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.

Welcome to Wild Anarchism

        Most of you are familiar with Ed Abbey’s support of monkeywrenching from his published works as expressed in the exploits of his characters. You also may know that he was a proponent of anarchism as a political philosophy and anarchy as a form of social organization.
        I am not Ed Abbey. I may not even be George Washington Hayduke (sometimes it gets a bit confusing). I am an anarchist, in action and in thought. My life is dedicated to bringing an end to capitalism as an economic system and to bringing down the corporate oligarchy that rules the United States, in the guise of democracy, and much of the rest of the world through economic domination and subjugation.
        The corporate oligarchy is all powerful in this very real world. Trans-national corporations control almost all governments, including the government of the United States. This is not a conspiracy, the favorite pejorative of the corporate toady. It is a system of interlinking agendas that serves to bring all public discourse under its control. The sole purpose of a corporation is to make a profit and, despite the popular myth of competition, corporations cooperate to that end.
        It is therefore impossible to change this system through democratic processes, since those very processes are controlled by the corporate elite. Again, this is not a conspiracy, but is a system of
information control that serves the purposes of the above-mentioned corporations. When you enter the voting booth, the important decisions have already been made for you so that it no longer matters which of the chosen candidates you grace with your approval.
        However, as an anarchist with Marxist-Leninist tendencies, I know that capitalism inevitably leads to socialism in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, trans-national corporations with access to, and control of, temporarily unlimited cheap energy, have postponed the inevitably of the social process as they continue to lay waste to the natural world in pursuit of ever expanding profits. This is intolerable.
        It is therefore my task to seek to speed up the process of capitalist collapse and replacement with decentralized anarchist socialism wherever possible. Since the current system is already in the beginning stages of decline and immenent collapse, I make it my task to find the beginnings of the cracks in the dam and concentrate my limited energies on these points of weakness.
        My tools are many, including this here electronic computer. I have no compunctions against using capitalist tools against the oppressors. My purpose is to defeat and forestall the declared purpose of the corporate oligarchy, i.e. continually expanding obscene profits at the expense of the environment and the living beings that inhabit it. I do this by making sure that ecoraping is as expensive a proposition as possible.
        To say that I am unpopular in some sectors of the population is an understatement. I have been photographed, videotaped, slammed to the ground, stomped on, verbally assaulted, arrested, thrown in jail with vomiting drunks, assailed in print, defamed, defiled and derided. My proudest moment was when the United States Coast Guard, prompted by the FBI, stationed a Coast Guard cutter in Prince William Sound to protect Exxon workers from “Earth First! terrorists. I have been denied access to Canada on several occasions while attempting to leave Alaska. When I had a phone, it was monitored. I am frequently visited by “maiden aunts” and “grandmothers” inquiring about my activities of late. I have generated enough government paperwork to account for a sizable grove of unfortunate trees.
        As I stood on the oil-soaked shore of Montague Island, in Prince William Sound on September 15, 1989, I could only think of the words of Shakespeare, “Forgive me, thou bleeding piece of earth, that I am so gentle with these butchers.” (Sorry for the misquote, Bill, I don’t have the words in front of me) From that moment I dedicated my life to the end of corporate tyranny.
        If you would like to join me and protect your corner of the world, I would be honored to share what I have learned these past seventy years. Much of what I know is in print, available in legitimate book stores. I can only offer what I have learned from personal experience.
Send a message, bang a drum, send up smoke signals and I will include you in this mailing.
        Long live the weeds and the wilderness!
        GWH