Emergent Community–Part Two

by Raven Glomus

This is the second part of a piece focusing on how adrienne maree brown’s six elements from her book, Emergent Strategy, apply to commune building.  My last piece focused on commune building as Fractal, Interdependent and Decentralized,and Non-Linear and Iterative.  Here I will focus on why we need to build communes to be Adaptive, Resilient and Transformative, and in a way that Creates More Possibilities.

In Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown talks about Intentional Adaptation–that is adaptation with intention.  She refers to this process as “how we change”.  And communities need to be open to change and changing.  A community that can’t change, dies.  But any community that simply goes with whatever changes happen isn’t going to last long either.  The key, as amb puts it, is to have an intention, a goal or end point in mind, and to make sure that any changes, whatever adaptation we do, keeps us moving toward that goal.   And in order to have that goal, a community needs to have a vision–what is it that we want to move toward?  And, as we encounter each place that we need to change, the community needs to ask itself, what changes will move us closer to our vision?  What changes will move us away?  This is an ongoing process, because we will always need to keep changing and we don’t want our vision to be static.  We need to keep dreaming (collectively) of where we want to be and keep updating our vision and our goals as we go through each change.

This is very related to the next element, Resilience, which adrienne maree brown refers to as “how we recover and transform”.  Some of the changes we will encounter may be relatively simple, but sometimes a commune will encounter things that are more challenging and may cause real problems for the community and sometimes within the community.   We may need to do more than adapt, we may need to recover from traumatic disruptions.  We may need to collectively heal.  We may need to change in ways that transform the commune. The question always is, how can we transform the community in ways that are of service to our vision?  In the book, adrienne maree brown talks about the principles of Transformative Justice to keep in mind as we make the changes that we need in order to heal the community. She quotes Shira Hassan, “In order to resist one size fits all justice, we have to resist the idea that every process looks the same.”  I love amb’s advice here: “Relinquish Frankenstein.  You are not  creating people to be with, or work with, some idealized individuals made of perfect parts of personality… Stop trying to make and fix others, and instead be curious about what they have made of themselves.”  Communes aren’t made of perfect folks, they are made of flawed people struggling to build something together.  Again, quoting adrienne maree brown, we need to “Commit to being in each other’s lives, and doing whatever is needed to ensure that in the long term.”  What great community building advice!

Her final element, and I believe perhaps the most important, is that we work toward “Creating More Possibilities.”  This is why I am so happy that there are so many different flavors of communes out there and only wish there were more.  If we see community building as a way to explore social change, we need to acknowledge that we are not trying to build a perfect alternative.  Rather, we are trying to build many different alternatives, with the realization that no one way works for everyone.  Certainly income-sharing communities aren’t the only way to go, but even among communes, there should be differences and there should be support for folks trying even more new things.  There is a reason so many of us love rainbows–all those different colors existing together.  As we create a communities movement, as we support organizations such as the Federation of Egalitarian Communities and the Foundation for Intentional Communities,  we are building the small scale version of the world we want (going back to amb’s Fractal element), one in which there are many different possibilities and we are working to create more.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

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Emergent Community–Part Two

Emergent Community–Part One

by Raven Glomus

I have been reading (and re-reading) adrienne maree brown’s wonderful book, Emergent Strategy.  I have often said that I see intentional communities (especially income-sharing communities) as laboratories for social change.  What adrienne maree brown lays out in her book is that she sees six elements involved in social change (based partly on her reading of Octavia Butler’s ideas in Parable of the Sower).  According to her, change is Fractal, Adaptive, Non-Linear and Iterative, Resilient and Transformative (as in Transformative Justice), Interdependent and Decentralized, and Creates More Possibilities.

I want to look at how these elements apply to the building of communes as well as seeing communes as part of a social change strategy.  In this first part, I’ll focus on three of these elements, seeing commune building as Fractal, Interdependent and Decentralized,and Non-Linear and Iterative.  I will look at the remaining three elements in my next piece.

Let me start with the fractal nature of commune building.  When adrienne maree brown uses the term ‘fractal’, she defines it as “the relationship between small and large.”  She points out that “How we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale.”  This is exactly what I mean by communities as social change laboratories.  In building communes, we try to create on a small scale the world that we wish to see.  The end doesn’t justify the means, the means reflects the end goal.  My point about communities as laboratories is that through them we get to test out, on a small scale, what works and doesn’t work for the world that we want to build.  The communes are egalitarian, because we want to build a society based on equality.  We share so much, because we believe that sharing can improve the world.

Interdependent and decentralized is a very apt description of the commune world–including the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.  Communes are not this monolithic entity.  There is no central communal authority.  The communes are each worlds unto themselves, networked together by the relationships between them.  We like having dozens of different flavors of community..  Rather than trying to have one way to build a commune, we have many different communes and each is responsible for itself–and we are also responsible for each other, since we see how we are connected.  It makes accountability tricky, since the ultimate authority resides in the individual community but, because we are connected and interdependent, we also have some leverage with each other.

I used this particular order for the elements (not exactly the order that adrienne maree brown puts them in, although they are in a slightly different order in the two places in the book where she lists them), because I think this is the most useful order for community building.  First you want to think about where you are heading (building something that reflects the world that you want to see) and then realize that what we are building needs to be decentralized and interdependent.  The third element comes in as you build community–the process is non-linear and iterative.  

I think that this may be the most important thing to realize.  It’s not a straight line path at all.  You may plan to build community in a certain way and then you realize that things start falling into place, but hardly in the order you anticipated.  You will soon find out that you can’t control the process.  I love the term ‘emergent strategy’ because emergent phenomena come as they will, not as you want.  Perhaps the most important part to realize is that saying it is iterative is to say that you will find yourself doing the same thing, again and again and again.  And then it happens again.  You may think that you are going in circles, but often it’s more like spirals.  It may seem like you are back in the same place but you are actually a level higher.  If it sounds like it might be frustrating, you are beginning to understand the process of commune building.  As Katarzyna Gajewska pointed out in her post about Community and Techie Fallacy, building a commune is not anything like building a bridge.  You can’t just draft some plans and build it, step by step.  You need to be prepared for some amount of chaos, the whole process through.

In my next post, I will look at the final three elements as pointing out how communities need to be.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us! 

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Emergent Community–Part One

Filters

In early August, Theresa wrote a Facebook post wondering about how we could make the communes more accessible to more people–and also mentioned that the communes filter out people. That’s not a bad thing, but maybe we need to change the filters:

You can see that it got a lot of comments. The first few are personal responses, mostly pretty much on target.

Then Allen Butcher (at first responding as ‘The Fellowship of Intentioneers’) joined the discussion and it soon became a three way triolog between him, Zamin Danty, and me, Raven (sometimes posting as Commune Life). The following thread quickly becomes very long, technical, ideological, and perhaps nitpicking, as we focus on the differences between ‘communalism’, communism, and anarchism and which are best, and even appropriate, for describing what we do in egalitarian communities. If you are bored by long-winded political discussions, you may want to end reading here. On the other hand, if you are a commune theory buff and the nitty gritty of how income sharing relates to political movements, read on.

Filters

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

Racial Justice Work in the Communes

Continuing on the theme of racial justice, Theresa wrote this piece on Facebook looking at the difficulties and contradictions involved in doing this work as white folks.

She added this graphic:

The first comment that we got was from Rachael, also in our commune, giving a link to a source for this graphic:

Since this is a picture and the link doesn’t work, here is a working link.

Zamin K Danty commented with an interesting idea, but I spotted a problem.

And then Thomas Russell added a host of thoughts.

Racial Justice Work in the Communes

Imagine a Sane Society

We recently received this from Katarzyna Gajewska who has written for Commune Life before. This is about a book that she is publishing in conjunction with Cambia, one of the Virginia communes.

On crowdfunding with Cambia community to complete a feminine utopia and boycotting Amazon 

Katarzyna Gajewska, PhD, has been working on the manuscript of “Imagine a Sane Society” since 2013. She is now at the stage to engage other co-creators to complete this book. Her feminine utopia is a call for creativity and imagination. Her conceptualization has been influenced by interviews in egalitarian communities and other prefigurative forms of organizing work and life. If 60 people contribute $20 each, we will be able to pay for the first stage of production to be done by egalitarian community Cambia.

By contributing to crowdfunding campaign, you also support Cambia, a commune living prefigurative future in the now. Cambia Community is a small egalitarian intentional community in central Virginia, USA. Their mission is to serve as a model for a sustainable, fulfilling, and connected way of living. They have formed an educational non-profit called Rustling Roots, which teaches how to respond to the global ecological crisis locally, stimulating discussion and changing habits in local communities by hosting workshops, events, and tours.

Cambia has known Katarzyna for several years and has appreciated her academic work and dedication to justice and sustainability.

“The opportunity to help with editing Katarzyna’s book would allow us to invest in our business and our community, and collaborate with a project that supports our mission. With funding from this work, we would be able to plant more fruit trees, invest in solar infrastructure, and hire people with specialized knowledge in ecology or engineering for specific projects.” – Gil Benmoshe of Cambia Community

The author writes on the subject of the forthcoming book and crowdfunding campaign to prepare online version in Creative Commons, available for free.

Why Commune Life Blog readers may be interested in your book project?

You may have wondered what a post-capitalist system would look like. We know quite well what we do not like but it is difficult to say what we want. The book discusses various directions of change and proposes a vision for a health-oriented system. It shows examples of alternative ways of organizing production. The main part deals with understanding the cultural change that a new system would require of us. Culture is a set of ideas, automatic assumptions, habits in shaping human relations. It is invisible, yet so powerful. If we cannot imagine something else, we automatically submit to the shiny but destructive offer of the dominant elites. One of the reasons why I call it a feminine utopia is because I focus on inner work and not engineering another design for hollow structures which would be filled with the dysfunctions of the dominant system if not addressed. This is where communes come in. They have decided to live under different regime within a group and then they need to deal with all the psychological and cultural imprint that wants us to not even come up with such an idea. The cultural work they had to engage in is preparing for the time of crisis when cooperation will not be an option anymore. I have conducted many interviews and observations in Acorn, a commune in Virginia and in Niederkaufungen, a commune in Germany and they inspire my reflection on the culture for a new mode of production. One chapter portrays also Tamera, a political ashram in Portugal.

Whom is this book for?

If you are experiencing existential crisis or skillfully numbing it with shopping, substances, and busyness, this book can help you stop for a moment and reflect on your life’s choices that add up to the unbearable reality. Activists or people who think of becoming involved may find an aid to inquire what kind of actions to focus on. We need a broader picture to translate it into small steps leading to it.

Why do you call your book a feminine utopia?

First of all, I do not mean gender and women by this. The “feminine” in my utopia is a logic of action, a way of thinking, values, and the mode of operating. Ursula K. Le Guin used Chinese words yin and yang, probably, to avoid these confusions with gender stereotypes. We still need a lot of work to empower the feminine. My book wants to empower the feminine logic as something defining the shape of the system. I see this proposal as an advancement in comparison to the lean-in feminism. Feminism should be about systemic change. By the way, Kommune Niederkaufungen was considering these issues from the very beginning and may have been a response to the position of women in the 1980s. I believe that also men are tired with the masculine utopias pursued nowadays and the unbalanced ideas they fall prey to. At least, many men have supported me during the writing process and the final stage.

Why people being part of commune movement may be interested in promoting the campaign?

If you are part of communes’ movement, you will meet your friends on the pages of my book. You may want it to be available to your family and friends from previous life to help them understand your choices. Now that more and more people start to perceive the limits of the system, it is time for deeper discussions and questioning it all. I embed communal life in the reflection on a broader vision. I see communities as an inspiration without preaching that everyone should move to one of them. But this can be a side effect. One of my interviewees in Acorn community mentioned the book “The power of Now” as one of the steps on her journey of self-inquiry that led her to move to the commune. Maybe my book will have a similar effect on some readers.

Bringing this book to the masses without a publisher is also a political statement. Many people who live in communities want to escape corporation world. I do not want my ideas to be censored by corporate gate keepers. Instead, I rely on the wisdom of crowds, who have other interests than selling simplistic books. I also do not want to be bound by contracts and my books be sold on Amazon. Of course, this implies a different strategy in the entire process. I cannot expect a publisher to invest in book production and then compromise its sells. Therefore, we need to invest together in making this book happen and have it accessible for free. Instead of benefiting Amazon, you give money directly to a group of people who work on change.

Do you live in a commune? – The question that many people have asked

I do not. Education is my passion. I would not feel fulfilled not pursuing it. I want to combine my professional goals in the field of alternative education and communal living in one project.

What to do if one wants to help completing your book?

You can send the crowdfunding campaign calls to your friends or post on social media. Letting people know is a big help! The book will be available for free (digital text and audio) so if many people give $10-30, it will be like buying the book for yourself and your friends and strangers. This is a good deal!

If you want my book ‘Imagine a Sane Society” to be published and available for free, please, donate HERE

Listen to an exerpt from this book HERE!

For updates on my publications: Katarzyna Gajewska – Independent Scholar

My publication list (selection): https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Katarzyna_Gajewska  

My recent publications:

The Cultural Preparation for Crisis

Naming the Alternatives

So you want to leave it all and create a community?

Imagine a Sane Society

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

Together We Rise

By Keenan

(Keenan is a long time member of Twin Oaks. We have published him before here. He sent us this piece.)

4 July 2020

My take on the history of significant cultural change at Twin Oaks

As has been pointed out many, many times, it is going to take a lot of work to make Twin Oaks a multi-cultural community, or, at least it will take many, many small changes in lots of different parts of the community and in the hearts of members. However, we have done it before; we can do it again.

Women’s equality at Twin Oaks has required significant and steady effort.  For decades Twin Oaks has hosted a women’s gathering. Some years the women’s gathering has earned some money, some years it hasn’t, but the community has never wavered in being supportive of putting resources toward hosting this gathering. The community has built and maintains women-only living space. Twin Oaks has supported and encouraged women taking on non-traditional roles like, for instance, working with machines, constructing buildings, working with big animals and taking on managerial and leadership roles. When women have not arrived at Twin Oaks with training, training has been provided.

Twin Oaks has women only rituals. Twin Oaks makes sure that there is a woman at membership interviews, and that there is a woman as part of the visitor liaison team. The CMT tries to be at least half women. The new member liaisons are typically a man and a woman. Twin Oaks got a handful of women members from an article in the feminist magazine, “Bust.” Women’s space in Oneida has an extensive women’s library.

Women and men have taken on the arduous task of teaching incoming men about what feminism means in practice. We all have come to recognize that the community is better for these efforts because we rise together.

 Many years ago, Twin Oaks had few elders living here. At that time, the discussion in the community included the sentiment that the community couldn’t afford to make the changes necessary to support elders. So what happened was that good members left; seeing no possibility of staying here into their old age, members in their late forties and early fifties left the community in order to save money for retirement elsewhere.

But saner voices prevailed and Twin Oaks built Nashoba for elders. Twin Oaks created a pension policy. An elder advocate position was created and funded. Later, Twin Oaks built Appletree. Consequently, members started making a lifetime commitment to Twin Oaks. These days, far from being a drain on the community, elders like McCune, Carrol, Pam, Hildegard, Shal and many, many others are essential, valuable and contributing members of the community. The community is now happy to care for elders because we now recognize that we rise together.

At another point in Twin Oaks history, children and families were also controversial. Some members harassed women who wanted to get pregnant. Children were banned from ZK’s main dining room and the ZK lounge. Children were forbidden to enter many other areas of the community. The role of the Child Board was seen as protecting some members of the community from the noise and mess of children. Children were seen by some members as solely an expensive hobby of people who wanted to be parents.

But policies changed. Hearts changed. Children became welcome in all parts of the community. The Child Board changed its focus to being an advocate for children. Twin Oaks puts lots of labor resources into creating a quality child program. Children were assumed to be part of the community and expected to contribute to the work here. The children who grew up after this culture shift are the children who have chosen to continue to live in community as adults.  Additionally,  visitors see children in the community and choose to live at Twin Oaks rather than elsewhere precisely because children are embraced and loved here. Parents tend to make a long-term commitment to the community. Rather than being a drain on the community, families are an integral part of the strength of the community. Because we rise together.

It seems that Twin Oaks is on the cusp of making a similar commitment to finally becoming more diverse and multi-cultural. There is no good reason not to. There are not terrible trade-offs to be made. This is not a direction that drains or weakens the community—far from it—becoming a more diverse community will make Twin Oaks stronger, because…

 together we rise.

Together We Rise

RACISM, CAPITALISM, AND THE POLICE

This is a piece we put up on the Commune Life Facebook page, that comes from the personal blog of Boone Wheeler who lives at East Wind. Here’s what I wrote on our Facebook page followed by a copy of the article direct from Boone’s blog.

by Boone Wheeler

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

WARREN BUFFET

Black Lives Matter.

I support the protesters. I support the rioters. I support the looters.

That said, I don’t think protesting, rioting, and looting will be enough. To truly pull a weed out, you must get its roots, otherwise it just grows back. Similarly, to effect real social change, we must address the root cause.

To that end, in this post I trace the origins of American racism and police brutality and demonstrate that they spring from the same well – capitalism and the elites that created it, maintain it, and benefit from it. I further suggest that to end racism and police brutality, we must end capitalism.

The Invention of American Racism

The following excerpts are all taken from the phenomenal A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. The emphasis is mine.

Only one fear was greater than the fear of black rebellion in the new American colonies. That was the fear that discontented whites would join black slaves to overthrow the existing order. In the early years of slavery, especially, before racism as a way of thinking was firmly ingrained, while white indentured servants were often treated as badly as black slaves, there was a possibility of cooperation.

By the years of the Revolutionary crisis, the 1760s, the wealthy elite that controlled the British colonies on the American mainland had 150 years of experience, had learned certain things about how to rule. They had various fears, but also had developed tactics to deal with what they feared.

The Indians, they had found, were too unruly to keep as a labor force, and remained an obstacle to expansion. Black slaves were easier to control, and their profitability for southern plantations was bringing an enormous increase in the importation of slaves, who were becoming a majority in some colonies and constituted one-fifth of the entire colonial population. But the blacks were not totally submissive, and as their numbers grew, the prospect of slave rebellion grew.

With the problem of Indian hostility, and the danger of slave revolts, the colonial elite had to consider the class anger of poor whites-servants, tenants, the city poor, the propertyless, the taxpayer, the soldier and sailor. As the colonies passed their hundredth year and went into the middle of the 1700s, as the gap between rich and poor widened, as violence and the threat of violence increased, the problem of control became more serious.

What if these different despised groups – the Indians, the slaves, the poor whites-should combine? Even before there were so many blacks, in the seventeenth century, there was, as Abbot Smith puts it, “a lively fear that servants would join with Negroes or Indians to overcome the small number of masters.

It was the potential combination of poor whites and blacks that caused the most fear among the wealthy white planters. If there had been the natural racial repugnance that some theorists have assumed, control would have been easier. But sexual attraction was powerful, across racial lines. In 1743, a grand jury in Charleston, South Carolina, denounced “The Too Common Practice of Criminal Conversation with Negro and other Slave Wenches in this Province.” Mixed offspring continued to be produced by white-black sex relations throughout the colonial period, in spite of laws prohibiting interracial marriage in Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, Georgia. By declaring the children illegitimate, they would keep them inside the black families, so that the white population could remain “pure” and in control.

Edmund Morgan, on the basis of his careful study of slavery in Virginia, sees racism not as “natural” to black-white difference, but something coming out of class scorn, a realistic device for control. “If freemen with disappointed hopes should make common cause with slaves of desperate hope, the results might be worse than anything Bacon had done. The answer to the problem, obvious if unspoken and only gradually recognized, was racism, to separate dangerous free whites from dangerous black slaves by a screen of racial contempt.”

In the 1720s, with fear of slave rebellion growing, white servants were allowed in Virginia to join the militia as substitutes for white freemen. At the same time, slave patrols were established in Virginia to deal with the “great dangers that may … happen by the insurrections of negroes….” Poor white men would make up the rank and file of these patrols, and get the monetary reward.

In other words, the 1% of the time feared the white indentured servants would realize they had common cause with the black slaves and together overthrow those taking advantage of them both. To prevent this, they created laws and policies to create division between poor whites and black slaves to keep them divided. They were obviously very effective.

The Police

Not too many people are aware, but the institution of American policing came directly from these slave patrols.

Gary Potter is a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies and the author of  The History of Policing in the United States. He says public police forces began around the mid-1800s. They were born out of slave patrols in the south and industry policing in the north.

In the late 1800s, police were involved in union busting. After major corruption scandals during the prohibition era, Potter says there were “efforts to professionalize the police.” This led to more public funding and starting with the Nixon administration, federal funding for police forces. This is also when police departments started getting military-style equipment.

JULIAN HAYDA & JACK HURBANIS

Another thing most people aren’t aware of is that the Police have no legal responsibility to protect citizens.

“Neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individual persons from harm — even when they know the harm will occur,” said Darren L. Hutchinson, a professor and associate dean at the University of Florida School of Law. “Police can watch someone attack you, refuse to intervene and not violate the Constitution.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the government has only a duty to protect persons who are “in custody,” he pointed out.

RYAN MCMAKEN

Here’s a particularly egregious example:

Warren v. District of Columbia, in which two women heard their roommate being attacked downstairs by intruders called the police several times and were assured that officers were on the way. After their roommate’s screams stopped 30 minutes later they assumed the police were present and went downstairs, only to themselves be held captive, raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon each other, and made to submit to the sexual demands of their attackers, for the next 14-hours. The “officials” in legal land claimed that official police personnel and the government employing them owe no duty to victims of criminal acts and thus are not liable for a failure to provide adequate police protection.

PETE EYRE

So, who are the police really trying to protect?

Something true throughout the history of policing in America is the focus on property. “The police are primarily there to protect business property first, and residential property second, not human interactions. If that were the case, they would fail miserably,” says Potter.

JULIAN HAYDA & JACK HURBANIS

In reality, police are the domestic enforcement arm of capital (analogous to the military for external imperialist affairs), and the only force authorized by capitalists to use violence to protect capitalist property rights. The history of police crackdowns on unions, workers organizing for better conditions, and minority groups challenging the inequality of the capitalist order goes back to its inception. Cops are class traitors, serving the capitalists by inflicting violence on workers when necessary, and keeping capitalist property safe from the pesky plebs.

Class traitor is a term used mostly in socialist discourse to refer to a member of the proletarian class who works directly or indirectly against their class interest, or what is against their economic benefit as opposed to that of the bourgeoisie.

WIKIPEDIA

In other words, the police’s main function today is to maintain the current class structure, i.e. capitalism. Since racism strengthens classism, the police are encouraged to be racist. Here’s a fantastic look into the systemic issues of policing as recounted by an ex-cop: Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop

Economics and Control

Let us not forget that slavery was an economic enterprise. All of the horrors of American slavery were committed so that rich, white, elites could make money. It was profit seeking capitalism that created American slavery.

Michael Perelman’s incredible (yet dry) book The Invention of Capitalism details how that exact same profit seeking led the nascent capitalists to convert a self-sufficient European peasantry into wage slaves by force (emphasis mine):

Some of the forthright accumulationists, however, were sophisticated enough to have realized that once the work of primitive accumulation was complete, what Marx (1977, 899) called the ‘‘silent compulsion’’ of the market could be far more profitable than the brute force of primitive accumulation. Consider again the generous vision of Reverend Joseph Townsend (1786, 404, 407):

[Direct] legal constraint [to labor][i.e. slavery] . . . is attended with too much trouble, violence, and noise, . . . whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but as the most natural motive to industry, it calls forth the most powerful exertions. . . . Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjugation to the most brutish, the most obstinate, and the most perverse.

Similarly, Rodbertus, a German socialist and government minister rather than an outright primitive accumulationist, asserted:


Originally this compulsion was exercised by the institution of slavery, which came into existence at the same time as tillage of the soil and private ownership of land. . . . When all the land in a country is privately owned, and when the same title to all land has passed into private ownership of land and capital exerts the same compulsion on liberated or free workers. . . . Only now the command of the slave owner has been replaced by the contract between worker and employer, a contract which is free only in form but not really in substanceHunger makes almost a perfect substitute for the whip, and what was formerly called fodder is now called wages. (cited in BöhmBawerk 1959, 253)

In other words, early capitalists realized that the market functioned as a better means of control than outright slavery.

Economics and Racism

Nor is the connection between racism and economics only in the distant past. Modern racism and xenophobia are fueled primarily by economic concerns. The motivation behind Trump’s wall is of course to keep Hispanic immigrants out of this country lest they “steal our jobs.” This of course was the same motivation behind anti-Irish and anti-Italian sentiment in the late 1800’s.

For the poor and working classes, immigrants willing to do their low-skilled jobs for less are a real threat to their livelihood. As long as capitalism-created scarcity has the many fighting to stay out of poverty, there will be the necessary and sufficient conditions for racist sentiment to form.

Whether pitting laborers of different races against each other, stoking racial fears through a sensationalistic and profit-driven media, or politically scapegoating entire ethnic groups, America’s white elite have successfully modernized age-old strategies of using racism to prevent the formation of a broad coalition of people along class lines — and across racial lines.

KERI LEIGH MERRITT

The truth, of course, is that it is the capitalists, not their fellow laborers, who are the enemies of the poor and working class whites.

“You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings,” the famous Georgia populist leader Tom Watson told a crowd of black and white laborers in 1892. “You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both.”

KERI LEIGH MERRITT

Listen to the King

Again, in no way am I trying to co-opt, distract, or detract from the BLM movement. I support it wholeheartedly.

I’ve tried to demonstrate what I believe to be a clear line of causality from capitalism to racism to police brutality. It is my belief that racism derives largely from economic motives and economic inequality. I further believe that because racial injustice stems from economic injustice, to truly address racial injustice we must address economic injustice.

In this, I am beat to the punch by none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. himself.

And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.

FROM KING’S LAST SPEECH TO THE SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE, DELIVERED IN 1967

The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.

FROM A SPEECH TITLED “THE THREE EVILS OF SOCIETY,” DELIVERED TO THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR NEW POLITICS IN 1967

King thought that if you could pull together the poor blacks of the inner cities, the poor American Indians of the reservations, the poor Latinos of the barrios and the poor whites of Appalachia, if you could get them to put aside their differences and unite around the meagerness and exploitation they all had in common, you’d have the makings of a movement that would break the old paradigms.

King had in mind nothing less than radical transformation, musing about “a democratic socialism” and arguing for a guaranteed income [UBI much?] and a “Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged.” “True compassion,” he wrote, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

LEONARD PITTS, JR.

Expand the Protests

While I wholeheartedly support protesting, looting, and rioting, I do not believe them to be effective nor sufficient methods of creating meaningful change.

I do not think the current protests are asking for enough. Changing a few laws around the institution of policing is not enough. It does not address the gross economic inequality that lies at the root of not just American police brutality but also mass injustice and unnecessary human suffering worldwide. What we need is the “radical redistribution of political and economic power” that King called for more than 50 years ago. What we need is the overthrow of capitalism.

Capitalism Must Go

Capitalism and the classism it creates and depends on lies at the root of racism and police brutality. If you want to address these issues, you must address Capitalism

But those are not the only evils of Capitalism. It is also the force that is driving ecological destruction and climate change. Capitalism, if left unchecked, will literally kill us all. Furthermore, in the pursuit of profit capitalism inflicts gross iniquity upon millions upon millions of people in the Third World.

What is Capitalism? In America, it’s all of us. Our entire society, our entire way of life, is built on the exploitation of the natural and human worlds. So I want to expand Black Lives Matter. Because really, that means American Black Lives. What about African Black Lives? What about the 9 million people who starve to death every year? Do their lives Matter? What about the sweat shops that employ 80% women? Do their lives matter?

Let’s expand the fight and make that radical change King spoke about a reality. As he said, it’s not just about black people, it’s about all oppressed people, everywhere.

I know I’m a privileged white male. And again, in no way am I trying to diminish or take from the BLM movement. I’m inspired by it. But if you support BLM, then you should support oppressed people of all stripes and colors.

Oppressed Lives Matter, Worldwide.

Just as there is White Privilege, there is First World Privilege. Our comfort and affluence comes at the cost of the exploitation of hundreds of millions in the “Global South.”

Ending police brutality and systemic targeting of black people is crucial and mandatory, but it’s not enough. I believe that the radical redistribution of political and economic power that King called for is the same revolution that Marx called for a hundred years before him.

I put forth that the modern American lifestyle is fundamentally immoral due to its utter dependence on exploitative capitalism. To all those who support BLM and consider themselves an ally to oppressed people, I encourage you to examine how your lifestyle contributes to the very oppression you speak out against.

We are all one people. Capitalism serves the few at the great expense of the many. Capitalism. Must. Go.

How?

As I said earlier, I don’t think protesting, etc. is enough. So what is? I have two practical actions to suggest.

  1. Don’t pay your taxes. The rich and powerful care about only one thing: money. So hit them where it hurts – their pocketbook. A general tax strike would absolutely bring them to the negotiating table. They live off of us. Their biggest fear is us realizing this, just as it was in the American South in the 1700’s.
  2. Meet as many of your own needs as possible. Grow your own food. Learn to sew your own clothes, work on your own car, etc. Until we the people are once again self-sufficient, the elites have us in the chains of the “silent compulsion” of the market.

We are in a class war. The rich are winning. It’s time for that to change.

RACISM, CAPITALISM, AND THE POLICE

Delbert Africa has died

Delbert Africa was a member of the Philadelphia black commune, MOVE. This was a radical group of activists who lived together and believed that all living beings were interdependent. They annoyed their neighbors and were targeted by the Philadelphia police who raided their home in a violent eviction proceeding in 1978 that ended in a gun fight. A policeman was killed (the police claim it was from gunfire from the house, some witnesses believe it may have been from an accidental shot from another police officer). Nine MOVE members were arrested, charged with third-degree murder, and sentenced to a hundred years in prison each. Delbert was one of the last to be released. Later, in 1985, the mayor and the police decided that the best way to rid the neighborhood of these activists was to bomb the house–which they did, killing eleven people and destroying the entire block.

There weren’t a lot of comments, but here are the four that we got, including my memories of Philadelphia that were related to these incidents. Bizarrely, while Frank Rizzo was the mayor during the 1978 shootout, the mayor who okayed the 1985 was Wilson Goode, a black man, who together with the police chief at the time, classified MOVE as a “terrorist organization.”

If you are interested in seeing Mike Africa Jr’s performance, here is that part of the video:

Tomorrow, part four of our diversity series, Julia’s piece on Whiteness in Community.

Delbert Africa has died