Unsurprising Community Anarchists

Often visiting students, media and family of members are surprised to find so many anarchist-identified people living in these communes. This is perhaps because of the common misperception that anarchists are all about chaos. Turns out this is fake news. Anarchists dislike government, especially non-representative governments. Which means they are especially fond of dual power.

Dual power is where you replace government functions by doing them yourself and then push the long arms of the state out of your life. Twin Oaks is pretty good at dual power; we build and repair our own buildings, educate our own kids, run our own sewage treatment plant, fix our own cars, bikes and tractors, grow much of our own food, cook our own meals, generate a (tiny fraction) of our own electrical power and run our own 7 businesses.

And anarchists have had a serious influence on the development of Twin Oaks’s own bureaucracies. This is especially true for the Twin Oaks Process Team. The Process Team has an important mission: to facilitate, mediate and negotiate communication between members of the community. If you have a problem with another member, it is the Process Team which you would go to first to seek mediators, advocates, and internal diplomats.

But the Oaker anarchists crippled the Process Team when it was being developed. To make sure this new group did not have too much power it was limited to intervening only when invited. This means if i am in an animated on-going argument with another communard, named Fulano, the Process Team can only mediate for us if we both agree to it. This means if i am being a total jerk and i don’t want to have to defend my terrible treatment of Fulano, i just decline the Process Teams request to mediate. It is worth pointing out, no other income sharing commune in the US permits disagreements to fester in this way.

In sharp contrast, when Twin Oaks created its Mental Health Team (MHT), we had just had a tragic suicide which many felt the community could have done much more to prevent. So instead of looking to limit this bureaucracy’s power, we wanted to make sure it could do whatever it needed to do its job and protect the community and its individual members. Thus, if you are having a manic episode, MHT can take you off the labor system until you’re better, and you have no labor obligation. MHT can give you money for travel and organize external care for you if needed. MHT (in conjunction with the planners) can force someone to leave the community if that is deemed necessary, to take care of someone they are in conflict with.

We don’t know all the answers to how to live together well. But when we observe that the events which sparked the creation of our bureaucracies we can see where we can create dual power successfully, and where we need to do more work.

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.

3 responses to “Unsurprising Community Anarchists”

  1. Yam Erez says :

    Interesting. So the Process Team can’t just approach a member and say “Your dispute with X is affecting the community. We need to talk”?

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