Civic anarchism: The Spectre of Secession

What’s haunting Europe?

Secession – you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t touch it. But when it’s there, strange stuff happens: Huge numbers of police in combat gear appear out of nowhere, driving camouflaged armored vehicles, making you wonder where all the equipment is coming from, sirens howl, shrill bullhorns scream commands, whole streets, especially around school buildings, are sealed off, tear gas and rubber bullets are shot. Only there’s no opponent there at all. Eerie.

Due to there being no opponents, the combat troops come down hard on peaceful people who are congregating at these school buildings for a harmless vote, yell at them, drag them away and beat them up. And this despite the fact that the object of the vote is anything but aggressive or harmful. Moreover, it is impossible to avoid the eerie impression that the more the voters withdraw, the harder the police strike out; the further the voters move away, the more forcefully they draw the police after them; and the police become most brutal when the people want only one thing, namely to be left alone. When, that is to say, they behave in such a way that they can’t possibly collide with the armed troops – or only if these troops and their commanders claim a ‘right’ not to leave the people alone, to disturb them, to oppress them, to subjugate them and to impose their will on them.

Now, of course, as every child knows, no one has the right to disturb, harass, subjugate or impose their will on others. Which is why the violent police and their state employers invent mysterious reasons why people who want to be left alone are in the wrong, and why they, who want to subjugate them, are in the right. It’s not by chance that the word ‘law’ or ‘rights’ comes up repeatedly in these arguments. For example, it’s said that the constitutional ‘legal system’ only permits secession if the ‘constitutional state’ in question allows for this. So-called ‘constitutional lawyers’ and also ‘international law practitioners’ explain with professional self-importance that only states can be ‘subjects of international law’, i.e. it is up to them alone to determine whether someone has the ‘right’ to split off and organise themselves elsewhere. If someone does this without the state’s blessing, they infringe ‘rights.’ However, the fact that these ‘rights’ are enacted by none other than the states themselves makes this more like a grim joke.

Real rights, however, are to be found on the side of secession. Not because there’s anything like a solemnly conferred positive right to secession, but rather, put much more simply and negatively: because secession doesn’t hurt anyone, doesn’t harass anyone, doesn’t subjugate anyone and doesn’t impose its will on anyone, so there’s no justification whatsoever for accusing it of infringing rights. Secession is right because it doesn’t commit any injustice.

And so it cannot be an injustice if the UK leaves the EU, Catalonia leaves Spain, Venice leaves Italy, or if you, dear readers, want to leave any coercive organisation, for example the Federal Republic of Germany, and organise yourselves in a different way.

Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on 10th December 2017.

Reprinted from Equity & Freedom.