George Walford: Anarchy Now!

If there is one thing on which anarchists agree it is that anarchy would be a society of freedom. This has no sooner been said than it has to be qualified: under anarchy all would be free to do as they liked, provided they didn’t interfere with the freedom of others.

That sounds innocent enough, but in fact it constitutes a massive restriction, for the freedoms anarchists value do interfere. Freedom for everybody to get enough shelter, food and clothing interferes with the freedom of those who want to monopolise these things, freedom to resist taxes interferes with the freedom of those wanting to impose them, and freedom to stay out of jail interferes with the freedom of those who want to put you in.

One freedom interferes with another, and would continue to do so in an anarchist society. To exclude non-anarchists would be to restrict their freedom to enter, while to admit them would mean having to deprive them of freedom to impose exploitation, police, prisons, war, the state and coercion. And to postpone anarchy until all were anarchists would also be an interference.

If anarchy offers only the freedoms which do not interfere with the freedom of others it has little point, for those are mostly trivial. To be worth working for it has to be a society in which chosen freedoms are maintained and others, which conflict with them, suppressed. It has to be a society in which people do interfere with each other’s freedoms.

The things that do not interfere with anybody’s freedom are the things nobody objects to, and we are already free to do those. If anarchy means nothing more than freedom to do as you like provided it doesn’t interfere with the freedom of others, then we have anarchy now.

(Reprinted with minor changes from Freedom Anarchist Fortnightly 1 June 1991)

Attention has already been drawn to the falsity of belief that the first human communities offered freedom for the original thinker. They rather insisted on the compliance with a consensus, almost wholly implicit but none the less coercive for that. Later folk communities followed the same restrictive pattern. The pre-revolutionary Russian village assembly, for example, “emphasized consensus, authority and custom rather than political choice, civil rights and the rule of law.” (Geoffrey A. Hosking, TLS 1 February 1991)

Togetherheid: IC has drawn attention (IC 27 and elsewhere) to the presence of whites among those opposing apartheid and of blacks among those supporting it; choice of side depends less upon race than upon ideology. Last year the Inkatha Freedom party, predominantly Zulu, began to accept all races, and over 100,00 whites have joined (Sunday Times, 12 May 1991). In much the same way, and for similar reasons, a minority of wealthy people join or support left wing movements.

from Ideological Commentary 52, Summer 1991.