Free Territories (Gylias)

Free Territories

1938–1958
Flag of Free Territories
Flag
Territorial evolution of the Free Territories *      Initial territory, 1938 *      Early 1939 *      Alscia, which joined on 1 March 1939 (without      Molise, which remained in Cacerta) *      Late 1947 *      1952–1953 *      1956 *      1958
Territorial evolution of the Free Territories
  •      Initial territory, 1938
  •      Early 1939
  •      Alscia, which joined on 1 March 1939 (without      Molise, which remained in Cacerta)
  •      Late 1947
  •      1952–1953
  •      1956
  •      1958
StatusStateless territory
Common languages
GovernmentAnarchy
LegislatureGeneral Council
Historical eraLiberation War
• Established
1938
• Disestablished
1958
Population
• 1941
1,7 million
• 1945
1,9 million
• 1953
2,2 million
• 1957
4 million
CurrencyVarious
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Xevden
Alscia
Gylias
Today part of
Part of a series on the
History of Gylias
Seal of Gylias

The Free Territories (French: Territoires libres) were an autonomous anarchist zone during the Liberation War.

Established in 1938, the Free Territories self-organised along anarchist principles. Governance was carried out by communal assemblies, which in turn elected delegates to the General Council. The economy was based on workers' self-management and collective farming, and largely operated within the framework of a gift economy. The People's Army served as the military arm, protecting the territories from conquest.

Successfully resisting attacks from Xevden and other Gylian factions, the Free Territories gained mass support for their anarchism and emphasis on providing supplies and social services. They expanded through alliances with other factions, and attracted foreign volunteers to the People's Army.

They united the other factions behind them in the second phase of the Liberation War, and ultimately prevailed against Xevden in 1958. Their victory led to a transition from the Free Territories to Gylias, considered by most historians to have ended by 1962.

The Free Territories had a profound impact on Gylian history, society, and culture. Gylias retained their decentralised, direct democratic foundation and anarchist orientation of the Free Territories, and many of their institutions and organisations were adapted, formalised, or continued unchanged.

In an international context, they were the most successful anarchist formation since their namesake Free Territories in the Ruvelkan Civil War.

History

The disintegration of Xevden led to a wave of Gylian insurgencies and uprisings, encouraged by the ongoing Alscian Border War.

The People's Army (PA), initially a statist communist formation, launched an insurrection on 1 January 1938, establishing a foothold in the Salxar mountains. King Láaresy held back the Xevdenite forces to avoid an escalation of violence, and a peaceful solution was sought. However, the PA stalled negotiations and consolidated control, leading to more insurgencies breaking out, and the Xevdenites losing control beyond the Nerveiík peninsula.

General Declaration

The RSR-inspired early leadership of the PA, with its inflexible authoritarianism and military-focused resource allocation, quickly alienated its ranks and lost support. The anarcho-communist formation provoked a mass mutiny and seized control, installing Darnan Cyras as leader.

Darnan issued the General Declaration of 12 March 1938, which proclaimed the Free Territories. They had an explicit anarchist foundation, proclaiming abolition of private property, "freedom of speech, press, assembly, unions and the like", and setting up local councils for self-governance.

Development and expansion

The initially small population and mountainous territory of the Free Territories proved beneficial for cohesion and establishing an anarchist society. Its initial economy was agrarian socialist. Previously confiscated property was transferred to common ownership. Communal assemblies were established to govern local communities.

Survival was aided by the absence of a Xevdenite threat, and competing Gylian factions' greater attention on their own struggles for supremacy. The PA actively formed alliances with like-minded leftist groups, and provided aid to anarchist and communist rebellions. Once a territory was liberated, it would be integrated into the Free Territories. Going into 1939, their area now included the cities of Şet, Jaţe, Razyn, and Mytin.

The ongoing dissolution of the Cacertian Empire led to Gylian-majority Alscia voting overwhelmingly to join the Free Territories. The accession took place on 1 March 1939, and resulted in Alscia's dissolution.

Alscia's entrance had a massive impact. At a stroke, the Free Territories' size and population greatly increased, and it gained an industrial base, access to the sea, and greatly diversified politics. Donatellist liberals and "constructive" conservatives became a leading alternative to anarchism.

More advanced organisation was introduced: workers' councils and trade unions confederated into the General Council of Workers' Unions and Associations, and the communal assemblies elected delegates to the General Council of the Free Territories. The Anarchist Federation was also established in 1940.

Maintaining the cautious military strategy, the Free Territories had by late 1947 achieved control over most of the north. Their southern border was a lengthy corridor, the Lakşas–Vilêna–Peisir–Şenri–Nazrin–Kyman line, and a successful naval landing had liberated much of Sváen. Increased attention to their achievements and ideology drew volunteers to the International Brigades, sympathy from other Tyranian radicals and dissidents, and humanitarian aid and assistance.

Uniting the opposition

Children hiding in a sewer during the siege of Vilêna, 1947

A reactionary coup on 31 December 1947 dethroned Láaresy and installed Tymzar. Xevdenites launched a massive offensive, which changed the balance of forces.

Faced with the Xevdenite advance, the PA strategically retreated, maintaining control of higher ground. It held on to key port cities, which could be supplied by sea, and used guerilla warfare and sorties to harrass Xevdenite flanks and supply lines.

At the height of the attack, the Xevdenites controlled most of the Laişyn plain in the east, pushing on the Salxar mountains, and closed in on Alscia's old borders in the west. The PA turned the tide in April 1948, with decisive victories at the battles of Mytin and Nerazur. The Free Territories regained the initiative, and held it for the remainder of the war.

The Xevdenite offensive's main accomplishment was decimating the other Gylian factions, which now united behind the Free Territories.

Although the PA now held the advantage, its advance was slowed by multiple factors: the sheer size of territory to administer and integrate, the small population imposing caution in planning offensives, and the need to clear stragglers and saboteurs. A General Council report from 1952 observed that post-1947 areas lagged behind in rebuilding infrastructure and integrating with the Free Territories, and called for redoubled efforts.

The growing likelihood of victory fueled debates about the future, and increased tensions within the "alliance of convenience" between anarchists and statists. The anarchists were increasingly impatient to rid themselves of the wartime need to work with statists against Xevden, and did so with the Lucian Purge of 1956.

Anarchists advocating immediate abolition of the state were opposed by a loose coalition of liberals, "constructive" conservatives, and reformist leftists, arguing that state mechanisms should be used to achieve rapid relief, reconstruction, and development. Several leading anarchist figures, including Darnan, the Freeman sisters, and the ferroses, tried to compromise by moving to a withering away of the state position, which caused some controversy.

Victory

The Liberation War ended with Velouria's capture on 2 January 1958, and thus the Free Territories' victory. Soon after, "Gylias" was adopted as an official name, at first simply as a replacement for "Free Territories". An Executive Committee chaired by Darnan took office provisionally, pending new elections.

A period of transition from the Free Territories to Gylias ensued. Several state-like institutions remained, weakened and adapted to the direct democratic model of the Free Territories, serving mainly to coordinate activity and policy based on subsidiarity. The PA became the Gylian Self-Defense Forces. The General Council was replaced by the directly-elected Popular Assembly, elected in April.

Some of these moves were controversial and perceived as "state-building". In response, Darnan and his allies argued they were purely cosmetic, and were motivated by self-preservation: the Free Territories stood alone as an anarchist entity in Tyran, and thus could not afford to provoke an invasion from states already suspicious of its politics.

The idea that the state would ultimately become obsolete and wither away with the successful construction of an anarchist society took root during the transition. Historians have proposed various dates for when the transition ended and modern Gylias began, ranging from the adoption of the Constitution and six codes in 1960–1961, to the 1962 federal election at the latest.

Politics

The Free Territories were a stateless and egalitarian society, based on direct democracy. Communal assemblies were the main instrument of governance at the local level. Congresses were held at the regional level where the assemblies met to discuss and vote on proposals. Each assembly also elected delegates to the General Council.

Elections were conducted using various electoral systems, many of them proportional or preferential. All elected positions were subject to immediate recall, and imperative mandates. Residents could propose measures through initiative, and vote in local referendums.

During the war, turnout for elections and referendums was high. An increasing number of communes adopted and enforced compulsory voting. Journalist Luisa Braglia described residents' "remarkable political discipline" — "on average, they reward clear speakers who make their points in as few words as possible, and penalise the long-winded vague ones who waste their time with babble."

The General Council

General Council of the Free Territories
Type
Type
History
Founded1938
Disbanded1958
Succeeded byPopular Assembly
Structure
SeatsVarious
Length of term
1–2 years
Elections
Indirect election
Meeting place
Various

The General Council of the Free Territories (French: Conseil Général des territoires libres) served as a federal assembly of assemblies, and was responsible for high-level decisions and coordination. Its delegates were chosen by communal assemblies, for terms of 1–2 years usually.

It held no authority and its abilities to act independently were limited. By design, it had to persuade and encourage local assemblies to carry out certain measures. Much of its legislation focused on establishing guidelines rather than imposing laws, and often it was based on local legislation. It also represented the Free Territories internationally.

Several political parties were represented — including the Social Democratic Party, Socialist Party, National Unity Party, National Liberal Party, People's Radical Reformist Alliance, and Democratic Communist Party — but most delegates were independents.

Throughout its existence, the anarchists held a plurality. Several political trends were evident: an influx of liberals and "constructive" conservatives after Alscia's accession, the solidification of a moderate socialist and social democratic bloc, and the marginalisation of statists–authoritarians.

The number of seats in the General Council varied, from a minimum of 300 to a maximum of 500, as did its meeting place.

It maintained several commissions to carry out its work.

Judicial system

The legal system was civil law. Local courts applied the law "in the name of the people", based on legislation made by assemblies and the General Council. Well-defined restrictions protected the rights of the accused, and private property was not recognised.

The death penalty and prisons were abolished; many Xevdenite prisons were physically destroyed. Serious crimes were generally punished with fines, community work, or, if it was concluded rehabilitation was impossible, expulsion from the community. The latter sentence often meant exile from the Free Territories entirely, as news of the sentence would travel and the offender in question would be ostracised.

Criminal and administrative cases used a nonadversarial system in which judges, investigators, and public defenders worked to establish the facts of a case.

Foreign relations

The Free Territories were not recognised by most of Tyran, due to their stateless nature and the ongoing war. Exceptions included Megelan, which established official relations after the Warlord Era, and Ruvelka.

Although lacking official recognition, the Free Territories maintained unofficial diplomatic posts and relations with several states. They had notably good relations with Cacerta and Kirisaki, which were more sympathetic to their cause, and Delkora during Sofia Westergaard's tenure.

The establishment of a RON base at Eltykan before the Daláyk islands joined the Free Territories resulted in Ossoria unofficially maintaining relations with the Free Territories. Relations were often tense, fraught with Ossorian suspicion of Gylian radicalism.

Demographics

The Free Territories' population in 1941 was roughly 1,7 million, increasing to around 4 million by 1957. Population growth remained at a reasonably high level during the war, due to a steady total fertility rate, improved public health, declines in infant mortality, and immigration. International arrivals counterbalanced the Gylians who left to escape the war.

French and English were used as common languages. All peoples in the Free Territories had the right to carry out education, local administration, and cultural activities in their native languages.

Religion

Censuses did not record religious affiliation, a precedent for future policies. Religious demographics largely matched those of Alscia: Concordianism the largest religion by practitioners, strong non-Gylic presences such as Kisekidō and Sofianism, and a majority of the population not identified with a particular religion or irreligious.

Religious policy combined official secularism and protection of freedom of religion with hostility towards organised religion, monotheism, and proselytism. The latter was banned, punishable by expulsion from the community.

Many monotheist adherents fled the Free Territories due to the hostile environment. Their departure was followed by campaigns to destroy traces of their presence. Their places of worship were demolished, and sacred objects and scriptures destroyed. In some cases, cemeteries were vandalised and desecrated, and bodies were dug up, loaded into carts and dumped outside the Free Territories' borders.

Economy

The economy of the Free Territories was based on anarchist principles, including workers' self-management, mutual aid, common ownership of resources, and abolition of private property. The anarchist framework allowed a variety of experiments with organisation to take place.

Widespread expropriations and collectivisations took place. Factories were taken over by workers' councils, and farms by rural collectives. Two main methods of organising agriculture emerged:

  • "Free communes" — worked land in common and shared produce among members, with surplus produce being sold or given to the territory-wide supply network.
  • Non-collectivised villages — assigned plots of land to individual households only to the extent that they could use personally.

Most economic activity was organised through cooperatives, owing to the strong mutual organisations and cooperative movement dating back to the Gylian ascendancy.

Economic reorganisation included concentrating production in viable enterprises, improving working conditions and safety, and disintermediation. Significant growth in industrial productivity and agricultural yields took place as a result of cooperativisation and applied science.

Iana Rynai coined the term "emancipated markets" to describe the system of voluntary exchanges that developed in the Free Territories. Some areas abolished money entirely, replacing it with barter or coupons and labour vouchers. Various communities established their own currencies. Several cities successfully used demurrage-charged local currencies, influenced by Silvio Gesell's freigeld theory, to fund public works projects. Aliska Géza's zauþar system was adopted in the second phase of the Liberation War to provide a common unit of reference for all monetary and non-monetary systems.

Rationing and price controls were practiced. The Free Territories built an extensive system to distribute supplies and meet basic necessities. The populace was provided with sufficient food rations and a varied diet. However, disparities in infrastructure, difficulties in communication, and slow action made price controls less successful.

Education and health

A People's Army medic and a vaccinated baby, 1945

The Free Territories prioritised provision of social services, which was done for free. Volunteers and paid workers established clinics, educational facilities, social centres, support organisations, collectives, and affinity groups.

Education was based on democratic education principles and learning through experience. Formal education was abolished. Classes, lectures and discussions were hosted by volunteers in public spaces or repurposed buildings. Universities were similarly reorganised and turned over to faculty and students, usually renamed "free universities".

Mass campaigns were carried out to eradicate illiteracy, improve hygiene and sanitation, and vaccinate against diseases. Itinerant doctors and teachers appeared, who traveled around the Free Territories working in areas in need. Many PA medical personnel were also directed to work for the civilian population after liberating territory.

Exchange of information was an important element of community markets, and numerous "popular libraries" were established.

Paper rationing policy was geared towards preserving access to publications. Regular newspapers were published by both anarchist and non-anarchist groups, which were free to organise and advocate their views as long as they did not attempt to impose authority on others.

Culture

Famous stars of the Free Territories included Reda Kazan (left) and Jane Ace (right)

The Free Territories paid a great amount of attention to culture and the arts. A spirit of social revolution and prefigurativism took hold. Significant social transformation took place, particularly in areas of gender and sexuality. Culture benefited from the mass mobilisation of the Free Territories, and the emphasis on non-monetary means of improving quality of life.

Much of the revolutionary energy came from the poor, working classes, and previously marginalised minorities, where the anarchists focused their organisation and education efforts. By contrast, the established middle and upper classes of Alscia generally had little enthusiasm for revolutionary changes beyond expropriations and family wages, with the notable exception of those inclined to bohemianism and aristerokratia.

The press thrived despite rationing, with many newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses being founded. One 1955 estimate considered the Free Territories' population as a whole among Tyran's most active readers. Mobile projection units were organised to show films throughout the Free Territories, including trains and boats, and open-air performances and exhibitions became widespread.

Numerous forms of popular culture, including art, cinema, clothing, literature, and music, were powerfully impacted by the atmosphere of radical liberalisation. Traits that became widespread included formal experimentation, eclecticism, social conscience, and an optimistic prefigurative tone. The utopian ambitions found a notable outlet in the Gauchic movement. The radical emancipation of gender and sexuality fuelled development of erotica, with Anaïs Nin as a notable contributor, and pornography.

Sport was a widespread activity. Influenced by anarchist ideologies, sports took an anti-militarist, egalitarian mindset. Numerous sports clubs were established, and it was common for trade unions, social centres, voluntary associations, and community organisations to have affiliated sport clubs.

The Free Territories marked the golden age of radio: it was the dominant means of transmitting news and entertainment. Numerous volunteer-run stations and transmitters ensured wide access, easy audience reach, and a variety of programming. Those who gained stardom through the radio included Niní Marshall, Arlène François, Cathy French, and Goodman and Jane Ace.

Legacy

The Free Territories left a profound mark on Gylian life. In many ways, it represented the maturation and culmination of existing trends dating back to the Gylian ascendancy, including the struggle for self-governance, emancipation, and equality. It also brought several innovations of its own.

Its two-decade lifespan created new generations of Gylians that grew up with lived experience of anarchism and the creation of a fairer society. Most of its tenets and institutions were preserved by Gylias with minimal changes: the legal codes consolidated into the Constitution and six codes, the General Council transformed into the Parliament, the communal assemblies and referendums remaining the main instrument of direct democracy, the PA transformed into the GSDF.

The Free Territories laid the foundation of the Golden Revolution, whose energies were unleashed by the end of the war and National Obligation period. Much of the Golden Revolution was essentially an extension of the Free Territories' model throughout Gylias, and the continuation of the atmosphere of revolutionary utopianism in a context of general prosperity rather than war. The united front created in the Free Territories served as the groundwork for the Gylian consensus.

By ridding Gylians of Xevden's oppression, the Free Territories secured victory in the defining 200-year struggle of Gylian history, while at the same time creating an anarchist model and identity that helped maintain Gylias' cohesion in the absence of such a unifying antagonism.

The Free Territories also served as a turning point in the development of modern Gylian culture: the length of the Liberation War largely isolated Gylians from foreign popular culture, filtering out imports to those that matched Gylian sensibilities, while the experience of social and cultural revolution was vital in shaping Gylian popular culture's generally optimistic and experimental character.

The trauma of the Liberation War was a factor in shaping Gylian society and culture's ambivalent and sometimes mocking stance towards violence, manifested in Gylias' strict weapons law and the use of rezy and the like as alternative outlets for socially troublesome impulses.

Historiography

Accounts considered authoritative in Free Territories historiography include those by Sofia Westergaard, Luisa Braglia, and Iana Rynai.

Sofia's account attracted particular attention in Delkora, due to the gravitas of it being made by a former Chancellor. Later in life, she expressed amusement that most Delkoran portrayals of the Free Territories started from her writings but developed into stereotypes of "chaotic territories getting by on pluck and wits, populated mainly by LGBT women who dress in men's clothes."