Is There a Split Underway in the North American Secessionist Movement?

I recently stumbled across an interesting and confusing statement published on the web site of The League of the South. The statement in question is one short paragraph as an addendum to the announcement of The League’s 15th Annual National Conference. The byline to the post is, League Announces 15th Annual National Conference. There is no date attached to the post.

The statement in question reads:

“Additionally, the League announces its participation in the 3rd Annual North American Secessionist Convention, which is scheduled to be held in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina (emphasis mine) sometime this fall. More information about this event will be posted as it becomes available.”

It is common knowledge to those secessionists and secessionist organizations who attended last year’s 2nd Annual North American Secessionist Convention in Chattanooga that the 2008 Convention is slated to be held in Manchester, NH, November 14-16. Like others, I have paid for a flight to Manchester and accordingly reserved accommodation.

It strikes me that The League’s announcement that the location of the 2008 Conference will be in Charleston constitutes more than a simple typo. What gives?

There has been no follow-up announcement by The League, nor has there been offered an explanation by either The League or The Middlebury Institute, the organizing body of the Manchester convention.

Without some kind of official clarification, North American secessionists, in particular, those attendees who have locked into the Manchester convention, are left with only their political imaginations as to what might be going on.

Should this so very obvious contradiction for this year’s convention locations be an indication that there is a split forming in the North American secessionist movement, then the next question that begs to be answered is: Why?

Postscript, 29 August, 2008: It has been clarified for me by The Middlebury Institute that there had been an attempt to hold the 2008 conference in Charleston by a small faction allied with the LOS. This attempt failed, at which point the conference was slotted for Manchester. As of this date, the 2009 conference is slated for Charleston.

It could have been just as easy for the LOS to publicly make this correction and clarification as it was on their web site that the undated Charleston claim first appeared. If insinuations are dangled, then the reasons why they are dangled come into play.

New England Groups Look to Secede, by Jim Kozubek, Manchester Union Leader

(Note: Due to the amount of traffic this post is getting in light of HCR 0006, please be advised that this article written by Jim Kozubek on August 11, 2008, ran in the print edition only of the Manchester Union Leader. You will not find it online should you do a search for it.)

NEW CASTLE, August 11, 2008

For the time political campaigns have been moving to centrism, integrating voter blocs and appealing to unity, scattered groups across New England have been moving to fractionalize, to break their states from the union.

Burt Cohen, 57, a former state senator, is leading a front in New Hampshire to secede from the U.S., and join with Maine, Vermont, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Gaspé Peninsula to create a new authority called New Acadia or Novacadia based on maps of a 1702 maritime union.

“This is a continuation of my politics,” Cohen said. “I am interested in people taking part in decisions, and right now, it seems to me that fewer and fewer people have more concentrated wealth and power.”

Secessionists draw the soul of their ideas from the 1957 Leopold Kohr book The Breakdown of Nations in which Kohr argued social and economic failures are due to a deplorable condition of “bigness,” he said.

The logic is based on the idea that individuals, cities and regions have diverse economic and political interests; once a population becomes too large, resources and taxes are not fairly dispensed and a government fails to provide adequate representation, he said.

“The founding fathers could not have imagined 300 million people,” he said.

“This country includes a lot of people with disparate points of view, and to have them represented in a single government, you have to ask, how realistic is that?”

Cohen said that instead of political moves to centrism and unity, New Englanders could find greater economic and social advantages in a move to decentralization.

He bases this idea, of economic regionalism, on a 1981 Joel Garreau book, “The Nine Nations of North America,” that insists the U.S. is made up of nine bioregions, each with unique interests.

“People in bio-regions have much more in common, shared values and can find what works best for economic development that might not work in another region,” he said.

Cohen, a self-described “progressive,” is looking for a mix of support from libertarians, paleo-conservatives suspect of higher-spending subsidies and defense budgets, and those willing to ask “a lot of very serious, legitimate questions.”

For one, he said, New Hampshire has for years paid more to the federal government than it gets in spending.

“I have spoken lightly with some individuals who filed and there is interest,” said Howard Wilson of Andover, a libertarian and state Senate candidate. “The federal government is part of the problem, and we are going to put them on notice.”

Secessionists in their writings oppose high defense spending and intervention, corporate subsidies, bailouts of financial institutions and central banking.

Caleb Johnson of Keene, for instance, set up republicofnh.org for secession, with papers citing federal borrowing and printing of “fiat currency” as causes of a weakening dollar, predicting dismal outcomes.

But the forms of capitalism, free-trade and protectionism, have remained sources of division in secessionist movements.

Nova Scotia’s Atlantica Party made electoral reform a priority to secession with Atlantic Institute for Market Studies began a bid in 2006 to create a free-trade zone in New England and Nova Scotia called Atlantica.

Atlantic Institute seeks to capitalize on the region’s maritime position in the era of globalization, but the move drew a small-scale riot at its 2006 convention from the Black Bloc, a group who thinks the free-trade zone will harm worker and environmental rights.

Sebastian Ronin, a strident localist, broke with Atlantica Party in 2007 and created the Novacadia Party to secede (citing the 2000 Clarity Act created relative to Quebec’s mid-1990s separatist movement that gives provinces the legal right to secede).

Thomas Naylor, 72, economics professor emeritus from Duke University, and founder of the Second Vermont Republic for secession in 2003, connected Ronin with New England movements.

The first secessionist convention in Vermont in 2006 drew 30 people (11 to 13 percent of the state supports secession, said University of Vermont polls) and last year representatives from 25 states signed a document called the Chattanooga Declaration.

It said “the old right-left split is meaningless and dead” and due to the “privileges, monopolies, and powers that private corporations have won from governments without secession, liberty and self-government can never be sustained.”

The third convention is at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester from Nov. 14 to 16, drawing Cohen, Naylor, Ronin, Carolyn Chute, 61, author and founder of 2nd Maine Militia, Kirkpatrick Sale, 71, of Middlebury Institute in New York, Clyde Wilson of University of South Carolina and Donald Livingston of Emory University, each of League of the South.