Should California Secede from the United States? 9

By Hank Pellissier

Transhumanity

“Yes (sort of),” says Chris Hables Gray, a “pragmatic anarchist feminist revolutionary” who works as a lecturer of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Cal State Monterey. He believes “devolution” of large nations into smaller regions will improve democratic decision-making.

Is this a “transhumanist” topic? Indeed, it is.

The Terasem Survey revealed that 20.1% of H+ responders predict “Abolition of Government” in the next 100 years, with an additional 15.% foreseeing “Thousands of Small Fractured States.”  California secession fits handily into the latter category.

I interviewed Dr. Gray via email last week on this controversial topic. Our e-dialogue is below:

Hank Pellissier:  hi Chris – can you tell us a bit about your family background and upbringing? 

Dr. Gray I was born in Bishop, California in 1953. On my mother’s side I’m a direct descendant of Jose Francisco Ortega,  pathfinder of the Portola expedition, a number of other Spanish and Catalan explorers and, in two cases, of the Native California women they married. But I don’t claim any real indian heritage. These women’s real names are lost. But I did grow up thinking of myself as Spanish and Catalan (my great-grandmother who raised my mother lived in an adobe in King City), my favorites of the 23 nationalities that my parents have documented in my background.

How you define yourself politically and how did you reach that position?

Dr. Gray I’ve been an anarchist since I was 14 and a revolutionary feminist since I was 18. As a frosh at Stanford in 1971 I was arrested and beaten (not for the last time) during an anti-war protest and as I became an organizer I realized that feminist process, consensus decision-making, and anarchist organizational principles were what I believed in. For people interested in the anarchist-feminist
perspective I strongly recommend the autobiography of Emma Goldman, the fiction of Ursula Le Guin (especially The Dispossessed), and also the writings of Alexander Berkman and Colin Ward.  I am a pragmatic revolutionary, working toward the logical conclusion of the saying (popular with American revolutionaries such as Thomas Jefferson): “The government is best that governs least.”

What’s your career history?

Dr. Gray I have had many jobs, including over a decade doing blue collar and white collar work as I organized and took part in nonviolent direct actions around the Vietnam War, US support for apartheid, union organizing, the American Empire, nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

Currently I lecture on the cultural studies of science and technology at the University of California, Santa Cruz (where I got my doctorate in 1991 in the History of Consciousness) and California State University at Monterey Bay. I have published a great deal. My book Postmodern War (Guilford Press, 1997) is now free on my web site (http://www.chrishablesgray.org), my other academic books are still for sale (Cyborg Handbook (ed.); Technohistory (ed.); Cyborg Citizen; and Peace, War and Computers) and I’ve put my memoir of my 19th year on-line (http://issuu.com/chrishablesgray/docs/19thyear), as well as a punk magical realism novel I wrote in the 80s (http://www.scribd.com/doc/76210205/It-Could-Be-Magic) while living in San Francisco.

Why would California thrive if it seceded from the USA?  What is your motivation for wanting this? 

Dr. Gray The United States as we now know it will not last forever. In the long term I am working toward an autonomous California that will be part of an American (North) Union, not unlike the European Union but with much less bureaucracy and most of the power at the local level. Empire is
the enemy of democracy and as long as the US is an empire we will see our democracy erode. California (Alta) has more in common economically and culturally with California (Baja) than with Alabama. We share a bioregion and culture with Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia
while we share much less with Missouri (where a majority of people don’t even accept the reality of evolution).

But I don’t believe in total isolation (of the individual, let alone larger political entities). Humans are profoundly social, and so I believe in belonging to many different associations. It certainly makes sense for California to keep relations with places such as New York and Chicago. A looser system, think of the Articles of Confederation with a Bill of Rights made stronger by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is what I dream of.

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9 comments

  1. Oh so close but oh so far away. He (I was confused about that part…do men really call themselves feminist revolutionaries nowadays?) doesn’t seem to consider any of the conservative secessionist movements in California and I think his view on the Civil War solution is ass backwards. If left secessionists will only tolerate the existence of left secessionist movements we’re going to have some nasty problems in the future…

  2. “If left secessionists will only tolerate the existence of left secessionist movements we’re going to have some nasty problems in the future…”

    Oh, there will be plenty of examples of secessionists who don’t recognize other secessionists as legitimate secessionists because they don’t meet one or another standard of ideological correctness.

    The most likely scenario is that the system will lose its legitimacy over time, the ruling class coalition will crack up, and what will be left is dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of different groups striving for autonomy and/or hegemony. That’s where the values of decentralized particularism and peace through self-determination come in.

    For someone like this guy, secession is just a means of advancing a specific ideological agenda. That’s fine by itself but I’m more interested in the bigger picture. The primary value of secession is that it’s a way for groups with conflicting interests to achieve automony without one group ruling tyrannically over the others.

    • “Oh, there will be plenty of examples of secessionists who don’t recognize other secessionists as legitimate secessionists because they don’t meet one or another standard of ideological correctness.”

      I’m saying that presently, people will mostly likely stick to whatever causes they’re championing rather than forming a disunified front against the U.S. If these groups aren’t opposing the U.S. government at the forefront of their ideology then they become no different than Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, the NRA or Lesbians Against Bikini Waxing. If the government starts killing off southern secessionists movements the Cascadians and the Male Feminist Revolutionary Secessionist Whateverthefucks will be down there picking people off from highway bridges. The same thing would happen if the gov started hauling off/executing non-whites except you’d see the Northwest Front and the Paper-Mache Hilter Posse lending their hand to the cause.

      Over at my site I have links to pretty much every U.S. based secessionist/separatist movement and the only ones that are even close to being serious (as in anti-american) are the ATS related sites, Dump DC (one guy), The Middlebury Institute (one guy), SNN, RPN and maybe the Second Vermont Republic. The rest only seem to exist when their particular social issues aren’t being catered to or because of a race/ethnic foundation, which doesn’t always equate to being anti-american.

      Anyway, if or when these groups ever become truly opposed to the U.S. empire I think they’ll have to work together civilly in order to defeat The Great Satan.

      • “f these groups aren’t opposing the U.S. government at the forefront of their ideology then they become no different than Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, the NRA or Lesbians Against Bikini Waxing.”

        That’s what I’ve been saying about the left-anarchists and most libertarians for years. Most left-anarchists are the youth counter-culture wing of the Democratic Party and most libertarians are Republicans who take drugs or just another branch of bourgeois conservatives.

        ” If the government starts killing off southern secessionists movements the Cascadians and the Male Feminist Revolutionary Secessionist Whateverthefucks will be down there picking people off from highway bridges. The same thing would happen if the gov started hauling off/executing non-whites except you’d see the Northwest Front and the Paper-Mache Hilter Posse lending their hand to the cause.”

        That would be the ideal scenario. For that to happen, the different component groups of such an alliance would have to reach the point where they regarded the empire as a greater enemy than each other which as you point out is not really the case at present.

        “The rest only seem to exist when their particular social issues aren’t being catered to or because of a race/ethnic foundation, which doesn’t always equate to being anti-american.”

        Spot on. The problem is that both the left and right, even in their ostensibly “radical” forms, really represent conflicting narratives both of which are still operating within the context of American exceptionalism.

        The right holds to a declinist version of American exceptionalism: “This country was founded on good Christian principles by sturdy white mean who valued hard work and independence but has gone downhill due to the influence of liberalism, socialism, secularism, racial minorities, homosexuality, etc.” Most American rightist thinking is a variation of this narrative. Some emphasize the white thing more, some Christianity, some “middle class values” or “free enterprise,” etc. but it all amounts to the same thing.

        The left holds to a progressive version of American exceptionalism: “This country was founded on the ideals of liberty, equality, and democracy, but the founders were regrettably hypocrites who didn’t extend these principles to the excluded: women, minorities, workers, gays, non-Christians, etc.” Most American leftist thinking is a variation of this.

        Only the far right and far left operate outside this American exceptionalist paradigm.

        The far right tends to view America in the same light as European conservatives and throne and altar traditionalists, as the beginning of the decline of European civilization with the overthrow of traditional principles of aristocracy in favor of bourgeois decadence and commercialism.

        The far left tends to have a Marxist view of America as rooted in a bourgeois revolution with classical liberal ideals being an ideological superstructure whose purpose is to mask the exploitation of workers, the poor, minorities, whomever else.

        Interestingly, I’ve been called an “American exceptionalist” at times because I generally believe that any kind of revolutionary movement in the US has to been rooted in the particularities of American history, culture, and political traditions, e.g. the American Revolution, the Confederate secession, Jeffersonian ideals, etc. But I would apply that same principle to any society or nation. For instance, I would like to see the development of parallel pan-secessionist movements in Europe against the EU and in China against the CCP, but obviously the rhetoric, symbolism, appeals to varying traditions and so forth would have to be much different on a society-to-society basis.

  3. An even stickier problem is when there are multiple secession groups claiming the same region. Hence, the value of our concept of neighborhood anarchism. If the Republic of Texas, League of the South, and Aztlan Nation are all claiming parts of the Southwest, then obviously concepts like neighborhood anarchism, county supremacy, free cities, polycentrism, sovereign enclaves, millet systems, confessional systems and micronations become very important ideas.

    As I said in one of my recent broadcasts, as the system breaks down and the dominant political coalitions crack up, more and more radical groups and movements will start to appear from all over the place. Many of these will be bitterly opposed to each other (think Occupy and the Tea Parties or this California secessionist guy and American Renaissance). There will be all kinds of groups forging out plans for ecotopias, anarchotopias, libertopias, whitopias, blacktopias, Christopias, Marxotopias, etc. Many of these will regard the others as evil monsters.

    When that time comes our over-arching message of peace through radical decentralization or omniseparatism will become extremely important as well as our parallel message of the necessity of standing together against the globalist empire or else suffering collective defeat. It will also be very important to have in our orbit participants in leaders in all of the scattered dissident movements who are aware of these issues and the need to act accordingly.

  4. “If left secessionists will only tolerate the existence of left secessionist movements we’re going to have some nasty problems in the future…”

    No one said a successful secession could not devolve into an internal civil war, or that there won’t be secessionist *within* the secession state that want to separate from it once it is formed.

    Secessionists seem to think when/if they abandon the US and secure independence it will all be milk and cookies and faeries prancing around from then on; rather than most critical and difficult stage of the whole endeavor. Heck, even it was that easy and good and they set up an utopia in their new country, they would still have to deal will millions of refugees and immigrants pouring over their new borders in search of it.

    “The most likely scenario is that the system will lose its legitimacy over time, the ruling class coalition will crack up, and what will be left is dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of different groups striving for autonomy and/or hegemony.”

    Which of course, will led to the collapse of modern industrial and technological society and mass deaths. Extreme pulverization of a polity into numerous successor states in a rapid interval of time will leave a gaggle of small autonomous states even less self-sustaining than the current system.

    If such a scenario came to be (and I do not think it is by far the most likely) expect wars over such simple things as a power plant by a river, an industrial facility or an air traffic control center.

  5. I generally agree with most of what both Sebastian and Ryan have said here.

    Sometime in the 1990s I started to suspect that the US would eventually fall apart for the same reasons as the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact: economic bankruptcy, military overstretch, escalating state repression, political alienation and loss of legitimacy, escalating internal conflict, etc. Since then all of these things have grown by an order of magnitude. That was in the Clinton years before 9-11, before Iraq and Afghanistan, before the ascendency of the neocons, before the terror war, before the crash of ’08, etc.

    This was also before Dmitry Orlov published his thesis on the USA-USSR comparison: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitry_Orlov

    The two empires are very similar in that in both cases there is really a domestic and external empire. The Soviet “republics” were really just the former colonial territories previously held by the Russian empire during the pre-Bolshevik era plus the Baltic states seized through the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. The external Soviet empire included the Warsaw Pact nations (which was more or less the Soviet equivalent of NATO), and a network of client states and insurgent movements to which financial or political support was provided. That’s the same way the US empire functions only the postwar US empire was always wealthier and larger and has now achieved global hegemony due to the lack of any counterbalancing superpowers.

    Russia itself was the mother country of the Soviet empire and dominated the other Soviet republics in the way that the traditional northeastern WASP culture was the “founding stock” of the USA and the source of America’s traditional political and cultural elite. All of the other regions and cultural, religious, and ethnic groups in the USA have historically been subordinated to the northeastern WASP elites or been incorporated into the US empire through outright conquest.

    But the big question is what will the aftermath of a Soviet-like collapse of the USA actually be? Remember that in the Yeltsin years the average life expectancy in Russia declined so the demise of Soviet communism was hardly the beginning of a era of freedom and prosperity. Some of the Central Asian soviet republics reverted to more conventional forms of dictatorship. And remember what happened to Yugoslavia following the collapse of communism there.

    As I see it, our primary goal should be to try to prevent these kinds of disasters from happening in the event of a collapse of the USA. Tactical alliances of regional and local independence movements against the common enemy with different ideological factions mutually agreeing to peace through separation and staying out of each other’s backyards would seem to be the most practical way to go. Forging a consensus towards these ends is really what I see as being one of the primary purposes of ARV/ATS. There’s always going to be some who don’t want to play, of course.

  6. “Anyway, if or when these groups ever become truly opposed to the U.S. empire I think they’ll have to work together civilly in order to defeat The Great Satan.”

    Well, they will have to work together if they want to produce any kind of positive outcome. It’s possible that when the USA goes the way of the USSR that we will have a Yugoslavia-1992 or a Lebanon-1983 situation on our hands where there’s multi-factional civil war going on between all kinds of contending demographic and ideological interests.

    Again, I see one of our primary purposes as trying to prevent such a situation though the creation of tactical alliances against the common enemy, and promoting peace through decentralization and all that.

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