Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cries for Secession



There has been a great deal of talk lately about rising support for secessionist movements in several European countries, most of them monarchies. To get the republic out of the way first, there was recently some buzz around the drive for an independent Republic of Venice in northeast Italy and, for some time, there has been a sizeable minority in northern Italy generally advocating the break-up of that country. Personally, I mourn the loss of the Kingdom of Italy and regard it as unfortunate enough that there is one Italian republic, I certainly would not want there to be two or three. In the monarchies of Europe there are advanced secessionist movements in the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of Spain and I suppose I should hop over to America and mention the Dominion of Canada. Belgium has had probably the most long-standing secessionist movement with the nationalists in Flanders constantly keeping the world guessing as to whether or not Belgium is about to split in two. In Belgium, and outside the English-speaking world this seems to be a pattern, it is a case of a more economically prosperous region trying to break away from a country that is less successful overall. Honestly, I can fully understand where this kind of attitude is coming from.

Flanders has, for most of recent memory, been more prosperous than Wallonia. I am sure some of the more racist Flemish nationalists (and there are plenty of them) would likely attribute this to the natural superiority of the more Germanic Flemings over the more Latin Walloons. Actually, in racial terms, there is hardly any difference between the two and the real reason is that Flanders has followed a more intelligent economic policy compared to Wallonia which has long been dominated by the socialists and has an economy that shows this. I can completely understand the Flemings being upset that their hard-earned tax euros get shoveled over to the Walloons to compensate for their bad economic decisions. However, the answer to that problem does not require independence, it only requires getting the socialists out of Wallonia and a good way to start would be to see them cut off from outside help so they would be forced to face the economic reality that socialism simply does not work. If the Red Chinese can figure it out, so can the Walloons. Ignoring the huge problem that would be Brussels, there is also the problem of what to do with the two halves of the former Belgium if Flanders declared independence.

Contrary to what some think, the area of modern Belgium has been a distinct political area for quite some time before the declaration of independence in 1830. It was distinct during the period it was united to The Netherlands after the Napoleonic Wars and before that it had long been the westernmost outpost of the Hapsburg empire. Wallonia as a part of the French Republic holds no romance for me and would be an odd fit; the similarities of language aside. However, Wallonia is not the driving force behind this but rather Flanders. What would become of Flanders? There are two options: either Flanders remains independent or joins their fellow Dutch speakers in a “Greater Netherlands”. Neither option appeals to this monarchist. First of all, let there be no confusion on this point: an independent Flanders would be a republic. Period. Without doubt. So, in that scenario, Europe loses a monarchy and is cursed with another republic. In the second case; Flanders being annexed by The Netherlands, no new republics are created (assuming Wallonia joins France as is most likely) but Europe is still down one monarchy. Not good. Furthermore, I do not believe Flanders would be happy in The Netherlands anyway. They have too much of a regional mindset and are too used to being treated as something special for me to believe that they would be content to be just another Dutch province. So, I say “no” to a Flemish republic and “yes” to the Kingdom of Belgium (which, lest we forget, has been a country longer than Germany, Italy, Poland and a number of others).

Moving south to the Kingdom of Spain, Catalonia is likewise one of the more prosperous areas of Spain (though granted that is not much of an achievement these days) and has been increasingly threatening to secede. Here again, the real solution should be to have the whole of Spain make better economic decisions but there are also plenty of other reasons to be against Catalan independence anyway. Unlike some areas, Catalonia has never really been independent and the glory days of the Catalans of old was attained as part of the Kingdom of Aragon prior to the unification of Spain. Catalonia, again, would undoubtedly be a republic if Catalan independence is ever achieved. One more republic is not something I would like to see. It would also be possible that there would be more than one republic emerge as there are other nationalist groups in Spain that are pushing for the same thing. There are also a number of misconceptions about the Catalan region in particular with some people being under the mistaken impression that this is some sort of monarchist stronghold because of past Catalan support for the Carlist faction in the civil wars. However, that would be a gross over-simplification. Like the Basques and some other groups, many Catalans fought for Don Carlos, not because of their support for the traditional, absolute Catholic monarchy, but because they feared that the liberal monarchist faction, which favored greater uniformity, would take away the special privileges Catalonia had traditionally enjoyed under the old system.

It was not long after the First Carlist War, still during the reign of Queen Isabella II, that republicanism began to be a major force in Catalonia and, for the most part, it has only grown stronger since then. Today the Catalan nationalist movement is almost totally dominated by republicans and more often than not, republicans of a very radical stripe. It is also true that the Spanish government, in the past, bent over backwards to please Catalonia, which has long been the industrial heartland of Spain, such as in placing tariffs on imported goods that benefited greatly Catalan industry but which hurt the poorer, more rural areas of Spain. Since that time the local politics have grown ever more radical. Most were on the side of the republicans in the Spanish Civil War (and the Second Republic had made numerous concessions to them) and they regard it as the darkest period when Generalissimo Francisco Franco emerged victorious and reunited Spain under a central government that abolished all special privileges for individual regions. Today, an independent Catalonia would still join the European Union and would solve none of her economic woes based on the voting pattern of the populace that supports the nationalist parties and it would be a cause for potential trouble within Europe because the most ardent Catalan nationalists also claim territory that is currently within the borders of France. So what would be the result of Catalan independence? Another leftist republic, possibly the loss of a monarchy and even more republics, as well as potential danger over territorial claims. On every front the only answer is “no”.

Turning back north again we have the case of the increasingly dis-United Kingdom in which there is already a Welsh Assembly, a Scottish Parliament, a Northern Ireland Assembly and the British Parliament at Westminster. I cannot help but marvel that one island and a bit of leftovers requires more government assemblies than the whole of the Roman Empire did at the height of expansion but, of course, that is a common thing these days. Depending on who you talk to Northern Ireland is already an independent country, and there are murmurings from the Welsh but, of course, it is Scotland that commands most of the attention for threatening to secede from the United Kingdom. In fact, the Scottish National Party has managed to, it seems, win a promise for a 2014 referendum on the independence of Scotland from the current coalition government. Scotland is a unique case and worth taking a closer look at. The Kingdom of Scotland was, of course, a very old and long-established independent country prior to the union with England and, over the long process of the two halves of Britannia coming together, it could seem at certain points that it was Scotland dominating England rather than the other way around.

Personally, I cannot help but have a bit of nostalgia for the old, feudal Kingdom of Scotland and had I been alive at the time I would probably have favored the later Stuart policy of three kingdoms in personal union under the Crown rather than under one centralized government in London. The Scots would seem to have a good case to argue when it comes to demanding independence. After all, England did use some rather coercive tactics to gain their consent to it, England had been extremely brutal in the aftermath of the 1745 Uprising and the English had executed two Scottish monarchs in the past. However, many Scots have a selective memory when it comes to these outrages. The Scots had actually been the first to rebel against King Charles I long before the civil wars that brought about his eventual execution and Mary Queen of Scots was only in England to be executed because her own Scottish subjects had chased her out of the country with English support. Likewise, in the 1745 Uprising, although the highland clans are the most remembered, at least a third of Scotland was staunchly on the side of England and King George II (just as some Englishmen were for the Stuarts). So things are not always as simple as they seem by those who look at everything as “us” versus “them”. Even going back to the romantic days of Sir William Wallace, it is often forgotten that King Edward I of England only became involved in Scotland in the first place because the Scots themselves could not settle on a monarch and asked for his arbitration (big mistake).

All of that, however, is only of secondary importance to me. What I look at is how Scotland has fared since the union as compared to before. When England, Scotland and even Ireland were all playing on the same “team” (some, admittedly, more willingly than others) the result was the largest and most successful empire that had ever existed in the history of the world. Nor was this, at any point, an Anglos only club. The Gaelic Irish might have been excluded from the halls of power but the Scots most certainly were not. Scottish politicians pulled considerable weight in the government and, even in the eighteenth century, Scottish officers so dominated the British army one could be forgiven for thinking some sort of conspiracy might have been underfoot (though there wasn’t of course). What seems to make Scotland stand out today, as far as separatist movements go, is the fact that I see less going from Scotland to England and more going from England to Scotland. Again, partly because of the economic policies Scotland has embraced in the past. I know many Scottish nationalists will say that there is oil in them thar North Seas and that will allow them to all live like kings and laugh at the misfortune of poor, impoverished England. However, I have a hard time believing such a rosy picture considering that Scotland just doesn’t look like a very prosperous country these days. Most of the Scots seemed to have moved to England (or if they have the money of 007 to Bermuda). People do not tend to flee states that are economically strong.

Of course, I could be wrong, but the Scottish Nationalist Party is not doing a very good job of reassuring me by their reluctance for a total and complete break with England or their continued devotion to the European Union. That is one of the biggest problems I have with most of these independence movements is that it seems like everyone these days has completely forgotten what the word “independence” means. It means you have no one above you, you are utterly free and unattached, you are making it on your own Mary Richards. Today it seems more like a teenager telling their mom and dad that want to be treated like an adult but still want to live at home rent-free without paying utilities and instead of having their parents boss them around (never stand for that), will instead allow the parents down the street to boss them around at will. They seem to want to keep most of the benefits of United Kingdom membership while at the same time rejecting “rule from London” while openly embracing rule from Brussels. That may make sense to some people but I am certainly not among them. It also seems to me that when you want to extend the franchise to 16-year-olds you have pretty much admitted that you are not counting on rational, reasoned decision-making by the populace when referendum time comes.

At the end of the day, declaring “independence” while remaining in the EU is not to declare independence at all and certainly the Scots have more in common with the English than they do with the French, Germans, Poles, Belgians etc. Not only are there probably more Scots in England than in Scotland but most people have, by now, both Scottish and English (and Irish) blood in their veins who live in most any populated section of Britain. And, of course, there is the monarchy. The SNP, as far as I can tell, do not claim to be officially republican -which is a far cry from claiming to be officially monarchist. Their official position is that HM the Queen would remain their monarch after independence. However, balanced against that is the torrent of abuse I have seen myself leveled against the Queen and the monarchy from SNP supporters. Certainly most of the members that I have heard from in articles and interviews have been ardent republicans. True, one can still find the occasional, frustrated Jacobite who supports Scottish independence in the hope that the Queen will be given her walking papers and the Duke of Bavaria will be invited to take up residence in Edinburgh but there is about as much chance of that happening as there is of the Chinese Communist Party offering to kowtow to the Emperor of Japan. From all I have seen there is not a doubt in my mind that an independent Scotland would become just another minor leftist republic in the European Union. Under different circumstances I would have no problem with a reversion to simply a personal union as existed prior to the reign of Queen Anne, but that is not what is on offer today and that is why the only answer to the Scottish independence question is “no”.

Finally, though I am reluctant to even mention it, there is Canada (yes Canadians, you are a monarchy) and the issue of the secession of Quebec. I am hesitant to mention it because, frankly, I cannot take the Quebec separatists seriously. I mean, seriously … it’s Canada we’re talking about here. All they need do is ask nicely and they could leave anytime they wished. If Quebec was really serious about wanting to leave the rest of Canada, I think they would have done it by now. It’s not like the United States, they can leave whenever they want to. But though they have never done it, they keep bringing it up over and over again and so always remain the “special” Canadian province. Quebec, of course, has never been an independent country before and they are not really much more fond of the French than they are of the British or their fellow Canadians. The tensions between Quebec and the rest of Canada really make no sense whatsoever. Of course, no one would be happy with being conquered and at the outset they had real reason to worry but then along came a man named Guy Carleton. He was Governor-General of Canada just before and during the American Revolution. He helped get the Quebec Act passed which allowed Quebec to keep French as their language, maintain their French legal system, maintain their own territorial claims and exempted them from the British anti-Catholic laws. The British knew that being oppressive would only give the French Canadians a reason to rebel against them, so they didn’t do that.

For the most part, this system worked. Some still sympathized with the Americans, but even most of them did nothing about it and the local leadership and the Catholic Church firmly supported the Crown in the Revolutionary War because they realized that they enjoyed a special status as part of the British Empire that they would certainly not enjoy under the United States government. It is worth looking at areas like Louisiana in the U.S. and comparing that state to the province of Quebec. French is still the spoken language in Quebec but practically no one in Louisiana speaks French anymore. A large majority in Quebec are still (nominally) Catholic whereas in Louisiana, where, while the Catholic Church is the largest single religious group, the majority of the population is Protestant. No matter how you look at it, the fact is that Quebec has remained unique and distinctive within British North America and later Canada whereas otherwise they would be just like Louisiana; different but not in any dramatic way.

And, of course, the bottom line for me is the monarchy and the Quebec separatists make no secret of their hatred for the monarchy and pretty much for anything associated with Britain or English-speaking Canada. Likewise, they too don’t really want true independence but want a status in which they still receive all the benefits of being a Canadian province without any of the obligations. North America does not need another republic and no matter what language they speak those who push for independence as a republic are simply traitors to HM the Queen of Canada and nothing more. I cannot even give them the slightest minimum of respect I might if these were French nationalists longing for reunion with the French motherland. They seem whiny (and you don’t have to forget something to get beyond it), spoiled (special privileges no one else has and it’s never enough), disloyal and additionally, unserious. Again, what they want is not real independence anyway and if they really wanted it, they would have it by now. The only answer for any monarchist to the secession of Quebec is a resounding “no”. Am I against secession on principle? No. Have I been against every act of secession in history? No. However, I am a monarchist first and foremost (when it comes to politics) and none of the secessionist movements going today are ones that I, as a monarchist, could ever support. Not every secessionist movement in history has been bad for monarchy but, from where I sit, all of those agitating now certainly are.

11 comments:

  1. All well said. Interestingly there have always been elements of te Flemish movement that want to reunite with the Netherlands, called "Orangists" (the NVA's Siegfried Bracke among them).

    Scotland and Quebec need independence from socialism, not independence from the UK and Canada. Quebec has in fact become a microcosm of the world since the 60s "hippie" revolution with its welfare culture, and that it seems to want to get everything easy from the centre.

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  2. Would be better if Quebec becomes an independent country with the Borbouns, HM Louis I of Kingdom of Quebec!

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  3. Secession almost always come from nationalism and usually resulted in wars and conflicts. As a monarchist, I oppose nationalism (except for Spanish and Hungarian nationalism) because it is a danger to multicultural/lingual/ethnic states such as Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Iran. In Belgium, the Flemish nationalists seem to forget what it meant to be Belgians by trying to rip their country and capital in half out of selfishness and because they speak Dutch instead of French. If Catalonia becomes independent, I believe the Catalan nationalists will go further by trying to annex French Catalonia (Rousillon), Andorra, and even Valencia. Scottish independence is totally unacceptable as it would probably cause the leftover UK to lose too much population, a lot of revenue, its status as a great power, and its permanent seat on the UN Security Council making its oversea territory more vulnerable than ever. Due to Quebec being French Canadian, I would only support its independence only if Quebec and France restore their Bourbon monarchy.

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    1. It is necessary to identify the kind of nationalism present in all these movements however. It is not nationalism, but liberal seperatism. Why else would Scotland, Catalonia, or Flanders join the EU? To escape one "yoke" simply to join another? That is not nationalism, that is putting financial and personal interest above those of the nation, inasmuch as that nation exists. I for one do not believe there is such a thing as a Flemish, Catalonian, or Scottish nation, so much as there are Flemish, Catalonian, or Scottish peoples, who all benefit by serving their nations. For the Flemish I am divided between leaving them for Belgium or the Netherlands, but I have, from a French perspective, no issue with the status quo.
      However, should Flanders become independent, I have no issue with moving in to grab Wallonia. Until then, if France can't have all of Belgium, I say it should stay independent.
      Quebec I am also ambiguous about. I'd currently oppose Quebec's independence because I do not beleive it would benefit Quebec to live under the liberal/left groups that currently campaign for its succession.

      Though I have to say Catalonia would be pretty hard pressed to try and steal either Andorra or Rousillon from France. We're not that spineless!

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    2. I was a bit hesitant to use the word "nationalism" but just decided to go with the flow on this one. Personally, I think a little nationalism is a healthy thing -I certainly prefer it 100x over the inter-nationalism of the EU, UN etc. Every country in Europe (save for maybe the really tiny ones) have regional differences but they still have more in common with those in the rest of their country than they do with anyone else. That is another worry I have, that if this sort of thing takes off there will be no end to it. There are separatists in France who might be encouraged by it.

      As for the hope of gaining Andorra or Rousillon, I have no doubt that if it came to open confrontation the Catalans wouldn't stand a chance against the French army. But they know that too and my worry would be that it would end up being decided by some EU bureaucrat who thinks re-drawing a map is a simple matter. Heck, they might have a socialist mentality about it: France has much more territory than Catalonia so it is therefore only "fair" to let the Catalans have some French land to make them a little bigger.

      Oh how I hate the EU...

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    3. Nationalism is the only viable antidote to the internationalism, multiculturalism and Political Correctness now poisoning our world. If anything, Eastern European countries are better at resisting the tide because of their experiences of Communism.

      Socialism has failed, yet people still think it can be made to work. While a country like Singapore, where a strict adherence to traditional values and non-PC rule, has proven a far better model to follow.

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  4. I have no problem with nationalism where most countries go, but when it threatens existing monarchies I want nothing of it- and the "nationalism" of Scotland and Quebec is a fundamentally Jacobin creature, whereas Polish, Lithuanian or Ukrainian nationalism is of a conservative and Christian character.

    Secession movements in Baluchistan (the Khan of Kalat is active) and "south Yemen" (South Arabia, in which Sultan Ghalib II of Qu'aiti is active) may be promising from a monarchist perspective in overturning illegal acts.

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  5. The democratic man is consumed with unnecessary desires. He does whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it. For him freedom is the supreme good but freedom is also slavery. (A paraphrase from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato%27s_five_regimes).

    Indeed, there is nothing sacred for the democratic man.

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    1. What about it? I don't know of even one town in the American south where a majority favor secession. It's a non-issue. On a legal level I would say that since the U.S. was formed as a voluntary union of states, any state would have the right to secede for any reason (or even no reason) at all. However, since the War Between the States the legal argument became irrelevant. The U.S. government and military made it very, very clear that the U.S. is "one and indivisible" as the pledge of allegiance states. They decided, it seems, to become like the Irish Republican Army: Once in, never out.

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  7. So, two years from now the abbreviation UK will dissapear from all printed matter and digital works? What a shame!

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