L. Neil Smith's
Number 225, May 25, 2003

The Prime Directive

Switzerland without coercion?
by Jim Davidson

Special to TLE

I was pleased by most of the essay on Switzerland except for the claim that it has been "entirely free of coercion, either from outside or within."

From outside:
Full scale invasion by French armies under Napoleon in 1798 would seem to be significant outside coercion. "On March 5, French forces entered Bern, marking the fall of the ancien régime in Switzerland....[Napoleon's] brave new Helvetic Republic, 'unitary and indivisible,' did away with cantons altogether and instead vested centralized power, French-style, nominally in the people but actually in a five-man executive." It lasted until 1802 when Bonaparte withdrew his troops. Then civil war broke out, which he mediated.

From inside:
Post-Restoration Switzerland again experienced civil war from 1830 to 1831, as a reaction to the reactionary restoration of old-style patrician systems. 1846 saw the attacks of the Soderbund and 1847 the military campaign of General Henri Dufour who killed dozens of Soderbund activists.

World War One saw the Swiss army openly supporting Germany, and a trench dug between French speaking portions of Switzerland and Germanic parts. Also, in November 1918 communist agitators, including Lenin, fomented a worker strike which was put down by the Swiss army.

The Swiss only saw fit to open residence, civic, and ethnic equality to Jews in 1866, and to this day their government bans ritual slaughter of animals. Russian pogroms created a large number of destitute Jewish refugees who were uniformly refused admission to Switzerland. At least 25,000 Jews were turned back into Germany during WW2 according to documentation, though many more were probably refused entry.

Also, the Swiss government in Autumn 1942 pressured the Red Cross not to reveal what it knew of the death camps in Nazi Germany. There is also considerable evidence of collusion between the German government under Hitler and various Swiss banks, which though private enterprises were licensed by the Swiss government. Details follow.

A government banking concern, the Swiss National Bank "Right up until the fall of Berlin in 1945... accepted gold from Germany in exchange for Swiss francs, in the full and certain knowledge that Berlin would then use the money to keep the Axis war machine supplied, and that the ingots being shipped into Switzerland by the ton had been looted from the banks of invaded countries and/or melted down from the possessions and even the teeth of dead Jews (Ibid)." In 1995, researchers "uncovered records showing that the Swiss banks were not just sitting on the assets of dead Jews, but that they had also accepted vast quantities of obviously looted gold as part of a hitherto only guessed-at secret, semi-official network of economic collusion with the Third Reich (Ibid)." In 1997, "a local newspaper revealed that Credit Suisse—another major Swiss bank—had opened an account for the Nazi SS during the war and that the Bank for International Settlements in Basel had acted as a safe conduit for much of the Reich’s looted gold (Ibid)." "[D]amaging revelations continued to emerge, most notably in February 1999, when the Red Cross was forced to acknowledge deep regret over the fact that in 1949 it issued Josef Mengele, the infamous doctor at the Auschwitz death camp, with a permit to travel through Switzerland (Ibid)."

Swiss industry supplied ammunition, guns, and heavy artillery to the German military during WW2. As well, Swiss roads connecting the German and Italian theaters of operations were used by the German military. Thus, claims of Swiss neutrality during the war were not very complete.

"[In 1989] it emerged that the Swiss secret police had been keeping hundreds of thousands of files on individuals under the guise of monitoring anti- patriotic activity. In 1999, an accountant in the defence department under investigation in a multimillion-franc fraud case—the largest in Swiss history—turned out to be an intelligence agent, and claimed he had withdrawn the money on the orders of his boss to fund the secret training of a shady battalion of highly armed agents for purposes unknown (Ibid.)" Not exactly the sort of squeaky clean internal non-oppression one might expect from a country which is "entirely free of coercion" from within.

Switzerland is like a lot of other countries. It has conservative socialists, liberal socialists, fascists of various stripes, and all kinds of government agencies. It isn't the worst of all nationalist socialist countries, nor is it the best. Swiss individuals are quite competent at devising means to protect private property and should be commended for their work in this area. I'm sure the Swiss can make Switzerland a better place in the future.

At the same time, I think if we are to contemplate new countries or "free state" projects we should look at Switzerland objectively. Some of what we see there isn't very pretty. We can do better.

If we want truly free countries, or even a free "state" within the United States, it is clear to me that those of us who care about freedom are going to have to build such countries. Since 1993, that's what I've been doing.

For my own part, I don't think any kind of government, whether confederation or "free state" is needed. There is only one form of government which I favor, and that form is self-government. When you are ready for it, you can claim the sovereignty and autonomy which come with governing yourself.

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