“Autonomy Versus Secession”?: An Example of How Anarcho-Progressives Fail

This article is an excellent demonstration of why the “anarcho-left” fails. Not everything said in this is “wrong,” and not every point being made is worthless, but it’s mostly just the standard mainstream “progressive” narrative with an anarchistic gloss. Most telling of all is that there is no mention of the Empire and imperialism in this. None. Zero. As if such a thing does not even exist. Talk about “privilege.”

I would agree that mere territorial secession alone, while a step in the right direction, is hardly sufficient, and certainly not the same thing as anarchism per se. Instead, territorial secession should merely be an aspect of an “all-fronts” resistance strategy that involves the proliferation of an infinite number of anarchic communities.

It’s interesting that the article contains this passage: “The creation of new states in North America would expand the harms done by authority. It would likely involve majority-white legislatures drawing hard borders across the lands of indigenous people and the routes of migrants. “ Then later in the article, this passage appears.

In the United States, the word secession is deeply associated with the Confederacy and its symbols that are still prominently displayed by right wingers across the country. Southern elites created the Confederacy when they declared secession from a union that they believed would not support slavery as much as they demanded. Southern blacks destroyed the Confederacy of slavers by exercising autonomy, taking up Union arms, and defying the former masters. Many poor southern whites also exerted autonomy by refusing to fight for the planters.

Aside from the fact that this is a completely ahistorical take on what actually happened in the US Civil War, the idea that the survival of the United States as a unified nation-state under the rule of the rising capitalist class/northern industrial bourgeoisie of the era was a net victory for “autonomy” is rather dubious. As I wrote in the aftermath of the 9/11 debacle:

Within the Western Hemisphere, however, the United States went the way of ruthless imperial ambition suppressing revolts by farmers and slaves, invading and conquering Indian nations in the West, crushing the southern independence movement, unconstitutionally annexing the sovereign nation of Texas, invading and annexing one-third of the Mexican nation and similar forms of aggression in the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific. A full-blown global imperialism on the part of the United States began to take shape during the World War One era under the administration of Woodrow Wilson. Recognizing that U.S. entry into the European War would greatly weaken the European imperial states and radically advance the United States as a global power, Wilson entered the war near the end, when Germany was nearly ready to negotiate for peace, and this intervention resulted in the near-total destruction of Germany, its humiliation at Versailles and the setting of the stage for the eventual rise to power of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Worker’s Party.

Anarcho-progressivism is simply not good enough.

By Darian Worden

Center for a Stateless Society

There have long been people in the United States talking about secession or splitting the country into smaller nations. These kinds of discussions seem to be happening more as US states make regional agreements to manage Covid-19 recovery and right wingers fantasize about civil war. Creating smaller American nations will not liberate the people on this land. Instead we should expand individual and community autonomy.

Autonomy is the ability to prevent outside control. Autonomous communities do not guarantee individual autonomy, but autonomous communities do provide a framework for safeguarding individual autonomy. A focus on limiting the reach of outside control and not on establishing local authority means that the principle of autonomy can be applied from the community level to the individual level. Autonomous communities and networks do not need to confine themselves within state borders, but can join with each other across territories claimed by various governments.

Secession splits authority into smaller parts, so authorities impose themselves in more distinct areas. Autonomy denies authority from imposing itself, so liberty can expand in as many areas as possible. Secession creates new states and new opportunities for authority to intrude on the individual. True liberation requires autonomy, breaking down the control of authorities without creating new ones.


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