Some Problems with Secession

It’s always a good plan to consider weaknesses in one’s own position.

By Daniel McCarthy

The American Conservative

Ron Paul has stirred a media buzz by praising Scotland’s secession effort—an effort the Scots themselves rejected. Dr. Paul’s views are shared by many libertarians and conservatives, as well as a few folks on the left. Americans tend to think of secession only in the context of our own Civil War, but most acts of breaking away from a larger political unit have nothing to do with chattel slavery. Unfortunately, they don’t necessarily have anything to do with individual liberty either.


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  1. From my perspective secessionism is only a tactic that should be considered on the basis of the conditions at hand, the correlation of forces, the likely outcomes, and the relation to a larger strategy. A tactic that is mistaken for a strategy will fail as both. (See Occupy as an example.) Secessionism as the tactic of a strategy of ethnic nationalism is coherent and historically grounded, but ethnic nationalism is usually mercilessly destructive of human liberty.

    Inside the US the greatest everyday danger from the state to anyone’s life or liberty is local. The police who hunt you on the road, break into your house or murder you are almost all local pigs. The social workers looking to kidnap your children are unlikely to be federal employees. Almost all of the nanny state laws that actually get enforced are state and local. So is most of the prison system. So is the public school system. So are the family courts and the child confiscation police. So is the work release program and most of the prison slavery.

    If Texas seceded tomorrow, it is not at all obvious that the result would be any greater liberty for its citizens. Without a supreme court that occasionally enforces the bill of rights to check them, it is very easy to imagine California passing all sorts of thought control laws. Blue states that might have drug legalization without a federal government would probably also ban guns completely and pass all kinds of censorship laws. Red states that might have lower taxes and less regulations for corporations would probably also abolish civil liberties and whatever checks remain on police power.

    You can get absurd and argue for some kind of infinite secessionism, but the practical reality is that at some point you will have to deal with local politics that you can’t secede your way out of. Unless we have a long civil war or a nuclear apocalypse, the best possible scenario is the breaking off of individual states. In any normal future it would rarely go any farther than that, for perfectly obvious reasons.

    The United States has lasted as long as it has in part because our political system provides such a great deal of autonomy at the state level. The political forces that might otherwise express themselves in secessionism thus tend to find full development within normal politics. When you combine this with the massive economic and social costs (not to mention war dead and obliterated cities), it is easy to see why it has only happened once, and only in an existential conflict between industrial capitalism and agrarian slavery.

    Pan-Secessionism as a revolutionary strategy fails to deal with the fact that the most dangerous statism in the US is mainly local, and so that is where most of the fight actually is today. The whole theory is based on an ideal of how the world should work rather than the ugly reality of how it does.

    The current conflict in Ferguson is between a local community and a local power system that is preying upon it. The “offender financing” system that jacks up black people on bogus charges and inflicts insane fines or even slavery in order to fund the state is actually a “Libertarian” policy idea being carried out at the local level. The Ferguson police may get tanks from the Pentagon, but the people pulling the triggers are all working for the local system. They don’t actually need the tanks to murder and enslave people, and could just buy them on the market if they did.

    So pan-secessionism has nothing to say to the rebellion in Ferguson, and no strategy to offer that could actually solve the problems at hand. The whole narrative has been monopolized by race hustling DNC apparatchiks on one side, and racist police state toadies on the other. (Btw, if national anarchism was not a *complete fucking joke* it would have had maiden square style street fighting squads defending the protests. Did you assholes learn nothing from Ukraine?)

    They are trying to wrap Ferguson up into our idiot culture war politics, but the bad blood from the prison industrial complex is beginning to boil. Expect more. The reason the pigs are armed for an insurgency is that they have been inciting one for generations, and they know that. The protests have had the desired effect of escalating police aggression against the population. The idiots are trying to arrest their way out of the street protests (which means putting the radicals in the jails with everyone else) while simultaneously increasing the regular arrests of black people.

  2. Thanks again for these comments. I agree with most of what you said here.

    I often hear the argument from leftists and libertarians alike that local government is the worst of all. Leftists say that the local level is where reactionary cultural values are most likely to imposed by the state, and libertarians point out that most of the police state and nanny state activities are actually carried out by local governments.


    But my view that overthrowing the federal government should be the highest priority is rooted in other concerns, both political and tactical. I outlined my reasons for this position in this article: http://attackthesystem.com/why-the-radical-left-should-consider-secession/

    I could add still more reasons to the list that’s in that piece but I’m sure you get the point.

    That said, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that pan-secessionism is not merely an end unto itself, and ARV-ATS is a long, long way from things like state’s rights conservatism, constitutionalism, the Tenth Amendment devotees, etc.

    The splintering of the US into multiple states would be desirable because it would destroy the US empire, but the fight certainly doesn’t end there. Rather, overthrowing the federal government is just a step towards the wider goal of combating the police state, corporate state, etc. at every level.

    I agree with you that the municipal police are the front of the line attack dogs for the ruling class. And defeating the local pigs by means of popular uprising and probably armed combat is going to be an essential ingredient of the revolution. I also agree that Ferguson is an excellent model. But what if Fergusons started appearing everywhere? What would the feds do? Would they just sit back and watch? No, they would send federal alphabet soup police agencies in to bolster local police, followed by the National Guard, followed by the army. Therefore, for local insurgencies to have a fighting chance against the pigs, the US military industrial complex needs to be broken up in the process, or preferably dismantled beforehand. The breakup of the US into multiple states is the best way, or at least most likely, way of achieving that.

    Here’s the sequence of events: First, the US is dissolved by apan-secessionist radical alliance into dozens of independent states. Then localized popular militias and guerrillas take down the municipal police.

    The strategic focus of an actually functional/competent anarchist/libertairan/anti-state movement in North America would be to develop the pan-secessionist alliance for the purpose of toppling the federal regime, while simultaneously working to achieve political pre-eminence in local communities and building up these militias as a counter-power to the pigs.

    I also agree that if pan-secession happened today, most localities in the US would be Democratic or Republican rather than libertarian or anarchist. However, we have to consider demographic, cultural, and political evolution over time.

    You mention Texas. The state of Texas is a non-issue in all this. Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California are the New Atzlan. Demographics will determine that. Texas, home of Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush, can’t fall soon enough, IMO. Nor can Arizona, home of Joe Arpaio. Any state that elects pieces of shit like those guys as their leaders deserves to disappear from the face of the earth. By the time pan-secession happens those states will be comfortably Hispanic homelands. The southwest states don’t even figure into my broader secession strategy because I assume they will be variations of Mexico and Central America by mid-century (which is when I envision pan-secession happening).

    The real action concerning pan-secession is not at the state level but at the city and county level. As pointed out in “Liberty and Populism” most of the US population lives in the largest 75-100 metro areas. I agree that’s also where most police state repression and nanny statism alike takes place. It’s also the future battlefield in the war against the state. This is the comprehensive strategic piece I’ve ever written, and if you read it closely you’ll see what I mean: http://attackthesystem.com/liberty-and-populism-building-an-effective-resistance-movement-for-north-america/

    The insurgency will emerge from the cities (like in Ferguson or L.A. ’92), and gangs will be among the military vanguard (hence, our emphasis on gangs as a potentially revolutionary force as you have acknowledged). When that time comes, it will be necessary to draw reinforcements from the rural and suburban areas inhabited by re-proletarianized formerly middle class people and cultural traditionalists who resent living under a totalitarian humanist cosmopolitan plutocratic police state. Hence, our outreach efforts to the far right and the radical center).

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