Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oppose Secession

Now that President Obama is pushing a major federal level public works program, many conservatives are aghast. Texas Governor Rick Perry has even suggested that states that are opposed to a federal spending package should consider secession from the union.

The absurdity of Rick Perry talking about that is obvious. This is a Governor who has taken federal stimulus money for a range of projects. The coded racism in Perry's secession talk is obvious to anyone who knows the least bit of American history.

What worries me isn't Rick Perry's grandstanding for his conservative base. What worries me is that a number of liberals are willing to let Southern Conservative states secede.

I feel like this is the height of ignorance in terms of American history and philosophy, as well as the height of callousness for all those who live in the states that would potentially secede.

The liberals who say, “let them leave. We don't like their politics. Without them holding us back we could legalize gay marriage,” are ignoring what would happen in those states that secede. Prayer is the schools would be the tip of the iceberg. There would be culls against homosexuals, segregation would be reinstated, unions outlawed, and Mexicans deported. The states that secede would begin to build power in power to rival the liberal union. They would set their ultimate goal on the destruction of enlightenment ideals upheld in the Northern states.

There are some liberals who even argue that we should have let the South secede in the 1860's, “get rid of those conservative Southerners and slavery was going to fade away anyway. Who are we to oppose state's rights?”

This is a dangerous illusion. Yes slavery was on it's way out, but it was because of the sustained effort of a coalition of abolitionists and northern business interests. The abolitionists who appealed to a moral righteousness that all men be treated equal, and the capitalist class which felt that it had to unfairly compete with a system that did not have labor costs, united to elect a President who campaigned on limiting the expansion of slavery to new states in the union.

States rights is a smokescreen to the fundamental issue of slavery. States rights was the ideological and legal justification for the lucrative process of exploitation of man against man.

Every crises in the union from 1776 until 1860 revolved around slavery. The debates at the constitutional convention over the number of representatives from each state were deadlocked until Slave states were allowed to count slaves as population in census taking, while depriving them of the right to vote.

After a controversy which threatened to tear the country apart, the 1819 Missouri compromise established the rules to maintain an equal balance of slave states and free states, thus preventing the Senate from ever passing a law which would outlaw slavery throughout the union. The compromise of 1850 and the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act continued this equation.

The election of Lincoln changed all this. Lincoln was a moderate in the Republican party. He did not believe in equality between Black and white, he did not want to abolish slavery in the states where it existed. Lincoln did want to stop slavery's spread to new states. The slave states knew that if Lincoln allowed a majority of free states to exist in Congress, it was only a matter of time before Congress abolished slavery on a federal level in all the states.

So the slave states attacked the union. The Southern slave state rebelled against the principles of the US constitution as outlined in the Federalist papers. The slave states decided that their profit from the institution of slavery was more important than the stirring words of the Declaration of Independence that “All Men Are created Equal.”

The fact that Lincoln pursued the war against the slave states, to preserve the union, ranks him as one of the great figures of Western civilization. While he was an ideological moderate, the material circumstances mandated that the barbaric practice of slavery would be abolished. As long as he wanted to maintain the union, he was forced to follow a more progressive stance. While he began the war attempting to keep the pro-union slave states in the union, by the end of the war Lincoln had abolished slavery in the rebel states with the Emancipation Proclamation and laid the stage for the ultimate abolition. In the ensuing reconstruction, the Radical Republicans enacted constitutional amendments which abolished slavery, and gave the franchise to Blacks.

All such claims of states rights and talk of secession today should be considered in light of the history of civil war. Nothing good or progressive can come of allowing conservative states to leave the union. It would be a victory for reaction and lay the stage for future left-wing defeats.

In many ways, Obama's federal stimulus spending package represents a step towards a greater progressive federal government to counter the reactionary policies carried out in many states. Progressive should oppose states which not not accept federal money for housing, welfare and health care. They should fight to force those states to take the money and use it for the betterment of their citizens. Allowing states to refuse the money, or worse to secede, would be allowing them to encourage poverty, allowing them to condemn women to a life of domestic servitude, it would be allowing them to deny civil liberties and civil rights to millions of American's.

Progressive should also use federal funds as a Trojan Horse to force progressive change. You want fed money? You have to legalize gay marriage. You want a new highway? You have to expand health care to cover the uninsured.

The union of the states is not perfect, it is no socialist state, it is not seeking the ownership of the means of production by those who work them. However, to allow conservatives to dissolve the union, is to disavow one of the few advantages American progressives have. Allowing secession is to abolish our ability to help our fellow citizens who are 'behind enemy lines.'

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