B.1 Why are anarchists against authority and hierarchy?

First, it is necessary to indicate what kind of authority anarchism challenges. As Erich Fromm points out in To Have or To Be, "authority" is "a broad term with two entirely different meanings: it can be either 'rational' or 'irrational' authority. Rational authority is based on competence, and it helps the person who leans on it to grow. Irrational authority is based on power and serves to exploit the person subjected to it." [pp. 44-45] The same point was made by Bakunin 100 years earlier (see God and the State, for example) when he indicated the difference between authority and influence.

This crucial point is expressed in the difference between having authority and being an authority. Being an authority just means that a given person is generally recognised as competent for a given task, based on his or her individual skills and knowledge. Put differently, it is socially acknowledged expertise. In contrast, having authority is a social relationship based on status and power derived from a hierarchical position, not on individual ability. Obviously this does not mean that competence is not an element for obtaining a hierarchical position; it just means that the real or alleged initial competence is transferred to the title or position of the authority and so becomes independent of individuals, i.e. institutionalised.

This difference is important because the way people behave is more a product of the institutions in which we are raised than of any inherent nature. In other words, social relationships shape the individuals involved. This means that the various groups individuals create have traits, behaviours and outcomes that cannot be understood by reducing them to the individuals within them. That is, groups consist not only of individuals, but also relationships between individuals and these relationships will effect those subject to them. For example, obviously "the exercise of power by some disempowers others" and so through a "combination of physical intimidation, economic domination and dependency, and psychological limitations, social institutions and practices affect the way everyone sees the world and her or his place in it." [Martha A. Ackelsberg, Free Women of Spain, p. 20]

Authoritarian social relationships means dividing society into (the few) order givers and (the many) order takers, impoverishing the individuals involved (mentally, emotionally and physically) and society as a whole. Human relationships, in all parts of life, are stamped by authority, not liberty. And as freedom can only be created by freedom, authoritarian social relationships (and the obedience they require) do not and cannot educate a person in freedom - only participation (self-management) in all areas of life can do that.

Of course, it will be pointed out that in any collective undertaking there is a need for co-operation and co-ordination and this need to "subordinate" the individual to group activities is a form of authority. Yes, but there are two different ways of co-ordinating individual activity within groups - either by authoritarian means or by libertarian means. Proudhon, in relation to workplaces, makes the difference clear:

"either the workman. . . will be simply the employee of the proprietor-capitalist-promoter; or he will participate. . . [and] have a voice in the council, in a word he will become an associate.

"In the first case the workman is subordinated, exploited: his permanent condition is one of obedience. . . In the second case he resumes his dignity as a man and citizen. . . he forms part of the producing organisation, of which he was before but the slave; as, in the town, he forms part of the sovereign power, of which he was before but the subject . . . we need not hesitate, for we have no choice. . . it is necessary to form an ASSOCIATION among workers . . . because without that, they would remain related as subordinates and superiors, and there would ensue two . . . castes of masters and wage-workers, which is repugnant to a free and democratic society." [Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution, pp. 215-216]

In other words, associations can be based upon a form of rational authority, based upon natural influence and so reflect freedom, the ability of individuals to think, act and feel and manage their own time and activity. Otherwise, we include elements of slavery into our relationships with others, elements that poison the whole and shape us in negative ways (see section B.1.1). Only the reorganisation of society in a libertarian way (and, we may add, the mental transformation such a change requires and would create) will allow the individual to "achieve more or less complete blossoming, whilst continuing to develop" and banish "that spirit of submission that has been artificially thrust upon him [or her]" [Nestor Makhno, The Struggle Against the State and Other Essays, p. 62]

So, anarchists "ask nothing better than to see [others]. . . exercise over us a natural and legitimate influence, freely accepted, and never imposed . . . We accept all natural authorities and all influences of fact, but none of right. . . " [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 255] Anarchist support for free association within directly democratic groups is based upon such organisational forms increasing influence and reducing irrational authority in our lives. Members of such organisations can create and present their own ideas and suggestions, critically evaluate the proposals and suggestions from their fellows, accept those that they agree with or become convinced by and have the option of leaving the association if they are unhappy with its direction. Hence the influence of individuals and their free interaction determine the nature of the decisions reached, and no one has the right to impose their ideas on another. As Bakunin argued, in such organisations "no function remains fixed and it will not remain permanently and irrevocably attached to one person. Hierarchical order and promotion do not exist. . . In such a system, power, properly speaking, no longer exists. Power is diffused to the collectivity and becomes the true expression of the liberty of everyone." [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 415]

Therefore, anarchists are opposed to irrational (e.g., illegitimate) authority, in other words, hierarchy -- hierarchy being the institutionalisation of authority within a society. Hierarchical social institutions include the state (see section B.2), private property (see section B.3) and, therefore, capitalism (see section B.4). Due to their hierarchical nature, anarchists oppose these institutions with passion. However, hierarchy exists beyond these institutions. For example, hierarchical social relationships include sexism, racism and homophobia (see section B.1.4), and anarchists oppose, and fight, them all.

As noted earlier (A.2.8), anarchists consider all hierarchies to be not only harmful but unnecessary, and think that there are alternative, more egalitarian ways to organise social life. In fact, they argue that hierarchical authority creates the conditions it is presumably designed to combat, and thus tends to be self-perpetuating. Thus, bureaucracies ostensibly set up to fight poverty wind up perpetuating it, because without poverty, the high-salaried top administrators would be out of work. The same applies to agencies intended to eliminate drug abuse, fight crime, etc. In other words, the power and privileges deriving from top hierarchical positions constitute a strong incentive for those who hold them not to solve the problems they are supposed to solve. (For further discussion see Marilyn French, Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals, Summit Books, 1985.)

B.1.1 What are the effects of authoritarian social relationships?

Hierarchical authority is inextricably connected with the marginalisation and disempowerment of those without authority. This has negative effects on those over whom authority is exercised, since "[t]hose who have these symbols of authority and those who benefit from them must dull their subject people's realistic, i.e. critical, thinking and make them believe the fiction [that irrational authority is rational and necessary], . . .[so] the mind is lulled into submission by cliches. . .[and] people are made dumb because they become dependent and lose their capacity to trust their eyes and judgement." [Erich Fromm, Op. Cit., p. 47]

Or, in the words of Bakunin, "the principle of authority, applied to men who have surpassed or attained their majority, becomes a monstrosity, a source of slavery and intellectual and moral depravity." [God and the State, p. 41]

This is echoed by the syndicalist miners who wrote the classic The Miners' Next Step when they indicate the nature of authoritarian organisations and their effect on those involved. Leadership (i.e. hierarchical authority) "implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption. . . in spite of. . . good intentions . . . [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood [sic!], is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his. . . [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being 'the men'. . . In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy." Indeed, for the "leader," such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader "sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion." [The Miners' Next Step, pp. 16-17 p. 15]

Anarchists argue that hierarchical social relationships will have a negative effect on those subject to them, who can no longer exercise their critical, creative and mental abilities freely. As Colin Ward argues, people "do go from womb to tomb without realising their human potential, precisely because the power to initiate, to participate in innovating, choosing, judging, and deciding is reserved for the top men" (and it usually is men!) [Anarchy in Action, p, 42]. Anarchism is based on the insight that there is an interrelationship between the authority structures of institutions and the psychological qualities and attitudes of individuals. Following orders all day hardly builds an independent, empowered, creative personality. As Emma Goldman made clear, if a person's "inclination and judgement are subordinated to the will of a master" (such as a boss, as most people have to sell their labour under capitalism) then little wonder such an authoritarian relationship "condemns millions of people to be mere nonentities." [Red Emma Speaks, p. 36]

As the human brain is a bodily organ, it needs to be used regularly in order to be at its fittest. Authority concentrates decision-making in the hands of those at the top, meaning that most people are turned into executants, following the orders of others. If muscle is not used, it turns to fat; if the brain is not used, creativity, critical thought and mental abilities become blunted and side-tracked onto marginal issues, like sports and fashion.

Therefore, "[h]ierarchical institutions foster alienated and exploitative relationships among those who participate in them, disempowering people and distancing them from their own reality. Hierarchies make some people dependent on others, blame the dependent for their dependency, and then use that dependency as a justification for further exercise of authority. . . .Those in positions of relative dominance tend to define the very characteristics of those subordinate to them. . . .Anarchists argue that to be always in a position of being acted upon and never to be allowed to act is to be doomed to a state of dependence and resignation. Those who are constantly ordered about and prevented from thinking for themselves soon come to doubt their own capacities. . .[and have] difficulty acting on [their] sense of self in opposition to societal norms, standards and expectations." [Martha Ackelsberg, Free Women of Spain, pp. 19-20]

Thus, in the words of Colin Ward, the "system makes its morons, then despises them for their ineptitude, and rewards its 'gifted few' for their rarity." [Op. Cit., p. 43]

In addition to these negative psychological effects from the denial of liberty, authoritarian social relationships also produce social inequality. This is because an individual subject to the authority of another has to obey the orders of those above them in the social hierarchy. In capitalism this means that workers have to follow the orders of their boss (see next section), orders that are designed to make the boss richer (for example, from 1994 to 1995 alone, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) compensation in the USA rose 16 percent, compared to 2.8 percent for workers, which did not even keep pace with inflation, and whose stagnating wages cannot be blamed on corporate profits, which rose a healthy 14.8 percent for that year). Inequality in terms of power will translate itself into inequality in terms of wealth (and vice versa). The effects of such social inequality are wide-reaching.

For example, poor people are more likely to be sick and die at an earlier age, compared to rich people. Moreover, the degree of inequality is important (i.e. the size of the gap between rich and poor). According to an editorial in the British Medical Journal "what matters in determining mortality and health in a society is less the overall wealth of that society and more how evenly wealth is distributed. The more equally wealth is distributed the better the health of that society," [Vol. 312, April 20, 1996, p. 985]

Research in the USA found overwhelming evidence of this. George Kaplan and his colleagues measured inequality in the 50 US states and compared it to the age-adjusted death rate for all causes of death, and a pattern emerged: the more unequal the distribution of income, the greater the death rate. In other words, it is the gap between rich and poor, and not the average income in each state, that best predicts the death rate in each state. ["Inequality in income and mortality in the United States: analysis of mortality and potential pathways," British Medical Journal Vol. 312, April 20, 1996, pp. 999-1003]

This measure of income inequality was also tested against other social conditions besides health. States with greater inequality in the distribution of income also had higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of incarceration, a higher percentage of people receiving income assistance and food stamps, a greater percentage of people without medical insurance, greater proportion of babies born with low birth weight, higher murder rates, higher rates of violent crime, higher costs per-person for medical care, and higher costs per person for police protection.

Moreover states with greater inequality of income distribution also spent less per person on education, had fewer books per person in the schools, and had poorer educational performance, including worse reading skills, worse mathematics skills, and lower rates of completion of high school.

As the gap grows between rich and poor (indicating an increase in social hierarchy within and outwith of workplaces) the health of a people deteriorates and the social fabric unravels. The psychological hardship of being low down on the social ladder has detrimental effects on people, beyond whatever effects are produced by the substandard housing, nutrition, air quality, recreational opportunities, and medical care enjoyed by the poor (see George Davey Smith, "Income inequality and mortality: why are they related?" British Medical Journal, Vol. 312, April 20, 1996, pp. 987-988).

The growing gap between rich and poor has not been ordained by god, nature or some other superhuman force. It has been created by a specific social system, its institutions and workings - a system based upon authoritarian social relationships which effect us both physically and mentally.

All this is not to suggest that those at the bottom of hierarchies are victims nor that those at the top of hierarchies only gain benefits - far from it. Those at the bottom are constantly resisting the negative effects of hierarchy and creating non-hierarchical ways of living and fighting. This constant process of self-activity and self-liberation can be seen from the labour, women's and other movements - in which, to some degree, people create their own alternatives based upon their own dreams and hopes. Anarchism is based upon, and grew out of, this process of resistance, hope and direct action.

If we look at those at the top of the system, yes, indeed they often do very well in terms of material goods and access to education, leisure, health and so on but they can lose their humanity and individuality. As Bakunin pointed out, "power and authority corrupt those who exercise them as much as those who are compelled to submit to them." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 249] Power operates destructively, even on those who have it, reducing their individuality as it "renders them stupid and brutal, even when they were originally endowed with the best of talents. One who is constantly striving to force everything into a mechanical order at last becomes a machine himself and loses all human feeling." [Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 22]

When it boils down to it, hierarchy is self-defeating, for if "wealth is other people," then by treating others as less than yourself, restricting their growth, you lose all the potential insights and abilities these individuals have, so impoverishing your own life and restricting your own growth. Unfortunately in these days material wealth (a particularly narrow form of "self-interest") has replaced concern for developing the whole person and leading a fulfilling and creative life (a broad self-interest, which places the individual within society, one that recognises that relationships with others shape and develop all individuals). In a hierarchical, class based society everyone loses to some degree, even those at the "top."

B.1.2 Is capitalism hierarchical?

Yes. Under capitalism workers do not exchange the products of their labour they exchange the labour itself for money. They sell themselves for a given period of time, and in return for wages, promise to obey their paymasters. Those who pay and give the orders -- owners and managers -- are at the top of the hierarchy, those who obey at the bottom. This means that capitalism, by its very nature, is hierarchical.

As Carole Pateman argues, "[c]apacities or labour power cannot be used without the worker using his will, his understanding and experience, to put them into effect. The use of labour power requires the presence of its 'owner,' and it remains mere potential until he acts in the manner necessary to put it into use, or agrees or is compelled so to act; that is, the worker must labour. To contract for the use of labour power is a waste of resources unless it can be used in the way in which the new owner requires. The fiction 'labour power' cannot be used; what is required is that the worker labours as demanded. The employment contract must, therefore, create a relationship of command and obedience between employer and worker. . .In short, the contract in which the worker allegedly sells his labour power is a contract in which, since he cannot be separated from his capacities, he sells command over the use of his body and himself. To obtain the right to use another is to be a (civil) master" [The Sexual Contract, pp. 150-1 -- compare to Proudhon quoted above]

This hierarchical control of wage labour has the effect of alienating workers from their own work, and so from themselves. Workers no longer govern themselves during work hours and so are no longer free. Capitalism, by treating labour as analogous to all other commodities denies the key distinction between labour and other "resources" - that is to say its inseparability from its bearer - labour, unlike other "property," is endowed with will and agency. Thus when one speaks of selling labour there is a necessary subjugation of will (hierarchy). As Karl Polanyi writes:

"Labour is only another name for human activity which goes with life itself, which is in turn not produced for sale but for entirely different reasons, nor can that activity be detached from the rest of life itself, be stored or mobilised." [The Great Transformation, p. 72]

In other words, labour is much more than the commodity to which capitalism tries to reduce it. Creative, self-managed work is a source of pride and joy and part of what it means to be fully human. Wrenching control of work from the hands of the worker profoundly harms his or her mental and physical health. Indeed, Proudhon went so far as to argue that capitalist companies "plunder the bodies and souls of the wage-workers" and were an "outrage upon human dignity and personality." [Op. Cit., p. 219]

Separating labour from other activities of life and subjecting it to the laws of the market means to annihilate its natural, organic form of existence -- a form that evolved with the human race through tens of thousands of years of co-operative economic activity based on sharing and mutual aid -- and replacing it with an atomistic and individualistic one based on contract and competition.

The social relationship of wage labour, which is a very recent development, is then claimed by capitalists to be a source of "freedom," whereas in fact it is a form of involuntary servitude (see section B.4 and A.2.14). Therefore a libertarian who did not support economic liberty (i.e. self-government in industry, socialism) would be no libertarian at all, and no believer in liberty.

Therefore capitalism is based upon hierarchy and the denial of liberty. To present it otherwise denies the nature of wage labour. However supporters of capitalism try to but - as Karl Polanyi points out - the idea that wage labour is based upon some kind of "natural" liberty is false:

"To represent this principle [wage labour] as one of non-interference [with freedom], as economic liberals were wont to do, was merely the expression of an ingrained prejudice in favour of a definite kind of interference, namely, such as would destroy non-contractual relations between individuals and prevent their spontaneous re-formation." [Op. Cit., p.163]

This replacement of human relationships by economic ones soon results in the replacement of human values by economic ones, giving us an "ethics" of the account book, in which people are valued by how much they earn. It also leads, as Murray Bookchin argues, to a debasement of human values:

"[S]o deeply rooted is the market economy in our minds that its grubby language has replaced our most hallowed moral and spiritual expressions. We now 'invest' in our children, marriages, and personal relationships, a term that is equated with words like 'love' and 'care.' We live in a world of 'trade-offs' and we ask for the 'bottom line' of any emotional 'transaction.' We use the terminology of contracts rather than that of loyalties and spiritual affinities." [The Modern Crisis, p. 79]

With human values replaced by the ethics of calculation, and with only the laws of market and state "binding" people together, social breakdown is inevitable. As Karl Polanyi argues, "in disposing of a man's labour power the [market] system would, incidently, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity 'man' attached to that tag." [Op. Cit., p. 73]

Little wonder modern capitalism has seen a massive increase in crime and dehumanisation under the freer markets established by "conservative" governments, such as those of Thatcher and Reagan and their transnational corporate masters. We now live in a society where people live in self-constructed fortresses, "free" behind their walls and defences (both emotional and physical).

Of course, some people like the "ethics" of mathematics. But this is mostly because -- like all gods -- it gives the worshipper an easy rule book to follow. "Five is greater than four, therefore five is better" is pretty simple to understand. John Steinbeck noticed this when he wrote:

"Some of them [the owners] hated the mathematics that drove them [to kick the farmers off their land], and some were afraid, and some worshipped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling" [The Grapes of Wrath, p. 34].

B.1.3 What kind of hierarchy of values does capitalism create?

Capitalism produces a perverted hierarchy of values -- one that places humanity below property. As Erich Fromm argues, "the use [i.e. exploitation] of man by man is expressive of the system of values underlying the capitalistic system. Capital, the dead past, employs labour -- the living vitality and power of the present. In the capitalistic hierarchy of values, capital stands higher than labour, amassed things higher than the manifestations of life. Capital employs labour, and not labour capital. The person who owns capital commands the person who 'only' owns his life, human skill, vitality and creative productivity. 'Things' are higher than man. The conflict between capital and labour is much more than the conflict between two classes, more than their fight for a greater share of the social product. It is the conflict between two principles of value: that between the world of things, and their amassment, and the world of life and its productivity." [The Sane Society, pp. 94-95]

Capitalism only values a person as representing a certain amount of the commodity called "labour power," in other words, as a thing. Instead of being valued as an individual -- a unique human being with intrinsic moral and spiritual worth -- only one's price tag counts.

This debasement of the individual in the workplace, where so much time is spent, necessarily affects a person's self-image, which in turn carries over into the way he or she acts in other areas of life. If one is regarded as a commodity at work, one comes to regard oneself and others in that way also. Thus all social relationships -- and so, ultimately, all individuals -- are commodified. In capitalism, literally nothing is sacred -- "everything has its price" -- be it dignity, self-worth, pride, honour -- all become commodities up for grabs.

Such debasement produces a number of social pathologies. "Consumerism" is one example which can be traced directly to the commodification of the individual under capitalism. To quote Fromm again, "Things have no self, and men who have become things [i.e. commodities on the labour market] can have no self." [The Sane Society, p. 143]

However, people still feel the need for selfhood, and so try to fill the emptiness by consuming. The illusion of happiness, that one's life will be complete if one gets a new commodity, drives people to consume. Unfortunately, since commodities are yet more things, they provide no substitute for selfhood, and so the consuming must begin anew. This process is, of course, encouraged by the advertising industry, which tries to convince us to buy what we don't need because it will make us popular/sexy/happy/free/etc. (delete as appropriate!). But consuming cannot really satisfy the needs that the commodities are bought to satisfy. Those needs can only be satisfied by social interaction based on truly human values and by creative, self-directed work.

This does not mean, of course, that anarchists are against higher living standards or material goods. To the contrary, they recognise that liberty and a good life are only possible when one does not have to worry about having enough food, decent housing, and so forth. Freedom and 16 hours of work a day do not go together, nor do equality and poverty or solidarity and hunger. However, anarchists consider consumerism to be a distortion of consumption caused by the alienating and inhuman "account book" ethics of capitalism, which crushes the individual and his or her sense of identity, dignity and selfhood.

B.1.4 Why do racism, sexism and homophobia exist?

Since racism, sexism and homophobia (hatred/fear of homosexuals) are institutionalised throughout society, sexual, racial and gay oppression are commonplace. The primary cause of these three evil attitudes is the need for ideologies that justify domination and exploitation, which are inherent in hierarchy -- in other words, "theories" that "justify" and "explain" oppression and injustice. As Tacitus said, "We hate those whom we injure." Those who oppress others always find reasons to regard their victims as "inferior" and hence deserving of their fate. Elites need some way to justify their superior social and economic positions. Since the social system is obviously unfair and elitist, attention must be distracted to other, less inconvenient, "facts," such as alleged superiority based on biology or "nature." Therefore, doctrines of sexual, racial, and ethnic superiority are inevitable in hierarchical, class-stratified societies.

We will take each form of bigotry in turn.

From an economic standpoint, racism is associated with the exploitation of cheap labour at home and imperialism abroad. Indeed, early capitalist development in both America and Europe was strengthened by the bondage of people, particularly those of African descent. In the Americas, Australia and other parts of the world the slaughter of the original inhabitants and the expropriation of their land was also a key aspect in the growth of capitalism. As the subordination of foreign nations proceeds by force, it appears to the dominant nation that it owes its mastery to its special natural qualities, in other words to its "racial" characteristics. Thus imperialists have frequently appealed to the Darwinian doctrine of "Survival of the Fittest" to give their racism a basis in "nature."

In Europe, one of the first theories of racial superiority was proposed by Gobineau in the 1850s to establish the natural right of the aristocracy to rule over France. He argued that the French aristocracy was originally of Germanic origin while the "masses" were Gallic or Celtic, and that since the Germanic race was "superior", the aristocracy had a natural right to rule. Although the French "masses" didn't find this theory particularly persuasive, it was later taken up by proponents of German expansion and became the origin of German racial ideology, used to justify Nazi oppression of Jews and other "non-Aryan" types. Notions of the "white man's burden" and "Manifest Destiny" developed at about the same time in England and to a lesser extent in America, and were used to rationalise Anglo-Saxon conquest and world domination on a "humanitarian" basis.

The idea of racial superiority was also found to have great domestic utility. As Paul Sweezy points out, "[t]he intensification of social conflict within the advanced capitalist countries. . . has to be directed as far as possible into innocuous channels -- innocuous, that is to say, from the standpoint of capitalist class rule. The stirring up of antagonisms along racial lines is a convenient method of directing attention away from class struggle," which of course is dangerous to ruling-class interests [Theory of Capitalist Development, p. 311]. Indeed, employers have often deliberately fostered divisions among workers on racial lines as part of a strategy of "divide and rule."

In other words, racism (like other forms of bigotry) can be used to split and divide the working class by getting people to blame others of their class for the conditions they all suffer. Thus white workers are subtly encouraged, for example, to blame unemployment on blacks instead of capitalism, crime on Hispanics instead of poverty. In addition, discrimination against racial minorities and women has the full sanction of capitalist economics, "for in this way jobs and investment opportunities can be denied to the disadvantaged groups, their wages and profits can be depressed below prevailing levels, and the favoured sections of the population can reap substantial material rewards." [Ibid.]

Thus capitalism has continued to benefit from its racist heritage. Racism has provided pools of cheap labour for capitalists to draw upon (blacks still, usually, get paid less than whites for the same work) and permitted a section of the population to be subjected to worse treatment, so increasing profits by reducing working conditions and other non-pay related costs.

All this means that blacks are "subjected to oppression and exploitation on the dual grounds of race and class, and thus have to fight the extra battles against racism and discrimination." [Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, Anarcho-syndicalists of the world unite]

Sexism only required a "justification" once women started to act for themselves and demand equal rights. Before that point, sexual oppression did not need to be "justified" -- it was "natural" (saying that, of course, equality between the sexes was stronger before the rise of Christianity as a state religion and capitalism so the "place" of women in society has fallen over the last few hundred years before rising again thanks to the women's movement).

The nature of sexual oppression can be seen from marriage. Emma Goldman pointed out that marriage "stands for the sovereignty of the man over the women," with her "complete submission" to the husbands "whims and commands." [Red Emma Speaks, p. 139] As Carole Pateman notes, until "the late nineteenth century the legal and position of a wife resembled that of a slave. . . A slave had no independent legal existence apart from his master, and husband and wife became 'one person,' the person of the husband." [The Sexual Contract, p. 119] Indeed, the law "was based on the assumption that a wife was (like) property" and only the marriage contract "includes the explicit commitment to obey." [Ibid., p. 122, p. 181]

However, when women started to question the assumptions of male domination, numerous theories were developed to explain why women's oppression and domination by men was "natural." Because men enforced their rule over women by force, men's "superiority" was argued to be a "natural" product of their gender, which is associated with greater physical strength (on the premise that "might makes right"). In the 17th century, it was argued that women were more like animals than men, thus "proving" that women had as much right to equality with men as sheep did. More recently, elites have embraced socio-biology in response to the growing women's movement. By "explaining" women's oppression on biological grounds, a social system run by men and for men could be ignored.

Women's subservient role also has economic value for capitalism (we should note that Goldman considered capitalism to be another "paternal arrangement" like marriage, both of which robbed people of their "birthright," "stunts" their growth, "poisons" their bodies and keeps people in "ignorance, in poverty and dependence." [Op. Cit., p. 164]). Women often provide necessary (and unpaid) labour which keeps the (usually) male worker in good condition; and it is primarily women who raise the next generation of wage-slaves (again without pay) for capitalist owners to exploit. Moreover, women's subordination gives working-class men someone to look down upon and, sometimes, a convenient target on whom they can take out their frustrations (instead of stirring up trouble at work). As Lucy Parsons pointed out, a working class woman is "a slave to a slave."

The oppression of lesbians, gays and bisexuals is inextricably linked with sexism. A patriarchal, capitalist society cannot see homosexual practices as the normal human variations they are because they blur that society's rigid gender roles and sexist stereotypes. Most young gay people keep their sexuality to themselves for fear of being kicked out of home and all gays have the fear that some "straights" will try to kick their sexuality out of them if they express their sexuality freely.

Gays are not oppressed on a whim but because of the specific need of capitalism for the nuclear family. The nuclear family, as the primary - and inexpensive - creator of submissive people (growing up within the authoritarian family gets children used to, and "respectful" of, hierarchy and subordination - see section B.1.5) as well as provider and carer for the workforce fulfils an important need for capitalism. Alternative sexuality represent a threat to the family model because they provide a different role model for people. This means that gays are going to be in the front line of attack whenever capitalism wants to reinforce "family values" (i.e. submission to authority, "tradition", "morality" and so on). The introduction of Clause 28 in Britain is a good example of this, with the government making it illegal for public bodies to promote gay sexuality (i.e. to present it as anything other than a perversion). Therefore, the oppression of people based on their sexuality will not end until sexism is eliminated.

Before discussing how anarchists think these forms of oppression can be got rid of, it is useful to highlight why they are harmful to those who practice them (and in some way benefit from them) as well as the oppressed.

Sexism, racism and homophobia divide the working class, which means that whites, males and heterosexuals hurt themselves by maintaining a pool of low-paid competing labour, ensuring low wages for their own wives, daughters, mothers, relatives and friends. Such divisions create inferior conditions and wages for all as capitalists gain a competitive advantage using this pool of cheap labour, forcing all capitalists to cut conditions and wages to survive in the market (in addition, such social hierarchies, by undermining solidarity against the employer on the job and the state possibly create a group of excluded workers who could become scabs during strikes). Also, "privileged" sections of the working class lose out because their wages and conditions are less than those which unity could have won them. Only the boss really wins.

This can be seen from research into this subject. The researcher Al Szymanski sought to systematically and scientifically test the proposition that white workers gain from racism ["Racial Discrimination and White Gain", in American Sociological Review, vol. 41, no. 3, June 1976, pp. 403-414]. He compared the situation of "white" and "non-white" (i.e. black, Native American, Asian and Hispanic) workers in United States and found several key things:

    (1) the narrower the gap between white and black wages in an American state, the higher white earnings were relative to white earnings elsewhere. This means that "whites do not benefit economically by economic discrimination. White workers especially appear to benefit economically from the absence of economic discrimination. . . both in the absolute level of their earnings and in relative equality among whites." [p. 413] In other words, the less wage discrimination there was against black workers, the better were the wages that white workers received.

    (2) the more "non-white" people in the population of a given American State, the more inequality there was between whites. In other words, the existence of a poor, oppressed group of workers reduced the wages of white workers, although it did not affect the earnings of non-working class whites very much ("the greater the discrimination against [non-white] people, the greater the inequality among whites" [p. 410]). So white workers clearly lost economically from this discrimination.

    (3) He also found that "the more intense racial discrimination is, the lower are the white earnings because of . . . [its effect on] working-class solidarity." [p. 412] In other words, racism economically disadvantages white workers because it undermines the solidarity between black and white workers and weakens trade union organisation.

So overall, these white workers recieve some apparent privileges from racism, but are in fact screwed by it. Thus racism and other forms of hierarchy actually works against the interests of those working class people who practice it -- and, by weakening workplace and social unity, benefits the ruling class.

In addition, a wealth of alternative viewpoints, insights, experiences, cultures, thoughts and so on are denied the racist, sexist or homophobe. Their minds are trapped in a cage, stagnating within a mono-culture -- and stagnation is death for the personality. Such forms of oppression are dehumanising for those who practice them, for the oppressor lives as a role, not as a person, and so are restricted by it and cannot express their individuality freely (and so do so in very limited ways). This warps the personality of the oppressor and impoverishes their own life and personality. Homophobia and sexism also limits the flexibility of all people, gay or straight, to choose the sexual expressions and relationships that are right for them. The sexual repression of the sexist and homophobe will hardly be good for their mental health, their relationships or general development.

From the anarchist standpoint, oppression based on race, sex or sexuality will remain forever intractable under capitalism or, indeed, under any economic system based on domination and exploitation. While individual members of "minorities" may prosper, racism as a justification for inequality is too useful a tool for elites to discard. By using the results of racism (e.g. poverty) as a justification for racist ideology, criticism of the status quo can, yet again, be replaced by nonsense about "nature" and "biology." Similarly with sexism or discrimination against gays.

The long-term solution is obvious: dismantle capitalism and the hierarchical, economically class-stratified society with which it is bound up. By getting rid of capitalist oppression and exploitation and its consequent imperialism and poverty, we will also eliminate the need for ideologies of racial or sexual superiority used to justify the oppression of one group by another or to divide and weaken the working class.

As part of that process, anarchists encourage and support all sections of the population to stand up for their humanity and individuality by resisting racist, sexist and anti-gay activity and challenging such views in their everyday lives, everywhere (as Carole Pateman points out, "sexual domination structures the workplace as well as the conjugal home" [Op. Cit., p. 142]). It means a struggle of all working class people against the internal and external tyrannies we face -- we must fight against own our prejudices while supporting those in struggle against our common enemies, no matter their sex, skin colour or sexuality. Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin words on fighting racism are applicable to all forms of oppression:

"Racism must be fought vigorously wherever it is found, even if in our own ranks, and even in ones own breast. Accordingly, we must end the system of white skin privilege which the bosses use to split the class, and subject racially oppressed workers to super-exploitation. White workers, especially those in the Western world, must resist the attempt to use one section of the working class to help them advance, while holding back the gains of another segment based on race or nationality. This kind of class opportunism and capitulationism on the part of white labour must be directly challenged and defeated. There can be no workers unity until the system of super-exploitation and world White Supremacy is brought to an end." [Op. Cit.]

Progress towards equality can and has been made. While it is still true that (in the words of Emma Goldman) "[n]owhere is woman treated according to the merit of her work, but rather as a sex" [Op. Cit., p. 145] and that education is still patriarchal, with young women still often steered away from traditionally "male" courses of study and work (which teaches children that men and women are assigned different roles in society and sets them up to accept these limitations as they grow up) it is also true that the position of women, like that of blacks and gays, has improved. This is due to the various self-organised, self-liberation movements that have continually developed throughout history and these are the key to fighting oppression in the short term (and creating the potential for the long term solution of dismantling capitalism and the state).

Emma Goldman argued that emancipation begins "in [a] woman's soul." Only by a process of internal emancipation, in which the oppressed get to know their own value, respect themselves and their culture, can they be in a position to effectively combat (and overcome) external oppression and attitudes. Only when you respect yourself can you be in a position to get others to respect you. Those men, whites and heterosexuals who are opposed to bigotry, inequality and injustice, must support oppressed groups and refuse to condone racist, sexist or homophobia attitudes and actions by others or themselves. For anarchists, "not a single member of the Labour movement may with impunity be discriminated against, suppressed or ignored. . . Labour [and other] organisations must be built on the principle of equal liberty of all its members. This equality means that only if each worker is a free and independent unit, co-operating with the others from his or her mutual interests, can the whole labour organisation work successfully and become powerful." [Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, Op. Cit.]

We must all treat people as equals, while at the same time respecting their differences. Diversity is a strength and a source of joy, and anarchists reject the idea that equality means conformity. By these methods, of internal self-liberation and solidarity against external oppression, we can fight against bigotry. Racism, sexism and homophobia can be reduced, perhaps almost eliminated, before a social revolution has occurred by those subject to them organising themselves, fighting back autonomously and refusing to be subjected to racial, sexual or anti-gay abuse or to allowing others to get away with it (which plays an essential role in making others aware of their own attitudes and actions, attitudes they may not even be blind to!). An essential part of this process is for such autonomous groups to actively support others in struggle (including members of the dominant race/sex/sexuality). Such practical solidarity and communication can, when combined with the radicalising effects of the struggle itself on those involved, help break down prejudice and bigotry, undermining the social hierarchies that oppress us all. For example, gay and lesbian groups supporting the 1984/5 UK miners' strike resulted in such groups being given pride of place in many miners' marches.

For whites, males and heterosexuals, the only anarchistic approach is to support others in struggle, refuse to tolerate bigotry in others and to root out their own fears and prejudices (while refusing to be uncritical of self-liberation struggles -- solidarity does not imply switching your brain off!). This obviously involves taking the issue of social oppression into all working class organisations and activity, ensuring that no oppressed group is marginalised within them.

Only in this way can the hold of these social diseases be weakened and a better, non-hierarchical system be created. An injury to one is an injury to all.

The example of the Mujeres Libres (Free Women) in Spain during the 1930s shows what is possible. Women anarchists involved in the C.N.T. and F.A.I. organised themselves autonomously raise the issue of sexism in the wider libertarian movement, to increase women involvement in libertarian organisations and help the process of women's self-liberation against male oppression. Along the way they also had to combat the (all too common) sexist attitudes of their "revolutionary" male fellow anarchists. Martha A. Ackelsberg's book Free Women of Spain is an excellent account of this movement and the issues it raises for all people concerned about freedom.

Needless to say, anarchists totally reject the kind of "equality" that accepts other kinds of hierarchy, that accepts the dominant priorities of capitalism and the state and accedes to the devaluation of relationships and individuality in name of power and wealth. There is a kind of "equality" in having "equal opportunities," in having black, gay or women bosses and politicians, but one that misses the point. Saying "Me too!" instead of "What a mess!" does not suggest real liberation, just different bosses and new forms of oppression. We need to look at the way society is organised, not at the sex, colour, nationality or sexuality of who is giving the orders!

B.1.5 How is the mass-psychological basis for authoritarian civilisation created?

We noted in section A.3.6 that hierarchical, authoritarian institutions tend to be self-perpetuating, because growing up under their influence creates submissive/authoritarian personalities -- people who both "respect" authority (based on fear of punishment) and desire to exercise it themselves on subordinates. Individuals with such a character structure do not really want to dismantle hierarchies, because they are afraid of the responsibility entailed by genuine freedom. It seems "natural" and "right" to them that society's institutions, from the authoritarian factory to the patriarchal family, should be pyramidal, with an elite at the top giving orders while those below them merely obey. Thus we have the spectacle of so-called "Libertarians" and "anarcho" capitalists bleating about "liberty" while at the same time advocating factory fascism and privatised states. In short, authoritarian civilisation reproduces itself with each generation because, through an intricate system of conditioning that permeates every aspect of society, it creates masses of people who support the status quo.

Wilhelm Reich has given one of the most thorough analyses of the psychological processes involved in the reproduction of authoritarian civilisation. Reich based his analysis on four of Freud's most solidly grounded discoveries, namely, (1) that there exists an unconscious part of the mind which has a powerful though irrational influence on behaviour; (2) that even the small child develops a lively "genital" sexuality, i.e. a desire for sexual pleasure which has nothing to do with procreation; (3) that childhood sexuality along with the Oedipal conflicts that arise in parent-child relations under monogamy and patriarchy are usually repressed through fear of punishment or disapproval for sexual acts and thoughts; (4) that this blocking of the child's natural sexual activity and extinguishing it from memory does not weaken its force in the unconscious, but actually intensifies it and enables it to manifest itself in various pathological disturbances and anti-social drives; and (5) that, far from being of divine origin, human moral codes are derived from the educational measures used by the parents and parental surrogates in earliest childhood, the most effective of these being the ones opposed to childhood sexuality.

By studying Bronislaw Malinowsli's research on the Trobriand Islanders, a woman-centred (matricentric) society in which children's sexual behaviour was not repressed and in which neuroses and perversions as well as authoritarian institutions and values were almost non-existent, Reich came to the conclusion that patriarchy and authoritarianism originally developed when tribal chieftains began to get economic advantages from a certain type of marriage ("cross-cousin marriages") entered into by their sons. In such marriages, the brothers of the son's wife were obliged to pay a dowry to her in the form of continuous tribute, thus enriching her husband's clan (i.e. the chief's). By arranging many such marriages for his sons (which were usually numerous due to the chief's privilege of polygamy), the chief's clan could accumulate wealth. Thus society began to be stratified into ruling and subordinate clans based on wealth.

To secure the permanence of these "good" marriages, strict monogamy was required. However, it was found that monogamy was impossible to maintain without the repression of childhood sexuality, since, as statistics show, children who are allowed free expression of sexuality often do not adapt successfully to life-long monogamy. Therefore, along with class stratification and private property, authoritarian child-rearing methods were developed to inculcate the repressive sexual morality on which the new patriarchal system depended for its reproduction. Thus there is a historical correlation between, on the one hand, pre-patriarchal society, primitive libertarian communism (or "work democracy," to use Reich's expression), economic equality, and sexual freedom, and on the other, patriarchal society, a private-property economy, economic class stratification, and sexual repression. As Reich puts it:

"Every tribe that developed from a [matricentric] to a patriarchal organisation had to change the sexual structure of its members to produce a sexuality in keeping with its new form of life. This was a necessary change because the shifting of power and of wealth from the democratic gens [maternal clans] to the authoritarian family of the chief was mainly implemented with the help of the suppression of the sexual strivings of the people. It was in this way that sexual suppression became an essential factor in the division of society into classes.

"Marriage, and the lawful dowry it entailed, became the axis of the transformation of the one organisation into the other. In view of the fact that the marriage tribute of the wife's gens to the man's family strengthened the male's, especially the chief's, position of power, the male members of the higher ranking gens and families developed a keen interest in making the nuptial ties permanent. At this stage, in other words, only the man had an interest in marriage. In this way natural work-democracy's simple alliance, which could be easily dissolved at any time, was transformed into the permanent and monogamous marital relationship of patriarchy. The permanent monogamous marriage became the basic institution of patriarchal society -- which it still is today. To safeguard these marriages, however, it was necessary to impose greater and greater restrictions upon and to depreciate natural genital strivings." [The Mass Psychology of Fascism, p. 90]

The suppression of natural sexuality involved in this transformation from matricentric to patriarchal society created various anti-social drives (sadism, destructive impulses, rape fantasies, etc.), which then also had to be suppressed through the imposition of a compulsive morality, which took the place the natural self-regulation that one finds in pre-patriarchal societies. In this way, sex began to be regarded as "dirty," "diabolical," "wicked," etc. -- which it had indeed become through the creation of secondary drives. Thus:

"The patriarchal- authoritarian sexual order that resulted from the revolutionary processes of latter-day [matricentrism] (economic independence of the chief's family from the maternal gens, a growing exchange of goods between the tribes, development of the means of production, etc.) becomes the primary basis of authoritarian ideology by depriving the women, children, and adolescents of their sexual freedom, making a commodity of sex and placing sexual interests in the service of economic subjugation. From now on, sexuality is indeed distorted; it becomes diabolical and demonic and has to be curbed" [Ibid. p. 88].

Once the beginnings of patriarchy are in place, the creation of a fully authoritarian society based on the psychological crippling of its members through sexual suppression follows:

"The moral inhibition of the child's natural sexuality, the last stage of which is the severe impairment of the child's genital sexuality, makes the child afraid, shy, fearful of authority, obedient, 'good,' and 'docile' in the authoritarian sense of the words. It has a crippling effect on man's rebellious forces because every vital life-impulse is now burdened with severe fear; and since sex is a forbidden subject, thought in general and man's critical faculty also become inhibited. In short, morality's aim is to produce acquiescent subjects who, despite distress and humiliation, are adjusted to the authoritarian order. Thus, the family is the authoritarian state in miniature, to which the child must learn to adapt himself as a preparation for the general social adjustment required of him later. Man's authoritarian structure -- this must be clearly established -- is basically produced by the embedding of sexual inhibitions and fear" in the person's bioenergetic structure. [Ibid., p. 30]

In this way, by damaging the individual's power to rebel and think for him/herself, the inhibition of childhood sexuality -- and indeed other forms of free, natural expression of bioenergy (e.g. shouting, crying, running, jumping, etc.) -- becomes the most important weapon in creating reactionary personalities. This is why every reactionary politician puts such an emphasis on "strengthening the family" and promoting "family values" (i.e. patriarchy, compulsive monogamy, premarital chastity, corporal punishment, etc.).

"Since authoritarian society reproduces itself in the individual structures of the masses with the help of the authoritarian family, it follows that political reaction has to regard and defend the authoritarian family as the basis of the 'state, culture, and civilisation. . . .' [It is] political reaction's germ cell, the most important centre for the production of reactionary men and women. Originating and developing from definite social processes, it becomes the most essential institution for the preservation of the authoritarian system that shapes it." [Op. cit., pp. 104-105]

The family is the most essential institution for this purpose because children are most vulnerable to psychological maiming in their first few years, from the time of birth to about six years of age, during which time they are mostly in the charge of their parents. The schools and churches then continue the process of conditioning once the children are old enough to be away from their parents, but they are generally unsuccessful if the proper foundation has not been laid very early in life by the parents. Thus A.S. Neill observes that "the nursery training is very like the kennel training. The whipped child, like the whipped puppy, grows into an obedient, inferior adult. And as we train our dogs to suit our own purposes, so we train our children. In that kennel, the nursery, the human dogs must be clean; they must feed when we think it convenient for them to feed. I saw a hundred thousand obedient, fawning dogs wag their tails in the Templehof, Berlin, when in 1935, the great trainer Hitler whistled his commands." [Summerhill: a Radical Approach to Child Rearing, p. 100]

The family is also the main agency of repression during adolescence, when sexual energy reaches its peak. This is because the vast majority of parents provide no private space for adolescents to pursue undisturbed sexual relationships with their partners, but in fact actively discourage such behaviour, often (as in fundamentalist Christian families) demanding complete abstinence -- at the very time when abstinence is most impossible! Moreover, since teenagers are economically dependent on their parents under capitalism, with no societal provision of housing or dormitories allowing for sexual freedom, young people have no alternative but to submit to irrational parental demands for abstention from premarital sex. This in turn forces them to engage in furtive sex in the back seats of cars or other out-of-the-way places where they cannot relax or obtain full sexual satisfaction. As Reich found, when sexuality is repressed and laden with anxiety, the result is always some degree of what he terms "orgastic impotence": the inability to fully surrender to the flow of energy discharged during orgasm. Hence there is an incomplete release of sexual tension, which results in a state of chronic bioenergetic stasis. Such a condition, Reich found, is the breeding ground for neuroses and reactionary attitudes. (For further details see the section J.6).

In this connection it is interesting to note that "primitive" societies, such as the Trobriand Islanders, prior to their developing patriarchal-authoritarian institutions, provided special community houses where teenagers could go with their partners to enjoy undisturbed sexual relationships -- and this with society's full approval. Such an institution would be taken for granted in an anarchist society, as it is implied by the concept of freedom. (For more on adolescent sexual liberation, see section J.6.8.)

Nationalistic feelings can also be traced to the authoritarian family. A child's attachment to its mother is, of course, natural and is the basis of all family ties. Subjectively, the emotional core of the concepts of homeland and nation are mother and family, since the mother is the homeland of the child, just as the family is the "nation in miniature." According to Reich, who carefully studied the mass appeal of Hitler's "National Socialism," nationalistic sentiments are a direct continuation of the family tie and are rooted in a fixated tie to the mother. As Reich points out, although infantile attachment to the mother is natural, fixated attachment is not, but is a social product. In puberty, the tie to the mother would make room for other attachments, i.e., natural sexual relations, if the unnatural sexual restrictions imposed on adolescents did not cause it to be eternalised. It is in the form of this socially conditioned externalisation that fixation on the mother becomes the basis of nationalist feelings in the adult; and it is only at this stage that it becomes a reactionary social force.

Later writers who have followed Reich in analysing the process of creating reactionary character structures have broadened the scope of his analysis to include other important inhibitions, besides sexual ones, that are imposed on children and adolescents. Rianne Eisler, for example, in her book Sacred Pleasure, stresses that it is not just a sex-negative attitude but a pleasure-negative attitude that creates the kinds of personalities in question. Denial of the value of pleasurable sensations permeates our unconscious, as reflected, for example, in the common idea that to enjoy the pleasures of the body is the "animalistic" (and hence "bad") side of human nature, as contrasted with the "higher" pleasures of the mind and "spirit." By such dualism, which denies a spiritual aspect to the body, people are made to feel guilty about enjoying any pleasurable sensations -- a conditioning that does, however, prepare them for lives based on the sacrifice of pleasure (or indeed, even of life itself) under capitalism and statism, with their requirements of mass submission to alienated labour, exploitation, military service to protect ruling-class interests, and so on. And at the same time, authoritarian ideology emphasises the value of suffering, as for example through the glorification of the tough, insensitive warrior hero, who suffers (and inflicts "necessary" suffering on others ) for the sake of some pitiless ideal.

Eisler also points out that there is "ample evidence that people who grow up in families where rigid hierarchies and painful punishments are the norm learn to suppress anger toward their parents. There is also ample evidence that this anger is then often deflected against traditionally disempowered groups (such as minorities, children, and women)" [Ibid., p. 187]. This repressed anger then becomes fertile ground for reactionary politicians, whose mass appeal usually rests in part on scapegoating minorities for society's problems.

As the psychologist Else Frenkel-Brunswick documents in The Authoritarian Personality, people who have been conditioned through childhood abuse to surrender their will to the requirements of feared authoritarian parents, also tend to be very susceptible as adults to surrender their will and minds to authoritarian leaders. "In other words, at the same time that they learn to deflect their repressed rage against those they perceive as weak, they also learn to submit to autocratic or 'strong-man' rule. Moreover, having been severely punished for any hint of rebellion (even 'talking back' about being treated unfairly), they gradually also learn to deny to themselves that there was anything wrong with what was done to them as children -- and to do it in turn to their own children" [Ibid., p. 187].

These are just some of the mechanisms that perpetuate the status quo by creating the kinds of personalities who worship authority and fear freedom. Consequently, anarchists are generally opposed to traditional child-rearing practices, the patriarchal-authoritarian family (and its "values"), the suppression of adolescent sexuality, and the pleasure-denying, pain-affirming attitudes taught by the Church and in most schools. In place of these, anarchists favour non-authoritarian, non-repressive child-rearing practices and educational methods (see sections J.6 and secJ.5.13, respectively) whose purpose is to prevent, or at least minimise, the psychological crippling of individuals, allowing them instead to develop natural self-regulation and self-motivated learning. This, we believe, is the only way to for people to grow up into happy, creative, and truly freedom-loving individuals who will provide the psychological ground where anarchist economic and political institutions can flourish.