Anarchists versus Communards

The anarchist prerogative is that you can do whatever you want as long as you are willing to take responsibility for your actions.  Some people think this means you need to wait around for the police to arrest you at a political protest; i certainly don’t think you are obligated to take care of the state in this way.

At our worst, in the commune we feel empowered to complain without offering anything in the way of useful assistance.  On one level this is understandable. We own these businesses and infrastructure together, “Why should not i be allowed to share my clever critiques about my community or what my fellow communards are doing?”  The problem is that we have lots of people who like to shadow manage.  They want to tell people who are doing the work how they would like them to do it differently, often without enough knowledge to make the right suggestion.  More worryingly, some critics come with agendas and manias which have nothing to do with the good of the community.

Twin Oaks has a long history of reluctant managers.  Because the egalitarian community does not provide extra compensation for taking on headachy jobs, many people choose to avoid these responsibilities. Instead, they focus on production work in the income areas, or take on jobs in our myriad domestic or community overhead work, which are subject to less scrutiny and editorializing.  Still, there are over 100 managerships at Twin Oaks and many people take several because a fair few people don’t want any.

Of course lots of communards are anarchists, and even lots of anarchists are managers and organizers.  And almost no one is immune from making “helpful suggestions.” At the same time, we should be especially sensitive and graceful to withdraw our unrequested assistance when we realize we are contributing nothing but talk.

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to “Anarchists versus Communards”

  1. shadiekChad says :


    I can see how navigating a sea of ‘helpful suggestions’ which are actually complaints and manipulative agenda shifts could be frustrating and exhausting. Yet isn’t it also true that someone’s primary gift and most useful means of contribution could be to accurately perceive existing dynamics, reflect on them, and offer constructive analysis of problems and potential solutions? Do you really think that people should just keep their mouths shut if they’re not directly involved? In my opinion that could lead to a myopic predisposition. For example, the overall analysis that you’ve offered extrapolates a general principal from the specific work areas you’re involved in and also some that you have merely observed. Yet you’ve offered a sweeping suggestion in the hopes of improving your entire culture. Right? I might just be missing something, but according to my best understanding so far, here’s my ‘helpful suggestion’: you’ve either gotten something wrong or you’re being a hypocrite.

    Much love,

  2. paxus says :

    Dearest Chad:

    Excellent points. My conclusion here is not that people should be quiet, but rather they should be willing to ” be especially sensitive and graceful to withdraw or silence their unrequested assistance, when it is merely talk we are contributing.” The post is actually inspired by a particular member, who refuses to be shut up, has lots of ways to help and refuses to do so and is inspired by their mania. For those of us who are trying to do the real work it is maddening.

    I dont think people should keep their mouths shut, what i think is the community offers lots of ways for critics to engage usefully (beyond just offering advice) and dodging these to push your agenda (which is not necessarily to the communities advantage) can be infuriating.

    Thanks for clarifying.

    Paxus in Chicago
    13 Tripoli Fall 2KXI

  3. Angie says :

    My personal tactic at TO is basically “either be willing to do the actual work, or shut the hell up.” Outside of that, I offer suggestions in a “hey, I wonder if this thought would be helpful to you” kinda way to people I have an ongoing positive relationship with, and keep my mouth shut with the rest. It’s not a perfect solution, but it is one that keeps my life relatively undramatic, and allows me to live fairly comfortably in a culture I often but don’t always fit into.

  4. someeverydaystories says :

    You know what would make this a stronger blog post?

    A specific example.

    Nothing like a story that people can sink their teeth into to get a point across, when you’re talking all theoretical about political ideologues and all that jabber.

    just my 2 cents,

  5. someeverydaystories says :

    Yes, I’ve always liked Ezra’s O & I posts were he presents a particular problem ie. the Tupelo Piano he is try to get ride of. And on the paper he basically says, “I don’t what ideas what one could do, or suggests, I want someone to step up and do something with this piano, or I’m going to burn it”

  6. Ethan Tupelo says :

    I appreciate your reasonable definition of anarchism, and don’t have much to disagree with about the problems of responsibility you bring up.

    However, I think a lot of the problem is that we poorly define our expectations of managers, which is especially a serious problem for we anarchists. An area could be a team management committed to making group decisions with everyone working in the area being a part of the decision, and perhaps the community as a whole as necessary. A manager could also never solicit or even to be open to suggestions, and run their area like an autocratic fiefdom. These options and everything in between are acceptable within the Twin Oaks system. Members then alternatively think that managers are being asses for not listening to them, while at the same time think that other people are being asses for telling them how to run ‘their’ area.

    It’s little surprise to me that most long-term members have managed to grab a hold of a particular area, and often run it as the part of Twin Oaks where they can do what they want and not have to deal with other people’s bullshit. This coping mechanism of course reinforces the entire dynamic. I often wonder how things would be different if we had term limits for all managerships or even did something like East Wind does where they have elections for all positions every year.

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