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Secession (derived from the Latin term secessio) is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession can also be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.
Mainstream political philosophy largely ignored theories of secession until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s through secession. Theories of secession relate to a fundamental question of political philosophy: the basis of the state's authority.
In his 1991 book Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec, philosophy professor Allen Buchanan outlined limited rights to secession under certain circumstances, mostly related to oppression by people of other ethnic or racial groups, and especially those previously conquered by other peoples.
In the fall of 1994 the Journal of Libertarian Studies published Robert W. McGee's article "Secession Reconsidered". He writes from a libertarian perspective, but holds that secession is justified only if secessionists can create a viable, if minimal, state on contiguous territory.
In April 1995 the Ludwig Von Mises Institute sponsored a secession conference. Papers from the conference were later published in the book Secession, State and Liberty by David Gordon. Among articles included were: "The Secession Tradition in America" by Donald Livingston; "The Ethics of Secession" by Scott Boykin; “Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State” by Murray Rothbard; "Yankee Confederates: New England Secession Movements Prior to the War Between the States" by Thomas DiLorenzo; "Was the Union Army's Invasion of the Confederate States a Lawful Act?" by James Ostrowski.
In July 1998 the Rutgers University journal "Society" published papers from a "Symposium on Secession and Nationalism at the Millennium" including the articles "The Western State as Paradigm" by Hans-Herman Hoppe, "Profit Motives in Secession" by Sabrina P. Ramet, "Rights of Secession" by Daniel Kofman, "The Very Idea of Secession" by Donald Livingston and "Secession, Autonomy, & Modernity" by Edward A. Tiryakian. In 2007 the University of South Carolina sponsored a conference called "Secession As an International Phenomenon" which produced a number of papers on the topic.
Some theories of secession emphasize a general right of secession for any reason ("Choice Theory") while others emphasize that secession should be considered only to rectify grave injustices ("Just Cause Theory"). Some theories do both. A list of justifications may be presented supporting the right to secede, as described by Allen Buchanan, Robert McGee, Anthony Birch, Walter Williams, Jane Jacobs, Frances Kendall and Leon Louw, Leopold Kohr, Kirkpatrick Sale, and various authors in David Gordon's "Secession, State and Liberty", includes:
Aleksandar Pavkovic, associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Macquarie University in Australia and the author of several books on secession describes five justifications for a general right of secession within liberal political theory:
Allen Buchanan, who supports secession under limited circumstances, lists arguments that might be used against secession:
Movements that work towards political secession may describe themselves as being autonomy, separatist, independence, self-determination, partition, devolution decentralization, sovereignty, self-governance or decolonization movements instead of, or in addition to, being secession movements.
During the 19th century, the single British colony in eastern mainland Australia, New South Wales (NSW) was progressively divided up by the British government as new settlements were formed and spread. Victoria (Vic) in 1851 and Queensland (Qld) in 1859.
However, settlers agitated to divide the colonies throughout the later part of the century; particularly in central Queensland (centred in Rockhampton) in the 1860s and 1890s, and in North Queensland (with Bowen as a potential colonial capital) in the 1870s. Other secession (or territorial separation) movements arose and these advocated the secession of New England in northern central New South Wales, Deniliquin in the Riverina district also in NSW, and Mount Gambier in the eastern part of South Australia.
Secession movements have surfaced several times in Western Australia (WA), where a 1933 referendum for secession from the Federation of Australia passed with a two-thirds majority. The referendum had to be ratified by the British Parliament, which declined to act, on the grounds that it would contravene the Australian Constitution.
Austria successfully seceded from Nazi Germany on April 27, 1945. This took place after seven years of Austria being part of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich due to the Anschluss annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938.
On August 25, 1830, during the reign of William I, the nationalistic opera La muette de Portici was performed in Brussels. Soon after, the Belgian Revolt occurred, which resulted in the Belgian secession from the Netherlands.
Two southern republican states seceded from Brazil in 1835. Defeated in the Ragamuffin War, they returned in 1845. The slightly earlier cabanagem struggle of Grão-Pará was in part a northern secessionist movement.
Throughout Canada's history, there has been tension between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians. Under the Constitutional Act of 1791, the Quebec colony (including parts of what is today Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador) was divided in two: Lower Canada (which retained French law and institutions and is now divided between the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador) and Upper Canada (a new colony intended to accommodate the many English-speaking settlers, including the United Empire Loyalists, and now part of Ontario). The intent was to provide each group with its own colony. In 1841, the two Canadas were merged into the Province of Canada. The union proved contentious, however, resulting in a legislative deadlock between English and French legislators. The difficulties of the union led to the adoption of a federal system in Canada, and the Canadian Confederation in 1867. The federal framework did not eliminate all tensions, however, leading to the Quebec sovereignty movement in the latter half of the 20th century.
Other occasional secessionist movements have included anti-Confederation movements in 19th century Atlantic Canada (see Anti-Confederation Party), the North-West Rebellion of 1885, and various small separatism movements in Alberta particularly (see Alberta separatism) and Western Canada generally (see, for example, Western Canada Concept).
After the 1823 collapse of the First Mexican Empire, the former Captaincy-General of Guatemala was organized into a new Federal Republic of Central America. In 1838 Nicaragua seceded. The Federal Republic was formally dissolved in 1840, all but one of the states having seceded amidst general disorder.
In 1974, the Turkish Army invaded northern Cyprus to protect the interests of the ethnic Turkish minority, who in the following year formed the Turkish Federative State of Cyprus and in 1983 declared independence as the Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) has been described as having "seceded" from Indonesia. After Portuguese sovereignty was terminated in 1975, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia. However the United Nations and the International Court of Justice refused to recognize this incorporation. Therefore the resulting civil war and eventual 2002 East Timorese vote for complete separation are better described as an independence movement.
Following the 1993 victory of opposition forces against the communist Derg regime during the Ethiopian Civil War, Eritrea (formerly known as "Bahri Negash" before being renamed to "Eritrea" by Italian colonizers from 1890–1941) seceded in a United Nations referendum with the blessing of the newly formed Ethiopian government.
Before the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009 no provision in the treaties or law of the European Union outlined the ability of a state to voluntarily withdraw from the EU. The European Constitution did propose such a provision and, after the failure to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, that provision was then included in the Lisbon Treaty.
The treaty introduces an exit clause for members who wish to withdraw from the Union. This formalises the procedure by stating that a member state may notify the European Council that it wishes to withdraw, upon which withdrawal negotiations begin; if no other agreement is reached the treaty ceases to apply to the withdrawing state two years after such notification.
After a decade of tumultuous federalism, Ecuador and Venezuela seceded from Gran Colombia in 1830, leaving the similarly tumultuous United States of Colombia, now the Republic of Colombia which also lost Panama in 1903.
Pakistan seceded from the British Indian empire in what is known as the so-called the Partition. Today, the Constitution of India does not allow Indian states to secede from the Union. The disputed occupied territory of Indian-administered Kashmir has had a violent nationalist movement against Indian annexation mostly in the Valley of Kashmir since 1989, which continues and is supported by Pakistan. Other violent secessionist movements in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Punjab (known as the Khalistan movement), Mizoram and Tripura were also formerly active, while Tamil Nadu had a non-violent movement in the 1960s. While a violent Maoist insurgency continues to rage across a wide-swath of eastern rural India, the movement is not considered a secessionist movement because the goal of the Maoists is to overthrow the government of India, although rebel commanders have occasionally called for a Communist republic to be carved out of swaths of India. The Pakistani Armed organizations is a participant in the Kashmir conflict and strives to establish the merger state of Jammu and Kashmir from secular India to Muslim Pakistan.
The Movement for the Independence of Sicily (Movimento Indipendentista Siciliano, MIS) has its roots in the Sicilian Independentist Movement of the late 1940s. They have been around for 60 years and is the oldest movement in Italy. Lega Nord seeks the independence of Padania which includes lands along the Po Valley in northern Italy. Some organizations separately work for the independence of Venetia or Veneto and the session or reunification of South Tyrol with Austria.
Active secession movements include: Iranian Azeri, Assyrian independence movement, Bakhtiary lurs movement in 1876, Iranian Kurdistan; Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Khūzestān Province Balochistan indefependence movent for free separated Balochistan, (Arab nationalist); Al-Ahwaz Arab People's Democratic Popular Front, Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz (See Politics of Khūzestān Province: Arab politics and separatism), and Balochistan People's Party (BPP) supporting Baloch Separatism.
When racial and partisan strife erupted, Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian federation in 1965. Agitation for secession has since been sporadic on the culturally distinct large island of Borneo in the states of Sabah and Sarawak although these sentiments has been gaining momentum and supports in the past few years following the proliferation of social medias and failure of the central government to fulfill conditions of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
Secession movements have surfaced several times in the South Island of New Zealand. A Premier of New Zealand, Sir Julius Vogel, was amongst the first people to make this call, which was voted on by the Parliament of New Zealand as early as 1865. The desire for South Island independence was one of the main factors in moving the capital of New Zealand from Auckland to Wellington in the same year.
The NZ South Island Party with a pro-South agenda, fielded only five candidates (4.2% of electoral seats) candidates in the 1999 General Election but only achieved 0.14% (2622 votes) of the general vote. The reality today is that although "South Islanders" are most proud of their geographic region, secession does not carry any real constituency; the party was not able to field any candidates in the 2008 election due to being unable to enlist 500 paying members, a requirement by the New Zealand Electoral commission. The party is treated more as a "joke" party than any real political force.
Between 1967 and 1970, the unrecognised state of Biafra (The Republic of Biafra) seceded from Nigeria, resulting in a civil war that ended with the state returning to Nigeria. Later in 1999 at the beginning of a new democratic regime, other secessionist movements emerged, the movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign state of Biafra was formed as a military wing of the Republic of Biafra.
Sweden, having left the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Norway in the 16th century, entered into a loose personal union with Norway in 1814. Following a constitutional crisis, on June 7, 1905 the Norwegian Parliament declared that King Oscar II had failed to fulfill his constitutional duties. He was therefore no longer King of Norway and because the union depended on the two countries sharing a king, it was thus dissolved. After negotiations Sweden agreed to this on October 26 and on April 14
After the Awami League won the 1970 national elections, negotiations to form a new government floundered, resulting in the Bangladesh Liberation War by which the eastern wing of Pakistan seceded, to become Bangladesh. The Balochistan Liberation Army (also Baloch Liberation Army or Boluchistan Liberation army) (BLA) is a Baloch nationalist militant secessionist organization. The stated goals of the organization include the establishment of an independent state of Balochistan free of Pakistani and Iranian Federations. The name Baloch Liberation Army first became public in summer 2000, after the organization claimed credit for a series of bomb attacks in markets and removal of railways lines.
Somaliland is an autonomous region, which is part of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Those who call the area the Republic of Somaliland consider it to be the successor state of the former British Somaliland protectorate. Having established its own local government in Somalia in 1991, the region's self-declared independence remains unrecognized by any country or international organization.
In 1910, following the British Empire's defeat of the Afrikaner in the Boer Wars, four self-governing colonies in the south of Africa were merged into the Union of South Africa. The four regions were the Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Natal and Transvaal. Two other regions later became the nations of Lesotho and Swaziland in the 1920s. Following the election of the Nationalist government in 1948, some English-speaking whites in Natal advocated either secession or a loose federation. In 1993, leading into South Africa's first elections of universal suffrage and the end of Apartheid, the Natal and Cape regions called for their secession from South Africa. Pressure from the National Party government and the ANC (African National Congress) managed to suppress the two movements.
In 2008, a political movement calling for the return to independence of the Cape resurged in the shape of the political organisation, the Cape Party. The Cape Party contested their first elections on 22 April 2009.
Spain (known officially as "the Kingdom of Spain") was assembled in the 15th and 16th centuries from various component kingdoms, of which Portugal seceded in the Portuguese Restoration War while other component kingdoms lost their secession wars. Spain has several secessionist movements, the most notable being in Catalonia and in the Basque Country.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has been banned in US, UK, EU, Canada, and many other countries as a terrorist group, operated a de facto independent state called Tamil Eelam in eastern and northern Sri Lanka until 2009.
In 1847, seven disaffected Catholic cantons formed a separate alliance because of moves to change the cantons of Switzerland from a confederation to a more centralized government federation. This effort was crushed in the Sonderbund war and a new Swiss Federal Constitution was created.
Ireland is the only territory that has withdrawn from the United Kingdom proper. Ireland declared independence in 1916 and, as the Irish Free State, gained independence in 1922. Currently the United Kingdom has a number of secession movements:
Discussions and threats of secession often surface in American politics, and secession was declared during the Civil War between the States. However in 1869 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869) that unilateral secession was not permitted saying that the union between a state (Texas in the case before the bar) "was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States."
On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia seceded from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Also Bosnia and Hercegovina and Macedonia declared independence. Followed, the federation collapsed, Serbia and Montenegro, was renamed to Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Several wars ensued between FR Yugoslavia and seceding entitites and among other ethnic groups in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later, Kosovo. Montenegro peacefully separated from its union with Serbia in 2006.
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