Ethnic Sovereignty

Robert Clancy

[Reprinted from the Georgist Journal, No.73, Augumn, 1991]

One of the noticeable developments in this fast moving world is the agitation for autonomy by groups within nations. We have seen the East European countries reclaim their independence, followed by similar moves by the various Soviet republics. Croatia is struggling for separation from Yugoslavia -- a "Balkan" situation we thought was over with World War I (which started with Balkan troubles). We were barely aware of the Kurds of Iraq and we find they've joined the clamor. Eritrea fought for separation from Ethiopia and toppled its regime. The classic cases continue: Northern Ireland, the Palestinians, the Basques, etc.

We cannot but sympathize with those who feel that they are being put upon by the larger entities of which they are a part. Yet, caution is in order. Expectations of a better life are raised, but a breakaway is not always a success in that respect. Matters are not helped when new rascals replace old rascals. Or when bad practices and privileges are carried on.

Agitation, disorder, rebellion usually arise when injustices are perpetrated. The injustices must be set to rights. At bottom is the economic problem, and at the bottom of the economic problem is the land. Whatever new order comes about must tackle this; otherwise the stage is set for new troubles (Zaire, Romania, etc.).

One interesting development, reported In the New York Times of September 22, is in Ethiopia, where Meles Zenawi became President with the help of the Eritrean rebellion:

"A draft economic policy now circulating among members of the newly formed national legislature says that buildings and businesses seized by the Mengistu regime are to be returned to their prior owners. But on the question of the ownership of land where more than 80 percent of the people are poor peasants -- Menes and his colleagues remain firm. Land can be leased and "inherited," but it cannot be privately owned. This steadfastness on the land issue stems from inherent fears by the peasant-based E.P.R.D.P. of a return of a landlord class."

A hopeful sign from Ethiopia, which has suffered so many atrocities in recent years. May other rebellions learn from this.