For starters and a little bit of background, I was personally very involved with the Second Vermont Republic during its infancy and early years. I was so precisely for what it seems are some of the reasons that the folks at ASR Blog are stirring these things back up over at GMD- namely, that the very conversation about secession, regardless of how “realistic” it is or isn’t, is one that by its own nature gets us talking about our individual rights, our rights of self-determination, of local autonomy, and the role of distant (“foreign”) ruling forces (empire, imperialism, etc). By merely talking about or proposing secession and the dismembering of the American Empire, and in the mere act of considering it, we find ourselves in a very, very important political conversation about the role of the State, and the very nature of human life and society; we arrive in a conversation that fundamentally informs how we act socially and what we push for and desire politically (and, importantly, why we do so and towards what ends).
For myself and many others, this is an incredibly important part of any political conversation, but unfortunately not one that happens often enough at all. Base political dialogue in the United States carries a whole host of assumptions that, quite frankly, if examined and considered on their own could positively effect the nature and outcome of many of those very political issues that grip the country and even the world.
I eventually chose to cut formal ties with SVR because I morally disagreed with the thrust of the organization which insisted that SVR be (or claim to be) a politically and morally neutral group with but one singular opinion: that Vermont should secede from the Union and that in fact the Union should be dismantled.
The problems I have with such a stance are many, though in some sense of fairness and clarification it should be noted that at an early meeting of SVR members (the membership structures and make of the organization were still very infantile at this stage- maybe two dozen people showed) at the ISE in Plainfield I brought my disagreement and concerns to the group, and after a reasonably vigorous and engaged debate on the matter, the people who agreed with my stance were out-numbered by the people who didn’t. It was after bringing my disagreements to the group, and having them “lose” democratically, that I chose to inform Dr Naylor that I decided to end my formal ties to the group.
Briefly to address those concerns: First and foremost, SVR was interested in disassociating with the U.S. Federal State, but not (necessarily) opposed to capitalism or the State itself. In so doing, SVR didn’t rule out that a capitalist, empirical, tyrannical State would exist in place of the U.S.. In fact, Dr Naylor (and others at that specific meeting) were confident and content with the notion that an independent Vermont nation-state would by definition be more egalitarian, more free, and just more desirable. This, of course, is the very nationalistic jingoism which Naylor and SVR claim to be so repulsed by (“we’re better ’cause we’re us”).
Additionally, just as post-modernism negates itself by being a “grand narrative” which insists that “grand narratives do not exist”, the alleged stance that “we’re politically neutral…” (i.e., take no stances regarding health care as a human right, regarding pot legalization, the prison-industrial complex, police brutality and discrimination, the education system, a woman’s right to control her own body, etc etc) “…except the U.S. Empire is bad and Vermont should leave it” is, of course, a political stance. And, as a political stance, is (and should be) for or against a whole host of ideas, as well as methods. Naylor’s favorite pastime, I came to see (one which he generally carries on with to this day) is writing and speaking about the nature and effects of capitalism and the State itself; yet he (and SVR) refuse to be explicitly anti-capitalist, or more importantly, affirmative of a person and a community’s rights to self-determination and autonomy. On this last point, SVR has continually concluded that somehow, inherently, Vermont (meaning quite specifically the people who live in this State) would be an idealic, utopian community (a State). This stance is, as I said, simply illogical and reeks badly of implicit jingoism, nationalism, and racism (let alone classism and a hole host of social assumptions that we could find abhorrent).
As to the video linked to in the recent diary The Strawman Responds:; more of the same and none of the rest. Lets take a look:
At about :40 in Dr Naylor claims “These accusations came out of no where” in regards to the 2007 events involving SVR and the public debate that happened regarding the group’s ties to the League of the South and other people and groups with known white supremacist and neo-Nazi beliefs, ties, agendas, and the like. As was tried (on GMD specifically- I’m not bothering to look up and link to any of the number of SVR-related diaries that have been published there) a number of times by a number of people, I’ll explain it again: First of all, these aren’t “accusations”- that would be a situation in which someone claimed or suggested something, but knowing the facts of the matter would require proof or an admission. The muckracking site VT Secession made clear (and brought to the attention of front page writers at GMD) public information regarding individuals on SVR’s Board as well as organizations linked to on SVR’s website. Initially at least, there was no accusation, but a pointing out of public fact. From this revelation, a number of people asked “why?” and “to what end?”. It is because of the socially and politically ignorant reaction from Naylor and SVR which follows that accusations arose; simply enough, by re-acting to the questions the way SVR did, it arose suspicion in the minds of several people.
At about 1:10 in Naylor asks “What was this really about?” and to which he answers with “The people orchestrating these attacks were clearly going for our jugular…” Offering that even to this day Naylor seems to entire mis-understand everything about the controversy. The “orchestrated attacks” were actually the investigations of maybe two people, two bloggers in fact. As good journalists, they (at least initially) weren’t so much interested in destroying SVR (as Naylor opines at 1:28 “what was it about SVR that was so threatening?”) but in exposing an ugly and little-known fact to the public. In so doing, the public clearly come out with disgust and disagreement over the acceptability and desirability of such relationships. Yet, rather than view it as a public discussion about, well hey, about them and their ideas and aims and goals, Naylor et al instead took the crazy paranoid approach and decided everyone was out to destroy them (cutely enough, because SVR with a whopping 5% support according to push polls was somehow about to dissolve the Union). This despite the fact that myself and a number of other people (at least initially) come out in support of SVR’s goals, but critical of these associations and their means. Such arguments were derided, ignored, taken out of context, and resulted in a number of personal attacks (myself and others I was politically involved with at the time were accused of being “council communists” seeking to make Vermont the “next Cuba” and wanting to run the whole thing for our vanguardist and selfish Stalinist means). Interestingly enough, the only other time the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective (who Naylor had addressed these charges to) was accused of being “council communists” was by a small, pathetic group of skinheads living in Burlington.
Then around 2:45 Naylor really starts playing his wingnut card by suggesting that the entire debate was instigated by the SPLF, which he throws out as a front of AIPAC, the Israeli lobby. Nice Naylor- while trying to clarify that you’re not a racist or a neo-Nazi you throw out the “this whole thing is the Jews fault” card. Fucking brilliant. Whether or not he’s personally racist (throughout the entire arguments I always have maintained that I did get to know Dr Naylor fairly well and that I did not necessarily believe him to actually be racist) (though time has not helped convince me I’m right) the main thrust of my (and several other’s) point has been that Naylor and SVR, regardless of all else, are politically inept- as in, in matters of politics, actually impotent. Responding to criticisms that you’re associating with morally objectionable groups by denying, name-calling, and then attacking- instead of recognizing that in that moment more people were paying attention to them and actually cared what their stance and their actions would be, and in that moment they had an opportunity to pull considerable attention and sympathy towards themselves if not in idea than at least in legitimacy; that’s just politically naive. Likewise the bizarre stunt of denying accusations of being a neo-Nazi by blaming the Jews.
The interview goes on without any real addition to what’s been said before. Naylor ends by noting that SVR never “endorsed the League of the South’s social or political agenda”. Perhaps, yet known associators with neo-Nazi beliefs or ties have been welcomed onto SVR’s Board and racist groups were linked to on their website. Despite being public information, that was very little-known until pointed out primarily on GMD in 2007. People’s reaction was that they found it distasteful; SVR and Naylor reacted by attacking, throwing crazy conspiracy ideas into the wind, and generally digging in its heels instead of taking a social and political stance against something that clearly a number of people thought they should take.
So it’s not so much that there aren’t those of us interested in secession or that conversation or those ideas… it’s that as long as Naylor and SVR are explicitly tied to such (and as long as those most active in the “movement” continue to allow them to be) I for one, and most everyone else I talk to about such things, aren’t interested.