“Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in an exercise of speculative fiction.”
-adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha, Octavia’s Brood
As social activists, our work must always combine oppositional politics and propositional politics. Oppositional politics is essential and always urgent: we must define what we find objectionable about the status quo and fight to stop it. The status quo is needlessly leaving people hungry, homeless, sick, and exploited.
But just as essential are our propositional politics: what we want instead. The status quo perpetuates itself by denying that there are alternatives. If the alternatives are so much better, where are they? Where are the free anarchist territories, the functional alternatives to capitalism and the militarized state?
The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
The history of forming liberated spaces devoted to egalitarianism, fulfillment, and community dates back at least as far as Epicurus and has continued under different movements up to today. In 1976, a collection of communes that had survived the maelstrom of the 1960’s and which were all devoted to an egalitarian, income sharing, needs based economy and a democratic, feminist, and secular governance and culture came together to form a network for mutual aid called the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. The member communes were independent and diverse, and had radically different ways of manifesting the core values of the FEC. They ranged in size from 8 to 110, and varied in location from remote rural farms to urban collectives in the heart of major cities.
All these communes organize along principles very different from the status quo and they all, in their specific instances, prove that a society organized along those principles works. Any one of them taken alone might be dismissed, but together they begin to reveal common features essential to a general model and the range of functional implementations. By learning their stories and sharing them widely we can challenge the inevitability of the neoliberal order and of capitalism.
So our job now, as prefigurative political activists, is to challenge people’s conceptions of what is possible. While many of the FEC communes today are rural, a pastoral setting is not essential to successful egalitarian projects. Point A is the initiative to move to the city, build urban alternatives, and by doing so make it a little harder to dismiss the possibility of a life beyond capitalism.