Uri Avnery is no ordinary journalist. This Israeli octogenarian’s insights are so sharp, his moral character is so strong and his credentials are so solid that even his enemies respect his analyses. ARCO is proud to re-publish his insightful articles from time to time. And his analysis of the recent stupid Georgian War coincides so completely with ours, that it would be a complete waste of our time not to quote him extensively. Basically we leave out only the parts where he relates his analysis to the Israeli situation. We will make some comments about the Caribbean situation instead.
Avnery writes: ‘Not so long ago, the Western countries recognized the Republic of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia. The West argued that the population of Kosovo is not Serbian, its culture and language is not Serbian, and that therefore it has a right to independence from Serbia. Especially after Serbia had conducted a grievous campaign of oppression against them’. We supported this view, arguing that there is a better chance of achieving world peace, if the number of ‘independent’ states would be largely increased. Why not 1.000 or more ‘nation-states’? Why ever not?
One rule for all
Avnery rightly argues that ‘sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as the saying goes. What’s true for Kosovo is no less true for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The population in these provinces is not Georgian, they have their own languages and ancient civilizations. They were annexed to Georgia almost by whim, and they have no desire to be part of it’. (...).
Avnery continues his argument saying that ‘there is one simple principle, and it applies to everybody: every province that wants to secede from any country has a right to do so. In this respect there is (...) no difference between Kosovars, Abkhazians, Basques, Scots and Palestinians. One rule for all’. This view is not in line with present-day international law, but that can change. And we argue that it should change. In fact, we’re confident it will.
Death of the nation state
There was a time, Avnery says, ‘when this principle could not be implemented. A state of a few hundred thousand people was not viable economically, and could not defend itself militarily. That was the era of the “nation state”, when a strong people imposed itself, its culture and its language, on weaker peoples, in order to create a state big enough to safeguard security, order and a proper standard of living. France imposed itself on Bretons and Corsicans, Spain on Catalans and Basques, England on Welsh, Scots and Irish, and so forth’.
‘That reality has been superseded. Most of the functions of the “nation state” have moved to super-national structures: large federations like the USA, large partnerships like the EU. In those there is room for small countries like Luxemburg beside larger ones like Germany. If Belgium falls apart and a Flemish state comes into being beside a Walloon state, both will be received into the EU, and nobody will be hurt. Yugoslavia has disintegrated, and each of its parts will eventually belong to the European Union’.
Georgia itself obtained independence from Russia recently
‘Georgia freed itself from Russia. By the same right and the same logic, Abkhazia can free itself from Georgia. But then, how can a country avoid disintegration? Very simple: it must convince the smaller peoples which live under its wings that it is worthwhile for them to remain there. If the Scots feel that they enjoy full equality in the United Kingdom, that they have been accorded sufficient autonomy and a fair slice of the common cake, that their culture and traditions are being respected, they may decide to remain there. Such a debate has been going on for decades in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec.
The general trend in the world is to enlarge the functions of the big regional organizations, and at the same time allow peoples to secede from their mother countries and establish their own states. That is what happened in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Georgia. That is bound to happen in many other countries’.
In fact, this could happen in the (Greater) Caribbean region. Certain islands in our great archipelago may want to secede from their main island. Tobago feels neglected and disrespected and might want to secede from Trinidad. Nevis might be another example. On 10 August 1998, a referendum on Nevis to separate from Saint Kitts had 2,427 votes in favor and 1,498 against, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed. In Central America certain regions might want to secede, like the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico.
We agree with Avnery that in principle there is no good reason why secession should be opposed, if the case is compelling (there should be no triviality), the people truly want it and have expressed their aspiration in a free and fair referendum. In fact this is happening right now in the Netherlands Antilles. This federative ‘country’ is being dismantled, each of the originally six islands going its own separate way.
The selected video features Lord Melody discussing (in song-form) Tobagonian independence from Trinidad.