Excerpt from “An Anarchist Manifesto” – On Freedom and Violence

From pages (32-36)

…Obviously, whoever possesses greater mental or physical capabilities than others has also more "freedom" of action and more possessions resulting from his greater accomplishments. Those too have more freedom of action that has fewer self-imposed limits in their thinking and less faith in dogmas. But all this need never happen at the expense of others. It does not hinder others, nor does it take anything from them. So it does not touch on anything meant by the equal freedom of all.

Whoever, for instance, wants to equalize natural mental and physical differences, talents and abilities, differences of income and wealth — by various institutions or programs — wants to raise an ideological principle of equality (i.e. his concept of equality) to domination. It is different with differences in income and property based on privileges or monopolies; for these — like any privilege that is claimed against the will of those concerned — infringe on the state of equal freedom for all.

This state of equal freedom for all means, primarily, mutual freedom from aggressive coercive measures which — against the will of those concerned — enlarge the sphere of freedom of some at the expense of others, in such a way that, due to this compulsion, a state of unequal freedom arises.

Forceful measures which are not aggressive but purely defensive, by merely repelling aggression against the equal freedom of all, stay, therefore, within the framework of equal freedom for all. A purely protective organization on a voluntary basis and for the establishment and maintenance of this condition is a self-evident requirement.

When someone voluntarily restricts his own freedom in favor of the leadership or rule of another, be it for religious, ideological or practical purposes, then this voluntary unequal freedom also stays within the limits of what is to be understood by the state of equal freedom for all. This state includes the liberty of wanting to be a slave.

In this it is self-evident that someone can, of course, only limit his own freedom, not that of another against his will.

Equal freedom for all excludes any act or omission which enforces upon the persons concerned behavior that is against their will and claims more freedom for one side at the expense of the freedom of the other side. It does not matter whether this is done in the personal interest of an individual or in the interest of a group or in the alleged "superior" interest of anything "higher," be it a religion, an ideology or anything alleged to be "obviously reasonable" or "evidently necessary."

What counts is the boundary between (aggressive) force and (defensive) freedom from this aggressive force, the limit consisting in the equal freedom of all. On this one may again quote John Henry Mackay (Der Freiheitsucher The Freedomseeker, Berlin, 1920):

"There were cases where no doubt was possible: the robber or murderer who assaults me in order to take my property and my life is, undoubtedly, aggressive. If I get rid of him — and be it by force — I act in self-defense, protectively, and thus I am not aggressive. But there were cases which were not so blatant and evident. It was advisable to try to achieve the greatest possible clarity about these two concepts, seeing that they are hopelessly confused in the public mind, hardly ever discussed and nowhere clearly recognized.

"Some more examples, and again obvious ones: It was not aggressive to carry weapons, but it was aggressive to use them for purposes other than defense. Thus the prohibition against the bearing and possession of arms was aggressive, or rather the enforcement of this prohibition was.

"It was not aggressive to take land into one’s personal possession and make use of it — if it was not already possessed and used by another. It was, however, aggressive to claim taxes for the use of this land and also of its natural resources, regardless of the form and purpose of such taxes. It was not aggressive to issue money and to pay with it those who wanted to accept it under the conditions offered and at their own risk. But it was aggressive to prohibit the issue and circulation of money and to enforce compliance while declaring one standard of value and one currency to be exclusively valid — under the pretence of possessing exclusive authority for the issue and circulation of money. "It was not aggressive not to work if one did not feel like it or had other well-founded or implausible reasons for not wanting to work. But it was aggressive to keep others from the work they wanted to do.

"It was not aggressive to refuse taxes imposed by force, to refuse military service, to refuse inoculation and baptism, to sell one’s body, to live in free love, to whore, and to drink; but it was aggressive to impose taxes upon others and to compel their payment, to force people to train with weapons and to use them, to inoculate and baptize them against their own or their parents’ will, to ‘regulate’ prostitution and submit it to law, to persecute those living in free love: Every forceful suppression of vice was aggressive.

"It was not aggressive to practice medicine or any other profession. Everyone had to be free to attempt healing diseases if he believed he could do so; or free to choose the doctor in whom he had the greatest confidence. But it was aggressive to allow only ‘certified’ doctors to practice and to punish those exercising the profession without such approval. One may call aggressive cases of serious fraud, confidence tricks, and coercive seduction. But the extent to which they were really aggressive could only be decided in particular cases and only on the basis of the relevant facts.

"For, as was said before, there were certainly cases in which the borderline between aggressiveness and passivity was drawn so fine that it could be found only upon close examination, and even this only with the aid of prolonged and rich experience, an experience which is still far off nowadays, since the most naive ignorance still prevails even towards the most obvious infringements of this limit."

The equal freedom of all is largely identical with the absence of privileges — unless someone has expressly granted another person, or group, a privilege over himself. The voluntary restriction of one’s own freedom, as mentioned before, does not offend the principle of equal freedom for all.

Any legal or actual monopoly or oligopoly is also an aggressive infringement of the equal freedom of all, whenever it is not based on the voluntary consent or agreement of those concerned.

The most important application of this statement is with respect to land and natural resources. Mackay’s example referred to a period more than fifty years ago when the world population was, approximately, only one third of today’s. Then there was still some land — however little — available that was not yet used by others. Nowadays, it is no longer possible for someone to use land freely, for even the land not actually used has its "owners," too.

In the following we shall deal rather extensively with the hitherto overlooked consequences of this "ownership," which is of a quite special kind. Anarchism approves of property in the form of the products of one’s own work and also in the form of the products of other people’s work that have been freely exchanged. But with "property
" in land and natural resources we have a case of privilege with regard to something that was given, in its essence, by nature and whose utilization can therefore be equally claimed by every man. "Property" in land and natural resources is as absurd as would be a claim of property rights in the earth’s air that we breathe, since land and natural resources are, in several respects, of no less importance for the existence of every man than the air we breathe. Equal exploitation rights to land and natural resources for everyone can now, without exception, be settled in such an appropriate form that actual landowners lose only an unfounded privilege but not the value of their property.

This example also demonstrates how far-reaching conclusions are to be drawn from the principle of equal freedom for all.

This principle declares murder, manslaughter, assault, rape, robbery, theft, extortion to be aggressive acts, like any claim of the "I may do what you may not do!" kind.

The principle of equal freedom for all (freedom from aggressive force) is a principle of strict mutuality and consistent equality of rights for all.

Above all, it is not based on an ideological claim or value judgment, but follows — as will be demonstrated in detail — as the only alternative to aggressive force, as the logically compelling conclusion from incontestable facts.

Since the principle acts like a set of scales, its non-observances can be determined accurately and at first sight in 99 per cent of all cases. It is evident that the murderer, killer, rapist, robber, thief and extortionist claims more freedom of action for himself, at the expense of his victims against their will. It is equally obvious — even if this point of view is unusual — that no one can claim the least privilege over what nature offers as a gift. (This, however, must be distinguished from what the user of land obtains from it through cultivation).

One has merely to become accustomed to considering aggression not exclusively an act of force in which the aggressor takes the initiative. It may also consist, as mentioned earlier, in maintaining, by force and at the expense and against the will of those concerned, a situation which resulted from the non-observance of the freedom of all. Then the attempt to end previous interference in the equal freedom of all is falsified into aggression against the real aggressor or whoever profited from the aggression.

The equal freedom of all is a state of equilibrium which arises from the natural variety among individuals’ talents, abilities, interests and desires. In this state, no attempt at all is made to equalize differences brought about by talents, abilities, interests and desires. For otherwise one would move out of the world of facts — of what is — into the ideological world of fantasy, of what allegedly should be, for which there is no criterion and on which, generally, one cannot agree at all.

Instead, we try to achieve the greatest possible privacy for each individual in his uniqueness by conceiving of a free-play-area around each individual, as concentric circles, as it were. These touch each other and find their limits where any further expansion is possible only at the expense of another man’s sphere of freedom. This would mean the deprivation of other spheres for the enrichment of one’s own. Against the will of the persons concerned, this can happen only by means of aggressive force.

Our aim, therefore, is not equality itself but equality in liberty, in freedom from outside interference in equilibrium-borderlines arising from naturally given inequalities.

However, this does not at all exclude the possibility that free agreements between individuals concerned may establish conditions between them which aim at equality in economic relations and at equalization of natural differences in talents and abilities, as well as of interests and desires. "Volenti non fit injuria" (Ulpianus). The voluntary limitation of one’s own sphere of freedom in favor of the increased freedom of other individuals or groups is thus not contrary to the principle of the equal freedom of all, but presupposes it. If no individual or group subdues the will of another individual or group by aggressive force, then no enforced privilege, no exploitation and no oppression remain.

The equal freedom of all is identical with non-domination!

This is the opposite of arbitrariness, as it forbids not only the arbitrariness of others but also one’s own, in one’s own, well-understood self-interest.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s