Tag: anarchist community

Acorn Community: American Anarchism at its Apex

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

America, since its founding, has strongly valued the need for a government to satisfy needs. Rule of law, freedom, and checks and balances are ideals that many of us grow up believing in. But some people believe that freedom is not compatible with the State. The range of anarchist thought varies drastically, from philosophical to political and individualist to collectivist. In 1993, a group of them came together and birthed their ideas. Hence formed Acorn Community.

Acorn Community Anarchism

Acorn Community, as stated above, began as a small project in 1993 in Louisa County, Virginia. It is a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, a group of rural autonomous settlements throughout the United States. The community professes itself to be anarchist, egalitarian and sustainable. Moreover, it claims to thrive on non-coercive, voluntary interactions.

The group began when a sister group, Twin Oaks, was at its maximum capacity of 100 members. Many more people wanted to join, so the group branched out and purchased another plot of land. Now, both communities are healthy and full. Twin Oaks operates with over 100 members, while Acorn Community has around 30.

Of the many groups that make up the FEC, Acorn Community is one of the few that professes anarchism. Despite this belief, the community nonetheless does still pay taxes. With 501(d) non-profit status, their rates are considerably lower, but unlike some religious organizations, they are not entirely exempt from the state.

Collectively, the roughly 30 members of Acorn Community own the various elements of property present on the site. Large items, such as houses, cars, and the seed-growing business that they use to sustain the group, fall under this communal ownership. On the other hand, smaller items, including those that one can stash in a bedroom, are owned by individual members.

The Decision-Making Process

What makes Acorn Community particularly notable is the way that it reaches agreements. In fact, that’s exactly it: every rule they impose on the community, they all agree to. The group rejects majority rule as a way of disregarding minority voices. Instead, they firmly believe in a process that they call Consensus.

In the system of Consensus, any full member of the community is allowed to propose a new idea. Then, every other member of the community can voice his or her agreement or disagreement. Peaceful discussion and debate follows, and eventually, they all state their preferences. If a single full member disagrees with the notion, then it does not go into action.

This form of decision-making is incredibly uncommon, even among other members of the FEC. It is known by political theorists as unanimous direct democracy, under which everyone’s voice is included and no one member can make a decision for another without his or her consent. In a sense, it gives ultimate veto power to every single member. Some theorists believe that such a system is the only way that both authority and autonomy can exist. Acorn Community, therefore, is a rare example of such a phenomenon of freedom and democracy.

However, for the sake of efficiency, Acorn Community encourages members to listen to each other and seek out compromises. If each member can agree to one, then the motion moves forward.

A Lack of Conflict

In its history of more than a quarter-century, there has not been any conflict between Acorn Community and local police. The group, in order to sustain itself, operates a GMO-free seed business. With their profits, they are able to buy essentials for the members. They also use the excess money for social events such as dances, parties, books, games, and other entertainment.

The distinct peace separates the group from many other exhibits of anarchism in the modern world. Freetown Christiania, for example, boasts itself as another successful anarchist district. Though they have effectively survived without a state for longer than Acorn, they recently have been the victim of several police raids.

On the other hand, Acorn Community appears to function with very limited interaction with the government. This is possible due to their self-reliance; a rotating schedule of farmers and cooks enable the community to thrive off of their own local produce and livestock. Both meat and vegetarian options come from local products. Crops that they cannot grow generally come from other local, organic farmers. Though not every member works in food preparation or growth, all must meet a quota of 42 hours per week, or six hours a day. Yet, non-traditional forms of labor, such as childcare and cleaning, also count towards the total. As a result, many members exceed the quota considerably, thus earning extra time off.

How to Become a Member

The process of joining Acorn Community is quite complicated. First, any interested applicants must fill out an online questionnaire and make a visit to the farm. The visitor period may be from anywhere from one to six months. During that time, the visitor can request that he or she become a provisional member.

In order to be a provisional member, the current members hold a test for excitement. As a majority, they must determine they are “excited” for the new applicant to join. If they vote “accept” or “have reservations”, then the vote continues. Every “have reservations” vote cancels one “excited” vote. A single member can also entirely block the process, halting the initiation at once. This fits the method of unanimous direct democracy that Acorn Community practices.

If the applicant gets enough “excited” votes, they then must complete a round of Clearnesses. This essentially means that he or she must meet individually with each of the existing members. There, members can express their concerns about the new member or just get to know him or her better. After this, one more test for excitement occurs, and if the applicant passes, he or she becomes a provisional member. Every six months after this, a new test for excitement will occur. At this point, the members can vote on whether to make the provisional member into a full member. If at any point, the members reject an applicant, he or she has two weeks to leave the community. Members can extend or shorten this timeframe if need be.

Culture and Entertainment

Though Acorn Community places an emphasis on work, they are not without recreation. Living on a farm, they frequently use their outdoor space for sporting events. Wrestling, volleyball, and croquet and particularly popular. They also enjoy swimming in the nearby river and holding bonfires. In the winter months, they often soak in a hot tub, play board, card, and video games, and practice yoga.

On occasions, the community organizes events with the neighboring Twin Oaks community. The two groups are very close with each other, even though Twin Oaks does not claim to be anarchist. All in all, Acorn Community is a thriving example of what simple life can be, without the influence of a coercive government.


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Is This Community the “Last Free Place in America”?

By Clint Sharp | United States

The United States of America has always been considered a country rich with liberty: so much so that many call it “the land of the free” from the national anthem. However, with ever-increasing unjust laws, regulations, and control, the country is only free in a relative sense. There is, however, a place in America that still remains free; where the heavy iron fist of government does not land and people are free to do as they choose. That place, of course, is Slab City.

What does living without laws in Slab City really look like
Slab City’s East Jesus sculpture garden

Situated about 150 miles northeast of San Diego, California, in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, Slab City stands as a monument to those who wish to experience freedom in its most pure form. The community attracts a wide array of individuals, from anarchists to outlaws to aging hippies and retirees. For all, Slab City offers a simple, off the grid lifestyle free from the influence of society.

The History of Slab City

Slab City’s history begins in the late 1950’s during the height of the Beat Movement in America. Immediately following World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps began to abandon Camp Dunlap. Eventually, they fully demolished it in 1956, leaving nothing but a maze of concrete foundations in the desert sand. These concrete “slabs” are what gave Slab City its name. It was only a matter of time before beatniks, hippies, and the homeless discovered it and set up camp. Since, the vans, RVs, and tents added up, until the people established the settlement that we know today.

Life in Slab City requires one to be self-reliant, to a certain extent. The only running water, electricity, and sewage systems are what the inhabitants build themselves. Most settlers with electricity use solar panels that drink their fill of California’s limitless and scorching sun, providing a cheap and clean form of energy for the lawless settlement. The only form of sewage lies in the innumerable outhouses and latrines that litter the landscape. To get water, they must either go to a nearby canal or the neighboring town of Niland. Inhabitants usually also obtain groceries in Niland. However, many residents manage to get their food from other sources such as farming and hunting.

Slab City » Dominik Wojtarowicz Blog
A camper in Slab City

It is important to note that Slab City is not without its problems. Theft is a very prevalent issue in the area, and the Niland police rarely make appearances. Thus, the residents provide most of their own law enforcement, which has been a general success. In the rare instance of vigilante justice, the group tends to shun the perpetrators.

A Land of Freedom

What the citizens of Slab City may lack in the realm of personal comfort and amenities, they make up for in pure, unfiltered freedom. There are no taxes, no rent, and no mortgages. The community does not prohibit drug use or nudity if one so desires to partake in either. Each individual in Slab City can do as they please as long as they do not harm another individual’s person or property. In effect, their unwritten code of agreement is quite similar to the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). This unregulated and fence-less way of being paints a beautiful picture of life as it is intended to be: peaceful and pleasant existence without control from someone hundreds of miles away.

Slab City, California – LonCooper.com
Slab City’s Salvation Mountain

The only other problem that the people of Slab City face is the ensuing wave of boredom that comes from living in the desert. One way to beat it is to visit one of Slab City’s many attractions. There’s East Jesus, a sort of art district complete with a sculpture garden, Salvation Mountain, a three story tall hill covered in paint, as well as The Range, a nightclub centered in an amphitheater where bands play concerts weekly. Additionally, the citizens of Slab City throw a huge “prom” every year for the whole community.

Slab City serves as an experiment of anarchy. Without a doubt, they prove that people can live together beyond laws or rulers without it turning into a Mad Max film. So next time you’re in California or are sick of the government, head on over to Slab City and hang out with the Slabbers in the “last free place in America”.


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This Danish Anarchist Community Believes Freedom Works

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Without government, who will build the roads? How will society prevent an influx of crime and pollution? Can civilization as we know it truly exist at all? Many people may think that an anarchist society has never really been tried, especially in the modern era. However, a Danish community, after it left the influence of the state, has truly thrived.

Freetown Christiania: An Anarchist Paradise

It may be easy to miss the small, oddly shaped territory. But sitting in the middle of Copenhagen, Freetown Christiania is not trying to hide from anyone. In fact, since its dawn in 1971, the Danish anarchist community has grown into the third largest tourist attraction in the nation’s capital. Or, to be more technical, surrounded by the nation’s capital.

The Freetown Christiania project began, as mentioned, in 1971, at an abandoned military base. Many of the initial squatters moved to the new settlement because of a lack of affordable housing in the city. In the coming years, the society grew in population, and now, is home to up to 1,000 people.

Law in Freetown Christiania is quite simple. As no governing body exists in the region, the rules that they set do not have binding power. However, seeing as they own the property, the community does have the right to remove those in egregious violation of their principles of peace and order. In fact, all of their community guidelines are printed on big signs which stand in public areas. Some of the rules refer to the principles of nonviolence, and others are simply community desires and values. The anarchist community, for example, prohibits all violence, as well as weapons, hard drugs, and cars.

Rules sign in Freetown Christiania
Rules in Freetown Christiania are simple and prohibit only a few actions, such as violence and selling fireworks.

The Green Light District

Throughout the settlement’s history, it has had a fairly large involvement in the drug market. Pusher Street, the main drag in Freetown Christiania, has a major part in Copenhagen’s marijuana industry. Though the anarchist community does not tolerate hard drugs, it is much more open to the use and sale of marijuana.

As a result, many vendors opened up on Pusher Street, also known as the Green Light District. Community members and tourists alike can buy and sell at their will in one of the freest markets in the world today. Altogether, the market has an estimated annual value of $96.2 million.

In Denmark, the use of drugs is not explicitly illegal. However, both possession and sales of any type of drug carry a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment for small amounts. For harder drugs and higher quantities, the sentence can be as long as 16 years.

Despite this, for much of Freetown Christiania’s history, Danish police have entirely ignored the area’s drug trade. Though recently, there have been a few altercations between the anarchist citizens and Danish authorities. Although in the worst incident, three people were shot, violence, even in the drug industry, seldom occurs.

Just What Kind of Anarchists are They?

Interestingly, Freetown Christiania does not follow the ideology of any particular anarchist sector. As stated above, there is a massive, multi-million dollar drug market, which represents a free market. All transactions in the market occur entirely voluntarily and without taxes of the threat of force. The people also created their own currency, and use it for various purchases around the district, including a variety of local and imported foods in cafes and restaurants.

On the contrary, the anarchist community takes a very critical stance on property ownership. Their official website, for instance, remarks that anyone has the right to use, but not own, the land. And after purchasing it from the Danish government in 2012, community leaders made sure that the collective, rather than any individual, owned the land. As a guiding principle, they do not believe in land ownership. Freetown Christiania also emphasizes the importance of the community, and most citizens work for the benefit of the community as a whole. Breaking from modern capitalist tradition, some may work as community launderers, cooks, or trash collectors as a favor for their continued residence.

Anarchist Community Unity

Thus, it seems that the anarchist community adopts ideas from many schools of thought. This suggests that anarchist unity, rather than division, leads to success. The residents, after all, some third generation, appear highly proud of their tight-knit community.

Without a doubt, community engagement and pride have led to the ongoing success. The peaceful group lives under the Freetown Christiania flag, a red banner with three yellow dots. Debate still exists over whether the dots represent the three “I’s” of Christiania or the O’s in the song “Love, Love, Love”. Despite this disagreement, the community continues to live on as one of the world’s longest-standing examples of peaceful society without a state.

Performers under the Freetown Christiania flag.
Singers perform under the Freetown Christiania flag.

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