George Walford: Free To or From What?

IC has pointed out that every political movement, not only anarchism, places a high value on freedom; even the Nazis valued freedom of action for anti-Semites. To the list of freedom-lovers we now have to add the Bible:

GAL. 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.
JOHN 8:36 If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.
PSALM 51:12 Uphold me with thy free spirit.
JOHN 8:32 The truth shall make you free.[1]

The Bible, like the political movements, doubtless uses the word with a different meaning from the anarchist one, and this makes it all the more important, both for anarchists themselves and for people interested in (or worried about) anarchism, to know just what anarchists do mean by the term. IC has tried to raise the issue, for example in the columns of Freedom, the anarchist fortnightly (see ‘Freedom in Freedom,’ IC 61), but without arousing much interest.

The normal anarchist conception, of freedom which does not interfere with the freedom of others, collapses at a touch; every freedom that matters does interfere. No more satisfactory conception has been forthcoming, and no anarchists show much interest in trying to reach one. This suggests that should an anarchist society ever come into being, anarchists (and others) are likely to get some nasty shocks when they find other people holding, and putting into practice, ideas about freedom that differ from their own.

(1. The first two quoed in CLARITY, journal of the Mensa Christian Forum, the others from the Revised Version – which also uses ‘free’ in various particular connections).

from Ideological Commentary 63, February 1994.