this is part 2 of my series on solutions to bringing about a stateless society, this time concerned with alternative ways of living and spontaneous self organisation, you can find the genesis of this series here:
and part one of this series here:
As is often the case this article ran in to many pages of text so i have split this in to two or more posts, the first on communes and the subsequent articles will be on squatting, homesteading and seasteading.
On with the show!
Types of alternative communities/methods of spontaneous self organisation:
I am more well read and informed on anarcho capitalist and private property based solutions to self organisation but i will venture to do the best i can in this section.
Personally while this method of self organisation would not be my preference i am by no means opposed to communal or even anarcho communist self organisation as long as the participating individuals involved respect the rights of private property owning individuals to own land, defend their land and own a means of production without being aggressed against
I would also be distrusting of communities where members would not be allowed to leave voluntarily, if this were the case i don't see how this means of organisation would be much different to how a state operates in keeping citizens within borders.
What is a commune?
The word commune is derived from the Latin word communis meaning 'things held in common' and is described by Raven Moonraven at https://communelifeblog.wordpress.com as being an intentional community (a community designed from scratch in such a way that the intentional purpose is to create a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork) combined with income sharing, non hierarchical social and economic structures and collective ownership of the inhabited land.
The idea of a commune is partly to create a social structure where the 'human scale' is lessened, as in it is a society unto itself on a far smaller scale than say an entire industrialised nation and often to facilitate social cohesion it is preferrable that members share a related or compatible political, spiritual or economic outlook.
Often communes contain less than 20 people to better foster a new 'primary group' dynamic outside of the family, some view this communal primary group as having far less vulnerabilities to state exploitation than the family.
Some authors describe a commune as not just a place but a relationship of people akin to a marriage in closeness and they can be structured in a city or country plot.
Communes often aim to achieve:
-gender equality -non hierarchical social structures -a minimal ecological impact (The collective use of materials often has a lower impact on the surrounding environment and is sometimes the reason why those concerned with ecological issues enter in to communal living.) -shared housework, childcare and labour. -common property and finances -communal decision making
and can like homesteads include the following:
-avoiding corporate and state utilities -electrical self sufficiency with solar panels, wind turbines or home made bio-diesel generators -food self sufficiency with home grown vegetables, foraged food, caught food and home reared animals -alternative tax free revenue streams such as: selling home made art, grown food or locally made materials. -producing alternative textiles and clothes -permaculture (agriculture systems that are self sustaining and self sufficient, usually with natural methods replacing chemical fertilisers and weed killers). -upcycling (transforming dumped, discarded, unwanted or broken materials and supplies in to useful items and could involve restoring found tables, repairing broken electronics and finding new uses for mundane items)
What are some key features and how do they work?
As the name suggests one key feature of a commune is income sharing which is the sharing of the current income of commune members in to a communal pool whereby the community is consulted about purchases needed to be made above a certain amount and the income is redistributed evenly to every member of the commune, not to be confused with asset sharing which is the sharing of all personal assets within a community.
The goal here is that every member of the commune's labour and contribution is given equal value, eliminating any mode of organisation which would financially stratify commune members by their ability to produce wealth, one benefit of this is that it allows communards the ability to have what they need without having the stress associated with concern for one's own personal income as could be the case for some in a capitalist monetary structure.
Income sharing is sometimes specifically aimed at not being part of a capitalist, statist or hierarchical system with the added intent of minimising contributions to the GDP of the commune's host nation
There are three methods of income sharing from what i can see (gleaned from https://funologist.org/2014/02/04/3-income-sharing-models/) they include:
- The twin Oaks model (https://www.twinoaks.org/)
is the simplest. here non members do not participate in income sharing and full members do.
To be a full member one must go through a poll of commune members and have been resident at the commune for over 6 months, there are provisional members at twin oaks with whom some income is shared however they do not receive the dental and medical care cover that the full members do, the idea is to create an internally classless society where full members all have access to the same resources obtained from their communal tofu and hammock selling business (among others)
- The Acorn Community model (http://www.acorncommunity.org/)
Here instead of members, non members and provisional members the Acorn community has members who ar entitled to the fullest extent of the wealth and resources being shared and interns who don't co own any communal property, don't participate in members meetings but they do receive the same monthly stipend as the full members.
This model isn't so much concerned with a classless society but more with flexibility for the inhabitants.
- The Ganas commune on Staten island model (http://www.ganas.org/)
Here there are core members who are akin in structure to a group marriage and share both income and assets, on the next outer layer of membership are workers who participate in the business and income sharing and the final outer layer of commune members are simply renting and pay to live in the commune with no part in the income sharing.
I have this section here as some intentional communities are sometimes mistakenly referred to as communes even though they may have a religious leader or guru type controlling who does what and how finances are distributed, a true commune may have managers but they are usually beholden to a vote, a consensus or direct democracy, so rather than being a leader or ruler they are closer to a facilitator of the will of the people who vote or create the consensus.
Egalitarianism here also refers to egalitarianism of sex, race and sexual orientation, a commitment to non violence, equal ownership of the land and a goal to help improve participation through improved communication.
Communal ownership of land
Instead of a single, joint, family or business ownership of a plot of land communal ownership allows all members of the commune to have a stake in land ownership and work on the land in whatever way they are able to and with no centralised owner to speak of, however some communes do have an 'inner core' of the commune that have the final say in land management.
By having this decentralised hierarchy free structure a commune can ensure that no one person can accumulate resources and can also operate on a basis similar to the Marxist slogan of 'each to according to his ability and each according to his needs', whereby anyone from the elderly, disabled and children can have their needs met while contributing what they are able.
As a capitalist i find the operation of these communes interesting, i have often argued that anarcho communism or communal living could not work partly due to falling victim to the 'Tragedy of the commons' as hypothesised by economist William Forster Lloyd, whereby individuals acting in their own rational self interest while utilising a commonly owned piece of land could deplete the resources of said land by non maintenance combined with taking resources, thus taking what they need for themselves and not giving enough back to create a sustainable resource.
However from my research i notice that the small scale of these communes combined with the strong social cohesion and closed access (thus excluding outsiders) seems to create a situation where self interest would be curbed due to social pressure and the need to maintain the sustainability of a resource commune members are solely dependant on, this could possibly create an incentive to preserve.
I do think the Tragedy of the commons would occur with country sized anarcho communism, which i think would allow people who have no vested interest in maintaining the sustainability of the resources (fish, pastures, woodlands etc) to deplete them with no immediate or medium term consequences to them personally due to their vast and openly accessible nature and no accountability.
Another problem that i think could occur in a large scale anarcho communist system is Mises' economic calculation problem, the idea here being that without the huge amounts of information contained in the system of free market prices it would be impossible to tell which resources are needed where.
Without a motive to profit from scarcity there is no way to know which goods are in demand and so which supply of goods should be increased; many economists claim that this is the reason for many of the shortages and famines in communist countries, so far i haven't seen any evidence that these calculations can be performed by any central human authority or machine.
Are there examples of successful communes?
Yes! Here are a few:
*Bruderhof (place of brothers) Communities https://www.bruderhof.com/en/, while not one single commune this series of communities is worth noting. These communities base themselves around religious ideals based in radical Anabaptist Christianity which values adult baptism, loving thy neighbour, nonviolence and a way of life that eschews possessions beyond that which is essential to live as described in the biblical texts (specifically Acts 2 and 4).
I think this is an interesting basis for forming a community free of a state, from my observation the state is often the entity that 'fills in the gap' when religion is removed from a society, culture or civilisation and not replaced with anything.
When god becomes irrelevant or rationally disproved in the collective psyche of a society it is my observation that without a rational system of secular ethics to replace the moral framework that god's 'absolute truth' was providing a civilisation or society can often easily swing between moral nihilism and totalitarianism.
I think this can be seen in the Soviet Union, NSDAP Germany and Maoist China where i think partly the loss of a moral framework based in a deity and the lack of a rational system of secular ethics lead to a morally nihilistic void that was replaced by ideology, a state bent on absolute rule and the nullification of the sanctity of human life.
My point here is that the Bruderhoff communities while not based on rational ethics seem to function as a stateless 'mini' society based on religious tenets, i have no clue how this would work on a large scale though
describing themselves as a 'guild for greater awesomeness' Compersia is a secular commune in Washington DC who describe themselves as:
'More than just a group house(s), we are founded on a deep commitment to sharing our labor, resources, and lives - together we can achieve more than any of us could individually. This manifests in many different ways; as a community we are fully income sharing, with a single joint bank account. We reject the rigid market system and value all community oriented labor equally, whether it's working a salaried job, doing housework, freelancing, or community organizing.'
*The Living energy farm http://livingenergyfarm.org/, this is a farm and commune that seeks to live completely independent of fossil fuels and create a model for sustainable energy outside of fossil fuels that people of any location or income can adopt, they hope this will set an example for the world to follow in how one can design an eco-community.
They do do this by utilising:
-photovoltaic electricity (PV) solar panels that don't utilise storage batteries so as to avoid the plastic and acidic waste of storage batteries but go directly in to powering DC brush motors while also avoiding the use of inverters and wall sockets which can encourage the excessive use of power. -slightly larger than normal water storage tanks -a centrifugal DC well pump -woodgas tractors -solar hot air collectors -solar ovens -composting toilets -flour grinders, woodworking equipment and metal working equipment for self sufficiency and sustainability.
More examples and resources:
A Homeless Anarchist Community Run By Women
Route 66: Free living and liberty at a rural commune
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