Liberalism is an ideology not an ideal. At the heart of its concept is the idea of a benign state that offers protection, freedom, rights, participation, order and justice in return for our consent and obedience.
This is the so called ‘Social Contract’ articulated by its philosophical founder, John Stuart Mill in the early 19th Century. Something we allegedly bind ourselves to at birth. It is the utopian origin myth of western capitalist democracy.
Masquerading as liberty, liberalism is a contract aimed at binding capitalist factions to a common alibi for the exploitation of the working class.
As philosopher Bertrand Russell puts it: “Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”
The dilemma however is that the ‘unfortunate’ (The exploited mass of producers, the working-class,) must be governed, and this is done better with the illusion of participation.
Rarely granted however through commitment, but largely through expedience, the calibrated need to stifle dissent or stave off a social crisis, the 19th century saw the forced concessions of the fundamentals we associate with contemporary liberalism: Freedom of speech, press, property, religion, and politics, and of course, an increasing franchise in the vote.
The latter, of all the lies that pervade liberalism, is perhaps the biggest. The idea that the ballot box makes us equal, that the banker and the beggar somehow share power in the voting booth – at least every 5 years! The other, “lesser” auxiliary freedoms largely exist in order to perpetuate this myth.
The press is only free to those who own it. It is the mouthpiece for capitalist factions to speak for power or shape and control our understanding of it. As the Mexican revolutionary Zapata reportedly replied when criticised for shutting down American papers,
‘…what point is a free press in a nation that cannot read!’ Or whose thought is pre-shaped by it.
The only real freedom liberals truly care about, capitalists truly care about, is that of property ownership. The more you own the freer you are. And whilst freedom of speech might allow us to criticise it – the anarchist Proudhon was allowed to say “property is theft” – the State will ensure, through the promised ‘order’ it provides, that we can’t do anything about it!
As The popular song lyric puts it “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. It is the triumphant illusion of liberalism. Its dull familiarity creates the attitude in most of us summed up as “I don’t believe in politics” or “what has politics got to do with me?” And that is exactly what they want us to feel. Distanced and docile.
Liberalism Is designed to enthrall not liberate us. The false debates and fake alternatives it offers us, through its auxiliary freedoms: right, left, Tories, Labour, starve by debt or starve by poverty, blinds us to what it’s destruction through our solidarity in class struggle has to offer
Instead of the right to complain that we have no job, no housing, no food, no heating, no health care, we should instead be controlling our Labour, our wealth, our communities, our planet through the abolition of capitalism and property, and the liberal mythology that sustains it.