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Post Self-Determination, Secession, and Catalonia
Created by John Eipper on 09/30/17 3:30 PM

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Self-Determination, Secession, and Catalonia (Istvan Simon, USA, 09/30/17 3:30 pm)

In response to Eugenio Battaglia (29 September), what is the difference between self-determination and secession? To my ears these two concepts are one and the same.

The end of Europe's colonial empires was not a historical mistake, as Eugenio suggests. Nor was the end of Colonialism a move by the USA and Russia to dominate the world politically and economically. Russia never dominated any country economically as far as I know--the domination was ideologically driven and its main motivation was political, not economic.  It was of strategic benefit to Russia, not much of an economic benefit. Thus we had the absurd "Wars of National Liberation" all over the world to bring the slavery of communism to the unfortunate affected countries.

The economic dominance of the United States after World War II, on the other hand, though not always the result of simple economic forces, was essentially the result of a better economic system than what existed under colonialism previously. It allowed for example, Eugenio's Italy's exceptional and unprecedented post-war prosperity which persists still today. One needs to consider only the films of Vittorio de Sica to see the economic conditions of poverty that existed in Italy after world War II, and compare it with today's economic prosperity. The progress is enormous and even more significant, in view of the fact that the Italian communist party was very strong in Italy, and did all it could to advance Russia's interests in Italy. Ditto, in the case of France.

Clearly, Colonialism was an offensive system of government to the colonies. This is so obvious and at the same time so ironic, that Eugenio, who often accuses us of "occupying" his country, can be so oblivious to the feelings of the peoples of India, South Africa, etc., the people of the former colonies of England, and Vietnam, Syria, Lebanon, etc., of French colonies, of Ethiopia an ex-colony of Italy, Indonesia of the Netherlands, and so on. By its very definition, colonialism is offensive to the people of the colonies, because it relegates them the colonized people to a status of second-class "inferior" subjects of the colonial power. Though the domination, especially in the case of England, was sometimes highly beneficial to the colonized people in this observer's opinion (just consider for instance that still today the system of laws is based on England's enlightened legal system both in the United States, India, as well as every ex-colony of England), still the racism of colonialism was also highly offensive to the colonized people.

There is no difference between secession and self-determination. They are the same. It is true that most countries try to impose unity by force, so that the right of secession is not recognized by the central power. This was so in the United States too, where our horrendous Civil War. which killed half a million Americans, was essentially to preserve the Union in spite of the South's desire to secede. Still, the South's desire was motivated by an unjust desire to cling to slavery--and one can hardly imagine anything more horrendous and more offensive to the dignity of human beings than slavery. The only thing still worse was the extermination perpetrated by Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot. So I do agree with Eugenio that the right to secede should be recognized. Legal recognition, on the other hand, is not the same as de facto recognition. This was the case of the Soviet Union, where legally any member of the Union could secede, but de facto could not. I agree with Eugenio about the good way to secede or divorce as exemplified by Czechoslovakia. It should be imitated by Spain and other European powers that have secessionist regions, as well as by Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, etc., in the case of the Kurds.

I cannot let Eugenio unjustly denigrate Israel once again with his casual mentioning of Palestinians. Palestinians I must insist, are not oppressed by Israel. They have full legal and de facto rights, as I already mentioned in a previous post.  Perhaps Eugenio's friend Luciano Dondero would care to add his comments on this matter.

JE comments:  Can we really say the USSR did not exploit its "colonies" economically?  Consider the industrial plant in East Germany that was dismantled and moved to Russia after the war.  War reparations?  There must be other examples.

Eugenio Battaglia was distinguishing between "legitimate" self-determination and secession, which he sees as illegitimate.  The rub lies in how the distinction is made.

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