Anarres 2 cooperative community

About me

Anarres Two is the idea of a guy named Ed, who is in his mid-fifties, married and lives in Japan.

I’ve been interested in socialism since I was a teenager.  I was a political science major in college and was involved in the anarchist movement for several years, but have evolved into a democratic socialist/communitarian socialist/Green Party supporter. However, I think that in addition to trying to educate the public about alternatives to the current system, it’s a much better use of our time and energy to create a socialist community for ourselves and to inspire people by example than to try to impose something on people who aren’t ready for it or who are sincerely just not interested.

Before coming to Japan and teaching English, I worked as a food service worker (starting at age 16), a clerical worker at a public university, an offset printing press operator, and a production worker on an assembly line. My primary source of income these days is editing research papers for foreign scholars. I also do the Progressive News Service website, but it’s just a hobby and doesn’t make any money, unfortunately.

I think cooperation makes so much more sense than competition, and I’ve wanted to be a part of something like this all my life, but I’ve never really found a good fit or had the resources to do it before. Thanks to a small inheritance, I was able to buy about 20 acres of land in Pershing county, Nevada for about $11,500. Many communities in the past failed because they couldn’t make the land payments, but that won’t be a problem since the land is paid for. True, there are many other expenses which will need to be paid to make this work: we still need a well, a septic system and some kind of shelter, and we need to come up with a way to generate income to pay for the things we can’t make ourselves, but that should be doable. I’m 55, and although I’m still in pretty good shape, I know I’m running out of time and may not see this reach fruition, but I have a long term perspective, and it’s not about me, I just want to get it started. I think it’s REALLY important that people see that there are realistic, humane alternatives to capitalism. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Many people have a negative opinion of socialism, because most of them are only familiar with Marxism-Leninism, which is a very bizarre, authoritarian offshoot of socialism – it’s like judging Christianity on the basis of the Spanish Inquisition, or democracy on the basis of the Erdogan regime in Turkey (or our own two-party oligarchy in the U.S.). Leninism doesn’t work because it is imposed on people; it’s a top-down model which scares people into being passive robots without ideas, and there is no safety mechanism when the people in charge go off track. It’s a huge waste of individual creativity and initiative, and definitely not my vision of socialism. On the other hand, the counter-cultural approach, which combines hippie hedonism, unrealistic idealism and dubious ethics, doesn’t seem to be the answer either. The Hutterites have been making this work for centuries, but I’m not into a sexist theocracy either.

I can imagine a community where people work together voluntarily to meet everyone’s needs, and I’d like to help make that happen. I’m interesting in a forming a cooperative community based on a voluntary, egalitarian and democratic form of socialism (like a kibbutz) but which allows its members as much personal freedom as possible (people have choices, and they don’t have to agree on every little detail). There are many possible ways to organize such a community, and it would probably evolve over time.

In a capitalist economic system there are many unmet needs, but there is no reliable mechanism to put the unemployed to work to meet those needs, or to allow people to work to meet their own needs. Everything is oriented on meeting the needs and whimsies of people with money, and the mechanism for doing this is wage slavery. People sell themselves into virtual slavery to business owners, who decide what they will do and how they will do it, and in return they get a cash payment based on the current market value of their labor, which may or may not be enough to meet their basic needs. In a cooperative community there is never unemployment, because there is always work to be done, and that work directly improves the participants’ own quality of life. You can plant a garden, build a solar water heater, raise chickens, make soap, and so on. The more stuff you make, the more stuff there is to share within the community. Excess production can be sold to people outside the community, because you need to earn some “hard currency” to buy the products, services and raw materials that the community doesn’t produce.

The reason more people don’t do this is that the less well off don’t have access to the land and capital they need, and if the economy is functioning normally, talented people can generally make a lot more money in the mainstream economy. On the other hand, they will probably have little say in what they do or how they do it, and they will be pushed as hard as possible to extract as much “surplus value” out of them as possible. If you’ve every had a job you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you aren’t needed anymore, you get laid off. You don’t build up any equity in the business no matter how hard you work – that all goes to the shareholders or owners.

Ursula K. LeGuin wrote about a highly evolved form of cooperative community in her science fiction novel “The Dispossessed”. Anarres Two would not be an attempt to exactly recreate the society depicted on the planet Anarres in her book, but it’s an interesting vision of a non-hierarchical, self-regulating, cooperative society that can serve as an inspiration – and as a warning about things that can go wrong even in an egalitarian society.

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