the Declaration of Independence clearly stated in the third sentence of
the document that “the People” have the right to "alter or abolish" any
government which does not suit them and create another form of
In effect, they held that any governmental form is merely an
Today, increasing numbers of Americans, like the peoples of nations worldwide, are questioning the legitimacy of their government. They are fed up with special interest rule, monopolization of economies, burdensome regulations, repressive law enforcement tactics, and even mass murder to enforce that rule. The FBI killings of a mother holding a child at Ruby Ridge and 82 men, women and children at Waco shocked America. That no federal agents or officials have been held accountable has convinced millions of Americans that the federal government is more concerned with protecting law enforcement than protecting citizens from law enforcement.
This is certainly the case in dozens of nations. Police and military repression have resulted in racial, religious, tribal, political or regional efforts to gain greater autonomy or complete independence from centralized states. More than 5000 tribal and national groups are subsumed into 190 states--and most of them want more freedom. In fact, most of today's shooting wars are attempts by the leaders of centralized states to annihilate dissident ideological, regional and tribal movements.
In the last few years we have seen the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union and independence for the nations of Eastern Europe. Through peaceful negotiation Czechoslovakia was divided into Czech and Slovak states.
However, in other nations those seeking to gain or maintain power have reacted to desires for independence with brutality. “Ethnic cleansing” by Yugoslavian Serbs against secessionist Croatians, Bosnians and Albanians in Kosovo disgusted Europe and the world--and in Spring of 1999 prompted US/NATO brutal and counterproductive bombings which many felt might lead to nuclear war with outraged Russians. Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and other African nations remain rife with racial, religious and tribal violence between peoples forced into artificial “nation states,” first by colonists and later by repressive dictators. Many of Indonesia’s thousands of Islands could decide to go their separate way. India, which contains hundreds of religious, linguistic and ethnic groups, continually suppresses its separatist factions. Closer to home, should Quebec finally vote to secede, it is likely British Columbia might do so as well, breaking up a nation right at our borders.
Demographic, social and economic factors already are dividing America. The United States' economy’s success at the end of the century temporarily has quieted distrust and discontent, but long-term economic stagnation is inevitable. As in European welfare states, an increasingly aging and politically powerful older generation will force younger workers to pay a larger percentage of their income to support them, even as the high taxes rob the young of job opportunities. Will the college students who have been rioting in the streets over campus and local restrictions on their ability to “party” organize even greater rebellions when the older generation raises their taxes to seventy percent of their income?
Moreover, by the year 2050 half the U.S. population, and perhaps seventy percent of those under thirty, will be of color. Liberals and leftists try to organize these young to support and run an ever-increasing welfare state. Meanwhile, older white taxpayers already are refusing to pay for schools with mostly black and Latino students, even as they gladly pay for more prisons. And conservatives who fear “alien” influences call for an end of all affirmative action and immigration and the enforcement of “traditional American values.” In response, as blacks and Latinos increase their power in cities and counties nationwide, they may begin to seek greater autonomy from the “white rule” of Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, anti-authoritarian activists right and left continue to organize against repression spawned by the war on drugs and the criminalization of more and more private behavior and economic activity. And while some fear corporate influence more than others, most agree that the freedom of Americans is threatened by a growing international corporate-state “new world order.”
These anti-authoritarians appreciate the potential for using technology to undermine centralized authority. This is the reason the federal government is so set upon having a “key” to unlock the contents of all our computers. They are not just after drug dealers, child pornographers and hackers who might try to disrupt essential economic and military systems. They fear that by using encryption and the Internet, within a few short years citizens who choose to do so can abandon the monetary, tax and even legal systems of their nation states for ones created and enforced over the Internet.
However, all this technology can be crippled and humanity set back many decades by a few big wars using electronic and nuclear weapons that massively destroy electronic circuitry, as well as cities, industries and innocent people. And as long as nation states retain nuclear weapons and use them in their struggles for economic and political dominance, nuclear war, on the regional or worldwide scale, remains almost inevitable. India and Pakistan's exploding a dozen nuclear weapons in May of 1998 re-awoke the world to the nuclear threat. Meanwhile fears increased that economic collapse in Russia would lead to accidental nuclear war or sales of some of its tens of thousands of weapons to more nations or even terrorists. The gathering efforts to conduct war in space are alarming millions. Throughout history war has brought down and dissolved hundreds of nations, great powers and empires--just as it was war that created them in the first place.
These current and potential challenges to centralized nation states continue to legitimatize movements for self-determination, decentralization and secession. In America anti-authoritarian and pro-freedom activists–whether they call themselves anarchists, libertarians, bioregionalists, patriots, communalists, decentralists–are leading the search for alternatives to the proven failures of centralized nation states, majority rule, representative republics and democracies. (Unfortunately, many of these people have been co-opted by statist powerseekers under the guise of an "anti-globalization or anti-capitalism movement, but violence seems to be quickly dividing that movement.) They are ready to try new experiments–though often widely varying ones. They are offering decentralist political alternatives, based on (“left” or “right”) libertarian or anarchist, common law, separatist, communitarian or human scale principles. Most are aware of others' positions, but many distance themselves due to ideological, religious or lifestyle differences. I believe this is foolish.
In twenty years of “decentralist” activism I myself have kept in communication with individuals and/or groups in all these camps. I believe there are certain minimal principles and strategies we can and must agree upon. We must do so to ensure that we maximize our ability to educate millions about our alternatives. And education is import to minimize the possibility of violence between ideological, religious, racial and ethnic groups as the inevitable dissolution of the United State government proceeds.
Those of us who want to create a better and more peaceful world must take such initiatives. The state and its puppet press already have shown themselves all too willing to give massive publicity to the small number of misguided, demented and/or opportunistic “extremists”–left and right-- promoting violent revolution.
This is what we
.........................................This is what we could have--thousands of free communities
FOUR SECESSIONIST STRATEGIES
piece I stress secession, the strategy, instead of political
the alternative. I do this to counter the efforts of statists who
always try to co-opt decentralization by emphasizing gradual
from above"--which usually means no real decentralization at all.
And I want to remind us all that secession is more than just a
but an inherent part of decentralist principles and alternatives.
Below I describe four broad strategies: consense on common principles, raise consciousness to critical mass, create community and alternative institutions, and organize non-violent resistance and secession. As I will discuss, in implementing these strategies and related tactics, secessionists must be flexible, adaptable–and patient.
I. CONSENSE ON COMMON PRINCIPLES
We must define minimum principles which will allow ideologically disparate anti-authoritarians as well as ethnic, religious and regional separatists to work together. I believe these principles are individual liberty, community autonomy and non-violence. In fact, actually practicing these principles will be necessary for decentralist-oriented individuals committed to very different politics, religions, cultures, lifestyles to be able to work together.
The concept of liberty is simple: individuals should be free to do whatever they please as long as they don't harm (or use force or fraud against) others. This is the basic libertarian tenet. But it is similar in intent to the "Golden Rule" of many religions: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Hindu: This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which if done to thee would cause thee pain; Taoist: Regard your neighbour's gain as your own gain, and your neighbour's loss as your own loss; Buddhist: Hurt not others in ways that you would find hurtful; Confucian: Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you; Jain: In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self; Jewish: Whatever thou hatest thyself, that do not to another; Christian: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; Islamic: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself; Sikh: As thou deemest thyself, so deem others; Wiccan: Do what thou wilt, but harm no other.
The institution of monopolized law and violence known as the "state" has it's own "golden rule": "be willing to sacrifice all for the glory of the state or the `public good'." States claim they protect citizens against crimes like fraud, theft, destruction of property, pollution, assault, slavery. In truth, states consistently engage in just such crimes against their own citizens. Hundreds of millions of people were killed by their own governments in the twentieth century.
To insure individual liberty, we must remove the state's monopoly on law and legal systems. Legal systems existed before the state in the form of customary or common law administered by community elders and in some mercantile legal systems which served far-flung trading areas. And they have always existed in the legal and constitutional systems of private organizations and associations. (Similarly, throughout history all other services provided by government–postal services, garbage collection, roadways, schools, charity, old age security–have been provided by private businesses or voluntary associations.)
As the state rose to prominence it usurped control of common and mercantile law and added upon them first the fiat law of kings or dictators and later the constitutional, legislative and administrative law of republics, democracies and even military regimes. Nevertheless, failures in the statist legal system have given rise to non-state alternatives like the hundreds of private mediation, arbitration, and court services which have arisen in the United States in the last three decades.
We would replace the state monopolized legal system with a "polycentric" legal system. Diverse, multiple "centers"--individuals, groups, corporations--create law. Studies of existing customary/common law and mercantile law suggest five features of polycentric law systems:
* Reciprocity: Law is not imposed by the state, but created by the agreement of individuals to cooperate in anticipation that others will do the same; this still allows individuals to agree to restrictions on behaviors deemed “undesirable,” but only imposes these restrictions on those consenting to be governed by this law.
* Crimes are Torts: All crimes against individuals (violence, pollution, theft, fraud, etc.) are treated as "torts" or wrongs against individuals, not as state crimes.
* Individuals Enforce Law: Individuals, not the state, bring action to enforce contracts and file claims when crimes are committed against them.
* Restitution: Monetary awards go to the harmed individual instead of to the state.
* Non-violent sanctions: Negative publicity, boycotts, and ostracism against those who do not comply with contracts or make proper restitution are the primary means; force is used only in situations of defense of self or others.
How would a
polycentric legal system work? Individuals and businesses could
from "legal service" and "protection" providers not much different from
today's attorneys, mediators and arbitrators and private security
Some providers would offer full-spectrum legal and security services,
would specialize in certain fields, like entertainment law or computer
security. Some providers might resemble traditional common law
and jury systems; others would be more like private mediation services.
Individuals and businesses in dispute, or those charging others had defrauded or injured them, would have their legal service provider demand the other party enter into mediation or arbitration or go to court. The sanctions for refusing to enter into some form of dispute resolution--or to pay any agreed upon restitution--would be non-violent. The primary one would be a negative entry in one's "legal credit rating," which is much like a financial credit rating. This would be readily accessible through various "legal credit rating services." Current privacy laws outlaw such legal credit rating services.
Harm to an individual's "legal credit rating" would be a serious threat. Individuals proved to have repeatedly harmed or defrauded others (including by pressing false claims) would face the harshest sanction of all: ostracism by law-abiding people and communities. People would refuse to associate with them, to sell to or buy from them, to rent to or hire them, even to allow them entry into the community, city or region. They would have no choice but to live in communities with people as irresponsible and untrustworthy as themselves!
Since everyone--from low income individuals to the biggest corporation--could hire a legal service provider (or, in a free market, form one), it might seem that polycentric law could degenerate into warfare among competing criminal gangs. However, warring societies self-destruct.
Free individuals are survival-oriented, as would be their legal service providers, both profit and non-profit. The services would want to keep the cost of providing services down and would avoid violence, which only would drive costs up. Both the claimant's and the defendant's legal service providers would be eager to persuade their clients to find a mutually satisfactory solution to their dispute.
More likely, over time several popular systems of law would evolve as well as dozens of specialty law systems. Instead of law imposed by the dictators, politicians and special interests, would be law developed to serve the needs of all the people–by the people. This would be the true fulfillment of "democracy"--"rule by the people."
While we value liberty, we also know that most humans have a strong desire to live in and belong to one or more communities of others who share histories, values, interests or lifestyles. Crucial to individual liberty is the freedom to join communities which themselves are autonomous and self-governing. This means that a community's contract or constitution can set rules and policies governing who is allowed to become a member or visit and what activities they may or may not engage in within the community. Individuals join the community only if they agree to these limitations.
For example, a residential, family-oriented community might ban prostitution, nude dancing and distribution of psychoactive drugs; a hedonist entertainment community might encourage these and ban children; and an industrial park (one form of community) might ban all of the above.
In a truly free society, individuals would be free to form communities of interest which cater to their own ethnic, religious, ideological, cultural, lifestyle, or economic preferences--as long as these communities do not aggress upon other individuals or communities. Geographically-based communities would be created by buying land and property, not by driving off unwanted people through harassment or violence. However, many communities would be dispersed over wide geographical areas and joined by telephone, Internet and regular meetings.
Many communities would be much like those we see today: traditional small towns, farming communities, suburban enclaves, distinct ethnic and religious neighborhoods in larger cities, university or artists communities, industrial parks, shopping/apartment/entertainment complexes, etc.
Others would be more exotic. Environmentalists could buy and protect old growth forest, coastal wetlands or other wilderness areas. Some fans of Renaissance England, Star Trek, the Wild West might create communities with architecture, city planning, dress, entertainment, etc. in tune with those themes. Social workers could form rehabilitation communities for outlaws committed to cleaning up their "legal credit rating" so they can rejoin law-abiding communities. Mature teenagers who reject parental authority might even form their own self-governing communities.
How can we ensure communities will not degenerate into mini-despotisms that enslave and abuse their members or aggress against other communities? A community's contract or constitution should contain the following safeguards:
* Bill of Rights: A written guarantee of (a) freedom of association and of movement in and out of the community; (b) equal political rights to participate in community decision-making or to access community-related information; and (c) procedural rights--right to trial and due process, right to counsel, right of appeal, no cruel and unusual means of interrogation or punishment. Geographically-based communities also would have to set procedures and guidelines by which landowners either could secede from the community or ensure fair recompense for their property.
* Consensus-oriented Decision-making: Contracts and consensus democracy are both examples of consensus-oriented decision-making. In contractual communities individuals agree to comply by established policies and to settle any disputes with the management or other members through arbitration (rather like the tenants of a large apartment complex). Democratic communities might also spell out some basic terms in a membership contract. However, later decisions would be made through seeking consensus of members.
Working to ensuring that all members--or an overwhelming ninety-five percent of all members--consent to any decision about rules and policies avoids the deal-making and defacto "minority rule" which characterizes majority rule decision-making. Consensus ensures community harmony because members adopt only rules and policies that enjoy overwhelming support. Even communities with thousands of members can use modified forms of consensus, either in large meetings or through voting. Elected representatives would be charged with implementing decisions; their administrative rule-making power would be severely limited.
Provisions allowing only ten to fifteen percent of all members to rescind a rule is extra insurance that rules found to be onerous are quickly dropped. Similarly, all rules should have "sunset" provisions so that they are phased out after a certain number of years unless explicitly re-instated. Additionally, there should be "fair exit provisions" that ensure individuals disagreeing with a near-consensus rule or policy are given sufficient time to settle affairs and leave a community.
* Non-violent Sanctions: Using only non-violent sanctions to enforce rules and policies is another check on possible abuse of community members. Such sanctions against rule breakers would range from private reminders to public criticism, from fines to denial of services and trade, to ostracism. Only in the most egregious circumstances would non-violent expulsion be used. In any community, violence should only be permissible in self-defense against physical aggression.
* Community Membership in Networks or Confederations of Communities:Communities would form regional networks or confederations to facilitate conflict-resolution, to address common problems and issues, and to defend against potentially aggressive communities or criminal gangs. This protects individuals because such confederations could boycott or expel communities that abuse members.
How can we prevent confederations from becoming new nation states? Individuals and communities should also expect networks and confederations to create and abide by bills of rights (for both individuals and communities), full consensus decision-making by representatives of all communities, and non-violent sanctions. Confederation agreements would necessarily include the right to secession.
Non-violence is the refusal to use force against others. One does not have to be a total pacifist, who refuses to use violence even in self-defense, to espouse and practice non-violence. One only need recognize that humans will always have differing perspectives and that no philosophy or morality excuses the use of violence to force others to accept one's beliefs or serve one's purposes. We must advocate and practice non-violence in a number of areas:
* Non-violent Interpersonal Relations:We must oppose family violence and the worldwide abuse of women and children, including physical abuse, rape, forced prostitution, compulsory marriage, selling children into servitude, genital mutilation, etc.
* Conflict Resolution and Community Sanctions:As we have seen above, non-violent conflict resolution and non-violent sanctions are intrinsic to polycentric law.
* Non-violent Defense: Armed militaries are used primarily to create and maintain a centralized state and suppress individual liberty and community autonomy. As nations and their militaries collapse or are abolished, individuals can form citizen's militias trained in non-violent defense. Organized citizens trained in economic, political and social non-cooperation discourage aggressors from re-establishing a state or invading other communities. These non-violent militias also can use boycotts, protests and even non-violent interventions against communities that abuse their own members.
* Non-violent Strategy: The purpose of non-violent action is to withdraw consent from government or other authorities, rather than wrest power from them. Therefore it fosters dialogue and education and allows maximum participation by everyone in society. Non-violence heightens the moral superiority of the actionists in the eyes of the general public--especially if the authorities respond to their sincere and open protest with violence. Even members of the ruling classes can be swayed to sympathy by such non-violent actions. Police and soldiers wooed with sound political arguments and non-violent demonstrations are more likely to come over to the side of the activists than ones afraid of being shot and killed by protesters.
Political violence harms groups and movements. It destroys public sympathy, reinforces public prejudices against activists, invites police infiltration and harassment, and gives the state an excuse to arrest, imprison and even kill innocent activists and bystanders. Even advocacy of violence can have a detrimental effect on organizing since it divides and demoralizes activists and provides the government and media an excuse to attack the advocates.
Violent action usually is practiced predominantly by angry young men, often with military training, who often become as ruthless towards other dissidents as they do towards the oppressors. These days the most vocal advocates of violence are often government provocateurs. When violent revolutionaries take power, their regimes usually are as ruthless as their revolutions.
Non-violent non-cooperation by large numbers of people is more disruptive to the state than violence by smaller numbers; violence only permits the state to enhance its power. Overall, non-violent action results in the least loss of life and property, the least destruction of the social fabric and the greatest assurance that post-resistance society will be free and peaceful.
II. RAISE CONSCIOUSNESS TOWARDS CRITICAL MASS
raising" includes both intellectual apprehension and psychological
It is important that individuals understand and agree with the
principles described above. However, as long as individuals
the habit of submission to authority and lack confidence in their own
to act as free agents, they will remain enslaved to those who enjoy
power over them. (And it would be helpful if the more dominant
learn to restrain their natural impulses.) This is especially true for
women who historically have been bullied and indoctrinated into
roles. Unless both men and women co-create our new institutions
is unlikely we will even achieve individual liberty, community autonomy
(In my book-in-progress, Consciousness and Community I go further into metaphysics and psychology. I posit that principles akin to consciousness create all reality and have evolved beings capable of full self-actualization. I further maintain that humans can learn to act freely from "higher consciousness"--creativity, tolerance, acceptance, cooperation, love--instead of "lower consciousness"--habit, judgementalness, fear, dominance, anger.)
It is not necessary to turn every individual who agrees with us into an activist. Our goal is to achieve a "critical mass" of awareness, so that enough people accept our principles and alternatives, and enough others are sufficiently tolerant of them, that they will not support state attempts to crush secessionists. It is especially important not to alienate police and the military through antagonism and violence. In successful revolutions these forces refuse to attack and later follow the lead of the revolutionaries.
We must repeat our message in every possible context. Our activities would include:
* forming study, discussion, consciousness raising and support groups;
* organizing lectures, conferences, teach-ins and speak-outs;
* producing and distributing pamphlets, booklets, books, audio and videotapes;
* producing popular fiction, music and theater to help people emotionally comprehend the injustice of the current system and the superiority of our alternative vision;
* using local lobbying and third party campaigns to educate and publicize our ideas;
* practicing "education through action,” as described below.
Through our efforts we must continue to raise awareness about decentralist alternatives. And as political and economic and other crisis inevitably unfold, we must look for opportunities to ensure that decentralization "catches on” and becomes the "new paradigm" of political organization.
III. CREATE COMMUNITY AND ALTERNATIVE INSTITUTIONS
the community level is most consistent with our decentralist goals and
easier and cheaper than state and national organizing.
and secessionists already have created loose continental and worldwide
computer networks to share information and coordinate strategies.
National lobbying and third party activity should be regarded primarily
as a means of publicizing and legitimatizing secessionist strategies,
as a way of gaining power to achieve "decentralization from
Community organizing allows us to start creating our new community alternatives immediately. And it allows us to promote a sense of place and a love of community so that people can transfer natural human communitarian allegiance to local communities instead of the centralized nation state.
We can create alternative local institutions like:
* communications networks of publications, film, video, radio and television broadcasting;
* local polycentric law systems--for-profit or non-profit mediation and arbitration services--for use in settling disputes and even for adjudicating torts;
* alternative trade networks of individuals, businesses and organizations to offer economic support to activists and their organizing and facilitate tax resistance;
* trade exchanges or barter clubs that use alternate currencies like trade credits;
* voluntary alternatives to necessary services which have been co-opted by the state, e.g., charity, health services, childcare, education, etc.
* "pre-community" formations of groups of like-minded individuals who may even move into the same neighborhood in hopes of later forming a self-governing community;
* "shadow" or "parallel" community governments within existing communities. In order to remain principled and legal they must remain voluntary and non-violent;
* new, intentional communities on private property. Individuals and groups can even stake first claims for state or federal land to be occupied by new communities after federal and state governments dissolve.
IV. ORGANIZE FOR NON-VIOLENT RESISTANCE AND SECESSION
As we build
and create alternative we also will engage in non-violent
There are three kinds of non-violent resistance, representing
levels of action:
* Protest activities: petitioning, picketing, vigils, street theater, marches and rallies. These could be actions in support of groups concerned with similar issues--foreign non-intervention, police brutality, tax protest and resistance--or to dramatize and support decentralist issues and alternatives.
* Non-cooperation: refusal to pay taxes, withholding payments to government-monopolized businesses, civil disobedience, fasting, and numerous kinds of boycotts and strikes. Resistance of state and federal taxes and replacing federal money with alternative money are especially important strategies for secessionists--and with digicash and encryption become easier every day. Secession is the ultimate act of non-cooperation.
* Intervention: sit-ins at and occupations of state property. Gene Sharp's The Methods of Non-Violent Action lists hundreds of examples of non-violent action which have been used successfully throughout human history. It is must reading.
Secessionists must be flexible and adaptable in planning strategy and tactics. And we must be patient! For only external circumstances may bring enough people to our way of thinking to justify mass action.
First, we must recognize that there are cycles of "human excitability" (probably related to the 11 year sunspot cycle). History shows repeatedly that several years of political activity and growth are inevitably followed by a number of years of frustration and even little resistance to repression. (See my article Sunspot Cycles and Activist Strategy.)
Second, we must recognize that three scenarios for change are possible:
* "gradual/reformist" scenarios of slow change in philosophies, policies and institutions over a number of years;
* "crisis" scenarios of escalating economic, political, and military crisis, more openness to change, and increasing civil and political unrest;
* "catastrophe" scenarios of economic and political chaos which necessitate or permit radical change, such economic or political collapse, massive regional wars or even nuclear war.
While we must never stop advocating the most radical decentralist alternatives, we must adjust our actual strategies and tactics based on objective social and political circumstances. Nevertheless, the dynamics of the self-destruction of large nation states means that time is on our side. As our education efforts create a critical mass of public consciousness, and as crisis mobilize enough people to action, we will begin coordinated campaigns of community secession. These initially may be merely symbolic, but they will be educational and inspirational. Since we will remain non-violent, any government violence against us can only win us public sympathy. And should economic or political catastrophe occur, we must be articulate enough to show that decentralism is the answer and organized enough to implement it.
At some point, when our ideas have reached a critical mass of acceptance and/or crisis opens people to change, our "shadow" community governments must declare that they are the real government for those who choose to participate in them. Those who want to continue to follow the old laws of, and pay off all the debts of, the old governments will, of course, be free to do so.
states are inherently oppressive and self-destructive. The
of individuals, groups, tribes and regions to break free of centralized
control are challenging them worldwide.
We must look at this as both an opportunity and a responsibility. An opportunity to promote our own decentralist principles and alternatives--and a responsibility to prevent deadly and destructive religious, racial and tribal conflicts and wars.
Thinking in terms of four secessionist strategies helps us clarify what we must do to achieve political decentralization: consense on common principles, raise consciousness to critical mass, create community and alternative institutions, and organize non-violent resistance and secession.
Finally, this is not an adventure to pursue for a few years before giving up in disgust because “we can’t win.” This is a commitment for a lifetime.
Copyright 2001 by Carol Moore. Permission to reprint freely granted, provided the article is reprinted in full and that any reprint is accompanied by this copyright statement and a connecting URL to http://www.carolmoore.net.