Secession defined – prelude to a strategy of revolutionary liberation

Posted on December 28, 2010


The following excerpt from the compilation The Myth of National Defense introduces the theoretical concepts that will be used to construct a full strategy for liberation starting from the current world order and unfolding to a free world without legal monopolies.

The essay is Secession and the Production of Defense by Jörg Guido Hülsmann.

Secession is not all-or-nothing but covers a whole continuum of disruptions of hegemonic bonds. It may sever only a part of all existing hegemonic bonds, and it may sever geographically unrelated “islands” rather than territories with contiguous and connected borders.7

In some historical cases, continuous territories defected from a larger geographical whole—for example, when the U.S. seceded from Great Britain in 1776, the Southern Confederacy from the U.S. in 1861, or satellite states like Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, or Armenia from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. By contrast, at other times and places, secession was limited to geographical islands within larger territories that continued to maintain the hegemonic bonds. Such was the case, for example, with the seceding Swiss cities and cantons in 1291, which for centuries did not form an integrated territory, or with the Hansa cities, which in their best days were “free,” that is, not subject to imperial taxation. Also, throughout the High Middle Ages, various individual cities—especially in northern Italy but also in Flanders and southern Germany—defected for some time from the Holy Roman Empire. In most cases, they then either were ruled by city patriarchs or became city republics. The continuum of geographical dispersion of political regimes is best illustrated by the present-day case of Baarle, a Belgian town in the Netherlands. Strikingly, this enclave is not politically homogeneous, but has Dutch enclaves within it, and these in turn have Belgian enclaves in them! Thus, some streets are Dutch and subject to Dutch laws, whereas other streets are Belgian and subject to Belgian laws, and sometimes even the houses on one street belong to different nations and are subject to different laws (they are marked by Dutch and Belgian flags).8

Another good illustration of the geographical possibilities for secession is the disintegration of the Frankish Empire in the mid-800s, which established the feudal order so characteristic for the Middle Ages. As a consequence, the German emperors only controlled a few remaining islands of imperial fortresses (the Pfalzen) and monasteries.

Rather than being an exception, hegemonic bonds with islands of territory surrounded by independent territories were in fact the normal case for centuries of Western civilization. By heritage, marriage, purchase, and also by secession, medieval aristocrats would come to own territories that were sometimes dispersed all over Europe. Similarly, dozens of “free” or imperial cities were only subject to the emperor, who was weak almost throughout the entire history of the Empire, and often was surrounded by territories belonging to local aristocrats. This state of affairs was particularly characteristic for Germany until the Thirty Years’ War reversed the tendency.

Colonial possessions of European powers in other parts of the world are another example of geographically disconnected territories under common hegemonic bonds. And the process by which, after World War II, most of these territories gained their independence was of course nothing else but secession.

Finally, as we have mentioned above, secession does not necessarily mean that all the hegemonic ties between the ruler and its reluctant subjects are severed. Here too we face a continuum. Secession might simply mean that the subjects demand lower taxes or refuse to serve in the army of the ruler. It can mean that they do not respect special monopoly privileges granted to certain individuals or groups.

Also, the bonds between governments and their various subjects by no means have to be homogeneous. This is amply illustrated by historical evidence. For example, the Jews in central and eastern Europe for centuries not only suffered but also profited from their particular status, which often granted them some form of moderate territorial sovereignty. The famous “ghettos,” far from being institutions of pure oppression, as they are often represented today, were also islands of freedom from some oppressive laws that bound most other citizens. (For example, the ghetto-Jews were exempt from non-Jewish jurisdiction and various forms of taxation.)9 Another example is the case of soldiers and foreign diplomats, who are commonly subject to a different set of rules than the rest of the population, although in the case of soldiers these ties are both more severe in some respects and more lax in others.10 Most of these special regimes have not been created by secession. For our purposes, however, it is sufficient to note that such regimes as a matter of fact can exist next to one another, for this proves that such a state of affairs can be a realizable goal of secession. The only limits for the geographical dispersion of “political” regimes are given by the boundaries of private property.

Theoretically, each property owner—and in particular each landowner—might choose to set up a different set of rules that the users of his property (land) have to respect.11 Let us notice in this context that even if I rejected a government only in thought and obeyed it merely out of prudence, this would already be “originary secession” since my brains are undoubtedly part of my property. The government would then no longer control my thoughts, and its control of my behavior would also be diminished.

Even if the ultimate goal of a secessionist movement is the liberation of an integrated territory, the establishment of isolated secessionist strongholds is a first step. Such territorial islands are usually dependent on the exchange of goods and services with other territories. The secessionists are therefore compelled to abolish trade barriers and adopt free-market policies. In so doing, they provide a living example for the beneficial operation of purely voluntary forms of social organization. Since this is the best conceivable advertisement for the idea they stand for, secessionist islands are likely to attract ever more territories to adopt their model and thus close the gaps on the political map.12

The following post will outline how a globalized network of cities can secede from the state system and become the spine around which the whole world can be liberated.

Posted in: Reposts