Freedom Equals Power
Credit: Christopher Williams, RTC Correspondent
“It is difficult for me to imagine what “personal liberty” is enjoyed by an unemployed hungry person. True freedom can only be where there is no exploitation and oppression of one person by another; where there is not unemployment, and where a person is not living in fear of losing his job, his home and his bread. Only in such a society personal and any other freedom can exist for real and not on paper.” — J.V. Stalin
Let’s talk about freedom, not freedom in any abstract idealistic sense, but freedom in real material terms. Theoretical freedom, after all, is just empty words. For example, the U.S. Constitution declares equality before the law for all citizens, and theoretically, guarantees freedom of the press to all of its citizens. Yet, is the homeless person’s freedom of the press equal to that of the CEO of a major media outlet? Who truly has freedom of the press in reality and not merely in theory? Do you spend most of your time on the job? How much freedom of speech do you actually think you can exercise there without being fired? Who has more freedom of speech, the average worker or their boss?
Actual freedom is about having tangible options, about having resources at one’s disposal, so that one can actually put into practice that freedom. Freedom exists in objective reality; or else, it doesn’t exist at all.
Freedom here in capitalist societies is directly proportional to the size of one’s income. One’s income, of course, is directly dependent upon how willing one is to throw others under the bus to achieve it, how willing one is to hoard power and effectively take freedom from others.
Freedom for oppressed groups is clearly, then, a question of their empowerment, about their conquest of power, but it can never be about joining exploitation. All liberation is a conquest for power, power that is not at the expense of others, hence all oppressed liberation must inherently be anti-capitalist.
Freedom for the greatest number of people requires their actual tangible equality, which is only possible where there is the greatest amount of social empowerment, that is democracy, as well as a level playing field where basic needs are met, which is socialism; and of course, socialism is defined by the worker control of the means of production in society so it is already inherently democratic.
Does freedom have limits? Absolutely, anything that exists in the real world has limits. The first set of these is obviously the natural limits imposed by physics. The second set of limits is those that make equality and democracy possible in society. In order to meet the needs of society there needs to be a means of coordinating and directing resource distribution which requires a degree of centralized power. Sometimes, this means that the individual must be an adult and accept the limits necessary to make tangible freedom for everyone possible. For equality to exist, all unearned privileges must be given up, and all benefits based upon the exploitation of others must be abolished.
For example, when a doctor in a socialist nation seeks to abandon the people who taught him his trade and instead of meeting their needs that would allow them to exercise their freedom goes to a capitalist nation to make a higher wage for himself, what freedom should triumph? Whose freedom is the more important? Is it his selfish freedom, or the freedom of the sick people he refuses to treat? Should not his freedom be restricted by the need for freedom for the sick people he is supposed to be treating.
Bourgeois freedom says the doctor is free to do as he pleases and the people are free to rot because of “Yay individualism!”.
Proletarian freedom says that the doctor must be free to meet his social obligation because the freedom of people depends upon their well being.
Of course, the liberal individualist will cry against the limiting of the freedom of their sacred individual, and in doing so, merely expose their childishness. They sound no different from the child stamping their foot and crying “You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my real dad!” We have no time for their childish selfish freedom.
What we really need, if we truly value real freedom for the greatest number of people in society, is a democratic centralist socialist state, nothing less will do. Further, we need, ultimately, for all states to become such globally if we want freedom for everyone around the globe. Only at that point, when socialism dominates as a global system, will the fullest expression of human freedom become possible.