How Communist are the Communes?

On Friday, I posted a Facebook post here that Theresa wrote about accessibility and filters. In the midst of it, I, Raven, got into a back and forth about terms like “Communism” and “Anarchism”.

So I created a Facebook post about the relationship of communism to the communes:

There were a bunch of comments. Here are some of the more relevant ones:

Finally, I like this short wrap up comment:

How Communist are the Communes?

Sacrifices

Theresa wrote this simple post in late July:

The eleven comments went in two different directions. First myself and Zamin Danty wrote personal responses where we wrote out our responses to the question:

Then Crista Bergmann talked about specific complaints about a specific community. (Llano has one of the kitchens at Twin Oaks, so I am sure that this is community that the rest of the comments are about.) Wren Vile responded which led to a small back and forth with Crista as they reminisced:

Then Christine Willis added a memory which Crista also elaborated on, ending with a cute back and forth affirmation:

Sacrifices

Communities as Living Organisms

by Raven Glomus

The post we published last Friday, by Katarzyna Gajewska, got me thinking about something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.  People sometimes talk about communities like they were buildings that could be designed and built and they would remain the way the founders intended forever.

One of the things I’ve often said about Twin Oaks (and sometimes about Ganas, as well) is that no one in their right minds would design a community like Twin Oaks (or Ganas).  That’s because the Twin Oaks that exists now wasn’t designed.  It was planned one way and then it grew, changed, evolved.

A Twin Oaks anniversary picture

My view of communities is that they are living organisms, which grow, and change, and adapt, and often die.  In fact, many communities change in ways that frustrate their founders, often to the point that the founders leave.  Kat Kinkade left Twin Oaks and, in fact, came and went and came and went, and finally came back to die there.  Mildred Gordon also left Ganas, and didn’t come back until she, too, came to die.  Some people here have pointed out that Kevin and Sarah (the founders of East Brook/Glomus) are now gone (although Sarah may be back) and this has allowed us to grow in ways that I don’t think they had anticipated.

This phenomenon is so common that I have heard it called ‘founders syndrome’.  Whether the founder leaves or not, at some point they are faced with a decision, whether to let the community grow in ways they might not have wanted, or to be heavy handed and keep it to the path that they planned.  The thing is, you can control a community like that, but you will probably kill it in the process.

Looking at the six characteristics of living things, the cells of a community are the people.  As there are no animals or plants that do not have cells, there are no communities without people.  Communities certainly use and need energy–things happen in community only when people have the energy to do them and communities die without energy.  Communities don’t grow in isolation–they are forced to adapt to their surroundings.  And they certainly react to changes. They also grow and develop–as I have been saying.  

Finally, not all communities reproduce–the same way that not all people reproduce.  But communities certainly sometimes reproduce–Twin Oaks, for example, begat East Wind and Acorn.  East Wind begat Oran Mor.  And Twin Oaks and Acorn begat Living Energy Farm, Mimosa, and Cambia.

When you think of communities as living organisms, you realize the futility of trying to design and control a community.  You don’t build a community, you help birth it and you help it grow.

Communities as Living Organisms

Individual vs Group: A Dance

by Raven Glomus

There are lots of different ways to view community. Here is a Facebook post where I looked at it as a dance:

After the comment fest on the last post I wrote, I only received three comments on this one–but they were long and thoughtful comments.

Craig Green is someone that I had a bunch of conversations about community with a while back, some of which took place by email. He took this opportunity to remind me of them:

Individual vs Group: A Dance

Communes and Tribal Society

by Raven Glomus

Communal living is important.

It’s what this blog is all about and it is how, I believe, we are meant to live. At the same time, many people find communal living hard and new communities fail at a rapid rate.

On Facebook I started exploring this paradox over several posts. In this one I decided to look at why, if we are tribal animals, communal living doesn’t come naturally.

Yes, I got thirty-one responses (actually, a few of the responses were mine, responding to other comments). Here are a lot of them, beginning with a quick response from Nyle Alantin, followed by a two part comment from Lucy Perry, which elicited a much longer comment from Allen Butcher.

Then there was a back and forth between Zamin Danty and me:

Then Katya Slepoy stepped in, eliciting reponses from Theresa, me, Allen, Rejoice, and Dina Ciccarone.

Then Allen wrote an extremely long comment that got a response from Delaney Calyx which elicited two more comments from Allen:

Finally, another commenter, Mary Hall stepped in and started a back and forth with me and Allen.

Communes and Tribal Society

Communists in a Capitalist Society

by Raven

I have thought about this and mentioned it to people, but I consider Twin Oaks a communist community that has learned very well about how to succeed in a capitalist culture. I decided to make a Facebook post about it.

I got a bunch of interesting responses to this, starting with Rejoice sharing some of the comments East Wind got to a video about them.

.A few other people threw in their takes on this.

Then, Lavender Alex Bernosky shared their response, pointing out the danger of trying to “police” behavior in the communes.

I had to respond to this because I felt it opened up another avenue for the ‘dance’.

Finally, Zamin Danty added yet another take on the ‘dance’.

Communists in a Capitalist Society

Family Life and Communal Success

by Raven

I had been reading a request for membership here at Glomus and the person mentioned that they had been raised in a large family. I was also raised in a large family and that got me thinking about how much the family that you grew up with affects your ability to live communally. I decided to write a Facebook post about it.

As you can see, we got a few comments from that. Some interesting things got raised in the comments. It started off with personal stories from Cara Ziegel and Theresa Kadish.

Then Rejoice added an idea which I responded to and so did Rachael Kadish. (Rachael also lives here at Glomus, as do Theresa and I.) Rejoice (who lives at Mimosa but occasionally visits here) added yet another nuance in the midst of this.

Nina (from Twin Oaks) added her story, which also fit in with what we all were writing.

Then, Zamin Danty wrote a piece that I thought took us slightly off-topic.

But it was a comment from Mark Homesteader that completely changed the direction of the conversation:

Family Life and Communal Success

Creating More Possibilities

by Raven Glomus

Police brutality is real, as is the killing of black folks by police and the phenomena of mass incarceration.  A recent response was to try to defund the police.  Unfortunately, the result has been a crime wave in several cities.

Really, we don’t need the police–but we do need something.  It’s easy to attack oppressive institutions.  It’s harder, but absolutely necessary, to create alternatives to them.

In the case of replacing the police, we will probably need to fund economic and educational strategies, give people the tools to build (or in many cases, rebuild) their lives, support folks who are having difficult times, and develop some types of sanctions (other than incarceration) that make crime a less appealing alternative.  In the meantime, we will probably need to focus on reforming police departments, until we have time to develop alternatives to replace them.

There always seems to be a lot of emphasis on the things that are wrong, all that we need to stop and get rid of, but I believe that this is the wrong focus.  We need to work on figuring out how we can develop alternatives, to talk about what we want rather than what we don’t want, and to develop working systems that can replace all the toxic, oppressive, hurtful systems that we have now.

One example is communes and communities.  I have said that I see intentional communities as part of a larger social change strategy.  They can be laboratories to attempt to build alternative systems on a small scale and see what works.  Income sharing communities are a particularly important experiment to develop ways of living without economic (and other) hierarchies.

I have taken the title of this post from adrienne maree brown’s book Emergent Strategy.  She lists the six elements of her strategy and the final one is Creating More Possibilities, which she subtitles “how we move toward life”.  

Creating new possibilities, I believe, is probably the most important work that we need to be doing right now.  Not just building communes, but creating cooperative structures of all kinds (businesses, alternative institutions that support people, educational experiences, etc) and networking them–so there is more cooperation between these institutions as well as within them–and supporting those structures so that they are more likely to succeed.  

And, more importantly, supporting not just alternative institutions created by white middle-class folks, but institutions created by working people and, especially, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) led and created institutions.  Racism and white supremacy are real things but, again, we can’t just try to get rid of them.  We need to replace them with leadership from People of Color and real attention to their needs–not what we think that their needs are but what they say their needs are.  We need to support them in developing the alternatives that they need.

Kidscreen » Archive » Editorial: Black Lives Matter

If we want a truly egalitarian society, we need to support organizations and methods that change the dynamics which keep people in oppressed situations.  I have written several Facebook posts talking about ways to do that which I hope to reprint here.

Saying that we need to create more possibilities is saying that we need to build abundance.  Abundance is attractive and, when it is successful, it can create a positive cycle that can bring more energy to create more possibilities.  And with enough possibilities,  we can create the alternatives to replace all the oppressive systems.  It’s just going to take a lot of work, especially at the start, when everything is stacked against us.


PS. The first poster is by amber hughson who has a whole series of these posters and is very clear about what constitutes real alternatives to policing and what does not.

Creating More Possibilities