The World Is Coming Unglued at the Seams, But Maybe That’s Not All
by Thomas H. Naylor: Radical
Small Nation Self-Determination in a Chaotic Meganation World
devote our efforts to the creation of numerous small principalities
throughout the world, where people can live in happiness and freedom.
The large states… must be convinced of the need to decentralize
politically in order to bring democracy and self-determination into
the smallest political units, namely local communities, be they
villages or cities.
II, Prince of Liechtenstein, The
State in the Third Millennium
three decades of nonstop hype extolling the virtues of a united,
highly interconnected, one-size-fits-all world, there is increasing
evidence that the world is actually coming unglued at the seams.
Currently, there are over 250 self-determination, political independence
movements in play worldwide including nearly 100 in Europe alone,
over 70 in Asia, 40 in Africa, 30 or so in North America, a dozen
in Latin America, and 15 or 20 scattered across various islands
spread around the globe. To put these figures in perspective, the
United Nations has 193 member nations.
all self-determination movements buy into nonviolence, those which
do are likely to adhere to some of these principles:
- If a state
is to be true to itself, it has no other choice than to maintain
its commitment to the humanity of its citizens.
- Just as
a group has a right to form, so too does it have a right to subdivide
itself, or withdraw from a larger unit.
self-determination is a radical act of rebellion grounded in anger
and fear tempered by a positive vision of the future which involves
denunciation, disengagement, demystification, and defiance.
nonviolent self-determination may be completely justifiable morally
and legally, ultimately it is a question of political will – the
political will of the withdrawing unit versus the political will
of the entity from which it intends to withdraw.
nonviolence can undermine power and authority by withdrawing the
approval, moral support, and cooperation of those who have been
dealt an injustice. It derives its strength from the energy buildup
and very real power of powerlessness.
provides us with the faith to create meaning out of meaninglessness,
the energy to connect with those from whom we are separated, the
power to surmount powerlessness, and the courage to confront death.
Europe, the continent most highly touted for its commitment to unification
and integration, is the one region of the world which is most awash
with self-determination movements. At least part of this development
is attributable to the split of the Soviet Union into fifteen independent
republics, many of which now have their own independence movements
such as Chechnya, one of Russia’s most aggressive and often violent
separatist movements. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia,
Serbia, Montenegro, and Slovenia all became independent nations
as a result of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, all of which helped
raise the expectations of European separatist movements such as
those found in Bavaria, Belgium, Bulgaria, England, Italy, Lapland,
Poland, Romania, Scotland, and Spain. The Basque region of Spain
is but one of eleven Spanish regions calling for more autonomy.
is the demise of the 29-nation European Union and its 17-member
Euro Zone currency, the euro, that has contributed the most towards
the call for the disintegration of Europe rather than for more centralization.
When the euro
was first introduced in 1999 it was supposed to unite Europe, promote
federalism, and lead to collective economic prosperity. As the euro
faces the real possibility of complete collapse, it seems to be
pulling Europe further apart. An increasing number of political
leaders in the EU are now calling for the break up of the $17 trillion
political and economic union with a population of nearly 500 million.
The three most
high-profile self-determination movements in Europe, Scotland, Flanders,
and Catalonia, each flow directly from the weakened condition of
the European Union economy and the euro. They each claim they pay
significantly more into the national treasury than they receive
in benefits as government services are cut back to meet EU austerity
Ireland and Wales have active self-determination movements, the
Scottish National Party has actually called for a 2014 referendum
on Scottish independence. Catalan President Artur Mas recently called
for early regional elections and a referendum on Catalan self-determination.
535 days without a properly elected leader because of the toxicity
in the relationship between the wealthier Dutch-speaking Flanders
majority and the poorer French-speaking Flemish minority. It was
not until after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit
rating that Belgian politicians finally formed a coalition government
in response to pressure from international financial markets.
In Asia Bangladesh,
China, Myanmar (twelve), India, Indonesia, Japan, and Pakistan all
have political independence movements. Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang
are the best known self-determination movements in China. Kurdish
separatists can be found in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Indonesia granted
East Timor its independence several years ago and also reached an
agreement with Aceh which led to its dropping its claim for self-determination
and eventually resulted in its dissolution.
India is also
awash with separatist movements. Although Kashmir has the best known
such movement in India, Sikkim and most of the states in Northeast
India have active separatist groups. These include Assam, Bodoland,
Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. These states are not contiguous
with the rest of India. Then there is also Khalistan, a global political
self-determination group to create a separate Sikh state.
African tribes are trying to shake off artificial boundaries imposed
on them by nineteenth-century European colonialism. Igbo, Ijaw,
Ogani, and Yoruba are all separatist movements located in Nigeria.
Sudan recently split into two parts.
which are not entirely clear, there seems to be less interest in
Latin America in self-determination and political independence than
in any other part of the world. Although there are a half dozen
or so separatist movements in Brazil such as the City of São
Paulo, the United States of Northeast, and Rio Grande do Sul, one
does not have the impression that any of these groups are going
anywhere. The one exception to the rule in Latin America is the
Zapatista movement in the State of Chiapas in Mexico, the poorest
state in the country. Since the 1990s, under the leadership of subcommandante
Marcos and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), the
Zapatistas have sought to transform Chiapas into an autonomous self-governing
region which supports the political rights of Mexico’s native Indian
After a near-miss
in its 1995 referendum to achieve independence from Canada, the
Quebec separatist movement fell into the doldrums for over 15 years.
However, in September 2012 the Parti Québécois won
a victory of sorts in the Quebec provincial election and was able
to put together a weak coalition government. The stability of the
new government remains somewhat in doubt. In 1998 the Canadian Supreme
Court issued a ruling declaring self-determination to be constitutional
and outlining the necessary steps which must be taken by a province
to split from the Confederation. There are also self-determination
movements in Alberta and British Columbia.
So strong was
the political backlash against the presidency of George W. Bush
that when Barack Obama came to power in 2009 there were over 30
separatist movements in the United States. Four years later a half
dozen or so of them remain politically viable and show promise for
the future. They include Alaska, Cascadia (WA, OR, and BC), Hawaii,
Puerto Rico, Texas, and Vermont. Most supporters of Obama believe
that only the federal government can solve all of America’s problems
all of the time, failing to see that the federal government is,
in fact, the problem.
In the words
of Leopold Kohr:
union, let us have disunion now. Instead of fusing the small,
let us dismember the big. Instead of creating fewer and larger
states, let us create more and smaller ones.
Of the 250
self-determination movements, over 40 of them belong to the Unrepresented
Nations and Peoples Organization in The Netherlands, which is committed
to promoting self-determination and political independence.
And as Leopold
Kohr further noted, "as long as the Italians and Germans were
organized, or disorganized in little comic-opera states," they
were a threat to no one. "They not only gave the world the
greatest masters of comic opera but, as in England during the time
of Elizabethan political insignificance, an unrivaled string of
immortal lyricists, authors, philosophers, painters, architects,
became dangerous when it was unified first by Bismark and then by
Hitler. Once again Germany is unified and its Chancellor continues
to call for a unified Europe. But will the center hold? Maybe. Maybe
I love small
I love small numbers
The world will be saved
By the few.
October 29, 2012
Naylor is founder of the Second
Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke
University. He is the author Secession:
How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the
Vermont Manifesto: The Second Vermont Republic and co-author
of Ajjluenza, Downsizing
the USA, and The
Search for Meaning.
© 2012 Thomas