly, drug-addled, tofu-munching, lice-infested hippies?” Likewise, we should say to liberals: “Don’t you want to be rid of all those Bible-banging, flag-waving, share-cropping, inbred, gun nut, gay-bashing, fetus-hugging, cross-burning, goose-stepping, trailer trash?” In other words, we should exploit and capitalize on the hatred that the dominant factions of the mainstream “culture wars” have for one another.

Lastly, we should ignore the forces of political correctness when they attack, as they inevitably will. There should be no capitulation, accommodation, apology, rebuttal, attempted clarification, recognition or respect given to the forces of PC. To give an inch of ground is to play into the hands of the enemy. PC is not only the ideological superstructure of the ruling class, but its primary rhetorical and propaganda weapon. We should disarm our enemies by openly defying them.

I have in the past mentioned the possibility of infiltration into larger organizations by those holding pan-secessionist and related sympathies. For instance, the minor political parties, local units of the major parties, and single-issue pressure groups. Mr. Larry Kilgore, a conservative Christian activist, ran for the Senate in the Republican primary for Texas on an explicitly secessionist platform and won 225, 000 votes. That’s quite an achievement. I would suggest the use of local symbolic electoral campaigns as a propaganda tool. The goal would not so much be to win as much as to publicize the separatist cause. Let’s say that in a few years a wide network emerges of young people running for mayor, city council, or state representative positions in local elections, and doing so explicitly as anarchists, national-anarchists, pluralists, tribalists, decentralists, and avowed secessionists. The uniqueness of such an action, e.g., a large number of such campaigns occurring simultaneously and the radical nature of the ideas of the campaigners, will likely be enough by itself to generate a fair amount of media attention. Likewise, a wider participation in ordinary, mainstream community activities and community activism by those holding such views, for example, “adopt-a-highway” campaigns, volunteering for shelters and homeless feeding programs, setting up neighborhood watch and copwatch programs, will naturally enhance our credibility. In the process of building up the classical Spanish anarchist movement prior to the Civil War, it was not uncommon for some villages and towns to have anarchist mayors, and anarchists were among the ranks of prominent community leaders, and not just fringe figures as they are today. So we have a historical model to draw on. It need only to be adapted to contemporary circumstances.

From Attack the System, August 22, 2009

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  1. … “Lastly, we should ignore the forces of political correctness when they attack, as they inevitably will. There should be no capitulation, accommodation, apology, rebuttal, attempted clarification, recognition or respect given to the forces of PC. To give an inch of ground is to play into the hands of the enemy. PC is not only the ideological superstructure of the ruling class, but its primary rhetorical and propaganda weapon. We should disarm our enemies by openly defying them.” …

    So perfectly put!

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