Throughout the course of human history, there have been countless individuals inhabiting countless communities who have been directly and indirectly participatory in various movements dedicated to the elimination of specific hierarchical structures present within a given society that exist for the sole purposes of ensuring the systemic oppression of a unique portion of the population. Be it upon the basis of biological factors, or be it upon the basis of cultural characteristics, or be it upon the basis of economic positioning, there have been numerous systems of oppression designated to specifically subjugate an entire portion of the population predicated upon the principle of maintaining the embedded structures of power within a particular society.
Ultimately, what needs to be accomplished in order to ensure that the established dichotomies of power present within society are no longer capable of facilitating any form of oppression is for there to be the collective realization that the freedom of a designated community of individuals will only truly occur if the freedom of the entirety of the populace is a quintessential guarantee. The politics of emancipation for the individual through the strategy of liberation for the collective can only be successfully achieved if there an established universal precedent is determined by the people themselves, which goes about to indicate that there is a profound necessity for there to be a combined effort by the entirety of the populace itself against all forms of oppression, regardless of whoever it may be against, regardless of wherever it may be occurring, and regardless of whenever it is transpiring.
Any society that claims to adhere to the principle of self-determination of the masses from structured hierarchy will be its own principle ensure that the emancipation of the entirety of the populace is a prerequisite — be it under the guise of emancipation of class-based oppression facilitated by capitalism, be it under the guise of emancipation of state-based subjugation administered by a benevolent state-apparatus, and be it under the guise of any other form of discrimination meant for the purposes of denying even a singular individual the inherent right of the people in its totality to self-determination.
Within regards to the political philosophy of libertarian socialism, what would need to be accomplished in order to facilitate a genuine discussion concerning the incredible impact of these hierarchical structures is that there needs to be established definitions of what forms of subjugation are considered to be an integral component of the efforts of any society to achieve even an insignificant modicum of what constitutes libertarian socialism. On the basis of socialism, it is due to the incredible amount of concentrated economic power in the authoritative jurisdiction of the capitalist class at the expense of the entirety of the working-class(es), there is this immense amount of oppression that the populace will have to endure within the capitalism structure (regardless of whether or not the capitalist structure in question were to manifest itself in the form of social democracy that is reliant on a benevolent state apparatus to dictate what exceeds the acceptable confines of capitalistic behavior or in the form of laissez-faire capitalism that is made possible byway of the state-apparatus facilitating the complete degradation of all standards meant for the purposes of preserving even the minuscule amount of jurisdiction afforded to the working-classes).
On the basis of libertarianism, and by that it should be indicated that the terminology surrounding the lexicon of libertarianism for the purposes of this article are predicated on the initial usage of the phrase “libertarian” as best described by anarcho-communist Joseph Déjacque to differentiate his particular political philosophy from the perspective of mutualist anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, it needs to be indicated that the concentrated effort of socializing the means of production in order to ensure that the populace possesses satisfaction for their respective needs will not be responsible for automatically facilitating the elimination of all the unnecessary constraints confining the people to an unjust society. Rather, each and every singular individual regardless of the evident differences that are readily noticeable to one another will need to collectively organize with one another to ensure that there can be no politico-economic system that is predicated upon the principle of oppression.
Now it is within this particular series, we are going to explore how the inherent principle of libertarian socialist model is predicated primarily on the basis of freedom. Now, freedom in accordance to the orientation of any society upon the premise of libertarian socialism would not constructed upon the promise of freedom merely allocated to a portion of the populace under a capitalist structure to ensure that the portion of the population in question will routinely reinforce the current structure of society, but rather freedom as utilized by libertarian socialists manifests itself within four significant manners: freedom from capitalism, freedom from the state, freedom from socioeconomic oppression, and freedom from the abuses of power.
In the first article, we were exploring the controversial concept of the freedom of the people to no longer inhabit a capitalist society. In the second article, we were exploring one of the most significant institutions within our society in its totality — the state apparatus. For the purposes of this particular article, we are going to explore the various forms of oppression that have gone about to manifest accordingly within our society upon arbitrary divisions inherent to the population, and how any society striving for libertarian socialism will need to be able to guarantee freedom for all forms of socioeconomic oppression.
Before there is even a discussion pertaining to the various forms in which socioeconomic oppression manifests itself within, what needs to be first described is an operable definition concerning the fundamental aspects of hierarchical structures as well as what would constitute oppressive systems. According to the second iteration of the Libertarian Socialist Points of Unity Template as established by The New Municipal Agenda,
“Hierarchies are institutionalized relations of command and obedience…[including] all forms of class relations, domination, and oppression… Hierarchies can take the forms of capitalism, statecraft, colonialism, patriarchy, racism, along lines of ability and more. Different kinds of hierarchies are distinct from one another and affect one another in various ways, but all contain institutionalized forms of command and obedience. Hierarchies inhibit freedom and egalitarianism and create negative social health relations across the board. Contrary to hierarchy, freedom is a social relationship that enables participation in political and social life within egalitarian bounds…” (Libertarian Socialist Points of Unity Template #2, The New Municipal Agenda.)
As an addition to such statement, what should also be included in establishing a genuine definition concerning hierarchical structures is the argument presented by the Black Rose Anarchist Federation which articulates the sentiment onto how,
“Beyond politics and economics, there are still vast inequalities and dominating power relations that affect our world. Systems and cultures of white supremacy, religious prejudice, patriarchy, [cis-]heterosexism, xenophobia, and many other forms of oppression still dominate our world.” (Who Are The Anarchists and What Is Anarchism?, Black Rose Anarchist Federation.)
Ultimately, what needs to be accomplished within any society that is striving for the implementation of libertarian socialism as its core political philosophy is that such society would need to take into consideration the socioeconomic structures of hierarchical oppression readily observable within society, regardless of the dichotomy between these systems of sanctioned oppression and the economic sphere or political sphere, on the basis that genuine liberation will not solely be confined to a particular segment of society while there are entire portions of the populace being forced to endure subjugation. There can be no movement comprised of individual or institutional libertarian socialists alongside any movement comprised of sympathetic individuals or institutional to libertarian socialism that possesses the ability to forgo the countless communal struggles desiring an end to the respective structures of oppression responsible for the prolonged discrimination against a particular community. Adherents to libertarian socialism cannot afford to not be apart of any movement — be it within the economic sphere, or the political sphere, or the social sphere, or the cultural sphere, or any other manifestation or microcosm of society — given how individual will only be emancipated entirety if the collective were to be liberated in its totality.
In terms of constructive criticism that can be directed at various leftist contingents within the current political discourse throughout any nation, it needs to be taken into consideration that the notion of class-reductionism being the most appropriate ideological framework for observing the heinous tendencies of society in its entirety is inherently counter-intuitive. Ultimately, there can be no individual or institution within the overarching political discourse throughout society that is in possession of the perspective that the collective movement for the entire elimination of racism, or misogyny, or homophobia, or transphobia, or religious-based bigotry is only a secondary concern or merely an afterthought that accompanies the universal organization of class struggle as the appropriate resistance to the capitalist structure inherent to a majority of modern societies.
To reference Ulli Diemer in regards to the scholarly article of What Is Libertarian Socialism,
“What is libertarian socialism? The idea that socialism is first and foremost about freedom and therefore about overcoming the domination, repression, and alienation that block the free flow of human creativity, thought, and action. We do not equate socialism with planning, state control, or nationalization of industry, although we understand that in a socialist society (not “under” socialism) economic activity will be collectively controlled, managed, planned, and owned. Similarly, we believe that socialism will involve equality, but we do not think that socialism is equality, for it is possible to conceive of a society where everyone is equally oppressed. We think that socialism is incompatible with one-party states, with constraints on freedom of speech, with an elite exercising power ‘on behalf of’ the people, with leader cults, with any of the other devices by which the dying society seeks to portray itself as the new society. An approach to socialism that incorporates cultural revolution, women’s and children’s liberation, and the critique and transformation of daily life, as well as the more traditional concerns of socialist politics. A politics that is completely revolutionary because it seeks to transform all of reality. We do not think that capturing the economy and the state lead automatically to the transformation of the rest of social being, nor do we equate liberation with changing our life-styles and our heads. Capitalism is a total system that invades all areas of life: socialism must be the overcoming of capitalist reality in its entirety, or it is nothing. Libertarian politics concerns itself with the liberation of the individual because it is collective, and with the collective liberation because it is individualistic.” (Diemer, Ulli. What Is Libertarian Socialism?, The Anarchist Library.)
To add onto such, in regards to movements such as the LGBTQ+ movement or the feminist movement or to the anti-racism movement or the anti-colonialism/anti-imperialist/anti-war movement, a holistic interpretation of oppression will be able to recognize that the desire for libertarian socialism will not be an achievable objective if such were to not accompany the desires of any individual of a dignified life free from any external source of subjugation that denies such individual in question the inherent freedom of everyone to experience their own humanity.
The movement for libertarian socialism will also need to be able to be extensively critical of any form of political discourse that attempts to shift the paradigm to ensure that the conversation concerns a particular aspect of the debate without taking into consideration the various circumstances that would need to be included in such conversation to experience a genuine discussion pertaining to what such system will best be able to ensure individual liberties are respected while simultaneously respecting the necessity of social justice. An instance in which constructive criticism would need to be utilized would be in relation the following statement issued by anarchist archive Spunk Library, which is a segment concerning the perspective of libertarian socialists concerning racism, sexism, and homophobia indicates that,
“It has always been impossible for workers to challenge capitalism effectively so long as divisions of people based on gender, skin color, or sexual orientation have continued. Racism in particular has been used from the start as a way of dividing workers along an arbitrary basis and weakening any chances for solid organization. So long as there is always someone being looked down upon, someone forced to accept lower wages because of their low status in society, wages in a competitive system can always be pushed to what the lowest and most desperate will accept. It should also go without saying that there is no scientific proof of the existence of separate human “races” which are truly incapable of getting along, nor is there scientific proof that women are inherently physically weaker or less intellectually capable than men. The issue of “hate speech” and pornography must always take into account the importance of artistic freedom and the necessity to criticize what one disagrees with. When it is clear that a conscious effort is being made to denigrate or divide a group of people from another, with some economic or political goal as it’s motivation, libertarian socialists would resist such actions on the basis that they would divide and weaken any chance for eventual liberation from capitalism. Finally, so long as any group is prejudiced against, humanity will wage war against itself for irrational reasons, using such divisions as a means to an end when seen fit. If people understand that they too can be discriminated against, based on ANYTHING about them, it should be obvious that such discrimination, like any other human activity, has potential to be self-destructive in it’s consequences.” (Libertarian Socialism: What do Libertarian Socialists feel about Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia?, Spunk Library.)
Now it should be indicated that a significant majority of the arguments articulated here within such statement are perfectly reasonable and are accurately able to explain the primary ideological tents of libertarian socialism. However, it should also be understood that the movement for libertarian socialism cannot under any such circumstances issue lukewarm solidarity to various socioeconomic movements currently organizing for the purposes of eliminating a specific form of oppression for the purposes of utilizing popular sentiment accumulated by such movement(s) in question for the purposes of achieving an alternative desire. What would need to be accomplished in order to ensure the continued legitimacy of the movement dedicated to upholding the principles of libertarian socialism is for such movement in question to abide by a universal principle that addresses the various concerns of the populace in relation to the economic sphere, the political sphere, the social sphere, and the cultural sphere, as to assert that all forms of oppression constructed upon the various systems of subjugation within society are inherently heinous regardless of what such systems in question are specifically. Case in point, deliberate solidarity with the anti-racist movement solely for the purposes of cultivating anti-capitalist sentiment fundamentally degrades the sentiment of solidarity, and arguably it is a betrayal of this particular portion of the populace because it is merely indicative of a form of deception readily available elsewhere in the political discourse. What should be done in such respect is to recognize the the principles of libertarian socialism are constructed upon the premise that all forms of socioeconomic oppression originating from the various hierarchical structures inherent to society entirety are of equal value with one another, effectively ensuring that libertarian socialism will only be achieved when recognizing that there can be no independent movement against a particular form of oppression that succeeds which does not recognize that there is this profound necessity for such movement to be collectively ideologically influenced by various external movements for the purposes of abiding by a universal framework.
To refer to the most notable quotation of the anarcho-syndicalist movement, originating from David C. Coates of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W), “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Such is the sentiment in which any society striving for the achievement of libertarian socialism will have to be able to recognize as the revolutionary principle predicated upon the principles of universalism, because the emancipation of the individual through the liberation of the collective will be made to possible upon recognizing the necessity of achieving the elimination of all socioeconomic structures that are constructed purposely to ensure that the populace does not possess the freedom of a dignified life in which the needs of all are sustained in its totality. To refer to the Black Rose Anarchist Federation,
“For libertarian socialists, collective liberation also requires that we address the root causes of oppression. Manifestations of personal privilege and cultural discrimination should be understood as symptoms of underlying structures in society which determine who has power and who doesn’t. The powerful (mostly rich white men) have used their control of society’s institutions to shape the dominant culture in their own image and their own interests. Only through shared struggle and revolutionary transformation can we fundamentally reshape these institutions so that they serve everyone’s interests.” (Power vs. Privilege, Socialism Will Be Free, Or It Will Not Be At All! — An Introduction to Libertarian Socialism, Black Rose Anarchist Federation.)
To conclude with another reference to the Black Rose Anarchist Federation, what needs to be indicated here is that,
“The destruction of these institutions, systems and oppressive elements of cultures is central to the anarchist vision. These systems must be destroyed and replaced with egalitarian relations that prioritize respect, liberation, solidarity, diversity and autonomy within various communities that allows for people to be free and fully human in a manner in which they choose as long as it does not involve the domination, oppression or exploitation of others.” (The Elimination of Societal Oppression, Who Are The Anarchists and What is Anarchism?, Black Rose Anarchist Federation.)
W.R. Zammichiéli is a freelance writer with a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science and International Relations located in the Boston area, currently in graduate school to earn his law certification. He is currently in the middle of writing a novel concerning anarchism as a political philosophy, Another World Is Possible: On the Promise of Libertarian Socialism.
Previously published at Red & Black Politics, Aug. 1, 2020
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