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Founding an anarcho-communist communal enterprise - ideas and suggestions.

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anarchomedia's picture
anarchomedia
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Dec 16 2012 19:17
Founding an anarcho-communist communal enterprise - ideas and suggestions.

I'm looking to found a communal enterprise something a bit like Twin Oaks and wondered if anyone here had any suggestions on how to start it, find suitable founding members and organise it. What kind of problems can arise and how to solve them. Especially welcome would be comments from anyone that actually has experience of this kind of life.

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Dec 16 2012 21:25
Quote:
What kind of problems can arise

The market?

Be curious to hear more about what you've got in mind and why you're opting to create a co-op?

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Dec 16 2012 23:27

The market?? Do you mean no one will want to do it?

Well I have in mind a housing coop / commune / mutual aid society with possibly its own businesses. My reasons for wanting to do this are these:-

1. I am self-employed which is nice but is potentially insecure. Being part of a commune offers a kind of natural welfare / insurance against difficulties. I am anarchist so hate to have to turn to government for aid in times of trouble.

2. Communal life just seems better,more natural, more interesting and educational than being in a small family 'unit'.

3. It is a practical way of remaking society in a more humane and productive model that avoids exploitation and alienation.

4. Material benefits in sharing time and resources, means higher standard of living for potentially less work

5. I think it will be fun.

There are probably other reasons that haven't crystalised in my mind yet.

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Dec 16 2012 23:58

Nah, the market as in you'll still feel the pressures of capital on even the most well-intentioned of workers co-ops. On "having to turn to the government for aid", fuck that dude, it's about maintaining working class living standards. We won that social democratic safety net. You can bet your ass I'll be using it and I don't think it compromises my principles as a revolutionary one bit.

On remaking society, the power of the working class is exercised at the point of production--the ability to fuck up accumulation as the productive class in society. That's how social change is brought about, not by attempting to become communal capitalists. This is not to say, I should add, that I think co-ops don't have a place in a revolutionary movement. But they're not a revolutionary strategy.

Anyway, some reading if you're interested:

http://libcom.org/library/co-ops-or-conflicts
http://libcom.org/library/co-operatives-all-together
http://libcom.org/library/participatory-society-or-libertarian-communism

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Dec 17 2012 01:36

I'm not anti-market and I like a bit of pressure. I don't like manipulated markets such as we have thanks to the state and its capitalist friends, but we can only change so much at a time.

State welfare is a poisoned chalice and it costs us the working class more than we get from it, it is just another con and psychologically it has made us into helpless babies. I know we can make something better than that robbing monster for our welfare.

Damaging totalitarian production models is fine but I think creating better production models that we own and that serve our interests is the winning ticket.

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Dec 17 2012 02:01
anarchomedia wrote:
State welfare is a poisoned chalice and it costs us the working class more than we get from it, it is just another con and psychologically it has made us into helpless babies.

Yeah, hope i get sanctioned tomorrow. Maybe if im lucky they'll take away my housing benefit too, that'll really stick it to Cameron and Osbourne.

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Dec 17 2012 02:11

Uncreative - That is why we need to create alternatives that we control instead of being controlled by creepy child-molesting toffs. Of course until we got our own welfare up and running, we should make do with what we get from the government, hell we paid for it, might as well get our money's worth.

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Dec 17 2012 03:52

When you say it's 'practical' what historical precedence were you thinking of? In the UK, mutual aid societies were ran by the trade unions (one reason for their timidity) and got co-opted by the state, hence the NHS. I don't think we should make the same mistake twice.

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Dec 17 2012 08:12

Or the massive UK co-op movement (which undoubtedly started as a working class institution) that slowly--through the pressure of the market--became nothing more than capitalism with a friendly face and a year-end bonus.

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I'm not anti-market and I like a bit of pressure. I don't like manipulated markets such as we have thanks to the state and its capitalist friends,

Markets are objectively manipulated: the state is needed to help create and certainly to sustain them. And powerful players in the market will use their power to manipulate to their advantage. It's not about intentions, it's about the inherent functioning of a market.

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Dec 17 2012 14:39

wojtek - there were non-trade union welfare societies but yeah the state basically pushed them out of business. If the welfare state is being scaled back then it will create an opportunity for the friendly societies and other mutual aid institutions to come back, so that is a silver lining in all this austerity.

chilli - Of course I agree that a manipulated market is bad for us and that the state is the foremost tool of the capitalist class in ensuring that manipulation works against our interests by keeping capital out of the hands of the working class. So to remedy this situation the state must be abolished, well any anarchist understands this, and then markets will be more fair and our work will be properly valued and the workers will have the ability to accumulate their own capital too and be self-employed or pool their capital to make co-ops.

In the meantime we still need to play the game even if the playing field is not level. To not play is to not live. If we don't make coops then we are have no choice but be waged labour for the capitalists or be helplessly dependant on toxic aid of the state. The capitalist class practically bought the state and when the coops are numerous enough and powerful enough we can buy it too and then abolish it.

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Dec 17 2012 14:58

very much agree that we need to start building alternative forms of support networks (to the state), are you in the US or UK?

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Dec 17 2012 16:08
anarchomedia wrote:
If we don't make coops then we are have no choice but be waged labour for the capitalists or be helplessly dependant on toxic aid of the state. The capitalist class practically bought the state and when the coops are numerous enough and powerful enough we can buy it too and then abolish it.

But we do have the choice to be waged labour for some co-op maaaaaaaaaan or exploit ourselves? That seems just as bogus. If you accept the co-op movement was recuperated in the past, what would be different in the future?

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Dec 17 2012 17:11

cardy lady - I'm in the UK, how about you?

flaneur - sorry I don't understand what are trying to say, are you saying worker owned and managed businesses exploit themselves? I'm self-employed (a sort of coop of one lol) am I exploiting myself? What does that mean? I like working and I like working for myself, if that is exploitation then exploitation seems good to me, give me some more of that nasty exploitation.

So your proposed alternative to coops is .. ? (please tell me its not the dole)

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Dec 17 2012 18:10

The 'market forces' force workers coops/ self employed workers to exploit themselves. For example- if you are part of a coop producing bread and the price of bread drops, you have to cut wages and increase your working hours to ensure your bread is sold at a competitive price so you wont loose all your customers to cheaper rivals. If the price of flour increases- likewise and so on...

If you want to start or join a coop as a personal lifestyle thing then whatevs- good luck n'all- but be aware there are fundamental limitations on the coop model- both in terms of improved lifestyle and most especially as a revolutionary strategy to emancipate ourselves from capital (and the oppression and exploitation that it heaps on all workers).

One alternative to spending our time and energy setting up 'anarchist' enterprises that fit in with capitalist social relations and the market (or attempt to avoid them as far as possible) is to organise in our workplaces and communities to fight against the exploitation and oppression we witness and experience... and do that in a non-hierarchical way which promotes solidarity and mutual aid.

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Dec 17 2012 18:44

What Wotsit said. Since co-ops are just a right on hobby, alternatives could be trainspotting, multiplayer video games, watching moody French films? Fundamental change can't happen within capitalism and there's no easy answers.

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Dec 17 2012 20:08

Right so you suggest we promote mutual aid but don't actually do it, just preach no practice... and who will that convince? Your suggestions seem really really weak to me.

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Dec 17 2012 20:16
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Of course I agree that a manipulated market is bad for us and that the state is the foremost tool of the capitalist class in ensuring that manipulation works against our interests by keeping capital out of the hands of the working class. So to remedy this situation the state must be abolished, well any anarchist understands this, and then markets will be more fair and our work will be properly valued and the workers will have the ability to accumulate their own capital too and be self-employed or pool their capital to make co-ops.

Are you suggesting that the revolution should abolish the state but not capital!?!

Here's my alternative:

http://www.libcom.org/library/fighting-ourselves-anarcho-syndicalism-cla...

Mutual aid is practiced on the job and against landlords, the police, and an exploitative benefits system, not by trying to 'unmanipulate' markets or by trying to increase the level of 'capital' owned by the working class (a contradictory notion that brings about contradictory results).

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Dec 17 2012 20:18
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markets will be more fair and our work will be properly valued and the workers will have the ability to accumulate their own capital too

Wait, are you an an-cap?

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Dec 17 2012 20:55

Of course I do mutual aid- We all do mutual aid every day- even non-anarchists- that's kind of like the whole point, innit.

We are highly social animals who rely on each other for pretty much everything (food clothing, shelter etc etc etc)- it's just capital and hierarchical social relations get in the way of the full potential of socially productive individuals using mutual aid and solidarity to organise ourselves to meet all our needs better- yeah.

Yes I do want to promote it- promote does not just mean 'talk about'.

pro·mote
/prəˈmōt/
Verb
1. Further the progress of (something, esp. a cause, venture, or aim); support or actively encourage.
2. Give publicity to (a product, organization, or venture) so as to increase sales or public awareness.

For example- I might help out a workmate if they're in trouble with the boss and encourage others to stick up for them as well- and I'd expect that would promote the idea of standing up for ourselves and each other generally. I might even say 'look if we don't stand up for each other there's going to be no one else to help us out when we need it'.

I'd primarily aim to promote solidarity/ mutual aid through action and explain why I had decided to take that action, or attempted to organise action. In my previous job I was always looking for ways we could help each other out and I got involved in supporting a lot of my workmates with their workplace problems and I gained a lot from it.

I think you're looking for easy answers and nice simple models of anarchist communist communities which can function within a capitalist society that just don't/ can't exist. I actually used to think that setting up little anarcho coop/ communes would be a good idea- but I now see that as naive and indicative of a fundamental lack of understanding of how capital creates and fuels exploitation and oppression- and how we might best fight back.

I'd encourage you to read more on libcom/ solfed/ afed about workplace and community organising and critiques/ limitations of the coop/ commune model. I think this will help you improve the content of your website and help you see why your comments on this thread got the responses they did from other people who are trying to promote anarchist communism in practice.

I'm currently reading the new SolFed book/pamphlet and I highly recommend that...

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Dec 17 2012 22:54

Okay comrades wotsit and chili I will do some more reading up when I have the time. I like doing better than I like reading or rather most of my life I have been reading and not doing and feel that I have had enough of theory and now want to roll up my sleeves and finally get my hands dirty.

Workplace agitation is fine but I am self-employed so who am I supposed to rebel against, myself? Workplace agitation is fine but whatever happens you still stay a wage slave so what's the diff? However difficult you imagine it is to start a coop in a capitalist world if it succeeds then at least you have stepped out of wage slavery and become a grown up. Making an alternative to capitalism is plainly superior to temper tantrums against the boss but yet remaining dependant on him.

I am not an an-cap, but I am not dogmatically an anarcho-communist either, I'm a free thinker and as much as my spiritual home is in anarcho-communism I am not afraid to visit in my mind other people's visions of how things are and should be.

I must confess I am feeling a little disillusioned by the left lately and I am sorry to say comrades you are not helping.

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Dec 17 2012 23:06

Well, I don't think any of us particularly consider ourselves part of the left, despite our obvious anti-capitalism.

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Workplace agitation is fine but I am self-employed so who am I supposed to rebel against, myself?

And this, my friend, is the exact point about co-ops.

Quote:
most of my life I have been reading and not doing and feel that I have had enough of theory and now want to roll up my sleeves and finally get my hands dirty.

Look I'm all for theory being informed by practice, but I'd be curious what sort of "anarcho-communist" literature you've been reading thats supports markets and capital accumulation by the working class...

Quote:
However difficult you imagine it is to start a coop in a capitalist world if it succeeds then at least you have stepped out of wage slavery and become a grown up.

"Grown up"? What does that even mean?

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Dec 17 2012 23:08

Also "doing":

http://libcom.org/blog/worker-control-staff-meeting-15082012

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Dec 17 2012 23:22
anarchomedia wrote:
Workplace agitation is fine but I am self-employed so who am I supposed to rebel against, myself?

Agitation is only one part of workplace organising (and generally the easiest bit- most people hate their boss and their job and their shitty pay and conditions already- it's organising effective direct action that's the tricky bit). If you don't have co-workers and you are self-employed its obviously harder, but not impossible, to support workplace struggles.

I see from your profile you're a taxi driver- so for example, on days when other transport workers are on strike you can opt to strike in solidarity, join their pickets etc.

anarchomedia wrote:
Workplace agitation is fine but whatever happens you still stay a wage slave so what's the diff?

However difficult you imagine it is to start a coop in a capitalist world if it succeeds then at least you have stepped out of wage slavery and become a grown up.

Coops are broadly based on capitalist social relations- it's just that the people in them embody two sets of opposing class interests- being both capitalists and wage workers. You are still dependent on wages- if you don't take a wage from the coop then how on earth do you think you'll get by- but it is you (and your fellow coop boss/workers) who have to enforce labour discipline on yourselves, cut wages, raise working hours, ignore safety, to keep pace with the rest of the market so the coop remains profitable enough to compete and pay your wages. That's not an alternative to capitalism.

anarchomedia wrote:
Making an alternative to capitalism is plainly superior to temper tantrums against the boss but yet remaining dependant on him.

The working class are not dependant on bosses- you've got it the wrong way around- we are the ones who produce everything of useful value and they are the ones that sponge off our labour.

I was becoming disillusioned with the left in general but the more I grew to understand anarchist communism specifically (and how it critiques other ideologies, and illuminates the effects of different social relations) the more things seemed to become clearer.

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Dec 17 2012 23:47

Comrade Chili - By 'left' I mean socialists in the most general sense, sorry I couldn't think of a better word and yes probably there shouldn't be a word to lump both state-socialists together with anarchists because state-socialists have more in common with fascists than they do with anarchists of anykind. I should have be said that I am getting dis-illusioned with anarchists since I have never thought well of state-socialists.

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And this, my friend, is the exact point about co-ops.

This doesn't make any sense. It sounds like you are suggesting that being a 'rebellious' wage slave is better than being a worker who owns the means of production, but that is just so pitiably wrong it is not funny. Is rebellion a sport now? Am I supposed to go back to being a wage-slave because I don't get enough humilation to be rebellious. I own my means of production which is exactly the goal of worker emancipation isn't it?

My idea about markets and capital are largely my own work. Capital is just stuff: tools, machines, finished products and of course tokens of exchange (money) and you can't abolish stuff, that doesn't make any sense. The problem with state-capitalism is that all the stuff that really matters ends up in the hands of the nasty minority of idlers, those we call the capitalists. Hence why we want to get back control of the means of production, the workers want to be capitalists too.

Markets is just the exchange of owned stuff. Society can't function if people don't exchange stuff because no one nor any collective can possibly be entirely self-sufficient so to get things they lack they have to either steal or trade with others. Trade is plainly more moral and beneficient than stealing. Trade is a kind of mutual aid, stealing is mutual strife.

Your link is sad, it is great that those workers got a little feeling of power from challenging the boss but they haven't really changed anything they are still just dispossessed wage slaves. This is supposed to be better than founding a coop? That's just fucked up.

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Dec 18 2012 01:02

Looks like we've met a thinker to rival Marx comrades:

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Capital is just stuff: tools, machines, finished products and of course tokens of exchange (money) and you can't abolish stuff, that doesn't make any sense.

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Dec 18 2012 01:47
anarchomedia wrote:
Comrade Chili - By 'left' I mean socialists in the most general sense, sorry I couldn't think of a better word and yes probably there shouldn't be a word to lump both state-socialists together with anarchists because state-socialists have more in common with fascists than they do with anarchists of anykind. I should have be said that I am getting dis-illusioned with anarchists since I have never thought well of state-socialists.

Quote:
And this, my friend, is the exact point about co-ops.

This doesn't make any sense. It sounds like you are suggesting that being a 'rebellious' wage slave is better than being a worker who owns the means of production, but that is just so pitiably wrong it is not funny. Is rebellion a sport now? Am I supposed to go back to being a wage-slave because I don't get enough humilation to be rebellious. I own my means of production which is exactly the goal of worker emancipation isn't it?

you seem to be thinking about tactics in terms of personal morality, this is generally a mistake. Capitalism can't be overthrown by people opting out, it is quite fundamentally to capitalism that the overwhelming majority of the population is disposed and can't see up cooperatives, so while the people working in cooperatives may find them preferable to having a boss (assuming its a non hiracical cooperative, which is rarely the case) this does nothing to change the socal realitons of society of which the cooperative is also a part.

anarchomedia wrote:
My idea about markets and capital are largely my own work. Capital is just stuff: tools, machines, finished products and of course tokens of exchange (money) and you can't abolish stuff, that doesn't make any sense. The problem with state-capitalism is that all the stuff that really matters ends up in the hands of the nasty minority of idlers, those we call the capitalists. Hence why we want to get back control of the means of production, the workers want to be capitalists too.

You should maybe find out what other people mean by capitalism
And class

anarchomedia wrote:
Markets is just the exchange of owned stuff. Society can't function if people don't exchange stuff because no one nor any collective can possibly be entirely self-sufficient so to get things they lack they have to either steal or trade with others. Trade is plainly more moral and beneficient than stealing. Trade is a kind of mutual aid, stealing is mutual strife.

markets have a natural tendency to concentrate wealth. Trade is not mutual aid. mutual aid doesn't demand payment and only help those who can afford the price

The thing about how you cant have little independent units is why you cant escape capitalism by forming a cooperative. It doesn't how ever mean they trade is esentional. It is possible to produce things without payment.

anarchomedia wrote:
Your link is sad, it is great that those workers got a little feeling of power from challenging the boss but they haven't really changed anything they are still just dispossessed wage slaves. This is supposed to be better than founding a coop? That's just fucked up.

you fail to understand the example, capitalism can only be abolished by the working class acting for itself, for the workin class to do this requiers that they belive they can, which means before a revolution takes place it is necessery that working class people take part in activity aht increases there sense of power.
This is not an alternative to coopratives, because for the vast majority of coops are not an option, they must contiue to work for a boss, but if they can increase there sense fo power while doing so then it is possible.

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Dec 18 2012 08:38
Wotsit wrote:
Coops are broadly based on capitalist social relations- it's just that the people in them embody two sets of opposing class interests- being both capitalists and wage workers. You are still dependent on wages- if you don't take a wage from the coop then how on earth do you think you'll get by- but it is you (and your fellow coop boss/workers) who have to enforce labour discipline on yourselves, cut wages, raise working hours, ignore safety, to keep pace with the rest of the market so the coop remains profitable enough to compete and pay your wages. That's not an alternative to capitalism.

Wotsit, that is beautifully articulated. Seriously one of the best descriptions of the contradictory nature of co-ops I've ever read. Anarchomedia, take note.

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Dec 18 2012 09:16
AM wrote:
It sounds like you are suggesting that being a 'rebellious' wage slave is better than being a worker who owns the means of production, but that is just so pitiably wrong it is not funny. Is rebellion a sport now? Am I supposed to go back to being a wage-slave because I don't get enough humilation to be rebellious.

First off, you really have to quit strawmanning. Your comments are childish and not a very effective form of debate.

Anyway, I don't think anyone holds it against you that, as a self-employed person, you have a bit more control over your labor than someone who works for a boss. What we're arguing is that individual ownership of capital or collective ownership of capital is neither possible on a large scale nor a revolutionary strategy.

Capitalism forces the vast majority of the population into the position of wage slaves. It is from that point that we discover our collective interests and can exercise our collective power. It doesn't mean the self-employed can't support those struggles or that co-ops have no place in the movement. It does mean, however, that class power is fundamentally exercised on the shop floor against capitalists.

AM wrote:
I own my means of production which is exactly the goal of worker emancipation isn't it?

No, it's not. The goal of worker emancipation is not for us all to individually own an equal share of the means of productions. Rather, it's that all means of production will become socialised and (if you'll forgive the Marx here) we'll destroy the exchange value of commodities so that capital will cease to exist.

AM wrote:
Capital is just stuff: tools, machines, finished products and of course tokens of exchange (money) and you can't abolish stuff, that doesn't make any sense.

No, you're misunderstanding basic concepts. The means of productions are only capital when they're involved in a process making money (accumulation). You're right that we can't abolish "stuff" but we can abolish the social relations which form capital.

AM wrote:
Your link is sad, it is great that those workers got a little feeling of power from challenging the boss but they haven't really changed anything they are still just dispossessed wage slaves.

I don't think you need to read any anarcho-communism theory to understand how the class struggle operates, but I still don't think you've read any. The point is to build up class power and class confidence so that we can (1) improve our living conditions in the here and now and (2) build towards a revolutionary movement.

And it's a dialectical process: participation in struggles (no matter how small) make clear the nature of the class relationship and opens up the space for larger political discussions. That's the point of the piece, which you clearly (and I think probably willingly) misunderstood.

AM wrote:
workers want to be capitalists too

Fuck, I give up.

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Dec 18 2012 12:18

Dear comrades,
So much for the radical left, reactionary left more like, stuck in a degenerate form of 19th century marxist dogma. Proudhon, Kropotkin and Bakunin just started us off, they are not the end and anyway none of you are interested in them anymore you just want Marx. You want to be dependant babies suckling on the state's toxic tit. Repugnant! You whine about capitalism's contradictions but ignore your own deeper more paralysing contradictions. You complain that the capitalist dominates the means of production but you don't want the workers to have it either. You think trade is worse than stealing, but then abhor the trader for supposedly being a thief? You say you want the emancipation of the workers but don't want them to actually do it. You complain that the worker doesn't get the full value of his production but you wouldn't let him have any of it.

You should listen to me I have solved these contradictions, my doctrine is consistent, moral and pragmatic. Would you like to know more?

I started a similar thread to this on a forum frequented by an-caps and do you know what? At first they ignored it because after all they are pretty extreme individualists so communal life and common property just doesn't make any sense to them but then they started chipping with constructive and helpful suggestions. They wouldn't want to do anything like I am hoping to do but they are at least not atavistically and petulantly against it. After all these posts not one of you has offered any helpful advice. So much for your mutual aid.

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Dec 18 2012 12:36

Wait, it's the messiah!

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jura
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Dec 18 2012 12:44

Or perhaps just a thoroughly deluded person? http://www.anarchomedia.info/is-cancer-merely-a-vitamin-deficiency-disea...