I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while to clarify my political stance. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know I’ve referred to myself as a libertarian socialist (sometimes also called anarcho-communist) and it is accurate but with an important distinction: I believe in anarcho-communism as a good way to organise society not as an overall ideology.
According to the value system I live by, no human has the right to dominate and rule over another. That’s why I’m an anarchist. It doesn’t mean I believe a perfect world where no one ever even tries to boss over another is ever going to happen. I’m not naive enough to believe in such an utopia. But I will oppose all forms of oppression and all enemies of freedom whenever I can.
The thing in common among all “anarchos”, whether it’s communists, syndicalists, mutualist or capitalists, is that we all believe that the state is illegitimate and a source of oppression. A key difference between different anarcho types is what we consider sources of oppression beside the state.
Most anarchists believe private property (not to be confused with personal property) is one of the main sources, if not the main source, of oppression. This is why the majority of anarchists do not consider anarcho-capitalists to be real anarchists.
But, at least in my opinion, many left anarchists fail to see the oppressive potential of even the most direct democratic, economically democratic communes. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism and many other forms of oppression need no help from the state to thrive. On the contrary: the culture often changes, for better or worse, before the laws of the state.
Let’s say, as an example, that a group of activists came voluntarily together to create a commune where the means of production are collectively owned and the rules democratically decided. If in such a commune the people voted in the majority that leaving one’s romantic partner should be a punishable offense, I would because of my belief in personal freedom not support such a decision and would be opposed to the very idea that such a personal matter should be decided by the community.
Of course, many who identify as anarcho-communists would agree with me on this issue. But to me it is important that I point out that while I believe voluntary collective action can be a great source of liberation, especially for members of the proletariat who on their own have very little power to change their circumstances, the same community can also itself become an enemy of one’s freedom.
That’s why I nowadays prefer to refer to myself as an anarchist rather than an anarcho-communist. I don’t wish for people to assume that I believe there is no oppressive potential in the collective.
One could argue that in a society based on voluntary acts of collectivization, one could simply leave one’s commune if the rules started to become too repressive. True, but that would not necessarily be a simple thing. Peer-pressure is a real and very powerful thing. It is very easy within any group for popular opinion to become a form of unwritten law people fear to break almost as much as state law.
The answer to that, in my opinion, would be to foster a culture where people are thought to value themselves as individuals and to stand up for their right to self-determination. That’s something I believe should be done no matter the current organizing of society.
The question is how, considering many people’s tendency to long for submission and authoritarian leaders. And that is the million dollar question, isn’t it? I have made it one of my life’s goal to answer it and to help others embrace the thing I love the most: freedom.