Venice and the right of secession

Around the world there have been numerous efforts at secession, a section of a country with a centralized government breaking away and forming their own country.

In addition to the Crimea, which voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, Scotland may hold a vote on whether to break away from the United Kingdom sometime this year, while Catalan, a region of Spain, had a declaration of self-determination unanimously adopted by the region’s parliament in January 2013.

Recently, Venice voted by an 89 percent majority to break away from Italy and return to the old Republic of Venice.

The last one is of particular interest to myself. My family’s patriarch, a Martinelli, came from Bassano del Grappa, a city from the Veneto region, which was part of the Republic of Venice. The republic lasted a thousand years until it was forced by Napoleon in the late eighteenth century to become a part of Italy. Incidentally, my ancestor left Veneto at around the same time for Quebec, where a part of the family eventually immigrated to the United States and removed the “i” from our name, making it Martinell.

Many people may not understand what secession is. It is the act that leads to independence. When a country or region declares its independence, it is calling for secession. When the Irish Volunteers declared Ireland’s independence from Great Britain during the 1916 Easter Rising, they were calling for secession, which was eventually achieved as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.

Libertarianism teaches that everyone has a right to declare secession because they have a right to be free and independent. The right to secede from something is required in order to be free. If you cannot secede from something that you willingly or unwillingly became a part of, then you are deprived of the freedom of association.

This is in direct contrast to the nationalism we are taught in schools funded by nationalistic governments whose power relies on preventing any efforts at secession. This is, and not slavery, is why Union troops were sent into the Southern states that had seceded and created an independent Confederacy – which of course had its own flaws and imperfections like any government. Nationalism preaches a doctrine of salvation by unity, which is to say that countries and groups are perfected by uniting. Additionally, this unity can be created and enforced through coercion and violence.

As Butler Shaffer writes, you cannot say you believe in freedom and then in the same breath oppose secession, whether it be carried out by a single person, a neighborhood, a city, a state, or even an entire region.

“Secession” is not legal question, any more than it is a “scientific,” or “technological,” or “medical,” or even a “mathematics” issue. It is, rather, a proposition that cannot be intelligently explored, or acted upon, within the confines of the system from which secessionists seek to withdraw. It is, in other words, a philosophical question; one that requires recourse to deeply-held principled beliefs. Just as those nineteenth century libertarians who sought to abolish slavery had to rest their arguments on metasystems of thought that transcended constitutional, statutory, and other formal legal standards; the secession question cannot be answered by the political authorities who control, for their benefit, the coercive machinery that continues to grind down, loot, and destroy those who seek to liberate themselves from its inhumane practices.

We do not require permission from anyone in order to be free and independent. The Declaration of Independence was not a request or a permission slip sent to Great Britain to be signed by the king before independence could be granted. It was a declaration of an act the colonies intended to carry out, by violence if necessary. Most of the time, it is unfortunately necessary because of the violence inherent in the tenets of nationalism.

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