Thursday, May 12, 2005

Freedom: A Vital Possibility

With all the talk of freedom lately, I thought I'd post this quote and eliminate any reference to the ideology associated with it.
"X recognises only the relative significance of ideas, institutions, and social conditions. It is, therefore not a fixed, self enclosed social system, but rather a definite trend in the historical development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to broaden its scope and to affect wider circles in manifold ways. For the X, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all capacities and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is interfered with by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown."
This quote was written by Rudolf Rocker in his "Anarcho-Syndicalism," published in 1938 as the Nazi menace became apparent. On the left, Rocker and the rest of the anarchists were the only ones to rail against both the exploitative and disciplinary nature of capitalism and the evils of authoritarian communism. As you can see from the quote above, Rocker's view of freedom was evolutionary and dependent on the aspirations of the people organized democratically. This is counter to the conception of freedom evoked by President Bush where freedom is merely equated to representative government and free enterprise, with the latter superceding the former. Representative government and free enterprise are indeed important steps in the evolution of most of the world's societies for sure. Yet here in America, it's time we took a step toward Rocker's more expansive conception of freedom which allows the public to decide how to organize their society, rather than be mere spectators to economic and political processes over which they have no control.