My first blog entry is a bit long but covers important ground about issues with which would-be secessionists must deal: big state vs. small state secession; learning from libertarian visionaries, left and right; need for clear principles; arguments over gradualist vs radical strategies; central government co-optation and leadership sell out; legitimate discrimination versus destructive bigotry; overlapping secessionist networks and confederations. Plus some introductory information about who this Carol Moore is! Comments, especially about missing issues, welcome! ___________________________________________________________________________________________________ Thanks to Vermont Commons for allowing me to reach out to a larger audience with my many thoughts on political secession. I've only been in Vermont once, in 1967 when I was checking out the possibility of transferring to the then-radical Goddard College, which I perceived as a hotbed of communitarian activity. Back then I already had the secession bug, having read Ayn Rand's “Atlas Shrugged” in 1964, and Paul Goodman's “Communitas” a few years later. I finally became politically active in the late 1970s, working with “right” libertarian, “left” anarchist and Gandhian pacifist groups. Being unwilling to choose any one vision as the only correct one, I became a radical decentralist emphasizing the right of differing communities to self-organize as they please. As an anti-nuclear war activist, I made up my first “Secede and Survive!” pin back button in the early 1980's to express my conviction that only breaking up large nation states would save us from nuclear destruction. With the aggressive war mongers running the U.S. government now, that is truer today than ever! Although it's been 25 years since my philosophy jelled, during those years I mostly have been busy organizing a variety of single issues - drug legalization, libertarian organizing and outreach, “Waco Justice,” anti-war activism, and the ongoing struggle against patriarchal violence, personal and political. I launched Secession.Net on January 1, 2000, but have done little more than set forth some draft principles, goals and strategies. But now as Blue State Democrats talk about seceding from the Neocon Empire and Red State Republicans are just an election away from seceding from Hillary-Land, it looks like the time is a-coming! Millions are realizing that the U.S. Constitution is a failed experiment and are declaring their right to “alter or abolish” government, per the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence. It's not just a coincidence that my most popular YouTube video – Obey the Constitution - or What? - with almost 30,000 hits stresses that secession is the answer to big, unconstitutional government. However, to be successful secessionists must get our principles, goals and strategies in order. Otherwise the various authoritarians jockeying for greater control of nation states worldwide will crush us all with their politics of fear and hate. Below is a brief, and doubtless incomplete, outline of important secessionist issues - including relevant suggestions. I'll provide more details in future blog entries at Vermont Commons - as well as in future updates to Secession.Net. 1. Big state vs. small state secession If you check out Middlebury Institute's news links to the two Secessionist Conventions, you'll see that far too much attention was given to the issue of alleged “racism” by a few southern secessionists. The anonymously written Vermont Secession blog - which evidently is really anti-secession - has flogged this “guilt by association” issue. While the issue of bigotry is very important, and addressed below, the reason the “racism” issue has become such big stick to beat the nascent secessionist movement is that being a movement of big state secessionists is self-limiting and possibly self-defeating. For one thing it allows everyone from cultural conservatives, to hardcore Marxists, to racists, to mad men to declare that “their states” will have certain laws and policies, even if it is unlikely that most inhabitants would agree to such policies. However, within even some of our smaller states there can be different groups with very different values, especially apparent in the city versus small town and country divide. The declarations of some secessionist frighten people into believing all secessionists have questionable views they intend to impose on everyone else. This is just one of many reasons – which I will list at a later date – I promote “community based secession.” Small towns, counties and cities, and neighborhoods within large cities must become the primary, self-determining political unit. These communities choose which others they will network or confederate with regionally, continentally or worldwide to deal with common problems like crime and pollution. 2. Learning from Libertarian visionaries, left and right Even if the federal government does not collapse under its own weight of debt, high taxes, hyperinflation, and a devastated economy, the secession of a number of states or regions will begin the dismantling of thousands of federal and state laws, regulations and programs. Most of these were created by and for powerful and usually well-heeled special interests. Yet too many secessionists, liberal and conservative, seem to think that their new entities will re-establish the most “beneficial” of these institutions of the old order. However, there a dozens of libertarian visionaries who have offered political and economic alternatives to the old institutions that ensure both freedom and a greater measure of political and economic security than possible in our over-regulated, over taxed nation state system. From Murray Rothbard and David Friedman on the “right” to Murray Bookchin and Starhawk on the “left”; from Mildred Loomis to Jane Jacobs. Leopold Kohr, E.F. Schumacher, and Kirkpatrick Sale effectively promoted small community alternatives to larger audiences. Countless advocates of bioregionalism, collectivist and individualist anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-capitalism, green anarchism, anarchist feminism, etc. have envisioned alternatives. “Panarchists” would have each individual join on the government of his or her choice! Secessionists should start reading these authors and debating alternatives. 3. Need for clear principles. To ease people's legitimate fear that secession will lead to a multiplicity of petty tyrannies - a “Mad Max” world of small states where armed bullies enslave everyone else - we must emphasize, and improve upon, certain principles of liberty, democracy and human rights. We must bolster confidence that secessionists have principles that will benefit and not harm them. The most important of these are: * Nonviolent Strategies and Institutions: After racism, the greatest fear unionists promote is that secessionists will violently provoke “legitimate” central government violence that may harm innocent citizens. I recommend a thorough study of nonviolent action analyst Gene Sharp's 198 methods of nonviolent action and a very public commitment to practicing them. Creating institutions committed to using conflict resolution and nonviolent enforcement of laws and contracts should be an equally important goal. Read Gandhi on nonviolent police and armies. The urge by some to “prove their manhood” through revolutionary violence must be opposed firmly. * Bills of Rights: We must ensure all secessionist political alternatives publicize widely their written guarantees for individuals of freedom of association; of movement in and out of political entities; of equal political rights of members to participate in community decision-making and have access to public information; of procedural rights of members and of visitors to trial – to due process, counsel, appeal, and to no cruel and unusual means of interrogation or punishment. * Consensus-Oriented (or Super-Majority) Direct Democracy: Representative, majority rule decision-making, in small organizations and even more so in large ones and in government, leads inevitably to defacto minority rule by wealthy and/or well-organized elites and special interests who know who to elect, who to pressure, who to pay, to get their way. All the attempted and proposed tweaks couldn't fix the basic majoritarian/representative structural flaw, even if they could be enacted, which they cannot under current systems. Many libertarians dream of a society regulated by contract, but even such a society inevitably will encounter unexpected situations requiring democratic decision-making. And then there are the people who just love making decisions by committees, councils, congresses and parliaments. Learning and practicing direct, consensus-oriented democracy in our organizing will prepare us for creating them in our new political communities. * Emphasizing voluntary nature of secessionist entities: Obviously, secessionists do not intend to wait for a super-majority of people in their communities or regions or states to decide they want to secede from the union. Most will be ready when they obtain a critical mass of 15 or 20%! Nevertheless, 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. We must 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 many or most of their neighbors secede. 4. Arguments over gradualist vs radical strategies There are three scenarios for change: gradual/reformist scenarios of relatively slow change, punctuated by intermittent crisis; continuing and escalating economic, political, and military crisis scenarios; and catastrophe scenarios of economic and political chaos, massive regional wars and even world nuclear war. Secessionists can waste a lot of time arguing about whether slow, gradual or fast, radical change strategies are “best.” However, recognize that circumstances usually make that call. (The exception being the fact that there are cycles of activism and at their height even minor issues can mobilize masses. See my article on Sunspot Cycles and Activist Strategy .) In the United States and most developed nations, elites, special interests, and individuals receiving government contracts, paychecks and social welfare payments are the majority of citizens, and a large majority of those who bother to vote. Therefore during good times constant education and penetrating networking is the best alternative. However, as we know, the last few years we have been moving into escalating economic, environmental, political and military crisis. And many of us fear catastrophe. A critical mass of people already is beginning to form that is ready to consider adopting secessionist alternatives. Many more will join when they have lost jobs, homes, hope and are ready to admit the central state is the cause. Of course, Americans were extremely angry at “big government” in the late 1970s when inflation was running only in the teens, and taxes were a lot lower, so who knows how much it will take! 5. Central government co-optation and leadership sell out Throughout the world there are many groups that talk secession largely in order to gain greater autonomy and local control from the large state. That is their privilege. But there are also individuals and leaders willing to sell out even a large majority secessionist movement. Some individuals may enter the movement with just that intent, using secessionists to gain their own nefarious goals. 6. Legitimate discrimination versus destructive bigotry All secessionists risk being tarred by "unionists" with the bigotry smear because some secessionists want separatist organizations, communities or nation states based on race, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, etc. The desire to work in political community with one's own kind - and “discriminate” against working with others - does not necessarily mean hateful or supremacist or colonialist beliefs. However, when it does we should protest the fact by discussing the issue with such groups and demanding they drop their wicked ways and apologize for past transgressions. On the other hand, secessionists do not have to spend half our time denouncing any secessionist who doesn't toe any unionist's politically correct line. Of course, if secessionists really want to succeed, we must promote tolerance so that freedom loving men and women from every racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, economic, sexual grouping or orientation can have a common bond of trust. This will strengthen solidarity as we attempt to free ourselves from the powerful entrenched elites who themselves have transcended such differences in their quest for power over all of us. 7. Overlapping secessionist networks and confederations It is inevitable that if secession catches on different ideological, ethnic/racial and other groups will create different networks and even confederations operating in the same states, regions, cities and towns. Using principles mentioned above, hopefully these networks will become the basis of a creative new political order and not an excuse for competition and conflict. See more Carol Moore articles at CarolMoore.Net.