The Right to National Self-Determination

LeoCasey at LeoCasey at
Wed Aug 9 13:07:25 MDT 1995

One quick comment on the ongoing thread on the right to national
self-determination as it has developed.

I think there is a huge problem which I am not sure how to solve in deciding
where the line is between a nation and a national minority, and hence, which
communities have the right to self-determination and which simply have rights
as national minorities within larger states.

It is interesting to this son of Irish descent who spent a year in Africa and
many more years working in support of national liberation in Southern Africa,
that all of this discussion about local plebiscites throughout the former
Yugoslavia (ie, if Crotia has the right to national self-determination, then
Serb communities in Crotia also have the right) carefully sidesteps two very
historical and still contemporary examples -- Ireland and South Africa --
where similar issues have been raised.

The reason why we have had close to a century of nasty bloodshed and worse in
Ireland and Great Britian is the decision to separate the northern six
counties (those where the bloody Orangemen were in a majority) from Ireland
when it won its independence. This seems to me as good an example of the
dangers of a local plebiscite approach as one could want, especially since it
transformed many national minority (the Orangemen) into a national oppressor,
and the national majority into a national minority within the North. There
will be no solution short of the reunification of Ireland with rights for
national minorities.

If we follow this local plebiscite logic through to the end, why shouldn't
Buthelezi be able to hold an election on the independence of the "Zulu
nation"? And for that matter, as much as everyone dislikes the Boers, what
grounds would there be for denying a plebiscite to them?

So, I conclude:
1. There is a real danger to this talk of local plebiscite. And
2. Anybody have any neat solutions (please don't pull Lenin's and Stalin's
six point definitions of nationhood) for how one decides where the line
between nation and national minority should be drawn?

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