by Spencer Pearson
“A rebel secessionist agent provocateur? Me? There must be some mistake”
Lest I be accused of hypocrisy let me just say at the outset that, personally, I’m not exactly brilliant at the execution of the techniques discussed in this article. However in my defence I can at least argue that they are to some extent based on the experience of a street level activist.
Let’s start off with something completely radical. The natural first assumption of people setting out to take on the state via a secessionist strategy is to go and try to enlist the existing local dissidents in the cause. This is a terrible mistake. I’m a dissident myself, which is probably why I am so rubbish at actual politics. If you go looking for the local trouble makers and critics of the establishment you will find a collection of people whose common characteristic is the inability to get anything done. You might well spend the rest of your life trying to get such individuals to cooperate or act in a way which might have some possibility of some kind of success at some level at some point with no result at all. The defining feature of all shades of dissident in the West is the ability to be undeterred by constant and absolute failure. Over time this produces a self selecting group of people who are both completely inured to failure and utterly indifferent to raising their game. They will want to do what they always do, and they will get the same result. Understand that whatever originally inspired them to oppose the system will have long since been subsumed into a cultural lifestyle choice. They will probably justify this by explaining that what they are doing will work, as soon as the political environment changes as a result of the inherent flaws in the system. Well that’s is great, but I would suggest that something that works in the current environment will only work better when conditions are more favourable for dissidents.
Let me suggest an alternative, one which I have found to be far more successful. The people who actually hold positions of power within local government and the bureaucracy of it tend to be much more practical and proactive people. However whilst they might be good at doing what needs to be done to get oneself elected or employed as a Director of this or that Department they frequently, in my experience, to have no clear idea of what to do with the power they have acquired. These people are receptive to any idea which has some possibility of conspicuous success because that is what they need to retain and justify their power.
Now at this point it is worth explaining the concept of the Jedi of Secession. Let’s say you conduct your entryist approach perfectly. You enlist yourself in the civic activism programs which every local government in the Western world operates in order to be “responsive” to the local community in a “dynamic and inclusive” fashion of course. You build relationships with people in positions of power and people with a track record of successful politicking, you help them out with their campaigns (because none of these people can ever so much as build a facebook page). You go and pick up the rubbish with the local neighbourhood group. You volunteer for the local youth club or whatever. What you do not do is one day just say “you know what I think would be a great idea? Let’s unilaterally declare independence of our sovereign state tomorrow!”
Now like I say I’m not the smoothest of political operators and I have made this mistake myself. Not that I advocated UDI in a revolutionary act of rebellion, I merely suggested that as a long term goal self determination was the only way that we could expect to have any meaningful control over our environment. I made this suggestion to a substantial local group who were actively considering holding a protest march against immigration into my neighbourhood, which most observers including themselves agreed would leave the town looking something like Stalingrad ’42 and probably persuade the national political elite to slate it for demolition. The reaction of incredulous disbelief that secession even of an informal variety as an ultimate goal could be contemplated by a sane person was universal. So for practical purposes assume that any talk of “the autonomous community of (insert your locality here)” before you have established some credibility is political suicide.
However this does not mean you are beat. Remember how it went down on Endor. Did Luke and the boys deliver an impassioned and sublime critique of the system in order to inspire the Ewoks to rise against the Empire? No, they did not. They did some cheap party tricks with their gay robot and talked the locals into rebellion in a beery night around the camp fire. Harsh as it might sound I would suggest that you take a similar approach in persuading your community to mobilise against the state. In order to keep out of prison I should add that by this analogy I am not suggesting rolling about twelve tons of timber at a cop car or rushing the local tax office with a couple of dozen fucked up bears. (Unless of course, you want to)
What I’m suggesting is that you create and/or support groups with objectives which advance the goal of community autonomy. The critical point here is that they themselves do not have to believe in community autonomy or advocate it or even have ever heard of it. Such groups would include credit unions, building societies, local Independent politicians, independent schools, local currency groups, neighbourhood watch schemes, community share organisations, tool banks, civic activist operations and perhaps even religious congregational social schemes.
Now obviously this is going to do absolutely nothing for the cause of secessionism unless you are really, really good. Secessionist activists should study, and become proficient in, every variety of campaigning there is. You should be able to devise an internet campaign, advise on media strategies via the technique of the newsworthy spectacle, provide tactical advice on which direct action actions to take, provide reasonably reliable legal/administrative advice etc. Secessionists should be agnostic on any issue so long as it advances the cause of community organisation and encourages local solutions rather than petitioning the state. The best way to learn these skills is in the field, and by whoring yourself to any and every acceptable campaign group you will rapidly develop a degree of expertise in all the techniques of campaigning. You may even find people active with such campaigns who can teach you what they know of them.
This approach might appear to be based on a long game strategy. And indeed ultimately if enough such initiatives were successful it is entirely possible that you might end up with a community which had achieved a considerable degree of autonomy without anyone actually noticing. An example of exactly that might be the experience of Transition Towns in the British town of Totnes, where the local government was persuaded to adopt a manifesto of localist measures based on a presentation about “peak oil”. However there is more to this tactical approach than trying to advance the cause of secessionism by sleight of hand.
If you were successful at supporting specific campaigns aimed at localist measures you will begin to both build a local profile within the community and begin to build a network of people interested in such things and who were capable of and willing to agitate for them. Simultaneously as such programs are rolled out, or at least considered within the community, that community would gradually develop a culture of practical radicalism and thus become more susceptible to the radical concept of secession. Such a process might be described as “radical terraforming”. Meanwhile it some become progressively easier to identify potential supporters of any specific measure from the roster of activists identified by the collaborative work and relationships developed during that work should make people more inclined to support your proposals. This should make each successive campaign easier to conduct.
An elegant aspect of this strategy is the concept of the “fractal revolution” which holds that the techniques used to advance the cause should reflect their goals. So in this case as the radicalised local political class developed and became “battle hardened” through organisation of specific projects you would actually be creating a new ruling class which would direct the community in a post secession environment.
So just like the fictional Jedi Knights the role of active secessionists at this point is to work within, encourage and gently direct campaigns by local groups (who probably will not be advocating their project on the basis of secessionism specifically). And, where necessary, to lead that fight from the front at judiciously chosen and critical moments. Most importantly of all is the ability to focus these groups on winning support from the local political elite and if possible involving that elite in them.
The basic formula for this kind of technique is to develop lines of communication with those who have some local power and use those lines of communication to advance incremental localist initiatives. In order to persuade the local elite to adopt them small organised and professional campaigns would ideally be constructed in order to demonstrate popular support. Note that twelve well mannered and respected citizens is rather better in demonstrating that popular support than say five hundred placard waving plebs in my experience.
I appreciate that this technique isn’t as glamorous or romantic as trying to get the locals to storm the town hall and defenestrate everyone they find inside. It is however more effective. I also appreciate that it might seem like a tactic so sideways in its nature as to run the considerable risk of being entirely divorced from its goal. Which is why the next point is so crucial.
Economic localisation is a perfectly respectable ambition, and in practical terms persuading a hundred people to use mutualist financial organisations like credit unions or building societies or neighbourhood banks, will inflict more pain on the system than persuading 10,000 people to go camping in the town park for a week. Moreover economic localisation has a long and accepted tradition, the co-operative movement and localised financial services have histories stretching back at least a century. However from the point of view of a secessionist economic self determination is irrelevant if it is not matched with political self determination. So at some point attempts towards that goal must be made.
At this point we are heading off the beaten track because far more work has been down on community control of economic activities than political activities. Whilst a reasonably educated person might be expected to know something about institutions and traditions like the co-operative movement they are unlikely to have ever heard of its political equivalents. This is reasonable enough since none of the latter are as well known or anything like as successful. As a result of this people tend to be less willing to contemplate projects aimed at political localisation than they are economic. (Among other reasons, the primary one being the endemic Stockholm Syndrome among citizens of Western states with regard to those states)
So there are very few accepted “methods” or techniques we can advocate on the same incremental basis as we would used to advance the cause of economic localisation. The development of such techniques is something that is going to have to be done from the ground up. However there are a few obvious measures we might consider. Of these I think the most promising are variations of the theme of converting elected representatives into delegates via “charters” agreed with the communities those representatives’ represent. So for example a representative might agree to cast his vote on any given issue a certain way if sufficient constituents sign a petition in favour or against. This method has the attraction of allowing the population to dispense with issues they are not much concerned about and delegating their power over such issues to the judgement of their representative. If representatives refuse such limitations of their power candidates could be stood against them that will just as soon as that might be a project with some prospect of success.
Additionally campaigning for the devolution of powers to more local levels from “higher” tiers of government is a viable strategy. Such campaigns are relatively common although because they are usually expressed in terms which to most appear to revolve around the status of a community they are generally not recognised as overtly political. For example in the UK town’s periodically compete for city status and in doing so frequently open the door for their self governance at a local level from whichever authority currently controls them. It is not unknown for communities to campaign for “metropolitan” or “unitary” status in order to gain more control over their local governance. Frequently such campaigns revolve around local rivalries at a popular level “why should we be governed from Shelbyville?” or are perceived as attempting to restore traditional and historic local governance. In the UK a campaign to restore the county’s smallest county, Rutland, to political autonomy at a local level was largely an appeal to tradition. That campaign was ultimately successful after 30 years of campaigning.
So to summarise, as a first step forget trying to build a grand coalition of commies, environmentalists, anarchists, Nazis, conspiracy theorists, pagan mystics, white supremacists and gang bangers. Instead insinuate yourself with your local political class and persuade them of the case for localist measures. If you can achieve any degree of success what-so-ever you can be fairly confident that the more practical elements of the above listed groups to “get the idea” and get involved. Once you have won official support for the local credit union, or better yet contrived to get an informal system of direct democracy implemented in a local electoral district, then you can start talking about secession. I’ll even give you permission to use the Jedi Mind Trick at that point if you like. May the Force be with you.
Note: What I have laid out here is meant as a general operating system, it is theory. Personally I operate a sort of post modern strategy whereby in theory I’m supposed to be an entryist covert ops radical but in practice everyone knows that is what I’m doing. Which is why I can write about it on ATS. Surprisingly once offered the “get out” that “they didn’t know” even people with some substantial local power seem happy with the arrangement.
Categories: Activism, Anarchism/Anti-State, Secession, Strategy
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