The New Separatism

As national governments are plunged into crisis, many are looking elsewhere for their identities.

As nation-states in Europe wipe away their borders and dilute the flavors of their national cultures in a European Union slumgullion, their peoples are adopting new identities. Instead of Spaniards, they will be Catalans. Instead of Italians, they will again become Venetians, Lombards, and Sicilians. A story in the October 18 New York Times quotes the newspaper Il Tempo’s Antonio Rapisarda, who tracks separatist movements, as saying, “In Italy, there has been a resurgence of separatist energies. From the South Tyrol to Sicily, passing through Rome, there are separatist movements.” The Times adds that “Separatist movements are also simmering in Britain…as well as France, Germany, Belgium and Romania.” Here at home the Left Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington host growing movements to separate from the conservative heartland they despise.

The driving force behind separatism is the same as that which has created Fourth Generation war, war waged by non-state entities. That force is a growing crisis of legitimacy of the state. While its intensity varies greatly from place to place, the state’s crisis of legitimacy is now nearly universal. More and more citizens of states are transferring their primary loyalty away from the state to something else. In the case of separatist movements, it is to regions, often regions that once were states. In Fourth Generation war, new primary loyalties come in a wide variety of flavors, including religions, race and ethnic groups, gangs, and “causes” such as “animal rights.”

This article appears in the January/February 2018 issue of The American Conservative.

Why is this happening? If we look at states’ ruling elites, we can identify at least three causes. First, the states controlled by those elites are no longer effectively performing the state’s primary function, the reason it first arose: establishing and maintaining order, safety of persons and property. In some places, such as most of black Africa, Mexico, and Brazil, the collapse of order has been spectacular. But it is evident in First World countries also. In Britain, the number of people in private security is larger than the total personnel of the Queen’s armed forces. Where the state is doing its job, there is no need for private security.

The global elite has responded to this failure of the states they run by hiring private security to guard them and their property. Their fellow citizens are left to live in fear. Not surprisingly, they are questioning the legitimacy of a state that fails to protect them.

A second cause is that the global elites long ago transferred their primary loyalty away from their states. They blamed the state and nationalism for the vast, pointless slaughter of World War I. Their response was to de-nationalize themselves, giving their primary loyalty to the League of Nations, the United Nations, the European Union, free trade, “world peace,” and so on. Seeing themselves as the vanguard of the boobsoisie, they expected their less enlightened countrymen to follow them in the push toward de-nationalization. They did not anticipate, and still do not grasp, that most people want to give their first loyalty to something more concrete, not more abstract. And so regions displace hollowed-out states in that role, as do many other things.

In the West, another powerful force is at work to undermine the state—the old enemy of conservatives, ideology. The West’s political elite has adopted the ideology of cultural Marxism, commonly known as “political correctness” or “multiculturalism.” Cultural Marxism denounces Western culture, the Christian religion, the white race, and heterosexual males. They represent “oppression,” in this view. No one who dares defy this ideology can be a member of the elite.

The result is that the elites that run Western nation-states are at war with the common culture, the culture in which most of their fellow citizens (subjects?) still believe. Not surprisingly those ordinary people are rejecting the elites. As we saw in Donald Trump’s presidential victory and are witnessing in Europe, the unwashed masses are starting to cast their ballots for anti-Establishment individuals and parties, people who reject cultural Marxism.

In the end, cultural Marxism brings us back around to the first reason for the state’s crisis of legitimacy, its failure to protect people and property from crime. One weapon the cultural Marxist elites use to destroy the Western culture they hate is mass immigration from other cultures. The goal is to swamp the native population and their beliefs in a sea of foreigners. With those foreigners comes crime. When I lived in Austria and Germany in the early 1970s, crime was not a consideration. No woman thought anything of walking alone at night through a park in Vienna. No longer. Now in Malmo, Sweden, the young Islamic male “refugees” talk of going out to “hunt Swedes.”

Such developments call to mind the words of the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld, who once told me, “Everyone can see it except the people in the capital cities.” Either they will learn to see it and will address its causes, or the fleas will lose their dog.

William S. Lind is the author, with Lt. Col. Gregory A. Thiele, of the 4th Generation Warfare Handbook.

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18 Responses to The New Separatism

  1. Mister Meadful says:

    This article vastly overestimates the degree to which states these days are failing, badly misdiagnoses the causes of the posited legitimacy crisis, and prescribes a solution that, if it were applied, would exacerbate the exact separatism the article considers a problem. Before I go any further, though, I’d like to note that I’m only responding to the interesting issues at the heart of the piece and ignore the conspiracy theories about “cultural Marxism”, a phrase whose use universally indicates its writer isn’t interested in understanding the actual beliefs of the people they’re criticizing (much like how the word “fascism” frequently gets used).

    To my first point, I need only point out that globally, violence has been dropping for many years. It hasn’t dropped everywhere monotonically, but overall it is decreasing. What’s really happening here is that the author is seeing all of the terrible, chaos-indicating things in the news and drawing his conclusions based on that. I can’t fault him for this, as it’s a trap basically everyone (myself emphatically included) falls into: The media only reports on interesting things that might affect people’s lives somehow, and “the world got incrementally better today” doesn’t catch anyone’s eye and doesn’t really hold a lot of direct relevance to whatever most readers are facing. Plus, at the end of the day, we as humans are adapted to see the bad things more easily than the good things, because the bad things are a lot more likely to kill us. States around the world may be facing some troubles they hadn’t been before, but most of them are nowhere near total failure (though to be fair, I do predict that the next several years will see some states failing, other states edging closer to failure, and still other states edging away from it, but that’s usually how it goes).

    Turning to the causes of this supposed crisis of state legitimacy, in truth the primary cause of this is philosophy, or rather the lack thereof. Basically, while it’s generally easy to justify the existence of states as a concept (which is, at its core, that human social organization in settled agricultural societies is too complex not to be unmanaged, and if a settled agricultural society wants to not die in the face of the adversities of the world it damn well better organize SOMEHOW), there isn’t any inherent philosophical justification for the existence of any one particular state unless that state’s leaders or inhabitants can come up with one themselves. The states that exist today largely exist because, well, that’s how history shook out. People change their loyalties to their states because other things have a justification at least somewhat more philosophically grounded: They may put their loyalty in their religion because they believe it to be true and their religion has a philosophical justification for its existence beyond simple practicality (for instance, Christianity and Islam both posit that they are the universal route towards a pleasant afterlife and the be-all and end-all of morality). They may put their loyalty in an ideology because that ideology maximizes morality as they understand it (for instance, communists see capitalism as exploitative and harmful to workers, and so give their loyalty to an ideology that prescribes a centrally controlled economy that may result in a different set of morally suboptimal outcomes, but to the communist those outcomes are less morally suboptimal than the exploitation of labor by capital). But ultimately, their loyalties transfer because those loyalties have a stronger philosophical base than simply, “I should be loyal to this particular state because states in general have a decent enough reason for existing and through the grand tapestry of fate I happen to find myself in this one”. And the reason this moment is happening now is simply because enough people now have the time and inclination to think about stuff like this, due to advances in quality of life and education.

    The author tries to offer nationalism as a solution to this problem, but in truth throwing nationalism into the situation is just going to increase separatist tensions, not decrease them. When people first started to notice that individual states needed a philosophical justification beyond simply “The concept is useful and this one’s already here so whatever”, one popular idea was that states could be based on groups of people who share a common language and culture – a nation – and this idea caught on, leading to some interesting moments in the past few centuries. The problem with this notion, both then and now, is that there are lots and lots of languages and cultures in the world, and nearly all states currently in existence have more than one language and culture within their borders. This is true of every single country the author names in this piece. Catalan is a distinct language from Spanish. Venetian and Lombard are distinct languages from Italian (to say nothing of South Tyrol, a German-speaking former Austrian territory that hasn’t even been part of Italy for a full century yet). Belgium has the Flemish and the Walloons, Romania has a substantial Hungarian minority, France has the Bretons. And for Germany, even if we leave out the Sorbs, the so-called “German” “language” is hardly that – many northern so-called “German” dialects are more closely related to Dutch than they are to Standard High German, let alone Bavarian, and are not mutually intelligible with either. And that’s just a handful of the approximately 6,000 languages on Earth. If one wants to base the idea of any particular state on a shared language and culture in that state, then clearly there aren’t enough states in the world right now, and the author ought to be encouraging the separatist movements he’s bemoaning. And the only way to institute nationalism without that separatism is to, through aggressive education, propaganda and legal efforts (or perhaps just through old-fashioned wholesale slaughter), wipe out countless regional languages and cultures (with the almost certain prospect of resistance to these methods), but I suspect that this is not what the author has in mind either. Either way, using nationalism as a philosophical justification for the existence of a specific state will inevitably result in the separatist tensions the author supposedly wants to solve using nationalism.

    Lastly, I’d like to reply to the last sentence of this work’s first paragraph. As a lifelong resident of Washington, I’d like to note that that sentence would be just as accurate if it read “Here at home the Left Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington host growing movements to separate from the conservative heartland that despises them.” I didn’t start despising the heartland until I started reading what the heartland says about me, and my home. If the author doesn’t want the West Coast to be thinking about going its own way, then perhaps he would be better served convincing his ideological allies to stop regarding my home with such clear disdain. (Though if I’m being truly honest, the separatist movements in Washington and Oregon have less to do with hating the rest of the country and more to do with not having any obvious reason to remain with the rest of the country; a country with just Washington and Oregon would be able to meet its own resource needs handily, would be extremely defensible, and would be better able to protect its natural resources, which its residents hold in very high esteem; really, the only problem with the idea right now is that they’d lose access to the continent-wide free trade zone.)

  2. The Scientist 880 says:

    There is literally not a single citation in this article. Junior high level writing is this? Crime is at its lowest rate in generations in America. NYC currently has the lowest crime rate since 1950 last year.

    How can you site “cultural Marxism” and an elite who de-emphasize nationalism and then go on to talk about a separatist “movement” on the west coast? First off, this isn’t a real movement and second, it’s certainly not due to elites. People don’t like the fact that the person who got the most votes isn’t president. That is the actual problem.

  3. muad'dib says:

    People don’t like the fact that the person who got the most votes isn’t president. That is the actual problem.

    That and the fact that despite forty years of economic growth and living in the wealthiest country in the world, their standard of living is either not improving or declining.

    PS. with minor variation, the same can be said for most of Europe (GDP is at an all time high but most people’s standard of living isn’t improving)

  4. Kent says:

    This is a terrible article and not worthy of TAC. The author repeatedly cites leftist regions in countries as wanting to secede, and then provides reasons that have nothing to do with reality.

    Barcelona, Venice, and the left coast of the USA don’t have soaring crime rates. They’re not struggling against “cultural marxism”. If Mississippi was trying to secede this article might make some kind of sense.

    What kind of logic and writing is this?

  5. Michael Kenny says:

    Leaving aside the sheer absurdity of the first sentence, the purpose of the article will be clear from the regions referred to, notably Venetia and Lombardy. There is to be an election in Italy on 4 March and the US global hegemonists are gearing up for their next attempt to destroy the EU and the euro. As is Vladimir Putin, who is openly supporting the Lega Nord!

  6. JonF says:

    The article, like so many on the Right, goes off the rails when it invokes “Cultural Marxism”. There is no such thing. Today’s identity politics on the Left had no connection whatsoever with Marx, Communism or the Cold War. Indeed, Identitarian thinking is rather dismissive toward all class-based theories and tends to scorn those who invoke them. Today’s left wing is sui generis, no more inspired by Marx than they are by the Illuminati or the Knights Templar. The Right would do well to wake up to this fact and stop trying to make everything about some sort of Red Scare redux.

  7. Viriato says:

    Great article. Allow me to add a few details about the case of Spain. Catalan separatism originated with a crisis of the state, of course. Indeed, it was not just a crisis of the state but a crisis of the nation. Spain had long prided itself on its empire, particularly on its defense and expansion of Catholicism through this empire. When Spain lost its last colonies in 1898, the nation was thrown into a long-lasting crisis of confidence. It seemed that Spain no longer had a national purpose — that is, a reason for existing. Indeed, many thinkers, such as philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, began to argue that Spain’s history was “abnormal” and “sick” and that the cure was for Spain to seek greater integration with the rest of Europe. As Ortega put it, “Spain is the problem. Europe is the solution.” As part of this crisis of confidence, separatist movements emerged in various regions, mostly notably in the Basque Country and in Catalonia. Indeed, Catalan separatists argued in pamphlets that Spain had reached a dead end and that the best chance any part of Spain had to reach Spain’s former glory lay in separating from Spain.

    Separatist movements grew progressively stronger until the Franco years, when a combination of repression, civil war weariness, fear of renewed civil war, and, eventually, unprecedented economic growth and development largely quashed separatism for a time. Emphasis on for a time. The ideology of Catalan separatism did not disappear under Franco. It was merely weakened. As to the crisis of confidence and lack of national purpose, the Franco regime strived mightily to remedy this with the ideology of Hispanidad, which called for the strengthening of cultural, spiritual, political, and economic ties among the Hispanic countries of the world, but the movement never really captured enough people’s imaginations for it to get anywhere. This was in part due to the fact that by the late 1960s, orthodox Catholicism had largely collapsed, leaving in its place only a nominal Catholicism that remains predominant in Spain to this day. As a result of this (and of King Juan Carlos’s and Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez’s staggering ignorance of and/or contempt for their country’s history), in the midst of Spain’s transition to democracy, Spain moved quickly to distance itself from the legacy of Franco, seek greater integration with the rest of Europe by joining the EU and NATO and making many unnecessary concessions to regional separatists (who at first referred to themselves as mere regionalists, given their initially weak position in the immediate post-Franco years). The new democratic state undid Franco’s centralizations and gave Spain’s regions progressively greater shares of autonomy. This included giving regions control of the education system. And guess who wound up controlling education in Catalonia? Separatists.

    In short, Spain’s current troubles with separatists did not emerge overnight. They are a product of a crisis of the state’s legitimacy that is now over a century old. However, the current strength of Catalan separatism is not merely a reaction to this crisis of legitimacy, though it is partly that. It is also, ironically, the product of Spanish elite’s contempt for their nation. By that I mean that separatism not only benefitted from the transnationalism of the Spanish elite, but that the Spanish elite has in recent decades actively fomented separatism through their decentralizing policies. (Though now that the situation has become alarmingly serious, the Spanish Prime Minister incredibly says, “Nobody could have seen this coming.”) Spain has been eroded from above (through the progressive handover of its sovereignty to Brussels) and from below (through the progressive handover of other sovereign competencies to the regions).

  8. TB says:

    This article is terrible. long on buzzwords and short on analysis. arguing that the problem is elites who have no skin in the game is not that far off from what Karl Marx was actually on about. The people whom Lind describes as dissatisfied sound a lot
    like Marx’ proletariat. Unbridled pursuit of profits has a lot to do with our current problems. Corporations ought to love open borders. Poor immigrants work for cheap and if they are illegal you don’t have to worry about pesky worker safety rules.

  9. Billy Boy says:

    I don’t know why TAC are surprised that the guy who wrote about honest-to-goodness witch burnings of left-leaning bishops, Councils of Responsible Negroes who vote themselves into legalized lynching, MANPADs shooting down F-35s, Mexican neopagans sacrificing people to the old gods in his novel “Victoria: A Novel of Fourth Generation Warfare” would write something idiotic like this.

    I wonder how it feels knowing that the Gulf War completely repudiated one’s analyses, and one has never been taken seriously by senators and made national TV appearances since.

  10. KD says:

    Paul Gottfried on the “Frankfurt School Conspiracy Theory”, cultural Marxism, and William Lind:

    For the record, “cultural marxism” doesn’t exist anymore, Wikipedia deleted the entry. I think they threw it out of a helicopter into the ocean.

  11. robertinnyc says:

    “Cultural Marxism” is such a nonsense term.

    This is an entirely fact free article.

    Crime has been trending down in the USA for decades.

    To argue that Billionaires, the real “elites” are wishing for Marxist anything is absurd. They just want – and got – tax breaks.

  12. Stephen J. says:

    Interesting article, I believe people are fed up being force fed crap by those in power.
    February 17, 2018
    When Perverts Get Power

    When perverts get power filth starts to flower
    The abnormal becomes “normal” and starts to overpower
    The ruling class succumbs and supports all perversions
    These dirt-bags of “democracy” have no aversion

    Every day brings more and more political and judicial pollution
    All that was once decent and moral has become a persecution
    Filth reigns supreme in many perverted lands
    And speaking of morality can get one severely panned

    The promoters of degradation and debauchery too
    Are in the driving seats of these dung driven coups
    The Houses of power are now Houses of ill repute
    And cowardice and corruption can be found to suit

    The debauchery and debasement of past dark ages
    Has returned in spades, when it should be in cages
    The state of “democracy” is a foul smelling mess
    And you can be arrested if you dare to protest

    Scum and sleaze rule and pollute many lands
    Freedom is licentious and perversion is “grand”
    A cleanup is needed because filth does devour
    Is this what happens when perverts get power?…
    [more info at link below]

  13. William Foster says:

    Kudos to Billy Boy for reminding us that William Lind (the Beavis to Paul Weyrich’s Butt-Head), using his witty alias Thomas Hobbes, published a racist, xenophobic tract that would have embarrassed Ayn Rand. For those who care to indulge, the entire dreary text of “Victoria” can be found on the TraditionalRight website, as can a photo of Lind with a grinning, thumbs-up Trump. They deserve each other.

  14. William Foster says:

    “Here at home the Left Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington host growing movements to separate from the conservative heartland they despise.”

    Rubbish. I’m a Southern Oregon Libtard, and I have seen no trace of any such “growing movement”. In fact the last separatist movement in these parts was the libertarian “State of Jefferson” in 1941.

  15. seydlitz89 says:

    Amazing the levels of confusion manifested with the reified notion of 4GW. It started as list of predictions in 1989, based on a misreading of Clausewitz and JFC Fuller by John Boyd. Boyd was a genius in terms of aircraft design, but a novice in terms of strategic theory. In fact I think you could argue that Boyd didn’t understand what strategic theory was and probably didn’t care.

    Lind authors The Marine Corp Gazette piece with some others. Martin van Creveld comes along and props up Lind’s contradictory list of elements with the patina of legitimate strategic thought, but for his own political motives . . .

    Lind basks in the limelight and of course various US generals use the notion of 4GW as an excuse for their own strategic incompetence . . . and so it goes . . .

    The real crisis is the collapse of the political ideology of “Liberalism” of which we now have only “Right-” and “Left-wing” variants in the US, or what I would refer to as “Cheneyism”. Dick Cheney was one of Boyd’s acolytes . . . imagine that . . .

  16. Dan Green says:

    Study the Social Democratic Welfare State Model, states have marketed, that they cannot make work. What we ended up with instead id haves and have nots.

  17. SeanD says:

    I’m surprised that several commentators deny the existence of Cultural Marxism, and one who grants its existence insists that it has nothing to do with Marxism. Cultural Marxism is the projection of the Marxist Class Model onto other human categories, like race, gender and sexual orientation. Anyone who denies that this is happening, and indeed is being inculcated by social institutions either isn’t paying attention, or likes the movement but not the label. Here’s a primer (from the Heritage Foundation mind you, not Breitbart) on how Cultural Marxism was conceived, has spread, and has transformed our civilization:

  18. mynamejeff says:

    Pretty much everyone in the comments is misinterpreting or strawmanning what the writer is saying with regards to cultural Marxism. NO, the writer is not referring to actual Marxism when he refers cultural Marxism, the difference is that while Marxism focuses on class inequality, i.e. “Proletariat” “Bourgeoisie”, cultural Marxism focuses on race and gender “inequality”.

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