by Lester Macgurdy
Since Karl Marx’ immense intelligence and noteworthy contributions to the field of Political Economy redefined the working man’s struggle against Capital and made him the pre-eminent anti-capitalist thinker in the 19th Century, anti-capitalist leftism, including Anarchism, has been marching to the beat of his drum. Obscured beneath Marx’s dialectic Materialism lay forgotten the ultimate importance of Hegel’s Science of Logic: “Being is Nothing” is the foundation from which the pursuit of knowledge should commence. In forgetting that uncluttered position of intellectual and ideological clarity, Anarchism has relied upon Marx’s assertion that “The history of hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle,”(the Communist Manifesto) as the beginning of all political reality. However, despite the historical power this rhetorical vehicle has generated, this assertion by Marx is shown to be untrue even by casual observation.
Has all human society been marred or characterized by class struggle? No. The majority of time that humanity has existed on earth was in an age before social classes, and therefore class struggle, evolved. If one were keeping score, it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 190,000 years sans Class Struggle to 10,000 years with it.
Humanity didn’t evolve physically the first time a small group gained control of resources; our behavior didn’t magically transport us across some mystical threshold changing our genetic structure. All human history is valid when one is engaged in the consideration of human society, not just the myopic spectrum chosen by Marx because of the opportunities that it offered him. To separate Anarchism from Marxism, Anarchism must be wrenched from the mud of this Marxian fallacy. This isn’t to say that class struggle does not exist, just that class struggle is not the primary source of conflict and human behavior in human society.
Anarchy, reduced to the most simple and uncontroversial idea, is a state of existence in which rulers do not exist. Accordingly, the starting point for Anarchism is to meaningfully and concretely define that state of existence, that state of Anarchy, and in so doing, shed the ideological baggage of the 19th Century.
Anarchy is a question of Freedom, specifically; what is freedom? We all assume, without consideration, that we know the answer to that question. However, we’re wrong. When we truly try to answer that question, we habitually resign ourselves to the assumption that it is a vague term with no concrete, objective existence, and an intellectual Gordian Knot.
We love freedom, but we can’t define it. Our culture and history idealize the term “Freedom”, and the vast majority of modern nations and peoples esteem “Freedom”, possibly because the term is poorly defined and allows the imagination to make it into a “Utopia” or “Heaven” to which no natural condition of humanity could ever correspond. Without any definite understanding of the term, “Freedom”, we loosely perceive it as the best possible form of human existence and then (since the underlying logical processes of thought don’t fully separate our experience from fiction) subconsciously perceive it as a universe of hobbits and wizards overcoming evil.
“Freedom”, and its definition, is just one of the multitudes of untested assumptions that our understanding of our society and political system rests upon. Like “Socialism”, Democracy”, Communism”, “Fascism”, etc., it’s a term used in political rhetoric that has been stripped of any real definition. The general tendency to value the vague abstract “Freedom” is an ideological necessity of Western political systems. The long standing use of the term “Freedom” to rouse patriotism, sell commodities, establish morals and ethics, slander rival political systems and entice the masses to war requires that no actual definition take form in the minds of the people; a concrete form to refer to could contradict the acts of brutality being demanded under its auspices.
”Freedom” has been shackled with a religious nature, more mysterious and unreachable than God in our minds. One man’s Freedom is another man’s slavery. We assume that Freedom must be good, since it ranks right up there with God in the hierarchy of abstracts we are taught to adore as children. Whatever the definition of Freedom may be, the actual usage of the term is generally to clothe homicide in a veil of morality or something to drink to on appropriate Holidays. We don’t know what Freedom is, but we know that we are required to either kill or die for it.
Freedom has an objective definition that can be discovered. However, to discover that definition, it’s necessary to disregard any preconceived notion of what Freedom must be, since the vague notion we do possess was instilled within us with the intent to induce us to commit homicide in the name of patriotism (another word lacking a real definition), and to content ourselves with the “rights” that we are allowed. The biggest obstacle to an objective definition of Freedom is that Freedom and any perceived “ideal society” may not be synonymous. Whether an objective state of freedom is “good” or “bad” is a rhetorical question that begs answering, but it has no impact on a definition. We first have to determine what Freedom is and then proceed to whether we consider it either bad or good.
First, the unqualified term “Free” upon which “Freedom”, or the state of being free is based, is not just a political term. To be “Free” is to be unencumbered by any internal or external constraint. Freedom is a state that doesn’t exist for biological entities except in death. Life requires motility, metabolism, and reproduction. Genetic necessities demand obedience even if no external force does, so when we refer to “freedom”, we must at a minimum qualify that Freedom as being within the realm of possibility for a biological organism, and further, within the human biological organism. All internal constraints must be acknowledged, and the necessity to act in accordance with internal constraints must be acknowledged (the necessity to eat, sleep, reproduce, etc.). The distinction between “internal” and “external” constraint is important because (for example) under that definition, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair is perfectly free to walk, i.e. lacking all external constraint, just incapable because of a biologically imposed internal constraint.
Since the unqualified term “Freedom” cannot describe any possible state of living organisms, we have to qualify the term in order to arrive at an objective definition. Without an exhaustive dissertation on every aspect of human biology, among the internally, or biologically derived constraints that humanity is subjected to is the necessity to exist in society. Bees exist in hives, ants exist in colonies, humans exist in society.
Since humans exist in societies, when we speak of “Freedom” from a human perspective, we are speaking in political terms and we are actually referring to the more specific term “Political Freedom”, the freedom of the polis. Since life itself exerts external and internal constraints, Political Freedom can never be the complete absence of all constraint, but is rather the least amount of external constraint possible for the existence of humanity in society. Political freedom must not interfere with or contradict internal constraints of the human species and it must be possible when we live in groups.
One prominent reason why we don’t possess an objective definition of political freedom is due to our classic Liberal philosophical heritage and legal structure. John Locke, one of the founders of Classic Liberalism and the philosophy of Skepticism, in his Two Treatises on Government described a primitive state of individual isolation between one human and another, with no social structure, as the “Natural State”, or the state of true Freedom. This theory underlies our current Classic Liberal political philosophy and cultural conception of Freedom. Individual isolation became the basis of the “Natural law”, which states that all persons have complete and total freedom in their natural state. The distinction between Freedom and Political Freedom must be kept in mind here.
This assumption of Classic Liberalism relies upon a fictitious state of existence which is a biological impossibility. Such an aberration doesn’t adhere to the basic biological necessity spanning every species: multiply in number or become extinct. That state of isolation also doesn’t recognize the social nature of human biology, the internal constraints, the necessity for groups and human interaction. The Freedom of Classic Liberalism is one of universal individual isolation. Therefore “Political Freedom” in our philosophical tradition, is freedom from society. It is Freedom from social obligation or interaction with or to any other human, a freedom that is imposed by isolation. Being an impossibility, the Classic Liberal concept of freedom is nonsensical and must be discarded.
Lacking that theoretical state of Political Freedom described by Locke’s “Natural State”, a new definition not reliant upon our Western philosophical tradition is then necessary. In order to define “Political Freedom” without falling into the same errors of classic liberalism, the constants in human behavior (internal constraints) must be acknowledged.
Locke’s freedom of complete isolation required Locke to then separate the concepts of Law and Freedom, presenting an “either/or” scenario. We could have either Political Freedom or Law, but not both. Because of this, the concept of “Social Contract” was invented, which states that all persons, possessing Freedom in a state of nature, trade that Freedom for the security and benefits of living in society, the terms of this agreement making up the Social Contract (Our Constitution was written as a Social Contract). Political Freedom, under Social Contract, does not exist within society.
A Social Contract differs from any other contract. A Social Contract requires no signatory (you don’t need to sign it), and it requires no conscious acceptance of its terms or even an awareness of its existence. You may, through education, become aware of the terms of the Social Contract that every Classic Liberal Republic (including ours) is based upon, but that awareness is irrelevant. Acceptance of a Social Contract is implied through behavior. Being born within the Commonwealth (Republic or Nation) obliges you to the terms of that Social Contract.
Social Contract is, since it is deemed to be binding and in full effect regardless of the knowledge or conscious acceptance of those bound by it, literally; a contract declaring the populace to be in a state of slavery.
You’re a slave. Hate to break it to you.
In order to avoid the failure of Locke in any proposed definition of “Political Freedom”, at least four conditions will be considered to be fundamental internal constraints:
1- Human beings must live in groups
2- Disputes will always arise
3-Disputes are the result of injury, offense, or misunderstanding
4- A method of resolving disputes is necessary
Political freedom has to be a freedom based upon the biological capacity of the human being, and as such, it has to be a primary mode stemming from the internal capacity of the human individual rather than an external technology which must be developed at some later date.
Political Freedom has to be defined as some state which imposes the least amount of external constraint on the individual, and which is derived purely by human interaction. In our Classic Liberal, Republican tradition, we confuse “Freedom” with “security”, and object to freedom because we feel a sacrifice of certain freedoms is necessary for a minimal level of security as a society. However, we can choose to sacrifice freedom, but that sacrifice doesn’t then change the definition of Political Freedom; like an anaconda that constricts tighter and tighter every time the caiman exhales. A diminished state of freedom necessarily results from each sacrifice. Individual liberty to return at will to that former condition freedom is denied (hence the sacrifice). But even when no desire to regain Political Freedom lost is present, the definition of Political Freedom remains the same.
Political freedom necessarily consists in two parts- individual and communal. Because of internal constraints, the existence as an internal trait to the individual human, Political Freedom depends upon the freedom of the individual engaging in biologically derived interaction as the source of all communal freedom. Also, since Political Freedom must exist in society, it must provide for the resolution of disputes, without constraining or sacrificing individual freedom.
When the resolution of disputes is taken from the individual, the duties of law, law enforcement, legislation, rehabilitation, incarceration, justice, self-defense, and government become the domain of an authoritative body that is the product of technological innovation rather than biological capacity. This technological innovation creates unequal duties for different sections of society, which in turn necessitates unequal rights, requirements, and positions of esteem, under the law. Some may argue that this state of society is preferable, but the issue at question isn’t what is theoretically preferable, it’s the objective definition of a state of political freedom.
In order for political freedom to be biologically derived while still providing for the resolution of disputes, it requires two conditions:
1. The individual has the right to “take the law into their own hands” when the individual deems necessary.
2 the society must demand the individual “take the law into their own hands” because there is no authoritative body given an elevated position of power in order to create and enforce law.
In order to provide for the resolution of disputes without also relying upon technological advances, the primary human social right is the right to take revenge, i.e the punishment for a crime should be decided and enforced by the victim.
Revenge relies upon an internal constraint- the human habit of adopting normative standards of behavior by social interaction and participation. Humans are trained in the act of revenge by social interaction and cultural perception, and accordingly acquire the understanding of the behavior, what revenge is and isn’t appropriate for any given act, in the same way that they acquire language. The law and justice of a free society is based upon the freedom of that fundamental right of revenge.
The primary human social responsibility, the necessary external constraint which creates and maintains a state of Political Freedom, is implied by the primary right- the individual has the primary responsibility to practice hospitality in society. Without this fundamental requirement, no individual would ever have the right to revenge. If no hospitality were required, no reason for offense, and therefore revenge, would ever be within the right of the individual. Without the fundamental necessity to practice hospitality, humanity would never be capable of existing in society.
The definition of Political Freedom then is: A state of society in which the primary legal responsibility of each individual is the practice of hospitality, and in which each individual is equally invested with the right, responsibility, and authority, as well as the autonomy of action and judgment, to engage in law enforcement to protect their person, property or interests.
This is also the definition of Anarchy.