A Communist Utopia (Funded By Capitalism)

Via The Daily Bell

When is a commune not a commune? When it only exists because of capitalism.

But that doesn’t stop it from having just enough communist ideals to make it a very restrictive place to live.

Twin Oaks is an “intentional community” in Virginia. It is one of the oldest successful communes in America because it's not really a commune. They manufacture hammocks that sell for up to $100 each, and make tofu for Whole Foods.

They have a sales and marketing manager who oversees each business. And they provide extra incentives to do the work no one else wants to do.

One member actually expressed concern that Amazon plans to drop Whole Foods’ prices.

“Well, then we can’t sell our tofu for as much,” he said.

Maybe the Whole Foods workers should seize their means of production to stop the exploitation.

I was all set to tear apart Vice’s piece on this little commune. But I ended up just giggling. Vice correctly pointed out that it isn’t really a commune if it is funded by capitalism. The people who live there have stepped out of a typical “capitalist structure” for their lives. But they were only able to live their alternative lifestyle because they do so in a capitalist world.

And the same member admits that capitalist ideas have won. He acknowledges that capitalism is required for their commune to exist. So it seems a little funny that they know a market system is required for their livelihood, yet they employ a communist style of internal governance.

That means 100% taxation and no individual control over how the products of your labor are spent.

But as much as they don’t want to admit it, there is still a hierarchy of sorts. They give extra to those who work extra. They have managers to oversee the businesses. And they have two types of members: provisional, and full.

In the philosophy of a commune, it might make sense for the workers to take home little to no pay, and forfeit control of their property. But consider that the “commune” brings in $600,000 per year in profits.

Members don’t pay to get into the community, and they don’t get anything when they leave. This means it is hard to see a member’s time there as an investment in the future unless their future is at Twin Oaks.

Like a typical factory job of the proletariat, they are unable to amass capital and stuck in their position.

They are required to work 40 hours per week. They have quotas to hit for work, with some extra incentives thrown in for extra hard workers. Producing more than your quota means you get to keep some of the product of your labor. Not exactly to each according to his need, from each according to his ability. But that is what is required to make their for-profit “commune” work.

So doesn’t that make it a business? It seems like members are basically typical proletariat workers, except that they don’t make any money. They forfeit total control over their lives and get to be taken care of by mother corporation.

And from a capitalist perspective, it makes perfect sense. If the company profits were broken down by person, it would $60,000 each. But you know their food, housing, health insurance, and other provisions aren’t costing the business anywhere close to that.

For a member, it seems like quite the hefty price to pay for the simple luxury of not having to worry about paying the bills on your own terms. Twin Oaks gets full-time workers for a fraction of what it costs most companies.

The Twin Oaks bylaws state:

You don’t pay to join. You don’t get anything when you leave. The Community supports you while you’re here. Twin Oaks Provides for its members on the basis of need or equality. Equality is a fundamental community value which informs the property code. We try to avoid displays of wealth which may give rise to envy. With the exceptions described below, we expect members not to use outside income or pre-existing assets during their membership in Twin Oaks.

So all you can take with you when you leave are the skills you gain. They do seem to teach some–relatively menial–skills. Also, if full members decide to move on, they get $50 from the leaving fund (which actually seems more insulting than getting nothing).

They don’t expect you to give them all your property upon arrival. But they do encourage lending your cars, large equipment, and even money to the community for the time of your stay. These will be returned when you leave, without interest.

They do require all “unearned income” be donated to the community.

Unearned income includes interest on bank accounts, dividends on stocks and bonds, income on investments, social security, disability payments, pensions, and child support for a child living at Twin Oaks. Unearned income is the property of the Community.

As such, they discourage anyone with much wealth from moving into the community.

And any spending you do while you live at the commune must be approved by other members.

Oh, and they also expel any “undesirables.” Failing to give your unearned income to the community would be a reason for expulsion to be considered.

Ironically, their website states there are “classes of membership.” As much as they claim to want to avoid hierarchy, they still have provisional members and full members. Basically, the community can vote anyone out. There are a few steps and procedures, and some suggested reasons for the oustings, but the process comes down to mob action.

They also aren’t exactly accepting of “pensioners” because they can’t work as hard, and therefore might sap more from the community than they give. The community does offer health insurance, so maybe that’s why they are a tad on the discriminatory side towards old folks.

So basically, it is not a commune, and it is not a free market. It is the worst of both worlds. An extremely restrictive community that makes money off their laborers. You give your labor, and “unearned income” to the community, and you get a place to live, food, and health insurance.

The central “government”–which in this case is a corporation–owns all the means of production, controls all the wealth of the citizens, and provides for all their needs.

In that sense it is technically a success, but only because they have a source of income from a non-communist outside world.

The big takeaway: communist “utopia” exists (if your idea of utopia is surrendering your freedom in exchange for a safety net). But only inside a capitalist world.

But hey, these people are doing it all voluntarily. If that’s the life they want, so be it. I can accept their commune because it doesn’t place any obligations on me.

A free market does not rule out the possibility of little separatist communities that behave much like communes. It’s just that they can only exist because of the larger capitalist structure of society.

The opposite is not true; you can’t have little capitalist break-outs in a communist world. In fact, you can’t even have communist communities in a communist world. You can just have starvation, oppression, and the entire collapse of productive society.

Comments

Stuck on Zero techpriest Tue, 10/24/2017 - 00:01 Permalink

I want to point out that corporations are totally communist organizations. They are top-down and centrally managed. The employees do not vote for their leaders or by-laws. A corporation is not even a constitutional monarchy. They are ruled by diktat from the top leader. So, compared to corporations I would say that this commune looks pretty tame.

In reply to by techpriest

PT Stuck on Zero Tue, 10/24/2017 - 05:32 Permalink

Hey.  If they're not debt slaves then they are already ahead of the majority of the world.  Hell, if they have food, clothing, shelter and don't have to work too hard then they are ahead of a majority of the world.Not my cup of tea though.  I wonder if I could convince the board that everyone in the community needs helicopter lessons.

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

GeezerGeek Mon, 10/23/2017 - 19:07 Permalink

I'd love to know how the IRS looks at this sort of setup. Particularly in view of the 'donation' of all unearned income. And by the way, doesn't unearned income come from investments made with earned income prior to joining this dictatorship?I think I'd prefer Twin Peaks.

TheEndIsNear GeezerGeek Tue, 10/24/2017 - 00:01 Permalink

Good question. Do individual members have to file income tax reports to the IRS, or does the commie commune file one?

There is another one in Deadwood, Oregon. If you read the history and present status of it, it seems that no one wants to do any work anymore and it is in the process of completely falling apart. I wonder who gets title to the 248 acres when everyone leaves? I learned about it because my mail carrier (female) turned over all of her paycheck to the commune.

http://members.pioneer.net/~alpha/index.htm

In reply to by GeezerGeek

Milton Keynes Mon, 10/23/2017 - 19:28 Permalink

Aside from the whinging by the author, who cares?Individuals, choose freely to enter and freely to leave. It's a democratic meritocracy.  If you join the Army, you surrender all sorts of stuff, and for 6-8 years, you do what they tell you, when they tell youand then you leave with a pension.  If you join a religious order, you surrender your personal assets and join as a junior friar. Frankly, I don't care. If people want to do stuff and it doesn't cost me anything. Why would I care how they live? I didn't care about Gay Marriage, I don't care aboutTrans-sexuals pissing in the bathroom, I don't care about home schooling.... I'm not sure why the author cares so much.

jmack Milton Keynes Mon, 10/23/2017 - 19:47 Permalink

       Well, that is because you are mentally retarded or willfully obtuse.   To call yourself a communist commune, but then to not be a communist commune, and then to point to yourself as a "sucessful communist commune" when what you really are is a  branding con job that is a capitalist enterprise, is fraudulent and harmful.          Commies are worse than nazis because nazies dont have the PR, everyone feels free to hate nazis.  fucking commies man, they try to play it chill then the next thing you know, 10's of millions of people are starving to death or dying in work camps.  And some shit head like you has the gall to type "who cares".    Ask Joo il Kim who cares.  http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/27/north-korean-defector-describes-moment-he…          and please reply, oh well, that is authoritarianism, that isnt communism,  I beg you.  

In reply to by Milton Keynes

roddy6667 jmack Tue, 10/24/2017 - 06:43 Permalink

You have such strong feelings about communists. Tell me, how many have you met? What did they do to piss you off? BTW, what IS a communist? Why do you claim to know so much about them when you wouldn't know one if he/she sat on your face?What is the source of all this expertise? Just wondering. 

In reply to by jmack

PT Ace006 Tue, 10/24/2017 - 06:04 Permalink

I don't care if they call it a commune but made it something different.  They made a thing.  They didn't give a shit if it was "Capitalist" or "Communist".  They took ideas from both and ran with it because that is what they wanted.  Why does a Capitalist HAVE to be Pure Capitalist?  Why does a Communist have to be Pure Communist?  Who says you can't take whatever ideas you like from both camps and make some bastard hybrid?  That's half the problem with this world.  Stupid binary labels where there is no need for simple binary choices.  The world is analogue.  So why insist that everything has to be digital?  Use the bits you like, discard the bits you don't like.  That's what most people do anyway.This idea does not look exciting to me, and it could easily set a bad trend, but it is easy to understand why some unfortunates think the idea is attractive."Oh but we could all be rich Capitalists!!!" - meanwhile most are poor slaves working for the rich Capitalists. "Yes, but you could ...." - well, it turns out that acquiring Capital is not that easy after all, and most people will never find a way.  Capitalism does not reward Production.  Producers are a dime per dozen.  I've seen factories full of them.  Capitalism rewards Innovation and Competitive Advantage - until the Competition catches up.  Capitalism is an easy sell when you're making a profit.  Communism is an easy sell when you're making a loss.  In the mean time, it is all irrelevant as the money changers debt-enslave the entire nation and steal all the land.The people made a choice.  The alternative was debt slavery and never owning their own land.  I don't think I like their choice but I understand why they made it.  Bonus:  They're walking away from fiat.  Now if the parent company could work out how to barter they would be the start of something big.

In reply to by Ace006

Alananda Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:13 Permalink

Before you cast all voluntary communities into the trash heap of "communes", consider Yogananda and his concept of "World Brotherhood Communities".

Outside of the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRA) which, ceremoniously or not, kicked him out, J. Donald Walters, who wandered for a time in the psychedelic wilderness of San Francisco in the mid- to late 1960s, joined with poet Gary Snyder (Buddhist tradition) and a certain beat poet to buy up hundreds of acres in Nevada County, CA, north of Sacramento.

Founded by "Swami Kriyananda" (aka J. D. Walters), the Ananda Village today is, to me, one of the finest, operating, successful VOLUNTARY COMMUNITIES -- not a commune! -- one that brought my wife and I to this area over 12 years ago. No, we are no longer members of that community -- no dogs, no us! We live and thrive a few miles to the west.

Nonetheless, though Ananda wrestles will all the issues, problems, and dilemmas we do, they have a wonderful environment with a vibration even dense folks can feel. Kundalini yoga, among other practices. How we deal with each other -- our family, friends, and neighbors -- means as much, likely much more, than how we deal with so-called money.

rlouis Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:43 Permalink

I'll bet on two probable behaviors being present:1. There is probably someone in a position of authority that can be bribed for special benefits.2. Hard workers are discouraged from working hard.

Benjamin123 Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:14 Permalink

Its basically a kibbutz. Kibbutzim are supported by slave labor from teenager volunteers motivated by socialist ideology. They have morphed though and kibbutzim are no longer communist, just closed communities with private property, teenage slavery and external capitalist suppliers are customers for their factory and farm products.

PT Benjamin123 Tue, 10/24/2017 - 05:52 Permalink

For most of them, the alternative was debt-slavery and never owning their own land anyway.  Easy to herd the sheep in any direction.  They go from the dead grass to the slightly-less-dead grass.Oh boohoo Communism.  But you refused them any land of their own and were willing to let them starve to death.  Do you want to be kicked in the nuts or punched in the face?

In reply to by Benjamin123

dunce Tue, 10/24/2017 - 00:29 Permalink

They are a corporation so they must be taxed as a corporation unless they can claim no income bacause there is no profit after distributing the profits to the laborers but then they have taxable income. How is the IRS treating them?

AnarchistRex Tue, 10/24/2017 - 01:03 Permalink

I lived at their sister commune in Southern Missouri (EastWind) over a period from 2000-03 ... very similar and they share the hammock making business. Both communities have websites and you can learn more if you like. I am a die hard capitalist though and for me it was just a fun time to meet interesting people. I have fond memories, but it was never a long term home for me.

I guess I'd say to you all - don't be afraid to explore. It was an great experience for me overall and I learned a lot about myself and other people.

Crush the cube Tue, 10/24/2017 - 01:32 Permalink

Probably feeding of the .gov teat like the Mennonites and other quazi business religions, squashing all compeditors who are stuck paying their taxes, than appropriating their lands all in a tax free status.  Shit needs to end, they wouldn't last a day in the real system.

Money_for_Nothing Jo A-S Tue, 10/24/2017 - 07:05 Permalink

Originally the world worked on the Biblical concept of Judges. ie Leaders were inspired. The people clamored for Kings because they thought it would improve their life. Without (free citizens and/or slaves) nothing would be built that is/was built. If someone is coerced into using something is that the same as using something? Kissing Cesar's ass brings little respect here. Everyone including Policemen and Firemen are doing the best they know how with circumstances they have little control over. 911 phone systems and lotteries are the latest ways to try and get the tax rate up. Even Cesar has limits. Roads were built before governments. They weren't very good for moving armies so taxes had to be raised and better ones had to be built.

In reply to by Jo A-S