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Secessio Populi’s Top 5 Break-Away Movements to Watch in 2022

(Note: This article was begun before the outbreak of the present conflict in Ukraine. It was delayed by a month due to some emergencies at home and a brief hospitalization. Ukraine’s absence from this list is in no way meant to detract from the gravity of the situation there. It is just not in the scope of Secessio Populi to cover that conflict at this time. )
2022 promises to be a busy year for Secessio Populi. With this in mind, I wanted to start the year off with a quick look at some of the relevant break-away movements that I expect to make the biggest waves in the coming year. So here are Secessio Populi’s top 5 rich world break-away movements to watch in 2022:

Photo by Bohdan Chreptak

1. TaiwanCaught in the middle of one of the hottest geopolitical hotspots, the Republic of China exists in a condition of national limbo. Beijing views Taiwan as a rogue province to be reunited with the People’s Republic. This is at odds with dominant political attitudes in Taipei that wish to maintain the status quo of independence from the mainland. However, it’s the role of the United States that makes this particular national conflict so acutely critical to global politics. The United States maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” whereby Washington has no formal diplomatic ties to Taipei but has also expressed its explicit intention to defend Taiwan from an unprovoked mainland Chinese attack. Given Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent assertive “National rejuvenation” policy and Chinese military maneuvers in the South China Sea, tensions over Taiwan could escalate out of control. There are fears throughout the international community that tensions over Taiwan may push the world’s two wealthiest nations into a profoundly costly war.

Photo by Ömer Faruk

2. Israel-Palestine2021 witnessed a dramatic war in Gaza. The lead-up to this war started with aggressive evictions by Israeli police in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. In the following weeks, streetfighting between far-right Israeli settler groups and Palestinian youth became the pretext for an Israeli police raid of the Al Aqsa Mosque atop the Haram esh-Sharif/Har HaBáyit compound. This assault on the third holiest site in Islam became the catalyst for Palestinian militant organizations, who had been quiet about events in the preceding weeks. From Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel. Israel leveled a brutal aerial assault on Gaza for 11 days in response to this. All of this was amid the backdrop of riots in Lod, Accre, and East Jerusalem. When the dust settled, ~12 Israelis and more than 280 Palestinians were killed. Nine out of every ten rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Many of the rest fell landed within Gaza. It was the fourth Israeli-Gaza war in 12 years. The Israeli bombardment of Gaza was the most brutal and destructive to date. Given these recently heightened tensions in this 74-year-old conflict, the prospect of Palestinian statehood seems impossibly distant. Regardless, 2022 is likely to see new developments in the region for better or worse.

3. Martinique and GuadeloupeIn November and December, these two Caribbean territories – both Overseas departments and regions of France (DROMs) – were the sites of violent demonstrations in response to COVID restrictions imposed by Mainland France. Despite significantly lower vaccination rates and higher incidence of severe and fatal illness in Martinique and Guadeloupe than in mainland France. COVID and the subsequent measures imposed to thwart it are digging up old colonial grievances. The measures, including mandatory vaccinations for health workers and firefighters in Martinique and Guadeloupe, were met with protests in late November, which quickly grew into demonstrations over perceived neglect from authorities in Paris of these majority Black territories. Demonstrator demands ran the gamut from the curtailment of COVID restrictions to clean water access, job opportunities, and wage and pension increases. The French government imposed strict curfews in response to these demonstrations and reinforced regional police forces. French Minister of the Overseas, Sebastien Lecornu, even floated increased Guadeloupean (notably not Martinican) autonomy. Whether the grievances recently brought to the fore provoke political gains by Guadeloupean and Martinican independentists remains to be seen. But these tiny island territories are worth keeping an eye on.

Photo by Binyamin Mellish

4. Greater Idaho: Since 2020, an internal partition movement has been brewing in the US Pacific Northwest. This movement is rooted in ideas that originated in a campaign in the early 1940s to create a “State of Jefferson” from counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California. In its more recent iteration, the Movement for Greater Idaho seeks to use electoral means to move a majority of the counties of Oregon, and a handful of counties in Northern California, eastward to Idaho. At the moment, it is perhaps the most successful internal partition movement in America. Eight of the twenty-two counties it seeks to transfer Eastward have already voted for the change (Sherman, Jefferson, Grant, Union, Baker, Malheur, Harney, and Lake). Three more will vote on the issue in 2022 (Douglas, Josephine, and Klamath). In addition, activists from Citizens for Greater Idaho have already met with State legislative representatives from Idaho and Eastern Oregon. However, what makes this movement truly remarkable are its grievances and what these portend for the future. Based mainly on the Urban/-Rural divide of the Western United States, the Greater Idaho movement is primarily driven by rural antipathy toward Urban regulatory regimes regarding business taxes and environmental protection. As climate change becomes an increasingly undeniable reality in this region of North America, the evolution of these sentiments is worth watching closely.

Photo by David Rico

5. Scotland: In 2014, Scottish independence advocates brought a referendum to a vote over whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom. It failed, with only 44.7% voting “Yes,” and 55.3% voting “No.” In the intervening years, Brexit and scandals surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have helped renew efforts toward a second attempt at such a referendum. Despite the UK government rejecting the push in January 2020, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon appears determined to take the matter to Scottish voters. At the moment, it looks as though it will be an uphill legal battle for Scottish independentists to get a second vote any time soon. However, British politics in recent years have been nothing if not chaotic. Perhaps anything is possible, and an “Indyref2” may be on the near horizon in Scotland.

Further Reading:

  • Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse by Shelley Rigger
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Everyone Needs to Know by Dov Waxman
  • The Struggle of Non-Sovereign Caribbean Territories: Neoliberalism Since The French Antillean Uprisings of 2009 edited by H. Adlai Murdoch
  • A Colony of Citizens: Revolution & Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 by Laurent Dubois
  • American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard 
  • Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present by T. M. Devine 

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