Recently C4SS published an article entitled Goodbye, Cascadia: A Retrospective on a Political Mistake. The article did a good job of highlighting certain points about Cascadia that largely go missed in radical circles such as the overwhelming Anti-Fascist sentiment within the movement or the largely Anarchistic origins of the concept of Cascadia and Bioregionalism as a whole. However on certain points it completely dropped the ball in ways that frankly equate to colonialist thinking.
It should first be noted that the author has a complicated relationship with the Cascadia movement including the creation of sock puppet accounts to subvert blocks on websites such as Reddit. They largely took their departure after disagreements on Chinook Wawa revival, a point I will address later.
To start a small clarification should be made. The author states that Cascadia and Bioregionalism came directly out of Anarchism. This is a bit of a simplification. It really came out of the San Francisco Diggers movement (1966 – 1968). While they were largely Anarchist, the group as a whole can more accurately be described as Situationist. This group was in part formed by Peter Berg who went on to champion Bioregionaism.
To simplify this article I will be addressing these claims from the Bioregionalist perspective, a perspective the author is familiar with. There are many perspectives on these topics about what Cascadia would ‘look like’ and I will not speak for secessionists, cultural Cascadian factions, etc. So with that clarification lets get started.
The author claims that the Cascadia movements supports ‘pseudo-borders’.
Thus, you get these sort-of pseudo-borders (many people in the Cascadia movement, even the libertarians and the social democrats, advocate for open borders as a matter of principle) that are based around collected watersheds throughout what’s called an ecoregion.
If I had to come up with an explanation for why an idea about how to share water rights seems to, through some strange alchemy, produce nationalism… well, there are a couple of theories I could advance. Maybe it’s because the idea of even porous borders, of ins and outs, is inherently nationalistic.
This speaks to a larger misconception about what Bioregionalism is. What we do support is the creation of a federation (worker councils, community councils, etc) within the Cascadian region to address concerns specific to our Bioregion. We don’t support open borders, we support no borders.
The difference lays in the difference between borders and boundaries. Take a Cooperative for example. Boundaries are created around the ownership and operation of the firm. This is to ensure worker ownership and management in order, among other things, to prevent the externalization of costs. In a Bioregion the concept is similar. The people that live and have to deal with the consequences of actions within the Bioregion manage it. Bioregionalism is an extension of Leftist thinking in this respect.
We are not looking to set up checkpoints, border walls, or tariffs.
The next point that the author brings up is largely in relation to the Cascadian Flag.
What does matter is that this always seems to go towards talking about flags, anthems, national character, and regional identity.
From the Bioregionalist perspective there are no anthems, national character, or regional identity. There is however a flag but the argument that the use of a flag constitutes nationalism is pretty shallow. Plenty of non-state actors have used flags including Anarchists. Were CNT-FAI nationalist specifically because they had a flag? What about the Anarchist Free Territory of Ukraine? Both of these entities had fixed boundaries and both of them had flags.
Lastly the author critiques the revival of Chinook Wawa oddly enough as a construct of nationalism. For those unfamiliar a short history can be found here.
They also (almost) all insisted that there was nothing remotely nationalist about wanting to intentionally induce ethnogenesis by adopting a dead language to supplement a pre-existing vaguely defined regional identity, thereby allowing that identity to be more clearly and binarily established.
It was at this point that I realized that the critics of Cascadia were at least partially right. Language reconstruction is always an inherently nationalistic project.
Firstly, Chinook Wawa is not a ‘dead language’. It’s dead to White people it’s not dead to the indigenous people that still speak it. Secondly, Lets be clear that no one is advocating the replacing of English with Chinook Wawa. Third our interest in reviving Chinook Wawa stems largely from a request of the local indigenous people to do so. Given all the historical pain and suffering inflicted by settlers and the out placed position in the region we have inherited (ie privilege) because of this suffering it’s not a big request to learn a language that, mind you, is partially based on English in the first place.
“Anybody that’s living here in the Pacific Northwest should know something about Chinuk Wawa because it’s an important part of your roots. This language, this knowledge, has a right to live in this place. To flourish in this place.” -Tony Johnson, chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation.
Points two and three the author is keenly aware of as per a conversation I had with them on social media. When I brought these points to their attention they simply blocked me.
Listening to indigenous peoples, not just when it’s convenient, rather than speaking on their behalf is fundamental to the Cascadian movement and always have been.
Through and through this reasoning is completely colonialist in the worst possible way.
I’ve always enjoyed C4SS, they played an important role in my radicalization and it’s painful to see them put out an article like this.
You’re better than this C4SS.
Big thanks to all my patron supporters for making this and future articles possible.