determination ,chris?

Jim heartfield jim at
Sun Apr 18 10:43:58 PDT 1999

The logic of national self-determination was well examined by liberal and socialist thinkers. Any nation has a right to self-determination. But it does not follow that any group in society that fancies can declare itself a nation. Nationhood is an objective condition, not wish- fulfilment. Speaking as one born in Yorkshire, I can affirm that _regional_ sentiment is strong there, but Yorkshire _nationalism_ is non-existent. Yorkshire men and women express in their subjective lack of interest in national independence the obvious fact that Yorkshire is not objectively a nation, ie it has no coherent economy, culture or language. As a more borderline case, Scottish national sentiment does exist, but has never been a majority opinion. By contrast Scottish regional sentiment is a majority opinion (as expressed in the last two referenda).

The Kosovan case is complicated by the fact that the Kosovars are, by their own admission, not a nation, but a part of the Albanian nation, who as a minority in the Yugoslav republic, had enjoyed regional autonomy. Clearly Albanians constitute a real nation, and arguably the Albanian population of Kosovo could unite with Albania (though pointedly, the KLA has not made much of that claim, given its financial implications for Kosovars and Albanians alike).

The right of any nation to self-determination is unconditional. But the Nato campaign currently underway is an attack on Yugoslavia's national sovereignty. If the bombings are stopped then it would be reasonable to talk about what arrangements for the Kosovars. But the solution favoured by the KLA, siting of foreign troops within the borders of Yugoslavia is a denial of national independence, not a defence of it.

In message <199904180107.VAA26587 at>, G*rd*n <gcf at> writes
>> >Chris,
>> >
>> >I am not sure, did you answer my query from some time back?
>> >
>> >how can you argue for self-determination *with conditions attached*? isn't
>> >the whole idea of self-determination the absence of external conditions?
>> >in which case, isn't support for self-determination somewhat cynical unless
>> >it is also the refusal of conditions?
>> >
>> >Angela
>> >---
>> >rcollins at
>Chris Burford:
>> I have missed that, and I am not sure of the context.
>> As I understand it support for the right to self-determination should be
>> unconditional, up to an including the right to secession and independence.
>> Whether it is progressive to encourage people to exercise that right is
>> another matter.
>> E.g in marxist terms the right of Quebec to be independent from Canada
>> should be unconditional, but progressive people in both parts of Canada
>> might or might not argue for the right to be exercised in that way.
>> ...
>If we followed this logic logically, there doesn't seem to
>be any point at which secession would have to stop. Quebec
>could secede from Canada, the English-speaking areas of
>Quebec could secede from Quebec, the French in the English-
>speaking areas could secede, and then of course various
>families and individuals could secede from the seceding
>towns and villages. I anarchistically approve; however, I
>think there would be problems about property, as there
>often are during divorces.
>Isn't the nation-state a sort of liberal concoction?

-- Jim heartfield

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