Does Anarchism Equal Freedom

Freedom means both "freedom from" and "freedom to." "Freedom from" means lack of domination, exploitation, coercive authority, repression, or other forms of degradation and humiliation. "Freedom to" means being able to develop and express one's abilities, talents, and potentials to the fullest possible extent compatible with the maximum freedom of others, or in other words, freedom to seek social equality. Both kinds of freedom imply the need for self-management, responsibility, and independence, which basically means that people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. And since individuals do not exist in a social vacuum, it also means that freedom must take on a collective aspect, which allows the individual to participate in the decisions that the group makes. Freedom requires participatory democracy, which means face-to-face discussion and voting on issues by the people affected by them.
Are these conditions of freedom met in the capitalist system? Obviously not. Despite all their rhetoric about "democracy," most of the "advanced" capitalist states remain only superficially democratic. The majority of their citizens are employees who spend about half their waking hours under the thumb of capitalist dictators (bosses) who allow them no voice in the crucial economic decisions that affect their lives and require them to work under conditions in opposition to to independent thinking. If the most basic freedom, freedom to think for oneself, is denied, then freedom itself is denied.

The capitalist workplace is profoundly undemocratic. As Noam Chomsky points out, the oppressive authority relations in the corporate hierarchy would be called fascist or totalitarian in a political system:

 "There's nothing individualistic about corporations. These are big conglomerate institutions, essentially totalitarian in character, but hardly individualistic. There are few institutions in human society that have such strict hierarchy and top-down control as a business organisation. Nothing there about 'don't tread on me`. You're being tread on all the time." [Keeping the Rabble in Line, p. 280]

Rather than being "a movement to bring the benefits of Capitalism (a.k.a. Freedom) to society.,"capitalism actually destroys freedom. Robert E. Wood, CEO of Sears, spoke plainly when he said "[w]e stress the advantages of the free enterprise system, we complain about the totalitarian state, but... we have created more or less of a totalitarian system in industry, particularly in large industry." [quoted by Allan Engler, Apostles of Greed, p. 68]
Under corporate authoritarianism, the traits that average citizens should possess are efficiency, conformity, emotional detachment, insensitivity, and unquestioning obedience to authority, traits that allow people to survive and even prosper as employees in the company hierarchy. And of course, for "non-average" citizens, i.e., bosses, managers, administrators, etc., authoritarian traits are needed, the most important being the ability and willingness to dominate others.

But these traits are antithetical to the functioning of real (i.e. participatory/libertarian) democracy, which requires that citizens have qualities like flexibility, creativity, sensitivity, understanding, emotional honesty, directness, warmth, realism, and the ability to mediate, communicate, negotiate, integrate and co-operate. Therefore, capitalism is not only undemocratic, it is anti-democratic, because it promotes the development of traits that make real democracy (and so a libertarian society) impossible.

Capitalist apologists are able to convince some people that capitalism "brings freedom to society" only because the system has certain superficial appearances of freedom. But social relations between capitalists and employees can never be equal, because private ownership of the means of production gives rise to social hierarchy and relations of coercive authority and subordination, as was recognised even by Adam Smith.
"It is not difficult to foresee which of the two parties [workers and capitalists] must, upon all ordinary occasions... force the other into a compliance with their terms... In all such disputes the masters can hold out much longer... though they did not employ a single workman [the masters] could generally live a year or two upon the stocks which they already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, and scare any a year without employment. "In the long-run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him; but the necessity is not so immediate. . . [I]n disputes with their workmen, masters must generally have the advantage." [Wealth of Nations, pp. 59-60]
So, when capitalists gush about the "liberty" available under capitalism, what they are really thinking of is their state-protected freedom to exploit and oppress workers through the ownership of property. Peter Kropotkin rightly points out, "freedoms are not given, they are taken" [Peter Kropotkin, Words of a Rebel, p. 43]. In capitalism, you are "free" to do anything you are permitted to do by your masters, which amounts to "freedom" with a collar and leash.

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