Secessionists, Unite!

by Keith Preston

     Over the course of the weekend of November 14-16, I had the pleasure of attending the Third North American Secessionist Convention. The event was held in Manchester, New Hampshire and was sponsored by the Middlebury Institute. I was there as an observer. While I do not personally represent or even belong to any actual secessionist organization, I am very supportive of the idea of secession by regions and localities as a means towards the end of abolishing the American empire. Indeed, I have at times used the phrase “empire abolitionist” to describe my political outlook.

     About fifty-five persons were in attendance, including both delegates from secessionist organizations and independent observers such as myself. Dr. Kirkpatrick Sale of the Middlebury Institute kicked things off on Friday night with a discussion of how the times are indeed right for secessionism. Secession has received a certain amount of attention in the media recently because of events such as those concerning South Ossetia, the rise of the Scottish independence movement, the ongoing struggle of the Quebec secessionists and the controversy surrounding Sarah Palin and the Alaskan Independence Party. Three dozen pro-secession groups now exist in North America and some, such as the Southern National Congress, are working to build a real political organization. The Middlebury Insitute recently commissioned a Zogby poll, the results of which showed that twenty-two percent of Americans support the right of states to become independent republics and eighteen percent would actually support a secession movement in their own region.

     Former New Hampshire state senator Burt Cohen also spoke on Friday night and made a compelling argument that the present day United States is simply too large to be governed efficiently, insisting that “the only way to reduce the size of government is to reduce the size of the unit to be governed.” Ian Baldwin of Vermont Commons discussed the recent election of Barack Obama and suggested that while the election results were a great achievement for African-Americans, it remains to be seen whether Obama will undo the evils of the Bush regime such as the attacks on habeus corpus that have transpired over the last eight years. Mr. Baldwin expressed hopes that Obama will do well as president, but insisted that “by his deeds we shall know him.”

          On Saturday, delegates from various secessionist movements across North America presented reports. The first of these was also one of the most interesting. Several representatives of the movement to restore Hawaiian sovereignty discussed the history of the original conquest of the Hawaiian Islands, originally a constitutional monarchy with its own unique culture, by the United States over a hundred years ago. Next up was Larry Kilgore, a conservative Christian activist and Texas secessionist who ran for the Senate in the Texas GOP primary on an explicitly secessionist platform and received over two hundred thousand votes, approximately nineteen percent of the votes cast. Mr. Kilgore had previously run for Governor of Texas as a secessionist and received six percent of the vote. Keith Humphrey, a representative of another conservative Christian group, the Christian Exodus Project, mentioned that members of his organization had relocated to various places, including South Carolina, Idaho and even Panama, with the goal of establishing independent, self-sufficient Christian communities. He also urged Christians to “purge themselves of the idolatry of statism” and practice what he called “personal secession” by depending on God and the Christian community rather than the state, and avoiding statist institutions through such practices as midwifery, refusing to obtain a Social Security card or birth certificates for children, establishing home schools and home-based businesses, using private currencies and engaging in barter, avoiding corporate jobs and training children in independent living.

     A gentleman advocating an independent Long Island called for what he termed a “triple secession,” whereby Long Island would secede from the New York City, from the state of New York, and from the United States. Fellow Virginian Tom Moore of the League of the South, the largest secessionist organization in the U.S., discussed the recent LOS conference in Chattanooga, the theme of which involved surviving the collapse of the empire with an emphasis on regional self-sufficiency concerning food and energy production. Advocates of an independent South will be meeting on December 5 in Hendersonville, N.C. to form a parallel, shadow government for the original thirteen states of the old Confederacy, plus Maryland. One hundred and twenty delegates are expected to attend, including Kirkpatrick Sale as a delegate from South Carolina. Among the business to be discussed at this first Southern National Congress, modeled on the old Continental Congress of the Revolutionary War era,  will be a “remonstrance and petition for redress of grievances” and an appeal to the empire to “cease and desist” from its present lawless and corrupt activities.

     One of the more colorful speakers was Alaskan gold miner Dexter Clark of the Alaskan Independence Party, who mentioned that his movement has been denounced by everyone from the mainstream media to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to the “Doonesbury” comic strip. He also clarified the AIP’s relationship with Sarah Palin, noting that while Palin never belonged to the AIP, her husband Todd belonged to the party for seven years. Mr. Clark also showed a video of a CNN report on the Alaskan Independence Party, and discussed the party’s history and its firebrand founder, the late Joe Vogler. He argued that lack of political will is the primary obstacle to formulating resistance to the empire and mentioned the need for young people to get involved. Businesses under the burden of federal regulation were also discussed as possible allies for the secessionist cause.

     Thomas Naylor of the Second Vermont Republic and author of “Downsizing the U.S.A”, a decentralist masterpiece, talked about Vermont’s traditions of small towns, schools, businesses, farms and sense of community, along with its town meeting tradition. Naylor also engaged in an extensive discussion of the obstacles to secession raised by skeptics, including the legacy of the “Lincoln myth” that Thomas DiLorenzo has roundly debunked, the failure of the Confederate secession during the Civil War, concerns about economic feasibility, risks of potential violence and excessive nationalism. Dennis Steele of Vermont’s Green Mountain Brigade, a veteran of the Ron Paul movement, talked about why he formed a grassroots organization for the purpose of raising awareness concerning the issue of secession.

     A fascinating lecture was provided by a longtime activist in the movement for the secession of the Quebec province of Canada, including a comprehensive overview of the many political difficulties the movement has dealt with over the decades. Robert Pritchard of the United Republic of Texas outlined a model for a “panarchic” system of government for an independent Texas, whereby competing governments might operate within the same territorial area. Such as concept is alien to much of American political culture, but a similar model functioned for centuries during the era of medieval Europe with its polycentric system of manorial, canon, royal, merchant and common law, and during the period of rule of the Middle East by the Ottoman Empire with its millet system.  Carolyn Chute of the Second Maine Militia mentioned that while Maine is second only to Alaska in the number of private firearms in the state, the number of murders there is quite low compared to many other parts of the nation where gun laws are more restrictive.

     A fellow from New Hampshire’s libertarian Free State project talked about the widely divergent activities of his own movement, ranging from running for the state house (some have even been elected!) to civil disobedience to forming alternative economic models such as barter networks and “time banks.” Sebastian Cronin, founder of the Novocadia Independence Party, which advocates formation of a separate republic by the North Atlantic states of the US and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, gave an extended presentation on peak oil. Mr. Cronin expressed his belief that a worldwide energy crisis will be the catalyst that leads to an explosion of secessionist and decentralist tendencies worldwide.

     After Saturday night’s banquet, Kirkpatrick Sale gave an interesting talk exploring the question of why there is at present so little resistance to the empire given its many, many crimes, the recent obscenity of the Wall Street “bailout”, one of the largest transfers of wealth from the people to the ruling class in history, being foremost among them. Dr. Sale also expressed considerable skepticism of the coming Obama administration, suggesting that the recent federal takeover of the financial institutions combined with the election of a messianic political figure could be the beginning of a full-blown American fascism.

          On this latter point, I am regrettably inclined to agree. Certainly the ground work has been laid for such a phenomenon. The escalating wars on drugs, crime and terrorism given to us by the Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush legacy have created the infrastructure of a police state. The outgoing regime of George W. Bush established precedents for both formal eradication of due process domestically and unapologetic aggressive warfare internationally. This is the apparatus of state that Obama, his associates, and the oligarchy whom they serve stand to inherit. An additional complication is that because Mr. Obama is a man of color, any criticism of his actions or policies as president will inevitably be met with wild accusations of bigotry and prejudice.

          Though the present level of public apathy is no doubt quite high, and perhaps made higher still by the false hopes fueled by the media-circus associated with the election of Obama, it would still seem that a mass secession by regions and communities reflecting a wide divergence of cultural and ideological values, but with a common emphasis on the values of decentralism and self-sufficiency, would be the best alternative to the present system. The empire certainly cannot endure forever. No empire ever does. Sadly, it will likely take disasters much greater than the ones we have seen thus far to make such an alternative seem viable to many. At least someone is there to cast the first stone and say the emperor is indeed without clothes.

2 replies »

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